Our man in California, Povi Pullinen, checks out the 13th Ventura Nationals


A HOT summer spent cruising, checking out cars and enjoying the Southern Californian scene – yep, it’s a tough old life. But the car scene doesn’t exactly go into hibernation in the ‘colder’ months over here, either. As it officially turns to autumn (or fall as the locals call it) and the largest shows of the year have been won and done, the Ventura Nationals pops up like a beacon for those attracted to everything Californian car culture stands for: beautiful cars, perfect weather and a party atmosphere.

Now in its 13th year, the annual Ventura Nationals is held at the fairground in the beautiful coastal city of Ventura, about an hour north-west of LA. Packing out the entire complex with cars and spectators, stands and bands, the one-day show is a huge attraction for locals and out-of-towners alike. Held on the Labor Day long weekend, there are a couple smaller events around the main festivities, such as a relaxed beach-side show on Sunday, as well as a Reliability Run and local workshop barbecues. But let’s check out some of the action from the fairground:

This crazy custom truck belongs to Edgar Hernandez, co-founder and co-owner of Starlite Rod & Kustom out of Torrance, CA. The shop puts out some of the best and brightest paint jobs and custom creations in the US. The ’53 Chevy is his daily drive and has the battle scars to prove it. The small-block Chev powers the car through roughly 30,000 miles a year!

This dastardly duo is made up of Kevin Pischke’s ’30 A coupe and Louis Stands’ ’27 T roadster. Kevin’s coupe was a stillborn hot rod from the 60s, but once he got it in his garage it received a three-inch chop and four-inch channel for a sweet early-60s vibe. It’s powered by a Chevy 307 and T350 combo. Louis’s T is all Henry steel, bolstering a stout Corvette 327 and three-speed Saginaw running to a ’56 Mercury rear. It was painted Ford Tractor Red by Louis is his own garage, and he drives the wheels off it up the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

Roger underwent a kidney transplant a few years ago and this Dodge bucket known as the ‘Kidney Kar’ is a tribute to his time under the knife. It debuted at this year’s Ventura Nationals and has a couple of cool touches such as the Dodge Poly motor and ’stripes by John Brown for that late-50s style.

The Lot magazine awarded Clayton Slaughter’s ’29 A roadster Best Hot Rod at the Nats this year. He’s the mastermind behind Clayton’s Hot Rods out of Santa Cruz, CA. The roadster is a super-clean traditional build with a few nice touches such as twin Stromberg 97s on a rare Hexagon intake and matching air-cleaner, and Canadian aluminium heads on the 24-stud Ford flathead.

Coby Gewertz’s Van Go is one of the most iconic vans on the road at the moment, and he often gets out to shows across California to sell his Church merchandise out the side of the van. The ’63 Econoline has gone through an insane amount of custom bodywork and looks killer rocking a custom Watson-style paint job by Tim Conder.

Don’t let the super-slinky custom looks fool you, Bob Zwierz’s ’52 Chev is hiding some twin-turbo 402 big-block Chev madness under the hood. Painted the same colour as the car, and with a bunch of chrome, the engine bay packs just as much punch as the killer exterior – if you’re lucky enough to see it!

David Steele, founder of the American Hot Rod Foundation, is now the custodian of this ’29 Ford roadster pick-up that has been a hot rod since 1942, originally built by Tom Sparks. It was first raced on the dry lakes in 1945 and has a 276ci 59AB flathead mated to a ’39 transmission and 3.54 gears out back.

Aussie ex-pat Gareth Watt owns this ’34 Ford truck with a 292 Y-block and three-speed. It was an old Californian hot rod that had found its way to Chicago, before Gareth picked it up and took it to Midwest Fabrication to give it a four-inch haircut and complete what was needed to get it running again.

Kyle Gann of K-Daddy Kustomz has just enough crazy in him to put out eye-melting custom paint jobs like this, and he’s been doing it for over 30 years. This 1960 Pontiac Bonneville is his own personal ride. It’s copped a radical roof chop, deleted rear windows and rear glass grafted off a 1980 Chevy pick-up. The smaller details are endless, but the paint job hits you in the face from a million miles away. Even up close there are more details to uncover in the lacquer, including airbrushed graphics and lacework that extends all the way into the interior.

Kyle Gann has also laid his expert hands on this ’57 Ranchero, owned by Bryan Thompson. Bryan is a custom bike builder from California specialising in Triumphs, and this Rancho is used as both his daily ride and bike-hauler.

Brandon Dixon races the hell out of this ’30 A coupe. The small-block Chev-powered A ran a best of 10.84@121mph right before cruising down to the Ventura Nationals!

This is the ‘Chicken Coupe’. A heavily chopped up ’34 coupe still missing large chunks of its history book, it’s now owned by Gil Muro from Hot Rod Ranch in Lompoc, CA. The car went through many different iterations in its lifetime but the end result has found the roof hit with a seven-inch gas-weld chop, a channel over standard-length Model 40 rails and a super-stripped steel body, originally intended for salt and drag racing. It’s currently a registered street machine packing a super-tough vintage 327 Chev topped with a 4/71 Cragar huffer to spin up the Romeo Palamides-cast magnesium rims.

Tino Herrera’s ’50 Chevrolet Fleetline, known as ‘Pan Dulce’ (Spanish for ‘sweet bread’), is a showstopping lowrider from Santa Barbara. Tino is the president of the Styles Unlimited CC and has owned the car for nearly 31 years. It’s a full-blown lowrider with an insane paint job by Californian spray-gun legend Danny D, and runs a 235 Chev six and a full Air Ride system to get it around town.

James Hetfield (frontman for Metallica, of course) had the Black Pearl out at the Nationals for the day. The 2014 Goodguys Custom of the Year is a rolling masterpiece crafted from a 1948 Jaguar Mk4 and a drawing on an A4 page. Not much of the Jag remains, as the Black Pearl is powered by a Ford 302 and C4 combo with complete coachwork on all panels, and custom fabrication on almost every other part you can think of.