More than 100 cars drove into UW’s infamous Red Square on the morning of Sunday, May 7. Engine sounds echoed across Suzzallo’s Gothic style, gearshifts bounced off the sandstone, as the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante and more, basked in the end of an era: the 10th (and last) Red Square Car Show.
It began 10 years ago with Jonathan Cats, of Cats Exotics, and his friends at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity during their undergrad days at the UW. He and his frat brothers were looking for opportunities to help the community and his father was well known among car owners (yes, his father is also of Cats Exotics).
“It was just natural for us to throw a car show, to add something extra to the philanthropy,” Cats said.
They went to the only place big enough to host the show on campus, and they’ve been there ever since.
At first, the UW was a challenge. The Red Square has historic buildings, old brickwork and plenty of people to get in the way.
“The hardest part was logistics with UW,” Cats said. “They didn’t really know what to make of this idea, and had several concerns ranging from weight on Red Square to noise from the engines and what not.”
After easing UW’s concerns, the show took off. Over the years, he’s seen Koenigseggs, Jurassic Park Jeeps, Mad Max-style rigs and more Italian supercars than he can remember. On the day in question, there was a DeLorean and Statler Toyota 4×4 set, two LaFerraris, the dirtiest Lamborghini I’ve seen (which tells me its been driven; we approve…), and people talking about the cars and cares in their lives.
(More below gallery.)
The whole time, Cats Exotics and Northwest Auto Salon kept the show going while new people revolved from PAWS, the fraternity, food trucks and other places. A new set of faces to know and a new set of hands to train.
So, for the 10th and final time, vehicles cascaded into Red Square. Stanced VWs next to Triumph Spitfires, BMW Z4 Ms behind a duo of Honda S2000s, an LS-powered Mustangs and a Nintendo-themed Subaru Brat, and the list goes on.
“It’s my third year in a row coming here, a new car each year,” said Robert Wight standing next to the LS-powered ’69 Mustang.
Previously, he’d brought a Datsun B210 he bought the night before the show and won “Most Unique” and last year he brought the kit-car Mach5 from Speed Racer. Wight has around 1,200 horsepower and 10.8L in displacement under the hood of his ‘Stang, and the biggest supercharger that fits the Chevy engine. It’s a beast that has been given the spray paint treatment.
“I wish I’d known about them before hand and come to more. I love that it’s going to a good cause,” Wight said.
All proceeds from the show go to PAWS, the pet adoption center with locations across the Puget Sound. Not only is PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) a place that takes in and adopts pets, but they also work with wildlife rehabilitation and more.
“I’m happy the clouds left and there’s lots of cool cars here,” Jessica Leftwich, a staff member at PAWS, who was partial to anything brightly colored. “It’s super duper exciting to know that there’s a whole community of people like this that will come out and support us, and help us in supporting the animals.”
In past years, they’ve received thousands of dollars of funding. (As of publication, the amount had not yet been finalized.) Pets abound at the show, many with dogs meandered through the crowd and we spotted one cat on a halter. The people and pets becoming as much what the show is about as the vehicles.
“It’s awesome. The suns out, everybody’s got their shades on, it’s beautiful weather, perfect cars; I can’t complain,” said Michael Finnelly, owner of a 1981 Mercedes Turbo Diesel and a BMW M5 in Alpine White. “I’ve come in years past as a spectator, but it’s for charity, so I brought two.”
After chitchatting about his two rides we got down to the matter at hand, the end of an era.
“I’m a little confused and upset. This is my third year coming and this looks like the best turnout yet and the best weather. I’d like it to continue, even if it’s a different venue or anything,” Finnelly said.
Sadly, it’s not about venues, nor weather…
“Other car shows in the area this big have a full-time staff dedicated to throwing them,” Cats said. “That just isn’t possible for us, so we decided to sunset the event on a high note.”
And that it has.
Personally, I’d come as a student, then as an alum of the UW and a professional auto journalist covering the place that made me what I am today. Like me, there are plenty of people at the show who had connections to the place (UW) and to the cars sprawling across the brickwork.
The S2000 duo took pictures in front of Gothic Suzzallo, a third S2000 made sure the LS-powered Mustang got up and running before heading off, a red Italian stayed put as the owner chitchatted as the light started to head behind Meany Hall.
“I don’t think it will quite hit me until I am pulling out of Red Square for one last time,” Cats said. “I’ve spent countless hours planning this event over the years and really poured my heart and soul into it. It has not been easy, but it has been extremely rewarding.”
Wedding parties taking pictures and skate boarders testing their mad skillz took the place of Nobles and VW Buses. I watched the final cars leave the Square, one last parade before the curtain falls, and knew this was the end of something special.
“As they say, ‘All good things must come to an end’,” Cats said. “To say I won’t be a little sad would be lying… But it is on to other projects for me personally. I love giving back to the community, and will find other ways to continue to do so.”
On behalf of all those who have attended or entered the show, I’d like to give a sincere Thank you to Jonathan Cats, the crews at Cats Exotics and Northwest Auto Salon, the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the many volunteers who made the last 10 years a sight to behold and to the UW for providing a space for us gearheads and carnuts.
I wish there was a moment to have applauded all your efforts before the cars started leaving, but you deserve a standing ovation. Thank you for 10 years of amazing car shows.
This article has been edited for accuracy.
(Note: There were 188 photos that made it through edits. Next week, we will feature 5-days of Red Square Car Show photo galleries, so keep your eyes peeled for the full set! Share and tag your friends! For now, enjoy this smattering of car pics.)