For Scott Britz, organizer of the annual Hot Rods 4 Hearts Car Show, there are few things that give him the thrill of a finely tuned machine. This gear-head loves classic, muscle, import, domestic and exotic cars with equal fervor. Whether fresh off the lot or rebuilt from the struts up, the entire Britz family—Scott, his brother and his father in particular—have always shared a love of fast bikes and cars.

A passion for rods and pistons runs in the Britz family, and when a heart attack claimed the life of their father, they learned that heart disease did, too. This was the second loss in Scott’s life caused by the disease; his nephew had also passed away at a young age years earlier from a heart condition.

With 26 categories and an inclusive line-up of cars, fans of fine automobiles will find hot rods, muscle cars and classy chassis in no short supply at Hot Rods 4 Hearts. Photo credit:Photo courtesy of Hot Rods 4 Hearts
With 26 categories and an inclusive line-up of cars, fans of fine automobiles will find hot rods, muscle cars and classy chassis in no short supply at Hot Rods 4 Hearts. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Hot Rods 4 Hearts

These events, tragic though they were, have given rise to an impactful tradition in the South Sound community. Grieving these losses, Scott wanted to do something to honor his loved ones.

“I was driving with Dad when he complained of back pain. I was there when his heart started to fail and I was with him in the hospital when he passed, so losing him hit me pretty hard. I got to thinking, ‘What can I do to remember Dad? What can I do to help stop someone else from going through what my family is going through?’” This, Scott explains, is how the car show got its start.

Their shared love of all things auto, combined with the sparse number of car shows held in the area, inspired Scott and his family to try to organize a car show in the South Sound. Every dime of the proceeds for the show is donated to a cause that increases awareness about heart disease, the American Heart Association.

“This has been like therapy for me,” Scott explains, “in that it’s taken time and a lot of drive to learn how to organize the event in the first place, how to make it better with each passing year and how to increase awareness and donations. With the money we’re able to raise through registration, raffle tickets, snacks, tees and hats, we’re working to promote physical activity to build healthier lives. We can’t do anything to help the ones we’ve lost, but hopefully, in this small way, we can help others live a life free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”

Now in its fourth year, the show has grown quickly. Each event brings more cars and more auto admirers than the year before to Griot’s Garage in Tacoma. It raises more in funding, too, with 100% of the show’s proceeds going directly to the American Heart Association. Last year, Scott earned just shy of $3,500 in donations and hopes to see that number grow as the benefit gains more renown.

Hot Rods 4 Hearts Tacoma
There’s a family-friendly element at the Hot Rods 4 Hearts Car Show with elements like the Heart Burn model care created by event organizer Scott Britz. Photo courtesy: Hot Rods 4 Hearts

The inclusive nature of the event draws car buffs from the show circuit both near and far. From muscle cars and classics to flashy new rides and souped-up project cars, Hot Rods 4 Hearts welcomes any make and every model. “Every kind of car is welcome,” Scott says. “If it’s your baby, bring it down.” Most of the winning cars—21 out of 26 categories—are crowd-picked by popular vote.

As a sideline to the main attraction, HR4H offers activities for audiences of all ages. Balloon artists, a coloring contest (complete with age-appropriate prizes like RC cars or bubble mowers) and an oversized Jenga board made of two-by-fours are some of the highlights, but live entertainment is on the docket, too. This year’s show will include belly dancers, a sock hop-style performance by the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and a few cameos here and there by a Disney princesses and superheroes for young fans.

“Family is the most important thing,” he says, “so from the start we knew we wanted to create an environment where families feel welcome, not just car lovers.”

So what does it take to make Hot Rods 4 Hearts such a success? A little more than just elbow grease and Scott Britz’s enterprising spirit. It takes a healthy investment of time from Scott and his family to plan, advertise, garner donations for and host the event. He pays for many of the show’s expenses out of pocket; his sister makes raffle baskets; many students at Fife High School volunteer their time to help out on the day of the event. The thing that Scott says has made his show so much fun attend, however, is the generous donations he receives from sponsors in the community.

Hot Rods 4 Hearts
Dozens of sponsors, like Scott Welsh of Courtesy Auto of Tacoma, do their part to help support Hot Rods 4 Hearts with everything from donations to event promotion. Photo courtesy: Hot Rods 4 Hearts

Courtesy Auto in Tacoma, for instance, has provided the car show with nearly all of the event’s trophies since the benefit got its start. According to Scott Britz, Scott Welsh—owner of Courtesy Auto—has contributed several thousand dollars to creating custom plaques and awards for car show winners. Welsh’s son has created promotional videos for the event free of charge, and Welsh himself provides raffle prizes such as free tires or custom-made swag such as used (and autographed) NASCAR tires that have been converted into end tables.

Print Solutions in Puyallup has also contributed time and resources by doing every stitch of paperwork for the event. Britz says he’s created window tags, Don’t Touch signs, Christmas cards to thank event sponsors—anything an event could need, the owner of this Puyallup print shop has provided. From radio stations and websites to farmers markets and food vendors, dozens and dozens of sponsors have come together to help the Britz family celebrate the lives that have been lost to heart disease.

If you ask sponsors what makes the car show so incredible, though, they’re quick to tell you it’s Scott Britz. Courtesy Auto’s Scott Welsh remembers how he became involved with Hot Rods 4 Hearts three years ago.

“Scott came in to the shop,” Welsh recalls, “to ask if he could hang fliers for the car show. We got to talking and it’s hard not to come away from meeting Scott and feel empowered to help this cause. His energy, his drive and his enthusiasm are really infectious, and it makes this whole event just a lot of fun. Your heart really has to be in the right place to pull something like this off, no pun intended, and fortunately he’s got a big one.”

What: Hot Rods 4 Hearts Fourth Annual Car Show
When: July 23, 2017 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Where: Griot’s Garage Store & Events Center
3333 38th Street, Tacoma WA
Cost: Registration fee: $15 / vehicle