Asheville Automobile Showcase: Motorama 1963
When a new model year turned over for the automotive industry, it was an event that was not to be missed! No matter what far flung corner of the country you lived in, the car dealers would be building anticipation in your town for months. The showroom windows would be covered with paper and the new model cars would be delivered to the back of the dealer under the cloak of darkness. Families would make reservations at the best steakhouse in town and get dressed up in their very best finery. Locals in Asheville would have preferred the S&W Cafeteria or the Peddler Steakhouse - maybe even Buck's restaurant in the famous "Red Room." Many of these events would feature an entertainer or some kind of gimmick to draw more people into the showroom. Coxe avenue and the Asheville Motor Mile were no different. Parkland Chevrolet was bringing in Dinah Shore to sing "See the USA in your Chevrolet!" while other dealers in town were bringing in local bands and Beatles Imitators.
Despite all of the individual dealer efforts, the Asheville Dealer's association had one event that would bring everyone to one central location: the 1963 Asheville Motorama. It was held in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, which prior to the addition of the Civic Center addition in the 1970s, hosted many civic functions and meetings, in addition to being a concert venue and public auditorium.
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (center) next to the George Vanderbilt hotel (right)
The Motorama would feature the local band, Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks, as well as the headliner of the event, Mrs. Maria Beale Fletcher - Asheville native and winner of the Miss America Pageant n 1962. Her parents, Robert and Daisy Fletcher were talented dancers and were founders of the long running Fletcher School of Dance in Asheville.
The lovely Maria Beale Fletcher pictured with a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville from Harry's Cadillac and Pontiac of Asheville, North Carolina.
Looking through the program, one of the highlights is of course the beautiful American classic cars, as well as the many foreign car brands. Although Asheville was a smaller mountain town during the 1960s, it was very cosmopolitan and on the cusp of change that was gripping the rest of the nation with the change in the presidency. Kennedy was in office and the youth movement was really taking off! Younger car buyers wanted cars that were fast, colorful and most importantly fun! The muscle car movement was just beginning, with smaller cars with large engines.
Some of the car makes on display were:
-Volkswagen and Porsche
If you close your eyes and let your imagination go wild, you can smell the faint linger of gasoline, fried corn dogs and popcorn filling the auditorium as the public milled about the show. As your freshly polished loafers slid across the basketball floor in the hall at the time, you would have been blinded by the overhead lighting reflecting the glow of gallons of chrome. Climbing aboard one of these magnificent machines, you would have sunken into a beautiful brocade or silk lined interior. These type of events and these cars were designed to make you feel a certain way, some might describe as sophistication or elegance. It wasn't about the price of the car, no that would come later.
Take a look through an actual copy of the program! Were you at the show then? What do you remember?