Champion Cooling Third Annual Car Show: Rolling With The Punches

After two very successful annual car shows, Michael Harding and the crew at Champion Cooling Systems were not going to wither away under difficult circumstances. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of a successful car show, and the management at Champion Cooling has supported this effort from day one,” said Harding. “We sold out the first two events. Now we were looking for a way to expand and do a bigger show in 2020,” he added.

Michael Harding (Right) talking with Jason Oberhelman (Left) of Eddie Motorsports.

High-Energy Bel Air.

Pandemic Shutdown

Then the COVID pandemic hit full force. On March 19, 2020, an Executive Order directed all Californians to stay home except for “essential personnel required to do an essential job” or citizens to shop for essential needs. Car shows, as it turns out, are not essential by state government order.

Undeterred, Champion decided to reschedule the car show for later in the year.

First-generation Camaros are always popular at car shows. Many times there are too many representations, but this show had just the right amount – Not too many and not too few.

“We weren’t going to be deterred,” Harding stated. “To use an old vaudeville adage; The show must go on!” And the crew at Champion rescheduled the Annual Car Show to October 24th, 2020.


With high hopes, the team picked a location that was near their own facility in Lake Elsinore – the Elsinore First Assembly Church on Grand Street. The First Assembly Church was proud of its large parking area in the front and back of the Church buildings. It seemed like the best of all possible worlds: A great event with a great location that could support a larger crowd.

Unfortunately, with only a week to the rescheduled car show, California’s Department of Public Health moved Riverside County’s classification back to the most restrictive tier under the state’s coronavirus reopening system. Rolling with the punches, Champion’s crew talked to local municipal leaders to determine if the event would need to be canceled.

The most interesting vehicle on display had to be Frank Matthies’ ’32 Blacksmithing truck. He was giving demonstrations all day.

Rolling With The Punches

Harding said, “It was decided the event could go on because the entire show was being held outdoors.” Considerations were given to social distancing, and attendees were instructed on the need to wear masks or distance themselves and respect the space of others.

The Champion Cooling Systems’ booth and prize table.

A special parking area was designated for anyone participating in the show that desired extra distancing from others. “Face coverings and hand sanitizer was provided to everyone that registered for the event, and additional masks and sanitizer were available at the Champion Cooling Booth,” Harding explained.

When the people attending and working the show are smiling... you know the show is a success.

The Show Must Go On

Having jumped through all the hoops, Harding, along with the rest of the Champion team managed to pull off their best car show yet. The show count of registered participants exceeded 165. 

Harding assured us that next year’s event would be even better. “We had never done a car show before our first one,” he said. “No one had any experience at this, other than running a booth at other car shows. We learned a few things. Then we held our second event and learned some more. Now we have changed venues and have learned substantially more.”

At this rate, Champion Cooling may become the host to one of the biggest car shows in the region.

Our Favorites

Our team picked three of our favorites to highlight from the show. Rest assured, there are many more in the photo gallery from the event, but these three cars found a spot in our hearts.   

Danker’s 5-Window Coupe

People make the event and it is very hard to avoid the gravitational pull of legitimate car people. Particularly the ones that have an outgoing personality. We ran into the winning combination of sunny disposition, enthusiasm, and stunningly perfect hot rod build with Jan Danker and her 1931 Ford 5-Window Coupe.

This was Jan’s first hot rod – purchased just a couple of years ago – but she is not new to the hobby. She is a member in good standing in the Axle Draggers’ Car Club, the Drifters’ Car Club, and the Canyon Lake Car Club, and has won several awards with this car.

After a few short moments, you will quickly recognize that Jan loves going to car shows, she enjoys meeting new people and loves sharing stories with other car owners about their projects. 

The Details

The bright red Ford is built to drive with a dependable, and rock-solid drivetrain combination. A modified GM crate engine with hydraulic lifter cam from COMP Cams, a 4-bolt main block, with an Edelbrock Performer Intake and Edelbrock 600 cfm carb power the hot rod. Hanging behind the mill is a GM TH 400 transmission that pushes a bulletproof Ford 9-inch rearend.

The Hot Rod Shop chassis features a custom dash with Dolphin Gauges, custom leather a GM tilt steering column, and even outfitted with a custom air-condition installation. The chassis has power brakes, discs on the front, and drum rears, with a 4-bar coil-over rear suspension.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Capping off the build is a front end that is supported by a Bell 4-inch drop axle with coil-over 4-bar suspension. Steering is tamed down with a Heidts’ rack and pinion steering box. Jan’s favorite part of the entire build is the hand-painted flowers and butterfly on the radiator grille and the bumblebee on the rumble seat deck lid. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Between the top-shelf work on this rod, and the owner’s bright personality, this 5-window coupe was one of our favorites at the show.

Bill Shoemaker’s 1952 Willys M38A1 Jeep (USMC Variant)

The Willys M38A1 utility vehicle saw service in the United States Military in the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. Manufactured from 1952 to 1971, this is one of the most popular utility vehicles in history. The civilian (commercial) version, branded the CJ5, was manufactured from 1954–1983. The CJ5s are known as the first “round-fendered” Jeep. The soft-top could be complemented with soft side panels and removable hinged doors that consisted of a thin steel frame with cloth material and a plastic window.

We were lucky enough to spot this M38A1 that had been restored in the Marine variant of the wartime vehicle. The Marine version had minor differences from the units used by other branches. Built to be air-transportable, all Marine M38A1s had a reinforced rear bumper with lift rings (most had front and rear lift rings).

Amphibious Warriors

These units were also treated with better waterproofing with almost 70-percent receiving more undercoating for the amphibious warriors. The Marine Corps ordered their Jeeps with limited-slip differentials in the rear. Special forest green paint (#34052) with flat yellow numbering are signs of the USMC version. Extra credit for the belt-fed machine gun mounted in the bed!

This Jeep was well-done and another one of our favorites at the show. Sometimes it can be hard to stand out from the crowd, but this war machine doesn’t have to worry about that. 

Best Car Story Ever

Rich Moline’s tale of finding the perfect car, having to part with it, then discovering it by sheer luck decades later, is one that legends are made of. Rich’s story begins like many teenagers from the early 70s. He was a gearhead that spent time working in the garage with his father, who was also a car enthusiast. Buying his first used GM car at 15, a 1965 Chevy Impala Super Sport that required a little work, his car passion was stoked.

In 1972, Rich discovered a used 1969 Hurst Oldsmobile for sale. He recognized it as a rare car and as a Junior in High School, purchased the limited production custom special from Billion Motors in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “I didn’t put a lot of miles on it,” Rich said, “Even back then I knew the car’s value.”

Rare is probably not the right descriptive word for the car’s value. In total, there were only 912 of these cars built, and this one was number 211 off the assembly line, making it a true unicorn of the muscle car era.

Love Lost

As the case with many young gearheads, Rich found a management position in a neighboring state that forced him to part with his Olds. He ended up trading it for a nearly new 1975 Chevy Blazer, almost immediately regretting the decision.

Rich went on to get married, begin his own company, and live a happy life. Forty years later, he sold his company and relocated with his wife to Reno, Nevada. Still a car guy after all these years, Rich, and his wife were walking through the car shows during Reno’s Hot August Nights event when he discovered his dear friend, the 1969 Hurst Olds.

The owner wouldn’t sell it but promised to give Rich the first option if he did decide to sell the car in the future. A little over a year later, his dream came true and Rich was able to purchase the car back. Surprisingly, the Olds was in nearly original shape. He has found all the documentation to prove this was the same car he drove in high school. This is further proof that the muscle car era was the best possible time for a young auto enthusiast.

We have Rich and his 1969 Hurst Olds scheduled for an exclusive car feature coming soon. You have not seen the last of this beauty.

View our photo gallery from the event here: 

Photo gallery


Final Thoughs

We wondered out loud why Champion Cooling would push so hard to hold a car show. Especially when the odds seemingly were stacked against them. “It is important to all of us at Champion Cooling Systems to have a car show like this. Not to promote our products as much as to give back to the enthusiasts that support us,” explained Harding. “We want to show everyone that we don’t just look at this as a business to sell parts. Everyone here is an enthusiast as well. We all have project cars that we work on and bring to shows. That’s the point of all this.”

Michael added; “This was a total team effort and none of it would have been possible with the full Champion Cooling team behind it.”

Knowing why they host the show, and how successful it has been, we can hardly wait for next year’s event. For more information on Champion Cooling Systems, visit them online at


Article Sources

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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