Classics Pack the AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte puts on a fun event with drifting, movie cars, and more.

Every spring, the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway opens its gates to the public, offering an experience with a wide variety of car-related fun. At this year’s Charlotte AutoFair, which took place earlier this month, I was able to see a day’s worth of its events.

The Oval

The most obvious feature of the AutoFair that a guest will see is the vast number of cars that are wrapped all the way around Charlotte’s 1.5-mile loop. The majority of these cars were ‘60s and ‘70s American iron, but there were some oddballs hidden in the mix including some lovely Jaguar E-Types, a Suzuki Samurai, a mint second gen Honda Prelude, and a rare Buick Reatta convertible. 

Just about everything at this show had a “for sale” sign on it, and some of the prices were…let’s say optimistic. Nevertheless, they were nice cars. If I had to pick favorites, they would include a replica of Richard Petty’s Dodge Challenger stock car, a Bricklin SV-1, a Javelin AMX dragster, a superb 1980s Rolls Royce Phantom, and a Plymouth SuperBird.


Deeper into Charlotte’s infield, AutoFair appointed drivers were taking guests for a spin in some LS-powered 240s for 50 bucks a pop. The course that had been laid out was pretty small for drifting, but the drivers were able to make the most of it, and put on a good show for the spectators that gathered around.

100 Years of Chevy Trucks

This Chevrolet-sponsored exhibit celebrated the centennial of the company’s first pickup by showing off some very fine examples of Chevy trucks. The pack was led by the current Silverado in its 100-year special edition trim. Backing it up were appearances by trucks of many eras. The best of these was a ’90s S10 Baja, which looked like it drove out of the old Nintendo game Super Off Road.

Star Cars

This exhibit was made of cars that had appeared in famous TV and movie productions, with the collection featuring actual examples and convincing replicas. If you grew up watching ’70s and ’80s cheese, this was the one to see. It ran the gamut of cars starring in Magnum PI, Miami Vice, The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, American Graffiti, and The Blues Brothers. 

One of these cars actually made me laugh out loud upon seeing it: A Pontiac Le Mans police car that had been modified to look like the one in Smoky and the Bandit. These modifications included crudely chopping the roof off, and placing the driver side door in the back seat. Sitting next to this Le Mans was a pristine 1978 “Bandit” Trans Am.

I was also excited to see one of the Chevy stock cars that had been driven by Tom Cruise’s character, Cole Trickle, in Days of Thunder. This Lumina was built by Charlotte’s own Hendrick Motorsports and was driven during practice sessions by Cruise and fellow star Robert Duvall.

The crown Jewel of this collection was a 1948 Tucker Torpedo replica built for the Francis Ford Coppola film, Tucker: A Man and his Dream. In the movie, Jeff Bridges stars as Preston Tucker, the ill-fated entrepreneur with a vision of building the car of the future. While about a dozen of the 46 surviving Torpedos were shot in the film, there were also some made-over Crown Victorias used for stunt work. This particular car was driven during the racing scene, and it appears to have sustained some damage to the left side during filming. Even though it’s not the real deal, it was still amazing to see a facsimile of the car that became a legend.

It was a great experience at the Charlotte AutoFair, with plenty to please an automotive geek. Check out the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s website for information on future events.