Street rodders Nationals North becomes a neighborly affair

Neighbors — and others — enjoy their cars together at National Street Rod Association’s Nationals North meet

Sometimes neighbors talk across a fence. Sometimes they chat while standing in one of their driveways. Those living on a cul-de-sac might even set their lawn chairs in the street. But a group of neighbors in Portage, Michigan, has another way to getting together. Each year they drive their collector cars to the Kalamazoo County Expo Center and Fairgrounds, where they park and sit together for the National Street Rod Association’s 38th Nationals North meet.

This year as many as half a dozen cars from the same neighborhood were parked together with their owners on lawn chairs for the show that annually attracts around 2,500 modified vehicles, their owners, a variety of vendors and a few thousand spectators.

Ted Puckett, his 1953 Chevrolet and some of the neighbors’ vehicles | Larry Edsall photos

Among those neighbors who gathered at the Nationals North this past weekend were Ted and Diana Duckett, and their 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Ted Duckett has been attending car shows for a decade, he said, admitting that at first he was dragged along by his best friend and neighbor, John. The Ducketts bought their own car four years ago.

What took so long? Well, for one thing, they were following the football careers of their sons, Tico and T.J.

Ted Duckett played football at Western Michigan University. His sons both played at Michigan State, and then in the National Football League. Tico was MSU’s all-time leading rusher and then played for the Washington Redskins. T.J. also ran the ball for the Spartans, and then had a seven-year NFL career, most of it with the Atlanta Falcons. The brothers also have had successful post-football business careers.

Meanwhile, their parents have time to enjoy their vintage vehicle, aka the Blue Lady, and as Ted put it, “you meet great people” at car shows.

Although Ted’s best friend and collector car mentor, John, died two years ago, John’s daughter, Holly, continues to show John’s 1938 Chevrolet.

The Portage neighbors weren’t the only group of friends parked together at the show. Car clubs from Chicago to Canada also staked out their areas on the pavement and the grassy fields on the Expo Center and Fairgrounds.

Based in Memphis, Tennessee, the National Street Rod Association was founded in 1970 and currently has 50,000 members. It concludes its 2017 show schedule September 15-17 at the Northeast Nationals in Burlington, Vermont.

 

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  • OldCarMan
    September 18, 2017, 4:03 PM

    For what seems like a myriad of reasons, the Nats North event is shrinking. The outdoor commercial vendor count is down to maybe 8 from closer to 20 5 years ago. The indoor ones are also down so much that they are having roofing, gutters, and jewelry vendors, while having some vendors spread out. The car count looked to be down to about 2100. There is always at least 10% fewer cars than entries. The high count was probably 10 years ago when it was closer to 3,000 entries.

    I suspect that the vendors can’t justify the expense of rent, fuel, salaries, and hotels, based on direct or later sales. Even bundling multiple events won’t fix that. Also, the demographics suggest most are attending, but are not buying that many parts for new cars or rebuilds. Add in internet buying, too. The sale of rental handicap scooters says much more! Add in competition from at least 3 other regional meets of 1000 to 2000 cars, event overload burnout/expense and this is a formula for the aging out of these events.

    REPLY
    • Ed@OldCarMan
      September 23, 2017, 6:52 PM

      I attended. Noticed the absence of venders, fewer cars. Little sales in swap meet but car quality was good.
      Will attend next year. Thanks .

      REPLY
    • David@OldCarMan
      September 24, 2017, 12:58 PM

      I agree with " OldCarMan". Well said. While I’m not too interested in the vendor booths , I am concerned with the attendance at the shows lately. I am inclined to go with "Burn Out" of the hobby. Even the big car auctions seem to have more of the newer cars for sale. When they bring a beautiful Street Rod, or Custom, up on the block (if you have built a car yourself, then you have pretty good idea what it should sell for) most of the time it is sold so cheap it makes me want to vomit . (Sorry I wasn’t there to bid on it – many times) Seeing that, and seeing all of the classics in the magazines and on the internet for sale, tells me that our age group Is passing away, or just loosing interest. Just my observation after about 40 years in the hobby,

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