With all due respect to any car show in the Twin Cities, the Back to The 80s crew pulled off an absolutely superb event at Burnsville Center. Dare I say that it was the best show of the year?
I know, it?s still June. But, let me be frank here. For one, I am sort of biased due to the fact that the 1980s was when I started driving and becoming fully immersed in the ins and outs of the business, along with its products. Secondly, it pays to get a boost from the city you are hosting this event, along with the property owners to ensure you have a great day for everyone. That includes the food trucks, the sponsors, the participants, and the spectators.
Most importantly, it is the people behind the event. My friend Rob Bartlett has been the driver of this show. The result was everything I wrote above. For the short time I was there, I had a great time seeing what showed up within the first hour of opening. The memories began flowing back. To me, that is what makes a great show.
Not to mention, the crowd was manageable and there was a great flow of traffic inside the showground.
Now that my review of the show is done, let me tell you my favorite vehicles from the show. Indulge me of my high school and college years, if you would…
FORD EXP: When the Escort was introduced to North America, one could complain that we got a more "American" model than the one sold elsewhere. But, the Escort (and the Mercury Lynx) sold well and established a new strategy for Ford going forward. Joining the Escort was the two-seat, two-door coupe called the EXP. It did not get as warm of a welcome as the Escort, but it did show some gumption by Ford to establish a new kind of car for our market. It may have been forgotten in the crowd of Escorts but seeing one for the first time in decades brought back the car and its short history. This example was immaculate, as it was just bought at a nearby Ford dealer. It was good to see an EXP again!
FORD BRONCO II: The small SUV was uncharted territory in the mid-1980s. Only General Motors and Suzuki began to introduce vehicles that were smaller than the venerable Jeep CJ-7. It was a risky move, but people were actually buying them. Too bad that they had a tendency to roll over at speed. Still, the Bronco II was the forerunner of today's compact SUV. The Bronco II was only available in a two-door model, which was fine in the 1980s. Only GM's S-Series SUVs would spawn a four-door version later in the decade. Still, the Bronco II could be credited for two things: The birth of the Explorer and casting millions of small SUVs onto the universe that still rule the marketplace today. Thank you, Ford?
1982-83 CHEVROLET CELEBRITY: From Iowa, came a two-door Celebrity from either 1982 or 1983. What was significant about this Celebrity was the fact that the car improved upon GM's first attempt at a front-drive contemporary car: The X-Body. The Celebrity had its image issues if you compared it to the Cutlass Ciera which brought Oldsmobile more sales and equity than its Chevrolet counterpart. Still, the Celebrity was responsible for taking Chevy customers into a smaller and equally robust car that would be a prelude to the next generation of mid-sized sedans. Remember the Lumina? Still, seeing a first-run Celebrity reminds us of the efforts at Chevrolet to create a new lineup around the idea that front-drive was sustainable for the brand.
1980-81 TOYOTA CELICA: At this show, there were two of them. The notchback was cool, but Shane Sienko's blue liftback was in a lot more original shape. I first saw photos of the car when Sienko first brought it. It warmed my heart. It was the kind of car my contemporaries in Reseda would have owned while I was in high school. What he did was add a BMX bicycle to the roof rack of the Celica, then went in 1980s gear, right down to the stone-washed jeans. Did I mention that the bike was painted white? The scene was more than "rad." Yet, the car itself was absolutely lovely! I cannot say any more about it.
PLYMOUTH FIRE ARROW: With all due respect to my friends Miguel Masberg and Curtis Gendron, your Mitsubishis (in Miguel's case, a Colt) are cool and wonderful, but that two-tone blue Fire Arrow grabbed my heart and tightened it. The Arrow came from Mitsubishi to populate Chrysler-Plymouth dealers in the mid-1970s. They saw how Dodge was doing well with the Colt lineup (Lancers and Galants, for you Mitsubishi folks keeping score), the Celeste coupe became a staple of the Plymouth lineup selling below the Valiant and Volare. In fact, it turned out to be a boom vehicle for those dealerships. This example was a mid-cycle refresh model that was forgotten, thanks to the Saporro (Galant Sigma coupe). Having not seen an Arrow in decades, this one was in absolutely superb shape. Not to mention, it was beautiful. It was indeed a sight for sore eyes.
BUICK RIVIERA: There were quite a few of them on the showgrounds, but the first front-drive (and downsized) Rivs caught my eye when Motor Trend awarded their Car of The Year for 1979. Along with the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado, the Riviera took personal luxury to another level with absolute style and grace. Not to mention, dropping the turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 helped its cause greatly. The one example that stole my soul was this blue mid-cycle refresh example with the padded landau roof and wire wheel covers. That is what a Riviera should be unless it's the Turbo Coupe. But, still, memories of the Riviera tell the tale on how this favorite among personal luxury coupes continued to capture the hearts of its owners then and now.
Granted, there were a lot more to add to this list. There was a Lamborghini Countach that showed up, along with an absolutely perfect second-generation Toyota Camry wagon, a few lovely Chrysler LeBaron convertibles, a first-generation Subaru BRAT, a Suzuki Alto with a Hello Kitty on the hood, an immaculate 1981-83 Toyota Corolla wagon…the list goes on!
If you're interested in bringing your 1980s vehicle to this wonderful show, go to their website and watch that space for the 2020 show!
All Photos by Randy Stern