Hot Rod Superbowl: NSRA’s 2017 Louisville Street Rod Nationals


Louisville, Kentucky, has hosted the NSRA Street Rod Nationals for the past 23 years, with plans to continue at the venue through 2020. That was until the crew rolled into town prior to the 2017 show and extended their commitment through 2025. This guarantees the popular show will continue to be the hot rod Superbowl of car shows for at least the next eight years. All indications show that the event will continue at the Kentucky Expo Center unless the event outgrows the fairgrounds.

Some may wonder if it is possible to outgrow a location as large as Louisville’s Expo Center, but rest assured, if the turnout continues to climb into the numerical ranges that we saw this year, it could be a real possibility by 2025. When numbers like 10,000 cars get thrown around so casually, it is hard to image exactly how significant that number is. That is, until you walk the three-mile arena with rows upon rows of cars stacked side-by-side. Then, all of the sudden, 10,000 paid entries starts to mean something a little deeper within.

Hidden in the crowd was Mike Briglia’s 1933 Ford Victoria built by Brigs Rod Shop. The car claims Wolcott, Connecticut, as home.

Bucket List Item

The term “bucket list item” gets used a lot too. In this case, we can support that usage by pointing out that the shear volume of cars and people make this a must attend event for any hot rodder. No matter what car maker you favor or support, there will be one at the show. Chances are, there will be one exactly like the one that your Dad, Mom, Grandpa, MeMaw, or other cherished family member had – and once you spot it, the flood of memories and emotions will certainly overwhelm you.

The magnetic pull to the event is so strong that there are car owners that have attended the show every years since the beginning. Not only have they attended every show, they’ve had the same spot on the grounds each and every year. That is how strong the attraction is. Being able to pull in 10,000 cars from across the country is one of those amazing feats that defies explanation. It is the epitome of “going viral” at a physical level.

Sadly, with this many cars, you have to attempt to see 2,500 cars each day of the four-day show just to see them all. That is roughly the same amount of cars at a well-attended car show in any other area of the country. It could be said that going to the NSRA Louisville Nationals is like going to four car shows in four consecutive days.

Ramsey, Illinois’ David Kelly brought his 1933 Chrysler.

The Added Bonuses

In addition to the plethora of vintage and classic cars on the grounds, there are many other very worthwhile events to see and do at the Street Rod Nationals. SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance holds their annual “Education Days” series of seminars that tackle some of the topics that hot rodders want to know more about. Conducting 12 seminars over two days in one-hour classes, these sessions are made available to the largest car audience at one place. It is likely that these seminars will go live, via webcast, in the future. This year’s presenters and topics ranged from handling basics by Detroit Speed’s Kyle Tucker and Planning your Wiring Project by Scott Bowers of Ron Francis Wiring, to Starting and Charging Systems by J.R. Richmond of Powermaster Performance and Today’s Technology In Yesterday’s Rides by Harvey Richardson of Watson’s Streetworks.

RideTech's suspension analysis is always one of the highlights at each event.

Several vendors offer special programs at the event. For example, RideTech Performance offered a suspension analysis each day of the show. Without having to buy anything, the crew at RideTech offered to help any and all rodders by scaling their car, collecting data like weight at all four corners, total weight, ride height, and evaluating the existing spring rates on each wheel. With thousands of cars in their database, the tech crew could offer advice on helping rodders improve their suspension and handling for their ride.

Powermaster Performance, the company that specializes in starters and charging, offered starting and charging system inspections for the ninth straight year. Powermaster’s factory engineers were on hand to inspect and evaluate any hot rod that came to their inspection area during the event. Not surprisingly, this was located near the NSRA’s safety inspection area.

Jim Holschuh’s 1937 Ford was looking for a new home.

The NSRA safety inspection program is one of the better known and widely respected safety programs with it comes to vintage and custom cars. There are a lot of positives in the program. To start with, the safety inspection is free and completely voluntary. The teams performing the safety inspections are experienced professionals with years of service and expertise. The program covers 23 areas of vehicle construction, from lighting systems to suspensions. Vehicle owners are advised of any problem areas that may exist. The NSRA’s safety inspection has become one of the industry standards, and displaying the sticker lets everyone know that your hot rod meets or exceeds high safety standards.

Barry Fodor’s 1913 Model T Speedster rolled back the clock to a much earlier time.

New Product Awards

Another huge plus to the NSRA’s Nationals is the new product displays and awards. This is the fortieth consecutive year that the organization has highlighted new products as part of the Street Rod Nationals. The program has been so popular and covers such a broad spectrum that four different categories have been designated, with an additional category for Safety Product of the Year that includes all the products in the other four categories. These categories are broken up by retail price of the products. Classes are broken down to categories for products up to $200, products from $201 to $1,000, products that retail over $1,001 to $5,000, and lastly for products that retail for over $5,001.

Dakota Digital’s direct fit 1940 Ford instruments won best new product of the year in their category.

Notable to us were the products from Dakota Digital in the first three categories with their EFI Integration bridge modules, Tire Pressure Expansion Module, and HDX Direct Fit 1940 Ford Application instrument panel. Watson’s StreetWorks was represented with their USB Charger Port, Backup Behive Lights, Low-Profile Door Switches, Dual Power-Window Controller, Surface Mount Taillights, and their new Backup Camera/Mirror System. RideTech’s Street Grip Kit for Chevy G-body, C10 Trucks, Track One Modular Spindle, and Instinct Electronic Shocks System were also up for new product awards.

Classic Instruments’ Stock Eliminator Temp gauge was another welcomed addition to the new products of the year competition. Built with data logging capability and configurable LED lighting, these Outside Air Temperature gauges are sure to be in demand by builders looking for custom units.

Harvey Richardson’s Watson’s StreetWorks pulled off a sweep by winning best new product in their category and safety product of the year for their Backup Camera/Mirror system.

Watson’s StreetWorks managed to pull off a sweep by winning the New Product of the Year in the $201 to $1,000 category, and the NSRA Safety Product of the Year award with their new Backup Camera/Mirror kit. This marked the third time in four years that Watson’s StreetWorks has won the highly coveted NSRA Safety Product of the Year award – which has to be some kind of record.

StreetKhana: Autocross NSRA-Style

NSRA began the StreetKhana events in the 1970s, with the events looking a lot different than they are today. Back then, drivers ran their cars through an obstacle course that included things like backing up into a coned-off box at speed against a clock. The modern version of the StreetKhana is set up like a autocross course, except the course appears much larger with tight hairpin turns at the end of long runs, a couple of switchbacks, and some tight slaloms on a time recorded course. Awards are given for the fastest pre-1949, fastest post-1949, and the vendor’s choice award.

Competition for the Vendor's award is fierce.

We saw cars that you typically don’t see in an autocross event, with the spectrum ranging from station wagons to pickups, and even one 1958 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite with a 1275cc MG engine. Outside of a British car club, we can’t remember seeing another Austin-Healey running through a slalom course in decades.

Builder’s Showcase

One of the most exciting contemporary features in car shows today is the NSRA’s Builder’s Showcase. This display is a culmination of the top builds by hot rodding’s elite car builders. The displays were located in the lobby of the South hall.

Reisinger Custom Rebuilding displayed their 1946 Mercury Sedan owned by Danny and Ritz Adams.

Lucky 7 Rod Shop's 1929 Woodie owned by Mark Cullison on the left and Joyce Custom Cars inc., 1935 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster owned by Phyllis Lambert on the right.

Ryan’s Rod & Kustom’s 1949 Cadillac Convertible owned by Lori Ryan.

What makes this feature different is that this gathering of premier builds are showcased in a non-competitive display that allows the talents and skills of each builder to be presented to the public in a pleasing exhibit. Many of the vehicles displayed were cars that had strong pedigrees and the highest honors in our industry.

The Anton’s Hot Rod Shop-built 1950 Studebaker Starlite coupe owned by Anton & Shannon Lanesky.

Among the builders honored in the showcase were cars by Adams Hot Rod Shop, Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop, Big Oak Garage, Joyce Custom Cars Inc., Reisinger Custom Rebuilding Inc., The Garaj Mahal, and Waycool Customs.

One Off Rod & Custom’s 1941 Ford Pickup owned by Ed Sears.

Classic Instruments’ Pro’s Pick Of The Year

NSRA’s newest annual award, the Classic Instruments’ Pro’s Pick of the Year award, honors the top Pro’s Pick award winners from each of the NSRA’s divisional events. The winner of this award is acknowledged as the most outstanding vehicle among those judged throughout the year at the NSRA events held across the country. The judging team from Classic Instruments hand selected Larry and Robbie Griffey’s 1954 Corvette as the 2016/2017 Pro’s Pick of the Year winner. The Griffey’s Corvette originally gained entry into the finals by winning the 2017 Street Rod Nationals South earlier this year.

This is how we want our parts delivered.

There is simply too much to see at the event to capture it all in all four days, let alone try to see it all in a single day. Three miles of classic cars, a swap meet, 4-Sale car corral, vendor booths, and so much more. We have to come back again next year just to catch the stuff we missed this year. See you there.

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About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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