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Street Rod Nationals

Broadcast dates : 24th April 2005
30th April 2005


The eleventh Annual Street Rod Nationals produced a stunning line-up of cars from all over the country.

Held in Klerksdorp this year, hundreds of cars were on display, showcasing the many different categories that comprise street-rodding

This branch of motoring is all about self-expression, craftsmanship, imagination and yes, a sense of humour.
A big trend in South African rodding of late is the modified classic look, which some people call low-riders or cruisers.

These are the massive American land yachts built between 1950 and 1970, with the tailfin era sandwiched between smooth rounded cars and flat, finless tail architecture.

If one had to take a survey at Klerksdorp, Chevrolet would have come out tops in terms of numbers, but that goes for just about any hot-rodding event held in the world.
But Ford fans had much to drool over. Sharp-eyed Car Torque viewers may recognize this Ford belonging to Harry Corbett that appeared on the programme a few months back.

For the 2005 Nationals, Harry completely red-did the paint in a flip-flop candy, added striping and flames and went to stock steel wheels and hupcaps.
One of the outstanding cars in the classic division was this 1956 Chevy. Owned and built by Errol Brink of Joburg, itís a rare pillarless two-door Bel Air, which originally came with a V8 motor.

Errol has retained the Chevy small block engine, this one being a three-hundred-and-twenty-seven cubic-inch motor, and the detailing is clean and neat. Erroll fitted a five-speed manual gearbox to give the car good cruising ability.

Detailing, detailing, thatís what street rodding is all about. This car epitomises the near-standard look with subtle paint close to the pastel colours of the Ď50s.

The beautiful wheels and dropped suspension give it "The Look", as do interior parts like the billet metal steering wheel, special gauges, the tilt steering-column and billet metal pedals.

The dual bucket seats are also custom with plain black leather upholstery.

More traditional are the hi-boys. These could be described as the original hot rods, from the days when American youngsters bought an old Ford or Chevy, coupe or roadster, and cut off the mudguards to save weight.
The Ford Anglia, although British in origin, is another sort-after rod in the American idiom, as these cars were exported in limited numbers to America in the late Ď40s and early 1950s.

This wonderful example of a puddle jumper, as Anglias were affectionately known, is owned by Jannie Augustine of Gauteng.

In the past few years, latter-day classics like Ford Escorts have been recognized as bona-fide members of the street rodding community.
They fit the criteria, with special paint and detailing work, and this example also runs on V8 power.

Ford Sierras too are recognised as modern-day rods. The Sierra XR8 was an instant classic when launched in 1984, with only 250 built. Sarel Pienaar of Kroonstad owns two of these V8-engined beauties.
But itís the American cars that really capture the imagination. And the cars from the 1930s are probably the most classic of all in South Africa.

Fords, Chevies, Chryslers, Dodges, these cars had personality to spare with the separate mudguards, chromed headlamps and upright radiator grilles.

And dickey seats were all the rage in the 1930s.
Street rods take years to build. The standard of South African rodding is on a par with America in many respects and the cars get better each year.

And lest purists take offence, most of the rods are built from un-restorable cars which have deteriorated too far to restore to original.
One unique way to get into street-rodding is to buy a car in kit form. These replica Willys kit cars were shown for the first time in Klerksdorp and are produced in Port Elizabeth.

An early classic street rod engine is the Ford V8 Flathead. This was a sidevalve engine and the original choice of street rodders from the 1930s. It remained a favourite until the 1950s when Chevy brought out its famous small-block V8.

Nowadays even Ford drivers tend towards Chevy engines, because parts are so readily available.
In the 1960s, a rod known as a T-bucket became the rage. This was based on old Ford Model T bodies, and the T-bucket look with fat rear wheels, skinny front wheels, and an upright windscreen and radiator is a distinct class of rod.

Nowadays most T-buckets are built from kits using fiberglass bodies. This creates a lot of freedom in terms of suspensions used, although most T-buckets use a transverse leaf spring at the front.
T-Buckets are not the most practical of rods. With their open wheels, upright screens, exposed engines and no roof, they arenít ideal for long trips.

But with their radical driving positions, thanks to horizontal steering wheels and loads of chrome exposed for the world to see, they look wild!
The trucking division is yet another branch of the sport. This 1950s Chev Apache has been lowered, and runs a modern V8, with custom wheels. It was built by Eddie Finch of Gauteng, who also built this 1940 Ford pickup with a hydraulic tilting load-bed.

Chevy vans are almost as iconic as T-buckets and fifty-seven Bel Airs. Standard rodding tricks for these Chevys include a three-fifty V8, a turbo four-hundred transmission, lowered suspension, brake upgrades, and a funky interior.


Perfect paint, painstaking detail work, thatís the hallmark of a good rod. Ray Exton spent a decade getting his 1948 Chevy pick-up just right, and even now he says it has still to be finished.

The lilac paint is typical of the near stock-look run by some of the cars, and the major change to the truck is the lower roof line.

Other trick items, despite the plush interior, include firbeglass running boards, tail lights recessed below the tailgate and tasty alloy wheels.

Power, as one would expect, is by Chevrolet.

So much variety, so many trends. One of the divisions we really enjoy is the retro classic, where the entire car is left stock apart from the wheels and lowered suspension. Itís all about what blows your ears back.

And the good news is that you can reinvent your car with a new look every few years.

All in all, the show was a tribute to the outstanding work taking place in street rodding.

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