Central Pennsylvania might well be called “Motorhead Valley,” as it is home to some of the largest car shows in the country.
For 2021, many events canceled or downsized last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are back up and running, with at least one show taking place across the Central PA region most weekends this summer.
There are also new shows scheduled for the first time. Here are some highlights and more information on a selection of notable upcoming car shows in the area:
47th Annual Street Rod Nationals East: June 4-6
This major event, which has been a regional highlight going back decades, offers attendees the ability to check out 3,000 street rods, custom cars, muscle cars and other vehicles at the York Expo Center, located at 334 Carlisle Ave.
A central draw for the event, which is associated with the Tennessee-based National Street Rod Association, is the ability of attendees to get up-close and personal with the cars, which are not roped-off away from the public or otherwise confined. According to the organizers, an all-time high number of both participants and spectators are expected in 2021.
A number of other activities, including commercial exhibitors, a swap meet, and the Women’s World, will be present.
For more information on this show, including registration, visit nsra-usa.com/events.
Carlisle Ford Nationals: June 4-6
Carlisle Events runs some of the largest car shows in the country, and the Ford Nationals event in Cumberland Valley is set to host Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the thousands. Michael Garland, publication relations manager at the group, describes it as the first large-scale gathering dedicated to Ford enthusiasts since last year’s event in Carlisle, which took place despite the pandemic.
In addition to classic and modern owner cars from across the country, the brand’s most hotly anticipated new vehicles are set to appear at the Carlisle Fairgrounds June 4-6. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 7 a.m. to noon Sunday.
“The Mach-E’s gonna be here, the Bronco’s gonna be here, the Mach-E GT,” Garland said. “You have product specialists going to come.”
He said it will be “the closest thing to hands-on” for the Ford fan.
Special activities include Comic Car Con, which displays Ford cars from comics and pop culture, such as the George Barris Batmobile from the 1960s-era Adam West TV show, as well as the Ford Pinto 50th Display, a showcase highlighting what many people remember as one of the brand’s most infamous cars.
The full guide for the event is more than 50 pages long.
Carlisle show organizers were sued in 2020 by the state’s department of health for holding an outdoor event of more than 250 attendees, something then barred by the governor’s phased reopening plans. The two sides reached a settlement within a few days, and the event was allowed to continue under an agreement.
Garland said Carlisle’s events will follow CDC guidelines, and signs will be displayed advocating mask-wearing, however, it is one’s personal choice to do so or not.
In terms of attendance, based on registration, Carlisle has been “on par or maybe above some of the 2019 data,” Garland said. “I think the renewed interest and increased turnout is directly related to the fact that people didn’t have things to do in 2020,” and even some events that had continued attracted a considerably reduced number of people due to pandemic fears.
Single-day attendance at the Carlisle Ford Nationals event is $15. It costs $30 for an event pass, with kids attending free. Ordering online can provide discounts.
For more information on this show, including registration, visit www.carlisleevents.com/events/events-detail/index?id=ford+nationals.
Klick-Lewis Concours Corvette Show: June 6
If you’re a cross-flag fanatic rather than a Blue Oval booster, this rain-or-shine show from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 6, hosted by Klick-Lewis Chevrolet Buick in Palmyra, brings together Corvettes from every generation.
The heaviest participation typically comes from C5, C6, and C7 models, said David Rodney, club officer at the Central PA Corvette Club.
The number of people and vehicles typically depends on weather conditions, although typically around 80 cars make an appearance.
This year, Rodney said, numbers are up in pre-registration, suggesting a longing to return to live events as the coronavirus pandemic recedes in the state. On-site registration takes place between 9 and 11 a.m., with a driver’s meeting time at 11:15 a.m. There is a food vendor at the show and multiple trophies and prizes. The show is free for general audience spectators, but not for those wishing to showcase their car.
For more information on this show, including registration, visit centralpacorvetteclub.com/cpcc-show1-2021.
Carlisle GM Nationals: June 25-26
Anything and everything General Motors is appreciated here, from antique Cadillacs to late-model ZL1 Camaros. More than 1,000 participants are expected for this particular Carlisle event. The Ford event’s Pinto showcase is mirrored with an equivalent commemoration of its notorious crosstown rival, the Chevrolet Vega, and other “H-Body” cars.
Hours are 7 a.m.-6 p.m. both days, although there is a Saturday awards parade at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for both days and $10 for a one-day pass, with kids 12 and under able to attend at no charge.
At Carlisle Events, there are multiple vendors selling new, old stock, and original parts, “automobilia,” such as gas pumps, signs, and collectibles, and what Garland calls the “home away from chrome” – a non-automotive space that can include kitchen items, cooking items, manicures, pedicures, wine-tastings and other attractions running the gamut for people that may not be interested in car shows.
For more information on all Carlisle Events, which also includes the July 9-11 Chrysler Nationals and Aug. 6-8 Truck Nationals, visit www.carlisleevents.com/events.
Monsters, Mud, and Motors Fest at the Tuscarora Valley Heritage Days: June 26
Steve Parry is extending his New York-based Versus Monster Trucks business by branching out to Pennsylvania, showing confidence that interest in the big-tired behemoths will remain strong.
Monster trucks, of which four are officially confirmed so far, will participate in side-by-side racing, a best trick competition, and “freestyle” activities. The main event begins at 7 p.m. The show opens at noon and is set to end around 8:30 or 9 p.m. on June 26 at the Tuscarora Valley Heritage Days Grounds. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for kids at the gate, although reduced pricing is available online for advance passes.
Among aficionados, individual monster trucks are known by name and reputation. Trucks set to attend this event include Hurricane Force, Bad News Travels Fast and Storm Damage, as well as Behind Bars, making its competition debut.
While the monster trucks are “the big draw,” Parry said, “tough trucks,” meant for off-road activities, bring their own attraction. They are set to complete in pro-mod and stock classes, with cash prizes of $1,500.
A standard car show open to all brands of vehicles is also taking place at the event, hosted by Mopar enthusiasts known as the Unprofane Riders. For younger kids, there is a monster truck ride truck and a Power Wheels race. In the future, Parry said he’d like the event to be an all-weekend affair.
For more information on this show, including registration, visit versusmonstertrucks.ticketspice.com/monstersmudandmotorsfest.
Import vs Domestic Shootout: A Car Show Experience: June 26
Although the name of this event implies a settling of scores, the organizer sees it as a chance to bring car enthusiasts together to appreciate machines they might otherwise have ignored and make new friends.
“Unfortunately, the car scene is very segregated, it’s very one side or the other,” said Douglas Fellenbaum Jr., the organizer of the event. “What’s nice about having both polar opposites of imports and domestics is that they each offer their own flavor.”
From the “American muscle” side and the owner of a Dodge Challenger Scat Pack, Fellenbaum said he’s grown to appreciate the import side of things also. About 200 cars total are hoped to attend the event, with a good mix of both sides. A DJ is also scheduled to provide entertainment.
In addition to a display show, several competitions are set to take place, including a “2-step battle,” where cars line up to each other, scream their engines, and people judge the best sound, and the “low limbo,” in addition to awards for Best Appearing domestic and Best Appearing import cars.
The show, which costs $20 to attend, is being hosted at the South Mountain Raceway in Rolling Springs, is also holding a dragster racing event that same day as part of the Jr. Dragster Northeast Nationals 2021 Summer Shootout.
For more information on this 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. show, including registration, visit www.facebook.com/events/323258529191219.
Deutsche Classic: July 10
Central Pennsylvania is well-known for its Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and you can complement your German experience with some German cars at the Deutsche Classic, situated in Berks County’s Oley Fairgrounds.
“We get over 1,000 spectators and over 250 show cars,” said Jeff Schmuck, a York resident, the lead organizer of the event, and a major Volkswagen fan.
Aside from Volkswagens, “we get big numbers for Porsches, BMWs, a good bit of Mercedes as well,” he said.
Motorcycles also make an appearance. Even some more obscure German vehicles such as Opels are present in relatively considerable numbers. Finally, there are parts swap opportunities and vendors at the event, which takes place 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 10.
Other highlights include an Easter-egg-type hunt for German-brand diecast cars for kids ages 3-7 and custom, one-off trophies made out of German car parts for the winners of various prizes. Award classes include, but are by not limited to, brand-specific titles, Farthest Traveled, Best Interior, Best Exterior and Best in Show.
Previous Best in Show winners include a Mercedes-Benz 280 SE and a Porsche 356, known to enthusiasts as the “bathtub” Porsche. The event did not occur last year due to the coronavirus.
Tickets are $17 for adult general admission, including five food and beverage coupons. Children are able to attend for free, although they are not eligible for food and beverage coupons; food for children can be bought separately. The Oley Fire Company is supplying the food and refreshments.
For more information on this show, including registration, visit www.deutscheclassic.com.
Corvettes at Carlisle: Aug. 26-28
The king of Corvette events worldwide, this mammoth gathering, which takes place Aug. 26-28 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., will feature around 5,000 specimens of the classic sports car. Like the Ford event, the manufacturer has historically had a strong presence.
“They bring their engineers, they bring their product walkarounds, and they talk about these cars,” Garland said. “the consumer can ask Tadge Juechter, who is the engineer of the C8, ‘why did you do this, why that [mid-engine] style’.”
According to the automotive press, Chevrolet is rumored to be unveiling the C8 Z06 this summer, which upon its release is likely going to be the quickest Corvette in history. Garland couldn’t confirm if the new Z06 would appear at the event, but said that “Corvette and Team Chevrolet usually surprise us.”
In July 2019, the first-ever mid-engine C8 Corvette was unveiled in an event scheduled around the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Just one month later, around 15 C8 cars were present at Carlisle.
At the time, Garland said, the car had yet to be officially offered for sale and only two C8s were expected to appear at the show. Team Chevrolet typically drive their cars to the event from Detroit or Bowling Green, KY, where the Corvette is produced.
Ticket prices are $20 for one day and $35 for all three, with kids 12 and under free to attend. “[At] events like ours, kids and parents alike can see in real life the toys they played with at home,” Garland concluded. “The ability to see it, feel it, touch it, smell it….it’s a great bang for the buck.”
For more information on this show, including registration, visit www.carlisleevents.com/events/events-detail/index?id=corvettes+at+carlisle.
Hal Conte is a quality of life and Central Pennsylvania issues reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. You can find him on Twitter at @conte_hal.