NSRA’s 34th Rocky Mountain Nationals

In the weeks leading up to the 34th  NSRA Nationals, Colorado suffered through some severe storms producing hail as large as three inches in diameter. With that came heavy rains, causing street flooding. To add to the weather misery, a 35,000-acre forest fire burned for several weeks south of Pueblo, that still isn’t contained at this date!

Muscle cars, hot rods, fat-fendered cars as far as the eye can see in a variety of colors boggles the mind.

A little geography lesson is in order, in case you’ve never been to Pueblo, the host of the Nationals. The city is situated at the confluence of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek, 112 miles south of Denver. The area is considered semi-arid desert land, with only 12 inches of precipitation annually. With its “Banana Belt” location, Pueblo gets less precipitation than other major Colorado cities, which makes it an ideal spot for a major rod event.

Home of Heroes

A history lesson of the city: In this era of patriotism, NSRA always acknowledges its veteran members at its awards ceremony. Coincidentally, the City of Pueblo publicly recognizes all of its home town military veterans – more Medal of Honor recipients reside here than any other U.S. municipality–earning the city it’s nickname, Home of Heroes. In 1993, Pueblo City Council adopted the tagline “Home of Heroes” and the Congressional Record officially recognized Pueblo as the “Home of Heroes.” Pueblo’s Medal of Honor recipients are; William J. Crawford–Army–WWII; Carl L. Sitter -Marines–Korea; Raymond G. “Jerry” Murphy-Marines-Korea; and Drew D. Dix- Army-Vietnam.  In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented Murphy with his medal and commented; “What is it… something in the water out there in Pueblo? All you guys turn out to be heroes!” A memorial to the medal winners stands at the Pueblo Convention Center and a display inside commemorates them.

Weather Swings

Colorado’s weather has been known far and wide, “wait a minute, it’ll change.” Of course, it did for the National’s weekend – it was clear, warm and sunny with temps in the high ’80s. Perfect for the NSRA Garage Tour on Wednesday and the Pueblo Lake Chamber of Commerce’s BBQ on Thursday.

1960's Pony cars line the streets of the fairgrounds. Muscle cars seemed to be in the minority this year.

The Chamber’s Parade on Friday enjoyed sunny skies, as did the opening of the fairground gates Friday morning. Saturday morning dawned with partly cloudy skies, but temps reached a high of 94 degrees, typical of the southwest portion of the state. Around the region, weather forecasters were calling for rain and hail all day Saturday, fortunately it missed Pueblo. Sunday morning started off overcast and a cool 55 degrees – a temperature drop of nearly 40 degrees – with calls for rain and dreaded hail before noon.

Fortunately it held off until about four, well after the NSRA’s award ceremony in the pavilion. This year, NSRA moved up the awards ceremony at its events one hour to 1:00 pm to allow those traveling time for the home-bound haul.

Fenderless "hot rods" of all kinds attend the Rocky Mountain Nats, from traditional T-buckets to the earliest 'road racers' and everything in between!

Just before the 43 winners were driven past the award stage to receive their plaques, the “Super Prizes” were awarded. If you weren’t one of the lucky participants drawn for one of the bought-and-paid-for $68,000 worth of Super Prizes on Friday and Saturday, or if the prize wasn’t picked up, the balance was given away at the awards ceremony. These awards are NOT simply certificates for a few dollars off of a major purchase, they are actual items, from a complete set of billet wheels to a brand new ’32 Ford grille shell, and nearly every desirable part in between.

NSRA's Streets of Rods featured "Whitewall Way", "Four Door Freeway," "Chevy Pick-up Country" and "29 Below."

Streets of Rods

Friday and Saturday were filled with a variety of vehicles on the grounds, as well as the special parking areas NSRA puts together. This year it was: Four Door Freeway, featuring cars with more doors, as the name suggests; Chevy Pickup Country, celebrating Chevy’s haulers; and Whitewall Way, featuring cars with. To keep the youngsters interested in building vehicles, the NSRA again repeated its popular 29 Below section for those under the age of 29.

Speaking of youngsters, just across the street from, Cruisin’ with Wings, the huge center fountain was spouting cool water for them to play in while Mom and Dad enjoyed the park’s shade trees.

"Bombs" and contemporary kustoms parked on the grounds. The Pontiac above sported plates from Ontario, Canada.

The fairgrounds set aside a large area for the huge swap meet (the 3rd largest at NSRA events), where most participants go as soon as they park. Nearly every person there searches for that special dry, no-rust vehicle southern Colorado is known for. Of course, body parts are in the same condition as well as chrome trim…it’s a veritable feast!

The 3rd largest swap meet of the NSRA’s events is in Pueblo at the Rocky Mountain Nationals

If digging through old parts didn’t help your project, then a short walk to the exhibition building gained access to vendors of new parts. The exhibition building’s air-conditioning helped combat the typical Pueblo heat.

The vendor area in the exhibition building was quite busy the whole weekend. Here's a photo of the "Women's World" before it opened.

A Second Set of Eyes

On the streets, NSRA Safety officials inspected vehicles for the 23 items on their safety list and choosing special cars for their awards. Needless to say, the Safety inspectors do a great job and those safety awards are sought after.

There’s always a constant line of cruisers on the continuous loop around the grounds. That’s one great thing about the Pueblo event – cruising an endless lane all the way around 6 city blocks.  The grassy area with large shade trees on the north side of the main street has also been very popular. This area fills quickly on Saturday. Some prefer it because of the cool grass, and they can put canopies up alongside their cars.

Left: Beth Kearney of "Little Dame Pinstriping" out of Loveland, Colorado, striping up a panel to be auctioned off. Right: The Panel Jam auction happened on Friday and Saturday and brought in a total of $28,600 for medical expenses for John Largent.

Inside the convention center complex, the Panel Jam was the place to find 26 of the finest pinstripers from all parts of the country. They all assembled to help out John Largent, a well known local striper, with his medical expenses. Each striper donated several striped panels as well as some pinstriped, “novelty,” items. Two auctions were held over the weekend and collectors stepped up to bid on items, to the tune of $28,600. The generosity of NSRA members is simply amazing!

Left: The NSRA awards ceremony is held at the pavilion in the park amongst the tall shade trees. Right: One really nice '40 Chevy coupe.

If you’ve never been to NSRA’s Rocky Mountain Nats, the 35th Annual in 2019 should be a great event. Make your plans now to attend one of Colorado’s premier events, it’s always held the third weekend of June. Pueblo has plenty of new motels, so finding a room is not the problem it used to be, and there’s plenty of gorgeous scenery and sightseeing close by. Make a vacation of it!

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About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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