Cruisin' The '50s Car Show returns to Newburyport

Aug. 8—NEWBURYPORT — A selection of exotic supercars will join antique and classic automobiles in taking over the downtown when the 10th annual Cruisin' The '50s Car Show rolls in on Thursday.

The car show is presented by the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Arthur S. Page Insurance, and will feature between 250 and 275 classic cars parked along State Street, Inn Street and in the Market Street bullnose and the municipal parking lot on Harris Street.

Wes Pettengill has been curating car shows for three decades and said most of the show cars come from the 1940s through the 1960s — with a few from the early 1970s — but a group of modern supercars, such as Lamborghinis, McLarens and Maseratis, will be parked in the Institution for Savings parking lot on Prospect Street.

"We're talking all of the high-end, $200,000-and-up supercars that have been out there over the last five years and we've got room for about a dozen there," Pettengill said.

More than 20 antique imports will be found on Inn Street, while three high-end cars are also expected to be on display in the Market Street bullnose.

Billy D and the Rockits will be playing in the parking lot behind Newburyport Bank from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and live music is also expected in the Market Street bullnose.

The car show is presented by invitation only and Pettengill has been known for being a good curator.

"Newburyport is unique in that there is no other show in the area that does it by invitation only," he said.

The free car show will take place between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., while show cars are expected to roll into the downtown area at 3 p.m.

"The best seat in the house is Market Square when they drive in. We like to call it 'rolling art.' They check in on State Street and that really is a car show in and of itself because you see every, single car that is entered into the show," Pettengill said.

The car show's antique automobiles will also have a full spectrum of colors represented that Pettengill said you don't see in today's automobiles.

"There's plenty of color, chrome and fins. Most of today's cars are either white, gray or black. If you look at some of the show cars, you will see pastel colors, salmons and pinks. There is turquoise and every shade of the rainbow is in the show cars," he said.

The Cruisin' The '50s Car Show started with only 90 cars in 2012 but most downtown restaurants ended up running out of food that evening, according to Pettengill.

"They just couldn't keep up with the demand and that has never happened again," he said.

The annual car had show grown to bring between 12,000 and 16,000 visitors to the downtown each year, pre-COVID-19, a number that Pettengill said represents the largest annual crowd for a single event in the city.

"I'm not talking about a weeklong event like Yankee Homecoming but this is the largest crowd in Newburyport for a single day," he said.

Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing and Events Erin Duggan said the car show should prove to be a boon to local businesses.

"Our restaurants tell us that this is the best night of their year," she said.

The Amesbury Carriage Museum is also expected to have a presence at the car show, and Pettengill said car owners interested in being invited to the show can call him at 978-465-3140.

The car show also has a rain date scheduled for the following Thursday, Aug. 18.

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Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.