No matter that it was a sultry afternoon when the heat and humidity shot it out in the mid-80s, several hundred dads and their not entirely willing broods gathered in Coconut Grove Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day with a salute to all the things men love best: beer, cigars, charred meat, country-rock music and fancy cars, not necessarily in that order.
The air at the Cars and Cigars celebration in Barnacle Historic State Park was redolent with the aroma of burning stogies and high-octane gasoline and the thundering mating calls of 450-horsepower engines as the dads slipped the bonds of female civilization for a day.
“I’m slightly dehydrated, a bit cranky,” said bleary eyed Patricia Pino, 61, of Miami as she watched her husband peering under the hoods of classic Buick Electras and MG MGB roadsters that he will someday own only over her dead body. “But hey, it’s Father’s Day. Just don’t bring me here for Mother’s Day.”
Pino’s 31-year-old daughter Christina, whose husband was also prowling among the cars, shook her head. “I at least understand the cigars,” she brooded. “We’re Cuban; it’s genetic. But the cars? I can never figure men and cars.”
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The men were too busy fondling fenders and stroking steering wheels to psychoanalyze themselves.
“I’ve had it up to 160 mph, and it would have gone faster easily,” retired pilot Bill Richmond of South Miami explained to a reporter about his gleaming 1965 Shelby Cobra. “You want to hear the engine?” He flicked on the ignition, and men came streaming from all over the park, some of them taping the roar with their cell phones.
“Rev it up! Rev it up!” one begged. “Just once! Rev it up!” Richmond obliged, hitting the gas a couple of time, producing a blast reverberation that sounded roughly like a tank battalion attacking Baghdad, and the crowd lost its mind. “I love to hear it, love to hear it, love to hear it!” shouted one man ecstatically.
(Perhaps it should be noted at this point that the Shelby is slightly fake — a replica, to use more polite car-guy language, which is why it’s insured for a mere $60,000 instead the $1 million or so a real one would be worth. “Not that all the guys who come over to look at it when I’ve got it parked somewhere can tell or care,” Richmond observed.)
Many of the cars were festooned with signs bearing messages like “I DON’T TOUCH YOUR WIFE, SO DON’T TOUCH MY CAR,” despite the fact they sometimes lead to situations that are, umm, awkward. “I was at a show once where a guy was reaching out to touch the car and I pointed at the sign,” said Rolf Engelfried, 74, of Wilton Manors. “He looked kind of longingly at the car, and he turned to me and said, ‘Come on, I’ll let you touch my wife.’ He didn’t know his wife was standing right behind him, but he found out soon.”
That, believe it nor not, wasn’t Engelfried’s most memorable signage incident. One of his signs, surreptitiously liberated from the Nevada government flight-testing site known as Area 51 long before it became a national wisecrack about refrigerated space-alien corpses, instructs motorists that they’re in a classified site and they should beat it, quick.
“A guy came up to me at a show out west and said, ‘Where’d you get that?’ I said, ‘If I told you, I’d have to kill you,’” recalled Engelfried. “Then I saw he had a cap that that said, AREA 51 SECURITY. I stopped using that sign for a long time.
The car with all these warnings on it, by the way, was a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit, a blocky station wagon that’s not exactly the kind of vehicle known as a chick magnet. (Though Engelfriend disputed that with a slightly hurt look. “I had it at an Oktoberfest celebration one time, and a woman said in German, ‘That’s the car I first had relations in,’” he said. “The whole crowd went quiet.”) While most of the cars at the park were classic big-man-on-campus muscle cars like Mustangs and Jaguars, about a third were vehicles that any high-school kid in America would instantly label dorkmobiles.
“Yeah, it’s not a 1963 split-window Corvette Stingray or a 1967 Shelby Cobra,” said Palmetto Bay playwright Philip Williams of his 1988 Pontiac Safari, a station wagon (with wood paneling!) that is mostly remembered as what your mom drove to the supermarket. “But it’s what people actually drove. And people love to see it at shows. They get to see plenty of Mustangs and MGs. But they remember this as a car their family actually had.”
As to the Safari’s ability to attract girls, Williams doesn’t care. “I play for the other team,” he said. “But I’ve heard a lot of women looking at the car say, ‘Oh, my mom used to drive us to work in this,’ so at least in that sense, it is a bit of a chick magnet.”
Perhaps the final word on this subject should be left to Miami landscaper Leon Gamzardiya, who was proudly showing off his 1959 VW mini-bus, one of the first family vans. His came with a decidedly non-standard equipment: shag carpeting in the back. “My wife’s idea,” he shrugged sheepishly. Wife Trena Magnole confirmed that, but smilingly declined to offer details.
“It’s a long story,” she said. “But we do have a son.”