At a recent Anoka Classic Car Show, Eric Foslien’s 5-year-old son, Charlie, slept in the back seat of his dad’s ’69 Camaro.
He might have been worn out from all of the excitement; he definitely wasn’t bored. “He really gets into it,” Foslien said. “He sits back there and says, ‘Do a burnout, Dad,’ ” like they’re at the racetrack.
The show takes over part of downtown Anoka just behind the County Government Center on Saturday evenings throughout the warmer months. It’s been going for more than 10 years and is a family-friendly affair that brings together vintage-car enthusiasts of all ages.
It’s relatively laid back, with no awards and no judgments, said Foslien, who lives in Ramsey. “No one here is going to say, ‘that’s not a real Super Sport,’ ” he said of his replica hot rod, which has been outfitted with modern-day equipment.
Many people bring lawn chairs and coolers and stake out a regular spot, where they can get a good view of the cars, hang out and mingle with other car buffs.
Although the number varies from week to week, the show can accommodate as many as 525 cars at one time, said Brad Holmbo, an event organizer.
Every week, the types and ages of the cars run the gamut, from the prim-looking Ford Model T to the flashy hot rod. Besides the fact that all of the cars were built before 1981, “you never know what you’re going to get,” Holmbo said.
To get into the show, car owners pay $3 — the fee is waived for Anoka residents — and the event is free to spectators.
The idea is to keep it affordable, Holmbo said, adding that the proceeds go to several local charities.
On a nice night, several thousand attendees come through.
Foslien acquired his Camaro after placing an ad on Craigslist. “It’s probably one of the most sought-after muscle cars today,” he said.
He calls it “Killer Bee,” a take-off on his own nickname, Killer, which stems from the fact that “I can bench press a decent amount of weight,” he said.
The bee part relates to the car’s paint job: Daytona Yellow with black stripes.
For Foslien, who is fighting sinus cancer, the car provides a kind of therapy, he said.
“It’s about the thrill of building something with your own hands and the love of driving fast,” said the self-taught back-yard mechanic.
Phil Markuson, who lives in Waconia, agreed. Several years ago, he set out to buy a 1974 Ford Gran Torino, the car he fell in love with after watching reruns of the TV show “Starsky & Hutch.”
Instead, he wound up with a ’66 Ford Fairlane GT, nearly identical to the car his Ford mechanic dad once owned. Markuson remembers seeing pictures of his dad’s car growing up, and hearing about the modifications he made to it. So, when he stumbled upon the Fairlane, he jumped at it.
The car doesn’t have shoulder belts, power steering or air-conditioning. It only has AM radio (it picks up the oldies, which he likes). While riding in the car, “You’re glued to the seat. It’s quick, loud and fast,” he said.
When he brought the car home to his dad, “This awakened in him something that had been dormant for 40 years,” Markuson said. “At one point, he had the fastest car in town.”
‘Road Runner Cindy’
Nine years ago, Cindy Christensen, who lives in Isanti, was the only female participant in the car show.
When she first showed up in her ’68 Plymouth Road Runner, “I would hear, ‘How nice of your significant other to let you drive out with that car,’ ” she said.
In reality, “I don’t let my husband touch my car,” she said, and to drive home the point, a sticker on the car says, “This isn’t my husband’s car.”
Nowadays, Christensen, a.k.a. Road Runner Cindy, is still in the minority, but she’s learned to navigate the male-dominated arena.
It helped to volunteer at the car show, and others in the area. “That’s how I got to know so many people,” she said.
For the stay-at-home-mom, immersing herself in this tight-knit world has been life-changing. “The people are like extended family,” she said.
Unique set of wheels
Bob Schubert of Andover has owned 90 cars through the years. He enjoys the mechanical side of the hobby. He usually fixes up cars and then sells them, but he can’t bear to part with his ’67 Chevy Nova Super Sport. It was made the same year he graduated from high school.
Nowadays, cars are “all alike. Kids have nothing to grab onto. Before, they were all unique,” he said.
Champlin resident Ron Gulden, whose ’51 Chevy Sport Coupe was parked alongside Schubert’s car near Third Avenue N. and Van Buren, chimed in: “Nobody’s ever going to say, ‘Back to the 90s.’ ”
Jim Knowlton of Brooklyn Park summed up how many of the car owners seem to feel about their wheels: His ’63 Ford Galaxy 500, a shiny Glacier Blue and Corinthian White model, “gets babied quite a bit. It only goes out on nice days. It sits in a warm garage.”
The funny thing is, he said, “if I’d owned it when I first got married, it would’ve been transportation. I would’ve put a canoe on it to go camping. Now, I don’t even like dust on it.”
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.