Aaron Widmar
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Classic Car Cruise-In Checklist: What to Bring to a Show

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classic car show cruise-in checklist of what to bring

Few pastimes are more rewarding for auto enthusiasts than driving through the neighborhood in a classic car and bringing it to a local cruise-in show. Festivals, restaurants, dealerships, and community groups across the United States sponsor cruise-ins throughout the year.

If you’re still new at figuring out how these events work, make sure you don’t leave any of the following items at home. Use this classic car cruise-in checklist to maximize your experience.

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15 Things You Should Bring to a Car Show or Cruise-In

An old car-related T-shirt: If you want to look like a pro at your first rodeo (or, rather, car show), wear a T-shirt from a previous cruise-in you’ve attended. You know–the off-white one with the hot rod and flaming cursive font. If you don’t own one, you can grab one at the local thrift store.

Registration tags for the event: If you need to pre-register for the event and were given a pass to show at the gate and/or display in your window, make sure you don’t leave this at home!

Cash: If you have to pay an entrance fee at the gate, or want to buy concessions, have a couple Hamiltons in your pocket.

Awards: If you’ve been to multiple car shows before, you might have earned plaques or trophies for your snazzy car. Bring these along to impress spectators and other participants. If you don’t own any, have your kids draw some fake awards with crayons; that will probably win you even more fans.

Car info: A poster on the unit itself and its history, plus the model production background, is a great way to help people appreciate how great your car really is.

Polish: If your car has been collecting dust in the garage and has lost its sheen, give it a quick wipe-down and waxing after you park it at the cruise-in. A shiny body and engine give your car an impressive luster.

Lights: If you want to illuminate an area of your engine or car’s underside which you put a lot of work into, small spotlights will emphasize the most important aspects of your vehicle.

Music: Many car cruise-ins feature DJs or bands playing music during the event, but if this event does not, bring a stereo and a mix of tunes from the year your car was built. You can have it playing from inside your car to set the mood for your car’s time period.

Novelty items: You can’t bring your car to a cruise-in and not have that toddler-sized doll propped up against your bumper. That’s why you purchased it…right?

Folding chairs: You won’t be spending the whole time walking around and looking at other people’s cars. Give yourself a break and bring some chairs to set up–including a couple extra if friends want to join you.

Protection from the sun: Unless you’re going to a cruise-in on a dreary, overcast day (which is a risk if it rains), you’ll be out in the heat for hours. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunscreen, and small canopy over your chairs.

Sunglasses: Not only will this help you inspect cars without shielding your eyes and add to your stylish look, it will also hide your expressions of disgust, amazement, or glee when you see what some people have done to their cars…

Contact information: Chances are you’re going to make new friends at this event as you mingle with other classic auto enthusiasts. Have your information on-hand in small cards you can pass out to keep in touch with people.

Snacks: Unless there are food vendors at the event, you might be stuck without grub if you don’t bring some food for lunch. Have a bottle of water too.

Pictures: If you’ve put a lot of work into restoring your car, bring pictures of your step-by-step journey and you working on it. This personalizes the car to spectators and will earn you respect as someone who didn’t just buy their car recently.

Camera: If you don’t have a camera built into your phone, bring an actual one along in case you want to take pictures–either of other cars or your own for your scrapbook. Please, no selfies though.

Towels: If you park your car on the grass and are walking around in the dirt, bring a towel or change of shoes to make sure you don’t track anything into your car at the end of the day.

Your Car:  It would be a shame if you put all this preparation into your cruise-in experience and forgot to bring your special car along. Before you pull out of your driveway, make sure you’re driving the car you should be. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

After you’ve mastered these basics, maybe one day you’ll be ready for Woodward!

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  • Aaron WidmarSenior Editor

    Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing... See more articles by Aaron.