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2009 Grand National
Cadillac & LaSalle Club
Las Vegas, Nevada
June 17-21st, 2009
SoCal Cadillac
Club Members



Grand National 2009

By Rob Leonard

Las Vegas was a fantastic place for a Cadillac & LaSalle Club Grand National. Despite the recession America’s playground is bustling with excitement. The strip is bigger and better than ever and construction of even more opulent hotels continues unabated. The choices of things to do and see are never ending with hundreds of shows, restaurants, casinos, shops, and spectacles of unending variety. Vegas is thought-of as a gambling Mecca, but non-gamblers such as myself are always winners as we have more time to explore the Strip. Anyone with eyes, ears, taste buds, and more than a little cash will have a great time in Vegas. I could stay for a month and not see it all.

The SouthPoint, host hotel for the GN, is a beautiful resort with large well appointed rooms, a huge pool and Jacuzzi, movie theaters, restaurants, a bowling alley, a casino, and on June 20, 2009, an exhibit hall filled with well over 100 of the world’s most beautiful Cadillacs and LaSalles. 

During the week prior to the big CLC show I opted for two days of tours; the Phil Maloof Collection and Shelby Museum on Tuesday, and the Sunbelt & Imperial Palace Auto Collection on Thursday. The Maloof Collection included his home and cars. His home was filled with hundreds of statues, and contained two rooms with large pipe organs and memorabilia of all sorts. It was opulent to say the least. His car collection consisted of 150 of various makes and models. My favorites were more than a dozen ’41 Cadillacs of many different colors, most of which were displayed in a garage all their own.

The Shelby Museum and Production facility included an area devoted to the last five decades of Carroll Shelby’s life and his products over those decades, including the very first AC Cobra built in 1962. The shop floor was filled with dozens of customer’s cars undergoing performance upgrades. We had a fantastic docent/salesman that provided detailed insights into both the man and his machines. This guy was a true professional making it one of the best tours I’ve ever taken. 

The Sunbelt automobile collection is undoubtedly the most enjoyable I have ever seen. Jim Rogers began collecting cars in the 1980s. His collection grew to over 200 cars; half of them convertibles. The collection is housed in two warehouses; one for the convertibles and one for the non-convertibles. Almost all the cars were of American makes and most were built from 1941 to 1965. The non-convertibles were beautiful, but the convertible collection was stunning. As one tour participant stated after ogling over the convertibles, “I have seen heaven, and I like it.”

The Imperial palace collection is one that I have viewed several times over the past 20 years. Since it is always changing, it is always somewhat new. Most of the cars on display are for sale, with prices geared to the drunken gambler that just hit it big at the tables and has a boatload of money burning a whole in his pocket. Unfortunately, the quality of the cars on display is not what is used to be and the hotel itself is really looking run-down. I will skip this collection the next time I am in Vegas.  

On the Wednesday before the big CLC show I attended three seminars. The first, on automotive air conditioning, was given by Gregory Surfas from the Alamo region. It was very insightful and gave me a newfound respect for the complexities of the issues involved in keeping our decades old systems functioning. The second was on lubricants and general automotive questions. The lubricants guy was from Mobil 1 and was in full marketing mode. The mechanic was a LV CLC Region VP David Fornes. He is a Certified Cadillac mechanic with 40 years of experience. He was great – and absolute fountain of knowledge. The third seminar was on CLC Regions development. It was interesting to hear of the issues from Regions around the country and Australia. Some challenges were the same everywhere while others were unique to various parts of the country stemming from differences in weather, culture, and congestion. 

That evening the opening night reception was held with a “Fabulous ‘50s” theme celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Cadillac. There was live music, a dance floor, a hamburger buffet, and two 1959 Cadillacs parked among the attendees. Much fun was had by all. 

Friday - the day before the big show - was dedicated to preparing and placing 100+ Cadillacs and LaSalles into the indoor show area. Everyone was busy with their car and visiting with friends from across the country. This was my fourth GN and I now know hundreds of CLCers from a dozen or more Regions. CLC members from California outnumbered those from all other states – even Nevada! 

Saturday was the big show. The general public was invited to attend at $15 each. Hundreds came and gawked at our beautiful machines. At the busiest point there were so many people that one could barely walk among the cars. The cars glistened under the hall lights and all enjoyed a great show out of the midday sun and in air conditioned comfort. 

That evening the week culminated in the awards banquet. I must admit that in the past I found this mainstay of Grand Nationals to be too dull and too long. I am happy to report that this “tradition” was broken in Vegas. The decorations – especially the table center pieces (I “won” one) were splendid, the dinner delicious, the desert fabulous, and the Elvis impersonator hilarious. John Bergler was a witty and entertaining host. When it came time for the personal achievement awards our very own Tom Hall most deservingly won the “Self Starter Author of the Year Award”. The car awards moved along mercifully efficiently and the whole affair finished 15 minutes early. Bravo to all for making the awards banquet an experience I now look forward to at future GNs. 

My congratulations to John Bergler, Jerry Parsons, Colin Christie, Lauren Schweitzser, Betty Formes, Hal Sheaks, David Formes, John Villano, Bob & Sharon Koteras, Carolyn Weaver, Bob Cardillo, Edward Pentesco, and many others from the LV Region and from National for putting on a GN that will always be remembered. My week in Vegas had many highlights, but the one that sticks out was riding down the strip in the back seat of Charles Thompson’s ’49 convertible. Thanks Charles.
Copyright © 2010
Date Last Updated: September 26, 2018
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