Four guys from New Zealand recently did a whirlwind trip to the USA in August for the 50th NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. Leaving cooler temperatures behind in New Zealand’s winter, the group was blessed with temperatures in the 30 degree range as they touched down in Chicago before heading to Louisville. The 50th anniversary of the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Street Rod Nationals attracted over 13,000 vehicles on display over four days with spectators coming from all over the world including Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The Street Rod Nationals was based at the Kentucky Exposition Centre over a staggering 300 acres resulting in a totally overwhelming experience. It’s a blend of outdoor and indoor activity and there was truly something for everyone from the trade vendors, pro’s pick awards area, ladies crafts, country and rock bands and cars as far as the eye could see or as far as your legs could take you. With not much time to adjust to the time zone changes, we left the Nationals Sunday morning and headed north to Indianapolis Speedway – the home of the Indy 500 where there was some vintage motor racing taking place.
Indy is the holy grail of motorsport in anyone’s language and there’s nothing quite like the sound of a McLaren Can Am car hammering down the front straight! This is also the site of excellent Indianapolis Motorsports Museum and that in itself is well worth the visit. From there we headed further north into Michigan to visit the Henry Ford Museum on the Monday. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is something more than just the automobile manufacturing industry in which Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company. It is a museum which portrays the history of the United States of America through the years – 300 years of history to be precise over 250 acres including the Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Benson Ford Research Centre.
The Henry Ford is a National Historic landmark based in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. For us visiting it was impressive but also very soul grabbing as all four of us are vintage Ford fans, these were not only the grounds which Henry Ford founded the museum on with his blessing of his friend Thomas Edison, these were also the grounds of the famed Ford Motor Company. It was a surreal feeling to the point where you could very much visualise Model T or Model A Ford motor vehicles tootling around the streets in their day. Our Monday was spent at the Henry Ford and also Greenfield Village and Tuesday morning we took the impressive tour of the Rouge Factory where we watched brand new Ford F-150 pickups being assembled. Interestingly, while we were in town there was over 300 Model A Ford vehicles attending the Model A Restorer’s Club rally so it was neat to see some original old Model A Ford’s cruising around the roads of the grounds they were first manufactured on.
On Tuesday after the tour, we headed to Ford Garage – a Model T and Model A themed burger joint and bar/restaurant for a Model A hamburger (many of the dishes were named after cars on the menu!) before heading Southwest towards Kansas City. Next up was to visit Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts who GMS Hot Rods are an authorised New Zealand dealer for their products. Pete & Jakes celebrate 45 years in business originating in California by the late Pete Chapouris and Jim “Jake” Jacobs. The Slover family of Peculiar, Missouri (just east of Kansas) purchased the company in 1987 and continue the tradition of quality and proven hot rod parts to this day. After a great visit there we headed west back to Louisville and flew to Houston, Texas before flying home to New Zealand. Travel time in total was 11 days and the rental car clicked off just under 2000 miles of driving. We experienced some beautiful scenery and some neat small town USA old fashioned diners. It was all over before it seemed like it had started but it was a blast the whole way with many laughs and old friendships reacquainted and new friendships made. Next up is the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, 24th to 26th January 2020 – another must-do event which celebrates the prestigious America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award. Visit https://www.rodshows.com/gnrs/