Finding a car show in Wichita on a summer weekend isn’t much of a challenge, as car hobbyists keep the calendar full with events scattered all across the city.
This weekend, all roads will lead to Century II and the surrounding downtown streets as the third annual BlackTop Nationals takes center stage.
“The event has grown each year, and we’re expecting 150,000 people,” said Rick Nuckolls, one of the founders of the show. “Let’s hope for great weather.”
Carl Raines, executive director of BlackTop Nationals, said the event is the second-largest in the region in terms of attendance. The first two shows have attracted nearly 300,000 people combined to Wichita.
Raines said show organizers are expecting somewhere between 600 and 800 vehicles, ranging from classic antique automobiles of the early 1900s to full-blown race cars, street rods and customs.
The show cars, trucks and motorcycles will begin rolling into downtown Wichita on Friday, with their owners looking for prime parking spots along Douglas and McLean. Fridays are typically set-up days and a time when downtown office workers grab a quick sandwich and spend their lunch hour strolling through the automotive artwork, visiting with vehicle owners.
While most of the cars will be on display outdoors, this year will feature a sort of “car show within a car show." Known as the “Million $ Car Display," this portion of the event will feature approximately 30 high-end collectible cars exhibited at the invitation of the show’s directors.
“These are vehicles not seen anywhere else rare, private-collector cars," Raines said. “We went after people with special cars that pretty much cover the gamut.”
One such car is a stunning black and gold DeSoto Adventurer hardtop owned by Bruce Blackwell.
“Mr. Blackwell’s father purchased this car new from Cox Motors in Tulsa, Okla., in 1956," said Tim Bowers, owner of Stellar Antique Auto Restorations in Windom, which restored the DeSoto to showroom-new condition.
The car is one of only 996 built that year and came equipped with the “Hiway Hifi,” a record player mounted under the dashboard that plays records at 162/3rd rpm, Bowers said. He said Bruce Blackwell’s younger brother told him, “The records tended to skip around a little at 130 mph."
Most of the BlackTop Nationals venues require no admission charge, but the "Million $ Car Display" is an exception. It requires a $5 wristband that can be purchased at Walgreens, QuikTrip or at one of the WichitaTix booths at the show venue. With the wristband comes an official program containing entry forms for a pair of drawings.
On Saturday a beautifully restored 1965 Mustang coupe donated by the Midwest Ford Dealers Association will be given to the one of five finalists whose ignition key starts the car. Another drawing for a 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 motorcycle will be held at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla., on Sunday evening. Winners have to be present at both drawings.
The BlackTop Nationals’ primary sponsor continues to be Ford Motor Co., which has added a new feature to its “Hot Laps" and "Ride and Drive" lineup: a drag race experience.
A handful of people selected through a drawing will get to strap themselves into real Mustang cars set up on dyno platforms and race each other through the gears in a simulated side-by-side drag race.
Also added this year will be The Wichita Eagle’s Wichita on Wheels Reunion, featuring vehicles whose stories have been published on the Wheels page in the past 10 years.
Other attractions include the Pepsi NASCAR simulator, helicopter rides, short and long autocross events, the McPherson College Auto Restoration Program’s Model T touring car build, and retail and food vendors on site.
"If we do get a little rain, we should have enough going on inside to keep people entertained," Raines said.