Car Season in Portland has officially launched.

For the past 28 years, the Portland Transmission Spring Classic has been held the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

In some ways it is the antithesis of a high-end concours. It is loosely organized. It is held on the city streets of inner Southeast Portland near Hawthorne Boulevard. There are no “car cards” identifying cars or owners.

A flathead rat rod can be parked between a military 6×6 and a Porsche Speedster.

Cars start showing up as early as 5:00 a.m. There is no entry fee for cars or spectators. By 7:00 a.m. there are over 500 cars parked and thousands of people walking around them.

Bradley and I used the Hawthorne Bridge to cross the Willamette River from our condo downtown. After the cold and wet winter, we did not complain about the record-setting temperature in the low 90s.

Our culture’s love affair with cars of all types was on full display.

We strolled the packed streets and met with many SCMers. We chanced upon SCMers Chris Bright and Ed Godshalk.

Ed drove his Amilcar on last year’s SCM 1000, and also has a Bugatti, Lancia and Cisitalia in his garage. He had brought his belly tanker to the show. It’s the real deal, with a 315-gallon alloy drop tank from a P38 Lightning forming the body of the race car.

Ed said he had driven it to 140 mph across the Alvord Desert in Eastern Oregon. He’s a braver man than I.

My son got the full monty treatment. Ed fired up the flathead Ford engine, and a startled Bradley jumped back three feet. The guttural, barking sounds of an internal combustion engine are one of the things I will miss in our EV future.

Ed also invited Bradley to sit in the car. I assume that makes him the only student at his high school to have been in a belly tanker.

We spent the next couple of hours lollygagging around and discussing cars from Panteras to Pinzgauers. A C3 Corvette caught Bradley’s eye. He already knew how to look up their prices on Bring a Trailer (a surprise to me), and peppered me with questions about their low market values. That led to a discussion of U.S. smog and safety regulations, and how some of the C3s were the least-powerful Corvettes ever offered — which is why they generally sell for so little.

Our day ended by looking at the various World War II military vehicles in their own corral including an amphibious DUKW. We have ridden in a DUKW on the River Charles; they are a rare sight in Oregon. We both noted how the background info stated that “many of these ended up upside down at the bottom of the Pacific.”

Many of the cars were starting to leave around noon, so we did too. I reflected on how relaxing and enjoyable the day had been, from walking to the show, getting our free hot dogs (does anything taste better than a steaming hot dog at a car show?), kicking tires and heading home.

If our kids are going to be interested in cars, it will be because of events like this. Casual, non-intimidating, fun and full of new experiences.



  1. What a wonderful day! As I read your column I could feel the joy. I recently spent a few hours teaching my grandson to drive a stick so I know the feeling. Memories that will live forever.

  2. I wish we had events like that here in Texas – it looks like a blast! I’m burned-out of car shows full of trailer queens and overpriced ego-inflators. The hot dogs were probably great – especially washed-down with some nice cold lemonaid! I’d hate to own that C-3 when it starts to shed – even the cat will be jealous!