The beauty of the kustom kulture scene in the automotive world is, no matter the owner’s or builder’s vision, the vehicle can never be wrong. This is not a place for snobbery. In the realm of rat rods and traditional hot rods, one is more likely to come across superchargers, open headers, a Jack Daniel’s bottle for radiator overflow and a skull shifter than eight layers of clearcoat.
Want to build a slammed and rusted-out Ford Model A out of welded scrap metal? That’s cool. How about a traditional ’32 Ford with a flathead engine using period-correct parts? Fine. A ’57 Chevy Bel Air with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror? Go for it.
These vehicles are reflections of the owners’ personalities. It’s a theme embraced in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, each year on the Fourth of July Weekend when the Camel City Skulls Car Club hosts the car show portion of the Heavy Rebel Weekender Music Festival.
The three-day program is held at the Millennium Center across from the bus station in the downtown arts district. It is made up of rockabilly music, burlesque, mud wrestling, and contests with themes such as PBR-drinking and Krispy Kreme donut-eating, along with the free car show on Saturday. The event has been held 19 times, with the Camel City Skulls hosting the last several automotive portions.
Luke Mishoe is one of eight club members and is originally from High Point in the Tar Heel State. He moved to the Winston-Salem area specifically for Heavy Rebel Weekender. He builds elevators by trade and has both a ’64 Ford Falcon station wagon and a ’54 Plymouth Savoy in the works, among other projects.
“There are a lot of shows catering more toward the street rod and stuff like that, so we do try to push it more toward the traditional, or the hot rod, or just the all-out crazy things you don’t see at every show, but everybody’s welcome,” he told Rod Authority.
The show only requires that vehicles must be pre-1972. Indeed, this year’s event featured a little bit of everything. A ’50 Chevrolet fire truck rat rod lined up next to a ’70 Ford Mustang; a ’68 Chevy Chevelle with a 427 was nestled next to a traditional Model A hot rod; rodded Volkswagen Beetles lived in unison with Chevrolets and Cadillacs whose tailfins extended around the block. Awards were presented for: Ladies’ Choice (’59 Plymouth Fury); Best Custom (’50 Ford coupe); Best Motorcycle (’67 Triumph), Best Traditional (’31 Model A coupe); and Skulls’ Choice (another ’31 Model A).
Each year, the show primarily utilizes Trade Street in downtown, as well as several cross streets. In a way, it’s fitting an event like this takes place in a city like Winston-Salem. After all, the region was built by tobacco and the area which hosts the car show is known as the Downtown North Historic District. A historical marker on Trade Street explains the district served as “the working person’s downtown, where farmers came to sell their tobacco and other products.”
As time passed, industry and tastes evolved, and the area reinvented itself as an arts district. So too, were many of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles on display reinvented from their original state. Mishoe pointed out that art is everywhere during Heavy Rebel, both in the music and in the artwork created with welders, paint brushes, and wrenches.
There was plenty of body artwork too, with a variety of attendees sporting sleeves of tattoos. Many women wore flowered skirts and held sun umbrellas, while men showed up with sideburns and chain wallets. Mishoe himself was dressed in a black t-shirt, rolled-up jeans, and greased hair. However, polo shirts and khaki shorts were also not an uncommon sight.
“It’s a family reunion,” Mishoe said of the event. “My daughter and wife are here, my grandmother, my parents, and everything meshes. You can see somebody with a four-foot tall mohawk, or canes and walkers, and everybody kind of gets along.” Check out the gallery of photos and make sure to mark your calendar for July 4th weekend next year!