NSRA Southeast Nationals Brings Rodding Variety To Tampa

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 entire spectrum of hot rodding was on-hand during the event. When you think about it, this hopped-up, 'banger-powered Model A Ford could very well have been the pro-streeted, big-block muscle car of its day. And check out those way-cool Cragar twin-fin center caps!

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.

We were greeted by Mike Barber's 1963 Ford Econoline as we walked onto the fairgrounds. This utility vehicle of its day was super-clean and had enough modern touches for added comfort while seasoned with some vintage goodies to keep it all interesting.

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.

Ever hear of a set of Barnes small-block Chevy heads? Doug Kenny's '34 Ford Phaeton had a set under its hood. We'd be lying if we denied having to do a little Google-fu to find out some information about them. Apparently, they were designed for sprint car racing and were so successful they were banned from competition. An interesting vintage nod to hot rodding's history. Jim Fox's eye-searing '55 Chevy upped the ante by stuffing an LT4 engine under its hood. The engine, along with the accompanying bling, competed for your retinal focus with good effect.

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.

Dale Deburger’s Nailhead-powered 1930 Model A caught our eye. The build quality was top-notch on this recently-completed ride and a full complement of stacks towering over that multi-carbed intake drives home the hopped-up nature of this sedan.

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!

The folks from One Off Rod & Custom were on-hand with the NSRA's 2021 Grand Prize giveaway car. This all-steel roadster pickup is being built by the team at One Off Rod & Custom and will be given away to a participant at the 52nd Annual NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. The truck is coming along nicely and attendees have the opportunity to decide the vehicle's color by voting for their favorite. You may have had your fill of voting this year already, politics aside, this can still be fun on a much lighter note.

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.

Gary Brown of Buford, Georgia had this incredibly-clean 1956 Chevy 210 sedan on-hand. While upgraded with many modern accouterments (such as a late-model LS engine swap) he masterfully retained the vintage vibe of the build in a sort of "1956 Black Widow" kind of way. We REALLY enjoyed studying Gary's handiwork and prowess at blending both new and old into a seamless package.

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!

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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!

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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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