2021 NSRA Western Street Rod Nationals At Bakersfield: Pre-1950 Cars

If the past year and a half have taught us anything, it is to be flexible. The National Street Rod Association (NSRA) did just that when the 2021 season opener Western Street Rod Nationals at Bakersfield was called off early this year. The State government exercised Covid restrictions forcing the group to cancel the event. Unwilling to leave the West Coast Street Rodders out in the cold, the NSRA rescheduled the event for later in the season. 

NSRA media representative Jim Rowlett explains the group picked a date on the calendar without realizing they put the Western Street Rod Nationals on Halloween weekend. Once they started getting calls about bringing candy and costumes, the group realized they had stumbled into a good thing. While the Bakersfield car enthusiasts are typically a group that likes routine, the shift in date seems to have worked out well for them. 

While the car entry numbers were not off the normal attendance by much, the show had a distinct “local” flavor to the atmosphere. Many of the out-of-state members that usually drive out seemed to be missing this year. Some found themselves already committed to a scheduled event closer to home. Others were dealing with their own lingering pandemic fallout. We all know and can sympathize with that.  

April To October

As we alluded to earlier, the NSRA Western Street Nationals is almost always scheduled as one of the first events of the NSRA show season. With the weather playing a central role in that scheduling, the enthusiasts show up in big numbers. Being one of the area’s earliest major car shows, the opportunity to show off any off-season car upgrades is viewed as a debut affair. 

Moving the date to October, even as a result of governmental oversight during a pandemic, would often go against the conservative leanings of these car owners. However, it is the NSRA, a major national event, and the weather is still perfect for a car show in Bakersfield in October. So the turnout was better than many would have expected or guessed. 

Based on what we’ve seen this year, from all car events, the car owners are ready and willing to bring their rides out and be a part of the community. It is the manufacturers and vendors that have been slow to jump back into the mix. Happily, we can report that most of the car vendors are busy designing and manufacturing new products for future shows. Their shelves have been cleared by car enthusiasts buying things online during the nationwide covid shutdown.

Everything is likely to revert back to normal in 2022 as things return to their natural place in time and location. The NSRA has already released their 2022 schedule that the first event scheduled is the Western Street Rod Nationals at Bakersfield, starting on April 29, 2022. Next year, everything returns to the way it was before. 

Show Picks

One of the most difficult things for writers and editors to do is pick a “best of” or a group of “winners.” This is not only tedious and time-consuming, it is globally unfair to the car owners. This almost always ends with the cars that have the most money invested in them taking the highest honors. It has nothing to do with the amount of work that the owner actually put into the build. It has nothing to do with the interest or the popularity of the vehicle. 

Now, I agree there are car shows where high-dollar cars should win the top prizes and honors. Take America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) award for example. You should be prepared to spend a million dollars to win that prize in the current competition. 

Swap meet and South-of-the-border lagers … the ultimate combination.

Enjoy The Ride

This is what makes the NSRA Western Street Rod Nationals different, and more appealing to car enthusiasts like me. You can walk down the rows of cars and see so many vehicles on display that you like for one reason or another. They are not all perfectly restored and trailered to-and-from the event. 

In fact, the NSRA as a group prefers that car owners enjoy their cars. I agree, and many times will judge a vehicle higher because it is seat or tire wear. Maybe it has pitting in the windshield glass or a rock chip in the paint. These are the cars that I tend to stop and take in the full character of the vehicle. I look to see where the car is from and imagine the drive that was made to get to the show. Then I may pass by several perfectly restored, glassy-looking, cherry red 1932 Ford Coupes till I get to the next vehicle with thin paint and character. 

Having justified my “picks of the show,” I am highlighting the cars that my heart and head found appealing. The vehicles that made me stop and look, no matter what stage of the build, or how original they appeared. These cars are presented here by the decade of the original build. Please enjoy. 

Pre-1950

1930 Ford Model A Rat Rod    

Rat Rods are often debated on their value to the car culture. Here’s my take on these unique builds: Rat Rods represent the very essence of Rodding. When this hobby first started, guys with very little income, took broken vehicles and used whatever they could find, acquire, make or buy to get them on the street. They were an odd assortment of parts, and honestly, a real piece of artwork. They may not always be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to respect the ingenuity and work that go into these builds. 

Secondly, not everyone can afford a perfectly-restored ’32 Ford. If you can put together a hot rod for under a couple of grand to get you started in the hobby, it is worth the effort. In the case of this 1930 Model A Rat that we found at Bakersfield, it was not a budget build. It was a purpose-built Rat Rod, and one that any enthusiast would be proud to own. It is almost too nicely done to be considered a Rat. This one belongs to Dave Bordwine of Clovis, California. 

1930 Ford Tudor

The Ford Tudor models are responsible for the Model A hitting the three million sales mark back in 1930. There were nine body styles and the Tudor models were available in three different paint options (black, green, and gray). Black wire wheels were standard, so this one has had some minor changes to its original appearance, but tastefully done. All-in-all, Win Branscum’s Ford is one of those cars that made us stop in our tracks, take a long look and soak it all in. This is a local Bakersfield car. 

1931 Chevrolet Two-Door Sedan

To appreciate this beauty, you must first know history. The stock market crashed in October of 1929, plunging the world into the Great Depression. The 1930 model year was already being processed for the market at that time, so the first real depression-era designed car was the 1931 model year cars. As one could imagine, automotive design was plain with few yearly changes, but there were a couple worth mentioning. A curved tie-bar connecting the headlights ran from the inside of one fender to the inside of the opposite fender. Wire wheels were standard equipment for the first time, and spotlights and guide lights were added to the design. 

Obviously, this car is not original, but much like the Ford Tudor mentioned above, the changes made here are subtle and magnificent at the same time. Two-tone paint was not a “thing” in the period this car was originally manufactured. This one features a two-tone paint scheme that not only compliments both colors but really adds to a slightly chopped top. The paint lines down the roof of the car accentuate the curvature toward the front windshield. It is a pleasant look and adds to the stance. This is also a local Bakersfield car. 

Call us juvenile but we even like the die shifter, the hanging fuzzy dice, and the Rat Fink dash ornament. The jury is still out on the bullet hole stickers on the paint and windows. Despite the stickers, Curtis and Kelly’s two-door Chevy Sedan is a winner in our book.  

1940 Ford Coupe

Here’s another local Bakersfield car at the Western Street Rod Nationals, which adds to the statement we made earlier. This event had a very distinct local car show feel to it. Honestly, our crew loved the flavor and the Bakersfield sound. Charlie and Stephanie’s 1940 Ford Coupe appeared to be a well cared for De Luxe that gets driven. 

What attracts us most about the 1940 De Luxe Ford Coupes is the three-part grille that prominently features horizontal bars. The years prior to this had vertical bars that were body-colored. Somehow, this car would not be nearly as impressive with red vertical bars in the grille. We like it just the way it is. There’s just something special about split front windshields on Ford Coupes and trucks. 

1937 Buick Special

What to remember: The Buick Special line was historically the lowest-priced model in the manufacturer’s lineup. We point that out because when you see the features in this “lowest-priced model,” it will make you re-evaluate how you see modern cars. Everything on this car is first-class. 

The Buick Specials are often referred to by model number. The Two-door coupes and convertibles are model 40. The two-door sedan is model 44 or model 48, and the four-door sedan is model 41 or 47 depending on the body of the rear of the body. The model 47 had a “slant back” rear where the model 41 had a distinctive “trunk back” look. This Buick Special model 41 is a great representative of the 1937 Buicks. 

For Buick, the 37-41 Special models represented 40 percent of Buick’s total production that year making it the most popular model line for Buick. The styling alone attracted the public but the overhead-valve, eight-cylinder engine gave it some extra muscle against the flatheads and straight sixes. Option for this model included a heater, defroster, dual side-mounted tires, white sidewall tires, grille guard and a dash installed radio with a built-in speaker. For the time, these were exceptional options to have. 

Now, for Earl and Maxine Wingrove’s 37 Buick, we had to guess a bit. The owners were not to be found, but we could decipher the entry form enough to tell us the car’s owners. They listed Simi Valley as home. The rest was pretty clear. Like all of the 1937 Buick Special Model 41 cars, the unique Harley Earl gangster-style with trunk back design captured plenty of attention. The Model 41’s suicide doors are legendary. There is a lot to like in the styling of this classic.

1949 Kurtis Sports Car

Anyone that has been involved in open-wheel racing knows the name Kurtis Kraft. Frank Kurtis designed and built some of the most successful and popular midget auto racing and Indy car roadsters of all time. By the late 1950s, Kurtis had captured the Midget Auto Racing market with his Kurtis Midgets and was on his way to winning several Indianapolis 500s in Kurtis-built cars. It would stand to reason that Kurtis could also build a high-performance sports car for the street. 

Frank Kurtis envisioned his Kurtis Sport Car (KSC) as a new type of sports car American-power, European-handling, and modern styling. In 1949, he announced the production of the KSC cars. By the end of the year, he realized the cars were not going to be financially sustainable for production. He sold the tooling and rights to Earl “Madman” Muntz and the cars were turned into four-seater cars he called the Muntz Jet. 

At the 2017 Western Street Rod Nationals, Carol Kurtis brought out this rare Kurtis 500M Sports Car to the event.

Kurtis’ sports car did everything he designed it to do. Wally Parks drove a KSC to a record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Robert Petersen chose the KSC for the first cover of Motor Trend magazine. Extensive testing was done on the car. 

Harley Earl, who had worked with Frank Kurtis many years before, created a secret program GM. This secret program was to create a fiberglass-bodied car using production components, similar to what Kraft had attempted with the KSC. Earl and GM found a way to produce the car economically enough to unveil it at the Motorama in 1953 as the EX-122. This car eventually entered production as the Chevrolet Corvette and owes its inspiration to the KSC.

Carol Kurtis’ KSC

This yellow KSC has a unique story that is as interesting as Frank Kurtis’ design. Frank’s son Arlen was given leftover pieces of the KSC cars after selling the line to “Madman” Muntz. Arlen, working with some of the experienced Kurtis Kraft employees finished the KSC with some upgrades. The dash was designed to accept Stewart Warner gauges that were more common in the Kurtis open-wheel racecars. The front fenders were still aluminum but they manufactured the rear fenders, hood, and trunk lids from fiberglass. It was finished in 1951. 

Arlen sold the car when he went into the Navy in 1952 and the car disappeared from the public.  Arlen’s sister and wife did some detective work, found the car, and bought it back. It was presented as a surprise Christmas gift for Arlen in 1990. Working steadily, he restored the car and continued to enjoy it till the day he died. We managed to stumble across it 70 years from its birth, at the Kern Country Fairgrounds. 

NSRA And The 2022 Schedule

Seeking to return to a full schedule in 2022, the NSRA has ten events scheduled from April to December next year. Happily, the Western Street Rod Nationals leads the way in 2022. For more information about the NSRA and their schedule, please visit them online at nsra-usa.com.

Article Sources

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.
Read My Articles

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