One of hot rodding’s enduring strengths is the variety it encompasses so far as the individuals and their creations. Any number of doors, wheels, engines, or the vehicle’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is welcome into the hobby. This is never more obvious than when visiting one of the National Street Rod Association’s events that are scattered around the country.
The NSRA just completed its Southeast Nationals this past weekend and we were on-hand to take in sights, sounds, and smells as it all went down. Of course, this event was rescheduled from its original date, due to reasons that we’ve been all too accustomed to recently. Many auto events were flat-out canceled this year, so for the NSRA to be able to bring a safe and fun opportunity to auto-enthusiast attendees is a testament to both the NSRA’s and local officials’ willingness to work together.
Even though the event occurred during the first week of December, while the rest of the nation was well above the frost line, the area known as Central Florida is never a sure bet. Typically, the summer heat and humidity had moved on by the time we get to the last page of the calendar, and this year was no different. You can typically set your watch by the summer monsoon rains, but in the months which most of the country considers “winter,” a rainstorm in Florida is never far from a possibility.
The weekend started out a little damp. Not enough to wash away the event’s energy, but just enough to allow folks to enjoy their breakfast a little longer and perhaps have that second (or third) cup of coffee until the clouds cleared. After that, the warming sun greeted attendees with reflective colors and enough chrome to attract the attention of the International Space Station miles above.
As a steady stream of cars worked their way onto the Florida State Fairgrounds, the scope of rodding’s palette, and the talent of those who wield it, came into an unfathomable array of vintage and modern, simple and sophisticated, colorful and corroded examples of why an NSRA National event has something for everybody. Rather than choose a side on the “carb vs. EFI” debate, we’ve learned to enjoy each approach for what it brings to the table. A quick peek under the hoods of many of the cars at the event reveals why discounting either method of metering fuel would be a mistake. There were modern engines placed in vintage rides that brought all the benefits of today’s technology, while seemingly factory-original rides sat nearby, faithfully serving their occupants just as they have done for decades.
As much as we love seeing each style of engine/drivetrain choices, events such as the Southeast Nats also brings out a grand variety of the cars themselves. This year was no different, with rare and interesting makes and models of cars that ranged from highly collectible to outright zany. Everything from chrome-dipped, coach-built cruisers to blue-collar hot rods represented both professional and backyard builders. Sometimes, it was near impossible to tell the difference!
This weekend’s NSRA Southeast Nationals was the perfect opportunity to stroll the grounds and take in all the event had to offer. Of course, there were the typical events as with all NSRA gatherings, such as the safety committee inspections which endorse basic safety practices when building and designing your hot rod. Owners can have one of the NSRA Safety Inspectors go over their car to help them pinpoint areas of concern and/or endorse a car’s overall safety.
Another big draw for the NSRA’s events is the annual giveaway program which awards attendees of each of their events simply for being there and participating. This year, announcements were made over the PA system informing those at the Tampa, Florida event since several NSRA events did not happen this year, those attending the Southeast Nats were the benefactors of an extra-large helping of goodies given away during the event. We didn’t hear any complaints about that!
While the overall attendance was noticeably lower than in previous years, it made “social distancing” easier by default. Even with the additional elbow room, we found several items from the swap meet and many cars to glean for ideas and inspiration. We also enjoyed spending a little more time perusing the grounds and discussing cars and parts with several attendees instead of our typical fevered pitch as we try to take in as much of the event as humanly possible. Quantity is NOT always a dictate of quality and the level of craftsmanship exhibited at this year’s event was as lofty as ever. Feel free to check out these images of just some of the cars that caught our eye, and to really get the full effect, you need to plan on attending a nearby NSRA Nationals event whenever possible. You can check out the NSRA’s event schedule page on its website and make plans now to hit the 2021 show season, you’ll be glad you did!