The AACA Eastern Spring National, June 2019

What a show! Over 400 of the country’s finest classic and collector cars gathered in Parsippany NJ to participate in what was officially known as “The 2019 AACA Eastern Spring National”, but what was simply referred to by the NJ Region members who put it all together as “the National”.

Saturday morning’s last-minute detailing

Here’s the background: sometime last year, after a visit from an AACA Director encouraging us to take the leap, the NJ Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) decided to host a National event (static car show, as opposed to a driving tour). This would be the first time since 1968 that a National meet would be held in the Garden State. It was “all hands on deck”, and dozens of Regional members (including yours truly) volunteered for duty.

The dates were picked: June 28 through June 30, 2019. The location/host hotel was found: the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany NJ, conveniently located a mile from Interstate 287 in the northern part of the state. As with any National, the several days prior to the actual car show would include a chance for car owners and club members to join optional tours to points of interest in the area. For me, Thursday and Friday were consumed with staying at the hotel to assist with behind-the-scenes work on merchandise and raffle ticket sales, as well as transporting the club’s PA system.

NJ Region staff in the merchandise/raffle room

Saturday, the big day, arrived, and many Regional members were already scurrying around the hotel’s hallways at 6am. After I got the PA moved into position, I put my 1993 Mazda Miata on the show field in the HPOF category (Historical Preservation of Original Features), and rushed to judges’ breakfast.

Last year, as part of my contribution to making this show happen, I decided to offer my services as a judge for The National. Serving as an AACA Judge is a major time commitment. First, one is obligated to attend at least one judging school a year (I managed two, one in Gettysburg PA in August 2018, and again in Philadelphia in February 2019). Then, the day of the show, judges’ breakfast is mandatory. This is your opportunity to sit with your Judging Team, including Team Captain, review the list of vehicles to be judged, and make preliminary plans to tackle the task.

We judged the Jensen-Healey. We did not judge the truck.

We were assigned Classes 25 A/B/D, which were two-seat sports cars of a variety of model years. We began our duties at 11am, and judged 10 cars, mostly European sports cars (MGs, Triumphs, Porsches, Jaguars, a Jensen-Healey) plus a Cadillac Allante. When one includes the review and tallying of the score cards, the actual judging took over 3 hours. (Besides the Team Captain, the team includes one judge each for exterior, interior, chassis, and engine compartment. I had engine compartments, and spent my time scrutinizing valve cover finishes, hose clamps, and wiring connections, among other things.)

Fueled by water and chips, judges check and double check the score cards

Finally, released by my Team Captain, I grabbed my camera and dashed back to the show field to snap as many shots as possible. We were blessed with a sunny and dry day, if a bit warm (93 degrees and humid). Staying hydrated was paramount, as was protecting one’s skin from the relentless rays. The 400 or so cars were mostly in the points-judged classes, but we had ample turnout in both HPOF and DPC (Drivers Participation Class) too.

Looking at the placards, while most vehicles were from the metro NY/NJ area, I did note many vehicles from PA and CT, and cars from as far as NC and WI. In my haste, I forgot to photograph my Miata, which was vying for its “Original HPOF” award. I’m pleased and humbled to state that it did achieve that milestone.

Cars 25 years old and older are AACA eligible

The caliber and quality of the show cars amazed me. I’ve been attending Hershey since the late ‘70s; I’ve been to various Concours all along the East Coast, including Greenwich, Misselwood, and New Hope. Subjectively, I thought that the vehicles in attendance in Parsippany were collectively the most stunning group of AACA-eligible cars I’ve ever had the pleasure to gaze upon. Brief conversations with some fellow Regional members revealed that they felt the same way.

Saturday evening’s banquet was the icing on the cake. We finally had a chance to relax, have a drink or three, and chat with friends old and new. I’ll happily repeat myself: the older I get, the more I enjoy the PEOPLE and the STORIES more than the cars. And I’ve got stories, and they will follow as separate posts in the coming days.

 

1951 Willys station wagon

 

1966 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

1962 Hillman Minx convertible

 

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

 

1982 Plymouth Horizon

 

1966 Cadillac

 

1963 Chevrolet Corvair

 

1956 DeSoto

 

1968 Cadillac Eldorado

 

1973 Ford Mustang convertible

 

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

 

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

 

1961 Pontiac Catalina bubble top

 

1981 DeLorean DMC12

 

1966 Ford Mustang GT fastback

 

1964 Amphicar (note fire extinguisher)

 

1953 Nash Healey convertible

 

1967 Ford Mustang

 

Baby ‘birds line up for their photo op

 

1956 Ford Thunderbird, one-of-one in “Lincoln cinnamon” factory paint

 

1957 Ford Thunderbird

 

1968 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

1968 Mercury Cougar

 

1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

 

1969 Pontiac Firebird

 

1970 Buick Riviera

 

Boattail Riv’s extend their shark noses

 

1976 Pontiac Grand Prix

 

1964 Buick Riviera
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

 

1963 Studebaker Avanti

 

1948 Willys Overland Jeepster

 

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

 

1931 Packard

 

Event shirt? Check. Name badge? Check. Car ID card? Check. Judge’s sticker? Check. Can I go out now?

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.