Motor Classic Touches a Nerve of Nostalgia

The automotive aficionados will marvel at the Duesenbergs, Rolls-Royces and Packards from the 1920s and ’30s, stately beauties that steered around collisions and corrosion and the pressing need for metals during the 1940s war effort, surviving into the modern era.
But for the non-enthusiasts who attend the San Marino Motor Classic on June 12, the experience in Lacy Park is likely to be more visceral, more sentimental. They might gravitate to a woody station wagon from the 1950s, a Corvette from the ’60s or a Datsun 240Z from the ’70s.
“The average guy who comes to the show, he’s not an expert in anything, but he gets nostalgic,” said Aaron Weiss, chairman and founder of the event. “You revisit your youth, or a time in your past, when you see these cars. … ‘Our family used to go on road trips in this car.’ Or, ‘I learned to drive in this car.’ Or, ‘I left with my bride from the church in this car.’ All the nostalgic feeling that goes on with cars.”
The Motor Classic, in its sixth year, strives to balance concours credibility with populist appeal.
For example, it will have three categories of American big-block muscle cars from 1962 to 1974, so that car buffs can relive an era when Chevy Chevelles, Pontiac GTOs and Plymouth Roadrunners roared along the roads, passing everything but a gas station.
Also, the Motor Classic lineup is always tweaked slightly so that visitors can come back year after year and still be in store for a surprise here and there. Weiss estimates that of the three dozen classes of cars, there will always be 10-15 that are “etched in granite” — the pre-World War II American and European classics, the antique brass and nickel cars, the Porsche 356s. But the rest of the lineup is subject to whimsy.
Last year, for example, there was a Studebaker class. Previously, there was a Porsche 914 class. This year, the event will have a couple of intriguing “bucket” classes, welcoming a broader range of makes and models.
American Postwar Orphan Marques is one such example this year. Weiss set this category up to include cars from automakers that existed before 1974 but ultimately went broke: Kaiser, Muntz Nash, Rambler, Willys, Hudson, etc.
Another intriguing class is Preservation (non-CCCA). “These are cars that are survivors,” Weiss said. “They’ve never been repainted or reupholstered, other than to repair a tear or repair a dent. It could be a barn find — something in a barn for 50 years with a tarp thrown over it, and pounds of magazines and newspapers on top of that.”
In a repeat of last year, the Motor Classic will include a gala in Lacy Park on Saturday night. Called “A Symphony of Cars,” it will feature 10 classic vehicles alternately displayed on a stage, as USC’s Marching Band plays a song that coincides with the car’s era.
Over the weekend, the Motor Classic expects to net more than $300,000, with $100,000 going to the Pasadena Humane Society, $75,000 to San Marino Rotary Charities, $50,000 to the USC band and $50,000 to the Motor Classic’s endowment. Smaller amounts will be given to the Classic Car Club of America and the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Weiss says he’s pleased that the event has evolved to the point where it is “a community event, where you can come to a beautiful park and see friends — and, incidentally, we happen to have cars on display.” As part of that outreach, he said, regular emcees Dave Kunz and Ed Justice Jr. will be joined this year by Margie Lee, who will announce the show in Mandarin.

The San Marino Motor Classic will be held Sunday, June 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lacy Park. General admission tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event. Children age 12 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased online at or at the gate. Details about the Saturday night gala and other Motor Classic events may also be found at that web address.

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