LONDON, ON: If there was any question if the Fleetwood Country Cruize-In is Canada?s largest outdoor car show, those doubts were washed away by noon, June 7.
By that time there were an estimated 3,500 cars on the show grounds with another 3,000 on rented fields in and around the 110-acre estate/farm of Steve Plunkett, just south of London, ON.
I have been going to this event yearly and I know my way around. This year I went early at 8 a.m. only to arrive and find cars lined up a kilometre long in all four directions.
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I opted to park the car I was driving, a 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, in one of the many rented visitor (proceeds to London Hospital) parking areas and walked in.
At noon the cars and pedestrians were still coming and by the end of the day something like 10,000 plus people were enjoying balmy temperatures and a cloudless sky.
And that was only the first day of the annual first weekend of June event that is now 10 year old.
Going to what I believe is one of the best collecter cars shows in the world deserves a special vehicle and the 911 Turbo S Cabriolet qualifies on every count you can think of.
Painted in silver (perfect) and fitted with full leather in black and Carrera Red, its 3.8-litre ?flat? six-cylinder pumps out a prodigious 560 hp and 516 lb/ft of torque.
It is a civil, even docile car to drive. That is until you hit the Sport Plus button on the transmission tunnel and activate Launch Control which is just what is implies and you come off the line like being shot out a howitzer.
With a car like this, it?s always wise to behave one?s self because its big wing at the rear deploys at anything over 75 km/h, and both the wing and the car attract attention.
On Friday travelling along Highway 402 heading to the Fleetwood event the back way through Delaware, an OPP vehicle going in the oppsite direction did a U-turn and starting following me but I was already on cruise control set for the speed limit.
He inched up beside me and looked over. I waved. He smiled and continued on his way and I headed over to see Plunkett and get some early pictures, as I knew Saturday would be huge.
The Fleetwood Country Cruize-in began humbly a decade ago when 60 collector car owners got together for a cruise night at Plunkett?s place.
He is a collector of Cadillacs. All Cadillacs used have Fleetwood boies thus the Fleetwood name. In his own museum called Fleetwood Hall, he always has several of his V12 and V16 pre-war Cadillacs on display and that doesn?t count the scores of post-war 1950s and 1960s models he has in his collection.
At that fateful cruise night talk got around to having place where people could show off their cars. Not just hyper restored vehicles that come and go to events on trailers, but everyday cars people are proud to own.
?It started with 60 cars and two cases of Coke,? Plunkett said. ?The next year we had 400 cars and then it just grew out of control.?
And it?s not just cars, but celebrities too.
Signing autographs this year were Bo Hopkins and Candy Clark of the American Graffitti film cast along with ?Miss Hurst? Linda Vaughn and Courtney Hansen of ?PowerNation? and ?Overhaulin?.
A perrenial guest and crowd favourite is George Barris, the ?King of the Kustoms? and the creator of iconic TV and movie cars like the Munstermobile, General Lee for the Dukes or Hazzard and the Starsky and Hutch undercover police car.
He was joined by another new regular, Gene Winfield, the builder of some of the most memorable hot rods and custom cars of all time featured regularly on the front of Hot Rod Magazine.
It costs $10 to walk or drive in ? all proceeds go to London area charities. This year it is estimated that a total of $1,250,000 will have been raised to date.
Speaking on Saturday Plunkett said, ?I think we set a record today. It?s going to be the biggest one yet.?
But what many of those attending did not know was this year?s event almost didn?t happen.
For a number of reasons, primarily the huge effort in time, money and organization, Plunkett told a few people last year he was shutting the event down. It was just too big.
When that got out, the calls came in telling him the show was just too important to end.
So yes, there will a Fleetwood Cruize-in next year.
?I?m thinking about a Dukes of Hazzard theme,? Plunkett mused over a hurried lunch. ?I?m not saying I?m doing it, but I am thinking about it.?
As I plopped myself into the 911 Cab and headed home I started starting taking stock of what Porsche had provided me with.
With probably every extra in the factory, some of the standouts were carbon brakes at all corners, rear axle steering, torque vectoring and 20-inch wheels with 20-section tires looking more like big rubber bands with a staggering price of $228,215 including the $1,085 shipping fee.
But it was oh so perfect for getting to Fleetwood once again.
The real beauty of the Fleetwood Cruize is, despite being super organized, it feels so relaxed ? more like a big wedding with 10,000 guests.
All the concessions are run by little church groups and service clubs who are genuinely pleased to be there. Hotel accommodation is plentiful and reasonable.
If you have been there, you know what I?m talking about. If you haven?t, make sure to mark the first weekend in June 2015 on your calendar.
From more information visit the website at www.fleetwoodcountrycruizein.com.
Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet 2014 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Premium luxury sportscar.
DRIVE METHOD: Rear-engine, permanent all-wheel-drive, seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
ENGINE: 3.8-litre, DOHC turbocharged horizontally opposed six-cylinder (560 hp, 518 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium, super premium recommended) 12.2/8.1L/100 km (22/35 mpg) city/highway
CARGO: 100 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: $221,200; as tested, $228,215 including $1,085 shipping fee