The drive from Ann Arbor to Lansing

1968 Chevy Camaro 350

This past Friday night, I drove my ‘49 Ford to the annual Rolling Sculpture show in downtown Ann Arbor. I not only planned to have a little fun showing off my own car, but also hoped to find a few women with classic muscle cars among the other exhibitors. Just 10 miles from my house, I try to attend Rolling Sculpture each year – as either an exhibitor or spectator – as it is a wonderful way to spend a summer night in this great university town. From 2 until 10PM, the downtown streets are closed to traffic, and hundreds of pedestrians meander through the hundreds of parked cars, stopping to look under hoods, take photographs, chat with exhibitors, or just observe the proceedings from one of A2’s many outdoor restaurants.

The streets were lined with automobiles of every description, including two electric cars from the early twentieth century, contemporary high performance vehicles, the requisite cars from the 1950s with fuzzy dice hanging from rearview mirrors, a 1960s era Detroit Police patrol car with a blaring siren, as well as two original Mini Coopers with right-hand drive. Among the eclectic collection were less than a dozen muscle cars. Much to my dismay, I did not come across any muscle cars with women behind the wheel. Classic muscle cars dominate the majority of car shows in southeastern Michigan. Therefore, I began to wonder first of all why there were so few at the Rolling Sculpture show, and secondly, why there were so few cars – muscle and otherwise – with female owners.

The first reason may have to do with the nature of the show. Rolling Sculpture is not an event for serious classic car collectors or owners. It has a real Ann Arbor sensibility, i.e. just about anyone can enter, and it is not particularly competitive. And unlike most classic car events, the majority of spectators are not car show savvy. While pleasant and inquisitive, they do not exhibit a basic understanding of car show rules, of which the most important is “DO NOT TOUCH THE CAR!” Kids with ice cream cones, women with keys jangling from their purses, and young adults walking dogs get precariously close to the vehicles on display, making the exhibitors extremely nervous. The second reason for the lack of muscle cars on display could have to do with the vehicles, and the exhibitors, the event tends to attract. On this warm summer night, the cars parked on the streets of Ann Arbor included a notable number of imports, which is in many ways reflective of the town itself on a normal day. I have noticed that muscle car owners typically exhibit at shows in which the majority of cars were produced in the US. I have also come to realize that owners of American-made muscle cars tend to be politically conservative. As Ann Arbor has the reputation of being slightly left-of-center, perhaps the location and its pedestrian population was a deterrent to some exhibitors. Certainly these musings are speculative; it could also be that the muscle car owners simply had a better place to be. So while I had a great time at Rolling Sculpture exhibiting my own vehicle, I was disappointed that I could not find one woman with a muscle car to interview for this project. Discouraged but determined, I decided to make my next car show stop at the state capital.

On the following Sunday afternoon, I headed out to Lansing, Michigan for the Sparrow Hospice Benefit Car Show put on by the Capital Area Muscle Car Club. While a small event, held in the parking lot of the Lansing Mall, there were a respectable number of muscle cars on display. I was delighted when I came across two female muscle car owners with great cars and even greater stories to tell. The first car I noticed was a black 1968 Chevy Camaro 350 with an exposed engine and a band of skull detailing surrounding the grill. The car was a gift from the woman’s husband shortly before his premature death; as the lettering on the passenger front quarter panel indicates, the car is driven and exhibited in his memory. The owner told me that the car was purchased from a young man she worked with eight years ago. While the detailing was the work of the previous owner, the engine was replaced on the car shortly after it came into her possession. The second car I stopped at was a black 1971 Trans Am; the owner received it as a high school graduation present and has driven it ever since. As she told me, “This car has been a part of me since before I had my children.” The car was adorned with two stuffed tigers on the roof; framed articles about the history of the car leaned against its bumpers. The owner told me she is often the only female at muscle car events; the men in attendance often do a double take when she roars into her parking space.

In briefly talking to each of these women I was moved by the special meaning the vehicles hold for them. Looking at the articles placed in and on the cars, and noting the emotion with which each woman spoke, it became evident that the cars hold meanings for the women that go well beyond their use as transportation. I look forward to speaking to each of them in more depth as I believe they will provide great insight into the unique relationship between women and the muscle car.

As I walked down the aisle of cars, I came across a 1988 Firebird with a female owner. However, it was 15 years too “young” for this project as I have limited the focus to cars produced from 1964 through 1973, the golden age of the muscle car. Perhaps I can call upon the car’s owner for a future project.

This weekend was spent visiting two car shows with very different cars, exhibitors and venues. The vehicles and exhibitors present at both events provided me with a better understanding of the many ways individuals enjoy and connect to their automobiles. More importantly, I was able to converse with two women with the potential to contribute a great deal to this project.


4 thoughts on “The drive from Ann Arbor to Lansing

    #   Amanda on 07.17.11 at 11:15 pm     

    Hi there! I stumbled across this blog posting while searching for muscle car shows in the Lansing area. My husband and I recently purchased a 1976 Corvette Stingray–my dream car! I’ve loved muscle cars throughout my childhood and into my adult life and I’ve always dreamed of owning a Corvette in particular. It was refreshing to hear of other woman enjoying muscle cars too! Sometimes I feel like the only one, but even if I were, I’d love them anyway! 🙂

    #   Chris on 07.18.11 at 3:11 pm     

    Congrats on your new old Corvette! I would love to get your input for this project. If you are interested in participating, let me know and I’ll email the details.

    #   Amanda on 07.18.11 at 11:34 pm     

    Thanks! I would love to participate, but I’m not sure how much help I could be. I’ve only barely begun the restoration project on my ’76 so I’ve got a lot of work/learning left to do!

    #   Chris on 08.01.11 at 8:48 am     

    Since I am limiting this particular project to cars produced from 1964 – 1973, yours is a little too “young.” However, I may want to contact you for future research. Hope you are enjoying your car this summer!

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