As the Yacht Club grew in membership, alongside the need for more parking space, it became apparent that the club needed to build a parking garage. After the construction was complete, it was suggested that the club hold some sort of party to celebrate the opening of the new garage. What would be more fitting than a car show? So in 1996, and for the next two years, Fay Baynard chaired a successful annual car show in the garage for the Club members to showcase their cherished rides.
In 2002, avid vintage car, motorcycle, boat enthusiast, and Club member Bill Waters thought that an undiscovered opportunity lay waiting at the Club. If he could resurrect the car show, open it to the public, and move it onto South Straub Park, it could be the most prestigious vintage auto, motorcycle, and boat show on the west coast of Florida. He saw the potential of the adjacent South Straub Park; its shade trees, lush grass, beautiful fountain, winding walkways, waterfront, and of course the prominent St. Petersburg Yacht Club, with its impressive facilities and staging area as a backdrop. This was a prominent vintage vehicle show just waiting to take place.
In the summer of 2003, with a small but dedicated committee, the first St. Petersburg Yacht Club Antique Auto Show was scheduled for the third Sunday in October. With a core group of auto owners and enthusiasts from the Yacht Club, along with a few folks from the local area, the show registered 33 beautiful antique and classic cars alongside their friendly owners. Local folks and club members that owned classic and antique cars, 1979 or older, were invited to display on the lawn that day. The setting, weather, activities, food, music, and enthusiastic people made for a wonderful event concluded with an awards and trophy ceremony on the steps of the Club.
Hoping to attract some additional attention, the 2004 show was scheduled for the second Sunday in November, the same weekend as Rib Fest, and its 150,000 attendees were enjoying the festivities just a couple of blocks north of South Straub Park. Bill, a vintage 1967 Corvette owner, asked his friend and fellow club member, J. Wood, who was also a dedicated enthusiast and owner of a vintage MG, to assist him with this and future shows. Bill and J. had the same appreciation for restored vintage vehicles and a vision as to what a show like this could become over time. With J.’s help and a hard working committee, spectator numbers grew and the show added more features. It did not come without difficulties for about six other auto shows were scheduled in the area during the same weekend! Nevertheless, the show grew and registered 36 cars. Once again, the Club put out on the lawn a full linen table restaurant and made food and drink available for all attendees while music from the 20’s to 50’s was played from the second floor balcony of the Club. St. Petersburg’s Mayor, Rick Baker, also made an appearance and presented the first Mayor’s Choice Award, among others.
By 2005, the Antique Auto Show had not only attracted more interest in automobiles, but also an interest in vintage, light trucks and motorcycles. So in 2005, the name was changed to the Vintage Auto & Cycle Show, and as word of the show spread, several vehicles came to the event on trailers from as far away as Naples, Marco Island, and Orlando, Florida. Ann Lynch joined the committee that year and was charged with acquiring vintage motorcycles and scooters. Her work in acquiring these vehicles was displayed around the beautiful Straub Park Fountain, where folks were able to see many long forgotten two-wheelers. The quality and uniqueness of the vehicles were also becoming more impressive, the number of spectators were increasing, and vehicle display attendance grew to 87 vehicles in the park. To gain more advertising and local support, the Show partnered with the City of St. Petersburg, and provided an area for the City of St. Pete/Honda Grand Prix Race Team to advertise the April 2006 Downtown Road Race event.
The 2006 event was a very significant year for the show. South Straub Park seemed at full capacity as the displayed vehicle attendance grew to 202, which included not only beautiful original and restored automobile examples from the early 1900’s, but several motorcycles, a sizable number of custom cars, and a nice showing of restored light trucks. Cars were once again brought to the show from throughout the west coast of Florida, including noteworthy vehicles such as the famous Bobby Allison’s restored 1969 Dodge Challenger race car from Pensacola, Florida. That year also had tremendous TV and radio coverage, St. Petersburg Times newspaper coverage, plus an appearance by newscaster and TV Anchorman John Wilson to help with awards and trophies. Not only was this a great and fun event for all the attendees, but the show raised almost $1,000 for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
In achieving its significance as the most prestigious vintage vehicle event on the west coast of Florida, the 2007 show attained the vision that Bill had in the earliest years of the show. The show’s Platinum Sponsor for that year was Bentley-Tampa Bay and the Gold Sponsors were AAA, Mastry Marine, and Spectra Boats. Silver Sponsors, dedicated sponsors from earlier shows, were Action Wheelsports and Glenn’s MG Repair. The event commenced with an Owner’s & Guests Welcome Reception held on Saturday evening prior to the show, in the lobby of the Bank of America Tower in downtown St. Petersburg. Over 250 guests were greeted in the lobby by 10 vintage automobiles, 6 motorcycles, a band, displays by the sponsors, as well as catered refreshments and entertainment. Throughout the evening, a group of Shriners also held a silent auction. By the end of the following day, Sunday, the show saw a total of 238 vehicles on the lawn of the park. Besides the sponsor displays, Shwann Ice Cream sold ice cream treats, donating all profits to the Shriners, and the Shriner’s continued auction and raffle items. With the Shriner’s hard work and the generosity of many local businesses, over $2,500 was raised for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children Transportation Fund. There was also a display by the USF Wakeboard Club, which had 14 members assisting with the huge job of parking 238 vehicles in an organized fashion in just 2 hours! It was certainly the largest and most prestigious vintage vehicle show ever held on the west coast of Florida with vehicles brought in from around the state, Georgia, and South Carolina.
In 2008, club member Steve Lattman joined the committee and was charged with task of adding vintage boats to the show; being an avid boatman and vintage boat owner himself. When the time came, Lattman managed to present a spectacular vessel display along the waterfront. Owners of some of the most beautiful restored vintage boats were found by Steve and were in attendance. With the variety of vehicles now including automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and now boats, there was again a name change for the 2008 show to encompass all of the exhibit categories. It was decided that future events would be known as the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Vintage Motor Classic.
Founded in 1909, The St. Petersburg Yacht Club celebrated its Centennial year in 2009. The 2009 Vintage Motor Classic garnered extra attention during this year and was held Sunday, November 15th. Over 215 vehicles were registered for what was certainly the best show held to date. The Club officers, including Commodore Rich Doyle and Mayor Rick Baker, made special appearances and picked out their favorite vehicles. Centennial Year Commemorative T-Shirts were awarded to the first 200 vehicle owners registered, along with 2009 Centennial Dash Plaques, and a uniquely beautiful Commemorative 2009 Centennial Trophy Plaque was awarded to vehicle category winners.
Every year of the event Fay Baynard volunteered to photograph the award ceremony, coordinate names, write an article about the event, and submit this all to the Club’s secretary for insertion into the monthly membership magazine, Smooth Sailing, to show her love for the Club and support of the now ‘St. Petersburg Yacht Club Vintage Motor Classic’. Thanks Fay!
The years 2009 and 2010 were very tough times, economically, for the country, for vintage vehicles and for many of their owners, and for some of the best events surrounding this hobby. As a result, many owners had to sell their vehicles and many events did not have the resources and following to make it through those tough times. The Vintage Motor Classic, however, was able to raise sufficient funds from its dedicated sponsors to carry on, and both years provided some of the best vintage examples ever seen on the west coast of Florida. In fact, the 2010 show, held on Sunday, November 14th, was the largest event in the show’s history, with vehicles attending from all of southeastern U.S., as far north as North Carolina. Not only did it have the most cars, but it had a record number of motorcycles and a record number of boats – the oldest being from 1879 brought in from Melbourne, FL. Notably, during his first year as Mayor of St. Petersburg, Mayor Bill Foster attended and awarded the Mayor’s Choice award, and the SPCA became the VMC's new charity, bringing a variety of pets looking for homes, and accepted a record amount from donations at the event.
Through the efforts of the VMC Committee, the SPCA, and its sponsors, the 2011 Vintage Motor Classic was once again able to provide a Owners & Guests Welcome Reception on Saturday evening prior to the show. In the lobby of the former Bank of America Building in downtown St. Pete, there were 8 cars, 6 boats, 7 motorcycles, a bar, a caterer, a large silent auction, a piano player, and over 300 guests! The sponsors who made this possible were John Handel & Associates, Bill Waters of Waters Wealth Management, and Crabby Bill's Restaurant. Sunday morning had found J. Wood and his field crew setting the field at 6 AM and rolled on a record number of vehicles by 7:45. By 10:30 they parked 282 vehicles including boats, motorcycles and cars, then over 4,000 spectators passed through the event to view the beautiful vintage vehicles. Rare and beautiful vehicles arrived from as far south as Marco Island and Miami, east from Melbourne, and from states as far north as Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Cadillac DJ Gerry Cachia provided music from the 20’s through the 70’s. That year the SPCA managed to get four dogs adopted at the show, and raised a record dollar amount that included a $600 donation from the Vintage Motor Classic t-shirt sales. Finally, a special thanks was given to all the committee members that helped put the event together.
Once again the weather proved wonderful, and there was another large turnout for the 2012 Vintage Motor Classic. There were nearly 300 classic and antique cars, boats, trucks and motorcycles from all over the S.E. United States, and again over 4,000 spectators. The Club provided a beautiful lunch setting and bar, and the Club House was open to the public for the use of the Club facilities and A/C should someone need a rest. Cadillac DJ Gerry provided music again and added a touch of nostalgia by playing mostly music from the 20’s through the 50’s. The 2012 charity, the SPCA, did well again raising funds and several animals were adopted. As in the past, judging was a “Clean & Shine with emphasis on originality” People’s Choice contest, and trophies were awarded at 3:00. Leading off the awards segment was Mayor Bill Foster with the Mayor’s Choice Award. Its success credits the sponsors, Club management and employees, J. Wood for field layout and vehicle placement (6:00 AM), Fay Baynard for awards photography and Smooth Sailing write-up, Bill Hefner for show vehicle photography, Rick Brooks for Judging Coordination, Steve Lattmann for Watercraft Acquisition, all the Vintage Motor Classic volunteers, and finally Chairman Bill Waters and wife and family that made this another success. Please call Bill Waters for limited sponsor information at 727-343-3108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.