Wheels & Wings
Ryan Summerlin September 16, 2013
If cars and airplanes spark your engine, the Vail Automotive Classic has events in Gypsum and Vail this weekend that are sure to get your motor roaring.
The fourth annual Wings and Wheels show gets rolling with a car auction from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday night at the Vail Valley Jet Center and really takes off on Saturday with an aerobatics show from 11 a.m. to noon.
Meanwhile on Saturday, the public will be able to check out about 200 cars and a variety of aircraft, including vintage war birds from World War II, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Awards for the car show will be announced from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
“The collection of cars in the Vail valley is very impressive – there are some million-dollar cars that live here,” said Doug Landin, chairman of the Vail Automotive Classic. “These cars are really art on wheels.”
Plenty of other high-dollar cars will be at the show, too, and more are coming from out of state every year.
“It’s unique to have European and American cars, motorcycles and an air show in one event,” Landin said.
On Saturday evening, the show moves to Vail and kicks off with a select car showing and VIP cocktails at the Manor Vail Lodge from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The Vail Village Car Show is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, with the People’s Choice Award Ceremony at 1 p.m. (See info boxes for ticket details and a full schedule of events.)
“Overriding the entire event is raising the money for charity,” Landin said. “The car auction is starting to get some legs and that’s a big thing. We hope to see it raise six figures at some point.”
Friday’s auction features a cash bar and both reserve and non-reserve cars. Non-reserve vehicles will sell to the highest bidder regardless of the price. Proceeds from the auction go to charity – Jack’s Place and Eagle Valley Senior Life Inc. In 2012, the auction’s first year, the Vail Automotive Classic donated $13,000 to Jack’s Place and $2,000 to Senior Life.
The idea for the Vail Automotive Classic events sparked five years ago after a loosely organized group of car lovers got some unexpected attention.
“Don Welch is the godfather of this event,” Landin said.
Welch said he started a group called Cars and Coffee five years ago.
“I knew there were a bunch of people in the valley who had nice cars – cars you don’t normally see and wouldn’t know they are around,” he said. “We started meeting early on Sunday mornings at different places.”
For the grand finale of that season, the group met at Starbucks in Vail Village. There were about 25 cars.
“We didn’t get permission, we just did it,” Welch said. “It ended up drawing a lot of people there who thought it was awesome. We thought, ‘Gosh, maybe we should try to put on a full-blown car show.’”
The next year, the Vail Automotive Classic Board of Directors teamed up with the Vail Valley Jet Center, got some sponsors and put on the first Wheels and Wings event.
“We were so nervous,” Landin said. “We had 117 cars that year and it went so well some guys said you would never know it was a first-year event.”
The show has grown steadily since then and was featured on some radio and cable television shows last year.
“We’re always finding things to do better and people keep coming back in bigger numbers,” Landin said.
Vail Valley Jet Center CEO Paul Gordon agreed.
“Support for this is definitely growing dramatically,” he said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year as we come out of the recession.”
“The Vail Valley Jet Center is one of the top jet centers in the nation, so it made sense to include it for this event to be something special,” Landin said. “I told Paul Gordon, ‘I think there are a lot of plane people who are car people.’”
That assessment appears to be correct.
“We get about 3,000 people at the event every year,” Gordon said. “It’s great to have a day when the entire community can come to the airport, which is normally a tight security situation.”
Eagle County Regional Airport Director Greg Phillips started his job almost two years ago and was immediately on board.
“Phillips helped blow it up last year when we got vintage World War II planes to come,” Gordon said.
Phillips credits VVJC for getting the planes to come but he is certainly a backer.
“If we’re going to get people to come out to the airport, let’s put on a show,” he said. “Let’s show people what aviation can do.”
For the first time at Wheels and Wings, an aerobatic display by Gary Rower Vintage Airshows is planned from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday. Phillips said the pilots will be practicing from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday, so that is another opportunity to see some impressive flying.
“It’s a tandem show with a classic Stearman biplane and one that’s been souped up,” Gordon said. “Gary Rower is a former U.S. Air Force F-16 instructor who is now a commercial airline captain doing airshows on the side.”