Where does the time go? Seems like it was just the Fourth of July and now Labor Day has come and gone.
Labor Day weekend was a busy one for this writer with Hot Import Nights at the L.A. Convention Center and the Labor Day Cruise at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
I always thought that Labor Day had something to do with the American Federation of Labor and George Meany back in the 1940s. The real story is a guy by the name of Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor, came up with the designated "Labor Day" for the first Monday in September. Gompers also somehow came up with the eight-hour workday while he was president of the labor group in the early 1900s.
Can you image Samuel Gompers and Henry Ford on Labor Day working out the deals they were offering this year — 0% down or $4,000 cash back — on a new Ford? Back then, for $4,000 you could buy eight new Model T Fords.
Anyway, here we are at Labor Day Weekend 2003 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first sign that the Hot Import Nights was to be different than the car shows I'm used to was the appearance of the L.A.P.D. Gang Unit in front of the Convention Center. The next sign was the parking attendant that tried to charge me $20 when his sign on the street said $15.
And the final sign of the start of an interesting evening was the directions given by the staff to get into the show: "Follow the girl with no pants on." I will add that she was wearing a thong.
The sport import crowd is certainly different than the Labor Day Cruisers in Costa Mesa. The first major difference is that the majority of the crowd and the cars at Hot Import Nights were Asian. At the Labor Day Cruise, very few Asian cruisers or cars were observed.
The age group was also very different. Hot Import Nights had folks from 18-30; Cruisers were age 40 and up. This writer at Hot Import Nights was, I am sure, looked at by the tuners as a friendly old guy.
At the Hot Import Nights Show Ford Motor Company and Daimler Chrysler really stepped out with their product offerings. Ford's Focus with Jackson Racing supercharger, Torsen differential, Zetec cam and headers, and a Ford HP suspension was probably the most impressive package to this writer. The price? $30,000 to $35,000 without internal engine modifications. Engine work adds another $2,000 to $10,000 according to the Ford guys. That would be a $45,000 Ford Focus with a total weight of about 2,500 pounds and 300 horsepower. This is a powerful combination.
Daimler Chrysler wasn't far behind Ford with their accessories for the 2.4 engine including turbo, headers, differential locker shift kits, and a lot of accessories including clothing.
Mopar did something else that was different that most of the other vendors. They had All-American blonde models posing for pictures with potential customers.
Most of the other booths used Asian models and the models were everywhere at the Los Angeles Show. I noticed that the girl I followed in was, in fact, a model representing Alpine Stereo.
While I still have models with interesting outfits on my mind, I need to tell you about the posters. At Hot Import Nights, the models were signing advertising posters — for $5.00 each. This has got to be a money-making deal for someone, probably the vendors.
There were some very well-done cars at Hot Import Nights like an '89 Honda Accord with three hydraulic systems, nitros, a Game Boy setup, and a supercharged engine. The owner of the '89 Honda, Angel, said he had $50,000 in the car, $4,000 in the stereo alone. Angel said, "It will rock and fly."
Team Knfuzion gets my vote for the best-dressed SUV at the show. It was not extreme. It was a tastefully done Toyota RAV4 and looked good with the carbon fiber hood and special front end.
Carbon fiber hoods were a-plenty with this group along with small plasma televisions. Here is another place I got confused. Dash TV: okay. Door TVs: okay. Headrest TVs: cool. But why trunk-mounted TVs?
There were a lot of them. Sitting in a lawn chair behind some of these cars would give you a better picture and sound than watching a movie at my house!
Moving on, I could not hook up with the owner of a 1972 Toyota Corolla 2.0 that had a no-bull conversion, nice and clean with tasteful styling and equipment.
Here are my thoughts about the Hot Import Nights Show. There were some really creative vehicles, plenty of chrome, lots of aftermarket parts, heavy sound and video systems. However, the room was quite dark, the sound was turned up and it was difficult to speak to anyone. After four hours of pounding music, dancing models, and cars that looked good from 20 feet away, I left the South Hall.
My parking lot was now $25 to park and the lot was full of sport compact vehicles. Driving the Dodge 3/4 ton van in a world of sport compact vehicles can have advantages. It was hard not to notice a couple enjoying each other's company in a small Honda, if you know what I mean.
The next day, it was off to Costa Mesa for the Great Labor Day Cruise XXI. I met my buddy, Ray, and off we went for five hours of American cars. There wasn't a sport import to be seen. V-8 engines, headers, flowmasters, and beer were in abundance.
I forgot to mention that alcohol was not served to the Hot Import Nights crowd — only Pepsi.
Three cars caught my eye at Costa Mesa. Bill Sims from Costa Mesa brought a beautiful 1938 Chevrolet he has been working on for three years. Bill's motor was a 400 Chevy with a 700 R-4 transmission. Completion is scheduled by Christmas.
Jerry Grant brought a rare 1956 Plymouth Belvedere. The Belvedere was completely stock with a 277 Plymouth two-barrel engine, push button transmission and a great story. Apparently this woman in Grass Valley got the car new on her 60th birthday. When she passed away it was willed to her girlfriend from high school who was also older. She turned it over to a nephew who sold the car to Jerry. Old car stories are hard to beat.
Someone, someday will tell tales of a 2003 Ford Focus or Honda Accord.
Gail and Walt Woodworth brought their 1951 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop to the show. The car, including the interior, is flawless and Walt keeps it that way. Pictures, hopefully, will be in the next issue of the Booster.
What do you know about the Orange County Swap Meet in Costa Mesa every weekend? I know it is a great place to avoid if you don't like shopping or crowds.
However, on the Fairgrounds is an Auto Museum that happens to be open every weekend at the same time as the Swap Meet. If you happen to be there, it is a great place for a quiet time. There are Highway Patrol Model Ts, a 1950 drive-in restaurant, and a bunch of cars. Best of all: it is free! Put aside the haggling for goods and take a trip back in time.
As we get older, older things like cars bring back mostly pleasant memories. Regardless of your taste in personal vehicles, have a good time with what you have. And, as a friend from Japan said, "Make every day special." It is obvious that the car folks at L.A. and Costa Mesa were doing just that.
Originally published in the October 2003 Automotive
Copyright 2003 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.