There’s no stretch to see a Mustang, Camaro, Cuda or Tri-five Chevy at a car show because they show up in herds at every event.

Call it a byproduct of popularity—they’re the Coors Light entries of car shows.  

The first ones are old tow trucks.

Old tow trucks are interesting to me for many reasons. One of them is because they look like a Stegosaurus on four wheels thanks to that massive apparatus on their backs.

They’re intimidating because they have to be. When was the last time you saw a Nissan Micra pull a car out of a ditch?

That’s what makes them so cool because these nasty old brutes are your best friend when you hit the ditch. I’ll always talk to an old tow truck owner because those guys are definitely not Coors Light guys. Tow trucks are the cavalry coming over the hill when it’s -40 and your stalled Honda Accord is turning you into a frozen TV dinner.    

I like old police cars at car shows for the same reason—they’re a welcome sight when you need one.

The owners are a little off-the-beaten-path in life–and their cars are cool. Old police cars have a million stories to tell plus—as Elwood from the ‘Blues Brothers’ said: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks”.

Old police cars are muscle cars at a fraction of the price because you can buy them for 10 cents on the dollar at any auction. They’re essentially classic muscle with more lights—that’s a great reason to get the story. It gets even better if you talk to the guys who drove them because in their world body count isn’t a cliché for politics.

Old fire trucks are another draw for me at car shows.

They have a lot of things going for them—bright red paint and lots of stuff hanging off them are two features of fire trucks.

Many old fire trucks don’t have a lot of miles on them, but you know every mile was pedal to the metal on the way to the fire.

I like these real fire trucks for the same reason I liked the toy fire trucks I got at Christmas—they’re loud, flashy and always on the way to a fire. Kids never really grow up.

I also like old work vehicles at car shows.

They too have a story to tell about long tough hours on construction sites with little chance of survival. That’s why I like seeing old work trucks because the deck is stacked against them from Day 1–there’s always a good story about why an old truck is still around.

It’s usually a family connection so that makes my storytelling role infinitely easier, plus I get a chance to explain why and how an old work truck survived a brutal life. I worked in construction—some trucks didn’t even survive the summer.   

The last vehicles I migrate to at car shows are fastbacks from the late 40s and early 50s.

They were called fastbacks, torpedo-backs or sedanettes because of their sloped rooflines–they were some of the coolest designs of the mid-century. They looked like missiles with headlights, and you don’t see many of them at car shows.

That’s the car show’s loss because fastbacks are severely under-represented at car show events. They have more cool than mid-1960s Frank Sinatra so I will always—without fail—try to get an owner’s story from a fastback guy.

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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