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A Look Back at the 1986 Annual Meeting in California
1986 Annual Meeting: January 8th – 12th, 1986
If this isn't Hollywood, it's the next thing to it… a state of mind where everything lives up to your expectations. The unbelievable happens before your eyes.
Maybe today, Universal City is "Hollywood" with its Disneylandstyle tours of the make-believe world of special effects, back lots and this week's latest celebrity. And here between January 8th and 12th the Classic Car Club of America held its Annual Meeting at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. It was like a busload of tourists out to visit fantasyland, only our fantasy was to see some of the greatest Classics in the world.
The Briggs Cunningham Museum in Costa Mesa holds many of these world's greatest Classics so it was only fitting that a tour there would be first on the agenda… however, who could ever have expected that rides would also be offered in an extremely rare Type 41 Bugatti Royale? (Check back to the last issue of The Classic Car for a detailed description of why this offer was so special) The box lunch served outdoors on the museum patio was simply outstanding, if anyone paid attention amidst such a wonderful exhibition.
Neil Torrence, who set up all the tours, was something of an optimist to believe buses with 186 CCCA members aboard could travel to Thomas Cadillac in a half hour… or that one could drag members away from the Cunningham museum so quickly. But no matter, LaRue Thomas' collection was very special also. Located several stories up over an old-time Cadillac showroom that is quite successfully selling brand-new Cadillacs, his collection features… well, for everyone who visited this private collection, it became quite easy to assume that nearly all the Cadillacs produced in the Thirties were sixteens!
Meanwhile back at the registration table organized very well by Bill and Jo Snyder (he a former editor of The Classic Car and she gaining nationwide respect as a creator of solid gold jewelry for car buffs), care was taken to explain that most everything was sold out for the weekend. Thinking ahead, and pre-registering, which most members did fortunately, proved mandatory. Area coordinator Irving Davis was simply overwhelmed. A total of 455 people attended this Annual Meeting!
Four large tour buses were needed to transport the crowd downtown in Los Angeles to the Times-Mirror building where Otis and Bettina Chandler hosted a cocktail reception. Once inside the Twenties-style edifice, which takes up an entire city block, everyone was treated to a spread that many called dinner. Small groups were led through a maze of hallways to the executive parking ramp where Otis had brought out two of his prized Packards. Both are pristine original Twelves and quite rare. The 1934 LeBaron boattail speedster was one of four made, and stood majestically alongside the famous "Car of the Dome" Packard built with a Dietrich sports sedan body for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
Friday was set aside for several meetings to run the CCCA's business. It was most notable (and healthy for the Club) that 108 members joined the board of directors at 8:30 in the morning to witness the Annual Membership Meeting conducted by outgoing CCCA President William Davis. Treasurer Katie Robbins reported that, for the second year in a row, the Club spent more money than it took in. Considering that she was overwhelmingly re-elected as a director indicates that her message wasn't confused with bad tidings.
Once again that afternoon the buses rolled around to pick up a couple hundred people anxious to explore Southern California. The target this time was the Huntington Library in posh San Marino, followed by a visit to the automobile collection of Don Ricardo. The library contains rare 200-year-old-plus books in addition to original manuscripts, world-renowned oil paintings and fantastic pieces of artwork shown within stately museum buildings and surrounded by gardens that are worthy of a visit all by themselves. Even the parking lot is graced with magnificent trees and shrubbery that accentuate fine automobiles. Don Ricardo not only exhibited his fine collection, which included two most impressive Classic Mercedes-Benzes, later that afternoon, but that evening he and his orchestra performed at a "Classic" dinner dance for the membership.
At the break of dawn Saturday photographers gathered on the top level of the Getty/Texaco parking ramp just west of the hotel to capture the arriving Classics for the big show. Surrounded by the glamour of San Fernando Valley's tremendous and scenic hillsides, seventy-two Classics became the objects of our attention.
Meanwhile, Ellie Davis (limo-queen of Beverly Hills, according to newly elected Club President Chris Bock,) filled twenty limousines with shoppers eager to experience the excitement of Rodeo Drive. A motorcycle escort toured the caravan through Hollywood boulevards, past many famous landmarks and homes of many celebrities. No one was disappointed.
One busy person was Jim Riffenburgh as head judge for the meet. A small problem arose that wasn't expected when more than seventy pillars of the Club nationwide volunteered to judge twenty-nine Classics… but everything went so smoothly and flawlessly that Jim's afraid they are going to ask him to do it again!
Special features of the day were seven Lincoln coupes with bodies by Judkins, the 1940 Packard All-Weather Cabriolet that James A. Hollingsworth drove in from Dallas, Texas, and the several magnificent Classics owned by Jerry J. Moore of Houston, Texas. It was wonderful.
The cocktail party and awards banquet filled the room with elegantly dressed people delighted to compare the wonderful experiences of the meet. The National board was introduced, credit given to those who contributed to the festivities, National awards presented and short speeches made that bored no one. (Southern California Regional Director Steve Pugh made one of the shortest, claiming that no special effort was required to produce sunny smog-less skies and temperatures in the 80's all week long… "since it is always like this.") Slides of the Classics were shown as Jim Riffenburgh revealed the winners of the judging competition and all too quickly the day ended.
But it wasn't the end of the meet and, indeed, it wasn't even anticlimactic as nearly 350 lucky people drove or rode buses the next morning out to San Sylmar, J.B. Nethercutt's "Tower of Beauty" which features functional art displayed in an appropriate setting. The crowd was far larger than the usual tours, but when split into three groups, the building was toured efficiently without tarrying in any one spot too long. And yet, how could one spend too much time in any part of San Sylmar? …the restoration center where everything is finished to perfection… the marbled showroom which idolizes the Classic Era with a romantic vision of what it was like when our cars were new... or on Cloud 99 where the musical instruments have to be seen (and heard) to be believed.
At the farewell luncheon, no speeches were made. lrv Davis and Jim Riffenburgh had already been credited with putting on the most successful Annual Meeting in the Classic Car Club's history. But those who attended will probably talk plenty about the great time they had.