Walnut Street Invitational Car Show in Shadyside

Walnut Street Invitational Car Show  in Shadyside July 2007
There were over 125 vehicles in attendance, all by invitation only. This is one of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix's most exclusive events of the ten-day celebration. Space is limited and only those holding an invitation are allowed the prime parking real-estate. It was a very diverse group, with many makes-and-models in attendance, encompassing many years and all types of vehicles.

If the cars were unable to hold the visitors attention, the beautiful scenery and shops were a great diversion. Shadyside, PA is located in the heart of Pittsburgh's East End, with the shops and boutiques on Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue adding to the allure of the area. The surrounding area is filled with many stately Victorian mansions, well-maintained homes, and carefully restored masterpieces. Since the early 1920s, it has been home to many affluent families and young professionals. The name drew its inspiration from the Pennsylvania Railroad Station that was in the area many years ago when there were there were just woods and farmland. At that time it had many shady lanes, adding to the inspiration for the town name.

The oldest car in attendance was the 1905 Cadillac Model E. It is a well-maintained two-seater that has been treated to cosmetic updates throughout the years. The owner reported he drives it very frequently and has racked-up many thousands of miles while in his care. The one-cylinder engine produces around nine horsepower, making those thousands of miles even more impressive. A pair of Franklin automobiles showed up to impress. Packards also had a strong showing, and were among the more elegant vehicles at the show.

The Sunbeam Talbot was one of the more unique vehicles in attendance. The post-war Sunbeam-Talbot 80 and 90 were introduced during the summer of 1948. Both came with a new streamlined design with flowing front fenders, and powered by Hillman Minx engines. Both were available with saloon bodywork from British Light Steel Pressings or drophead coupe bodywork done by Thrupp & Maberly. The Sunbeam-Talbot was not the only Sunbeam at the show; a Sunbeam Tiger MK IA painted in black with white racing stripes also showed up. The Sunbeam Tiger is probably most famous for its staring roll in the TV series 'Get Smart', created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The main character, Maxwell Smart, drove the vehicle to Control each week where he was given his assignment. Agent 86, or Maxwell Smart, received attention where ever he went, thanks in part to the stylish vehicle that accompanied him.

The Sunbeam Tiger continued the long tradition of putting a large American engine in a small European car. Others, such as the Nash-Healey and Facel Vega had done this before. The most celebrated success of this unique combination would have to be the Shelby Cobra where, under the direction of Carroll Shelby, a Ford V8 was planted in an AC Ace. There were two Cobras at the Shadyside Invitation this year. One had the 289 motor and the other had the monstrous 427. Also in attendance was a Shelby Mustang, another example of Carroll Shelby's workmanship.

American muscle had a great showing at the event. A bunch of Corvettes, Mustangs, Pontiac GTO's, and even a Ford Gran Torino rumbled their way down the Shadyside street, whisking away the quiet as their engines trumpeted their arrival. The Gran Torino was immortalized in the TV Series (and later the movie), Starsky and Hutch. The car played a staring role, finished in bright red colors and white body stripes. The example at the Shadyside event was adorned in a similar fashion and was definitely a conversation piece.

The European cars had no problems finding their way through the narrow streets. Their small frames and lightweight bodies negotiated the tight quarters with ease and gracefully backed into their parking spots. Many memorable cars from this group included the E-Type Jaguars, Austin Healeys, MGs, Triumphs, Volkswagen Beetles, Porsche 911s, and even a few Ferraris. The Jaguar XKE E-Type's had a great showing, coming in multiple body styles and colors. They are very fast, having vivid acceleration, great flexibility, unheard-of comfort and refinement for such a car, and pure good looks, making it one of the better examples of style and performance from a mass-produced supercar.

There were less than sixty Morgans sold in the United States in 1954; one of them was present at the Shadyside Invitational. The Plus Four were larger and more powerful than their 4/4 predecessor, though built using similar methods of construction. The steel body panels rested on wooden framework and mounted on a steel ladder-type frame. The four-cylinder engine produced around 70 horsepower and could carry the car to a top speed of about 85 mph. It was a treat seeing this rare vehicle up close and personal.

The crowds were in full-force throughout the evening hours as the cars kept the onlookers thoroughly entertained. Some of the cars were new to this event, while others have had an open invitation, making the journey faithfully every year. This, along with the other events throughout the weekend, has really solidified the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix as a 'must see' event, and a highlight on the vintage enthusiast's calendar.


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