A Perfect Combination for Success

On an evening with temps over 100 degrees and threatening thunderstorms on the horizon, some of Tucson's dedicated classic car owners headed to Little Anthony's.

Garagistry recently spoke with John Strobeck, better known among the Tucson Classic Car community as “DJ John”, musical host of the legendary Little Anthony’s Classic Car Show. We wanted to know what made a good car show great, and how Little Anthony’s show has continued to grow year over year. Strobeck has been the DJ at each Little Anthony's event for each of the past 14 years. 

The show itself started a few years earlier to support the new and growing diner and was originally the idea of Tony Terry owner of Little Anthony’s Diner. John took us on a journey of the show, it's history, and shared the experience he thought would be helpful to other car show hosts. John has a genuine appreciation of classic cars and is the owner of  a sparkling gold 1954 Ford Skyliner 

Modeled after the popular Cruise Nights of years ago, the idea was to bring cars and owners to a place where they could enjoy a good, wholesome, family-oriented event. The 50's styled Diner is the perfect backdrop for this kind of event, poodle skirts and all. 

The show, held year round, has become a true Tucson Classic Event. Local owners know if they are not early for registration, they risk finding a completely filled parking lot. We are very pleased by the growing number of teenagers attending and taking notice of the great classic cars on display.

Is a Secret Sauce Involved?

When asked why he believes the Little Anthony's Car Show has enjoyed nearly 20 years of growing success, Strobeck didn’t have to think long or hard. "It's the result of concentrating on providing the car owners, enthusiasts and spectators alike a good show and a great time," said Strobeck. 

"First and foremost, the Little Anthony’s Car Show is a family event and the goal is to have something for everyone in the Family. Families with younger kids have a Jumping Castle and activities to keep them entertained. Car owners and enthusiasts have several dozen, sometimes several hundred, great cars to view and admire. With no costs to spectators or exhibitors, we turn visitors into regular attendees. Instead of charging for the event we solicit donations during each show to generate much-needed support for many local charities. Among those supported are the Diabetes Relief Charity, Tucson’s Gospel Rescue Mission and the Tucson Community Food Bank." 

What Makes a Good Show Great?

When asked for specifics as to what makes the Little Anthony program successful, Strobeck was equally well-prepared:

1. We’re not a formal event, keeping the exhibitors and spectators satisfied is Rule 1
2. We work within the confine of what we have – we don’t try to be or do something we are not
3. We are committed to be a great place for the local classic car hobbyist to come and show their car
4. We work hard to make every show a positive experience for all
5. We acknowledge the classic car exhibitors are the “real show”, the entire staff of the Little Anthony’s organization work tirelessly to keep the exhibitors happy.
6. Treat each exhibitor right by being as accommodating as possible, acknowledging our appreciation of their participation, and thankful for their support.
7. Help owners find an available parking space. Our staff walks the lot working as a team to find and guide cars to an open space. 
8. A total of 9 trophies are awarded at every show, but exhibitors are limited to win a trophy only once per calendar year.
9. Support your local car club. “They have been tremendous!”, said Strobeck. “Everyone from the
Door Slammers to the local chapters of National Clubs like the Antique Automobile Club of America has been here from the beginning." "We see many members from many clubs including the Tucson Street Rod Association, the Early Ford V-8 Club and the Tucson Thunderbird Car Club."
10. Finally the music.The music mirrors the event. John's goal is to create a positive, fun, happy time and place. We don’t play any sad songs. It just wouldn’t fit the occasion”, said Strobeck

How are the Hobby and the Show Changing?

John acknowledged the changing demographics of the Classic Car Hobby. To that end, Strobeck has seen a shifting popularity of cars featured as just the natural progression of the hobby in general. Today, they see fewer of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s era classics. Some of the ‘50’s era cars seem to be replaced with more of the 60’s and 70’s classics. Imports per se, are still a rarity among the Little Anthony exhibitors, but they are certainly welcome. In fact, NO vehicle is excluded from showing, no matter the age, make or model. Little Anthony’s even has a “Special Interest” competition category. As Strobeck explained, “If an owner of a brand new Kia wanted to show their car, we’ll make room for them.”

When asked what he has observed concerning the relative age grouping of exhibitors and spectators, we think Strobeck is seeing much the same change as seen elsewhere. The norm seems to be the 40-65 age groups, compromised of both men and women. And with some exhibitors well into their 70’s and 80’s, a growing number of young couples in their 20’s and 30’s assure us the hobby is growing among a whole new generation as well. His conclusion we suspect is correct; as the era of cars being exhibited changes so too will we see a change in those attending.
Certainly, both classic car owners and spectators have a well-developed appreciation for those vehicles they grew up with as either the family car or were among the first they owned.  The objective of Garagistry as "The Preservation of Automotive History...One Car at a Time" will enable many future generations to know, appreciate and respect the contributions of all automobiles to our life.

So, What Does it All Mean?

Having personally attended a Little Anthony’s Car Show on multiple occasions over the years, this is a great time and place to exhibit your vehicle or come and see some of the best representatives of classic vehicles. If you live in Tucson, enjoy the classic car hobby and have not participated in a Little Anthony’s Show, you are missing a great opportunity. If you are one of our many “winter visitors”, make sure you mark your calendar and spend a Saturday afternoon or evening at a Little Anthony’s event. And finally, if you’re one of the weekly “lucky” ones who have tickets to a Gas Light Theater Saturday evening performance, go a little early and get the most out of your time touring the parking lot and seeing up close what makes the classic car hobby as great as it is.