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The Greatest Show on Turf


A light mist and overcast skies was hardly the kind of weather one would want at the start of a car show day. Nevertheless, that is what greeted participants in “The Greatest Show on Turf” as we made our way to San Diego’s Balboa Park recently.

The big, annual event was a co-presentation of the San Diego Automotive Museum and the Car Club Council of San Diego. If member clubs provide enough entries, they can get a reserved spot on the grass. I belong to the San Diego Miata Club and that is exactly what we did.

Car shows provide a good opportunity for participants to really clean up their cars. Speaking for myself and probably others, too, I cleaned my car up much better than I normally do, so I was not too pleased when, as I was loading my car and preparing to leave home, I saw that it was raining lightly. Into the small trunk I was able to cram two folding chairs, a large beach umbrella (just in case), food for the day, and car cleaning supplies (for touchups after driving in the rain). Then, with the convertible top up, I drove to Balboa Park and joined the other Miata drivers.

As we waited to be directed to our special place on the lawn, I suddenly had a sinking feeling. You see, my car is a convertible. When the Miata’s top is down, we need to install a boot cover to hide the mechanism for the folding top. The vinyl material of my boot cover is quite thin and easily damaged, so I usually leave it at home and ignore the way the boot looks when the top is down but uncovered. Well, can you guess what I forgot to put in the trunk? That’s right, the boot cover. Here I was, entering my car in a car show and I didn’t have my boot cover. Of course, that would almost guarantee me no chance of winning anything. So, I drove all the way back home, retrieved the boot cover, and rejoined my fellow club members who were already removing the morning’s light mist from their Miatas, prior to the start of judging.

Miatas on display

Luckily, from that point on our day went quite well. The light rain stopped and the sun actually came out.

 1949 MG TC                                          Ford Fairlane

Once the judging began, I left to see the rest of the show. The collection of cars on display was impressive, indeed. To give you an idea, here is a partial list of the categories: Horseless Carriage, Speedsters & Roadsters (1916-1943), Woodies, American, Foreign Marques, Muscle Cars, Sportscars, Street Rods, Trucks, Lowriders and Motorcycles. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves...

Woody wagon                                                   Ford truck            

You’ll have to wait until next year to see the show again, but in the meantime I suggest that you visit the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park. According to the museum’s website, the idea of creating an automotive museum in Balboa Park can be traced back to automobile collector and racer Briggs Cunningham. Much later, in 1980, the San Diego City Council approved a proposal to do that and granted a lease on a historic 1935 building – which had been a part of the California Pacific International Exposition. Once intended as only a temporary structure, it was used as a barracks in World War II. Renovations and upgrades to turn it into an automotive museum cost about a million dollars, and it opened in December of 1988. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  

Exhibits rotate. For example, from April 29th to July 25th, you can see an exhibit entitled “Automotive Styling – The World’s Most Beautiful, Distinct, and Memorable Cars.” Prior to the 1920’s, “the goal of the automakers was to improve their products mechanically... making them reliable and easier to drive. Function superseded looks.” That design philosophy changed forever, thanks to such automotive design visionaries as Harley Earl, William Mitchell, and other pioneers. The cars on display include a 1936 Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 (Royce’s last contribution to design), 1938 Bentley (pillar-less saloon body), 1936 Packard (Model 1407 Coupe Roadster), 1963 Corvette Stingray, 1935 Lincoln Model K, 1953 Jaguar XK120, 1933 Pierce Arrow, 1967 Austin-Healey MKII 3000, and many more.

From July 29th to Oct. 24th, the theme will become “Race Cars, Extreme Customs, & Hot Rods.” Anyone with even a drop of motor oil running through their veins will enjoy themselves there.

For more information, including hours, visit their website at


Oh, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t win any prize in the show. Nevertheless, I still came out ahead because I now have a really clean car. Of course, now I don’t dare drive it if the skies are cloudy, but I’m sure that feeling won’t last long. Tolerating it getting dirty again is sort of like getting that first little scratch on a new car. After that, I’m not nearly so paranoid.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #149r3 AutoMatters

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