Car shows

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Carriage House Models Pop-Up Sale at the Central Coast British Car Show

20150426_110747Nowhere do we feel more at home than at a car show, surrounded by beautiful automobiles and like-minded enthusiasts. That’s why we’re so excited to be a part of the 25th-annual Central Coast British Car Club Show, which will take place on Sunday, July 19th at Channel Islands Park in Oxnard, California. This beautiful harborside location is the perfect backdrop for viewing hundreds of the West Coast’s best British cars; Jaguar is the featured marque this year, so expect a feast of XKs and E-Types!

Spark E-TypeAnd of course, we’ll be there with our customary selection of premium diecast and resincast model cars, with a special focus on English makes (like Spark’s 1:43-scale E-Type Series 1 FHC, pictured above.) We’ll also have a few vintage treasures from the vault, including a few classic Corgi Junior film/tv cars. And as always, we’ll offer special event discounts on select items!

The address: 3600 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard, CA 93035. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We hope to see you there on July 19th!



20150426_105417Pity for a moment the poor British sports car that is doomed to live out its days in its mother country. Rain and rust…that’s your destiny. Far better to find one’s way to sunny Southern California, where gentle sunshine and the adoration of cheerful enthusiasts abound.

Until the wind starts blowing. Then you’re still kinda screwed.

20150426_130658So it was at the 2015 edition of the long-running Queen’s English All-British Car Show, held as it is every year at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. Normally, this springtime show is a reminder of how spoiled we car folk are in this part of the country by glorious blue skies and warm days. This year, however, blustery winds meant that car owners and show patrons were blasted by blowing dust all morning and most of the afternoon, while parts and automobilia vendors (like us) struggled to keep our pop-up canopies from becoming airborne. Car detailing products will no doubt be in high demand among the region’s Jaguar and MG clubs this week.

Nonetheless, the collection of cars that amassed on the Woodley Park lawn was utterly excellent. Though the Carriage House crew had its hands full with brisk business for most of the event, we still found time to sneak away from the booth to check out the hundreds of gorgeous automobiles on hand.

20150426_105458Among the few Aston Martins on hand, Lawrence Fromm’s 1991 Virage was a rare treat…very rare, as only about 50 examples of the total 365-unit production run found their way to North America. Fromm’s car is in fact a Canadian import with an interesting history: its original owner received it as a medical-school graduation gift from a pair of obviously doting parents. With a proper manual gearbox and a KM/H-reading speedometer, the Fromm Virage is low-key, but still a fascinating supercar.

20150426_110735Is the Jaguar E-Type the most iconic British car of all time? It’s certain that supporters of the Mini would argue the point, but the Jag’s appeal is so pervasive there’s not much we can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently before. Instead, we’ll just point to Mitch Clements’ ’63 fixed-head coupe as an example of what makes the E-Type so universally beloved. Simply put, it’s stunning. Clements restored the car over a leisurely ten-year period, doing almost all of the work (save the paint) himself, and he is far too humble about the sensational results. “I want to drive it,” Clements said, “but quite frankly, where?” (Might we suggest Carriage House HQ for a closer inspection?)

20150426_130202Another magnificently restored classic that caught our eye was Ron Fine’s beautiful 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BN7. The subject of a two-year, frame-off restoration (as with the Clements Jag, performed mostly by the owner himself) this Big Healey is a multiple national award-winning car. However, Fine drives the car to shows rather than trailering it, and he notes that the restoration has mellowed enough that he’ll drive it anywhere…as long as there is a safe place to park waiting at the end of the journey!

20150426_131009Don Thompson’s 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo captured our attention with its absolutely flawless presentation, but a brief conversation with the owner may have revealed the true nature of the British-car enthusiast. Thompson cheerfully informed us that the car, a sure winner in any judged event for which its eligible, is for sale. Why unload such a perfect specimen? “It’s 100% done,” replied Thompson. There’s nothing left to fix, so he feels it’s time to move on to a new project. Hey, whatever works for you, sir.

20150426_144630In a show filled with iconic, often exotic machinery, it may come as a surprise that our favorite car of the day was something a bit more humble, but our choice was Larry Bisordi’s 1965 Ford Cortina Estate (shown by his brother Ray.) Honest, lovely and almost 100% original, the little Cortina wagon is completely stock apart from being lowered and mounted on Lotus Cortina rims. A U.S.-export model hailing from the southwest, Bisordi’s Cortina is exactly the kind of offbeat, affordable classic that we ourselves would like to own, and the fact that it’s a station wagon was just the icing on the cake.

The wind stopped just in time for us to pack up our gear and head home. It’s a virtual certainty that we’ll be back next year with an even bigger selection of British scale model cars (we got the message, MG fans) along with a very serious set of tent stakes.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on Southern California’s vibrant car show scene. Occassionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.


033Car show season is heating up, with one of our favorite events taking place this Sunday: the annual Queen’s English All-British Car Show in Van Nuys, California. An incredible variety of English iron from across Southern California will congregate on Woodley Park’s expansive lawn for this free admission, family-friendly show which will feature almost every British car one can imagine, from the most humble MGs to the most outrageous McLarens, plus Austin-Healeys, Morgans, Bentleys, and of course, Jaaaaags as far as the eye can see.

Sparks for QEOf course, for Carriage House Models, it’s all about scale, and we’ll have plenty of it at the Queen’s English. We’re bringing our full range of 1:18 and 1:43-scale model cars for your shopping pleasure, with special show pricing on many popular favorites. In response to overwhelming demand, we’ll also have a great selection of classic and current 1:64 cars from Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Jags ResizeThe Queen’s English takes place on April 26th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91436. Abundant free parking is available, but get there early to get the best selection of models from the Carriage House booth. Hope to see you there!


20150131_143023The section of the calendar between November and March has tended to be a “dead zone” for big car shows in California, bracketed by the marque-oriented events of late fall like So Cal Vintage Bimmerfest and the Best of France and Italy, and the desert concours of early spring. With a good chunk of our business coming from pop-up sales at shows, this time of year can be quite slow at the Carriage House, so we went on the hunt for local events to warm up our winter. Luckily, we discovered a hidden gem only 55 miles from our home base: the San Juan Capistrano-CARE Car Show, which took place on January 31st. With a 6 a.m. vendor set-up call, we found ourselves on the road in the wee hours of the morning, arriving at the San Juan Capistrano Sports Park long before sunrise.

20150131_081210Information on the SJC-Care show was hard to come by prior to the event; we try to position ourselves at shows with a field of cars that align with the models we tend to favor (mainly classic sports cars, vintage racers, and exotics.) The few photos we could find online of past SJC shows indicated that this event might tend to draw cars more typical of the standard “community car show,” meaning lots of Tri-Five Chevys, ’60s Mustangs, and other various musclecars and hot rods…not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with that, it’s just not our focus. So, there was some hesitation in committing to working a show that might not be a good fit with our product. Thankfully, such fears would be completely baseless: the SJC-Care Car Show had an almost unbelievable variety and quality of cars, and we were welcomed quite warmly by the assembled crowd.

20150131_074028As we set up our booth in the first rays of daylight, cars began to assemble along Camino del Avion for entrance to the show grounds, our early suspicions seemed to be confirmed by an endless procession of billet-wheeled Chevelles, Chargers, and other American iron…until we heard the unmistakeable buzz of SU carbs coming up the block. The Southern California Triumph Owners Association was out in force, with an assembly of TR3s, TR4s, TR6s, and even a lone Stag as a counterpoint to all of the heavy hitters from Detroit. Alone, this would have been sufficient to satisfy our Eurocentric tendencies, but the best was yet to come!

20150131_103929Even in Southern California, for a “local” car show to attract a single Mercedes Gullwing would be cause for celebration. At the SJC-Care show, there were three (plus a 300SL Roadster for good measure.) Each was in breathtakingly wonderful condition so picking a favorite was difficult, but if pressed we’d go with the blue example pictured above (regrettably, we didn’t catch the owner’s name…well done, whoever you are.)

20150131_073918Another brilliantly presented Benz was Fred Hill’s pagoda-roof 280SL, which was displayed by Star Motors of San Juan Capistrano, the garage responsible for its upkeep. If this car is indicative of the quality of work done by this garage, a stronger endorsement would be unnecessary.

20150131_080934It would be negligent to ignore the quality of the many great American cars on hand, which ranged from a fantastically original 1919 Ford Model T racer to a factory-fresh Hemi Challenger. Of special note were a gorgeous gold ’67 Shelby GT500 and an incredibly clean 427 Corvette coupe, but best of all was this 1939 Ford Woody, which featured some of the most beautiful woodwork we have encountered on such a vehicle.

20150131_123125For us, though, the undisputed star of the show was Brian Mertz’s 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. A bit of a hot rod, its spectacular sheetmetal hides a newer 2-liter engine and 5-speed transmission, as well as various other racy bits. Mertz acquired the car last April from a long-term owner, who used the car in long-distance touring events such as the Colorado Grand and the Copperstate 1000, both of which made good use of the car’s upgraded cooling system. Mertz also campaigns a ’65 Spider Veloce and a ’67 Giulia Sprint GT stepnose in vintage racing events, and to chat about cars with him is to understand the serene assurance that marks the true Alfisti.

20150131_143331All too soon, our time at the SJC-Care Car Show was over; we were sufficiently busy at our booth to preclude getting a better look at the hundreds of amazing cars on display. We came away with the sense that the organizers of this event (the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club) might not know exactly how special their show really is. It is, first and foremost, a community event with a strong family atmosphere, made even stronger by a partnership with the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort…dogs were welcome at the show, and every imaginable breed was represented by their proud human companions. But from the perspective of an auto enthusiast, the SJC-Care Show has all of the necessary ingredients to make the leap from being a really great “local” show (one of the best we’ve ever attended) to a true regional Concours. The cars attracted by this event were of tremendous quality, and the surrounding emerald scenery was truly incredible. Entry and exit from the show were smooth and painless (early set-up time notwithstanding) so it’s clear that the event staff are quite competent. With a location halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego and a calendar date pretty much all to itself, the San Juan Capistrano Car Show could easily attract even more top-level cars with the right sort of promotion. But whether the event makes the jump to Concours status, or whether it remains simply a terrific local event, we hope that Carriage House Models will be a part of it in the future!

For more photos from this event, please visit Carriage House Models’ Facebook page.

Parking On Grass is Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene. Occasionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Carriage House Models at the 12th-Annual San Juan Capistrano Car Show

SJC FieldOne of the best aspects of Southern California car culture is that there really isn’t such a thing as an “off season.” Whether your preference is organized motorsport, a spirited Sunday drive in the canyons, or just a relaxing stroll through a car show, worship of the automobile is a year-round activity here. So, while much of the rest of the country shivers under a blanket of snow, the Carriage House Models crew will be soaking up the warm winter sun at the 12th-annual San Juan Capistrano Car Show on Saturday, January 31st at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center & Sports Park. We’ll be there with our full range of 1:18- and 1:43-scale cars, with special show pricing on selected models.

Benefiting the SJC Rotary Club, the show offers a wide variety of vehicles, from hot rods and musclecars to European exotica, as well as a selection of new cars from local dealers. The event is pet-friendly, and will feature a “disc dog” demonstration.

For more information, visit the show’s website: We hope to see you there!



By the time I was five years old, my status as a hardcore car enthusiast was already well established. My play life centered around Matchbox cars, and I had already expressed an interest in collecting higher-quality diecast models. This passion seems to have skipped a generation, however, as neither my five-year-old son nor my three-year-old daughter has shown signs of being a committed gearhead. True, both have small collections of Hot Wheels cars, and the boy went through a pretty serious Pixar Cars phase, but at this stage, they’re just into other things.

Ready To GoWhile I have no desire to force the kids to follow in their old man’s petrol-sniffing footsteps, I feel that I should make an attempt to explain to them the reason for their father’s monomania about cars, to see if there is at least a sliver of a common bond there. So, last Saturday we loaded up the Carriage House Express and headed south to Irvine for the weekly Cars and Coffee show at Mazda’s U.S. headquarters. As arguably the world’s greatest free-form weekly car show, Cars and Coffee represented a perfect opportunity to take the kids’ temperature on where they stand on “the car thing.” Here’s what I learned:


Margot Modena“Dad, a horsey! Take a picture!” shouted Margot as she broke free from my grasp and made a beeline for this 360 Modena. I was happy to oblige her, hoping that I could turn this into a teachable moment about the specialness of Ferraris. My plan was thwarted, however, when her brother Elliott immediately found a row of FIVE horses affixed to the grilles of late-model Mustangs and promptly declared himself the winner. I didn’t know it was a contest…but I guess I should have.


Green Porsche“Green cars are really rare, Dad,” Elliott said. I don’t have the statistics to corroborate this, but I do know that as a family unit, this hot-rodded 911 was our favorite car at the show that day. I loved it for its slightly seedy aggressiveness and its singularity of purpose, packed full of swapped 3.6 and advisable roll cage. The kids loved it because it looked like Kermit. That, and the whole rarity thing.



Your eyes do not deceive you: that is a BMW M4 wrapped in blue foil. At least, I hope it’s wrapped, and that it’s not actually painted that way. Whatever, the kids spent three solid minutes checking out their reflections in it. Not sure that was the sort of attention the owner of this splendid jewel was seeking, but perhaps it’s the sort he deserves.


Beautiful Healey, isn’t it? I thought so. Know who didn’t? The Margot and Elliott Show. They were equally unimpressed with the Lincoln Mark II, the Dino 246GT, the Mercedes W108 Coupe,  the BMW E28 M5, and a half-dozen other cars that I wanted to stop to admire. Instead, they wanted to see the goofy VW with front-mounted Chevy 427, the Callaway Corvette with blue rims, and the rainbow-liveried Hamann BMW. I try to take consolation that, when I was their age, I thought flame jobs were the ultimate in automotive style.


Ell GT3

The kids were starting to hit the wall after only fifteen minutes of browsing, and it was obvious to me that while they clearly had their favorites, the two of them just didn’t have an overwhelming curiosity about cars…and that was totally okay with me. They are very independent kids whose enthusiasms run strong, and that’s all that really matters, even if our passions are not shared. BUT, as we were starting to head back toward the exit, Elliott stopped in his tracks and pointed to the 991 GT3 pictured above. “Dad,” he said with complete seriousness, “I’m going to save my money and buy that car when I’m a grown up.” I told him I thought it was a good choice, secretly celebrating the aspirational power of a really great automobile, and I asked him why he wanted that one.

“Because it’s blue,” he said.

Because it’s blue. Not as rare as green, of course, but I’ll take it for now, kid.

PARKING ON GRASS: The Best of France and Italy 2014

BFI DaytonaIt’s hard to imagine a car show like the Best of France and Italy happening anywhere other than L.A. Where else in the world could one find multi-million-dollar Ferraris parked mere feet away from barely mobile Fiats and Peugeots, Lancias modified for clandestine canyon carving, and Citroen DSs converted into surf crates? Perhaps no other region can compare to Southern California’s wide and diverse enthusiast base and gentle, rust-inhibiting climate to provide a fertile ground for the preservation and appreciation of these notoriously temperamental machines.

BFI FieldWith a love of southern European cars in our DNA and a need to shift some product, we tossed our easy-up tent into the Carriage House Express and headed to Woodley Park in Van Nuys for the annual show last Sunday. Our fears of a muddy field due to recent rains were unfounded; the grounds were as glorious as the blue November skies above. Thankfully, the attendees of this free-admission event were ready to buy a few scale model cars, and as a consequence we were unable to do the sort of comprehensive examination of the full-size cars on display that we would have liked. Nonetheless, there were a few clear standouts.

BFI SEFACMaybe the most welcome aspect of Best of France and Italy is its non-exclusive, egalitarian nature. It’s an unjudged show, so cars ranging from beat-up projects to trailer queens are welcome. Still, even in this friendly environment, the appearance of Bruce Meyer’s priceless 1961 Ferrari 250GT Short Wheelbase “SEFAC Hot Rod” might seem a bit like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Acres of bandwidth have been devoted elsewhere to this car’s impeccable racing history and pristine current condition, so for our part we’ll only add that to see this car in person is to have your jaw forcibly dropped. Its combination of perfectly purposeful good looks and a provenance that includes a class win at Le Mans in 1961 are overwhelming to behold. (Our friends at CMC Models certainly agree…they’ve made a wonderful model of this exact car in 1:18-scale.) No one seemed to mind the car’s overdog status on the lawn though; Bruce Meyer is as passionate a collector and ambassador for the hobby as there is, and it was a real treat to see his precious jewel under such casual circumstances.

BFI GTAm Tucked amongst more pedestrian road-going cars was a spiritual descendent of the 250SWB, Brandon Adrian’s incredible 1967 Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA Corsa. Built by Alfa’s semi-independent competition division, Autodelta, the GTA Corsa was a hugely successful player in European touring car racing at the end of the 1960s. Adrian’s beautifully presented example won its class at the 1967 24 Hours of Spa, and would later claim a class win at the 1971 Targa Florio. Appearing largely as it was last raced in-period, the car still wears FIA and (very rare) ADAC plaques, as well as its original FIA-approved roll cage.

BFI AureliaAs excited by these two race cars as we were, though, a vehicle designed for luxurious touring emerged as our favorite of the show: the 1958 Lancia Aurelia B24S Convertible of John Dimock. Looking as if it had just rolled in from a jaunt through the French Riviera, the Aurelia was finished in deep blue over a red interior, one of our favorite combinations for open cars of this era. Though it had been in his family for over forty years, Dimock took possession of the car only three days prior to the show after a nonagenarian uncle decided it was time to hand over the keys! “It feels like a solid block of metal,” Dimock noted of the Aurelia’s non-spindly, rattle-free driving experience, though he did add that like so many other vintage Italian cars it does have occasional fuel delivery problems. But when you’re living La Dolce Vita, what’s the odd ride on a flatbed every now and then?

BFI GTV6As mentioned above, the Carriage House crew was busy all day long with show-goers looking to take a small piece of the Best of France and Italy experience home with them. All too often these days, we hear that the car hobby is not catching on with young people who are more engaged with electronic devices and other pursuits. Thankfully, this did not appear to be true at this year’s show, where a steady stream of wide-eyed kids came to our booth to  check out the scale model replicas of the dream cars parked nearby. It’s our privilege to share our passion for classic cars with the collectors of the future, and we can think of no better venue than the family-friendly Best of France and Italy in which to do it. We will return next year!

For more photos from the show, visit

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene.  Occasionally, cars will not actually be be parked on grass.