The Boston Cup Puts A Car Show In America’s Oldest Public Park
Photography by Thomas Lavin
When you hear the word Boston, one thinks of red brick buildings, the Red Sox, clam chowder, and of course the accent. The city is known for many things, and if we’re being honest, cars aren’t one of them. However, since 2012, the historic Boston Commons has been host to a small, curated car show known simply as The Boston Cup. Held in mid-September in the nation’s oldest public park, the event is one of the few in this New England city, and certainly Boston’s last major show of the year.
Before going into the specifics of what turned up, I’ll start with a broader perspective. To start, the pace of the event was very different than any I’ve experienced before. Being from Southern California, I am used to most automotive events unofficially starting before the sun even rises, and so habit took over and I made an effort to get to this one for the start. Arriving 15 minutes before the scheduled start time of 6:00AM, I hoped to catch some of the trailered vehicles unloading for the day, but when I arrived at the Commons I was stunned to be accompanied only by the occasional jogger and park ranger; the show field was still completely empty. As the sun began to rise though, I heard the familiar sounds of trailer latches and sliding ramps. The first to depart their trailers under the waining cover of darkness included a fantastically rare 1929 Alfa Romeo GC 1750 SS, which was accompanied a few minutes later by a sublime Ferrari 275 GTB, its red shell taking on a golden coat in the early light.
30 minutes had already passed since the scheduled start, and still only a handful of cars had arrived, many of which were simply cars from the local sponsoring dealer. After a few more minutes though they began to trickle in, first with a pair of nearly matching 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 750 Sprints and then a well maintained and tastefully modified BMW 2800 CS. An hour having past since the start at this point, cars started to drive into the Commons like clockwork. A heard of massive Packards lumbered through the park like combustion-powered elephants, followed shortly thereafter by a stunning burgundy Rolls and a menagerie of post-war Mercedes led by an absolutely gorgeous BMW 507, which later went on to win the “First in German Class” award. For the next two hours a parade of vehicles entered from many different corners of the automotive world.
The lawn itself was divided into multiple sections organized primarily by nation of origin, then by year within that, and all encircling one large bandstand. With attendees ranging from brass age horseless carriages to a 1978 BMW M1 up to an immaculate Porsche 918 Spyder, diversity was clearly not an issue. All of these concours-class vehicles were, rather unfortunately, surrounded by a small barrier. While this certainly aided in photography, it did keep many enthusiasts at more than arm’s length from most of the vehicles. However, this was very loosely enforced early in the morning, with many other early-risers and eager enthusiasts using the opportunity to take their photos mostly unobstructed.
As the temperature steadily rose with the sun, so too did the size of the crowd. The event’s central location in one of, if not the most popular tourist spots in the city drew attendees from all over the globe, and each nationality seemed magnetically attracted to their own country’s vehicles, with the French migrating towards the 2CV and DS while the Italians, and admittedly many Americans, were fascinated with the array of Alfas, Ferraris, Lancias, and even a 1947 Cisitalia 202 Spyder Mille Miglia, one of just nine all original examples. The Cisitalia, unsurprisingly, won the “Best in Show” award for the European category.
Perhaps most interesting aspect of the event was not the cars though, but the owners themselves. Most had brought a large amount of lawn chairs and were always happy to discuss their vehicles and their respective histories at some length. My most interesting conversations were with the owners of two restoration shops, who were eager to point out the most minute details of the vehicles they had devoted so much time into rebuilding and maintaining. One of these shop owners showed me and a few onlookers a massive, Great Gatsby-esque 1932 Cadillac V16 Madame X Imperial Cabriolet. In addition to being the only Madame X Cadillac built that year, the vehicle featured inlaid stainless steel instead of traditional painted pinstripes down the entire length of the body. The attention to detail on this car alone was staggering, and it’s something I never would’ve noticed had the owner and mechanic not stayed around to chat with random enthusiasts like myself.
Like the city it’s held in, the Boston Cup has diversity. No two cars nor owners were identical. Each had an interesting story and history that was proudly on display or one that was willing to be shared in conversation. At the end of the day, the event was a fantastic celebration of a lesser known aspect of Boston’s culture. The city of Boston, which I would go as far to call the most beautiful city in America, thankfully has some of the most beautiful cars as well.