2 March 2005

Protect Your Classic at Car Shows

A recent letter to Hagerty Insurance cited an extreme case that unfolded recently in Georgia. A man wouldn’t stop leaning against a collector car, and authorities finally had to lead him away.

Things don’t usually get that bad, but dripping ice-cream cones, paint-scratching belt buckles and kids throwing things can cause real damage to a car that took thousands of dollars to restore.

The first line of defense against drippers, sitters, chafers and scrapers is your own vocal cords. Stay by your car at the show and if someone gets close, politely point out your concern. Try not to yell or sound egotistical because such reactions can cause immature people to return and do worse things than leaning on your car out of spite. The best approach is a firm yet friendly reminder that paint, chrome, glass and even sheet metal can be damaged quite easily.

To back up your physical presence — or fill in when you can’t be around — you can hang signs on your car. There are any number of these “look but don’t touch” signs available from various old-car parts vendors. Truthfully, some of them are fun to read, but they might not be all that effective in protecting your vehicle. People usually don’t stop to read before squeezing past your fender.

Some collectors go further and rope their cars off with thin metal stakes and binder cord. These items can be purchased at most garden centers or farm supply stores, and they do a great job for a small investment. They are designed with a triangular blade that you step on to push them into relatively soft dirt. Put one at each corner of the vehicle and then string the cord. A few strands of Blaze Orange safety ribbon can be added to call attention to the cord.

As many car shows park vehicles on asphalt, push-in stakes can’t always be used. To accomplish the same kind of protection, some hobbyists buy plastic stanchions and chains to serve the same purpose. These cost a bit more, but they look better and can even enhance the image of a car being special. These items come in black and white and a variety of colors.

A new product called the Auto-Spin Portable Automobile Display Turntable was advertised recently. It was pictured supporting a small 1930s car, and it seemed to do a good job of holding the car off the ground while allowing it to be rotated. You got the impression that a “floating” car might cause people to stand back a few feet. This device may be worth checking out.

Before spending a fortune on such items and buying a trailer to haul your car around, check with the promoters of local shows to see if these items are permitted. Some events have restrictions. It might turn out that your vocal cords are still the best way to keep “belt buckle” troubles at bay.

John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.

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