Big Orange Plaza Car Show had Small Town Feel

Hard on the heels of the hoopla and international hype of the Long Beach Grand Prix, our day at the Orange Plaza Rotary Car show had a different kind of warmth and appeal. Although the City of Orange boasts a population over 100,000, the Old Town is still a local neighborhood of historic Victorian and craftsman homes, quaint shops and local restaurants. For one day at least it was also host to a huge rites of spring car show!

Despite the sheer size of the 400-car 29th annual customs, classics and hot rods display surrounding the historic Plaza Fountain, it was hard to walk the circle without bumping into people and cars we know, giving this big event a pleasing, yet distinct, small town feel. As always, the cars were as different as the nearby homes and most were customized well beyond the way they had once emerged from the factory. This show was less a display of concours perfection and more an expression of the owners’ imagination and SoCal car culture, including some signature vintage woodies.

Old Town fans will be pleased to know that the plaza’s historic centerpiece fountain, which was seriously damaged 13 months ago when a car involved in a speeding police pursuit on Chapman lost control, overturned and crushed its outer wall, has been fully restored and put back into service just days before the show. Grandson of the original tile maker is still running the business and was able to recreate the color, size and texture of the signature tile for a virtually seamless repair.

Show registration closed within minutes of its online posting back in February and participants were up well before dawn Sunday to line up for entry. A few groups were able to pre-stage at, ugh, around 5:30 a.m. or earlier to enter and park together. Our friends from the Suicide Kings were there en masse and snagged one of the prime display spots along Glassell Street. See below.

Other vintage Lincolns were scattered throughout the show and one Mark II which didn’t quite make the official display was parked just outside the show boundary.

Just Having Fun, a loose coalition of eclectic car owners who specialize in community service with their vehicles, Old Cranks and Hot Rods Unlimited also were among the early birds.

Many vendors added to the festival feel, including our friend Mary Pruitt, an expert Medicare advisor. Most restaurants and shops were open to welcome the large exhibitor and spectator crowds and Orange native Norm Baker recommended great lunch choice Jalapeno’s for people watching, quick service and good food.

Finally, walking a few blocks back to the car through streets lined with beautiful old trees, gardens and historic homes put the icing on the cake to a great day.

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