A crowd of people gather behind a line of vintage cars at the “Cars & Coffee” car show held by the Museum of American Speed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Landon Wirt.
A crowd of people gather behind a line of vintage cars at the “Cars & Coffee” car show held by the Museum of American Speed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Landon Wirt.

In May 2020, curator Tim Matthews and the rest of the staff at the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln were faced with a difficult decision.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down most elements of day-to-day life worldwide, the museum that is dedicated to preserving, interpreting and displaying physical items significant in racing and automotive history had to weigh the pros and cons of hosting one of the museum’s most wildly popular events: the “Cars & Coffee” car show. 

Held on the final Saturday of each month from May through October from 8 a.m. to noon, the event grew from attracting about 45 cars in 2016 to upwards of 700 cars in 2022, according to Matthews. He said the event attracts car enthusiasts from across the state, and vintage cars on display line the spacious parking lots of the Museum of American Speed and the Speedway Motors building next door. 

The event holds esteem among car enthusiasts in Nebraska, according to Matthews, for its laid-back approach. Unlike traditional vintage car shows, Cars and Coffee does not have formal judging, and those that bring a unique car can come and go as they please. According to Matthews, the show further appeals to families and participants through no-cost participation and attendance and, of course, free coffee and donuts. Participants that bring a specialty car also receive free entry to the museum.

Due to the safety of museum employees and those that attend the event, though, Matthews said the museum made the difficult decision not to have shows in the spring of 2020. 

“When we made the decision to cancel, there were a lot of folks calling us saying ‘Are you kidding me? We need Cars & Coffee,’” Matthews said. “People wanted to get together;, they were willing to take the risk to be able to see each other and enjoy old cars.” 

Shutting down the event during the pandemic ultimately didn’t cause too much harm to the Museum of American Speed, as both the Cars & Coffee event and the museum are back up and running without restrictions. Still, the fact that Nebraskans were willing to risk a once-in-a-century pandemic to gather and celebrate vintage cars is indicative of an underappreciated, robust car culture in the Cornhusker state. 

For those who partake in the culture daily, serious work needs to be done to ensure that Nebraska’s car culture carries over to the next generation, according to those involved in Nebraska’s vintage car scene.


Dozens of vintage car groups exist in Nebraska as of October 2022, which allow groups of people who either own similar makes or models of a certain car brand or people with a passion for vintage cars in general to connect. 

Jeff Most, a longtime Lincoln resident who also works as a docent for the Museum of American Speed, is a member of one such group. Most has been a member of the Capitol City Ford and Mustang Club since moving back to Nebraska in 2015. 

Most’s story is not dissimilar to most Nebraskans who grew up during the “muscle car era” of the 1960s and 1970s. He fondly remembered his first car, a 1969 Pontiac LeMans, which he purchased for $600 while he was in high school. The car was in rough shape, and he remembers spending nearly $2,000 of his own money to get the vehicle into proper condition.

After graduating high school, though, Most loaned the car to his mom and sister while he went and served in the United States Navy. When he returned, the car was in a completely different condition. 

“They pretty much destroyed it while I was gone; it got pretty banged up,” Most said. “I wound up selling the car for about $600 and swore I’d never fix up another car again.”

The promise didn’t last long. 

About 40 years ago, after Most had met his wife, he stumbled across a 1967 Ford Mustang accumulating dust in a barn owned by his father-in-law. Seeing that car reignited Most’s passion, and he decided to spend the next decade fixing it up. The project required plenty of sacrifices and long-term patience, according to Most. 

“Our kids were little, and there was only so much money to go around, so I would work on it when I had money and when I didn’t, I would collect more parts or whatever else I needed,” Most said. “Over the course of 10 years, due to stubborn persistence and determination, the car was done.” 

The project was completed about 27 years ago, according to Most, and he described the car as a “family heirloom.” When he and his wife moved back to Lincoln, Most and his wife wanted to fill their newly-found free time after retirement with some activities around the city, one of which was the Capital City Ford and Mustang Club. It was a perfect fit because of his 1967 Mustang, and because he already had friends in the club, plus he met one of his next-door neighbors at the first meeting he attended. 

Major tenants of the Capital City Ford and Mustang Club — and most car clubs in Nebraska — involve car shows and community service. For example, Most’s club recently finished up a car show on Sept. 11 at Southeast Community College that raised money for local charities. Getting to highlight vintage cars so the community can enjoy them, as well as the element of community service, are hugely important to vintage car groups. 

Above all, according to Most, the community and camaraderie among members in vintage car groups is what makes the experience so special for Nebraskans. 

“It’s the friendly people, it’s the knowledge base… if you have a question about something, someone knows that answer, or you can find someone that knows the answer,” Most said. 


However, groups like Most’s are facing a major conundrum in 2022. 

It boils down to a relatively simple, albeit macabre, truth. People who own and enjoy vintage cars are passing away, leaving vintage car groups with fewer members and future generations with less of a desire for vintage cars in general. As a result, there has been a major push in the vintage car world to expand efforts to reach the next generation of vintage car enthusiasts.

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Jeff Most, a longtime Lincoln resident and member of the Capitol City Ford and Mustang Club, says that vintage car groups are working hard to reach the next generation of car enthusiasts.

“It’s discussed often, whether at car club meetings or at the museum, of making vintage cars relevant for the next generation,” Most said. “That is the challenge in the car club world, to keep things relevant and bring more people into it.”

Matthews has felt that underlying truth as well, and he said the museum has considered its long-term future in recent years. Continuing to appeal to car enthusiasts is important, as well as bringing in and maintaining interesting exhibits for museum-goers to enjoy, but Matthews said the museum is starting to extend its outreach. 

“The way you ensure that the museum will be around for a long, long time is to make sure the city loves it, make sure the people that live in Lincoln know about it and love it, make sure that people from all over the world start to learn about it,” Matthews said. “And the way you do that is by catering to everybody from all walks of life.” 

As far as how the Museum of American Speed has materialized this, Matthews said it has come through an organizational shift in philosophy. Before Matthews started working for the Museum of American Speed, he said the museum catered more towards hardcore car enthusiasts. 

When he began his work as a curator six years ago, he said the museum began shifting toward serving the Lincoln community as a whole. One of those changes included starting to open the museum on Saturdays, which eventually led to the wildly successful Cars & Coffee show. 

For Matthews, the assessment that the vintage car scene is “dying” is an accurate takeaway, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. 

“It’s easy to look at the situation right now and say, ‘Oh, well, it’s dying,’ but I think there are a lot of forces at play,’” Matthews said. “… I think that, just like anything, it’s maybe not as fashionable right now, but it’ll bounce back. We’re so connected to transportation that it’s bound to make a different swing.” 


For Jim McNeil, one of the founding members of the Rebels Auto Club in Lincoln, giving back through community outreach is the most surefire way to reach the next generation of car enthusiasts.

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Jim McNeil (left) is a longtime member of the vintage car scene in Nebraska. To him, a commitment to service is one way that vintage car groups can leave a lasting impact.

McNeil has been involved in the vintage car scene in Nebraska for decades and has been involved with the  Rebels Car Club since the second iteration of the group was founded in 1996. 

The Rebels Auto Club puts on various events throughout the year, like car shows. McNeil said the group’s 25th annual car show is coming up, and all proceeds go to Southeast Community College’s Milford Campus — which houses several trade programs in the automobile industry. Other events the group holds help benefit Lincoln charities like the Matt Talbot Kitchen Outreach and the Heartland Cancer Foundation.

“Whatever money we earn in a year, we give it all away,” McNeil said. 

He, too, understands the sobering reality of the vintage car scene in the state. As fondly as McNeil looks back on the good times he’s shared with the Rebels Auto Club, he brings the same amount of gravity towards the current state of vintage car groups like the Rebels. He said the group isn’t as active as it used to be and vintage car groups around the city are in serious danger of extinction due to members passing away. 

“You go down and look at the Cornhusker Model A Ford club here in town, the Nifty Fifties club here in town. They’re down to six members now because all of the rest of ‘em have passed away,” McNeil said. 

In that regard, the Rebels are fortunate. McNeil said the group’s members range in age from 84 on the oldest side to 44 on the youngest side, plus a few children of group members mixed in. Still, McNeil understands that work needs to be done to ensure a different demographic of people come to understand and appreciate vintage cars, the work that goes into maintaining them and vintage car groups. 

Last summer, McNeil’s group partnered with another Lincoln-based car club, the Midwest Rollers, in response to a tragic car accident. Over Memorial Day Weekend, two cars collided during an unofficial car cruise down O street. In total, the crash killed two people and injured 20 others. 

The Rebels Auto Club and Midwest Rollers joined forces to support two teens injured in the crash, Aaron Swanson and Hannah Wadiso and put together a cruise and a car show with all proceeds going towards Swanson and Wadiso’s medical bills. Not only did McNeil and the rest of the Lincoln car community feel it important to help out victims of the crash, but they also wanted to show the Lincoln community how to safely run a car show. 

Even in the months after the fundraising car cruise and car show took place on Sept. 5, the event still weighs heavily on McNeil. He tearfully recalled the outpouring of support shown for Swanson and Wadiso, evident by the hundreds of cars participating in the cruise. Both teens participated in the cruise too, and rode in vintage cars of their choosing, cars McNeil worked tirelessly behind the scenes to secure. 

“It was pretty cool what we were able to do that day,” McNeil said. 

Moments like the cruise in support of Swanson and Wadiso give McNeil hope for the future of the vintage car scene in Nebraska. Even though the Rebels aren’t as active as they were in their heyday, McNeil said he is incredibly appreciative of the connections he’s made around the city through his involvement in the vintage car scene

And, despite how grim things may seem presently for vintage car groups and vintage car enthusiasts, Most and Matthews agree that Nebraskans’ passion for vintage cars won’t subside. Now that they know what work needs to be done, the trio is confident their love of cars will carry over for generations to come. 

“I think that it can stay relevant and strong. It’s just going to take some work,” Most said. “We just have to focus, but that is the challenge. That is the struggle.” 

Hello, my name is Landon Wirt and I'm a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying sports media and communications. I'm a passionate Kansas City sports supporter and enjoy exercising and spending time with my friends in my free time. I hold a role as a communications intern for the Kansas City Current of the NWSL (#TealRising) and hope to work in or around sports upon graduating from college!