There are only two things a collector car fanatic can do in the winter – sit around and wish it was summer or ignore the cold and snow and keep having car-related fun. No, you lucky folks in places like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California don’t get a snowy white season; however, you too can get in on the fun. If you picked the second option above, here are a dozen things you can do this winter:
- Sign up for a night-school class at your local high school or community college. Fees are generally low at such institutions – and a true bargain if you qualify for senior rates. Bodywork classes are a favorite of hobbyists, followed by mechanical repairs, but don’t overlook welding or even woodworking.
- Enroll in a specialized restoration courses that local colleges, vocation schools and other facilities provide during the winter. Among these are mini-restoration courses at McPherson College (Kansas) between regular semesters, British resto classes presented by John Twist and Carl Heideman (Michigan) and the Cobra kit-car building seminars at Mott Community College (Michigan). Find out where the closest are to you via the Internet or magazines like Old Cars Weekly, Skinned Knuckles and Hemmings Motor News. Courses include a fee, travel and lodging, but most students find them worth it.
- If there are no schools in your area and you can’t afford to spend big bucks to travel to faraway places for seminars, how about investing some of that money in heating your own garage? With heat in your “car space,” you can spend those long winter nights getting your car in top shape for next season.
- Speaking of shows, why not visit a new-car show in your area? If you consider yourself an “old-car nut” you may not like new cars all that much, but many of the events include a few vintage cars from private collections or corporate museums. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to pick up brochures and sales catalogs to add to your literature collection. Don’t miss the product vendor area, loaded with things like new waxes and other car care products. Automotive News regularly prints dates and locations of new-car shows.
- Plan a winter visit to one of the many car museums located across the country. Visit our Resource Directory for a big list. If there’s a museum in the town you reside, it’s possible to volunteer as a docent during the winter. That will surely keep you busy – and you’ll learn lots about automotive history.
- If you like automotive history, why not spend those long winter hours writing an article or a book for possible publication? There are more hobby magazines today than ever before, and they need stories to fill their pages. Get a copy of Writer’s Market and you’ll find listings of publishers who accept freelance submissions, how much they pay and where to send the articles. If you have stories to tell and the ability to put them on paper, you may have a new career by the time the snow melts.
- While most car shows disappear in the winter, a number of indoor shows get their act in gear. The best known are the “World of Wheels” shows held in different cities around the country. Many of these events lean toward hot rod and resto mod niches, which are the current growth segments of the hobby. Promoters of these put event listings on their websites.
- If you have time to kill during the winter, why not speed up those “someday” organizational chores? Often, it requires a set plan of action to put magazines, sales literature, automobilia, petroliana, models and other motoring memorabilia in order. You may need to clean up a space for storage and furnish it with shelving or cabinets. It’s not going to be a weekend project; in fact, it may take you all winter. But then you can have your friends over in the spring to show off your personal museum and archives.
- Another great winter project for the car guy who does his own restorations is organizing the shop, tools and equipment needed for such work. Last winter we built a wall-mounted toolboard and an article on it was posted on this site. This winter we’d like to do something about making that grease-stained floor look as nice as the rest of the shop. Projects like these can make a long winter fly by.
- If you had fun at cruise nights last summer, there’s really no reason to not have fun at the same drive-in or fast food restaurant during the winter. Simply leave the collector cars home and come for the “bench racing” (also known as BS sessions). Our group decided to do this about two years ago, and the results have been great. Ten or 15 hardcore enthusiasts meet every week – even when it’s 5-below zero outside. Business is slow for the restaurant at that time of year, so they appreciate the business and let us meet for as long as we like. Some great friendships have been formed, too.
- When car shows stop in snowbelt areas, auctions pop up. The big President’s Weekend sale in Atlantic City, N.J., is one of the best-known and longest-running auctions in cold climates. RM Auctions also has a couple of sales in Michigan each year. Auction advertising can be found in hobby publications. Of course, if you want to spend more cash on travel, you can attend winter auctions in warm places like Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and California, to name a few. These are advertised in the same places.
- If you’re really suffering car show withdrawal by the middle of a long, cold winter, you may want to try a fun thing that a bunch of us did many winters ago. It had been a rough winter in Wisconsin, but we caught a January thaw and got carried away. One fellow had an old Mustang parts car in a shed, so we pushed it out into his snow-covered backyard and hauled out his barbeque grille. Then we cooked up some brats and burgers and held the first (and only) Midwinter Iola Old Car Show. This is not an annual event, but it might be time to do it again.
Whatever you do this winter to keep the passion alive, stay happy, stay warm and stay safe. We want to see you again at next summer’s shows!
John "Gunner" Gunnell is the former automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wisconsin, and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.