If you want to know where the car community is celebrated – go to a car show or meet somewhere!
There are plenty of them across the calendar year – everywhere you can imagine for any brand possible. In some places, you can throw a stone and a few cars would gather with their owners swapping ideas on how to improve their vehicle’s looks and/or performance.
Think of these shows as places of worship, combined with a picnic and an open-air market. The faithful come together with their vehicles for a celebration of their interest. The joyful noise you hear is a engine at full throttle.
This is my kind of place.
Being an automotive writer, I have been privy to some of these shows in and around the Twin Cities thanks to friends involved in such automobile clubs. One friend has a mega-tuned Buick Regal Grand National that shows up at the local Cars and Coffee in Chanhassen and other car events. Another friend has a Rolls-Royce that makes an appearance at the Intermarque meet every year. Then, there is my roommate's friend who helps runs the Wheels of Italy show every August near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.
These friends and acquaintances opened up a new channel for me to explore while doing this work. Now, the arenas have gotten larger. Being a small-time automotive journalist often helps in fueling the passion to attend these larger events.
This is why I attended the 28th Annual Midwest Mopars in the Park at the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington.
The primary group involved in the event, Midwest Mopars, is the largest Chrysler car club in the Upper Midwest. Aside from the core membership in the Twin Cities, they also have chapters based in Duluth and in South Dakota to create a larger network of Mopar enthusiasts. Membership ranges form owners of the latest Chrysler products to those with earlier models dating back to Walter P. Chrysler's era. The club welcomes brands and companies that were folded into Chrysler over the years. This includes products by AMC and Willys-Overland.
The jist of this event is to create a greater community from regional Mopar enthusiasts. Having fun is indeed a huge part of the event, especially when the challenge is to create a huge parade of Dodge Challengers about a couple miles long – 203 in procession. It is also about opportunity – the Mopar brand, in particular, reaching out to the attendees by bridging their mission to support them as both owners and enthusiasts.
Midwest Mopars are not the only club in attendance at this event. The Far North LX club was also in attendance, celebrating the modern Chrysler enthusiast. MNChallengers also had a huge part to play to organize a record-breaking attempt at a single model cruise using the LX Platform-based Dodge Challenger. Smaller niche groups were also on hand adding more context to the event.
At a car meet, you have plenty of activities to enjoy. One such activity was a burnout contest, where if you can create enough smoke to cause smoke alarms across to town to go off – you can take away a prize that would equal a new pair of rear tires to replace the ones you destroyed in the effort. No one went away disappointed at Mopars In the Park. One guy in a 1973 Dodge Charger had both of his rear tires destroyed, while another took a rumbling 1972 Chrysler New Yorker to the pit for an epic display of tire smoking. I have to admit to a bit of glee witnessing this feat of pneumatic destruction.
One does not come to a huge car meet to see burnouts and cruises. There is a car community to be had – whether it is with a particular club or along the same row as your entrant. As I walked around the fairground, I tried to chat with owners of certain vehicles – some of whom I met previously. The Frozen North LX tent was a place I ended up a bit. It was sort of my hub to see what was out there. The club has a great group of members along with their machinery. Some were already lined up for the Challenger Cruise, while others had their cars lined up behind the tent. I always found good conversation and exchange of observations with the Frozen North LX folks – they are a good example of a car community.
I also found some good conversations with a guy who recognized me from the Wednesday night car meet at Sonic in Bloomington. I had issues photographing his black Dodge Avenger that the conversation went into how the Mopar brand is reaching out to the owners and enthusiasts to create a larger car community. It was great to have an extended discussion with this enthusiast and to see where he is going in plugging in the Avenger into a sport compact-dominated crowd as well as creating a new channel of the car community amongst other Mopar enthusiasts.
Sadly, another round of photos of his Avenger still did not come out right.
The best conversation of the day came with a gentleman who owned multiple 1970-74 Plymouth 'Cudas. He had two books chronicling his 1970 'Cuda which promoted a discussion about my father's former 1970 base coupe. Luckily, he had a reprint of the vehicle order book, which had some images of features for the 1970 model year. Sure enough, I ascertained what my father's Barracuda had. Our discussion was amazing that we both learned a lot from that book and the Barracuda's greatest year.
The thing about big car meets is the scale of the event and the delicate balance between enthusiasm and the greater venue. It is easy to get lost in the sheer volume of cars on display, the swap meet vendors, the food carts and events scheduled on the agenda. Yet, a car community could be found in these large arenas full of different vehicles and personalities.
It is sort of similar to dating – when you find your match, it is one to remember for a long time. The next step is to continue the connection made at the meet. Perhaps to cultivate the car community you discovered amongst hundreds of vehicles on display, a thousand or so attendees and multiple agendas flying around a fairground.
To truly quantify a car community, you have to look at the over 1,000 vehicles registered for the event ad the over 10,000 people who showed up at the Dakota County Fairground this part weekend. Those numbers alone should tell you something about the twain meeting in the name of common ground.
All photos by Randy Stern