The crowds really pick up around 10 a.m., but here’s the best kept secret about the Orange Plaza Car Show: come at dawn.
As the sun comes up over Saddleback Peak, 400 classics, customs, hot rods and street rods rumble into the circle to take their places. Against the backdrop of Old Towne’s early 20th century architecture, the ’32 Ford coupes look right at home alongside the 1950s Chevys.
Once in place, car owners pop open thermoses of coffee and polish chrome and glass for showtime. As they work, they keep an eye on the competition and start to compare notes. Tales are told of years of work, lovingly restoring a rusted castoff into a showpiece. Seasoned car veterans share tips with new owners about the finest metal shops, the best parts outlet and more.
By 9:00 a.m., when the Orange Police Explorer color guard marches into the Plaza and a high school choir performs a pitch-perfect rendition of the national anthem, the “car guys” have settled in for another day in sunny So Cal, prepared to greet the 15,000 people that will ooh and aah over their handiwork. At 2 p.m., the best of the best will collect their trophies, while others will trade in long strips of raffle tickets for car polish kits, gift baskets or high end electronics.
And then it’s time to pack up and roll out, down Chapman Avenue and back home again. Until next time, when the sun comes up over Saddleback Peak.