Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals 2023 was a vision of my future
On a crisp November morning, a conga line of men in short-sleeved Mopar shirts shuffled inside the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center near Chicago. Perhaps in their excitement to behold the mass of American horsepower on display at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN), the Mopar men forgot their jackets.
Now in its 14th year, MCACN offers a handpicked selection of top-tier, well, muscle cars and Corvettes. That’s to say nothing of the generous quantity of hot rods, drag racers, and restomods also on display at this enormous show.
Your author is admittedly not much of a car show guy. And I’m better versed in the JDM and drifting spheres than the golden-era muscle world. On its surface, the appeal of MCACN seemed, at first blush, elusive. The cars were tightly packed together. Velvet ropes and signboards with superlative declarations obstructed views. The overhead lights were harsh. None if that is optimal for photography.
Walking around and occasionally keying in on a few select cars of interest—that seemed the thing to do. Executing on that plan brought back to mind the many hours of Mecum auction coverage I watched as a kid. It all came back to me.
“Oh dang, there’s an AAR ‘Cuda,” I thought to myself. And another one. And another one. And another one. The tributes to the Trans Am Barracuda’s campaigned by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers are rare and valuable. Plymouth only built 2724 them, and our price guide has one in excellent condition—like the ones at the show—valued at $153,000.
The smorgasbord of high-end muscle didn’t stop at Mopars. For the Chevy guys and gals, there were plenty of Chevelles, Camaros, and of course, Corvettes. I lost count of how many perfect C2 Vettes were in attendance, many of which had a 427 badge on the stinger. For the Ford lovers, particularly Mustang fans, there were seemingly endless lines of Mach 1s, Bosses, and Saleen Fox-bodies.
If you’re not a champion of factory-restored or original cars, there were plenty of custom creations on the convention floor at MCACN. Do you remember the Barris “T” Buggy? Well, the memorable ride by the King of Kustoms was also on display. You could take home a model of the Buggy for $15 dollars … or the car itself for an undisclosed amount.
As I took in the embarrassment of muscle-car riches, I noticed that younger people like myself are far outnumbered by an older, grayer crowd. Which makes sense: The collector car market is largely driven by nostalgia, and majority of the cars on display were from the 1960s and 1970s. But in a lucky stroke for the hobby, MCACN seems to be aware of the phenomenon; it showcased categories like “Future Generation Invitational” to draw in fresh blood.
Case in point: “I’ve been taking him here since he was this tall,” Jonathan Herrick said, first gesturing to his waist, then to his son Nathan. “Now he has a car in the show.” The 19-year-old beamed as he stood by his first car, a very clean, all-black 1999 Corvette.
The future looks bright for the continued interest in American muscle, both new and old. It’s only a matter of time before Nathan and I are shuffling into the convention center in branded, short-sleeve shirts, too excited to remember our jackets.