More AutoFair Attractions

Charlotte Motor Speedway is where the world first met the animated characters of the hit movie "CARS," and its stars are returning for the Sept. 14-17 Food Lion AutoFair.

The Disney-Pixar film, which premiered prior to the Coca-Cola 600 in May, tells the story of race car Lightning McQueen, a rookie in the Piston Cup Series who ends up stranded in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs.

McQueen becomes friends with the town's offbeat characters such as Sally Carrera, his Porsche love interest, and Mater, a fun-loving tow truck. Along the way, McQueen learns there is more to life than winning races and getting to the top of the sponsorship food chain.

An unqualified hit with the public, "CARS" recently crossed the quarter-billion dollar mark in box office sales. To celebrate their success, McQueen and co-stars Sally, Mater and Mack, an 18-wheel tractor trailer transporter, have been touring the country through a series of special displays.

Bringing the animated stars to life required the skills of Hollywood car builder Eddie Paul, whose shop, Customs By Eddie Paul, has created such memorable four-wheeled icons as John Travolta's customized Greased Lightning from the movie "Grease" and Vin Diesel's Pontiac GTO from "xXx."

Despite more than 30 years of experience building everything from alien space crafts to shark submarines, Paul found quite a challenge in transforming animated characters into life-size automobiles and trucks.

"This was the first time real-life cars had to be built entirely from digital animation files," Paul explained. "We needed high-tech equipment, specialized computers and the help of several corporate partners such as Porsche, Bosch and Craftsman to get the job done."

Paul's lead painter, Brian Hatano, donated his 1987 Pontiac Trans-Am which became Lightning; Porsche brought a 2002 Carrera for Sally; and a late 1970's dually pick-up was located for Mater. After working 16 hours a day for three straight months, Paul's team revealed the sheet-metal versions of Disney-Pixar's most lovable automotive characters.

"The Disney-Pixar animators were the pickiest customers I've ever had, but for good reason," Paul said. "They called constantly and visited several times a week throughout the project to make sure every little detail was exactly like the vision of their characters. But I think we succeeded. These vehicles bring the same smiles and laughs to people in person that the animated characters do to people in the theater."

Lightning, Sally, Mater and Mack will be on display at the Food Lion Pavilion throughout the four-day Food Lion AutoFair.

Other attractions scheduled for the Sept. 14-17 event include a display of vintage wood-bodied wagons, the Ultimate Surfmobile from Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage," an unusual Ford Model A pickup covered with a history of cartoons and a 40th Anniversary gathering of another important American muscle car that has recently been revived: the Shelby GT-500 Mustang. Dozens of examples of vintage farm machinery, courtesy of the Stumptown Tractor Club, will fill the show lot next to the infield Pavilion, and there will be an automotive art gallery.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For information, contact the speedway events department at 704-455-3205 or click here.