New Canaan and Darien car enthusiasts celebrate Father's Day under the hood
Updated 11:13 am, Friday, June 24, 2011
For Charles England, the man in charge of the Father's Day Collector's Car Show in Darien, the best thing about owning unique and rare cars has nothing to do with collecting.
"So the theme of my collecting has always been to try something different but capable," England said. "If it is not fun to drive, I don't want to own it."
It may shock some who see some of these cars to think they are still functional automobiles and not statues and silhouettes representing a bygone era. But if you ask England, his eyes light up as he talks about the functionality of the cars lined up on the lawn of Tilley Pond Park.
"Many of these owners buy these cars for the thrill of driving them as much as the beauty of some of them," England said as he walked around pointing out Jaguars, Mustangs and Citroens. "And believe me, these are some of the most beautiful cars you will ever see."
More than 100 owners from New Canaan and Darien had their prized possessions on display for the families celebrating for Father's Day. Refreshments and free caricatures provided by the Darien Lion's Club rounded out the festive occasion for the sixth year of the car show.
"It is a very nice community event," John Campbell, of the Lion's Club, said. "It gets people out and about and 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity. It's also a lot of fun."
More InformationFact box
Besides offering fun for visitors, the show gives car owners an opportunity to display and discuss their own vehicles.
Joe Rossi, a New Canaan resident and member of the car enthusiast group Caffeine and Carburetors, brought in a white Jaguar XK 120 coupe. The vehicle looked as though it was lifted straight out of an old Sean Connery James Bond film.
"Yeah if you're over 6 feet tall you may not be able to comfortably drive this car," Rossi joked. "Luckily that is not a huge problem for me."
Rossi began the morning at Zumbach's Coffee Shop with Caffeine and Carburetors, the car enthusiasts who meet six times a year to talk cars over a cup of joe, before everyone got into their collector's cars and "rallied" all the way to Darien.
"It's been a blast. It really has," Rossi said. "You know besides all the typical camaraderie and pride that comes out of these events, I really love how casual and comfortable everything is. There is no agenda at all. It's really just an event where some people can get together for a little while and be on with their day. I love it."
All visitors to the event voted on their favorite car. The 1952 C-type Jaguar took home most of the awards for its rare and sleek design, it in fact looks like a futuristic submarine as much as it looks like a car. The C-type Jaguar took home awards for Best in Show, Darien High School Best In Show and Best English Sports Car. The only other car to get some love was the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, which won the Chief Judge's Award.
Other cars that drew large crowds included the 1993 Dodge red roadster Viper, a 427 Corvette Stingray, a 1954 Nash Metropolitan, a 1936 Ford coupe, a 1966 Mustang Coupe as well as John Lennon's green 1972 Chrysler station wagon.
With the exception of the Viper, nearly all the cars displayed were antiques, relatively speaking. Many of them were fully restored while some still ran on the original parts. England believes the attraction to the old cars simply relate to fond memories of the past as opposed to the status symbol expensive modern cars represent.
"I think you will find most of us with old cars own those of our childhood," England said. "Perhaps for the modern high-performance buyer, the issue is buying a car that few others own, and therefore when you drive the Ferrari to dinner, the valet parks your car in front. The drawback to the modern car is the depreciation."
Whatever the attraction may be, the Darien Collector's Car Show's origins don't have much to do with cars. It actually began six years ago as an initiative to encourage visitors to go out and enjoy the downtown area and to donate to charity. All the net proceeds from the event went to Aging in Place + Gallivant, a service provider meeting the special needs of seniors. Yet even with those added benefits, England said his favorite thing about the show, besides the cars of course, is seeing families out celebrating Father's Day.
"That is what I love to see," he said pointing to a father and daughter walking by a Mustang. "That is why this show is successful."