The Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals (TFN) has only ever been held at one place — Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, (well, besides the attempt last year at the Western Invasion in Bakersfield). Truly, we’re not sure if there is a better place in the nation to hold an event solely dedicated to the holy trilogy of Chevys. Some may think otherwise, but the most beloved Chevy title still goes to the 1955 through 1957 Chevy. It makes TFN one of those can’t-miss events every year if you’re a Chevy fan.
Now in its seventh year, the Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals is hosted by the American Tri-Five Association (ATFA) and Woody’s Hot Rodz. Chris Sondles owns Woody’s and is the brains behind the operation, but he couldn’t do it without an army of people helping him.
You’d think that with so few body styles (essentially five) things would get boring after about an hour, but you’d be sorely mistaken. Taking place from Thursday at 8:00 a.m. through Saturday at 6:00 p.m., you might also think it would be too long, but you’d be wrong again. By Saturday afternoon, you’re wishing they would extend it another day so you could see everything there is to see.
You Can’t See It All (but you can try)
You could spend a day alone talking with vendors and going through the swap meet area. After that, you have the Holley drag racing take in. But you do not want to miss the Thursday night under-the-lights shootout. All competitors are combined into one bracket-style single-elimination race. Half of the proceeds from this special buy-in goes to the Bowling Green/Warren County Human Society — so they’re racing for the animals!
We haven’t even mentioned the car show yet. If you’ve never been to Beech Bend, well, you’re in for a treat. It is not the most sprawling venue you could attend, BUT (notice the caps) it is pretty hilly, and it can be blistering hot in August, so be prepared for how you attack it. The track is pretty much at the bottom of a hill in a “holler,” if you will, with a river surrounding the venue. If it has rained in the past week, expect the humidity to be high (although this year was actually pretty spectacular).
The car show usually has between 3,500 to 4,000 cars. The showground surrounds the drag strip and circle track. The best way to see the cars is to split your days — do the top side on one day and the bottom side on the next. Now, some cars will move, but that is the price you have to pay if you don’t have a golf cart or aren’t an athletic trainer.
Where To Go And Where To Be
On Thursday, the hill between the top and bottom is roped off for previous Top 25 award winners. Of course, these will be your heavy hitters from the past, so you’ll want to include them in your trek around the grounds. They will be competing for an ATFA All-Star Award. On Friday, this area is occupied by all those competing for this year’s Top 25, so you’ll need to make sure you cover that area both days. By the end of the day, you’ll want to make your way to the track for the announcement of the Top 25 as they roll down the strip.
On Saturday, those picked for a Top 25 move to an asphalt area on the bottom side where each participant picks their favorite five (not owned by them). Around 3:00 p.m., the votes are calculated, and a Top-5 flag is placed in front of those who will be competing for the coveted Tri-Five of the Year. That grassy area halfway up the hill where they were yesterday is filled with cars that either moved or were only able to attend on Saturday, so you’ll want to wander through there for a third day.
Also, on Saturday, you will find the ATFA Heritage award contestants inside the circle track where the majority of vendors are located. These are original, restored-original, or factory-appearing cars and trucks. These vehicles will surprise you as you learn their stories and see just how many options Chevrolet offered on these models.
Drag racing is going on the entire weekend, so you always have a place to go see some action while you rest your feet. The best part about Beech Bend is the covered grandstands. It’s nice to get out of the sun. You will definitely want to find a spot before 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, which is when they announce the awards, the winner of the 50/50 drawing, and who wins the giveaway car (everyone is eligible as long as they have a ticket, even spectators).
5 Cars That Wowed Us at the 2022 Tri-Five Nationals
So, now that you know the lay of the land, let’s check out some cool cars we saw. These cars were picked just because we thought they were cool — not necessarily an award winner. That is for someone else to determine, and frankly, we wouldn’t want the job of whittling down that field. So without further ado, here are five really cool cars from the 2022 Tri-Five Nationals in no particular order:
1957 Chevrolet Belair “Elegant Beast” built by John Riley — owned by Ron Powell, Guilford, Indiana
Ron’s ‘57 features an Art Morrison chassis with 14-inch Wilwood disc brakes. A 550 horsepower (at the wheels) 502 big-block with Borla eight-stack injection is backed by a Hughes Performance 4L80-E trans (hence the “beast” part in the name). The elegant side comes from the incredible Jaguar Montalcino Red paint and the Interiors by Shannon interior. It has Budnik wheels, Vintage Air, Dakota Digital gauges, and a Kenwood/JL 700-watt audio system.
1955 Chevrolet Nomad assembled by Salvaggio Auto Design — owned by Jason Keller
The sign next to the Nomad says, “Not Your Average Station Wagon!” That could be the understatement of the year. The car was a featured SEMA Show car with a 416 cubic-inch LS3 topped by a 3300 Vortech supercharger. That is backed by a 4L80-E and a Strange 9-inch. Underneath is a Roadster Shop chassis with four-wheel disc brakes. A custom leather interior from Customs by Vos complements the House of Kolor TruBlue pearl paint with a Granite Metallic roof. All the trim is dipped in custom Cobalt Black chrome.
1957 GMC 4WD NAPCO Pickup — owned by Gary Millen, Irvine, Kentucky
If there is one thing that the Tri-Five Nationals could use some more of, it is Tri-Five trucks. Gary Millen wowed the crowd with this cool big-back-glass NAPCO restoration/recreation. The powerplant is a 370 Pontiac mated to a four-speed Bulldog transmission. The wheels are 19.5-inch done in the original style. The truck is complete with lockout hubs and power steering. The cab is customized, appearing period-correct but probably nicer than it was from day one out of the factory. A super cool piece to see in the wild!
1956 Chevrolet 210 built by Kemp’s Auto Restoration and Kent Waters — owned by Mike Pascoe, Gainesville, Georgia
This amazing ‘56 deservedly made it into the top 5. Some customizations are noticeable, like the heavy use of dimple dies and nickel plating, but then there are others like the 3/4-inch chop that are more subtle. The engine is an LSX 454 with Jim Inglese high-stack injection backed by a TREMEC TKX five-speed and it rides on Schott wheels. The interior is a work of art with Vintage Air and custom-designed everything, including door panels, console, and Classic Instruments gauges. Someone could stand in front of this car all day and not see everything.
1955 210 Sedan — owned by Darrin and Andrea Gartrell, Woodward, Oklahoma
This one caught us by surprise even though it made the top 25. From far away, it looks like a pretty red and black ‘55 sedan with some really nice Schott wheels and an LS between the framerails. But hang on just one second, what the heck is that? It is an LS, but it has two extra cylinders!! That’s right, this ‘55 packs a GM LSX V10 (saved from the crusher) with an Edelbrock XT intake backed by a 4L85-E. It has a custom Nerd Rods chassis, 14-inch Wilwood brakes, custom stainless headers, and exhaust. The PPG paint was laid down by Covington Customs, and the interior is from Ron Magnus. By the way, the engine is reportedly putting down 700 naturally aspirated horsepower, and sounds amazing!
The Tri-Five Nationals was an amazing way to spend the weekend, and you really need to make plans to check it out next year, We will!