AACA crowns 'Car of the Year' at its 2020 Grand Nationals

AACA taps 1958 Buick Century Caballero for top honors at 2020 Grand Nationals.
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HERSHEY, PA – The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), the world’s largest organization of its kind, held its annual Grand Nationals in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this year. The event included AACA’s annual Zenith Award competition and its Grand Nationals car show. AACA’s annual Grand Nationals is always without question the Nation’s largest and most diverse gathering of the finest restored vehicles in the country.

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This year’s show was a little different because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the majority of AACA’s National events this year have been canceled or moved to next year’s calendar, AACA felt that with the right health and safety precautions in place and the right location to allow proper social distancing this event could be a success. The Wyndham Gettysburg property allowed 484 cars to be spread out over 8 different outdoor show fields permitting plenty of space for social distancing. Extra wide spots were allotted for each car in the show expanding the social distancing measures. Additional safety precautions taken included temperature checks, mask-wearing and numerous sanitation stations located throughout the property. The awards ceremony was even held outdoors among the show fields.

The Zenith award is presented to the finest restored vehicle shown at a National AACA event in the previous year. This year’s winner was chosen from the more than 2,800 cars, trucks and motorcycles shown across the U.S. during 2019. Two Zenith Award contenders were nominated from each 2019 AACA Nationals show by the AACA National Awards judging team. The 10 special hand-picked vehicles arrived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that Friday for the fourth annual Zenith Awards in the quest to be dubbed “Restoration of the Year.”

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A team of AACA Senior Master Judges along with four industry guest judges spent a day evaluating all the vehicles for accuracy, precision and authenticity of restoration. Guest judges included Mark Lizewskie, Executive Director of the Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club; Richard Lentinello, well-known automotive editor and writer; Dr. Paul Sable, world-renowned concours judge; and automotive journalist Graham Kozak from RM Sotheby’s.

When the team convened after evaluating the field, the 1958 Buick Century Caballero owned by Joe and Julie Tonietto of Michigan was crowned the 2020 Zenith Award winner. The restoration took 4 ½ years to complete and was performed by a mix of professionals, the owners and a few trusted friends.

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“Despite tough competition from each of the vehicles nominated, the Buick Caballero station wagon exemplified the Zenith Award as the finest restoration of the year and will wear that title well. That determination was borne out by competing car owners as well. The competing cars and owners were first-class – a real testament to the fine spirit of the hobby,” stated Tom Cox, AACA Board VP and the originator of the Zenith program.

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During Saturday’s Grand Nationals, visitors strolled through more than 480 of the finest antique cars from a 1903 Pierce Motorette to a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, and everything in between. Remember, only the best-of-the-best could compete in this show – every car had already been shown at multiple AACA Nationals and won multiple awards including their Senior Award.

AACA President Jim Elliott concluded that, “The AACA proved this past weekend that a well-run car show can be safely held even in today’s health climate. We are looking forward to providing another safe opportunity for our members to share their wonderful cars and this great hobby again on October 10 in Hershey, PA.”

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Click here to view the AACA Zenith Award program listing all of the cars in the competition. Click here to view the winners list from the AACA Grand Nationals show. For more information on AACA, judging guidelines, National Awards or National events, visit www.aaca.org. And, first-time members can try AACA out right now for the rest of the year for only $20! Just call 717-534-1910 today.

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The AACA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, has served as the country's premier resource for the collectible vehicle community since its formation in 1935. Through its national office, publications, online forums, Library and membership, the Club has assisted countless individuals, historians and collectors, along with other libraries and museums, in the quest to preserve and enjoy the antique automobile experience. 

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