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We Saw It All at the Avants Weird and Wacky Car Show

What Portland, Oregon, doesn’t have in sunny days, it makes up for in weirdos. You don’t have to walk too far in any direction to find something strange in this town. It might be a toy horse tethered to a metal ring on the curb, a person walking an opossum on a lead, or a breathing bagpiper on a unicycle. The Pacific Northwest loves the off-center, and that includes its car clubs. Avants is an enthusiast club with a bent toward the modded and the sporty. They now have branches in Seattle, Portland, Denver, and Southern California, and they organize car shows and other events. In the damp and mossy month of January, Avants in Portland hosted the Weird and Wacky Car Show to give the locals a place to let their freak flags fly, and we sent our weirdest Portland-based correspondent to cover it.

a volvo with anime graphics

Quentin Wilson

If you’re making an event for freaks, why wait until the beautiful warm dry summer? Heck no, let’s do this thing in late January to ensure constant spitting precipitation. Fortunately, to offset the prickly cold moisture, Avants picked an excellent location: IPD Volvo, just east of Portland’s airport. Those Volvistas don’t screw around, and neither do Portlandinians when it comes to Volvo ownership. Your mind would be boggled by the number of P1800s slithering through these streets, and you can’t swing a dead moose around Southeast without hitting some sort of S60 or X90.

Strolling into the IPD parking lot, I was greeted by a black Ferrari, an Audi RS6 Avant, a modded Suzuki Cappuccino, an early-2000s Jaguar X-type wagon, a Suzuki Sidekick with a yellow/turquoise monstera motif, and a Daihatsu Hijet. Frankly, the fact that the Audi, Ferrari, and Jaguar were let in to this show didn’t bode well for weirdness. Is a Suzuki Sidekick weird even if it has ghosted tropical plants on the hood? Is any Ferrari or Jaguar weird? If it were a 288GTO or a Lusso, I would be gobsmacked, but would it be weird? No. I’m about to demand my weird money back, but then, I see a Cinnabar Orange Fiat X1/9 in original condition, and the weird meter starts ticking.

a fiat x19 with the hood up

Next to the Fiat is a Toyota Sera with its dihedral door raised to show off multiple stuffed animals, and the weird meter needle hovers nicely. Por Que Sera, Sera? you ask. Because it was imported from Japan under the 25-year rule. This is definitely a weird car, and I love that it looks like a McLaren F1’s baby cousin.

Let’s skip right over a VW Beetle, because there is absolutely nothing weird about one of those.

I make a beeline to the slate blue Nissan Figaro with an adorable braided basket attached to its exceedingly cute trunklid cargo rack. Nissan introduced this retro-mod concept in the late ’80s and took it into production in the ’90s. The circular headlights and chrome accents blend perfectly across the length of the upside-down-teacup-shaped convertible. Super cool.

Next to the Figaro is another Cappuccino, this time silver with knockoff Advan 3-spokes. When I say knockoff in this crowd, I mean copy, not single lug. The kei cars in the crowd all have Washington plates, because they are not allowed registration in Oregon, which is its own sort of bizarre.

a car with an open clamshell hood

Quentin Wilson

Next up was a late ’60s MG Midget modified with a bitchin’ long-nose fiberglass front end. Not too high on the weird scale, but it was certainly great to see that clamshell open, exposing the twin carbs and air cleaners. Just beyond the MG was a gold BMW 2000 Neue Klasse that was absolutely stunning. This is like the older, more sophisticated sibling to the 2002. This particular unit certainly satisfied my Hofmeister kink, which is difficult to do even in Portland’s open-minded scene. I turned around, and the weird meter pegged with a fully decorated electric blue second-generation Subaru Sambar. It was done up with an interior jungle motif so humid I started sweating despite a 40-degree wind chill.

Just then a first-generation Honda Insight silently glided by, certainly strange even if it is a Honda, which generally speaking, makes some of the least weird cars on earth. Speaking of Honda, there was a first-generation Accord hatchback done up with some tasteful JDM-style mods that included headlight covers, an air dam, and a louvered hatch. I have a soft spot for that car, as it was what my parents had from the time I was born until I was about 13. The meter didn’t show much weirding, but it flickered due to the rarity.

a group of people standing around a car parked on a street

The Accord was flanked by several Isuzu Vehicrosses with their dainty fangs and off-road modifications. These helter-skelter off-roaders are surprisingly capable, with a very solid V-6 engine and a great lightweight chassis. Definitely weird. Past an off-road Volvo SUV and a built Mitsubishi Delica 4X4 was a DeLorean. Even though a DeLorean is a major component of pop culture in the U.S., it is still a rare car and absolutely striking to see in person. Its angles and flats juxtapose perfectly with the amorphous blobs from the ’90s that surrounded it.

Into the IPD building I went and was met with two boxy little 4X4 Fiat Pandas. It was great to see such phenomenal little get-arounds, and they pegged the weird meter and the fun meters simultaneously. Next to the Pandas was a fully built cyan blue IPD Volvo V70R with a set of the classic chonky five-spoke wheels and stance that harkened back to the British Touring Car Championship. Contrasting with the blue was a bright red Mitsubishi Canter Morita fire truck from Japan. Think Isuzu NPR box truck with all kinds of brackets, doors, and flaps to hold hoses, pumps, and equipment.

a white car parked in a garage

Quentin Wilson

In another part of the IPD building was a Renault Robin three-wheeled contraption, the poster car for this event. It is as weird as it gets and very endearing to see in person. Outside the main door was a Checker Marathon. While it’s not weird to anyone who ever hailed a cab in New York City in the late 20th century, this is not something many on the West Coast have had a chance to see, and it had quite a presence in white.

The Renault 2CV is another car that was made in the millions but is as rare as rocking-horse poop in the U.S. The seafoam green example at this show was tremendous. I certainly would want to bop around town in it.

Moto journalist Bryon Dorr braved electrical gremlins to get his jet black Lancia Delta to the show, suffering two complete system shutdowns on the way. I commend him on his wacky spirit, braving the wet roads to get his Italian to the very eyeballs that needed to see it. This was the most handsome car at the show, its only competitors for beauty being a brick red Peugeot 505 STI and a lilac gray Saab 99.

a black car parked in a parking lot

Quentin Wilson

There were a few other Japanese cars that had been modded, such as a late-’80s Supra with a 1UZ V-8 and a Miata with a V-6. For me these didn’t excite my weird meter needle but get honorable mentions. There were also a few Subarus, which I chose to completely ignore. Unless it was the aforementioned Sambar derivative, an XT, or an SVX, no Subaru can ever be called weird in Portland.

There was a distinct lack of BMW Isetta, Messerschmitt, TVR, Rover, Corvair, Bricklin, DKW, Yugo, Unimog, Alfa Romeo, or Trabant presence at this show, all of which I have seen in Portland over my almost two decades here. There was an AMC Hornet and a Porsche 928 parked outside the show that could both have outshone more than a few of the cars that were in it. I am hopeful that this is the start of a yearly event that will eventually wick the oddities out of the bizarre ooze that is Portland’s underground culture.

This article was originally published by a www.caranddriver.com . Read the Original article here. .

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