Inaugural Barrington car show expecting prestigious lineup
When Jim Steffen first saw the white 1975 Excalibur inside a pole barn in Crystal Lake, it looked, well, pretty awful.
"It had six cats in it. It was in really rough shape; all the interior was trashed," Steffen, 72, of North Barrington, recalled. "I didn't how bad it really was until the tow truck came and I found out all the wheels were locked."
No matter. Steffen, a car enthusiast who had been enamored with Excaliburs since he first saw one in 1971, didn't hesitate to buy it two years ago so he could refurbish it to mint condition.
"I had so many cars, I can't even keep count of them," Steffen said. "But I never had one of these. I always wanted an Excalibur."
Steffen's prized possession will be among classic automobiles that will be showcased June 26 in downtown Barrington, at the first Classic Collectors Car Show organized by the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Barrington has had "cruise nights" with cars on display in summertime for years, but the car show next month will be a much more formal affair, with a requirement that car owners be approved in advance.
Suzanne Corr, president of the chamber, said there's a "high concentration" of classic car collectors in the greater Barrington area. The goal is to bring them out for a community event that also will boost small businesses and Main Street retailers, she said.
"Collecting classic cars is more than a hobby; it is about preserving a story and a piece of history," she said. "Owning classic cars can be irresistible and emotionally compelling for the stories they represent. They capture the art and history of engineering and design."
Another car show participant will be Kevin Kauppi, director of the Chiwaukee Border chapter of Buick Club of America, which includes northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. Kauppi, 60, of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, will display his red 1976 Buick Riviera, a family heirloom.
"My parents purchased it in fall 1975, and it's been in the family ever since. I received my driver's license driving this car. I went to prom dates in the car. And now, here, years later, I'm showcasing it and displaying in my parent's memory," he said.
Kauppi spends at least an hour per week detailing the car so he can take it to car shows, including national meets where he's earned awards, he said.
His Riviera is nearly 19 feet long and has one of the largest engines produced in the last year of the "big Buicks," he said.
"It's a beauty," he said.
Steffen feels similarly about his Excalibur, a car inspired by the 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK. Only about 3,500 of them were made from the 1960s to the 1980s, many owned by celebrities like Dick Van Dyke, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Restoring the car meant first getting rid of the smell of cat urine, which took weeks. He then bought new rims, had a friend work on the brakes, and enlisted professionals for a new radiator, spark plugs, shocks, upholstery and more.
"It's a real attention-grab," he said. "When you stop at the stoplight, people ask you, 'What kind of car is it?'"
Visitors can expect to ask that question a lot at the downtown Barrington car show, which will have space for about 100 classic automobiles.
"It will definitely be a prestigious event," Kauppi said.
The car show will take place in the BMO Harris Bank lot at Cook and East Lake streets. There will be food, music, trivia contests with prizes, and a VIP patio area for adult refreshments on Park Avenue. The car show will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. The VIP patio will stay open with local music until 10 p.m.
There are still spots available for classic cars. Send in nominations as soon as possible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the car owner's name, address, phone number and email, along with a photo of the car and information about its year, make and model.
No day-of registration will be allowed.