The first show in April 2017 drew 200 antique and one-of-a-kind cars and trucks, a troupe of rat rods, and refined classics from local auto clubs to scenic, pond-centered Ocean Park.

Not sure how the debut event would proceed, organizers of Cars on Kiawah were pleased with the results.

They pressed forward with plans to present a familiar, locally-focused show 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 21 at Ocean Park, tweaking categories and more closely reviewing entries but otherwise keeping the attractions similar to last year.

Still, backers as recently as the late fall believed the fest needed a buzzworthy attraction or two. That's when Irene Breland, instrumental in the show's best woman-owned vehicle category, sought out Dennis Gage, noted host of My Classic Car now on the Velocity Network. Breland says, "I convinced Bruce (Stemerman)" that she would call. "Irene has been indefatigable in her passion," said Stemerman, chief organizer.

Gage accepted an invitation and will film an episode of his telecast at Cars on Kiawah, to air in 2019, marking the show's 24th year.

"It was partly us, also the (Charleston) area" that brought in the TV personality, known for his handle bar mustache, Stemerman said. "I guess he is a pioneer of TV car shows," he said.

Along with bringing in Gage, the group landed noted automotive historian and car culture expert Harvey Geiger as master of ceremonies. Cars on Kiawah also added a presenting sponsor, Ally Financial -- formerly GMAC Financing -- which provides loans to millions of shoppers through 18,000 car dealerships.

Stemerman credited "the big support" from the town of Kiawah Island, which help bankroll the show via grant money.

"It's really exciting," Breland said.

The show has attracted early interest from car enthusiasts, aimed at up to 300 models on display. "We are more than halfway to our goal," Stemerman said last month. "We do have a limitation on space," he said of the rolling lawns and grassy nooks next to an island lagoon.

Award categories include People's Choice, Chairman's Award, Mayor's Award, Best in Show, Best Displayed, Master of Ceremonies award and Dennis Gage award.

Organizers are bringing back the Best Woman Owned vehicle trophy and adding a owner under 30 honor as a nod to the younger car collecting generation.

The Lowcountry Model "A's" expects to bring a full compliment. The late 1920s and early 1930 era Ford antiques are a Spotlight Club for the show.

The efforts "exceed expectations," Breland says. "I think we will see an increase in spectators," she said. The event is free to the public. There are no shuttles, and parking next to the venue is $10. "A variety of food and drink options" will be available, organizers said.

"We are highlighting rare cars this year," said Breland, who owns a 1960s era Triumph.

Among those:

  • A 1904 French CGV of the type that won the famed turn of the century London to Brighton race, Breland said.
  • Reproduction 1930s era Bugatti and Bentley.
  • French sedan Citroen, a big player in Europe but not sold in the U.S. in decades.
  • AMC Gremlin, not the prettiest car but an 1970s compact with personality.
  • Early model Ferraris.

Muscle cars are expected to make a splash, including '60s era mainstay Pontiac GTO.

Many of the participating car clubs are based in greater Charleston, while a few are outside the area such as the Austin-Healey club from Beaufort, she said.

"As this grows, the radius will grow," Stemerman said. He expects Cars on Kiawah likely to always will be a regional show; "maybe a little bit more selective on the cars."

Added Breland, "We have a nice mix of personalities, and everybody has a specialty."

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