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2018 Ventura Nationals Had Everything, From Historic Hot Rods to Kool Kustoms

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 10/26/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff

When it comes to car shows, Labor Day Weekend remains one of the busiest times of the year, occasionally leaving enthusiasts in a conundrum: What would be the best event to attend? Hot Rod Deluxe readers living on the West Coast often visit the Ventura Nationals, whose origins can be traced back to 2003, when it was known as the Primer Nationals. Part of its allure lies in the fact that the vehicles displayed very much align with our editorial line. Promoters have found a great formula indeed, with pre-registration highly recommended. This allows the staff to ensure that most participants follow their requisites: Pre-1968 American cars and trucks only, with some leniency towards lowriders and vans (to 1973). Specific traditionally styled 1979 and earlier motorcycles might attend, too. No billet wheels accepted.

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The one-day affair takes place at the Ventura Fairgrounds, 70 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. This venue has the ingredients you might expect from a California car show, with rows of palm trees, Ventura's sandy beaches on the other side of the fence, and even old tin buildings that nicely fit with the event's theme.

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The crowd enjoys plenty of activities on Saturday, from several concerts to a pedal car contest, while artists and vendors display their latest goodies. Let's not forget the Lost Angels Children's Project Raffle, featuring a custom '64 Buick Riviera—Matt Lyons won the neat prize. On Sunday, folks still in town are invited to participate in the annual Reliability Run, a great way to cap off this memorable weekend.

Hot Rod Heaven

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The fairgrounds' San Miguel Hall and Anacapa Hall hosted a fantastic selection of traditional hot rods, from historically accurate tributes to genuine barn finds.


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Palm trees and the nearby beach are so SoCal. Richard Galves' black '60 Buick LeSabre (Kronies Car Club) keeps company with Chase Germeroth's '60 Olds Super 88 painted House of Kolor Candy Tangerine. It has more than a hint of mid- to late-1960s custom style, from the Astro rims to the Bellflower tips.

Dewar Coupe

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Our friend Troy Ladd at Hollywood Hot Rods recently unearthed this three-window Deuce, the Dewar Coupe. From what Troy could gather, it was a very well built show car from the 1950s, apparently parked in a garage since 1961. The '59 371ci Olds (hooked to a '39 three-speed Ford gearbox) must have been almost new when installed.


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Another recent find! We have little information about this unchopped five-window coupe other than it had been parked decades ago and was recently found as-is in Southern California. While not running yet, it will soon be back on the road, once small glitches have been fixed.


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Louis Strands' Hot Head Speed Shop and Grabowski Speed Shop combined their talents to create this perfect '30 Ford coupe, chopped 4 1/2 inches. Though looking like an early 283ci Chevy engine, the V8 is actually a reliable 350, backed by a 700R4 transmission.

Tow Deuce

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Built in Pennsylvania, the Bud Todd coupe has an interesting past, with Todd driving it to California around 1961-1962, towing his '32 C/SR roadster behind. He took the car apart in 1979 for a complete makeover, although it remained idle for more than three decades. It is finally back on the road.


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John "Rockabillyjesus" Barnes owns more cool cars than we can count, including this genuine hot rod he purchased eons ago. Now equipped with a supercharged flathead, this three-window '32 was raced in the 1950s; at one point it even featured an aerodynamic (though rather unattractive) nose made from a WWII P-51 Mustang scoop.


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Tony McDonald's '29 A/V8 was built by Norman Cook. It raced at El Mirage and California dragstrips as far back as the early 1950s. It also appeared in the movie Teenage Rebel in 1956.

Meltdown Prize

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Back in 2014, Merek Chertkow won the Meltdown Drags event giveaway in the shape of this original TE-440 rail. He then added the '65 Buick nailhead with Hilborn injection in the spirit of the late 1950s/early 1960s entries. A neat, period-correct rail for sure.

Pedal Art

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Customized pedal cars have become a big deal at hot rod shows, and some of them are works of art. The Ventura Nats offered a contest, which gathered more than a dozen fantastic examples.

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Full Nelson

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The Nelson family exhibited three of their inventive hot rods. From left to right: a triple-carbed '27 Model T, a '30 Model A topped with four Weber carbs, and a '37 Ford truck. They aren't perfect, but that's how the Nelsons like 'em.


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Collector James "Smitty" Smith displayed a selection of quarter midgets and related memorabilia. Following its first issue, in 1948, HOT ROD magazine regularly devoted coverage to the hobby through the 1960s. A group of them and their young drivers even made the February 1958 cover.


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Open a Don Montgomery book devoted to 1940s lake racing and you will discover roadsters looking like this freshly completed '28 Model A. Owners Vic and Deb Haley accurately equipped their ride with a V8 flathead fitted with Mercury heads, along with a nice tonneau cover.

Asphalt Sailer

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Representing the Asphalt Sailers Car Club is Robert Marlatt's flat blue and triple-carbed '33 coupe. He lives in Lancaster, the largest community near El Mirage Dry Lake.

Low Patina

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Airbag suspension and patina—like it or not, these two ingredients help define today's scene. Case in point: Roger Castillo's '38 Ford Business Coupe Deluxe, which rides closer to the ground thanks to the work of Mike Bello (Bello's Kustoms), based in San Diego, California.

Mercury Kustom

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Yenry Herrera drives one of the best-known contemporary "kustoms." His '40 Mercury, motivated by a healthy Ford 351ci V8, features classic lead-sled lines. Some folks did not recognize the car, as it was formerly painted Como Blue, a 1940 Mercury color. But the coupe certainly looks fabulous in black, too.

Pontiac/Chevy Hybrid

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Any '49 Pontiac Streamliner looks brilliant in stock form. Yet David Villarruel successfully met the challenge of altering his coupe, which sits on a 1991 Chevy Caprice chassis. The treatment includes a 4-inch chop and rear fenders extended 12 inches, although he kept the distinctive moldings under the side windows.

Mega Chop

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Chopped tops on '49-'51 Mercs don't come much lower than this one. Maribel Medina's '50 Mercury travelled from Santa Maria, a city known by many for its excellent hot rod/custom car show.

Mild to Radical

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1950 Mercury, 1949 Buick, 1951 Chevy, 1954 Chevy, 1955 Ford . Just a lineup of old American tin, from mild to radical—typical of the Ventura Nationals.

Cruisin' Henry J

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We witnessed John Lynch's Henry J cruising through the fairgrounds. The supercharged, twin-carbed 392ci Hemi sounded terrific and caught the attention of all bystanders. Henry Js were popular with drag racers as far back as the 1950s, thanks to their relatively light weight.

Straight-Axle Pair

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Next to the highly detailed 1951 Bad Idea Henry J, check out Robbie Fellows' 1955 Plymouth Savoy from Ventura. He equipped his coupe with a 413ci Dodge V8.

Kustom Truck

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Altered grille and bumpers, louvers, spotlights, chrome wheels with bullet center caps. Rich Hairfield beautifully demonstrates that the kustom treatment also applies to 1950s Ford trucks—a 1953 model in this case.

Bright Lites

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Big Orange

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Here's an interesting way to combine your passion for motorcycles and hot rods. Dalton Walker, who runs a shop called S.I.K., transports a '51 Triumph with his 1923 Ford C-Cab, dubbed Big Orange. It would have looked right at home in a 1960s indoor hot rod show.

More Hemi Than Henry

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There is plenty of engine in Alex Carlos' lightweight Penny Hemi Model T. It relies on a 354ci Hemi topped with a Weiand intake and six carbs. The car also features Lincoln brakes, a four-speed BorgWarner transmission, and a Winters quick-change.

Model B

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The Dreyer Roadster is the work of Clayton's Hot Rods in Santa Cruz, California. Visitors loved this Deuce, which features a four-cylinder Model B fitted with a Dreyer dual-overhead-cam conversion. Note the use of a deeper '34 Ford commercial grille shell.

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Metallic Green looks great on both Jeff Laird's '29 Ford sedan and Bo Swan's '60 Pontiac Catalina. Swan's grandfather purchased the wagon new in New Jersey, making a cross-country trip to California in it four years later. Swan's mother also drove it in high school.


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How many of you would have guessed this roadster came out of a Chevrolet factory in 1929 as a four-door sedan? The diminutive hot rod belongs to Aladdin, a member of the Long Beach Cavaliers, a California club formed in 1948.


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Inspired by early 1950s jalopies, Lucky Burton's '31 Model A made quite an impression at the show. His roadster uses a 5-inch dropped axle, Lincoln brakes, a Deuce grille, and Firestone dirt track rear tires. Stromberg 97s feed the 296ci 59AB flathead via a Weiand manifold.


033-2018-ventura-nationals-wallem-1934-ford-coupe.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 033-2018-ventura-nationals-wallem-1934-ford-coupe.jpg Based in Bakersfield since 1993, the Loco Banditos Car Club is well known for colorful customs. The group welcomes a handful of hot rods as well, such as Joe Wallem's loudly painted '34 three-window coupe.

Lost Nomad

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Custom hero Lee Pratt discovered his long-lost '55 Chevy Nomad a few years ago, before performing a painstaking resurrection and restoration. It now pretty much looks as it did in the November 1969 magazine article. Notice that only the front suspension features hydraulics for a nose-down attitude.

Music, Too

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036-2018-ventura-nationals-noteboom-ford-econoline.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 036-2018-ventura-nationals-noteboom-ford-econoline.jpg Restyled by Keith Dean at South End Kustoms, Jim "Bones" Noteboom's Ford Econoline received some heavy alterations, especially around the front panel and side windows. Power comes from a Ford big-block.


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This '63 Ford Econoline caused quite a commotion when unveiled earlier this decade. Owner Coby Gewertz of Redondo Beach equipped the van with a 290hp 350ci Chevy engine, while Rally America supplied the 14-inch rims. Gewertz and his hauler were Guests of Honor at Japan's 2017 Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show.

Real Mustang

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In one of the earlier captions we mention that John Barnes' three-window coupe at one time featured a nose that integrated a P-51 plane scoop. It just so happened that two of those restored aircraft flew over the fairgrounds several times during the show. You can clearly see the scoop under the belly.

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