By: Richard Fleener
Katrina and I just returned from the First Annual Talladega Family Reunion held in conjunction with the 2010 Forge Muscle Car Show in Kingsport, TN. It was both an excellent collection of cars and a family reunion for people who own the cars, worked on the cars and loved the cars. It was a car show unlike any other we have ever been to. The convention center was full of beautiful cars in addition to the fantastic examples of the 1969 Ford Talladega, Mercury Spoiler and Spoiler II. There were well beaten unrestored cars, drivers in excellent condition, race cars, show cars and trailer queens. There was camaraderie between these Aero Warrior car owners in the air that permeated the entire hotel convention center complex.
Unlike most shows, this one has no awards or trophies. You go to the Forge Show and the Talladega Family Reunion for the cars and the people. This was not about any ones car being more correct than your car or his car sold for more at Barrett Jackson than yours. The emphasis is not focused on who spent the most on a restoration or the correctness of the restoration; they were there to share stories, information, good sources of parts and enjoy each others good friendship. Now, don’t take me wrong most all of us want our cars to be as correct as we can get them and there are some excellent resources at the event to help. Most in attendance are proud of their car regardless of condition and most participants spent as much time looking at the driver quality cars as they did the master pieces. These cars are so rare all of them are stars!
As Katrina and I drove the four hour plus trip home from the show on Sunday we could not stop talking about all of the terrific people we met and what a great group of men and women (and kids) that these Ford Aero cars attract. Neither of us had one bad experience during the entire weekend with anyone at the show; participant, spectator or hotel/convention center employee. Let me share with you one memorable event.
On Saturday Katrina and I were in the hotel restaurant having lunch to re-energize for the afternoon activities. We both were attired in our “Motor Craft” red, white and blue shirts with vintage patches. We were immediately approached by a gentleman who, like ourselves, is a member of the Baby Boomer Generation. Barley able to hold back the tears he told us how wonderful it was to see all those beautiful muscle cars.
He and some other veterans of the Vietnam War were meeting in the hotel and happened onto the show the night before. You could see the rush of memories that these cars had brought back to him; he was nearly overwhelmed by them. He went on to share with us that after the visit to the show he and his friends went into the bar and one of the Family Reunion participants had purchase a bottle of wine for them to share. He then stated there were some vets from WWII and Koren conflict there who also joined in.
Although neither Katrina nor I had anything to do with his encounter he kept thanking us for the show and telling us how wonderful it was to see those cars and how nice all of the car people were. As he walked back to his table with tears in his eyes we looked at each other and were reminded that there is a reason for bringing these cars out to shows that is far more important than the joy we get in showing them.
Obviously we enjoy the cars a great deal and are fortunate enough to be able to actively participate in this wonderful hobby. However, not all families are so lucky. For many the cars are a far off dream that will never be realized but they can attend a show and relive memories of such cars and the good times they had in them. Often it is a memory of their parents or siblings.
It is not unlike the memory rush you get when you get a whiff of an aroma out of the past. It may be the smell of fresh baked bread or the smell of fresh brewed coffee. For some gearheads it is the smell of alcohol fuel at the race track. For me, it is the difficult to find smell of a 1950s 5&10 Cent Store. I can’t describe it, but it is the mix of fresh salted nuts, fresh chocolate candy and the random merchandise such a store sold. On a very few occasions in my life I encountered such an aroma. However, when I do I am immediately transported back to the mid 1950s when I was 9 years old and shopping for the first time on my own for a Christmas present for my mother. These old cars can provide an intense memory rush for attendees at a car show. Please remember that the next time someone says to you “I use to have one just like this!”.
Here are a few of the first photos from the Talladega Family Reunion. We will be bringing you more over the next few days and weeks as I sort through the 900 photos I took at the event. There will also be Feature Cars plus a photo of every Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II that was in attendance. You will also see many of the cars’ owners and we have some exciting announcements about the 2nd ANNUAL TALLADEGA FAMILY REUNION TO BE HELD ON SEPTEMBER 9-10, 2011.