Groundbreaking Cannara Sports Car from the 1960s Makes Carolinas Debut at Charlotte AutoFair
Fresh from a frame-off restoration, one of the earliest cars of the “wedge” design movement, the 1966 Cannara I, will make its Carolinas debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair.
Some of the world’s most exciting sports cars—the Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit, and Fiat X1/9, to name but a few—owe their striking appearances to a styling philosophy born in the late 1960s that emphasizes triangular profiles. Nothing looks faster sitting still than a car whose body conforms to a strict wedge shape, beginning with a sharply pointed nose and ending with a tall, truncated rear.
- What makes the Cannara so special? The Atomic Silver roadster coming to AutoFair is not just another in a long list of beautiful “flying doorstops”; current owner Guy Dirkin makes a good argument that it was the “legitimate historical anchor of wedge car design.” (The book Dirkin wrote about the history of the wedge movement and the Cannara’s place in it can be read for free at com.)
- Was it really the earliest wedge? Fifteen-year-old Ray Cannara won a $4,000 scholarship in the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild National competition in 1962 and began building a full-size car of his own design. Cannara finished the self-named roadster in 1966, in time to start his junior year at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. A year later, Lamborghini displayed a wedge-shaped concept car, the four-seater Marzal, at the auto show in Geneva Switzerland. The Marzal, which never saw production but inspired the company’s Espada, is considered to be the first true wedge from a manufacturer.
- How did a Florida teenager build such a forward-looking car? Cannara clearly had a talent from a young age, and that carried him into a distinguished career as a designer with the Chrysler Group, from which he retired in 2001. The roadster tested his ingenuity at every turn. Unlike most wedge cars that followed, the Cannara (whose fiberglass and aluminum body sits atop a modified 1958 Chevrolet station wagon chassis and powertrain) did not have its engine located behind the passenger compartment. Fashioning a low hood line around a tall, front-mounted V-8 was a challenge.
- Can it be driven? It was Ray Cannara’s transportation for many years, and he drove it from Florida to California twice. He sold it in the 1970s and assumed it would never be seen again. A member of the Undiscovered Classics enthusiasts’ group found it, at which point some amazing detective work uncovered the car’s identity. It was recently restored and shown at the 2022 Amelia Island concours d’elegance.
The 1966 Cannara I roadster, provided by The Dirkin Collection of Clermont, Florida, isn’t the only vehicle of historic interest coming to the April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Showcase Pavilion will also feature Rick Hendrick’s $5 million Ferrari LaFerrari, a Ford GT40 that starred in the Ford v Ferrari movie, the “Best of the Best” of the recent car show circuit, and a nostalgic display of AMC products.
The Charlotte AutoFair features more than 50 car club displays and more than 10,000 vendor spaces offering an array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway throughout the four-day show. Hours for the April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Adult single-day tickets are just $10 on Thursday and Sunday, $15 on Friday and Saturday. A four-day weekend pass is available for just $40. Admission is FREE for children 12 and under with an adult. AutoFair tickets are available online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com, or at the gate.
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