Capturing their fascinating history, engineering and the nostalgic memories they evoke, classic cars can be an exciting, yet consuming hobby. From the exotic and European to classics from the USA, collecting and restoring these icons of a bygone era is surging, ushered in with the baby boomer generation. According to Car and Driver, car collecting traces its roots to the Great Depression, when enthusiasts and collectors found that classic cars represented a diminishing era of automotive craftsmanship. Auto clubs sprang up in response, along with classic car shows across the country.
Benicians can easily take advantage of classic car shows in the area, and, in addition to admiring the meticulously restored specimens, learn from community enthusiasts and club members who frequent them. In Danville, the Blackhawk Automotive Museum has in its collection over 40 pristine classics from Italy, France, England and the U.S, and offers a “Cars and Coffee” event the first Sunday of each month at 8am. The Benicia Veterans Hall was the site last year of the Rob Moglie Car & Bike Show, and the Solano County Fairgrounds hosted the seventh annual NorCal Knockout for Bay Area car clubs. Suisun also welcomes classic cars with its annual Biggest Little Car Show, in May. For locals and visitors, the Benicia waterfront offers the ultimate venue for a classic car show, with its backdrop of blue against the green hills across the Carquinez Strait.
The grassy First Street Green, adjacent to the beauty of the Suisun Marsh, perfectly sets off a restored Chevy or Ford in all its historic glory. It’s in this setting that the annual Benicia Classic Car Show draws 400 car enthusiasts to show off their passion for vintage cars and trucks to the admiration of the throngs who come to enjoy the meticulously restored cars, trucks and tractors. A fundraiser for the Benicia High School band program, this year’s Sunday, April 30 affair promises to deliver a day of fun and community pride, not to mention all the cool sets of wheels. “It’s a beautiful day on the green with all the cars,” said Teresa Washburn, Panther Band Booster, and classic car show committee chairwoman.Now in its 24th year, the
Benicia show started with a Chevrolet that former BHS Band Director Dalt Williams bought brand new in 1955. Years later, after restoring the car, he and his wife went to car shows, giving him the idea for a fundraiser. He worked with car enthusiasts and boosters to bring that about. The first Benicia Classic Car Show took place in 1994 on the BHS football field with 300 cars, including his own Chevy. “I’m retired now but I still go to the car show and I love it. I know the First Street merchants love it. It’s good for the band and good for Benicia, too,” he said. Car lovers form a friendly community bonded by their love of classic vehicles, with those bonds often leading to lasting friendships. The Benicia show draws hot rods and street rods, muscle cars and vehicles from all the decades back to the 1920s. Car owners come from Benicia, Vallejo, Fairfield, Glen Ellen, Antioch, Los Altos, Sacramento and other locales. Vehicles must be at least vintage 1976 or older to enter the competition, which consists of show participants voting for their favorite vehicles among different categories. Vehicles fill up the First Street green, the pier and surrounding areas. Owners begin parking at 7am. Vehicle owners pay entrance fees, but visitors can check out them out for free. Several car clubs get in on the action, including Boyz Under The Hood, which brings 40 to 50 vehicles annually. “People like the downtown car show and it’s on the waterfront. It’s a nice show,” said club president Jeff Singley, adding that the classic car culture is down-home and family-friendly. “People care about each other a lot. It’s a chance to sit around and talk.” Club members are pleased the Benicia show raises money for community groups. BHS band members will stroll around playing their instruments, along with parent volunteers, who form the heart of the boosters. The fundraiser pay for uniforms, instruments, and transportation to events, music education, and other programs. Washburn said they are a dedicated bunch, and being in band and boosters tends to run in the family. “I was in band and my mom was a booster and my daughter is now in band,” she said. Further, many parents remain active long after their kids have graduated. Band director Patrick Martin and booster president Erin
Biber said the car show is a big hit for the band programs, the kids and the town. The event takes place rain or shine, Sunday, April 30, 2017, 9am-3pm.