Imagine you’re at a car show. Not some little Cars and Coffee that’s exclusively Civics, Jettas and maybe an M3 — I mean a big one. You’re walking through row after row of classic, almost exclusively American cars. You see pieces of history that have been obsessively maintained. You see muscle cars that have been preserved to be shown off more than driven. Then you see a 1986 Plymouth Horizon in oddly good condition with a toddler in the driver’s seat playing with the window crank. Now which car is going to stand out to you the most?
My Horizon got a lot of attention at the Iola Car Show in central Wisconsin this summer. I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Iola, but it’s a pretty big deal in the Midwest. The annual show is 300 acres, with over 3,000 cars and about 120,000 attendees. It was voted the second-best car show in the U.S. by USA Today readers, beating out big events like Pebble Beach and the New York Auto Show. It takes place in the town of Iola, which has a population of a little over 1,000 people. It’s about 65 miles west of Green Bay and in the middle of nowhere.
The Iola Car Show has a big emphasis on classic cars — and normally, to enter the show, an all-original car needs to be at least 40 years old. I’ll spare you some math and tell you my 1986 Plymouth Horizon is not 40 years old. However, I found something of a loophole. There’s a class called Old Cars Young Drivers. To enter this class, your car needs to be over 25 years old and you, the driver, need to be 25 years old or younger. The day after the last day of the show was my 26th birthday, so I can confidently say I was the oldest person in this class this year. An added bonus is that if you enter this class, there’s no registration fee and you get two free tickets.
My Horizon and I had a great experience at Iola. I brought along my wife, my daughter and a couple friends while doing what you do at car shows: sitting on lawn chairs and drinking smuggled-in soda while soaking up a nice sunburn. However, I hardly had any time to relax or walk around the show because so many people walking by wanted to talk to me about my Horizon. Everyone had a story about this car. I heard things like "I learned to drive in this car" and "My mom had one of these" and "Is this an Omni?" over and over again. My Horizon was photographed more than I ever imagined it would be. One guy who appeared to be a teenager actually posed with the car for a picture. Just about everyone who talked to me about this car had nothing but good things and positive memories to share.
The best part? As you can see in the picture above, it was nestled between two bona fide American classics, a 1969 Ford Mustang and a 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS. These two iconic cars on either side of me barely attracted a second glance as people walked by. The guy with the Chevelle joked with me, asking why my car was getting all the attention, and not his. The real reason is that these folks had already seen dozens, maybe hundreds of Chevelles and Mustangs already that day. But my car was likely the only Horizon anybody saw that day — and probably the cleanest example they’ve seen in decades. Find a Plymouth Horizon for sale