Huntley Tarleton has always been a “car guy.” “My dad got me into cars when I was a teenager,” he said.
Tarleton started running the Motoring Midway as part of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance in 2007.
Father-in-law Charles Mistele, Tarleton and his son Caldwell, have since made the festival a family event.
The Motoring Midway
In 2007, Tarleton took over the Quest for Style and Speed, which was a hodgepodge of different vehicles at the time.
“I started focusing really on the vehicles and exhibits,” he said. Under Tarleton’s leadership, the Quest for Style and Speed was renamed the Motoring Midway, and it started offering exhibits meant to appeal to more people.
In 2007, they introduced motorcycles and then boats in 2008.
Inspiration for a boat exhibit came from his in-laws.
Mistele owns Miss America IX, a legendary boat known for her record-breaking speed. In 1931, the 1930 Gar Wood Harmsworth Race Boat became the first boat to reach 100 miles per hour on the water.
The first year boats were included in the Motoring Midway, only six came. This year, 25 will be part of the show. “It’s beginning to be an event itself,” Mistele said.
Tarleton also started the Life exhibit, which features a different theme each year. Themes have included “Life on the Road,” showing RVs; “Life in the Fast Lane,” showing racecars; and “Life in the Whoa Lane,” showing horse-drawn carriages. This year’s Life exhibit will be “Life on the Beach.”
Tarleton also started a “Road to the Future” exhibit last year, focusing on electric vehicles. “This year, we’re moving away from technology to styling,” he said.
Bringing in the Family
Growing up in Texas, everyone Tarleton knew was driving 20-year-old cars.
“I always had posters of cars,” he said. “Then I married into the Misteles.”
The Mistele family owned a coal and oil company in Michigan before moving to South Carolina. While Miss America IX is Charles Mistele’s passion, he’s got a few antique cars he shows, as well. His daughter still has her first car, a Triumph TR6.
The car craze has also been passed on to their son Caldwell, who can spout statistics and facts about cars most adults wouldn’t know. When asked what his favorite car was, Caldwell responded, “a 1965 Mustang or 1967 GT 350 (a Shelby Mustang).”
The 11-year-old joins his father on the field in the early hours of the day for the festival. He’s been going with Huntley Tarleton almost every year since he started running the Motoring Midway. Caldwell and his sister Blythe even have “manager-in-training” badges they wear while on the field.
“It’s become a much more family event,” said Diane Mistele, Charles’ wife. “It’s not just for car guys.”
Huntley Tarleton describes families coming through the Motoring Midway fascinated with the vehicles they encounter. ‘It’s like memory lane for a lot of people,” he said.
Getting back to cars
Charles Mistele said he wouldn’t have started showing his vehicles at the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance if his sonin- law hadn’t started running the Motoring Midway.
The Miss America IX is the cornerstone of the boat exhibit, Tarleton said.
Mistele also shows a red 1936 Auburn 852 Boat Tail Speedster, which won the People’s Choice award at the Concours d’Elegance in 2011.
This year, he’ll also be showing his 1928 Packard 443 Roadster as part of the Great Gatsby exhibit.
In his book, “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald describes Jay Gatsby’s car as a “rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.”
Mistele’s Packard fits the bill with its cream and dark green exterior and bright green interior. The frame is also painted the same green as the interior of the car. A rumble seat in the back with an extra windshield adds a “labyrinth of windshields” look to the vehicle.
Tarleton does not partake in the decision-making process for choosing vehicles that are featured on the field.
“I don’t make the decision if his vehicles makes it into the show,” he said. “I make sure I’m not part of any of that.” The Motoring Midway will be open Nov. 2 and 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Port Royal Golf Club.