NSRA Southeast Nationals Brings Style & Shine To The Sunshine State

Every year, the National Street Rod Association and many of its members converge on Tampa, Florida, to celebrate the Southeast Nationals. Now in its 32nd year, this show has proven to be an excellent respite from the frigid temps up north. This year’s event was held on April 5-7, 2019.

While a fair number of enthusiasts will rationalize the event as a destination for warm temps and sunscreen, many of the cars in attendance are local builders who use the event to show off their cars and gain ideas and components for their next project.

Until recently, the event was held every October and many Floridians used it as a signal that the oppressive heat and humidity was in remission. A couple of years ago, the NSRA swapped the dates and placed the Southeast Nats at the beginning of the calendar, making it the perfect intro into a fun-filled summer of car cruises and swap meets.

The weekend was great for top-down cruising all weekend long.

For over three decades, the Southeast Nats have been held at the same venue, the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. This year’s event made use of the largest part of the facilities, giving attendees plenty of space to view, buy, or talk about their passion for cars. Vendors’ tarps were strewn out early to grasp the heart-strings (and wallets) of those in need of parts for their projects, or a completely new project.

The swap meet had all sorts of projects and parts, including these intakes, both vintage and late-model.

The show cars in attendance spanned the entire spectrum from mild-to-wild, with everything from street rods, customs, restorations, and everything in between. The beauty of street rodding is that so much is left to the builder’s discretion. Exterior colors, engine choices, build styles, and every minuscule detail of a car’s build can be determined by the builder. This allows for an amazing level of creativity, and those hard-sought solutions to problems can then be shared with others who may face the same hurdles.

Trends flow through the show field, and coupled with the availability of parts (both old and new) afforded the street rodder, a collection of truly amazing creations highlight some of the best talent in the industry. Many of the cars viewed at NSRA events will eventually be found as feature vehicles and show-winners throughout the year. The fact the NSRA Southeast Nats is now a springtime endeavor means that attendees will get a first-look at many of these cars before they hit the big time.

This '57 Ford was super-clean and featured a supercharged Ford, late-model drivetrain. There were so many subtle touches and modifications that it would be impossible to spot them all.

We spent a couple of days walking the grounds, looking at the broad scope of cars on-hand. The Southeast Nats are open to pre-1990 specialty vehicles, and leading up to the event, upwards of 1,400 vehicles were anticipated. Beyond the show cars, there were also special events, such as the Friday evening entertainment, a woman’s-world/arts and crafts show, model car displays and of course, vendors of car parts both new and used!

Seeing this makes us want a V8-powered mini-Bimmer! Maybe with a late-model engine and call it “LSetta?”

On Sunday, those vehicles chosen as standout vehicles of the event were poised in the “Circle of Winners” awards area, with the awards ceremony taking place at 1PM. As the weekend wound down for the beginning of the show season, it was obvious that hot rodding and street rodding is alive and well in the Southeast.

Photo gallery

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We made a lot of new friends, shared information about many of the cars on display and found a few features for up-coming stories for Rod Authority, so stay tuned as the fun from the NSRA Southeast Nats continues to carry us through the next few weeks and months. We’re already making plans to attend next year’s event. You can plan to attend next year, or any event still on the calendar for this year, by checking out the NSRA’s website. Maybe we’ll see you at one of the shows!

Engines Off The Beaten Path

Swapping engines has always been a staple of hot rodders. Sure, there are favorites today, just as there were back in the ’50s and ’60s. Here, we wanted to highlight some of the powerhouses propelling some of the cool ridest we saw at the event. Whether chosen for their power output, or simply to be different, these engine combos helped make the event interesting. We hope you feel the same way.

Don and Joyce Schuller’s ’30 Model A

When you want to make a statement, you choose a Hemi. When you want to make a little dfferent statement, you choose a DESOTO Hemi! That’s exactly what Don and Joyce Schuller did when they powered their cool little ’30 Ford Model A. Originally a two-door sedan, Don chopped the top off to make this cool little lakester out of it. He built the ’56 Desoto Hemi and put six Holley 94 carbs on it. But, he snuck in an EFI system of his own making. It’s hard to see, but the evidence is there for those savvy enough to find it.

Felix Garcia’s ’63 Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo

Okay, while this may not officially be a swap, there’s no denying the cool factor with a factory Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo! What started in 1962, soon ended the following year with reportedly, only 9,617 units ever produced. Called the “Turbo Rocket” V8, the option came about by placing a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger, special Rochester, one-barrel, side-draft carburetor and special exhaust manifolds to a Buick-designed, aluminum-block, 215 cubic-inch (3.5L) V8, which boosted horsepower to 215, with 300 lb-ft of torque.

Russel Booth’s ’51 Crosley

Russel admits he didn’t install the 3.8L Buick V6 and TH350 trans into his Crosley. He purchased it as a project car. But, he can attest that it powers this little car around quite well. We heard the quote of the weekend while looking over Russel’s car when another viewer stated, “A Crosley! First time I’d ever seen one together!” Well, except for the engine.

Bill and Pat Bassford’s ’54 Chevy Pickup

Bill and Pat decided to keep the inline-six in their Chevy truck. They beefed up the six’s output using goodies from Wayne, Offenhauser, Isky, and dual Carter carbs. A 5-speed trans from an S-10 puts all that torque to the rear tires.

Ray Crowley’s ’27 Ford Model T

Depending on what side you look at Ray’s T, you may find either a side-exit exhaust or a shiny valve cover. That’s because Ray powers his T with the one-and-only “leaning tower of power,” Chrysler’s own little G-engine. He’s upped the engine’s diet with a four-barrel intake and Edelbrock carburetor. Spent fumes exit through those fabbed-up headers.

Haulers Of The Southeast Nats

Some street rods are quite limited in their storage space, but many at the Southeast Nats were made specifically for hauling — in more ways than one!

1941 Chevy COE

This “cab-over” now hauls more fun than work, thanks to its 502 cubic-inch “crate” engine.

1927 Chevrolet

This ’27 Chevy now features a slant-bed design and bides its time as the main motivator for the ’23 Ford T-bucket on it.

1948 Ford F-6

For that Ford/Ford combination, how about a restored F6 hauling an equally-restored 8N tractor?

1948 Ford F-6 COE

1956 Cadillac Miller Hearse

Who wouldn’t like their final mile to be in this ’56 Caddy hearse? With a 550 horsepower 496 stroker under the hood, they’ll be sure to get you there on time, if you’re in a hurry.

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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