Lightning and storm clouds are rarely associated with summer car shows, but that’s exactly what the thousands of attendees of the 53rd NSRA Street Rod Nationals got this year. Instead, most would expect sweltering heat. Not to worry though, there was still plenty of that to go around, with the added bonus of sauna-level humidity.
Unfortunately, the rain kept us from many of the show’s attractions, like the autocross we were looking forward to. The cars were running, but only when the rain would momentarily let up. With a massive venue to cover and thousands of people to wade through, we couldn’t spend too much time in one place. Especially, not with thousands of cars in the show arena parked out front.
One highlight of the show was all of the participant show cars that arrived. As such, here’s a selection of our favorites. Enjoy the gallery below…
The crowd was an interesting mix of the elderly riding the ever-present rascal scooter, of which, there were hundreds, bikers (The Outlaws, who were having a national run nearby), youngsters, normies, and outlaw women (no relation to the former motorcycle club) – I was even approached by a group of young women under the employ of a house of “ill-repute.” The Rustic Frog, if you’re ever in the Kentuckiana area and so inclined.
They invited me to their “after party” and gave me a card worth the price of admission. It was an interesting proposition, and while it is something that has happened to me before on numerous occasions, it’s never happened whilst working at a car show. Let alone, one of the biggest and baddest in the country. I thought about it for a moment, and decided, for an automotive journalist, reputation is everything…So as to not be thought rude, I most assuredly took them up on their offer.
It is my duty to report on the happenings at these major shows, after all. I do this for all of you, really. Unfortunately, I can’t post the photos or my findings here…
Street Muscle’s Top Three Builders Choice
Nickleback ’67 Chevy Camaro
What I can post photos of are the cars that were in the Builders’ choice arena.
There were a few cars that stood out from the crowd, but three in particular grabbed my attention to the point that they made our top three list. The first of which was Chris and Greg Allen’s ‘67 Camaro, nicknamed Nickleback, built by Ed Denkenberger. This thing is a serious work of art!
From the custom radiuses on all the corners on everything from the trunk lid to the floor mat trim, to the window trim and supercharger inlet tubing, to the attention to detail on the most minuscule items like all of the ARP fastener heads being dimpled with the same machined diamond-cut pattern – this level of specificity is rarely matched.
Speaking of superchargers – Nickleback’s 355 cubic-inch Small-Block-Chevy is sporting some serious hardware. The small-block LT1 started out life as a regular 350ci and was worked over to 355ci which now sports a Magnuson blower that was adapted to fit with a custom intake manifold because the supercharger was originally manufactured for an LS application. Fortunately for the team that put the whole thing together, the necessary modification allowed them to fit the small-block lump under the factory hood.
Oh, did we mention the reason for the nickname? Well, it’s not just because the builder, Ed Denkenberger, is a self-proclaimed “headbanger,” it’s because the Camaro sports a combination of chrome-nickel, brushed-nickel, and nickel-plating on damn-near every unpainted surface on the car – save for the windows.
If that’s not impressive enough, just take a look at the underside of the car. Underneath, you’ll find a Heidts Pro-G subframe in the front, complete with rack and pinion steering, to match the Pro-G rearend with a built Ford 9-inch sporting inboard brakes to accommodate the massive custom wheels and rubber out back. Even under the car you’ll see more of those custom ARP fasteners used on literally everything on this build? If you they didn’t catch your eye before, perhaps the custom diamond-cut heads will stand out to you a bit more now that we’ve pointed out how they match the steering wheel…
The interior is swathed in buttery leather throughout in a tannish cream and peanut butter combo that compliments the sort-of Champagne colored exterior which we really love. Carrying on with the subtleties of the build is a stripe and color block combination that we almost missed at first glance. Note how the line serves to break up what have become rather large body panels due to all the seams being molded. With tucked bumpers and hidden door handles, the two-tone paint scheme really works wonders to add an interesting element that would otherwise be lost.
One last bit we should mention is how the supercharger intake and coolant plumbing is routed. Because the supercharger is mounted in reverse, the inlet leads into the cowl/firewall which allowed Ed to route the piping and plumbing around the cowl and through the fenderwell to the front of the car where the intercooler and fresh cold air is sucked in. As if this build couldn’t get any more cool!
Nichols Paint & Fab Twin-Turbo ’32 Ford Roadster Pickup
Another car that stood out from the crowd was a wicked little ‘32 Ford Roadster Pickup with a pair of secrets hidden up its battleship grey sleeves. Those secrets are the key to what we can only assume is massive power – twin turbos for it’s 5.0 Coyote lump!
Somehow, the builder, Justin Nichols, managed to hide a pair of turbos inside the skeletonized headlight housings. In order to further aid in the flow of cold air, the builder placed a small projector headlight in the center of the headlight but surrounded it with a honeycomb mesh in order to allow the air to flow right into the twin turbo’s intercooler and piping is then routed into the radiator/grille housing, while the exhaust manifold is run down the side of the engine and powder coated in a gunmetal color to match the engine. Seriously understated and exquisite.
In a recent interview, Justin says, “This isn’t your standard 1932 Ford Roadster. I’ve had sketches of this since back in the day when I was in high school. I’ve always wanted to put turbochargers inside the headlights of a ’32 Ford. So, we 3D-printed some plastic headlights and got everything to fit.”
Once Justin was confident that everything would fit, he placed an order with Alumicraft for the real deal four-piece aluminum headlights which now shroud the Nelson Mirror-Image turbos. The turbos feed into the cross-flow intercooler which is hidden behind the ’32 Ford grille and radiator. The outlets dump into custom intake manifolds which flow the cold air into eight individual Borla Stack Injection throttle bodies. The whole thing is controlled by a Holley Terminator system.
It’s really well hidden, so many of the people at the show took a few moments to figure out what’s really going on with the little grey roadster – the exhaust coming out of the headlights being the final giveaway for most.
“It’s a 5-0 Coyote motor, with twin turbos, I’m sure it’s capable of up to 1,000 [horsepower], but we haven’t had it on the dyno yet. It’s still a Ford motor in a Ford pickup, so it just make sense.”
There are some leather touches on the intake manifold couplers, and it’s the same leather that’s used on the interior. The leather continues on into the bed of the truck. A custom boot covers the driveshaft and the upper trailing arms.
The truck sports a Winters quick change rearend. A custom cantilever coilover suspension system takes care of the handling for the roadster.
As for the chassis, Justin tells us, “We started with ’32 rails, and we built all the crossmembers. The back is obviously notched up and we raised the front mount to lower the front end. We put the half rack and you can see that poking out of the side of the frame. All the electronics are stuffed inside the driver side rail, a custom fuel cell is plumbed on the passenger side.
Moving along to the rest of the car revealed the immaculate grey paint job accentuated by the custom pizza cutter wheels and tires. The interior is smart with leather tuck and roll stitching and custom gauges. The rear end being exposed through the wood slat bed with the cantilever coilovers really set things off in a major way. The car wore drilled and slotted brakes behind the wheels also hidden in faux drums.
Day-2 Big-Block Chevy Vega
“Day-2” is a term thrown around quite a bit these days, and we’ve found it to be difficult for most people to define. This little orange Vega does a great job though and should be placed right next to the term in the hot-rodders dictionary – somewhere between Brake Stand and Ford 9 inch.
For those of you still unclear as to what “Day-2” is even after looking at the photos of this orange beast, the builder/owner, Tracy Hicks, put it into simple and accurate terms. “A Day-2 car is an American-built automobile, especially from the muscle car era, that has been modified using after market speed parts from the era. This car is a representation of that time”
From its gold Moroso valve covers and white powder coated fenderwell headers wrapped in fiberglass, this mean little Chevy pays perfect homage to the most stylish era of hot rodding. Note the Weiand tunnel ram and dual quad Holley 450cfm carbs affixed atop the monster 454ci big block Chevy. The big block sports a set of LS6 cylinder heads, making 12 to 1 compression, and we’re sure the COMP roller camshaft gives the Thrush mufflers a nice loping chop.
The car’s ignition components are equally impressive. Tracy’s Vega boasts Mallory YC-310 points dizzy, plug wires, boots, coil, and rev-limiter to go along with a Motion Performance CD ignition box.
To feed the massive bowtie big-block, a period-correct Holley electric fuel pump feeds into a Moroso Cool Can – one of our favorite vintage components on the car, and through a Fram fuel filter into the twin Holley squirters.
When it comes time to bang gears, a Hurst Ramrod shifter is connected to the wagon’s magnesium T101 four-speed with Hone overdrive. To make sure all that big-block power gets to the pavement, a GM 12 bolt has been narrowed to the Vega’s dimensions out back – an ET finned rearend cover sets it off.
For exterior styling, Hicks took things a step further and set the wagon atop a set of vintage Cragar S/S wheels shod in Pro Trac tires. Of course, what are trick wheels and tires without the right stance? To dial in the suspension, Tracy hooked the Vega up with a set of AC Delco Jac Pac air shocks with an onboard air compressor, some Cal Customs shock extensions, and Traction Action slapper bars.
For interior Tracy took the Vega to Suzy and Hal’s Upholstery in Mosheim, Tennessee and had the seats and headliner diamond stitched.
Then there is the eye-catching paint – Crush Orange with a House Of Color clear applied by Kyker Rod and Kustoms in Telford, Tennessee, to be exact.
This tough little Vega was one of our favorites of the show – by far!
In The Winner’s Circle
After we explored the inside of the builders choice arena, we went to check out what everyone waits for every year – the year’s award winners. The U.S. is divided into different districts, and the NSRA safety and representative of each district get to gather and vote on a safety and representative to participate in the competition. Below are the winners along with several other separate class winners.
South Central Division Representative
South East Division Representative
North West Division Safety
North West Division Representative
North East Division Representative
North East Division Safety
North Central Division Representative
UPS Commercial Way
UPS Commercial Way
UPS Commercial Way
All’s Well That Ends Well
Despite the meteorological unpleasantness, the 53rd NSRA Street Rod Nationals was worth the cramped flights, layovers, dark skies, sweltering heat, rain soaked rides, sweat-drenched t shirts, sore feet, dehydration, and general unpleasantness. Because, for the brief moment we were able to wade through the thousands of attendees and get that magical shot of one of these spectacular builds, the kid in all of us lit up like it was our first time seeing a flamed-out hot rod. With every click of the shutter, we are transported back to a time when our necks would crane at the sound of a nice loping camshaft approaching in the distance…ah hell, who are we kidding? We still do that.
So, until next year…