The Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals never ceases to amaze people with its stunning array of rarity. Held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, the annual event falls on the weekend before Thanksgiving and features classic musclecars from around North America and occasionally beyond, all of them with performance heritages. The 2016 running of MCACN again proved that this remains a ‘I can’t believe that’s really here!’ showcase of Detroit horsepower, the result of show co-owner Bob Ashton’s year-long efforts to get the cars and their owners located and committed to attending, coupled with a large cast of hard-working volunteers to help him manage the weekend program.
Popularly referred to simply as MCACN, we have already shown some images from this event online as it happened. Contributor and long-time event attendee Geoff Stunkard offered to give us a little more background on some of the special vehicles and happenings during the show. He jokingly admits these are arbitrary but they should give you an idea of just how amazing this show continues to be. If you decide you really cannot miss it again next year, the days are November 18 and 19, 2017.
A couple of gems in the Class of 1971 display; Reliable and others brought in semi-loads of cars from around the country. For more info, go to www.mcacn.com
1. Coolest Overall GM – 1967 Camaro L78 Convertible – George Oleskiewicz
What, a stock Camaro? In an event that even featured a row of Chevy supercars (Yenko/Motion/COPO etc.), there was something about this car that sets the tone of the entire horsepower era. The Camaro debuted in 1967, and this stunner owned by George Oleskiewicz was certainly beautiful. However, there was much more to it. Beyond being an SS/RS convertible, it is powered by the L78 375-hp 396-ci engine and features a rare color matched interior, and was beautifully refreshed. After being impressed by it from every angle, when we saw it was the event pick of the Brothers Collection (now becoming perhaps the world’s greatest private musclecar accumulation), it confirmed a belief that anybody who loves musclecars regardless of their brand preference would have probably happily owned this one.
2. Coolest Overall Ford – 1965 Shelby GT40 Roadster Prototype – Dana & Patti Mecum
There were many great Fords on hand, but we had to shy away from curbside convention for this rare prototype roadster from the GT40 era; the air was electric as it rumbled to life. Now owned by Dana and Patti Mecum, this was the breed that started what became a literal international horsepower war between not only Ford and a covert arm of GM Research & Development but the grand marques of European sportscar racing. A development car that Carroll Shelby personally drove Henry Ford II around in for demonstration purposes, it was the most valuable car on the property for the weekend. The recently-restored gem anchored a row of Shelby Cobras and Mustangs, all which were worthy of examination, but the sheer importance of this car to both racing’s heritage and auto collecting in general gives it our nod for 2016. It was chosen as the cover car of the 2016 MCACN program.
3. Coolest Overall Mopar – 1970 Charger R/T-SE – Greg and Lori Steffes
This 1970 Charger was unveiled by Magnum Restorations to the public for the first time ever on Saturday morning. While there were others on hand that were more rare and powerful and in terms of production than this 440-4BBL R/T-SE, it was a combination of appearance and options that make it an amazing standout here. The Dodge featured FY1 Top Banana paint with white vinyl top and pin stripes, hood blackout, a trunk-mount luggage rack, and a correct NOS tan leather interior with power windows. The sun roof, and deluxe trim created a colorful picture of luxury horsepower. Fully documented and never reassembled following the start of its restoration two decades ago, this car had actually been painted back then and Mark Sekula and the Magnum crew carefully detailed it and put it back together for Greg Steffes of Great Lakes Mopar with all NOS parts. The car had been part of his father’s long-time collection but was never completed during his lifetime.
4. Best Display Car – 1970 Paint Chip Cuda – Tim and Pam Wellborn
No car was more photographed at this event than the 1970 ‘Cuda 383 that Tim and Pam Wellborn had on display with ‘Big Easy Motors’ car builders Trey Hansen and Charles Handler of the History Channel. This is the first time that anybody ever replicated the ‘paint chip’ Plymouth shown in the 1970 brochures and advertising (the original was simply paint colors stripped-in to a photo for print reproduction). One side remains in the factory-original green with a 383 Shaker bubble logo and hockey stripe while the other replicates the ad car with Hemi’cuda graphics and zoomie pipes. Moms, dad, kids – everybody loved this thing, whether they knew its origins or not, and Tim Wellborn jokingly said it is the least expensive advertising he has ever done for the couple’s noteworthy Alabama-based musclecar museum. This personal line-up includes the Wellborns and the Big Easy crew centered by noted engine expert Daniel Boshears, who tuned it to perfection.
5. Best Display Area – Supercharged Finale – Studebaker Museum and others
Once again we stepped out of the box on this. Before seeing this display, few people understood that the South Bend, Indiana-based Studebaker firm actively worked with Paxton supercharged cars during its fading days. The cars on display ran the gamut from boxy Ambassadors to fiberglass Avantis, including the actual examples that set records on the salt at Bonneville and close circuit speed runs elsewhere. After building what they termed fastest production sedan of 1963, the Studebaker name would disappear just as the muscle car era hit its stride in the mid-Sixties. Weird? A little. Rare? A lot. Forgotten? Not any more…
6. Best Restored Vintage Racecar – 1963 Stickler/ Jenkins Z11 Impala – Don & Mary Lee Fezell
There were a number of excellent drag car restorations on hand, but when it came to iconic, the 1963 RPO Z11 Impala of Bill Jenkins and Dave Strickler was perhaps the summation of fame and mechanical notoriety for the quarter-milers. The 427/430-hp Z11 engine came in just over 50 lightweight ’63 Chevrolet Impalas before Chevy pulled the racing plug, but the Old Reliable was the first one built and also the winningest example with Strick on the gearbox and the Grump tuning. In beautiful shape and well-documented, it was displayed as part of the Don & Mary Lee Fezell Collection (see
http://www.hotrod.com/articles/don-fezells-grocery-getter-collection/ for the story) that Mecum will be selling in Kissimmee in January. Someone will soon get to be its new owner, one of four Z11s the Fezells will be selling at the event.
7. Best Street Driven Racecar – 1969 Mercury Spoiler II – Mike Callahan
We saw Mike sitting with what looked like a nice modified car and then saw the photos he had on display of himself driving the modified car out to the Utah salt flats, going 154 MPH with little change, and then driving it home again. For sheer cool factor, it would be a challenge to find something better than a NASCAR aero special like this that races in street-legal trim, and as Joe Walsh once sang, he is an average ordinary guy like us. Power is courtesy a 351 Cleveland backed by a four-speed top-loader and 2.75-geared Detroit Locker.
8. Best Car Crafted Street Cars
Pam and Gary Beineke’s ‘what if’ wing cars never fail to draw attention, using custom Chrysler aero components on the 1971 G-series Charger and Road Runner body designs. They were nice enough to get selected to be part of the Factory Sunroof Invitational, but what’s most important is that, despite a show quality design, these cars remain practical to cruise and easily maintained. We decided to include them because they demonstrate what is possible without a pro-level shop, as well as the way that this couple from Massachusetts has enjoyed the hobby together. Already veterans of 200-mph efforts, they are now building a 1969 Charger Daytona funny car for Bonneville…
9. Best Vintage Big Car – 1970 Hurst 300H convertible – Trev Dellinger
There were several nice full-size cars on hand, but we had to go with the original-paint Hurst Industries Chrysler 300-H convertible, the only one ever built and still in the scheme used to take the lovely Hurstettes down the racetracks of America. Owned now by Trev Dellinger of Washington State, the car features a leather interior, original paint and logos (others back in the day were magnetic), and 440 cubes of highway-eating power. On Sunday, Linda Vaughn came by, signed the sun-visor, and recalled stories of driving and riding in this car; during appearances as she stood upon the giant shifter shelf that could be mounted on the deck area, her mother often was in the passenger seat. Trev was wearing one of Bud Lang’s original Hurst shirts from the 1960s, and his wife Adrian was also wonderfully dressed for the era.
10. Best Vintage Little Car – 1969 Stage IV Stinger – Robert Donahugh
Even with rare Pentastar iron everywhere, Stunkard, a diehard Mopar guy, gave his 2016 MCACN celebrity pick to the Corvair of Robert Donahugh. A COPO factory build for the suspension, this is the only Stinger built new by Yenko in 1969, and likely the final one created during the Corvair model’s production. The car was special-ordered by Goodyear to do 13-inch 130-mph tire testing for Ford of Australia. Since Ford had nothing that fast domestically wearing so small a tire, Yenko’s shop built this non-race-lightened Stage IV package for the tire firm under contract, which then successfully completed its mission. Donahugh also had extensive paperwork from Yenko office manager Donna Mae Mims between both Goodyear corporate and the Yenko shop forces. He still races the car on occasion, and towed it in with a 1978 GMC Royale camper that he and his wife travel the country with.
11. Best Sunroof Display Car – 72 GSX Sun Coupe – Michael Littlejohn
There were some amazing cars in the sunroof collection, including sponsor Wellborn Muscle Car Museum’s own top-dollar models, but this Buick stood out as an oft-forgotten unique example. A 1972 model but still powered by the Stage I 455-ci performance power train, Mike Littlejohn’s red rider was marketed as a Sun Coupe back in the day, and these cars featured not a hard closing top but a stretched canvas one. Never commonplace when new, survival rates on this option were likely quite small unless always stored indoors. Three such Buicks were on hand, but coupled with that hot driveline in it, this car got our vote over some of the other more valuable machines in the display.
12. Best Sunroof Display Car Runner-up – 1971 GTX – Wellborn Muscle Car Museum
It would be impossible not to mention this car; the Wellborns have some great 1971 Mopars, but this is the most expensive Hemi ever built between 1966-1971, has never been restored, and was first bought by a Vietnam war hero whose local California-based dealer got it from a Long Island franchise. Power everything, Hemi driveline and the closest thing to a convertible you could purchase in 1971 on this model platform thanks to the sun roof, it stands alone among collectible cars in terms of condition and background. There is not a bad angle about this car; upscale overkill in a mid-size design.
13. Most Unique Optional Top Car – Gatorgrain GTX – Paul McGhee
We again had to pick Plymouth on this one. The invitational area at MCACN takes up a majority of the main exhibit hall, but amidst the overflowing selections in the deeper exhibit areas was Paul McGhee’s 1970 GTX with a gator-grain roof. Possibly an ultimate redneck factory option, it is rare on any car today, let alone a performance car.
14. Best Shelby Mustang – 1967 GT500 K – Brian and Samantha Styles
Through a series of ongoing changes, Shelby American’s conversion shop in Los Angeles built just one 1967 GT500 K convertible before the model’s formal 1968 release. The only Mustang convertible ever factory-built powered by a 428 8BBL Cobra Jet engine, this one-off vehicle was a highlight at this event, even after its dramatic debut here some years back. Owner Brian Styles did a full seminar explaining just what the car is after years of research. It was also in the unprecedented ‘Collection of Carroll’ Shelby display, complete with extensive historical documentation. There were a number of other low-mileage and competition Shelbys on hand that made this choice a difficult one, but it met our personal criteria of ‘best’ in terms of provenance, rarity and curb appeal.
15. Best Class of ’66 – 1966 Coronet 500 – Rich Guminski
The Class of ’66 Invitational actually would have encompassed several areas if you took the Shelby display into account, and we actually picked a car that was part of Denny Guest’s South Oak Dodge display. There were a number of these 1966 B-body Hemi Mopars as part of the invitational, but none looked more like the little-old-lady-cruised-to-church special than this white high-grade trim 1966 Dodge Coronet 500 with Hemi power and Blue Streak tires. A boxy design that perhaps best summed up the Mopar mystique at the dawn of the horsepower wars, this was the respectable finale to the time of ‘undisclosed aggression,’ as the wide stripes, more chrome and crazy names would soon take over.
16. Best Class of ’71 – Pair 1971 GTO Judge Convertibles – Brothers Collection and Dr. John Randall
The Class of ’71 Invitational was also filled with many truly excellent cars from all brands including a ring of Boss 351 Mustangs, but what drew a lot of attention this year was this pair of 1971 GTO Judge convertibles. Pontiac built just 17 of these cars in 1971, and only two of them, these two, were built in triple-white (body, top, interior). On the right was the beautiful just-completed car by Level One Restorations for Dr. John Randall, while the car at the left is the amazing survivor from the Brothers Collection.
17. Best Day 2 Chevy – 1970 Dick Harrell Monte Carlo –Tom Pestinger
There was some terrific cars in the Day 2 Invitational sponsored by Muscle Car Life, which featured ‘back in the day’ dealer and owner modifieds, including a couple of fresh Yenkos and a great, survivor Motion 454, but this one-of-one Dick Harrell Monte Carlo that has been shown only on rare occasions was pretty special. This car had its factory LS5 swapped to an LS6, as well as TH400 and final gear changes done by Harrell’s shop back in 1970. Owned by Tom Pestinger, these big-bodied cars are rarely considered muscle these days, but we will make an exception for this one. It was one of the least-expected cars in attendance.
18. Best Day 2 Ford – 1963 Ford Galaxie 427 Cammer – Rick & Diane Thayer
Ironically, this car came in with the Supercar Workshop, a Pennsylvania shop which is best known for their Chevrolets. It is a real 1963 406/405-hp G-code ‘drag package’ Galaxie 300 that now has a 427 SOHC cammer engine under the hood. Owned by Rick and Diane Thayer, the race-bred/never-released Cammer needs little explanation; a NASCAR design that Bill France would not approve of, Ford placed the exotic engine into some FXers and dragsters in the mid-1960s but never made it available in the production environment. Nobody needed to even hear this one run to know how cool it was to see the SOHC tucked tightly inside this non-descript beast.
19. Best Day 2 Mopar – 1969 Psychedelic Charger Daytona – Stefano Bimbi
There were only a couple of Mopars in this line-up, but this so-called ‘Disco Daytona’ with its groovy paint was our pick here. All-original driveline (440-375-hp), under 17,000 miles, only three owners since new, impressive paperwork and more only added to its special status; parked in 1972, the aero warrior got a lot of attention here. After all, most cars from this particular release found in such complete condition are expensively restored to stock due to collector prices, so to see Stefano Bimbi’s unrestored driver with a ‘strobotic’ 1960s paint scheme was a treat. And yes, those original Motor Wheel Spyder mags sealed the deal!
20. Best Barn Find – ‘Charger’ish Hemi Stock Car – Jim and Cindi Kramer
Jim Kramer, noted Mopar parts magnate, spent 20 years trying to buy this car and has no intentions of ever restoring it. You are looking at what is likely the final surviving 426 Hemi short-track racecar in existence, put away sometime in the mid-1970s. Featuring a Ray Nichels chassis first used circa 1963, the frame was converted at Nichels Go-Factory in 1965 to Hemi power for USAC racing and Pikes Peak. The current bent-and-dent 1968 Charger body, with home-made support gusseting and a crazy narrowed Newport front bumper, is wild enough, but Jim even started the car up a couple of times during the weekend. The running Hemi features 1964 K heads, a rare single four-barrel magnesium intake and black-box Prestolite ignition, as well as a T85 three-speed and a Halibrand magnesium rear end.
<img src=" http://st.hotrod.com/uploads/sites/21/2016/11/car-craft-mcacn-2016-pandora-1966-gto.jpg" alt="21. Best 'Memories of Cruisin' USA' Paint Job – 1966 GTO – Jennifer Murphy Remember when Car Craft's monthly Cruisin' USA was a huge deal? We sure do; in the late 1970s-early 1980s era, before musclecar collecting took over, styling was in. Another Class of '66 machine that was elsewhere, Jennifer Murphy's 400-ci/M-21 crash-box GTO in the Day 2 collection area featured the candy apple metallic paint with the multi-colored graphics that helped define the era. The car name Pandora and 4SPDCHK New York tags were a plus. Yes, these GTOs are worth a bunch if they get restored, but this one brought back those memories of hot summer nights, high school bravado, and yes, Jennifer, even some of the nasty whispered comments boys made when girls like you came by to take $50.00