Category Archives: cars

The 2022 Pontiac Nationals

The Pontiac Nationals, an annual drag racing event, is held at the Summit Motorsport Park near Norwalk, Ohio. This year marked the 31st anniversary of the event.

After a few years away, I again made the trip to watch the massive gathering of Pontiacs (and a few GMCs) take to the track and take in the sounds of engines and the smell of burnt rubber. Returning to this track felt like seeing an old friend.

THE EVENT

The Pontiac Nationals is a three-day event that features drag racing and more. Some of the fastest Pontiacs in the world come to compete.

A lot is happening at the Nationals aside from the racing. For example, there’s the Car Corral, where cars for sale are displayed, a car show, a vendor’s row, and a swap meet. The classic rock playing over the PA system helped to set the tone. On Friday, there was a wheelie competition (which I unfortunately missed).

The swap meet was expansive and offered everything from new and used car parts to garage art. It’s a great place to find stuff to get that project finished.

There was a lot going on and a lot to see. I found myself caught between trying to see everything and trying not to miss anything.

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Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick

Once again, drag racing pioneer and Pontiac racing legend Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick appeared with his Tameless Tiger II GTO drag car. One of his earlier cars was even on display. I always look forward to seeing the iconic racer in person.

This 1963 Catalina was driven by Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick

THE TRACK

Located just east of the small city of Norwalk, Summit Motorsport Park is over 50 years. The quarter-mile track, founded in 1963, hosts various events throughout the year.

CAR SHOW

The car show brought out some awe-inspiring cars. In addition, it was an excellent opportunity to get a close-up look at some iconic Pontic models from the brand’s storied history.

From Firebirds to Bonnevilles, there was a little bit of everything. Several GMCs entered the show as well. In all, there were over 1,000 vehicles in the show.

This 1989 Turbo Trans Am is a rare sight
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DRAG RACING

The drag racing featured multiple classes and some seriously fast competitors. I was fortunate enough to witness a 200 mph plus pass. Seeing a run down the track in person at over 200 mph helps you comprehend how mind-bendingly fast that is.

A 1964 GTO on the track
A show-quality GT-37 at the starting line
The Pontiac Nationals saw some extreme cars, like this doorslammer Firebird
It’s not every day you see a rail with a Pontiac motor.
An early Trans Am launches down the track

The cool, overcast day made for some great performance, but there was also a persistent possibility of rain that threatened to put an end to the day’s racing.

Aside from the race cars, it was cool to see relatively stock cars getting in on the action on the drag strip. Bracket racing rules allowed the less modified machines to be competitive.

Newer Pontiacs were represented as well. It was fun to watch the newer GTOs and G8s taking to the track alongside much older machines.

A classic Firebird Formula and a late-model G8 square off

It was always exciting to see what was pulling up to the line next. Several classes made me appreciate the earplugs I got at the track giftshop.

Walking through the pits was like a car show in and of itself, only you got to hear the rumble of cars as they headed for the starting line.

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Nostalgia Super Stock

Nostalgia Super Stock, founded in 1989, is an organization that brings heads-up drag racing with period-correct race cars to tracks around the Midwest. Not only are they fast, but the cars featured are incredibly beautiful, show-quality machines. Watching them line up was like going back in time for a few seconds.

One of the races on their annual schedule was held at the Pontiac Nationals. They fit right in alongside the Pontiacs.

The Nostalgia Super Stock cars put on a great show
Amazing cars were a common sight in the pits

The Trucks

Pontiacs weren’t the only cars having fun on the dragstrip. Several GMC trucks, including a dually, competed in the drag racing.  As with the stock vehicles, it was fun to see the GMCs make passes down the track.

Pontiacs weren’t the only vehicles on the track, as this GMC dually demonstrates
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WRAPPING UP

Even though the discontinuation of Pontiac happened years ago, it is great to see that the enthusiasm for the brand remains strong.

Whether they brought their cars to the car show or the drag strip, they are doing their part to keep the brand that means so much to so many people alive. In addition, over 10,000 spectators came out to enjoy the show.

For more information on the Pontiac Nationals, please visit their website. You can learn more about Nostalgia Super Stock at their official website. In addition, Summit Motorsport Park’s website can be seen here. Finally, click here to see my blog on the 2018 Pontiac Nationals.

Did you attend the Pontiac Nationals? Let me know in the comments!

One response to “The 2022 Pontiac Nationals”

  1. John cunningham Avatar
    John cunningham

    I loved the pictures and description of the Nostalgia Super Stocks. Could be straight out of Hot Rod Magazine circa 1968.

    Liked by 1 person

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The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational

An account of the 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 2021 PRI Show

A guide to the closed-to-the-general-public 2021 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show.

The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational

While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is most famous for hosting the Indianapolis 500, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other exciting events held at the track. One of which is the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.

First held in 2014, it’s an annual event put on by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. The 2022 event took place on June 18th and 19th and brought together hundreds of cars for an unforgettable weekend of racing. I had a chance to attend it for the first time, and I was not disappointed.

Arriving at the track Sunday morning, I was greeted by the sound of American V-8s storming around the course. I knew immediately it was the place for me.

A Chevy Corvette makes its way around the road course

On Sunday, the pace car for the races was driven by Indy racing royalty and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Jr.

The Track

The races took place on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. The roughly 2.4-mile course uses part of the main oval, including the start/finish straight, which is run backward from the standard Indy 500 configuration. The Road Course goes inside the oval and features two long straights and plenty of sharp turns. It also features different configurations.

A car takes the first turn of the course
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Spectators have several options when watching the road races. Along with the grandstands, several hills provide a vantage point to corners on the track.

Picture by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Classic Indy Cars and “Ragtime Racers”

Historic Indy cars and vintage race cars made exhibition laps around the track. The vintage race cars were brought by a group called “The Ragtime Racers.” Dressing in period-style clothes, they drive their antique machines on racetracks and at events around the country. Seeing the vintage cars on the track was an epic experience.

A line of early 20th century racecars
This 1916 racecar features an aluminum V-8 aircraft engine
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It was amazing to see race cars that are not only over 100 years old but getting driven around a racetrack. Restoring these machines was undoubtedly a serious undertaking, and the old cliché about if walls (or, in this case, cars) could talk certainly holds true.

Along with the vintage cars, there were a variety of mid-20th century IndyCars making exhibition laps. The ‘60s was a significant time for cars competing in the Indy 500. It heralded the phasing out of the front engine “roadsters” in favor of the modern mid-engine machines.

A mid-engine car on display
Plenty of racing history could be seen at the event

In my opinion, the streamlined roadsters of that era were some of the most beautiful race cars ever made—their sleek design and traditional front-engine layout made for a stunning racecar.

Classic roadsters on display
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The Races

The cars racing ranged from American muscle to open-wheel racecars. The variety of cars at the event made for some unique on-track combinations. For example, open-wheel cars shared the track with sports cars; some races had cars with decades of difference in age.

An Austin Healy Sprite, an iconic British sports car, crosses the famous bricks.
A classic MG heads down the front straight
A classic Mercedes Benz heads down the track

It was always fun to see what would come down the start/finish straight, the same front straight that just weeks before featured the cars of the Indianapolis 500.

When I arrived at the track Sunday morning, the Group 6 cars were up. While the Group 6 class encompasses a range of cars, those racing today were American V-8-powered machines like Corvettes and Mustangs.

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A classic Mustang charges down a straightaway
It was fun seeing classic cars competing on the track

It was a real thrill to hear the roar of the V8s and see the cars storm down a long straight.

When it comes to heritage, the Formula Vee class has lots of it. Founded back in 1963, it features air-cooled VW-powered open-wheel race cars. The idea being it would be an affordable style of racing.

Formula Vees getting ready to take to the track

Not only was watching the Formula Vee cars on the track fun, but when the top drivers pulled up for the award ceremony after the race, they couldn’t contain their excitement. They looked like they had about the most fun you could have racing.

A Formula Vee racecar waiting to race

After the Formula Vee race, a man next to me told me the story of one of the cars in the winner’s circle. He had built that car decades ago at his in-laws but had stopped racing at age 79. It’s not every day you get a firsthand account of a racecar’s history.

Later came the NASCARs, representing 20 years of cars, from 1987 to 2007. A NASCAR Pickup even competed.

Drivers preparing to take to the track
Drivers coming across the start/finish line

The winner, with a dominant lead, was professional NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek. Seeing him step out of his car up close in the winner’s circle was a definite highlight for me.

Professional NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek in the winner’s circle.
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The event produced some incredible sounds. The distinct tone of a classic Austin Healey Sprite barreling down the front straightaway of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an unforgettable experience, as was the collective rumble of a field full of NASCARs.

Wrapping Up

I’m looking forward to attending more vintage races. You never know what cars you might see. Looking for more on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Check out my blog post about the track and museum and my blog post about my first trip to the Indianapolis 500.

The SVRA did an excellent job packing the event full of amazing racing. You can visit their website here. The Ragtime Racers did a great job bringing history to life on the track. Their website can be viewed here. Finally, you can see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s website at this link. Did you attend the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational? Let me know in the comments!

5 responses to “The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational”

  1. Joe Rothpearl Avatar

    Very Cool!!! Feel like I was there with you. Thank you for bringing the show to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe Avatar

      Thank you for checking it out! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Like

  2. John Cunningham Avatar
    John Cunningham

    Some great cars there at the Brickyard, Joe. What a great event to attend. Some of the older racers are reminiscent of the cars that raced on the old board tracks in the US. A racing genre I am fascinated with, ever since I found a book about this form of racing in my local public
    Library back in 1968. Intetesting to see the pic of a lime green Austin Healy Sprite. I had one of those back in the day. Not much power but because it was so low to the ground it gave a great illusion of speed. Although I now live in Ireland I grew up in Birmingham, England, where these little cars were made,at the Austin factory in the Longbridge area of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe Avatar

    It is always good to hear from you John. I had a great time at the races. I’ve always liked the Sprites. They look like they would be a lot of fun to drive.
    I actually went to Ireland for the first time a few months ago for a vacation. I loved every minute of it and cannot wait to go back.

    Like

  4. John Cunningham Avatar
    John Cunningham

    Glad that you made it to Ireland Joe and enjoyed your time here.

    Liked by 1 person

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My Trip to the 2022 Indianapolis 500

            As a nearly lifelong Hoosier (someone from Indiana), it may come as a surprise that I’ve never actually attended the Indianapolis 500 race itself. This year, at the famous race’s 106th running, I set out to change that and headed out before sunrise southeast towards Indianapolis on the morning of Sunday, May 29th. Destination: Speedway, Indiana.

Speedway is a town and enclave of Indianapolis; situated just northwest of downtown Indy. After parking at the Indianapolis International Airport and taking a shuttle bus, I was at my first Indy 500. I later came across a picture online of the pre-dawn line for the track, stretching down the road.

The Event

For many people, the Indianapolis 500 is an annual destination. As a result, people have been known to rack up some seriously impressive attendance streaks reaching into decades, often watching from the same seat. This year, about 300,000 people attended the race.

Walking to your seat at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway helps you appreciate just how big the track really is. Inside it, among other things, is part of a golf course as well as a road course.

There are a number of prerace ceremonies and traditions to keep fans busy before the flag waves.

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Some of the traditions include the fly-over, the singing of “Back Home in Indiana”, and the procession of the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy.

The green flag being delivered by helicopter

Before the race, the starting flag was delivered by helicopter and a parade of historic Indy cars took place. One of the cars in the parade was the 1912 Indy 500 winner (the second year for the race). One of the drivers in the parade was Mario Andretti. There’s even a red carpet for the celebrities that attend the race.

There’s a sort of subdued excitement when the racecars get pushed to their pit stalls, knowing what is coming up in a little bit.

Drivers

Two drivers that caught my attention in the field of 33 were Hélio Castroneves and Jimmie Johnson.

In 2021 Brazilian driver Hélio Castroneves became the fourth person ever to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. This race gave him the rare opportunity to compete for a record 5th win. Something that has never been done in the 106 years of the Indianapolis 500.

Jimmie Johnson, the retired multi-time NASCAR champion turned IndyCar racer, was fulfilling a childhood dream by competing in the 500.

The Race

Sitting in pole position was six-time IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon. Interestingly, the cars are lined up in rows of three instead of the usual two often seen in racing.

The cars went around the track a few times, picking up speed as they went.

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The pace car, a Chevy Corvette C8 driven by retired IndyCar racer Sarah Fisher led the 33 cars around the track a few times before pulling into the pits as the race began.

Watching the race, one of the things that stuck to me was just how little time seemed to have passed each lap. It seemed like before I knew it the cars were flying past me, completing another lap on the 2.5-mile course.

The cars weren’t the only thing going fast; the race itself seemed to fly by, with the laps quickly adding up. Before long, 50 laps had already been completed.

Sitting near the pits, I got a close-up view of the precisely choreographed pit stops. I could smell the burnt rubber from the cars as they peeled out of their pitlanes.

Watching the race on the lower part of the bleachers adjacent to the front straight, you can really appreciate the speed of the cars as they go past you, doing well over 200 miles an hour.

Another thing that stuck out to me was how tight the racing was. The pack of cars seemed to stick together as the race went on.

Looking down the front stretch

The race produced visceral reactions from the crowd, who were brought to their feet throughout the race.

A major benefit to where I was sitting was the giant tv screen just across the track. It enabled me to follow the race even when the cars were out of sight.

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In the end, the winner was F-1 turned IndyCar racer Marcus Ericsson, a first-time winner of the 500. This ended up being one of the fastest races in Indianapolis 500 history in regard to elapsed time.

The number of spectators in the stands at the end of the race seemed to be almost as many as when the race began hours ago.

There are traditions even after the race is over. Two of which are the winner getting milk to drink and kissing the strip of bricks at the start-finish line. Kissing the bricks is a relatively new tradition, starting in the 90s, while the milk-drinking dates back to the 1930s.

I had a great time at my first Indianapolis 500, and it was long overdue.

Wrapping Up

The Indianapolis 500 has transcended racing and has become a cultural phenomenon for Indiana and the rest of the world. It can draw the interest of someone who normally has little interest in auto racing.

If you want to know more about the track and the museum, please check out my blog post. You can also check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s official website or visit the official website of IndyCar. Have you ever attended the Indy 500? Let me know in the comments!

The 2021 PRI Show

The Performance Racing Industry Trade Show or PRI Show is a three-day annual trade show held in Indianapolis, Indiana, for all things motorsposts. It’s only fitting that the event is in a city synonymous with racing. This year the closed-to-the-general-public event was held on December 19 through the 21st.

The 2021 show drew around 1,000 businesses and thousands of attendees from all over the world. The businesses range in size from mom-and-pop-type businesses with a handful of employees all the way up to Chevrolet and Ford.

A wide array of racing displines are represented, from stock car racing to IndyCar.

This custom Chevy Camaro was one of the amazing cars on display.

This was my third time attending the PRI Show, and every time I’ve went, I’ve been impressed by it.

The Show

Located at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, the PRI Show has booths with just about everything associated with racing. The event takes up 750,000 gross square feet, so there is a lot to see.

Conferences held throughout the event covered everything from business advice to engine bearings.

The Cars of the PRI Show

Few things are better at attracting a crowd at an automotive-themed trade show than a car on display, and the vendors did not disappoint. A record-setting drag car, rugged offroad trucks, and show cars ensured that people would swing by your booth.

Online race part marketplace RacingJunk.com brought this beautiful Chevy Corvette.
A 1949 Ford F1 pickup known as “Old Smokey”. It broke the diesel record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
TracTive Suspension’s display featured this classic Porsche 911 racecar.
6-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-Benz.

Goodyear Tire brought a collection of race cars. Naturally they were all sporting Goodyear Tires.

Chevrolet Performance

Chevrolet Performance brought an array of crate motors plus a manual and automatic transmission. In addition, they brought several cars including Popular Hot Rodding magazine’s iconic testbed 1957 Chevy Bel Air known affectionately as “Project X”, now equipped with an electric motor.

Ford Performance

Ford’s display had their new electric crate motor, the Eluminator, as well as their 5.2L Mustang GT500 motor. They also had performance parts and emblems on display.

Ford’s Eluminator electric crate motor.
Ford had plenty of emblems to deckout your ride with.

EV Performance Zone

This year the PRI Show dedicated an entire area to the growing electric performance industry. Ford even brought out three EVs. Outside of the EV section were several electric race cars.

Featured Products

The Featured products section serves as a microcosm of the varied products on display. The products highlighted by the PRI Show ranged from a racing suit to a children’s book.

Products

The products on display are incredibly varied. Need a crate motor? They’ve got them. Looking for a CNC machine? There’s a section for that as well.

A 16 cylinder XVI Power engine.
BDS Superchargers had one of the most creative displays at the show.
A display of Keizer Forged Wheels.
Noonan Race Engineering crate motors.
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RVs and Trailers

You have to get to the racetrack somehow. Stretched out across the field of Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) were the RV and trailer display. Everything from open trailers to double-deckers was on display.

A Showhauler Motorhome.
One way to get people looking at your trailer is to have a custom Ford Mustang on it. This autocross car was one of the most unique cars I saw at the show.

Content Creator Zone

Us content creators weren’t left out. The Content Creator Zone featured several cameras on display and presentations throughout the show.

2022 Indy 500 Ticket Reveal

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves was on hand to reveal the look of the 2022 Indianapolis 500 ticket. Fittingly, he was on it.

Wrapping Up

Looking for more PRI info? Head over to their official website. Also, check out my blog posts on the 2017 and 2018 shows. Did you go to the PRI show this year or in the past? Let me know in the comments!

The 2021 Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals

November in the Midwest means that, for the most part, car show season is over. Classic cars are put into storage as snow and salt get ready to take to the roads (if they aren’t there already).

An exception to that rule is the Muscle Car & Corvette Nations aka the MCACN. The show is held annually in November at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Hundreds of some of the nicest Corvettes and muscle cars in the country converge in the convention center. I’ve been to several, and the 2021 show did not disappoint. This year it was held on November 20th and 21st.

The Show

The Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals is full of vendors, automotive celebrities, seminars, and lots and lots of cars.

Outside of the show, there’s a range of unique cars on display. Before even stepping foot inside, I was greeted by a 1966 Ford GT40.

You’ll find almost 400,000 square feet of some of the coolest cars to ever roll out of Detroit packed tight together. The organizers really do a great job of making sure each show is different.

The classes are divided by make, model, as well as modifications. The quality of the cars is evident when you see ones surrounded by mirrors on the ground.

The Cars

It’s hard to overstate just how many cars are on display at MCACN. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a sign with an arrow telling you there are more cars this way.

It’s one of the few places I’ve found where you can become sort of numb to all the cars; wherever you look, there’s another showstopper.

 This year, GM cars, 1970, and 1971 cars were some of the vehicles highlighted.

It’s not every day you see a 1969 Pontiac Trans Am, let alone the first production one.

Mecum Auction Cars

Once again, the Mecum Auction company brought some rare and iconic cars to the show. Their display included a prototype Ford GT40, several road racing Corvettes, a Shelby Cobra drag car, and a rare “tanker” Corvette, to name a few.

A Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake.
A Ford GT40 Roadster prototype.
A Chevy Corvette racecar.

The Barn Finds

Barn finds have a special place in automotive lore. Countless car fans have dreamt about opening a creaky barn door or a desolate shed only to find some ultra-rare piece of automotive history. MCACN has an entire section dedicated to them.

The barn find display has a variety of cars in various conditions (some still covered in dust). The barn finds definitely attracted a crowd.

And More

Besides the cars, there’s also vintage snowmobiles (it is the Midwest after all!), vintage bicycles, some awesome old school minibikes, and classic dirt bikes to top it all off.

More Info

If you’re looking for more info on the MCACN, you can check out their official website. If the Corvette part of the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals is the reason you’re here, take a look at my blog post about the National Corvette Museum (they fixed the cave-in).

Did you go to the MCACN or know of a car event I should attend next? Please let me know in the comments!

The 2021 Trans Am Nationals

The year 2021 marks the 36th Trans Am Nationals. It’s a three-day celebration for all Pontiac Firebirds hosted by the Dayton Chapter of the Trans Am Club of America. This year it was held from August 27th through the 29th.

It takes place at the Dayton Holiday Inn in Fairborn, Ohio, which is on the eastern side of the city of Dayton. I’ve been coming to the Nationals for years now, and I always have a great time. It’s fun to see what new cars show up.

On Thursday and Friday, a movie theater on the southeast side of Dayton had screenings of Smokey and the Bandit (naturally).

The Car Show

Firebirds, Formulas, and Trans Ams fill the parking lot around the Holiday Inn. The 35 years of the Pontiac Firebird are well represented. The rumble of cars and music from the DJ fills the air. You’ll find everything from showroom stock to custom Firebirds.

The classes are divided up by years, as well as the level of modification. A car is considered “modified,” “heavily modified,” or “custom,” based on the number of modifications it has. There are several Concours classes and a driver/work-in-progress class as well.

The categories the cars are judged on include the interior, exterior, engine compartment, as well as the overall appearance. On Sunday, the winners of the show are announced and presented with their trophies.

This year the show had 494 Firebirds registered, up from the 485 at the last show in 2019. This year, the Nationals also raised over $10,000 for the A Special Wish Foundation. This charity helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. The Nationals have supported the A Special Wish Foundation for years now. You can learn more about the charity on their website.

The Seminars

On Saturday, there were several seminars. There was a presentation by people involved with the engineering and design of the Firebird, Trans Am, and Camaro. They told some great stories about working at GM in the 60s and 70s under icons like John DeLorean.

They discussed the evolution of the iconic “Screaming Chicken” design evolved from the logo used on 50’s GM experimental cars to possibly the world’s most famous hood decal. A radical design element at the time, the hood decal faced pushback from factory higher-ups. There were concerns over the perceived difficulty of installing them in large quantities.

The “Screaming Chicken” design printed on film.

The aluminum Snowflake Wheel’s creation was also covered, including the design process, and the pitch meeting that set it into production.

The Mini Nats

Like the full-size show, there’s always something new at the Mini Nats too. The Mini Nats is a room in the hotel filled with model Firebirds and Trans Ams in a variety of scales.

There’s everything from plastic model kits to die cast replicas. Tables are covered with Firebird, Formula, and Tran Am models, some decades old and others still in the box. In addition, an incredible scale model of the host Holiday Inn was on display, complete with model Firebirds surrounding it.

Tipp City Cruise In

Located just outside of Dayton, the Tipp City Cruise In draws hundreds of Firebirds. It’s been a part of the Trans Am Nationals for years. Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Firebirds make the drive from the Holiday Inn to Tipp City, a city with just under 10,000 residents. The entire downtown area is shut down for the cars.

A late 70’s Trans Am with stunning custom paint and wheels in Tipp City.

Firebirds fill the main street and parts of side streets. Restaurants around town are filled to the brim, and a band performed on one end of town. The downtown is made up old brick buildings that are great for photo-ops, especially when surrounded by cars.

Lambo doors and a custom air intake make a statement on this wild third-gen Trans Am.

More Info

For more information on the Trans Am Nationals, you can check out the official website at tanationals.org. You can visit the website for the Trans Am Club of America, Dayton Chapter, the club responsible for putting on the Nationals at tacadcinc.com.

Also, check out my blog posts about the 2019 Trans Am Nationals and the 2018 Trans Am Nationals. Been to the Trans Am Nationals, or know of a car event I should attend next? Let me know in the comments!

The “Kustom” Cars of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth

Few names are as synonymous with hot rodding culture as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. For decades he built some of the most innovative and unique custom cars the hot rodding world had seen. However, he is probably best known for his creation of Ratfink, a cartoon rat. With Ratfink’s trademark bulging eyes, the cartoon rat adorned countless t-shirts, posters, and comic books, often sticking out of a cartoon hotrod, with his hand on the shifter. Recently, I had the chance to visit an Ed Roth exhibit (now closed) at the National Corvette Museum entitled “Car-toon Creatures, Kustom Kars and Corvettes: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.” Many of his legendary cars were on display, as well as plenty of memorabilia and some of his Equipment.

A display at the Ed Roth Exhibit at the National Corvette Museum.
The entrance of the Ed Roth Exhibit at the National Corvette Museum. His famous creation Ratfink is on the right.

“Kustom” Cars, Ratfink and More.

Ed Roth went far beyond just making wild cars. Besides his famous Rat Fink character, Roth created countless t-shirts with his iconic monster characters. To the general public, one of his best-known endeavors creating “monster t-shirts”, although he was also a pinstriping pioneer. The art of pinstriping developed rapidly in the 50s and 60s, and Roth was one of the artists at the forefront. He even went on to create two books on the subject. He helped shape the look of hot rod culture and even the sound. In the 1960s, Roth put out three surf rock albums under the name Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos.

Ratfink comic books at the Ed Roth exhibit at the Corvette Museum.
Ratfink comic books on display at the Corvette Museum.

Wild Show Cars.

In a span of about 40 years, Roth created some of the most innovative and imaginative custom cars in the show car scene. These creations ranged from the more traditional Tweedie Pie to the bubble top, hand-controlled Beatnik Bandit, both of which were on display at the Museum. Roth also went beyond the conventional power plant of the hot rodder: the V-8. He used everything from V-8s, air-cooled VW motors, Corvair motors, and Triumph motorcycle motors. He was a big fan of putting the engine behind the driver, saying in an interview that that was the best spot for it. Many of his cars had Sci-Fi influences. He made more than traditional hotrods, with wild creations like his MINI based Surfite surfboard hauler and the twin-Triumph motorcycle motor-powered hovercraft dubbed the Rotar. I had the opportunity to see the following Roth cars at the National Corvette Museum.

The Beatnik Bandit

Arguably Roth’s most famous car: The Beatnik Bandit, carries his trademark space-age bubble-top roof. Interestingly, it is controlled entirely by a central joystick type lever located in the middle of the interior. The joystick even controls braking and acceleration. There was even a “sequel” to the car Roth made in the form of the 1995 Beatnik Bandit II.

Ed Roth's custom car called "Orbitron."

The Orbitron

Another one of Roth’s cars with space-age influence the Orbitron, like the Beatnik Bandit sports a bubble top. It even comes equipped with a color TV. The driver sits far back, over the rear axle. One of its most unique features is its asymmetrical front end. The Orbitron has a story as wild as it. Lost for many years, it was discovered in rough shape outside of a store just over the Mexican border. It received a full restoration (and a new TV!)

A replica of Ed Roth's custom car "Mysterion."

The Mysterion

One of his wildest cars, unfortunately, the original was scrapped after the customized frame broke. The wild twin-engine/transmission car was recreated in painstaking detail. Like the Orbitron it also features an asymmetrical front end. It comes with a single seat.

Ed Roth's custom car Tweedie Pie.

Tweedie Pie

A more traditional custom car (at least by Roth standards!) Tweedie Pie is done in the t-bucket style. According to Ed Roth’s website, Tweedie Pie was purchased by Roth already customized and modified from there.

Ed Roth's newly restored WV-powered "Wishbone" show car.

The Wishbone

One of Roth’s many VW-powered machines, the low-slung diminutive Wishbone features skinny front tires, not unlike those found on early dragsters. Roth had intended for the Wishbone to be used as a design for the Revell car model company, but it was rejected due to its shape. Its restoration by Galpin Motors was documented on an episode of the Discovery TV show “Driven,” the post-restoration car debuted at the Exhibit.

The Outlaw

The outlaw is a unique combination of a traditional t-bucket, which was very popular in the 60s, and Roth’s boundless imagination. The result is a car that is more reserved than many of his creations and yet uniquely Roth. Amazingly, according to Roth’s website, it once utilized an actual Revolutionary war sword for its gear shifter.

A statue of Ed Roth next to his Ford shop truck.
Ed Roth’s shop truck alongside a fiberglass Ed Roth statue.

The National Corvette Museum Exhibit

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has an ongoing Ed Roth Exhibit entitled “The National Corvette Museum Exhibit: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth,” until April 2021. The wild bubble tops and blowers of the cars at the Ed Roth exhibit might seem out of place at first glance in a museum filled with sleek production Corvettes, however there is a unique connection Ed Roth. He was a tremendous influence on former Corvette designer Tom Peters. I recently had a chance to visit the Museum and see the Ed Roth Exhibit. Not only did the Museum feature many of his icon hot rods, but his trademark tuxedo, his t-shirt press machine, and countless Roth merchandise. The display shelves are packed with diecast cars, models, and Ratfink figures. There is even a roughly life-size Ed Roth statue, naturally made of fiberglass, his preferred material to create cars with. The Museum also hosted an Ed Roth Ratfink Reunion. Besides Ed Roth’s custom cars, several show cars were inspired in part by Roth. The Museum also played host to an Ed Roth Reunion event. The exhibit will run through April 2021.

The Ed Roth Legacy.

Some twenty years after Roth’s death, people still wear “Monster” T-shirts and have Ratfink posters in their garages. His cars still make appearances at events across the country. Every year fans embark on a hotrod pilgrimage to Manti, Utah, where the annual Ed Roth Ratfink Reunion is held. Actor John Goodman even portrayed him by voice in the 2006 documentary “Tales of the Ratfink.” If you missed my blog about the National Corvette Museum, you can read it here. You can also check out the official Ed Roth website at Ratfink.com. For information on the exhibit you can check out the page on the Corvette Museums website here.

The National Corvette Museum: The Cars, The Sinkhole, and Beyond

February 12, 2014: Imagine, for a second, that you work as a security guard for the National Corvette Museum. It’s hours before opening, so nothing is going on. Suddenly, a motion sensor goes off. Someone trying to steal a ‘Vette? You head to the Skydome section of the Museum, expecting to confront would-be thieves; instead, you see that cars are missing, wait, there’s more. You see a massive hole where a floor used to be. Earthquake? No, not in Kentucky. A sinkhole! This might sound like the start of a Corvette-themed-horror film, but on that day in February, it was a reality.

The Museum


Located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the National Corvette Museum is just across the street from the GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where Corvettes are made. Bowling Green is in the southern end of Kentucky, north of Nashville. Arriving at the Museum, we were greeted by a guide in a Corvette-styled golf cart who directed us where to park. Passing the “Corvette Only” parking spaces, we headed inside. The large entry hall is where Corvette buyers who opt to pick up their Corvettes at the Museum take delivery of their cars. After getting our tickets, we saw a cross-section 1953 Corvette and some early examples of sports cars, including a beautiful MG. The MG had served as an inspiration for the creation of the Corvette. Next, there was a short film tracing the history of the Corvette from its creation to the present day. The room it is in is indistinguishable from a movie theater, complete with licensed music, showing just how much went into making this a world-class museum.


The following section, called the “Nostalgia Area” of the Museum, traces the Corvette from its earliest days in the 50s into the late 60s. Not only are there some beautiful Corvettes on display (including a 1955 Thunderbird to give an example of some early competition), but it was set up like a 1950’s town, complete with a gas station with vintage gas pumps and garage. There are even a 1960s dealership showroom and a 1970s assembly line.


The next area is dedicated to Corvette’s extensive, decades-spanning racing career, from the earliest days to recent ones. There are two race cars from 1957, including the iconic 1957 Corvette SS race car. It looks like a concept car, but it competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring. There are some more recent race cars as well, such as the multiple race-winning 2015 Corvette C7.R (in as raced condition!). The section also has one of the wildest prototypes Chevy has come up with. A 1959 mid-V8 engine open-wheel car build to Indy-car Spec. It serves as proof that GM was experimenting with mid-engine design long before it becomes commonplace, even in race cars.


The mid-engine prototype works as a great segue into the next room: The mid-engine Corvette room. Starting in the 1960s, Chevy made many different mid-engine Corvettes. Interestingly, they looked more like production cars than an extreme, attention-grabbing show car made to generate buzz at an auto show. There was a pair of 1960’s era ones, who’s design reflected the aggressive late 60s-70s’ Vettes. An interesting piece of GM history intertwined with the Corvette in the form of a mid-engine Rotary powered Corvette is on display from 1973. GM had considered utilizing the Rotary-motor in their cars around this period. The section ends with the modern mid-engine Corvette. I love how the exhibit shows the mid-engine Corvette was a long-held dream.


Corvette Cave In! The Skydome Sinkhole Experience.


The next section of the Museum, right before you get to the Skydome, the Cave-in’s fabled site, is a section that explains the cave-in that caused multiple rare and historically significant Corvettes to fall into the cave below. The exhibit tells of the geology of Kentucky and its cave systems. In fact, The Corvette Museum is not far from Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave system in the world. Like everything else in the Museum, this exhibit is incredibly well done and looks like it was taken from a natural history museum. It also deals with the world-wide media storm that followed. Something the Corvette Museum was quick to capitalize on what happened. Turning a disaster into a triumph, as webcams were set up to document the construction crew’s recovery of the cars. At the end of the section is the chance to experience what the cave in looked and sounded like from underground. Complete with falling Corvettes.


The Post Cave In Skydome.


Walking out of the darkness of the cave in experience and into the light of the Skydome, it is hard to believe anything happened here. The only clues to suggest that anything happened, are the occasional dusty, smashed-up car, the lines in the floor indicating where the cave in happened, as well as the boundaries of the cave, and the window in the manhole cover that lets you look down into the cave itself. Beyond the remnants of the cave-in, there is plenty to see in the Skydome. There are, of course, the cars that fell into the cave. These included aftermarket-modified, classic, and significant Corvettes like the 1.5 millionth Corvette made. These had received varying degrees of damage, based on how they fell. When recovered, one ‘Vette was able to start shortly after it was brought up.
One especially interesting Corvette on display in the Skydome was the only Corvette ever owned by Zora Arkus-Duntov, known as the “Godfather of the Corvette.” There is also a V-12 boat motor-powered Corvette concept car. The V-12 powered Corvette was created in response to Dodge unveiling their V-10 powered Viper. The inside of the Skydome features pictures of people who have had a significant impact on the Corvette in some way.


Car-toon Creatures, Kustom Kars and Corvettes: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.


After the Skydome was the special, limited-time (now closed) Ed “Big Daddy” Roth exhibit, Roth was the legendary custom car builder behind some of the wildest custom cars in the 1960s and artist behind the iconic “Ratfink” character. It featured many of his legendary custom cars, as well as vehicles inspired by him. Hidden throughout the Museum in various exhibits are small “Rat Fink” figures. Why here at the National Corvette Museum of all places, you are probably asking yourself. It turns out Ed Roth was a massive inspiration for former Director of Exterior Design for the Corvette Tom Peters.


The Experience


One thing about leaving the Corvette is that when you go, you will be wanting a Corvette. If you have one, you’ll probably be wanting another one. Being in production for over 60 years, you will have plenty of types to choose. It is nothing short of incredible how the National Corvette Museum could take the cave-in and the international attention generated by the cave-in and keep the public invested in the recovery of the cars. You can learn more about the National Corvette Museum on their official website here: https://www.corvettemuseum.org/. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll delve into the details of Ed Roth’s many cars, as well as the Ed Roth Exhibit. Have you been to the Corvette Museum or know of a car museum I should visit? Let me know in the comments!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum

It is hard to understate the impact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its signature race: The Indianapolis 500, has had on Indiana. It has ingrained itself into Indiana culture as no other event has. For over 100 years, it has held a wide range of events, from hot air balloon races to the iconic Indianapolis […]

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum

It is hard to understate the impact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its signature race: The Indianapolis 500, has had on Indiana. It has ingrained itself into Indiana culture as no other event has. For over 100 years, it has held a wide range of events, from hot air balloon races to the iconic Indianapolis 500 itself.

For the first time in about 20 years, I returned to the track to take a tour of it and visit the onsite Museum. Getting to the Museum involves driving underneath the track, in a surprisingly sizeable multi-lane tunnel. Arriving in the infield, you are presented with a large infield, beyond it is the imposing Museum. I headed inside and for $22 I had a ticket to the Museum and a ride on a trailer around the track (complete with a stop at the start/finish line.) The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is famous for its early days of being paved in bricks, now only a strip at the start/finish line remains.

Located just outside of downtown Indianapolis, the track was founded in 1909 on farmland; in fact, one of the farm’s original barns remains at the track today. Today, it is surrounded by suburbs. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway contains an oval, a road course that uses parts of the oval, and even a dirt track in the infield.

The Track

There are two ways to take a tour around the track: A bus ride, or the open-air “Kiss The Bricks” tour that takes you around the track on an open-air trailer and makes a stop at the iconic brick-covered start/finish line. Literally kissing the bricks is a tradition for victorious race teams since the 1990s. The tour gets you close to some of the “landmarks” of the Indianapolis Speedway. When the tour made its stop at the start/finish line, I was able to get a great look at the newly-installed elevator platform that raises up the winner’s car, the Pagoda, a tall, distinct building that houses race officials as well as broadcasters, and a glimpse into the garage area. 

It is hard to appreciate the size of the track just by seeing it on tv. It is longer than many major oval tracks coming in at 2.5 miles. Standing at the start-finish line and looking towards the previous turn makes it appear to almost disappear into the horizon. To put into perspective just how big the track is, there are several holes of a golf course within the infield of the course compete with water hazards and the branching routes that make up the road course. The shape of the oval stands out as much as its length, with four straights, as opposed to the typical two. There is also very little banking in the corners, especially compared with similar NASCAR tracks like Talladega and Daytona.

As we went around the track; I was blown away by just how big the grandstands are. As you round the final corner to the start/finish line, you become aware of just how many people this track can hold as large grandstands rise on both sides to tower over you. The tour naturally has a stop at the start/finish line, still paved with bricks. Interestingly, the bricks aren’t flush with the track and would undoubtedly be noticeable to racers. 

The Museum

After going around the track, we headed into the Museum through a side door. We were greeted by a cross-sectioned example of the latest Indy car, showcasing the many technologically advanced features of a modern Indy Car. There is also a row of tires, from the earliest tall and skinny tires that looked like they belong on a horse-drawn buggy, to modern wet and dry weather tires. Beyond that was a row of Indy cars and a classic hot rod. The next section was a room with smaller items, including a letter from Enzo Ferrari (in Italian naturally.)

Moving on into the main room, on display were many cars from the Museum’s “vault.” These include both race and non-race vehicles, and some of them had close ties to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Notable cars on display were a Ferrari 250 LM, an early exam of a mid-engine Ferrari, and a Ford GT40. Another iconic race car on display was the 50s era Mercedes-Benz W196. Unique to the W196 is that it is essentially an F1 car with a full body on it, right down to the driver sitting in the middle of it. The body had been added to make it eligible (in its day) for sports car racing, while still maintaining the advantages of an F1 car. The “vault” also included two vehicles owned by Indy 500 super fan Larry Bisceglia. Mr. Bisceglia, who had attended Indy 500 races for decades, was famous for being first in line when the gates opened at the track for the race, even if it meant camping in his vehicle. He was well known enough at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he was given a key for the track, good for any time, and was even presented with a new Ford Van to replace his old, even for the time, DeSoto on the starting line. Both of those vehicles are on display. There are also some non-racing related vehicles there, such as the 1932 Mercedes-Benz owned by Faisal 1: the former King of Iraq.

The first car to win the Indy 500, the 1911 Marmon Wasp.

The Museum’s main section dedicated to Indy cars spans from the first car to ever win the Indianapolis 500 to some of the most recent. The winning car of the first-ever Indy 500, held in 1911, was one of two cars on display that are part of the National Historic Vehicle Register. The first car to win the 500, a 1911 Marmon Wasp was innovative in that it is believed to the first race car with a rear view mirror. The rear view was actually a concession in the name of safety as the car was entered as a single-seater, with no riding mechanic. In the early days of Indy Car, a mechanic was normally required to ride with the driver. One of the riding mechanic’s jobs was to be an extra pair of eyes for the driver. The other car from the National Historic Vehicle Register is a 1938 Maserati 8CTF.

1938 Maserati 8CTF, another vehicle in the National Historical Vehicle Register.

Since the Museum features over 100 years of Indy cars, it is easy to trace their evolution, from a high center gravity and tall tires to today’s low and sleek cars. The main entrance features a large trophy with the faces of Indy 500 winners on the side.

A Mercedes Benz W196, more or less an F1 car with a full body.

The Experience

One of the unique things about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is that you can experience the reason for the Museum onsite. There are multiple races throughout the year, but even if there is no race going on, if you are a motorsports fan, there is bound to be something you’ll enjoy. After visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was down to Kentucky’s green hills to the National Corvette Museum, which is the subject of my next blog. You can check out the Speedway’s official website here: indianapolismotorspeedway.com. You can also visit the Museum’s website here: https://indyracingmuseum.org/.

The New Ford Broncos: An Off-Road Icon Returns

When Ford unveiled the new Bronco, years after its original discontinuation, the social media response was immense. Its angular, aggressive styling stood out among the sea of practical SUVs that had long abandoned off-road performance. Indeed, the Bronco seemed to be gunning for the off-road king itself, the Jeep. The classic Bronco was a predecessor to the modern SUV, with a truck frame, high ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and a removable hardtop roof section that included both the rear window and the side windows behind the driver door. It also was a competitor to the Jeep. What many people do not realize is just how extensive a history that Bronco has. It is a history that Ford drew heavily upon for the creation of the new Bronco. After being out of production for years, in July 2020, the new 2021 Ford Bronco was revealed to the public in three different versions, the more traditional two and four-door versions based heavily on the original, with flared fenders, removable doors, and roof and the more modern-SUV Sport model. With those, the Bronco manages to cover multiple market segments. Within those versions, there is plenty of variety as well.

The Original Broncos.

Many people might not realize that the Bronco is almost as old as the Ford Mustang, debuting just two years later, in 1966, and having an uninterrupted production run until 1996. It also pre-dated the 4×4 craze of the 1970s by several years and the SUV craze by several decades. It also comes with a strong off-road racing heritage; there was even a famous race-track version, in legendary race car driver Parnelli Jones’ Big Oly Bronco, with its distinctive sprint car style wing on the roof. It even had a movie cameo, appearing as one of the cars stolen in the original 1974 version of Gone in 60 Seconds. As a testament to the Broncos performance heritage, it even won the Baja 1000 in 1969. When the SUV came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bronco saw increased competition, many of which were more refined and offered more everyday practicality, some of which had four doors. The SUV saw its main role go from off-road performance to comfortable family-hauler. The Bronco got in on the act, with an optional Eddie Bauer package, providing pinstripes and a custom interior. By the mid-90s the SUV had been standardized with four doors, and plenty of competitors had joined the market, cars like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer, which were far more practical for a family. When the last Bronco rolled off the line in 1996, the market had changed drastically.

The 2021 Bronco

The base model two-door Bronco starts at just under $30,000 and goes up from there. There are several different trim levels, offering things like luxury and performance. In this day and age of standardized cars with ever-increasing luxury, Ford has dared to make an enthusiast SUV, one that targets the hardcore off-roading crowd, complete with a rugged body-on-frame design. A body-on-frame is a bit of a standout nowadays when so many SUVs have abandoned their pickup truck origins and have gone with unibody construction. The 2021 Bronco merges traditional features like an optional manual transmission and a solid rear axle with cutting-edge features like driving modes for specific off-road conditions and exclusive low-speed cruise control for trails. There is even an option that provides marine-quality seats and drain plugs to help make the interior water-resistant. While many Broncos will undoubtedly become modified not long after they are bought, options like 35-inch tires make that less necessary. Like the classic Bronco, there is a removable hardtop and doors, and for a modern twist, there is a digital infotainment center in the center console and a digital screen at the center of the gauge cluster. Power is provided by either an EcoBoost four-cylinder or EcoBoost V6 motor. The V6 is expected to have 310 horsepower and an impressive 400 pounds of torque. There is an optional mode for fans of rock crawling where a single pedal controls gas and braking.

The 2021 Bronco Sport

Providing a more contemporary SUV experience is the Bronco Sport, with its fixed top, seating for five, and more reserved styling. It has a lower price too, starting at just over $25,000. Keeping with its more contemporary design, it has lower ground clearance than the Bronco models, although it still features many off-road based features, such as standard 4×4 and optional tow-hooks. It has some impressive stats as well, with 23.6 inches of water fording ability despite a lower ride than the Bronco. It is powered by either a 1.5 or 2.0 liter four-cylinder EcoBoost.

The Future

Being out of production for years means that the Bronco lags behind the Jeep in aftermarket support. However, at launch, the Bronco has hundreds of factory-approved aftermarket parts. Something vital to the off-road crowd who is always demanding that extra edge on the trail. It will not be hard to get a Bronco just the way you want it, given the many versions available. It will be interesting to see if consumers, especially off-road enthusiasts, chose the (somewhat) newcomer Bronco when it debuts in 2021, over the tried and true Jeep and the reinvented Land Rover Defender. The Bronco Sport is launching late in 2020. The Bronco manages to be a fresh face with new ideas and a tried and true nameplate familiar to automotive enthusiasts for decades. What do you think of the new Broncos? Let me know in the comments!