Hot Rod Heaven

A bustling parking lot at sunset glows from hundreds of cars painted in rich, metallic hues. Beyond the dull, growling rumble of engines, one can hear the swaggering Hammond organ of Booker T. & the MGs' "Green Onions," punctuated by the screeching roar of a car peeling out down the street. The smell of hamburgers mingled with exhaust fumes wafts heavily through the air.

Looking like a scene from American Graffiti, this is a typical Saturday night at the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show.

Sprawling out around the 1950s-themed McDonald's on Indian Bend is a wild variety of lust-inducing rides. GTOs, Mustangs, Roadrunners and other muscle cars arrive shined to perfection. Vintage hot rods like Deuce Coupes and T-Buckets roll in to show off their elaborate pinstriping. Twenty Corvettes glide by, filling an entire section with their gleaming curves. Candy-colored classic Thunderbirds and '57 Chevys park side by side. Even modern and exotic sports cars — including Ferraris, Vipers and Porsches — show up.

A growing section of the parking lot is reserved for those who prefer excitement on two wheels, be it a Harley or sport bike. Providing an extra dose of glimmering chrome, motorcycles are more than welcome.

Hordes of Valley auto enthusiasts come here every weekend to show off their dream rides, mingle with like-minded motorheads or just gaze at some beautiful machinery. According to Mark Kramer, president of McDonald's of Scottsdale and co-owner of the location that sponsors the event, it's become the largest continuous car show in the world.

It all began back in April 1990. Two of Kramer's employees were driving through Mesa when they noticed a group of classic cars parked outside a Carl's Jr. Curious, they stopped to investigate. A friendly conversation with the car owners revealed that they were about to lose their parking-lot privileges. The "rock 'n' roll McDonald's" in Scottsdale seemed like the perfect new destination for the classic cars, and a Valley tradition was born.

"On the very first Saturday night, there were maybe 10 or 12 cars. The second week, there were 20. By the fifth Saturday, there were a hundred cars," says Kramer.

Now an average night brings in anywhere from 250 to 500 cars and up to 150 motorcycles. "The neat part is that when this started, it was just the car owners and their significant others," Kramer notes.

There are no set hours for the event, but vehicles usually start to arrive around 4 p.m. Cars come and go throughout the evening, and people start to head home around 9 p.m. McDonald's area supervisor Chico Espinoza adds, "We always have the real diehards who come just every single week around noon and stay until the end." If you love cool old cars, you'll understand why.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig