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Our Laguna: Race toward annual classic car show

Classic and classy cars will be on display from 9:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the Festival of Arts grounds and across the street in the city parking lot.

Proud owners had entered 175 distinguished vehicles in the eighth annual Laguna Beach Classic Car Show as of Thursday, with one more day to register. Entries can be submitted online. A photograph is required before a car is accepted.

"The Rotary of Laguna Beach will have sponsored this car show for the eighth time as of [Sunday]," said John Nootbaar, event publicist. "Proceeds have been donated to multifold charities. Some of the funds are directed to significant scholarships for graduating seniors, while other money buys supplies for young students, including dictionaries for all third-graders in all public and private schools in Laguna Beach.

"Some proceeds go to providing holiday treats for military personnel overseas. Some funds have been used to help clean water and to offer rural people essential goods, training and money to help build schools."

However, mainly the funds get distributed here in Orange County and in Laguna Beach. Funding will help support local artists and to re-stock homes in the areas that were flooded in December.

"In addition, we give to Sally's Fund, the Susi Q Senior Center, the Friendship Shelter, TLC, LOCA, AAUW, Laguna Canyon Foundation, PTAs, Safe Rides, Shea Center and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center," Nootbaar said.

Proceeds are raised from the $35 fee vehicle owners pay to display their "rides." The public pays $10 to see them. Tickets for children 12 and younger are $3; active military personnel are admitted free.

"The event did encounter bad luck last October when unexpected rain showers fell on the show," Nootbaar said. "Many of the cars, perhaps 70, didn't arrive and participate since the weather hindered detailing and the rain caused some problems in just getting them to the event in pristine condition.

"However, by noon the skies cleared, and the late crowd did enjoy an abbreviated good show."

Unfortunately, the weather adversely impacted the proceeds, with less money raised than in previous years, Nootbaar said.

With good weather predicted, he anticipates proceeds from the 2011 show might exceed the revenue raised in the best years.

"We hope to have a lot of folks," said Harry Bithell, event chairman.

Bithell, a former board member of the Laguna Beach Unified School District and a longtime member of Rotary, has chaired the show since it began in 2003.

"I do it because of a combination of love for Rotary and for cars," Bithell said.

He owns a 1959 Austin Healey Sprite and a 1958 Nash. His wife, Suzi, drives a 1980 replica of a 1958 Porsche Spyder.

Bithell used to compete and serve on the course crew in Sports Car Club of America races.

"I went off the cliff in 1958 at turn four at Laguna Seca (race course on the old Fort Ord land)," Bithell said. "A couple of years before that, I was the marshal on that turn."

Nootbaar said Bithell has provided the executive leadership that has made the Laguna Beach Classic Car Show a top-rated event.

He credited Bithell with putting together a team that plans carefully for the show and obtains cars, sponsors and personnel to run it.

So what do the vehicle owners get out the show?

Well, the money raised goes to a good cause and showing off their gems in gratifying, and Nootbaar thinks some owners enjoy the exhibitions as much as the people who come to ooh and aah over the beautifully maintained vehicles.

He said the owners enjoy talking among themselves and are happy to share unique details of the vehicles with the public.

Some are even persuaded to be judges, he said.

"I joined Rotary because of Harry and because I wanted to be involved in the car show," Nootbaar said. "I own a 1961 Jaguar that I never put in the time and money to fix up. I envy all those people who have cars in pristine condition."

The show is not a Concours D' Elegance, but prizes are awarded in 26 classes and are valued, Nootbaar said.

Former school board member El Hathaway had a winner in 2009 with his 1948 Jaguar. Councilman Kelly Boyd's 1959 Fiat Jolly also won a prize that year.

"Entries change yearly," Nootbaar said.

There are repeats, of course, but about one-third of the vehicles are new to the show each year.

"I am entering my 1973 Corvette Stingray this year," Boyd said. "It has never been in the show."

Besides seeing gorgeous cars up close, the show also has other attractions.

"For instance, there are food venues with breakfast burritos, lunches that include hot sandwiches, refreshments, and a beer and wine bar," Nootbaar said.

"There are other prizes for the public to buy or bid on: shopping coupons, dining giveaways and silent action objects.

"The featured artist this year is Michael Obermeyer, and his posters and original painting will be available in the auction."

Admission tickets are entered in an opportunity drawing for a night's stay with dinner for two at the Montage Laguna Beach.

The show is sponsored by Crevier, Peppertree Lane and HOM Real Estate Group.

Rotary was founded in 1905 in Chicago. The name was selected to reflect the rotation of meetings in members' place of business. The Laguna Beach club was chartered in 1931 with 12 local business people. Membership is by invitation. Members represent their business or profession, making the group a cross-section of the community.

For more information,


OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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