The Cool City 2022 Car Show in Bay City, Michigan.
Updated: Jul 15
This car show has grown year after year. With the Back to the Bricks festival in Flint being one of the premiere car shows in North America, Bay City is among the smaller festivals in that they happen over the summer months leading up to the large show in Flint. However Bay City has begun to move ahead of the rest of the pack with a very large gathering that shows no sign of slowing growth. After several years of hiatus the Cool City Car Show is back and did not disappoint. followed the next morning by the actual car show.
This car show has grown year after year. With the Back to the Bricks festival in Flint being one of the premiere car shows in North America, Bay City is among the smaller festivals in that they happen over the summer months leading up to the large show in Flint. However Bay City has begun to move ahead of the rest of the pack with a very large gathering that shows no sign of slowing growth. After several years of hiatus the Cool City Car Show is back and did not dissapoint.
The show covered several parking lots and several downtown streets were blocked off to make room for the hundreds of cars that descended upon downtown Bay City following the cruise on Friday night. Various contests, drawings, and raffles were held. However rather than recap the details that can be found elsewhere I'll focus on the photography and let the images do most of the talking.
I rode on a Bird scooter to get to the event because I didn't want to deal with finding parking. This worked excellent and I was able to drop my scooter off in the Alice & Jack Wirt Public Library parking lot on Center avenue and proceed through the event on foot. This was perfect because there wasn't an official entrance as far as I could tell. It was a free event and inviting from any street you walked in on.
Cars were lined up along both sides of the street which meant that really every street was best visited in a big loop, walking up one side of the street and then back on the other. unlike the bigger show in Flint there weren't really sections dedicated to specific types of car. It was just a first come, first serve parking arrangement which meant that cars of similar interest were roughly in the same area thanks to the owners wanting to congregate amongs others of similar interest. This informality will likely go away in the future but for now it meant that if you liked classic cars, you'd have the opportunity to hunt for what you are into while appreciating lots of cars that you may not have had a chance to appreciate before.
I'm an enthusiast of aesthetic which is something that is in great abundance in both classic cars themselves and the tireless work of the artisans that restore them. However I am not a "car guy" by any means. Signs on the front window of every car however told me exactly what I was looking at. This was a great learning experience.
Speaking of aesthetic. The art on these cars is beautiful. The paint jobs are often a beauty all on their own.
Thanks to modern paints and dipping techniques these cars can have a look that goes beyond what their designers could ever envision to part speed freaks from their hard earned cash.
A new generation of classic car is here. One that takes advantage of the new technologies in automotive detailing, customizing, and paint technology in order to further enhance what was good about the cars of the past. The results are not lost on those of us who aren't "car guys" because beauty is universal.
It is absolutely fascinating to be on the outside looking in as a younger generation at an art form that has matured from keeping pappy's old car still running to taking what was junk and outdated into a Ship of Theseus, where hardly anything is original but homage is paid to the aesthetic and engineering revolutions of the past.
There's just a tremendous level of artistic skill and craftsmanship that goes into restoring, improving, and maintaining these cars at the level that exists at shows like this. Bay City has a growing art scene but it has a heritage of being an automotive manufacturing hub. Economic and political factors may have changed where cars are manufactured but the love for them lives in in every vehicle that came to Bay City for this event.
That's how I saw these cars anyway. Each one as a unique work of art, a sculpture, a painting, all for public display and appreciation.
Colors more vivid and beautiful than the engineers and technicians that rolled them out of the factory could ever envision. Care and preparation that would make their mass-production prohibitively expensive has been done during their restoration making them better than new.
They exist not so much as a prototype to the model that rolled off the assembly line, but rather as an idealized spiritual reincarnation of what the perfect form of the model and year should have been. Of course in the color that the owner dreamed to have.
Only to add to the experience is the fact that oldies music echoed from the small stage that sat in the intersection of Center and Washington avenues. Oldies but remixed to fit the modern music. Classic but new. It only helped reinforce what existed here. What was old has become new again.
What was old has become reincarnated into something for future generations to appreciate as living history.
I believe that what we are looking at here is not in fact "classic cars" but rather phantoms of a time that is fading away as fast as the generation that lived it is. What we are left with is no longer memories but imaginations of what must have been.
There are fundamental concepts in mankind's sense of beauty that are timeless. There are details of these cars that have totally been erased in the sense of good taste and functionality with the help of modern technology.
In some ways the generations that relied on these vehicles would feel right at home with this. Wood working is the same. But the epoxies and resins that protect that careful craftsmanship is something that would probably get an approving nod once you explained it to them.
Yet at other times the modernization would be a confusing hodge-podge appearing to that generation as some sort of technological sorcery.
Nevertheless the old beater that Billy got fixed out in the shed has become what he could never envision which seems from all the smiles from old geezers that wandered this show to be something that they found to be in the highest order, profoundly beautiful.
So what if I'm not a "car guy?" I'm trained to find beauty wherever it lies and I know it when I see it. One cannot simply walk into a gallery and buy a masterpiece without trading a fortune. So too can one not walk onto a car lot and buy one of these cars. They must find one and part with a small fortune to acquire it.
For the majority of the owners these vehicles are the results of years of labor, sweaty glass bottles of warm beer on the workbench as they worked on manifesting their ideas into reality. Ideas that were correct, that were successes.
Everywhere I looked there were childish grins from grey-haired men who were able to show off their work, their cost, their pride and joy. I think that's beautiful all by itself. I think that's part of what makes a car show like this so wonderful. I consider myself lucky to have been there for just a few hours. I can't appreciate cars as much as someone who knows cars, but taking it as an art gallery on the street, it did not disappoint.
Hopefully if you missed it this year you can be so lucky next year. You can find out next year's schedule on the website of the organization responsible for hosting this. https://www.coolcitycarshow.com/