Many car shows are great because of the cars. Some are great because of the cars and the setting (Pebble Beach, anyone?). A few are great solely for the setting, and I recently had the privilege of attending one of those. In fact, it was easily the neatest venue for a car show I’ve ever attended, bar none.
The setting, if the picture and title didn’t give it away, was the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas. I estimate there were about 150 cars that turned out. I’m not saying the cars weren’t good, just on par with an average local show. The vast majority wouldn’t hold a lot of interest as subjects at Curbside Classic, but there were some standouts which I will share with the discerning readers below.
First a little background. Our family was vacationing in Corpus Christi last October (in south Texas, early October is our favorite time of the year for beach going), which just happened to coincide with this car event I had never heard of. I would certainly have wanted to take in the U.S.S. Lexington anyway, as I am a bit of a naval and military history buff. Whenever we are somewhere with an old ship to tour, we go, and this is the first chance I’ve had to visit an aircraft carrier.
The Lexington has an illustrious history. When the original Lexington carrier (CV-2) was sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942, a new carrier under construction (CV-16) was renamed Lexington in her honor. It was in service from 1943-1991. Entering service in mid 1943, the Lexington was involved in most of the major Pacific campaigns for the rest of the war. It acquired the nickname “The Blue Ghost” after Japanese propaganda radio erroneously declared it sunk. The Lex is also noteworthy today for being the oldest surviving fleet carrier in the world.
The organization that runs the ship museum has stated that this (2019) car show will be the last one, due to concerns about the long term functioning of the aircraft elevator used to get the cars on deck.
A few lucky car owners were able to park their cars in a shady spot. The weather was a bit warm with a high in the upper 80’s and mostly sunny skies. The 1967 Riviera was not in perfect condition, but that didn’t make it any less lovely. The second generation Riviera was arguably second only to the first generation as an exemplar of Bill Mitchell and GM’s styling prowess in the 60’s.
If this car lights your fire, you might like the article I wrote on a pristine original 1966 example a couple of years ago.
This is one you don’t see every day, a 1964 Chrysler 300 (non-letter) convertible. It’s been in the same family since 1965. While not ready to win any shows, it was presentable and said to be unrestored, though certainly not unmodified. In addition to the obvious Cragar wheels and rear end lift, it has an aftermarket intake and carb.
The interior upholstery and just about everything else inside looks original. I love this interior with its quirky square (make that elliptical) steering wheel, simple and graceful full-width dash and instrumentation and the world’s widest brake pedal.
Mustangs were prolific on the Lexington. I won’t touch on them much except to show the Bullitts, the newest edition of which I hadn’t seen up close and parked until the show. I would definitely welcome one in my driveway. I also wrote an article on Bullitt Mustangs new and old. Since I did that article, the Gas Monkey Garage on the TV show Fast’n’Loud did a Bullitt recreation which was really cool, culminating in filming a recreation of the chase scene. GMG has a webpage on it here. If you missed the show and are interested, the episode is available online, but it looks like you have to subscribe to some TV service to get it.
The 2019-20 Bullitt is the third tribute model that Ford has sold, joining the 2001 and 2008 editions. Of course there are countless unofficial 1968 tribute cars out there. My article above shows the 1968, 2001 and 2019 versions, but the one that wasn’t present at that Barrett-Jackson event was a 2008. This is probably my favorite of the modern ones, appearance-wise at least. The retro themed S197 generation most closely resembles the 67-68 fastbacks and I’ve always liked it (admittedly I am a bit biased being the owner of a 2011).
Unlike the 64 Chrysler 300, a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am is not an unusual site at a car show at all, but I still find it irresistible. Smokey And The Bandit featured a 1977 model, which had new and very attractive front end styling. The 1978 model looked very similar, but had more available power. This car has the top-of-the-line W72 Pontiac 400 c.i. 220 h.p. engine, which only approximately 10% of Trans Ams had that year. An even smaller percentage had the top 400 for its last year in 1979, which also received another front end restyling. Personally, I like the 77-78 front best.
In the roughly 15 year period between the end of the muscle car era and the modern reemergence of serious performance, the 78-79 TA is definitely one of the strongest, best-executed American cars of that period.
Who didn’t love the TV Batmobile as a kid? This replica looked very well done.
Crime fighting gadgets are all in place and ready for thwarting the next villainous plot in Gotham City. Is Batman based in Corpus Christi now?
With its jet engine and huge fins, the Batmobile looks right in place on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Wrapping up our showbiz theme, next to the Batmobile was a Jurassic Park Jeep replica. Based on the YJ (1987-95), the Jeeps in the first Jurassic Park movie are rather iconic for fans of simulated dinosaurs. Yet again, I wrote up another JP replica for a Curbside Classic article on the YJ Jeeps.
Jeep fans also had a treat with a permanent hanger deck exhibit of a restored WWII era military Jeep.
Another car populating the performance interregnum mentioned above with the 78 TA was Oldsmobile’s latter day 442. It was sold from 1985-87, this is a 1986. It had the same drivetrain as the 83-84 Hurst/Olds, which is to say a 180 h.p. 307 c.i. V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission. Better than what had been available on Old’s 442 package in the late 70’s, but no match for a 78 Trans Am.
I rather dig the interior. It combines nice features like comfortable seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and full gauges with a generally old-school look that went well with the generally old-school vibe of the entire car. 70’s-style T-tops are a nice bonus on your retro-style pseudo muscle car.
When I first spotted this 1972 Cutlass it didn’t raise my interest too much, as I assumed it was a 350 powered Cutlass Supreme refurbished to look like a little like a 442. As they say, though, don’t judge a book by its cover or an Oldsmobile by its stripes.
What I was actually looking at was a genuine unicorn. It is a Cutlass Supreme, equipped from the factory with a 455 and a 4-speed manual. That’s the 270 net h.p. L75, not the 300h.p. W30, but still a real factory fire breather by 1972’s end-of-the-muscle-car-line standards.
That M20 4-speed stick sure looks funny jutting out of the Cutlass Supreme’s floor. Kind of truck-like. The owner displayed the window sticker and other dealer paperwork as bone-fides, as well as a 1980 letter from Oldsmobile stating that 66 Supreme convertibles were equipped with that powertrain, as well as 77 Supreme hardtops. That’s actually more than I might have guessed, but considering that Oldsmobile was already selling scads of Cutlasses (including 131,613 Supremes in 1972) and was known to be glad to sell you just about any combination of options you could think of, it’s an appropriately tiny percentage.
Judging by the sticker, some of the other equipment may not be original, such as the hood stripes, spoiler and steering wheel. Really unique and interesting car!
Finally, we have another car that I did not initially realize what I was looking at. It’s a really nice, original, one-owner 1962 Corvette with a 327 (version not specified) in a sharp black over red color. I was admiring it casually when I noticed the National Corvette Museum logo on the poster inside the car and realized I’d seen it before, at the museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I saw the car when I visited in 2014, a few months after it had been pulled out of the sinkhole that opened up under part of the museum and swallowed 8 Corvettes.
It looks to have been completely repaired. I don’t know how it got to Corpus Christi and came to be parked on the U.S.S. Lexington. The poster inside the car that talked about the sinkhole history was pretty low key and I’ll bet many attenders didn’t pick up on that. I didn’t either right away. I have pictures I took of the damaged car then, as well as the sinkhole and all the other cars that fell in, but seeing this car has given me the idea of writing them up in a separate article. So stay tuned.
The show could easily have been 50% bigger and still had room on the Lexington’s huge flight deck. If they indeed don’t ever put on this show again, it will be a shame. For lovers of vehicular glory, big and small, it’s the perfect combination and I am grateful I got to go!