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How To Throw A Classic Car Party For Fun and Profit

Updated on May 24, 2014

Some Classics Go Way Back

Although many car shows feature classics from the 50's and 60's, an antique will always draw attention.
Although many car shows feature classics from the 50's and 60's, an antique will always draw attention. | Source

Everyone Loves A Party - A Classic Car Party!

How to throw a Classic Car Party for Fun and/or Profit

Every year towns across the country have a classic car show. They are either a parade show or a park show, or a combination of both. Some are actually sales events set up to sell the classic or antique hot rod or restored vehicles.

One of the biggest annual classic car shows is held in the Detroit area and it's called The Dream Cruise. This event has classic cars parading up and down Woodward Avenue, with many parked all along the road for people to peruse and talk to the owners.

(To learn more about the Dream Cruise and gather some ideas for your classic car show party then go to

Not all shows have the parade-syle: Many classic car shows simply have collectors park in a designated spot and show off their prize.What's neat about many classic car shows is that there's plenty of other activities ranging from pony rides, drawings for prizes, live bands and dancing, food, clowns, and even fireworks at night. The cars are the main attraction but usually not the only attraction.

Various vendors and civic groups can and do get involved and a car show is just one summer activity among many that attracts many people and participants. Organizers do generate a profit, but it's also fun activity for everyone in the community.

If you love classic cars and want to throw your own classic car party, and you don't know how, well, then use this basic plan to help you get started.

WHY throw a Classic Car Party?
First of all, why would anyone want to throw such an event? Well, if you simply just love the autos of yesteryear, or race cars, or unique autos, then that's one great reason in and of itself! Another reason could be that perhaps you have a business and want to generate leads by sponsoring the event and distributing literature, then what a great opportunity! Maybe you are a vendor, such as a hot dog stand or bakery, and would love the opportunity to sell your food at the event to make a few extra bucks.

Maybe you're a charitable organization like the Knights of Columbus or a civic group or even the fire department and you want to promote goodwill in the community, then you too can be a sponsor or organizer. If you want to organize the event to raise money for a special cause or help a family with huge hospital bill, you can turn the car show into a benefit fundraiser.

Maybe, you just want to be a classic car show organizer and make some money from it and have fun at the same time. Then, dear friend, you've come to the right place to learn how to do it the right way.

Keep in mind, you can organize as many car shows you want in as many communities as you can, and each car show can be as large or small as you want it. Yep, it's entirely up to you and your own personal aspirations.

WHAT is the main focus of the Classic Car Party?

It's the cars! Classic cars. Show cars. Antiques. Race cars. Restored vehicles. Army vehicles, dune buggies, you name it. It's Chevies, Fords, VW's Jeeps, Roadsters, Nashes, Ramblers, Edsels, Camaros and clown cars and movie car replicas and racers and old pick ups.

WHEN do I start planning?

Ah, when. You start planning immediately! Sometimes it may take a year to organize depending on many factors, such as the size of the event, needed marketing time, procuring of parking lots, gathering vendors and sponsors, etc.

WHEN do I throw a classic car show? (And what days should I avoid?)

Spring, summer and fall are great times to conduct the car show. June and July are tops, August is third, followed by May and September.What you need to know in advance is your community calendar. Get your own calendar and block off any days that that the community has reserved for big events such as food fests and county fairs. Then also block out the following days Memorial Day, Fourth of July, opening day for baseball.

In addition, especially, find out when your community is having parades such as the Little League Parade. These are all days to AVOID. You will not get the traffic nor the vendors on these days. Your classic car party is an additional event for the community and should not be blended with other days. (Planning, right?)

What may work for your show is to possibly schedule it during the time the carnival comes to town. (If a big circus is coming, not to be confused with a carnival, then avoid that day as well.) Scheduling your show the last day of the carnival, most likely a Sunday will help you pull in more patrons. Look at it this way, your show will get many excited citizens coming to you after the carnival has already been in town a few days and that carnival has gotten stale. People still want to go out and have fun, and a classic car party would be a change in pace from simply going to a carnival. Carnivals are a dime a dozen - a Classic Car Show is unique.

If you want to conduct a hugely successful event shoot for Sundays first, then Saturdays. These shows and parades are basically DAY events. You get the biggest audience/patrons and willing vendors for weekends more than week days. And more people prefer day overnight. Last resort if you cannot do it on a weekend day would be a Friday night if nothing else works or it's best to postpone it until next year. You may not be able to have a car parade unless it is still during daylight.

Now I know some car shows can be held in other months and many have conducted some in January, but if this is your first one - stick to summer/spring. Some shows held in January or March are held indoors (depending what state you are in) and have big bucks behind them. Go to these shows -and many will charge an admittance fee- just to get ideas for your outdoor show.

Remember, if you're doing this for fun and or profit, the party atmosphere should reign. That's why having a parade of classics makes it more exciting.

WHEN does the party start?

Well, if you kick off the party with a parade, it starts around 10:00 am. The parade is loud and gets people to look to see what's going on. This is a classic car parade - you know, loud engines revving, blaring radios, and horns a-beeping. By time a crowd gathers it's close to lunch and people will buy food from the vendors. If your preferred day is Sunday, then 10 - 11 is a great time to start as you'll attract people coming home from Church. It's all timing.

WHEN does it end?

It really ends on its own. Your party is a daytime summer weekend party and most people finally drift off around supper time, so you can advertise your party from 10 AM to 5 PM. If you happen to get the cooperation or involvement of the park district or the city, they will
tell you when it has to end.

Seems like I have to contact a lot of people?

The more successful you want it, or the bigger you want it, the more people you need to contact and even get involved. A car show is a party and to plan any party you need talk to a lot of people. This is not something that you can organize and then hide in a corner until it's over. As a matter of fact, you need to make your presence known to EVERYONE the day of the show. Remember, if you make it a success, you become a hero and people will practically beg you to throw another one!

HOW do I make money from this?

Before we delve into that, keep your shirt on. We'll discuss this after the step by step instructions. Keep in mind that you will need to spend money to get this thing rolling and by all accounts, it doesn't have to be your money - use your sponsor's money.

Get Educated

Now if you've never been to such a show, get to one ASAP. Your goal to rub shoulders with the car owners and get their cards or contact information. BUILD A MAILING LIST. You tell them that you're organizing a classic car party for next year and want to put them on your mailing list. Then take note of the vendors, if any, and the location of the show. Imitate but don't duplicate what you've learned for your own show.

What's In A Name?I

t's your show so you may as well name it. If your parking lot sponsor wants to do this on a perennial basis, put their name in it. For example: "Food Giant's Annual Classic Rod Show" or "Spring Hill Shopping Center's Vintage Car Party". If it looks like the city likes your idea, name it after your town. If you're making this a "travelling" show, then by all means, put our name on it. Whatever you call it, you are the event planner and have the right to name it. The name i necessary for marketing purposes as well.

Step By Step Plan

With all this background information in mind, here is the step by step plan for you to organize your own Classic Car Party.

1. Research dates available: Check with city hall on civic events, keep an eye open for other car shows scheduled, as well as noting if any churches are having any carnivals.

2. Ask the city if you need a permit, should you want to kick off the party with a parade. They may want to get the police and fire departments involved as a good will gesture. Some politicians may even want to be in the parade!

3. Find a large parking lot and contact the owner: grocery stores, car dealer, church, public park, local farmer, shopping center are all excellent candidates and they may even want to set up their own tent. (Get it in writing - the worse thing that will happen is they retract the space and you have nowhere to put your party, so GET IT IN WRITING! And do not charge the parking lot owner anything -they are an essential sponsor)

4. Designate an area for cars and an area for vendors. If there are no picnic tables for people to eat, you can ask the park district to provide some. Most people will stand or walk, anyway.Most vendors will provide their own tables and tents.

5. If you want live music, you need a spot for the band to play and room for an audience. Do not charge the band, you're looking for someone to play for free. Allow the bands to sell their swag or CD's.

6. Find vendors. Suggestions: Food and beverage vendors, beer vendors, florists, retailers, car dealers. The sky is the limit. (By the way, they will be making money so you charge them a space fee, and an advertising fee if they want to be an additional sponsor.)

7. Find sponsors: Sponsors pay for the advertising and cover your fee for organizing the event. Sponsors need not necessarily have to be there! Large corporations make excellent sponsors. They pay for you to put this together and get their name out as sponsor. Large companies have the money budgeted for just this type of thing. They need not have to be local either - with some digging, you can find big name sponsors out of state. AND do NOT neglect your local radio station - they will generate traffic. (Let them set up a free booth or tent in exchange for broadcasting the event live!). Invite a willing local news station as well.

8. Advertise the car show months in advance. Don't blow your budget. Use simple, cheap classifieds, take advantage of the internet for free marketing, and also advertise in trade magazines. Don't rule out print advertising such as the Auto Trader. Check out their website: Also send out public service announcements to local newspapers and TV stations. Take advantage of your local radio sponsor, even ask to get interviewed!

9. Contact your show car owner mailing list. Send them reminders. Tell them to tell others and share on facebook. If you're having a band or performers, ask them to promote it on their web pages or Reverbnation as part of their itinerary. (Again this gives you free exposure.)

10. Promote Promote Promote: Make flyers and post them. Send flyers to local churches and clubs. On your flyers and ads, mention space is available for vendors, and sponsors are wanted. Here's an example flyer:

11. Confirm Confirm Confirm: Contact each vendor and sponsor 2 weeks prior to the event.
Confirm the sponsor is going to be there. If they cancel, that space is available. Confirm your bands and performers as well. Confirm your parking space owner, too.

12. Collect deposits. Vendors need to reserve their space with a 10% - 25% deposit. Final payment is due 2 weeks before the show. If you cancel the show, you must refund everything. If they cancel, they lose their deposit.

13. Collect sponsorship fees in full. Sometimes a company may want to print up their own banners and signs on their own at their own expense. That should have no bearing on the sponsorship fee, but it saves you money. Sometimes a company will have their own public relations officer who will assist you in the project.

14. Media blitz your car show the week before. Put up posters, ask your vendors to promote it, ask your sponsors to reignite interest. Get radio, TV, and internet buzz going all week. Ask everyone because that's free word of mouth advertising. You'll be surprised that your event may get plenty of free advertising.

15. Be at the kick off of the Classic Car Show. If you can, give a brief introduction over the PA before the first car takes off. Have your own booth for information for your next party. Get plenty of photos and videos of various aspects of your party to share on social media so you can promote it and future events.

That's not all!

It's sounds very exciting and it is. However, it takes time, work and dedication. Organizing an event like this takes a special skill - communicating with people in the right way. Part of organization is creating a written policy which explains your payment terms, reservation policy, cancellation policy, etc. See what other organizers do first so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

One thing you need to organize is a cleaning plan. After all the vendors have left and people went home and cars are gone, what is the parking lot owner left with? Trash, oil stains, spills, you name it. A cleaning plan is what's going to put the parking lot owners mind at rest. If the owner is a supermarket, their concerns would be light, but if the lot owner is an apprehensive church, or the hesitant Park district or even a semi-willing farmer, then a cleaning plan would make them more cooperative to offering their space.

You want to ensure that the area gets clean and then take pictures of it as proof. Each vendor is responsible for his own garbage, and that goes double for the show car owners. After the area is cleaned, you want to thank the lot owner ASAP and let him know that the area is cleaned up. Keep good will with him as you may convince him to let you use the lot next year.

This brings up another very important point which many seem to neglect. . .

Give Thanks.

You are going to be busy thanking every single vendor for coming and participating. You do this at the begininning of the event, and you do this at the ending. You will say "Thank You" more than anything the entire day. You appreciate their coming, their participating, their making the party a success. You thank the patrons, the band, the radio station, the
civic group, the police, the mayor, everyone. EVERYONE.

Thanks can be self-serving and it can ensure these people will be back next time, but even if this is your first and last car party, the value of a thanks is worth a lot, especially to the person being thanked.

WHAT About the Money?

  • If you're having this as a benefit for a cause, you most likely are organizing this on the fly. Your party won't be as big as some of the things I described above - you may not even be able to get a sponsor in time. Simply have the cars and ask for donations. Or have a raffle or other method to generate the needed money
  • If you're doing this for profit, you get to keep sponsorship fees and vendors space fees, minus your marketing costs.
  • If you are a vendor, or a business that wants to generate leads, then that's a bonus in addition to all the sales made.
  • If you also happen to own a classic car, you can charge patrons a few bucks so they can take pictures of themselves sitting in your hot rod. Or you may find a buyer for your beemer.
  • If you get beer vendors participating, you can also collect a percentage of beer sales, especially if you have a designated "beer garden" area.

Indoor car shows usually charge an admission fee, but if yours is outdoor then that would be an impossibility unless the car area is fenced off. Remember, charging patrons a fee will cause you to lose patrons and possibly make the show seem second rate. It's best to make your money off the vendors and sponsors.

For most organizers, the money comes from vendor space sales and sponsors, maybe from lot space for the show car owners themselves (especially if they are interested in selling that classic vehicle.) Do your research to determine if any would be willing to pay for a park space.

You may break even on your first Classic Car Show. Learn from it and the next one will be even more exciting and profitable. The more you do, the more you'll make and the more you'll become efficient at organizing shows and generating a nice profit. If this is a natural for you, then don't stop at your own community, take your show on the road! Yes! Organize Classic Car Parties in several communities throughout the year.

Don't Let It End

Don't let it end without getting feedback. Ask patrons and vendors alike what they liked or disliked about your party. What can be done to improve it? Would they come next time? Also continue to market - let them know you are planning another event. You are an event organizer and so you must always be planning, organizing, communicating, researching and learning.

Organizing a Classic Car Party can be both fun and profitable. It takes hard work and determination. The key is "organizing". Don't just throw it all together for it will flop. Do things in step by step fashion, as outlined above, and remember that it's the people who are the main ingredient needed to make your party a huge success.

Classic Car Show Montage

Classic Car Show: Cruisin' Gratiot

Harley VS Hot Rods

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© 2014 Rob Lattin


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  • Rob Lattin profile image

    Rob Lattin 10 months ago from Born in Chicago, now I'm in Mostly Michigan

    Thanks Larry! I've been away for a while but I do want to mention that I see many smaller car shows popping up around many towns and cities. Additionally, now that I'm West of the Mississippi I see tractor shows and more motorcycles shows as well.

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

    Good ideas.