On a typical weekend drive, you'll likely see a Corvette or two cruising the Colorado roads. If you're lucky, maybe you'll spot a classic car or two or even a hot rod before it whizzes by in a flash.Come this weekend, however, you'll have the opportunity to scope some of the top cars the automotive industry has produced across nearly a century.The third annual Vail Automotive Classic kicks off today and runs all weekend with an array of events across the Valley. This year's event features not only 30 classes of vehicles, but an air show, an auto auction and a whole array of other events.What started out as a group of car aficionados gathering on a Sunday for coffee has come a long way quickly.Don Welch, one of the co-founders of the event, was one of the organizers of "cars and coffee" in the Vail Valley. Four years ago, the group decided it would be fun to see if they could bring in some head-turning cars to look at and the Vail Automotive Classic was born.Ed Abramson, a former publisher of Car and Driver Magazine as well as Road & Track Magazine, is one of the founders of the event and has been to countless car shows during his career and thinks the Wheels and Wings show is second-to-none."It has become a rather large event. Last year we had 180 cars and 29 classes. And this year through our website we were able to attract a Bugatti - a 1,000-horse power car that is worth $2.1 million and goes about 250 miles per hour."With such a wide array of cars, the show provides not only plenty of eye candy, but an ad-hoc history lesson in automobiles."There are pre-war and post-war American cars, pre-war and post-war European cars, super cars, sports cars ... it really gives you an education on the development of the automobile," Abramson said.The weekend kicks off with a brand new edition to the show: a boutique auction.Dick Kesler, a board member who is in charge of the auction, was amazed at the response he has received for auction entries. "Everybody in the world wants to be a part of it. We've got a 1969 Dodge Charger, a 1968 Jaguar XKE Type with a replacement engine but the seller has the original engine, too. A 1966 El Camino with body-off restoration - more street raw. It has a 383 Chevy (engine) with cloth interior. The gentleman who restored it does his own upholstery. We have a '66 Mustang Coupe with a 289 V8 original - brand new other than the paint job."Along with the 15 or so reserve auction cars, there will be one non-reserve auction item up for bid - a 1995 Jaguar XJS, with the proceeds going to Jack's Place at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center. After the auction, which will take place in Hangar 1 at the Vail Valley Jet Center, the participants can take part in a scotch tasting sponsored by Glenfiddich.Wheels and wingsOn Saturday, the show kicks off in Hangar 1 at 10 a.m. Steve Bell, who competed in the first two years of the event and runs a classic car restoration shop in Englewood, has been duly impressed with all aspects of the show. "It's such a beautiful spot to have a concourse. This show has really come a long way and grown every year," Bell said.Also, Bell likes that the organizers aren't pretentious about the entries."I think it's nice to spread the word that anyone can bring a car," he said "A lot of times these days, people need to be selected to bring a car. But people don't need to be shy about bringing their car to this show."Dan Murphy, whose 2011 Cooksey Grand Sport Coupe Corvette won its class last year, said it was an easy decision to come back this year."It was a well-run event with a great cross-section of cars and a lot of great people. I really enjoyed it. It's one of the better shows I've been to and I go to a lot.""It's the perfect venue for the show and you have plenty of room. It's such a great cross-section of cars from older to newer models to antiques."Although there are plenty of great cars coming from across the state and the country, there is no shortage of vintage vehicles in Eagle County."There are so many great cars in the extended Vail Valley - it's unbelievable," Welch, one of the founders, said.Organizers say about 70 cars have pre-registered but expect maybe double that to show up for the event.Not just for showUnlike certain shows where the entrants are the sole focus of the weekend, the Vail show has made a strong effort to cater to families."Last year we had lots of stuff that was family oriented. This year we'll have it again," Welch said.And as the name indicates, there are plenty of wings to join the wheels with more than 50 planes slated to be on display."There is a whole kids pavilion and we have a guy coming who will bring a space suit with all sorts of paraphernalia on the beginnings of flight and a simulator for driving," Abramson said.Among the mix of planes there will be a $50 million G5 Gulfstream that people can walk through.This year's show will also feature a ramped-up airshow with about 7 warbirds taking to the air.And of course, there will be plenty of two-wheeled classics for motorcycle buffs, including a Brough Superior that gained notoriety through Lawrence of Arabia.Tickets for adults are $10 and kids 12 and under are free."It's an incredible deal," Bell said. "I told Doug (Landin) he could put the price up!" Take your MarqueWelch knows how important it is to offer a wide array of cars, but likes to put the focus on one special group each year."That's the name of the game in putting on a car event: make it fairly diverse. We always have a key Marque and this year it's the Great American Hot Rod. It was Ferrari last year and the (Shelby) Cobra the year before," Welch said.Judging this year's Key Marque is Eric Peratt from Pinkee's Rod Shop in Windsor."He's one of the best hot rod builders around," Welch said. "It's a big deal to get someone like that to come."Organizers have also made an effort to increase the notoriety of the event through increased press. Motor Trend's radio program will host its show live on Saturday for three hours at the Wheels and Wings event and Tom Bryant, the former editor of Road & Track Magazine, will be one of the judges."We're hoping to make this a show people are excited about all across the region," Abramson said.Saturday night the show moves to Beaver Creek where 40 or so select cars will be on display across from the closing night of the Beaver Creek Music Experience.Then, on Sunday, the show moves into Vail Village.Pre-registration for weekend entries is $50 for the first car and $15 for each additional vehicle, while day-of registration is $60 for the first car and $15 for each additional vehicle.Along with the special appearance of the Bugatti, there will also be other supercars including a Ferarri and a Maclaren. "I'm glad I'm not going to be the chief judge for that class this year - it's going to be a hard pick," Kesler said.The show will also feature a new class: the electric-hybrid. And like any good show, there will be plenty of muscle cars and corvettesFor more information, check out www.vailautoshow.com.
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