Photos by Larry Edsall
Does your city recognize the role the automobile has played in its history?
Since 2007, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department has hosted an annual classic car show. “Motoring Thru Time: Where the transportation past meets the future,” is held in Heritage Square, which itself if sort of a past-meets-present (and beyond) square block of downtown Phoenix.
Heritage Square includes some of Phoenix’s oldest homes, among them the Rosson House (now Rosson House Museum), a 10-room, 1895 Victorian home on what used to be known as Block 14 during the days when Arizona was a territory, not a state. The house sits at one corner of Heritage Square, which includes other historic homes and buildings but also much more modern structures with futuristic architecture, including the Arizona Science Center and Phoenix Museum of History and Science.
On a Saturday early each February, architecture old and new provides the backdrop for a gathering of more than 110 vehicles — cars, a few motorcycles and bicycles, historic fire engines and even classic travel trailers and their vintage tow vehicles.
This year the oldest car was a 1903 Olivera Horseless Carriage — sort of a knockoff of the Curved Dash Olds, though the Olivera was built in Mexico, not Michigan.
The newest vehicle on display was a 2011 Mario Andretti Edition Chevrolet Camaro. The Camaro was parked next to what is believed to be the last 1905 Mitchell D4 runabout in existence.
The cars were parked together for a display of Fast Cars: Then and Now. You know an Andretti-badged Camaro is fast, but the Mitchell set speed records in its day, winning 50- and 100-mile races and averaging more than 55 miles per hour around a dirt-surface horse-racing track. The Mitchell not only was fast, but strong — the first car to summit Inspiration Point in Yosemite National Park.
Fast and strong, perhaps, but not quick. The 627-horsepower Camaro sprints to 60 mph in four seconds. The Mitchell needs 26 ticks of the second hand to reach that same speed.