Gilmore roars again with 25th annual Gilmore Heritage Auto Show

It sometimes seems like there’s no actual history in Los Angeles. You might not be surprised if scholars and archeologists agreed that everything west of about Palm Springs was built out of stucco and fiberglass in 1983. But there is history in the place, and one of the most exciting examples of it is Gilmore Stadium.

A.F. Gilmore started a dairy farm in 1880 at what would later become Third and Fairfax in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Around 1900, drilling for water for his cows, Gilmore struck oil instead and started the Gilmore Oil Co. He ushered the cows off the land and soon there were oil derricks all over his dairy farm and 3,500 Gilmore gas stations across the West. Gilmore took some of that gas money and built a stadium on part of the land for a new sport called Midget racing.

The stadium held 18,000 fans and was one of the biggest draws in Southern California at the time. The racing ran from 1934 to 1950, when the land on which the stadium sat became too valuable and it was sold to become CBS Television City. Television City saw taping of everything from “The Carol Burnett” and “Red Skelton” shows to “All in the Family” and “Wheel of Fortune.” It’s still used for television production.

Other institutions on the property include a shopping development called The Grove and LA’s original Farmers Market, which still sells fruits and vegetables along with one of the widest varieties of international cuisine available in Southern California.

To commemorate the site’s racing heritage, once a year there’s a car show called the Gilmore Heritage Auto Show. The show is sponsored by A.F. Gilmore, one of the Gilmore family whose ancestors originally developed the land. Cars are parked along some of the walkways in and around Farmers Market. Each year’s show has a theme: woodies, tailfins, lowriders, Mustang Ranch, Thunderbirds, and, for the show’s 13th anniversary, it was black cars. This year’s show, held June 1, was themed Muscle Cars. To that end, there were 40 of the great muscle cars of the early ’70s scattered around the market, along with another 60 big American classics.

“It’s always an American car show,” said director David Freedman, who has been running the show for 21 of its 25 years. “The Gilmores always raced American cars, so the show will always have American cars.”

Next year will be themed American Royalty, with Cadillacs and Lincolns and other grand marques. God bless America!

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