There’s something so nostalgic about the smell of hot dogs and exhaust on a sunny spring morning. A couple weekends back there was no shortage of either at the 37th annual Portland Transmission Spring Classic.
It’s been a while since Trevor and I had been to an American car show as we typically frequent Japanese and Euro-centric events. The Transmission show supplied a bit of that as well, but I think many of us who love those cars from overseas got hooked initially via American car culture. As such, I think it’s time we give the scene a bit of appreciation again.
On the topic of culture, I often hear people say America lacks its own and that all of our substance is stolen from other communities. While I mostly agree, I think the people who hold on to this belief have never been to an American car show. Because nothing is more uniquely USA than Eddie Bauer shirts, beards, bellies, BBQ, and beautiful cars as far as the eye can see.
The whole shebang you see here has evolved and grown in the 37 years that Portland Transmission Warehouse has been hosting the event, and they’ve been putting it on since before car shows were the norm. The shop itself started out as a Texaco service station in 1938 when Gene Bradshaw purchased it and added a mechanics shop.
This grew into a company that supported other professional installers, and one Saturday afternoon in 1983 the shop closed up early for its first show.
The rest is history and the owners joke that if they decided to stop one year, people would still be in their parking lot at 4:00am.
I originally found out about the show after receiving several recommendations to attend from local car friends who live in Portland. When I attempted to look it up online there was very little information; no Instagram page, no official Facebook event, none of that.
I had to do something that felt very foreign: pick up a telephone and call Portland Transmission Warehouse to get the details, where a friendly employee let me know that they expected around 600 cars at least.
Some piece of me didn’t believe him – how could 600 people even know about it without use of the internet? Oh yeah, that’s how shows were always organized prior to the last decade and, let me tell you, word-of-mouth is still a very powerful tool.
Road Closed Ahead
As it turns out, the nice man on the phone wasn’t exaggerating. The event felt nearly endless.
We arrived at 6:00am sharp and already the show took up some 12 or so blocks of city streets and parking lots surrounding the Portland Transmission Warehouse, which itself was packed.
The company’s president, Ross Bradshaw, explained that ever since he was a kid the event has been free. Anyone and everyone could come; there was no spectator, car registration or even hot dog and soda fees.
PTW just wants people to be able to enjoy the cars and the day without feeling like they are being solicited or pressured to buy something. Commercial booths have popped up in the past, but have kindly been asked to pack up and go.
I think we need more of this sentiment towards car shows, as so often events feel more like strip malls than relaxed get-togethers.
It might seem risky letting anyone park their car at the show, but it is out in the public, and there wasn’t a single car there that seemed unworthy.
The show brought out a charming melting pot of eye candy for the car enthusiasts who seemed amped and ready to go before the sun was already fully up.
Often shows without entrance fees are unorganized, chaotic and hard to photograph, but somehow this was not the case with the Portland Transmission Spring Classic. Instead, the free-for-all nature of the event is what kept it exciting; I didn’t know what I was going to get around the next corner, and often it was more than a little surprising. Trevor will shed some light on the oddball stuff that showed up soon.
Just when I thought I had reached the perimeter of the event, more cars would appear. It was 100% a living and growing show, and I could hardly keep up.
As I said before, nearly every car did something for someone, but there were a couple rides that hit the spot for me.
A Few Favorites
About an hour into the show I came across this Chevelle wagon and thought it warranted some attention. It almost looks like a conversion, but Chevy did indeed make these wagons from the factory; I just wish they had never stopped.
Down the road, I came across this super villain-esque Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Holiday Coupe — at least, that’s what I think it is… The thing looks so different with a lower stance and extensive custom work; it’s practically a different car.
Also, can I just say these cars are huge — it’s hard to grasp the size of them until you are close up, but they are absolute boats. Beautiful, but boaty. We couldn’t find the owner, but it’s definitely a car to take a closer look at someday.
I’d be lying if I said that hot rods were my favorite cars. Actually, I’d be lying if I said I was a fan at all. That being said, this bright purple example was an exception.
It’s just so good, maybe even a universally likeable car, appealing to lovers of form and function, power and aesthetic.
Another car I don’t typically like is the new Mustang, although, for a Cobra Jet I think I can make an exception. It’s wild that a car like this is being built by the factory itself, but they’ve been doing so for years.
There were loads of other impressive cars scattered around which Trevor will give you all a look at pretty soon, as I certainly did not see every ride that rolled through.
Something about the idea of unexplored territory leaves me eager for next year already. Or, at the rate Portland Transmission Warehouse is going, the next 37 years.
Blocks & Blocks