The San Juan Capistrano Rotary-CARE Car Show has become an annual tradition here at Model Citizen. Usually taking place the first Saturday in February, this charity event provides us with a fun, low-key way to ease back into the SoCal car show scene after the mania of the winter holidays. With proceeds benefitting the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort, the show welcomes well-behaved dogs along with well-behaved people to the emerald green grounds of the SJC Rec Fields, making for a uniquely playful car show experience.
Of course, without an impressive assortment of automobiles, the San Juan Capistrano Car Show would be just another day at the dog park. Thankfully, year in and year out, the event delivers a wonderfully eclectic display of street rods, musclecars, classic European sports cars, and exotics...truly, there's something here for everyone. That includes collectors of scale-model cars, too: Model Citizen was back once again to bring our selection of precision-built diecast to south Orange County, and we're happy to say that our little booth was hopping all day long. Still, we did manage to find time to slip away and take in the hundreds of cars the show had to offer. Here are a few of our favorites:
As Porsche model specialists at Model Citizen, it should come as no surprise that we're drawn to 1:1-scale versions quite strongly. There was a smattering of air-cooled classics at SJC this year to satisfy our craving. We were especially taken with Ted Hirth's 1962 356B Super, resplendent in Champagne Yellow. Inspired by memories of another 356 he owned in younger days, Hirth only recently acquired the car after searching for months for the "right one." The yellow B was that car: it was already restored, so its condition was a known quantity. Plus, it's fitted with later 356C disc brakes, making for a more pleasant driving experience.
A strong counterpoint to the tiny Porsche was Brian Sturgis's 1972 Chevy Blazer. In the interest of full disclosure, we should point out that this was a sort of unofficial "booth car" for Model Citizen, as Brian (a good friend and in-law) helped us out with our sales for the day. Even without our personal connection, however, his brutal Blazer would still merit attention because it exemplifies the personal touch of a "built-not-bought" car. Sturgis has lavished untold hours in getting his Blazer just right, from its 383 stroker powerplant to its bespoke roll cage that he (an experienced welder) crafted from his own design. Diamond plate details complete the look, and the whole package works as well on the show field as it does on the dunes of Glamis.
Further proving the wide diversity of cars on display in SJC was the jaw-dropping 1983 Aston Martin Lagonda of Trevor McAlester. One of only 645 ever produced, the Lagonda was Aston Martin's attempt to create the world's finest high-performance luxury sedan, though a combination of an astronomical sticker price, polarizing styling, and legendarily terrible electronics would conspire to keep production figures low. In chatting with McAlester about the car, however, we came away with the sense that the Lagonda's reputation for electrical problems are just part of the vehicle's considerable charms; he proudly pointed out the cockpit's innovative touch-sensitive switchgear in almost the same breath as he explained the difficulty that would be involved in repairing the instrument cluster's non-functioning LED system. Also of note: the Lagonda features not one, but two separate horns...a quieter one for city use, and a louder one for (in McAlester's words) clearing sheep off of country lanes.
Those who follow us across our various social platform and in-person events will know that Model Citizen is a producing partner in Touge California, the only vintage car rally in the United States exclusively for pre-1980 Japanese automobiles. We're solid advocates for more widespread acceptance of Japanese "nostalgics" in the car collecting mainstream, and in that spirit we encouraged our friends in this community to join us in SJC. To our delight, two Touge California veterans accepted the call: John Williams brought out his sublime Datsun 240Z which ran in our inaugural 2015 rally, and Armando Licon appeared in his rare Mazda RX-4 which took part in the 2016 event. (The latter car was an especially appropriate choice, seeing as this show is produced by the SJC Rotary Club...get it?) We hope this is only the beginning of a broader Japanese-inclusive trend in car shows around the country.
For 2017, we couldn't settle on a single favorite car at the San Juan Capistrano show. We could, however, pick a favorite car story: that of Tomas Requejo and his 1964 Chevrolet Impala. The SJC Rotary-CARE always draws a strong contingent of quality lowriders, but even in this crowd Requejo's Six-Four stood out. The level of detail on this machine was simply stunning, with astonishingly intricate engraving and lush lacquer airbrushing throughout (and of course, the mandatory hydraulics!) What made this Impala so special, however, was Requejo's ownership history. At seventeen, he already owned a '64 Impala, but with his freshman year at UCLA approaching, the car was sold for tuition money. After college came law school, a practice, and a family. Still, the lure of the most iconic of lowrider platforms was strong, and Requejo vowed that by age 50, he would own another. By 49, however, the dream was as yet unrealized. So, only weeks before his self-imposed deadline, he traded another Impala (a 1960) to acquire a "driveable" '64. He then worked with veteran lowrider craftsman Jorge Maldonado of the Superiors Car Club to create a bespoke masterpiece...or rather, a masterpiece-in-progress. Describing the Impala as "only at stage two," Requejo plans to perform a frame-off rechroming of the entire undercarriage, as well as installing a moonroof. Would that finish the build, we asked? "After that," he said, "I'll consider it close."
For more photos from the show, please visit our Facebook page.