Contributed by Tim Nicholas – President Classic Camaro of Central Florida
Photos by Russ Muller Photography
“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same”
Central Florida in February, there are a few things you can count on to be as constant as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. The weather is better than just about anything offered north of the Mason/Dixon Line, The Daytona International Speedway is sure to draw a capacity crowd for the Daytona 500 and Ecklers Winter National Show and Convention is the place to be for car enthusiasts, especially Chevrolet owners. The 24th Annual Winter Nationals was held at Westgate Lakes and Resort on Feb. 25-28. Here is where a “change” takes place. In past years the event was held the first weekend of February with hopes that the long winter blahs would give way to the first major show of the season. This year an unavoidable conflict necessitated the show dates to be changed to the end of February. Change can be a good thing. While past events have had relatively favorable weather, this year the weather could only be described as PERFECT. Four days of spectacular sunshine, warm temps and comfortable evenings made for a show not soon to be forgotten.
Once again, Classic Camaro of Central Florida presided as HOST CLUB, marking the 16th time they have co-hosted or hosted the Winter Nationals outright. “No Change here”. The show setup began on Wednesday before the participants began arriving Thursday morning. All stations were manned and ready and it was a good thing they were because the approximately 170 pre-registered attendees wasted little time in making sure they had their prime parking space for the weekend. Registration, Tech Check and Classification was brisk but the cars flowed through quickly and were staged for an event photo by Russ Muller Photograph.
With arrivals taking place throughout Thursday, friends were getting reacquainted, new friendships were made and preliminary detailing was taking place. The event DJ, Rocking The Lot by Taz Tunes, filling the sun drenched day with everyone's favorite tunes and kept everyone well informed of the days events and important announcements. Westgate Lakes and Resort had a savory selection from the grill for those looking for an affordable lunch to keep their energy up while cleaning their pride and joys. The evening concluded with a welcoming BBQ held outside”change” under the cool evening air…..OK it got down right cold with the winds coming off the lake. Shafer's Classic Reproductions sponsored the BBQ while Cozette Alley, of Ecklers, braved the cold evening air, serving as the master of ceremonies, recognizing the show sponsors and taking time to thank all those who support the Winter Nationals.
Friday dawned warm and bright, “no change here”. A full day of show prep, seminars and enjoying the sun and friends were on the days agenda. Joe Whitaker and Randy Irwin of Real Deal Steel were on hand to answer all things Tri-5 and Camaro related while displaying their 1969 NMCA Give-a-Way car, that is a good “change”. Returning for a second year were Chuck Dunlap and Tim Nicolas of Classic Camaro of Central Florida to offer detailing and paint correction tips sponsored by P21S Auto Care Products. Another “change” for this year was a “Splat” Bug Remover product demo. While we all have to deal with bugs on our cars from time to time, us Floridians have the unique experience of twice a year “ LOVE BUG” seasons. If you don't know what a Love Bug is, Google it and you will get a new appreciation for the one hazard Florida car enthusiasts dread. CCCF members spent the day assisting where needed and selling 50/50 tickets in support of our club charity, Give Kids the World Village. Besides the 50/50 drawing, donated items were displayed for silent auction bidding, that would conclude Saturday afternoon, with all proceeds going to our charity.
One of the most talked about and eagerly anticipated parts of the show was the Valve Cover Races and while they were scheduled for Saturday, Friday afternoon was the Show and Shine portion for the racers. “Big Change”….last year, approximately 12-15 racers elected to enter this competition. For 2016, almost “40” racers were displayed for the Show and Shine as well as participating in Saturdays races. The imagination,creativity and construction skills employed by the VC owners, make this a “not to be missed” portion of future Winter National shows. You have to see it to believe it…….
Ready, Set, JUDGE. The cleaning and detailing is completed, the judges have their cups of coffee and donuts to start the early morning assignments. Time to take in some of the fabulous classics you haven't had time to admire due to all your prepping. “Here is an ongoing change” The caliber of the show vehicles continues to increase yearly, from a restored original 55 to a “spare no expense” Pro-Touring 69 Camaro, the show field was littered with “top flight” examples that make the Winter National event a must do show for many of the participants. “Another Change”. While strolling the show lot, I came in contact with a few first time attendees and what was even more amazing were the distances that they had come to be a part of the show. While I don't know who traveled the furthest to the show, my money was on the owner of a beautiful 1958 convertible from California. That is dedication to our hobby.
The judging is complete and the scores are being tabulated, nothing to do but sit back and relax the day away……not on your life. The Valve Cover Racing is about to begin and you want to get a front row seat to cheer on your favorite racer, or to have your toes run over. The competition was fierce and the distances traveled by the racers proved that plenty of work and testing went into this years event. Ecklers provided the winning VC racers with certificates and those who weren't so fortunate headed for the pits to make changes for the next time the racers come out to play. Besides the racing, the swap meet area was abuzz with activity from buyers looking for that last minute deal before everything was loaded up for home. Just a little something for everyone at an Ecklers event….”no change there”.
The day ended with one final 50/50 drawing and the silent auction wrapping up.
Sunday morning started just like the previous three days, sun breaking on the horizon and warm temps to start the day, “no change”. Awards were presented, final good-byes were said and memories of another Winter National remained vivid during the trips home. The “change” of dates made for another enjoyable gathering of old and new friends. “No change” there, it's nice that things remain the “same”.