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The Mother of All Car Shows

Otherwise Known as the California Classic AutoFest

Randy Fish Dec 17, 2003

What do you get when you pack the spacious California Speedway with hot rods, musclecars, Harleys, imports, vendors, live music, burnout contests, Drivetech Racing School, and more? Well, to answer that question, it's the California Classic AutoFest. Staged in Fontana (about 35 miles east of Los Angeles), the entire infield of the 2-mile, California Speedway featured a wide variety of activities. Many of the smaller vendor booths were set up behind the VIP suites, just off the front straightaway, while the lion's share of the show cars were lined up just behind the vendors, as well as in the NASCAR garages. A huge used car sell-a-thon occupied the area inside the fourth turn, along with a giant RV show, while the grounds adjacent to the back stretch housed the Xtreme show, bandstand, larger tractor-trailer-type vendor spaces, and the bike show.

Though 103-degree heat blanketed the area, many of Southern California's finest classic cars came out in abundance making it a tough job for the league of judges to pick the winners. Speaking of winners, the Meguiar's-backed event had one of the finest trophy presentations ever staged with legendary motorsports "voice" Dave McClelland emceeing the ceremony. Keeping in line with the general feeling of "giving back to the participants," winners received an awesome array of goodies including a beautiful trophy, custom jacket and a dozen long-stemmed roses for their better half.

In what was perhaps the toughest group of vehicles to judge from--the Gold Class--celebrity judges the likes of stand-up comic Christopher Titus, car-builder Chip Foose and aftermarket industry giant Chuck Lombardo presented the coveted Gold Class Trophy to Ricky Clutter for his awesome '57 Bel Air. Clutter, whose car also scored a win in the Gold Class competetion at our Pomona Super Chevy Show earlier in the year, made an eye-watering gesture when he donated his $1,000 winning check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

And car lovers? A continual stream of spectators moved through the turnstiles all day, both days, to take part in this automotive extravaganza. Besides providing fun for all involved (and handing out a new Corvette, a new Harley and a pair of performance-built engines to some lucky show-goers), the AutoFest donated almost $95,000 to a variety of charitable organizations, with a great deal of that targeted for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

To be perfectly honest, you had to see this extravaganza to understand what a large undertaking it was. Many thanks go to California Classic's dedicated executive team of Les Davidson (Chairman), Fred Gaston (V.P. Operations), Todd Cernetic (V.P. Sales & Marketing) and their support staff, as well as the literally hundreds of volunteers for a (huge) job well done.


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The Speedway's infield was ablaze with colors--not only on cars, but on tents, canopies, vendor booths, and participants, too.

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Car owners and spectators alike were diggin' the burnout contest. How 'bout the plume of smoke generated by this sweet El Camino?

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Craig Nickerson, the President and CEO of Primedia's automotive titles (and more) was on hand to take part in the Lucas Oil Celebrity/Media Challenge.

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This lucky bunch of racers competed in NASCAR Monte Carlos, prepared by Drivetech Racing School. If you're interested in a Drivetech program, call (800) 678-8864.

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Back in the good old days, Chevy trucks worked hard delivering gas and oil, as evidenced by this restored Shell tanker truck.

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Back in the infield, show goers were checking out row after row of beautified Bow-Tie iron.

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Beautiful ladies always handle the sales chores at the RaceGirl booth. Plus, you get the bonus of buying your sweetie some cool RaceGirl apparel. Nice stuff!

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Show goers could purchase charter memberships, which offered indoor parking in the Speedway's NASCAR garages. Here, our intrepid editor wheeled and dealed his own indoor space for a few of his prized project vehicles.

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Warren Esposito of Oceanside, California, made the happening with his cool '59 El Camino...

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...complete with a carhop's tray displaying six miniature '59 ElCo models.

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Trucks were out in force, too, like this mega-lifted 2003 crewcab. Can you say big dog? Sure. We knew you could.

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This blown 'n flamed double-nickel sure attracted its fair share of attention. We'll bet it sounded shagnasty, to boot!

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Our good buddy Craig Hull from H&H Trailers had a beauty of a unit on display. This 52-foot hauler featured full living quarters up front, a Harley lift out back, along with diamond-plate floors (and walls), and a canopied hospitality lounge upstairs! Nice job, Mr. Hull.

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How about a Dale Earnhardt NASCAR Monte Carlo, complete with a retro Wrangler paint scheme? Sweet!

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Representatives from several branches of the Armed Forces were also on hand, with interesting displays and information on how to "Be all that you can be." It's not everyday that you get to check out a tank--up close and personal.

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We couldn't call this an extravaganza without mentioning all the Corvettes on display. Old, new, stock, and modified--they were out in full force. America's car!

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Actor Ian Ziering was also on hand for the Celebrity/Media Challenge race. Best known for his role as Steve Sanders on Beverly Hills 90210, Ian is also a diehard car guy.

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Lots of us could take some lessons from this Bow-Tie owner, as hours of fabrication went into his firewall and inner fenderwell panels. Notice the nice hard lines, too. This one had sanitary written all over it.

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Why is this guy smiling? Well, for one, he's Christopher Titus--actor, comedian, and consummate hot rod lover. Chris was also one of the competitors in the Celebrity/Media Challenge. This guy's a hoot to hang with!

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Tons of Tri-5s dotted the infield, as evidenced by this pair of SoCal stylemasters. Believe it or not, good, solid '55-57 project candidates can still be found here in Southern California.

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The awards ceremony was awesome at the California AutoFest. These beautiful trophies were well received by those who got to take one home.

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Titus was also on hand to help out in the Gold Class judging, as was our own Tony Kelly. Here, the two cut-ups talked strategy, or was it comparing notes on which car should win the class.

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The Gold Class judges included among others, Titus, Kelly, Chip Foose and Barry Meguiar. Oh yeah, our busy editor, Terry Cole, got the honor of heading up the group of celebrity car guys.

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Ian Ziering was thrilled to go around the Speedway's fast course. He told us he can't wait until he's able to drive his '68 Camaro convertible on the track. Neither can we, Ian!

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Long time car builder and retired new car dealer Ricky Clutter took home the Gold Class winning trophy for his beautiful '57 Bel Air. Ricky loved his trophy and jacket while his wife adored the long-stem roses, but the biggest payout went to Make-A-Wish when Mr. Clutter donated the money he won for the Gold Class win.

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Les Davidson (left) and Doug Thorley (center) presented the 2003 Dale Earnhardt Man of the Year award to Phil Braybrooks for his unparalleled devotion to the automotive industry.


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