Fairgrounds show features classic cars, antiques, petroliana

Story by Alma Gaul, Aug 31, 2019 for the Quad Cities Times


Sitting in his warehouse of petrolina and "mantiques," Rob Wolfe talks about the upcoming Davenport Americana Sho Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. The event brings together three shows at one location, the Past Gas Car Show & Cruis with a wide range of antiques and vintage items and the Premiere Petroliana Auction. KEVIN E. SCHMIDT photos

Rob Wolfe wants everybody in the Quad-Cities interested in classic cars, drag racing, old-time vintage collectibles, especially petroliana, and all-purpose antiques to mark Sept. 12-14 on their calendars.


That's when he and collector John Wells, of Bettendorf, will present a three-prong show dubbed Davenport Americana at Davenport's Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.


It'll be a combination classic car show — including "10 of the best" from the private collection of K.V. and Vinje Dahl, of Dahl Ford — a general antiques sale and a two-day auction of petroliana, including the prized collection of Lee Smith, a widely known Quad-City drag racer of the '60s and '70s.


Food, music (especially old-time country), special attractions and classes/demonstrations for children and teens, such as welding and how to make neon signs, will be thrown in for continuous entertainment.


"People won't be bored, I can tell you that," said Wolfe, whose brother, Mike, is one of the stars of "American Pickers," a hit show on the History cable channel. Rob is into picking, too, specializing in petroliana and "mantiques." He recently closed the landscape business he had operated for 32 years.


Special attractions will include the appearance of a Futurliner, one of 12 large Art Deco-style buses made by the General Motors Co. and used from the 1930s to '50s as a traveling exhibition promoting future cars and technologies. Another attraction will be the "Flamin' '54 Chevy Scorcher," a car modified to spew 40-foot flames from its tailpipes.


The idea for Davenport Americana came to Wolfe over the past five years as he was traveling the country, attending big shows in other places. "I thought, why can't we do a show like this?"


He also wants to kindle interest in younger generations that don't seem as interested in old stuff as he is. He's hoping to give them "something else to do than look at their phones."


"The big thing for me is giving back to the kids. Kids, kids, kids."


His goal is to grow the show into a regional, if not national, event that will survive him. "I'm 53. When I die, what have I given back to the industry? This is something we can leave here so it can continue to survive me."


Although Wolfe's big interest is cars and car-related items, he knows that not everyone shares that enthusiasm so, for them, there is the general antiques show and sale. Repurposed items, a current hot trend in decorating, will be included, too.