There are three types of women at car shows as I see it: those who are there with their man, those who are there to gain the attention of a man, and those who actually care about twin turbo engines. Growing up, I always fit in the first category. Daddy took me to my first car show at the Nashville Convention Center when I was six. We got our picture taken in front of a shiny sports car with matching introverted smiles and bright copper hair. When we walked through the rows of shiny cars, I held Daddy’s hand and continuously readjusted the winter coat I had tied around my waist. (Those polyester shells are always rather slippery.)
When I was in middle school, Daddy packed up our whole family and drove us down to Birmingham, AL for the Grand Am Rolex Races at Barber Motorsports Park. I burned so badly on the first afternoon that we had to buy me a giant blue jersey scarf to wear over my sundresses for the rest of the weekend. As we walked through pit row the next morning, we got to meet Max “The Axe” Angelelli, driver of the SunTrust car. When Mr. Angelelli saw my swingy orange dress and bright blue scarf, he asked me with his Italian air if I was dressed up for him. I blushed and ducked my head and stood next to him for a picture, even though I was half a head taller. I cheered for the American-Ford-engine-d and Italian-Dallara-chassis-ed SunTrust car the rest of the weekend, even though Mr. Angelelli didn’t drive a Porsche (Daddy’s favorite) and Patrick Dempsey (Mama’s favorite) was two trailers down on the Pit.
In high school, I went with Daddy to “Coffee and Cars,” bracing the windy Panera parking lot to admire the small collection gathered there. We spent most of our time with Daddy’s fellow Porsche Club members whose cars still had a little sparkle in spite of the grey sky. I snuggled into the corduroy shirt I had swiped from Mama’s closet to protect myself from the weather and paid more attention to Daddy’s sniff-sip-sniff routine as he drank his coffee than I did to the modifications other men had made to their cars. We only stayed outside for about an hour, but breakfast and getting to ride in the Boxster made it an official Daddy-Daughter date.
Four years later, Daddy took me to meet Cupcake and Mr. In-Law at “Cars and Coffee,” the same event but moved to the Carmike Cinemas parking lot because so many people attended. With Cupcake, the old Porsche 911s and shiny new Carreras were not the center of attention. No, for shame! It was the old American cars that he wanted to look at. As Daddy and I followed Cupcake and Mr. In-Law up and down the rows, I asked Daddy to explain the names of cars and listened to him critique the engines and interiors. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but we were connecting and that was all that mattered. When I later discussed “Coffee and Cars” with Cupcake, I learned that it was most definitely “Cars and Coffee.” (He pulled up the Facebook group page to prove it. I had to admit, Daddy seemed to be wrong in this case.) Also, while Cupcake would pass the Porsche Club tent and even admire one or two masterpieces of German engineering, he much preferred the Corvette Z06 and the Saleen Mustang. (Note: The Saleen Mustang is not named after Celine Dion like the Shelby Cobra is named after Cupcake’s cousin Carroll Shelby. When Mr. In-Law said the latter, I checked the name lining the windshield and said I didn’t believe they were. It was an easy way to pretend I had more knowledge about cars than I actually did, and it works quite often. Car guys don’t seem to bother overly much with spelling.)
All this to say, despite growing up around cars and car shows, I never could make much sense of the cars themselves. When I attended one of these events, I went so I could trip along behind my Daddy or my Cupcake and just relish being in their presence. My Mama similarly went to support my Daddy, though she had driven enough quarter miles in high school to understand the ‘antiques’ lining the shows. Mrs. In-Law willingly participated in drag races and car shows and had no problem understanding exactly how much that vague car part her son was requesting would actually cost them. The mamas melded categories one and three: there for her men, but she knew what a twin turbo engine was, too.