It was a hot, sunshiny day, so Sheldon Omar Abba was strolling the lot at 15th and Lehigh with a red bandana hanging under his black cap. Behind him was a crab shack selling eats and a snack shop pushing much appreciated cups of red and blue water ice. Surrounding them were the sounds of throwback hip hop and R&B.
“Angelllll,” crooned 80s soul singer Angela Winbush from the speakers as Omar Abba stepped around the gravel-covered property. “I figured it out, you’ve got to be an angel.”
But at the inaugural Philadelphia Car Show in North Philly on Sunday, it was a different classic track by MC Breeze that really captured the vibe.
“Mt. Airy! West Philly! Da Bottom! North Philly! South Philly! West Oak Lane! Bartram Village!” the rapper shouts. “We all know where it started and we don’t mean to offend. But it ain’t New York this time everybody, ’cause Philly’s steppin’ in!”
Omar Abba, a 34-year-old North Philly transplant from Danbury, Ct., organized the car show in partnership with Wayne Lemon — aka Chev V aka Kaang — a West Philadelphia native whose family owns an auto shop on 24th and Harold streets.
“Today, we got all these beautiful cars coming out and people who just enjoy a good time,” Kaang, 29, told Billy Penn. “So that’s what we here for today.”
What started as a community-engagement photo project this summer morphed into a formal collaborative car meetup, complete with a website and email list. The event was the first of its kind — albeit not exactly. Philly’s classic car scene and robust community meetups have been booming for decades, the organizers explained.
“The goal we set out recently is to make everybody’s part look big,” Kaang said. “Because there’s mad people. Every region. They do stuff up Pennypack [Park], some of these guys. Other guys all the way out the [Belmont] Plateau all the time. It’s guys who do stuff up Mt. Airy all the time.
“There’s a huge car culture in Philly.”
Here’s some of the sights, scenes and stories from the first official Philadelphia Car Show.
Sheldon Omar Abba, North Philly, show organizer
“It started as a personal photo project that I was gonna call ‘Philly Car Show.’ But as we started getting into it, [it’s] now way more of a collaboration with the neighborhood and with my homie Wayne. All these dudes are what makes this place happen.”
Terrance Graham, Philly, ’65 Plymouth Fury III
“I frequent all the car shows in this neighborhood: over at Dell East, one on Stenton Ave. You get to exchange notes with all the other motorheads, gearheads. It’s just a few of us that get together and do the same thing every weekend. It’s a relaxation for me; get to come out and chill, admire the other cars that’s out here. Come for a good time.”
Wayne Lemon aka Chev V aka Kaang, West Philly, show organizer
“We welded a trophy up for [the Car Show winner] so it’d be real gearhead like. They think they might be about to get a real nice trophy and all that, but we welded some pipes and some metal together and we’re like, ‘We’ll give you a real car show trophy.’”
Gabriel Blue, Southwest Philly, ’79 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham
“I think a lot of people that’s not from Philly that’s into cars, they underestimate us. They forget about us. But we are up here. We have a lot of cars. We can lay down paint, we can do rims, we can do everything.”
Steve Logan, West Philly, ’82 Oldsmobile Cutlass
“We’re a West Philadelphia car club from Felton Street, the West Philly Felton Street Cruisers. I have a couple luxury cars but this is the only race car I have. It’s a classic. It’s a classic street car.”
Dane Plummer and Wayne Lemon, West Philly, ’72 Chevy Nova (and a few others)
Lemon: “A new car couldn’t touch these cars. The quality, the ride, the value. Wouldn’t touch it.”
Plummer: “For people who like cars, it’s no problem wasting your time fixing cars because you like it, instead of just going out and buying a new car that’s already fixed up, which isn’t gonna seem fun.”
Bruce Davis, North Philly, ’98 Mercury Grand Marquis on 30s
“Pretty much these cars is like our foreign cars. Our Maserati’s, our BMWs, our Benzes. How much they put into they car, we put the same amount.”
Jessi Koch, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia show organizer
“From an outside observer perspective, I would say that it’s an opportunity to bring people together. People are supporting each other, learning from each other, sharing resources informally and also its just something to gather around. I think that there’s a meditative wellness self-care aspect to it. You are concentrating fully in this one thing, taking you outside of all of the other chaos that happens in our world and able to just focus on something beautifully.
“I see a lot of pride in the work and I think that that’s really important. And tradition also, carrying on a tradition from generation to generation.”
Kenny Patterson, Philly, ’88 Chevy Caprice Wagon
“I’m about $10,000 in music, paint job was $4,800, wheels was $5,000, motor was $4,200. So a lot of money is in this car. It wasn’t overnight. Time, hard work and effort. My daddy was an auto mechanic so I just followed the trade of my dad. I just fell in love with cars and that’s what I stayed doing, auto mechanics and everything.”
Derrick Walton aka L.A., Lansdowne by way of Compton, ’84 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham lowrider on hydraulics
“People have their own twist on things but where it comes from, you should keep the authenticity. And that’s what I’m doing, that’s what I’m trying to maintain — the West Coast authenticity even though I’m on the East.
“I’ve been doing this almost 30 years and I don’t think I’mma ever stop. I’m never gonna stop. I’m always being a lowrider ’til the day I die.”