It started out simple enough, they asked me to choose three of the top cars at this year’s NSRA Southeast Nationals and do a short write up of each car, and explain why I thought it stood out from the crowd.

One of the best things about rodding is the broad variety of personalities and interests that you’ll find on any given showfield. Creativity is rewarded bountifully, but when it comes to choosing three cars over all the others, the choice can be quite daunting. Does a car get more or less points because it has some bugs in its teeth? Should adaptations of new technologies be preferred, or should you value when the builder remains true to vintage styles and design? In a sea of over 1,150 cars, picking the Top Three isn’t always cut and dried.

But that’s exactly what I was there to do, so, in no particular order, here are the cars that I chose as my Top Three. As far as all the other cars in attendance, the playing field was quite level, just that these three cars for whatever reson, caught my eye and stood a tick above.

Kenny Stowe’s All-Steel 1931 Ford

NSRA-Top-Three-1

Way before a certain yellow five-window was tearing up the big-screen, the Model A Ford was already touted as a hot rod. The fact that you still see examples being built in a more traditional sense just goes to show how timeless this body style really is. Kenny purchased the car when it was roughly 90-percent complete, and then set out with the help of Harbor Auto Restoration in Rockledge, Florida, to infuse modern technology into a ‘50s-style hot rod.

There are so many details that hearken back to the '50 and '60s, even if newer technology is like the faux magneto is used. Kenny also had some fun with the details of his '31 Ford.

Some may argue that Kenny’s ‘31 doesn’t fit the mold of a true “traditional” hot rod since it includes some modern hardware. Even so, there’s no denying that his ride has the look and feel of a vintage hot rod with just enough modern goodies spicing up the recipe. The classic small-block Chevy has been stroked to 383 cubic-inches, and twists a Tremec five-speed transmission, an upgrade that Milner would have surely loved to have at the time. A half-dozen Vintage Speed Strombergs sit atop the engine, giving it the look, and fuel necessary for show and go.

The 383 stroker fits the part with sidepipes and Strombergs.

A 9-inch Ford rear uses 4.11 gears to help keep those double-white-wall slicks as slick as possible. Hairpin radius rods and leaf springs keep the build vintage, while a complete quartet of brake discs reside under those finned Buick brake drums. Another upgrade in disguise is the distributor that has the look and feel of a magneto, without all of the radio interference. There are also cooling upgrades like the electric fan that cools an aluminum radiator in that classic ’32 shell.

Kenny's coupe is a nice blend of old and new, while visually down-playing the "new".

Why We Chose It?

More than simply stuffing modern touches into a vintage ride, Kenny’s coupe shows a level of detail that clearly sets it apart from the crowd. Everything from the various accessory “props” like the Lucky Strikes to the timeless stance thanks to its tire/wheel combo help to take the viewer (and lucky passengers) into another era. The fact that it does so with some modern conveniences doesn’t bother us a bit.

John Logue’s 1933 Chrysler CT Royal 8

NSRA-Top-Three-18

After being sealed away in an underground basement for 36 years, John purchased this ’33 Chrysler and restored it. Then, he yearned to drive it more than simply on and off of a trailer. That’s when he sold off the restored chassis and started fresh with another original frame, to which he added Kugel front and rear independent suspensions, a 6.1L Hemi engine and five-speed auto from Bouchillon Performance. Four-wheel disc brakes from ABS Power Brakes helps slow John down, and that’s a good thing, since he reports that 85 mph is a “nice cruising speed”.

And cruise he does! Upon completing the rebuild, John and his wife Barb set out from Michigan for a car show in Pueblo, Colorado. From there, they drove the car back home to Florida. The car rides on a set of The Wheel Smith rims and Diamondback radial tires. During the drive, occupants up front are chilled with an aftermarket A/C, while those behind the rear glass get to enjoy the great outdoors at speed.

John's '33 Chrysler not only uses MO-power, but yes, it's got a Hemi in it! The 6.1L Hemi crate engine and five-speed automatic transmission was nestled in there nicely by John. The install is snug, but clean.

There is also power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, a tilt steering column, drive-by-wire throttle, and a Lokar shifter to help with the go and the whoa. All these components blend in with the reupholstered leather interior, making it almost impossible to distinguish the line between old and new.

The inside of John's '33 has a nice blend of originality and modern functionality. Tilt steering connects to a power rack-and-pinion, and the Lokar shifter operates the five-speed overdrive trans. A/C keeps the passengers up front nice and cool.

Why We Chose It?

Since John already restored the car once, he states that he, “tried to keep it as original as possible” so far as appearance was concerned. Even with the modern driveline and other niceties, the engineering and level of detail could make one wonder if Ma MOPAR hadn’t installed them herself!

Scott Smith’s 1953 Ford Two-door Ranch Wagon

NSRA-Top-Three-21

Trying to instill life back into a car that is over 60-years old when they only made 200 of them is a daunting task. As you can see, Scott Smith handled the task beautifully, especially when you consider that he did so in a two-car garage!

Scott’s dad found the car as a barn find in Nebraska, and then it took eight years for Scott to bring the car back to the condition you see here. His dad and he kept in touch during the entire process. In the end, the car was modernized with a stainless Fat Man Fabrications front subframe, Accuair Suspension air-ride, a 9-inch Ford rear with a four-bar suspension, and a ZZ4 small-block Chevy engine featuring a Borla Induction 8-Stack electronic fuel injection. The drivtrain was finished off with a 700R4 overdrive transmission.

There are several touches that keep Scott's Ranch Wagon well into the timeless "Custom" territory.

Other modifications might not be so obvious, like the now one-piece rear side windows where sliding glass once resided, and unless you look inside, you’ll likely miss the surf board that Scott mounted to the roof. You will however, likely notice how those 20-inch rear and 18-inch front wheels tuck up into the wheel arches when the bags deflate. And if Scott chooses to throw the switch, his little Ford wagon is set up with flame throwers out the exhaust. You know, just for fun!

NSRA-Top-Three-25

Everyone has a surf board on the roof! Scott decided to keep his in out of the hot Florida sun.

Why We Chose It?

Scott’s ride is a recent build, as this was only the second event after debuting the car at the Detroit Autorama, and already, it’s garnered a lot of attention. What really got our attention was when we found out that this fine ride was a DIY project, and when we asked Scott what he intends to do with the car, he simply said, “drive the heck out of it!”

All in all, the weekend was a huge success with a reported 1,155 cars in attendance. Overall the quality of workmanship was quite high and it was tough sorting only three to highlight here. That’s why we’ve photographed several other cars, and we’ll be bringing those featured rides to you in the near future. Until then, enjoy these photos and be sure to attend a nearby NSRA event and see for yourself!