Monday, October 3, 2011

Beautiful day, beautiful cars at the 2011 Gladfest Car Show

“Wow. I didn’t realize this show was this big.”

That’s usually the reaction of first-time visitors to the annual Gladfest Car Show, which is held during Gladstone, Missouri’s big Gladfest celebration each fall. The multi-day event features a parade, a carnival, musicians, vendors, and more, so it’s easy to see how a car show could get lost in the shuffle.

It doesn’t get lost, though. Each year, hundreds of cars and trucks pack the Gladstone Community Center parking lot. Proceeds from the $15.00 admission, the silent auction, and 50/50 tickets go to scholarship funds at local area high schools.

Another perfect fall day also encouraged some owners of higher quality rides to get them out of the garage before the season changed. There were several things out there that I hadn’t seen all year.

One of them was a 1964 Indy racer just like the one A.J. Foyt used to win the the big race. ’64 was the last year a front-engine roadster won the 500. That event was also tainted by the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald in a fiery second-lap crash. The car at the show is beautiful. The restoration, the graphics, the wheels and tires, just every detail is gorgeous. The owner noticed me standing there drooling on it, so he was nice enough to let me sit behind the wheel. He also sort of downplays the car’s significance, quickly pointing out that it is “just a replica”, not the actual car used in the race. But it was still one of the backup cars built for Foyt that year. Make no mistake; in spite of the lack of racing provenance, this car is the real deal.

From the same era, I was also impressed with a maroon 1965 Corvette hardtop roadster with white seats and the rare and desirable 425-hp 396 big block. Only 2,157 ’65 Vettes came equipped with the rat engine late in the year, and this one looked even more sinister with its radio and heater delete plate filling up a large portion of the dashboard. The car also had a very strong aura of originality to it. It was a very impressive car, and I would imagine, very valuable too.

One of the more dazzling cars out there was rich, two-tone burgundy a 1930 Cadillac Phaeton. The car had been updated beneath the skin with a later-model Cadillac V8 and modern running gear, but the opulent, 1930’s appearance remained. And the sparkling 1950’s-style Cadillac genuine wire wheels and wide whites really put it over the edge. You could almost picture Clark Gable showing up to the country club in this thing. It was quite a departure from the typical Chevelles, Mustangs, Corvettes, and Camaros that we’re used to seeing at these events.

And while we’re on the subject of departures, there was a ’66 Corvair convertible there with a 215-c.i. aluminum Oldsmobile V8 crammed in the back. The owner stated that the car had been built in New York, and it was quite a job. Heavy plumbing was required to connect the rear-engine to the front-mounted radiator. But somehow, it all came together to look “right”. Still, you have to wonder, if Corvairs handled as scary as Ralph Nader claimed, how wild would one be with a V8 behind the rear axle. No matter; it was a neat little car.

I spoke quite awhile with the owner of a ’76 Firebird that had been made into The Rockford Files car. He told me that when he was in the military in the 1970s, he had the opportunity to meet James Garner and ride with him in an actual TV vehicle. Apparently, it was a very wild ride, but he told Garner that someday he’d get a similar gold Firebird of his own. Not only did he make good on his promise, but he sent pictures and letters to Garner after the car was finished. And he was rewarded with various autographed photos and memorabilia from the Hollywood star.

I don’t actually enter too many of these judged parking lot shows with my old ’63 Chevy truck, but since there was a carnival and activities for the family, I made an exception this time. Of course, I was shut-out of the “Top 15” truck awards. Apparently, the members of the Cowtown T’s who had the tough task of judging this event, expect shiny paint, or perhaps just paint in general. I did hear a few late-model trucks mentioned in the rundown, though. All’s I can say to that is, get back to me in 48 years and we’ll see how well they held up without the luxury of a restoration.

I could keep going on about the nice cars at this show: the ’61 Pontiac, the ’61 Oldsmobile, the Cord hot rod, various Corvettes and Camaros, the Morris Minor panel, a pretty ’56 Desoto, and on, and on. And this doesn’t even get into the KC Slammers model car show that took place inside the community center. But instead, I’ll just let you decide what’s cool for yourself. Below, you’ll find more than 350 pictures in the slideshow. When you’re through that, you may just realize how big this show really is.


  1. Looks like a good show - the model cars themselves would be worth the trip! Cool Kellison also, but questionable details like wheels, steering wheel etc. But even so, don't see those every day!

  2. Regarding your comment on the 215 Olds in the back of the Corvair,
    " Still, you have to wonder, if Corvairs handled as scary as Ralph Nader claimed, how wild would one be with a V8 behind the rear axle, "
    Well, the obvious answer is that no, they didn't handle scary to start with. But as to this particular build, the 215 aluminum V8 weighed about 60 pounds LESS than the stock flat six. I built one in ''69~'70 and it was our daily driver for several years. Handled like a dream, and rain mid 13s on the strip.