Car Show Classic – Vintage Iron in the Hog Capitol of the World

Last Saturday I felt the need to hit the road and check out a car show in Kewanee, a town about 45 miles southeast of the Quad Cities. Kewanee, a small town in Henry County, Illinois, has three claims to fame: It is known as the Hog Capitol of the World; was home to the Kewanee Boiler Corporation until 2002; and has a gigantic downtown furniture store, Good’s, that comprises several interconnected historic buildings and houses a rathskeller in the basement. But I was not here for hogs, boilers, or a Barcalounger. I was here for cars.

I knew I had made the right decision to come when the very first car I saw was this immaculate 1960 DeSoto Fireflite four-door hardtop. This was the next-to-last year for the “junior Chrysler”, and the last year they really looked good. The 1961 model–with its shall we say, unique facelift–just didn’t compare.

The instrument panel is really cool. I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t have the rectangular Lucite steering wheel. Perhaps that was a Mopar accessory?

Typical of Exner’s 1957-61 designs, fins dominate this car. Despite their only minor cosmetic differences from the 1960 Chryslers, these DeSotos managed to have a bit of their own identity.

As you can tell from the pictures, I really liked this one, and especially so because it was a four-door. I’m sure most restored ’60 DeSotos are two-door hardtops. Good for the owners, who rescued a four-door!

Right next to it was a ’64 Galaxie 500XL. Since we just did a full story on the ’64 Galaxies, I won’t dwell too much on this one.

Still, I really like the ’64 full-size Fords, so let’s take a look at the front before moving on. Just to its right sat another ’64, this one a Galaxie 500. Usually I don’t see these at shows, so it was funny to see two of them side-by-side. Even more unusual was the total absence of ’64 full size Chevys at this show.

I’m sure JPCavanaugh will like this ’56 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman. It was especially fetching in coral pink and white with a black and white interior.

While little-changed from the all-new “Million Dollar Look” ’55s, the ’56 DeSotos added modest fins and “Tri-Tower” taillights, a styling feature that would last through the 1959 model year.

The interiors were equally sharp, with a “Gullwing” instrument panel. I believe you could get an optional Benrus clock in the steering wheel hub; sadly, this example is not equipped with it.

Although ’56 T-Birds are not rare at car shows, this one stood out with its color combination and wire wheels, which were a Ford accessory.

Interestingly, the owner had covered the engine-turned dash applique with what appeared to be Di-Noc woodgrain. It wasn’t stock and it looked all right, but why would you want to cover up that sharp aluminum trim? Sun glare, perhaps?

Right next to the Thunderbird was a ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner. Ford actually outsold Chevy in 1957, but you would never know it today. A friend of mine had a ’57 Ford as his first car. Know what his hobby car is today? A ’57 Bel Air hardtop!

Further into the park was this ’64 Mercury. I’m sure Lee Wilcox will like this one, as it looks an awful lot like his ex-Curbside Classic.

I wonder, is Merle the name of the car or the owner?

Towards the back of the park was the customs/work-in-progress section. Here we have a ’53 Cadillac that someone apparently is trying to turn into a two-seat Thunderbird. Looks like it started out as a Series 62 sedan.

The interior was changed as well, with wood trim and lots of extra gauges added. Only the original Cadillac clock remains.

There was also this very tough looking Studebaker pickup. I like the whitewalls and disc wheel covers on the front. Its rear tires are much wider than those of any stock Studebaker in memory. Wonder what’s under the hood?

There was also this Starsky and Hutch replica–at least on the outside. The interior was tuck-and-roll crushed velour that extended to the dashboard and headliner. The hood ornament indicates this was once a Gran Torino Brougham.

Now this is not one of Lee Wilcox’s Sunday Salons, but I couldn’t help taking a pic of this sharp 1957 Harley Davidson. That black cherry paint is gorgeous.

I was now coming to the truck section, and my eye was immediately drawn to this nice 1974-76 Ranchero 500. It was subtly modified, which only enhanced its looks.

The dual exhaust and slight rake suggest that the engine is not the 250-cu in six that was available for the last time in ’74. In 1975, the 351 V8 was standard, and 400- and 460-cu in V8s were optional.

Both the Ranchero and El Camino were still available at this time. The last Ranchero came off the line in ’79, but the El Camino (and related GMC Caballero) lasted all the way to 1987.

Vintage-truck fanciers will like this turquoise 1955-56 Chevy pickup. I like the white rally wheels that match the stock painted bumpers. Chrome bumpers cost extra.

Since I just showed you a Ranchero, I’d be remiss to not include this ultra-clean 1985 El Camino. I prefer the quad-headlight front this one sports to the earlier 1978-81 dual headlight version.

I just love the looks of these, and this one looks great in its two-tone black and silver and Rally wheels. A sheet on the car said it had been sold brand new at Yemm Chevrolet, in nearby Galesburg.

The interior was just as nice as the exterior. And look, a burgundy interior–not black or gray like new cars. Nice.

Being surrounded by Big Three iron made this long-wheelbase W126 the odd man out at this show. Like most Mercedes between the Paul Bracq era and the last W124s and W126s, its styling is timeless.

This one was a 1986 420SEL, Smoke Silver with a perfect saddle-tan interior and sunroof. It’s hard to believe this car is 26 years old. What a great shape, and what great shape it’s in; it could easily pass for a new car.

Right next to it was this Monte Carlo SS Aeroback, built as a NASCAR homologation special. This one looked great in black with a burgundy interior and T-top.

I had to admire this ’70 Sport Satellite–not just for its sharp green paint job, but for the simple fact that it had not been turned into a Road Runner or GTX “tribute” car. These days, Satellites probably are rarer than the “hot” Plymouth B-bodies.

There was even a Pinto Mustang II. This one was really nice with its decidedly non-stock engine and side exhaust. Not the Mustang’s best years, but this one has beaten the odds.

I was immediately attracted to this Grabber Yellow Boss 302. My dad got a brand new one, as his high-school graduation present, which was exactly like this example only with a black interior. Eventually, he sold it to buy a 1960 Porsche 356B Roadster. My mom, who was dating him at the time, couldn’t believe he got rid of that “nice yellow Mustang” to buy an old German car that looked like an upside-down bathtub. She married him anyway.

There was also this gold 1973 Firebird with a 350-cu in V8. The alloy wheels with knock-offs aren’t stock, but they suit Bill Mitchell’s Ferrari-inspired lines.

I spotted this ’77 Monte Carlo as I was walking into the show, and absolutely HAD to check it out. This Landau looked great in red and white, and has a very rare option: the “Sky Roof” power sunroof. I’d never before seen a Colonnade Monte with this option.

Whoever originally ordered this car must have checked every box: Sky Roof, Rally wheels, buckets and console, sport mirrors, etc.–and just look at that red interior! I ask again: Why can’t we get red, blue, green, and white car interiors anymore?

Like every Monte Carlo since the beginning, the ’77 model could be identified by a revised grille (the 1976’s grille-mounted emblem was moved into a stand-up hood ornament) and taillights. This was the last year for the ‘big’ Monte Carlo, which would be replaced with a downsized version for 1978.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I saw lots of these, most of them worn out and rusty. My dad had a silver-blue ’77 Monte as a company car, but it was long gone by the time I came around. So I’m glad to be seeing these more and more often at shows in nicely restored condition, as opposed to the rust buckets I remember from the late ’80s.

There was also this example of one of the last G-body Cutlass Supremes, a 1987 or ’88 442. This one was mint and bone-stock, with original Olds Super Stock wheels and T-top. I really like these late Supremes with their composite headlights. It’s too bad they were made with this front end for only two years.

Another nice find was this 1969 Buick Wildcat. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one of these in the metal before, unless you count the 1969 or ’70 Electra 225 I saw at a Maid-Rite cruise-in about 10 years ago. Just like the ’77 Monte, this car looked great in red and white, with the added bonus of a white interior. What’s more, those Buick rally wheels are some of the best-styled wheels ever.

Like all of GM’s big cars, full-size Buicks were all new for 1969, so 1970 brought only minor changes. It was also the last year for the Wildcat, which was replaced in 1971 by the even-bigger Centurion–not nearly as cool a name as Wildcat, and the public apparently agreed; the Centurion only lasted through 1973.

Most of the cars at the show were nice, but this humble ’65 Fairlane was prepped to a near-concours level. It just glowed. The ’65 Fairlane used the same chassis as the pretty ’64, but the addition of styling cues from the all-new ’65 full-size Ford produced somewhat mixed results. I like ’em myself.

The 289 in this car was remarkably tidy. You can click on the picture for a better view of the reproduction FoMoCo tags placed throughout the engine compartment.

While first-gen Camaros are commonly seen at car shows (this one was no exception), their Firebird brethren are much more scarce. This ’68 caught my eye and looked quite good in silver-blue metallic.

Yes, I know these 1968-72 Chevelles are not rare, but this one made me stop in my tracks. Red with white interior, and just bloomin’ immaculate.

I’m a sucker for white interiors, and this one looked great. This SS is a bit unusual due to its bench seat and column shift instead of buckets and a console. Check out the vintage instruction and feature sheets on the sun visors!

Of course, I had to inspect this Brougham-era ’73 Charger SE. The SE had been around since at least 1970, but in 1973 it got a new roofline with a canopy vinyl top and slatted opera windows. Ironically, this one had been given a hopped-up engine, Go-Wing and a bumble bee stripe on the back: The Brougham Muscle Car.

The muscle car era was ending, and the luxurious SE was far more popular than the Charger Rallye. Yes, the times were changing. Muscle was out and luxury was in.

Despite the car’s sporty exterior modifications, the interior was left untouched–right down to the distinctive steering wheel and iridescent-green vinyl bench seat. A blast from the past, to be sure.

Although I was pretty much walked-out by this point, I just had to circle back and check out this 1926 Model T. Nineteen twenty-six was the next-to-last year for the Model T, and this one looked very nice indeed.

This was a pretty good show that presented a variety of cars I’ve never seen at the Quad Cities shows. I hadn’t attended it before, but I’ll be back next year.