Steve Moskowitz strolled through the parking lot at the Independence Events Center on Saturday morning, June 6, talking with judges and owners of vintage cars at the Central Spring Meet for the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). He was impressed.
“The venue is great, and the people are even better,” said Moskowitz , who is the executive director for AACA. “This has to be one of the friendliest groups of people we’ve been involved with. They go out of their way to help everybody here. It has been a great experience.”
Moskowitz is in his 12th year as executive director for AACA, which is based in Hershey, Pa. The car club is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
“We are the oldest car club,” Moskowitz said. “We are the largest by far. We have 60,000 members, 400 regions and chapters.”
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Each year, AACA has eight to nine judging meets across the country. It is an honor for a region to hold one of the meets.
It is an even bigger honor for region to play host to an AACA Grand National. Jim Streeby, vice president of AACA-Kansas City Region, could hardly contain his excitement Saturday morning when he learned that Kansas City was awarded the 2017 Grand National.
The Annual Grand National Meet awards were adopted starting with the first AGNM in Clarks Summit, Pa., on July 26, 1980. These awards recognize restoration excellence and specially designed trophies and plaques are presented to the winners at the meet awards banquet.
“For us to be awarded the Grand National meet is a tremendous honor,” Streeby said. “A Grand National is the crown jewel of the shows in AACA. There are 402 regions in the United States and they compete for that and we are one of the youngest regions.”
It is a remarkable story for AACA-Kansas City Region. The club started just five years ago with 15 people in Streeby’s living room. Now, the club has 224 members.
Streeby credits Bob Lowden for igniting a spark that has made the Kansas City Region the fastest growing chapter in two of the last five years.
“Bob had been a member of National AACA for over 35 years,” Streeby said. “He kept coming up to me at local shows in the Kansas City area because my truck would do very well and he would say, ‘You have a national, first-place winning truck. I didn’t understand what he said. He eventually talked me into attending the AACA spring meet in Topeka in 2009.”
One of the things that makes AACA unique is it welcomes all cars for judging as long as they are 25 years old and older. It has many car classes.
“We have a class called DPC, which stands for driver participation class,” Streeby said. “Let’s say somebody has a ’65 Chevy pickup and they kept it original and maintain it original and they use it. The paint is faded. The seat might be torn, but it is basically an original vehicle. They are a welcomed.
“Next class is called HPOF, historical preservation of original features. That is a car you see that is a time capsule. It is in remarkable condition, but it is not a restoration.”
The Central Spring Meet brought in 160 cars from 30 states. Tom Gerrard came all the way from Big Sky, Mont. He was on his way to Springfield, Mo., for the Buick National meet.
“We decided to register here and show the Buick here on the way down there next weekend,” Gerrard said.
Gerrard brought a 1958 Buick Limited convertible.
“I bought it eight years ago and then restored it back to the original way it came out of the factory,” Gerrard said.
This was the first time Gerrard was in Kansas City for a car show. He brought the Buick on a trailer.
“It’s too valuable to put on the road,” Gerrard said. “A rock chip would ruin my day. And your weather hasn’t been that good either.”
Gerrard, like all the AACA members who brought cars, has an interesting story.
“It is a hobby,” he said. “I am not in the business. I collect from 1953 to 1969, American convertibles and pickups only. That is what I first remember. My first cars were ’53, ’54 when I was a young kid.
“About 1969, I was married with kids and mortgages and jobs and somehow cars disappeared for a long time. When I retired, this keeps me out of trouble.”
Streeby has the same emotional attachment to his restored 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck. The truck takes him back when he was a child, spending time with his grandfather, James Andrew Streeby.
Streeby writes this on a placard posted by the truck: “I restored this truck as a tribute to my grandfather. He taught me to love God, family, the value of hard work, a good garden and the sheer joy of finding a good fishing spot. He also taught me at the age of 12 to drive a Chevy ½ ton exactly like this one.”
Moskowitz hears these types of stories all the time, and they never get old.
“I see it every day of my life,” Moskowitz said. “There are just so many amazing cars. Every time you travel around the country, you see something new. You see a car that you might not see anywhere else.
“It is what keeps you going. You hear so many great stories about cars that were originally in a family and cars that will emotionally get to an owner (who) will shed tears talking about them.”
Ultimately, it’s the people that make the car shows so enjoyable, said Jim Cox, who brought a 1934 Rolls Royce from Branson, Mo. His car earned First Junior in the 19C Class.
Cox, who owns Branson Auction with his wife, Kathy, said he hasn’t been to an AACA car show in about 20 years. Over the years, he has run into Streeby at other car shows.
“He said, ‘You have to join our chapter,” Cox said. “I said OK. That was last year.”
Cox and his wife both grew up in the Kansas City area, he on the Missouri side and she on the Kansas side.
Cox said the friendliness that took place at the Central Spring Meet on June 6 was similar to the hospitality he and his wife show at their auctions.
“You come to our place, we are so glad you are here,” Cox said. “Why? We are a tourist destination resort. We know how to take care of people and treat people.
“Kansas City is the same way. Kansas City is very aware of tourism. You are going to bring in 200 cars, well that is 400, 600 people. Everybody is glad to see you. It is not, ‘Get out of my way.’ It is, ‘Come on in.’ That is a big difference.”
The hospitality was on display at the Central Spring Meet. Some of the 100 volunteers from the AACA Kansas City Region were giving out water.
“The city of Independence and the department of tourism and the Independence Events Center, those three bodies coming together made this happen for us,” Streeby said.
“A few years ago we had $1,300 dollars in our treasury. It takes about $20,000 to run a meet like this. We were able to pull it off debt-free. We have a tremendous amount of support.”