When it comes to the caretakers/enthusiasts of GM’s family of classic vehicles, the cars are filled with history and the owners full of pride. The cars have a storied past and should give the owner a sense of pride. That’s why we all attend car shows, we are proud of our cars and want to show them off. One of the biggest all-GM shows occurs each year, and every make of the GM family (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, and Oldsmobile) is equally celebrated at the annual Carlisle Events GM Nationals. This is a premier destination event filled with special displays, special guests, cool cars, and so much more.
The 2021 gathering at the Carlisle fairground all started early on Friday morning, June 25 when I arrived. I was already at the gate and waiting to get in when it opened at 7:00 a.m. It seems I get more anxious for the show to begin with each passing year. This year, one of the special displays was the 50th anniversary of the Vega and H-platform cars. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many in one place. To say the compact cars were well represented is an understatement.
The Carlisle GM Nationals is unlike many shows, in that there is always something going on. For instance, you could participate in or watch the rolling exhaust contest (where the loudest “muffled” exhaust wins), the real-street shootout, and some fun with UMI Performance on autocross each day. Or, if you’re an information junkie, you could take in one or all of the seminars, that took place. For me, it was all about seeing the cars.
I was told there were more than 1,000 cars in attendance, which far exceeds previous years’ numbers. That’s great to hear as more people start to make this a must-attend event. As a storyteller, show coverage can be tough. Think about it, who wants to read about what they missed? Since I am all about the cars, I thought it would be great to focus this year’s coverage on what I thought could be considered five of the coolest cars at the event. While you probably think there were other cars that should have made my list or if there were one or two you feel should not have made the list, that’s okay. As I tell everyone, if we all like the same things, life could get boring really fast. So, all I am saying is, sit back and enjoy the show.
When I first laid eyes on Bob and Carrie Frampton’s ‘61 Corvette, I didn’t realize how nice it actually is until I really dug into it and started to notice the details. Bob told me he actually found the car at the 1998 Corvettes at Carlisle show. Back then, it was immediately apparent the car needed a rebuild, so Bob got started ASAP.
Under the hood is an LS9 and a five-speed manual gear changer, and a C4’s rear suspension was modified to fit the earlier body. The interior utilizes Al Knoch interior parts, and Bob and Carrie spend as much time as they can sitting in the car and racking up miles.
It’s no secret that traditional muscle cars are getting harder to find in project-ready condition. For that reason, many enthusiasts are turning to what could be considered a non-traditional hot rod like a four-door or a “big” car, like Bob Topinka’s ’66 Caprice. Bob told me he had a big Caprice many years ago, and always regretted selling it. That’s why he got another one.
This time, 427 cubic inches of powerhouse fill the area between the fenders. Bob explained this engine is not original to the car, but he does have the original in storage for safekeeping. Behind that is a tried and true four-speed, leading back to a 12-bolt rear. A few years ago, Bob even had a C2 Corvette and the Impala in his garage. One day he decided it was time for one of them to leave, and the Corvette got the boot. How would you like to have a decision like that to make?!?!
Simply Eye Catching
My next inclusion might surprise some, as it’s not flashy, it’s not overpowered, and it’s not a car that might cause many to fawn over. But for some reason, I was immediately drawn to it. It’s no secret I am a fan of the ’69 Chevelle body style, and this one definitely required I take a closer look. In case you didn’t realize it at first, this isn’t a Malibu or Super Sport. No sir, this is the base model of base models — the 300 series.
The 300-series Chevelle came with rubber floor mats, very little chrome trim, and not much in the way of accessories. It was the Chevelle you bought when you wanted a Chevelle but didn’t have a lot of money. However, your purchase still delivered Chevelle’s good looks.
Steve Dayton’s two-door-post model is covered in an aggressively eye-catching shade of red and the steel wheels and dog dish hubcaps are a welcomed departure from the usual chrome and Rally wheel upgrades. As one would expect, there is not a lot of chrome, and the taxi cab interior is not something seen every day. Under the hood, the unenhanced small block does benefit from a few dress-up items, but other than that, it’s all base-model for this A-body. In fact, I thought this car was so cool, it received my pick of the weekend.
At the other end of the spectrum from Steve’s Chevelle is Paul Doggett’s ’64 Nova. Paul did tell me this was his wife’s first car many years ago, and since she hung on to it for so long, after the family responsibilities moved out, the car received the modifications seen.
Under the hood is a classic small block that is fed by a Weber fuel injection system. The interior is a work of art, and I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into creating this gorgeous hot rod.
The car was so well done, I had to shoot a full feature which will be shown as soon as It can be put together. Stay tuned.
All-American Hot Rod
If anyone argues the Camaro is not the all-American hot rod, they have not been to a car show, cruise night, or drag race. Chevrolet’s first-gen pony car is everywhere. I get it, what’s not to like? Just ask George Kulp III.
The Kulp patriarch explained the car was in very rough condition before the project got underway, and how he and his son drove from Duncannon, Pennsylvania, to New Jersey, in a driving snowstorm just to get the car. This car was actually a Christmas present from his son and daughter-in-law so George could relive the time in his life after he returned from Vietnam and enjoyed a Glacier Blue ’69 Camaro.
Being a true hot rodder, George upgraded his F-body by placing a 383 cubic-inch small block under the hood and bolting it to a Turbo 350 leading back to a 10-bolt rear. The car looks great and makes a great cruiser.
An Original Hot Rod
How many of you reading this can say you still have your first car? I know I can’t. However, Kevin Reall is a lucky man and can make that statement. Kevin told me his Z has received one repaint many years ago but still retains the factory interior and drivetrain. In fact, neither have been refurbished nor rebuilt.
He was quick to chuckle when he stated the car survived him growing up, getting married, raising a family, and many trips to the ice cream shop. Kevin’s Camaro might not have won an award at the show, but that doesn’t mean this car should be overlooked. The car’s good looks and its history are why I felt it deserves to be on my top-5 list.