All cultural and geographical barriers disappear when it comes to cars. Across the globe, people are wildly enthusiastic about their love of cars. And for us auto aficionados, there’s nothing quite like getting up close to a cutting-edge debut supercar or vintage classic, popping the hood to ogle the impressive machinery or sitting in the driver’s seat.
While there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of car shows held each year across the globe, some are gigantic and some only attract a few hundred spectators. But they all have purpose and serve as a chance for people to check out their favorite models, rub shoulders with industry insiders, or just explore new concepts.
Of course, California and car culture go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise the Golden State is home to some of the greatest car shows in the world. Big or small, we left no car show unexplored. We scoured regions around the state to bring you 6 of California’s best.
The first Sacramento Autorama took place in 1950 after some members of the Thunderbolts Car Club were arguing about who had the nicest roadster. Fellow club member Harold Bagdasarian suggested they stage a little car show and let the public settle their debate. The show was held at the service area of Capitol Chevrolet in downtown Sacramento and featured 22 cars. 500 spectators ended up showing up at 74 cents a ticket, and thereupon the official Sacramento Autorama was born making it the second longest running indoor car show in the world.
The show features hundreds of the most impressive hot rods from the past, present, and future, inviting visitors to admire the marvel of innovation. It’s been running this long for no reason other than the quality of cars that come in from all over year after year.
Classic Motorsports Kick-Off Car Show and Cruise
Each August, the serene coastal town of Monterey wakes up and finds itself a mecca for automotive lovers, curators, and collectors. The much-anticipated Monterey Car Week draws connoisseurs and enthusiasts from around the world to get lost in their passion during a week of obsessive, intensive, indulgent car love featuring some of the most exotic, rare, and most expensive cars in the world.
Kick off this epic week in classic style at the Classic Motorsports Kick-Off Car Show and Cruise where hundreds of classic sports cars and vintage automobiles line up along the beautiful Lighthouse Avenue. Enjoy an evening filled with good people, great restaurants, and even better cars.
Rendezvous Back to Route 66 Car Show
San Bernardino has a rich automotive history connected to Route 66 and the Rendezvous Back to Route 66 Car Show pays great homage to the classics. This annual event draws thousands of classic car enthusiasts and their families to truly get their “Kicks on Route 66.” Here you can enjoy beautiful custom cars from 1900-1974, a beer garden, music from a Beach Boys tribute band, and of course, lots of cruising the historic streets of San Bernardino.
Grand National Roadster Show
Once known as the Oakland Roadster Show, it is the #1 longest running indoor car show in the world! For 69 years now, the judges of Pomona’s Grand National Roadster Show look to crown the esteemed America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMDR) award. However there is so much more to this show than amazing drop top cars, something extraordinarily apparent when you walk around the venue. The AMDR is more than just an award. It’s a celebration of all things Americana.
The GNRS features one of the best collections of older hot rods around. Gassers, old nitro cars, and amazing examples of the impact the 40s through the 60s had on our culture. These heart-stopping displays of classic and new age automobiles, gorgeous hot rods and more provide a little something for everyone. You get T-buckets, Trucks, Roadsters, Muscle Cars, and the occasional Tiger that you probably haven’t even seen before.
The Classic at Pismo Beach
With classic cars filling the streets and 24 square blocks of beach town cool, The Classic at Pismo Beach has lovingly been dubbed “Classic California.” This 3-day show has been running since 1986 and is a real favorite for classic car lovers around the world. Judging for this event is peer-judging based on attention to detail, interior, engine compartment, undercarriage, etc. of more than 850 classic automobiles. This event has a particularly strong connection with participants and fans, annually raising money for important causes and organizations like the Folds of Honor Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Pismo Beach K-9 Unit. This live charity auction donates items such as cars, engines, auto accessories, art, and much more.
The Valley Nationals
Central California is well known for its hot rodding community and big passion for American classic cars. Each year the Hot Rod Coalition puts on the Valley Nationals, conceived by Anthony Granata with the vision of honoring not only his father’s legacy but also as a way to give back to the men that created the Central Valley hot rod culture. The result is an astounding automotive event, which has matured from very humble beginnings into a full-featured show where thousands of car-loving spectators gather to enjoy more than 500 classic cars, a shop tours, a swap meet, a reliability run, and vendors galore.
Inside the main entry area and exhibition building were crowding of indoor show-type cars and vintage racers of the highest caliber. Outside, the tree-lined lanes of the Madera County Fairgrounds gave way to row upon row of vintage cars of every flavor imaginable: hot rods, customs, muscles, drag cars, lowriders, trucks, and road racers.