A Trip to the Ardmore Car Show

With the insanity that has been 2020, it’s a miracle that any car shows or events have happened at all. The 20th annual Ardmore Car Show in Ardmore, Tennessee took place on October 3rd, two months later than its typical early August date. I doubt many attendees had issues with this delay, as August on the Tennessee/Alabama state line is a miserably hot affair.

The weather this year was a big change, as I woke up to a full moon, clear skies, and the first light frost of the year. I wondered briefly if the chilly air would give my GTO problems, but the Carter AFB carburetor did not let me down. With a few pumps of the pedal, it fired right up. For once, the lack of air conditioning was not a problem. I turned the heat on and settled in comfortably for a pre-dawn Saturday morning cruise through an empty Nashville. An old car is never perfect, however, and I had to drive with the passenger window partially down to avoid the horrible whistling from the vent window that doesn’t latch.

A top-down view of the one-year-only front end of my 1965 Pontiac GTO.

I met some friends south of Nashville to convoy to the show and quickly remembered that my car was not built to cruise the interstate. With a two-speed automatic transmission, it turns roughly 3500 rpm at 70 miles per hour. This often results in higher-than-optimal coolant temperatures, but the Pontiac 389 stayed under 180 degrees due in part to the heater blasting. We arrived early enough to get good spots near the front of the show, and started checking out the other entrants.

This LS1-powered 1963 Chevy II was a member of our convoy. It handles the interstate much better than my stock GTO.

I was happy to see several other Pontiacs immediately after arrival, including two nice second generation Firebirds. One was a familiar local ride – a gold Firebird Formula with a dressed-up Oldsmobile 403. The owner was one of several members of the Tennessee chapter of the Voodoo Kings car club that made the trek to Ardmore since their own show was canceled, likely due to Nashville’s strict COVID regulations. I did not recognize the other – a bright red mild custom build sporting larger snowflake wheels and a 455 decal on the shaker. Unfortunately, the owner wasn’t around to confirm the decal’s claim.

A group of traditional hot rods and a patina-clad ’55 Chevy from White Bluff, TN was another highlight. The ’55 appeared to be a legitimate unrestored survivor, or at least the best fake patina job I’ve ever seen. It didn’t carry the obvious hallmarks of sanding marks and rust from vinegar sprayed on bare metal, or the arguably worse airbrushed rust. A couple Ford Model A’s and a ’32 Ford 5-window coupe were also part of the group, but they weren’t the real standout to me. An early 30’s Plymouth 5-window coupe packing a Gen 1 Hemi was the final car in the group, and was spot on. Sporting classic big and little as-cast five-spoke wheels with Firestone cheater slicks on the back, this Plymouth was a period-perfect drag machine. I would love to whack the throttle, open up the four carburetors, and hear the Hemi roar through open headers.

If you squint, you can see this Plymouth lining up on a dragstrip circa 1961.

Don’t let the small town setting mislead you. There are plenty of unique cars at the Ardmore Car Show. The show regularly draws well over a thousand participants, with this year’s show hosting droves of classic Camaros, Mustangs, and Chevy trucks. If classic American muscle isn’t your speed, the Ardmore Car Show has more to offer. Modern American performance was on display at the 2020 show in the form of the new Shelby GT500 Mustang, multiple C8 Corvettes, and a Challenger Scat Pack Widebody. If your interests are outside the Stars and Stripes, you might have been interested in the imported HJ45 Land Cruiser, lifted Toyota Tundra, or Lamborghini Gallardo.

The evil grin of a Widebody Challenger tells you to get out of its way.

This was my third year in a row attending the Ardmore Car Show, and some of my friends have gone more than I have. There are higher profile shows with bigger money builds and more cars, but this show has cemented itself as a staple in the area. It helps that the show benefits the Ardmore Quarterback Club and has excellent door prizes. One of these years I’ll win one of those prizes. Until then, I’ll see you at the state line.

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