What makes Chicago’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, held indoors at the Stevenson Convention Center near O’Hare Airport, so special? It’s the ability to draw the best-of-the-best in rare and historic muscle and competition cars, including a wide array of prototypes and special-optioned vehicles that are unique in the world.
The show’s quality derives from a rich pool of esteemed collections in the Upper Midwest.
“This is where all the special cars are,” said attendee and Mopar collector John Walters of Muskego, Wisconsin. “This is where these cars were born, and this is where they died.”
Only to be gloriously resurrected, with a number of high-end restoration firms and parts suppliers also in attendance in the spacious exhibit hall. It’s telling that the four-door 1970 Barracuda concept car that made such a splash at SEMA two weeks earlier was in this exhibit, as MCACN is becoming a required stop in the show circuit for muscle car and Corvette purists.
Where else would you see the sole surviving, bullet-shaped 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II shoulder-to-shoulder with its Ford counterpart, a 1970 King Cobra? These prototype NASCAR aero-warriors were part of a larger class of rare cars built by Kar-Kraft, the legendary specialty constructor that operated as Ford’s “skunk works” beginning in the mid-1960s.
Also in the Kar-Kraft display was a one-off 1969 Ford Boss Bronco, which Ford’s West Coast racing chief Bill Stroppes’ built essentially as a “Shelby” Bronco. The long-lost prototype features a balanced and blueprinted GT350 351-4V Windsor engine and 4.11:1 axles, front and rear.
Other displays featured the 50th Anniversary of GM F-Bodies (Camaro and Firebird) class, the Corvette Triple Diamond Showcase and Competition, the Class of 1972 Invitational, the Class of 1967 Invitational, The Mopar Shaker Hood E-Body (Challenger and Cuda) Invitational, the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 Invitational, Corvette Legends of 1967, and Fabulous Formulas: 1970-1974 Pontiac Firebird Formulas.
The popular Barn Finds/Hidden Gems display always stuns with dusty rarities in their as-found state, and this year’s edition was no different. Joining a decrepit 1970 Plymouth Superbird was the original prototype for the 1970 Hurst 300. A tattered Mr. Norm’s 1972 Dodge Demon 340 GSS still sported its supercharger, and a long-forgotten Car Craft Magazine giveaway 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger still wore its psychedelic paint and livery. A rare Granada Gold 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge was displayed, caked with years of dust.
Rewarding original, well-preserved cars was the Vintage Certification Program, which scrutinized survivor examples from top to bottom, providing a valuable benchmark for restorers looking for correct details on their projects.
It’s always interesting to see what the next generation of collectors prefer, and the Hagerty Youth Judging program was on hand to give out their annual awards. First Place went to a 1969 COPO 427 Camaro, a survivor car which had a long life as a drag racer. Second Place went to a pristine 1967 Buick Gran Sport, which undoubtedly scored points from the kids for its distinctive “Star Wars” air cleaner.
Corvette fans were treated to a 1953 Corvette cutaway display car and an incredible gathering of 1967 427 L/88 Vettes.
Title sponsor Mecum Auctions brought out a number of rare consignments from their upcoming Kissimmee auction, including a 4-speed, 1-of-1 Super Track Pack 1970 Dodge Hemi Coronet R/T. Also shown were “his-and-hers” 1969 ZL-1 Camaros that will be sold as a pair in Kissimmee, and the 1966 Mustang 8-second drag car of “Gas” Ronda. The show was a great opportunity for prospective Mecum bidders to inspect the cars prior to their auction in January.
Speaking of speedy Mustangs, the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race group brought out a number of their members’ cars, each marked with their fastest times from races held earlier this year. The quickest of the display cars was Steve Vanderwall’s red 1968 Mustang GT coupe. With a 428/4V engine, automatic transmission and Goodyear Polyglas GT tires; the car achieved an impressive 12.31 E.T.
Muscle car history lies around every corner at this well-curated event. Each of the cars at MCACM has a great story to tell, and the exceptional quality appeals to every enthusiast, no matter where their brand loyalties lie.
Photos by Williams Hall