John Looby of Lake Forest is one of a few people who can say he stills own his first car. In fact, he was with his grandmother when she bought the brand-new 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham 47 years ago. “I was in eighth grade, and, riding home from the dealership, I said to my grandmother, ‘I think I’d like to have this car someday,’” John recalls. His grandmother eventually sold the car to his father. “And then I bought it from him when I was in college because I needed a car to drive to student teaching—and it was the biggest car in the faculty lot,” John says with a smile. “When speakers would arrive in town to speak at the college, I’d get a phone call asking if I could pick them up at the airport and drive them to dinner, and then I would get a free dinner out of it. So I got to meet some really interesting people that way.”
With so many historic and unique cars in the community, John is just one of many local car owners who have plenty of stories to tell. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons the Lake Forest Annual Antique Auto Show remains such a popular event year after year. This year’s show is shaping up to be another educational and fun-filled occasion. The 64th Annual Antique Auto Show will showcase cars from 1987 and earlier, with a special focus on American luxury cars of the ’50s and ’60s (including John’s 1965 Cadillac). Organized and presented by the Antique Automobile Club of America (Illinois Region) and the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club, the car show proceeds go to the Rotary’s programs and—this year—a portion of the funds raised will benefit Equestrian Connection, a Lake Forest not-for-profit organization which provides equine-assisted psychotherapy for people with disabilities.
This year, the car show will feature up to 300 cars, which, combined, are valued at roughly $50 million. Yet each car, aside from its worth, has its own appeal. “You can’t say that people like the $1 million car more than the $20,000 car, because they’re all unique,” says John, who serves as a car show chairman, along with Dave Pattie and John Barth. He also encourages all antique car owners to bring their cars, even if they don’t consider their vehicles to be show cars. “We have a lot of cars on the field that are just there for people to see—they don’t have to be perfect,” John says. “We like ‘drivers’—the ones that people are actually using.” Aside from the car judging and awards, which includes a People’s Choice Award, the event features a Spotlight Tent, where car owners give 15-minute talks on the histories and stories behind their cars. This is a perfect learning opportunity for those with special interests in cars, or in history in general. Spectators can also enjoy delicious food donated by Sunset Foods, traditional summer fare like hamburgers, brats, chips, beer, and more.
The annual car show, which started in 1948, is the oldest continually running car show in the United States. As an educational, entertaining, and family-friendly event, it’s likely that the popularity of the car show will continue for many years to come. “It’s really something that’s special for this community, and it’s been here for all these years,” John says. “We get people from five or six different states who bring their cars to show.” Beyond the obvious enjoyment of viewing the antique cars, the event also allows spectators and car owners to reminisce about the meaning that lies behind each car. John’s own Cadillac, for instance, continues to be an important part of his life even now; his daughter, Eileen, will use the car for her wedding this September. The Cadillac, like the car show itself, has a legacy that will continue for many years to come.
The 64th Annual Antique Auto Show will take place on Sunday, July 22, at Deer Path Middle School in Lake Forest. Registration for car owners is from 8 to 10:30 a.m., and spectators may view cars from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission for spectators is $10 per person (and children under the age of 10 are free with a paying adult). Pre-registration for car owners is encouraged and can be completed through July 6 by visiting the car show’s website, lakeforestcarshow.com.