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Labor Day Traditions: The Lead East Car Show!

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On: Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 3:23PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Labor Day Traditions: The Lead East Car Show!

Every Labor Day, it seems brings with it a series of conflicting emotions. On one hand, it signals the end of yet another season of warm summer weather and having to say goodbye to long hours of sunshine, shorts, and walks on the beach. Snow cones and ice cream won't taste the same again for at least another nine or ten months, and of course, the dreaded beginning of yet another school year is just days and hours away. But, Labor Day isn't all bad -- each annual long weekend brings about one of the most celebrated old car shows on the entire East Coast. The Lead East car show in Parsippany, NJ touts itself as the "world's biggest 50's party" and they aren't kidding - oldies bands, Doo Wop Groups, and of course, some of the craziest, most impressive hot rods from all over the country.

Hailing from 22 different states, the Lead East show is a reminder of why it's good to be a gearhead. Pretty cars are pretty cars no matter how vast or small your knowledge of automotive history. You can see it on the faces of the young kids walking by with their parents -- they don't need to know that the car they are pointing at is a 1941 Willys with a big block Chevy V8 topped off with an 8-71 blower that puts down well over 600 horsepower. All they know is that the red car is pretty and has a big engine -- 'nuff said kid.

Car guys (and girls) can strike up a conversation with each other more easily than most people in society. It seems to be based on a mutual respect and admiration for all things fast and fun on four wheels. Lead East is a place where allegiances are not abandoned (Bowtie guys will always be Bowtie, Blue Oval will always be Blue Oval, and so on), but there is no denying the beauty of a perfectly restored 1969 Camaro SS, or the iconic status of a 1965 Shelby GT350 sitting out for anyone to look in the windows and glance back to racing's glory days. Even in the rain, despite having tens of thousands of dollars invested in almost every car on the lot, owners didn't panic -- they simply rolled up their windows, put up there tops, and then headed back to their lounge chairs to have another burger, beer, and maybe answer another question or two about their ride.

Crossed flags, snake emblems, multicolored flames, snarky dashboard placards, and “QQ” license plates as far as the eye could see all helped to make the Lead East car show exciting for some, revitalizing for others, and fun for everyone. The level of customization is what truly makes car shows like Lead East unique. Take for example, the ever-loved 1957 Chevy. One end of the spectrum, you have the completely bone stock restoration -- big steering wheel, original chrome bumpers, even the stock analog clock (that costs over $100 to buy from most restoration catalogues). These cars let you see exactly what driving around the coolest car of the 50's was like back when it was brand new. But then, there are other '57 models that are a bit more extreme in the restoration -- restomod is the technical term. These cars take what was already a great car, and modernize them suit the owners need for say, bucket seats, or an mp3 player, flashier paint, a steering wheel that has some cushioning built into it, or perhaps a crate 502 cubic inch motor. There really is something for everyone.

The level of detail that many of these owners have for their cars is nothing short of amazing. It's not just the custom paint, or the chrome engine parts -- oh no, these guys and girls take it to a whole other level. It is having the correct sticker on the air cleaner, or having dice caps on their tires' valve stems, or going so far as to pin stripe the undercarriage of their cars, these cars were all loved down to the very last detail.

Although there are a few signs reminding onlookers where not to step or touch, they are all heeded with courteous regard. Most people understand that it takes a special kind of person to bring a custom '54 Corvette gasser or an original 427 Shelby Cobra out to a public setting where anyone and everyone can all but sit in these cars. From the older folks who were the first ones that bought these cars new, to the youngest kids that were just seeing those same cars for the first time, everyone couldn't help but smile because that's what classic cars do for so many of us. They are a source of pride, pleasure, and joy that we have loved for years and will continue to do so for many more to come. Thanks Lead East, you always find a way to make another summer's passing a lot more fun than it ought to be!

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fredwheels | 4:12PM (Wed, Feb 27, 2013)

I totally agree with this article on all that was presented however first timers should be forewarned, THE GOOD:Obviously the cars are awesome ,some of the finest this corner of the country has to offer and beyond.The people that attend and even the reair people are the best that attend most auto functions. THE BAD, where do I start... Make sure you have made your reservations the prior year for the "A" lot and hotel room. (PRICEY).RESERVE your "B" lot spot (PRICEY) Even though they may have had your money for months there is no assurance you will get a "B" lot or even "C" lot OR the overflow lot if you mearly pay for it.You may not enter these lots till after 5 on the Friday but rest assured there may not be ANY available spaces by Friday night ,even if you paid for them.And dont count on much help from the event staff,they are all volenteers(goto the website,"please dont hassle the staff",new rule).And the sponsers will be unavailable for refunds.Plan on using the outhouses as the both hotels close most of the facilities during the event,even the lobby air conditioning has seasonal problems working effectively,ANNUALLY.Vendors did deep,for not much room.Lastly,when you go take pictures of all the "A" lot cars and it wont be necessary to return those cars will be in the same spots next year,as well as the Top Nine (trophys could not make 10)seem to go to the same individuals as well,look at the photo albums and the recipients,a Dodge Viper,REALLY,an 80's pickup,REALLY,the sponsers car gets a trophy REALLY,dont bother bringing your Pebble Beach Roadster,no recognition!!!! Vival Las Vegas 16!!!!!!!!!

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