Fargo Tradition: The Toppers Rod and Custom Show

One of the unpleasant details of living in this part of the globe is winter. But inventive rodders that we are, we find ways to occupy our time in the dark days… not the least of which is the indoor car show. As it happens, the Toppers Car Club holds its annual shindig every spring, just a couple hours up the road. So as some of my buddies and I started building street rods it would follow that we would want to spend a weekend showing them off.  A natural venue became the Toppers Car Show, since it was… just a couple of hours up the road.

Toppers 1975
Part of the Amblers (Mpls) club display – Fargo Civic Arena 1975.
Toppers' Rod and Custom Show at the Fargo Civic Arena
1975 Toppers’ Rod and Custom Show, Fargo Civic Arena

One of the first times a group of us ventured north, our entourage included friends Bob and Betty Z. and their freshly-fired 1934 Olds Touring Sedan. Wanting to avoid the uncertainty of a winter road trip in an untested car, they had elected to trailer the big Olds. Made sense at the time. We were to meet in a local parking lot, where we planned our trip strategy and Bob discovered a flat tire on the trailer. No problem, just throw on the spare.

Uhhh… what spare?  This, before we even left town.

Spare located, spare installed, a little behind schedule but off we went. On my end, the trip was shaping up to be a fairly pleasant one. For my friends, not so much. A little further up the road, Bob suddenly pulled off on the shoulder. As I recall, the trailer wheel had somehow worked its way loose and chewed up what remained of the wheel studs. The blue that was in the air that day was NOT the sky!  Bob crawled inside the Olds, backed it off the trailer, stashed the trailer at a nearby farm, and hit the highway. Thanks to Bob’s building skills, everything on the new car functioned flawlessly. Except for one detail – it was maybe 30 degrees outside with a stiff north wind and the Olds had no heater. Now, it had been pretty much an offhand decision on my part and it might have been just dumb luck, but I had installed a heater/defroster in our coupe a few weeks before the show. So it was comfy in my cabin. Sorry, Bob. How was your trip? Good thing it was…  just a couple of hours up the road!  And it was warm in the Fargo Civic Arena. Some of us even worked up a sweat cleaning our cars. That, of course, resulted in the need to replenish fluids which was a weekend-long process.

BZ gets 'er shined and ready!
BZ gets the Olds shined and ready! Setup night – Toppers show circa 1982.
Our '39 .. Toppers show circa 1982...
Our ’39 .. Toppers show circa 1982…

To me, one of the best parts of the shows at the old Fargo Civic Arena would happen Sunday night as the cars would fire up and leave the building. There was a short street heading east toward the river and it seemed, often enough, that drivers would use it to stage a “live demonstration” for the sidewalk crowd. Politically correct? Nope, but that’s how they rolled.  And you know it’s a well-researched fact that after sitting idle for an entire weekend, engines accumulate carbon that simply has to be blown out.

Overall view of the show floor - Toppers' show circa 1983Our club display (Tri-County Street Rods) – Toppers’ show 1983

All told, my fellow clubsters and I made plenty of trips to the Toppers show every spring as spectators and participants. Every one of ’em has generated stories worth re-telling. That’s why it’s on my list to get a car entered again some year, assuming I have one that’s remotely show-worthy (debatable!) and I feel at all like cleaning said car once I get there. Lucky for me, “patina” is big these days. I like that.

‘Cause I see plenty of it in the mirror every morning….

To see photos from other Toppers’ shows, click here.

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