New Hope Automobile Show

August 8, 2009 by Evan Acuna

Now in its 52nd year, the New Hope Automobile Show has long been one of the best car shows local to the eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey areas. For the last several years, the show has been held at the New Hope-Solebury High School in New Hope, PA. Even with fewer cars and shrinking levels of attendance, the show has maintained a tradition of gathering some of the finest cars around. The vast majority of attending vehicles are from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but the quality of machinery far exceeds the standards of a grassroots local show.

Now, that's not to say that New Hope isn't a grassroots local show. Organizers are from the nearby area, and, with a wide range of vendors selling household items and services often far outside the realms of the automobile, the event has become as much a community get-together as a prestigious car show. But the long history of New Hope's annual event has given it the chance to develop further than most other regional shows.

Spread out over two days, New Hope offers a wide variety of automobiles. From a 1904 curved dash Oldsmobile to the brand new cars displayed by the area's premium dealerships, New Hope provides show goers with the chance to see the evolution of the car industry over more than a century.

The town of New Hope has a plethora of talented craftspeople. All of them are artists, and they have given their neighborhood a colorful personality. Being held in such an artistic area, it seems only natural that the posters and banners of the New Hope show are famous for their aesthetic refinement. New Hope's signature poster involves a well-lit and beautifully photographed feature car leaping out of an all-black background. This year's poster followed the same theme, and featured the lovely 1954 Plymouth Belmont in blood red.

Designed by Virgil Exner in his prime, the Belmont was a one-off concept car. A particular favorite of Exner's, the famed designer decided to take private ownership of the car he penned as soon as it was finished running the show circuit. Originally in azure blue, the Belmont was repainted in an arresting shade of luscious red after Don Williams, owner of the Blackhawk Collection of spectacular autos, took ownership of the car in 1989 and had it restored. In 2001, the car passed on to a new owner named Ele Chesney. A prominent car collector, Chesney had first seen the Belmont at the 1954 New York Motorama. At that show, she told her father she wanted the car, only to be informed that it was a concept and would never be sold. Chesney, in the undiluted hope of childhood, confidently asserted that she would someday own the car.

Sure enough, Chesney went on to own the one and only Plymouth Belmont. As the feature car of the 2009 New Hope Automobile Show, it enjoyed a spot on the grass at the front of the show grounds where onlookers marveled at its lithe lines.

Even with the Belmont and other notable cars like a 1930 Cadillac V16 attending the show, many longtime spectators and entrants feel that New Hope is not what it once was. The high school venue places cars incongruously on blacktop parking lots and sparse patches of grass. The size of the show has dwindled greatly from the event's best years. There are always some excellent cars that show up, but for some attendees there are simply too few.

While the event may have aged less gracefully than many of the cars that participate in it, New Hope continues to be held for a great cause. Much of the money generated from the show goes to providing students graduating from the New Hope-Solebury High School with scholarships towards higher education. New Hope may have gotten smaller, but the hearts of its organizers certainly have not.

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