Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Kansas City World of Wheels car show from Bartle Hall. Stories, coverage, and one epic photo slideshow

Finally--a big room full of old cars to look at! It has been a long winter, and if the 2011 World of Wheels hadn't come along when it did, I'm pretty sure I would have gnawed my arm off from boredom.

Once again, Kansas City's Bartle Hall was filled with shiny things (and not-so shiny things, which we'll get to in a moment). Beneath the neon tube lights, there was one of the most diverse collections of cars and trucks in the shows history.

The term "diverse" is sort of a curse and a blessing. When I anticipate the World of Wheels, I get jazzed about all the vintage hot rods and customs, and have learned to appreciate the sophisticated modern works of art that sparkle amid mirrored displays. And to that end, there are lots of things to hold my attention.

On the other hand, things like modified Scions and Donks are not my bailiwick. But as you get a more diverse display, you also start to see more real estate occupied by these types of vehicles. Maybe that means the car hobby is opening up to folks that normally wouldn't have been interested. I'm not sure. But for my money, the Goodguys show in September has an advantage thanks to its 1972 and older rule.

That's not to say World of Wheels wasn't a great show. There are several truly great traditional customs there. Cars like a faithful recreation of the Barris Blue Danube.

There was also a '41 Ford coupe that Barris Customs actually built from 1946-1948, and appeared in Rod & Custom in 1953. Right now, it sports a primer finish, but it's just a few quarts of gloss lacquer away from its former glory.

On the other end of the "traditional" spectrum (and the other end of the building), a large group of unabashed rat rods and modern interpretations of old school hot rods were on display. This is pretty much a sample of what you'd normally see like at the Greaserama show later in the year. A lot of them really were neat, creative cars. Some of them were absolutely horrible. But you got a sense that these guys were into the camaraderie and the social event as much as they were into their cars. Sometimes it was actually hard to take pictures of the cars over there, because you had to fight through the folks standing around jibber-jabbrin'. They seem like a pretty fun group.

The Sprint Car Hall of Fame brought a really nice sprint car down from Knoxville, Iowa. Just looking at it would be enough, but then I learned a little history from museum director Bob Baker. Kenny Gritz qualified this very car on the pole of the 1969 Knoxville Nationals. The night before the big race, a leak was discovered in the fuel tank. Gritz took the tank to a local shop, where he proceeded to weld a repair on it. The shop told him he needed to take it outside, because the tank might blow up. Gritz did, and the tank did, right in his face.

Gritz needed hospitalization for some pretty serious burns, but he refused to go before he ran the race. And in fact, Gritz won the 1969 Knoxville Nationals, the biggest event in all of sprint car racing.

The story does not end there, though. Gritz's car had a bolt-on roll cage when he won that race. Two weeks later, he brought the same car to another race at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Lincoln. Roll cages were pretty uncommon back then, and IMCA officials in Lincoln refused to let him run the car with that roll cage installed. Gritz protested, but the officials ultimately won out. Gritz unbolted the cage, wrecked the car, and was killed 16 days after his biggest win. Now that's a hell of a history for one car to have.

Probably the biggest draw on Friday night was Danielle Colby Cushman from TV's American Pickers. An endless line of fans waited for an autograph and a chance to meet the burlesque dancer-turned antique shop counter girl. Frank Fritz from the same show was supposed to be at the World of Wheels doing the same thing on Saturday.

Would you like to see pictures from this show? Well, I've got you covered. Below you'll find some 375 pics from the 2011 World of Wheels in Kansas City. I think I've got most of the cool stuff covered, some of the bad stuff, and everything in between. I hope you enjoy them!


  1. Thanks for all the great pics, Craig.

  2. Really great car photo gallery I enjoyed every pic. Thanks Craig!