With muscle cars hotter than ever, people had a chance to see approximately $10 million worth of primo Detroit iron in the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, October 21-23. Cars came from as far away as Canada and Colorado to be part of the 3rd Annual Forge Musclecar Show. Being an invitational, non-judged event maintains a great atmosphere for participants, and the Forge event is the only mixed-make indoor show other than the York US 30 Reunion in York, Pennsylvania.
Having outgrown its former location in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, promoter Tim Lopata chose “Music City” (Nashville) for the third running of the event. The room selected had the flavor of a Detroit-area experimental garage, with subdued lighting and urethane-coated concrete flooring. Then they rolled in — the Yenko Camaros, the Shelby Mustangs, the Hemi Mopars, the Super Stockers of the past, and more. A big highlight was two competition-ready, factory-built ZL1 Chevrolets: Bill Porterfield’s first-ever Camaro and John Maher’s Corvette. The ZL1 was a very rare and expensive all-aluminum 427-cid engine, and examples are very few and far between.
Several car owners also chose this event to debut fresh finds and restorations; Cliff Ernst had a prototype Yenko Camaro on display with craftsmanship courtesy of CPR Restorations (which driver Ed Hedrick signed in several places). Hedrick drove his 427-cid-equipped car in a well-remembered road test in Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine. Kevin Hand and Rick Smith showed up with a pair of 1972 Vegas, one that Yenko Chevrolet built into a performance edition, and the other powered by a prototype engine built by NASCAR legend Smokey Yunick.
A special tribute was made to the late Dick Harrell, who was a noted funny car driver and 1969 AHRA World Champion prior to a fatal accident in late 1971. His wife, Elaine, and daughter, Valerie, were on hand, as were many other family and crew members. Cliff Ernst, who lives in the Nashville region, graciously hosted many attendees at his private collection building on Saturday evening, where Valerie and her close friend, race driver Dale Pulde, awarded several people for keeping Mr. Harrell’s memory alive all of these years.
Chevrolet models were a big focus at this show, but it was by no means limited to that. There were Fords, Buicks, Plymouths, Dodges, Mercurys, and more, each one having gotten an invitation based on its rarity and collector status. For example, Lee Deamon brought in a 1970 429 Torino Cobra he had bought new. Keith Arteman came from Illinois with an 8,000-mile 1966 Hemi Charger that is considered to be the best unrestored example of the breed in existence. Dan and Mary Girolomo had the 428 Cobra Jet Mustang that racer Gas Rhonda drove in 1968 in from Michigan. And then there was Ray Morrison, who purchased one of the handful of 427-cid Novas that Harrell built in 1968 when it was new; he still has it, and awarded onlookers with a tire-blazing, sideways burnout before the show began.
At the event at Ernst’s showroom, Lopata, along with expert Ed Cunneen and noted collectors like Gary Holub and Dave Belk, announced that next year, a special, separate event called Super Car Fest would be held, featuring the dealership and factory special Chevrolets, while continuing the traditional mixed format for all makes and models (including other Chevrolets) at the 4th Annual Forge Invitational Musclecar Show. Watch www.detroithorsepower.com for upcoming details about dates and exact locations for the 2006 event.