Les Sanborn of Sanford sits in front of his 1941 Ford. Eloise Goldsmith Photo

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Car enthusiasts and collectors flocked to the 29th annual Old Orchard Beach Car Show last week, which was shortened to one day instead of two due to Hurricane Lee.

Dozens of vintage cars lined both sides of Old Orchard Street on Friday afternoon, Sept. 15, featuring a variety of colors, makes and models – with American manufacturers heavily represented among the vehicles on display.

One car collector and trader from Sanford brought a bright orange 1941 Ford with a vanity plate that read “Rod Fther” to the show.

“My name is Les Sanborn, they call me the Rod Father,” the owner of the Ford said. Sanborn has been attending the car show for nearly 10 years, and the Ford he brought to the show is only one of over 40 cars he keeps at home. Sanborn said his passion for cars started when he was very young. “I had toy cars, and then I started racing quarter midgets when I was about 10.”

Car collector and hobbyist Russell Tripp pops the hood of his 1970 Dodge Challenger. Eloise Goldsmith photo

Russell Tripp of Saugus, Massachusetts, echoed Sanborn’s enthusiasm. “I’m most probably a car nut,” he said when asked about how he got started buying and fixing up classic autos. Tripp had his 1970 Dodge Challenger on display, which he described as especially fun to drive. Like Tripp has been traveling from out of state to attend the show for 10 years.

Car hobbyist Jay Hill, a resident of Saco, displayed his 1966 Ford Mustang. He recounted the magic of finding the nearly pristine Mustang on the side of the road near Lake George in upstate New York 10 years ago.


I looked everywhere for rust, and when I saw there was no rust whatsoever on the car, I knew it was going to be a gem. After I got it home I realized it was even better than that, because the top was original and the interior is original. … I bought it and spruced it up. And here it is today.”

The aim of the car show is to extend the peak business season for Old Orchard Beach, explained Kim Howard, executive director of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s a misconception that Old Orchard Beach walls up after Labor Day, and then nobody goes in again until May, and that’s very much not the case. Many of our businesses are open year round. The car show (is a way) to say that there’s still beautiful days in September.” 

Typically the show takes place over two days, but the Chamber of Commerce was forced to cancel the second day of the show due to Hurricane Lee. Saturday’s cancelation was disappointing, Howard said, especially given that Saturday is the bigger day for the event because people are off work and the show moves from the street into a park across from the Chamber of Commerce. The award ceremony for the show, which typically takes place on Saturday, was also canceled.

According to Howard, the event was set to have between 350 and 370 cars and draw in at least 600 people before they had to cancel the second day. Over the last three decades the car show has become an institution, she said, attracting people from as far away as Canada and earning a reputation as an important stop for members of New England’s many car clubs.

Strolling down Old Orchard Street, the appreciation for a classic ride was palpable. One show-goer said to another,”I just love the smell. You just don’t get that with an electric vehicle.”


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