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The Supernationals 2006: You never had it so good!

1.8.06. It’s difficult to understand the current state of affairs in UK hot rodding.  On the one hand, there seems to be less interest in the hobby as far as the print media is concerned, but on the other, the hard evidence presented by the rods and customs assembled for this past weekend’s NSRA Supernationals clearly demonstrates that the hobby has never been so popular in the UK. 

Terry Howe's '39 Ford Coupe returns from Saturday's cruise

Given that the Supernationals is regarded as a major showcase for all aspects of street rodding, two detectable trends at this year’s event seemed particularly significant from the viewpoint of the DRC Review reporting team present at Old Warden.  Firstly, the quality of cars appearing at the event just gets better year on year.  Secondly, and possibly more interestingly, it’s clear that UK rodders are becoming increasingly creative.  Rather than just following US trends, they are developing their own distinct style. 

Hanspeter Wurmli's roadster - classic E-Type meets American hot rod

One car that perfectly illustrated this point was the 1932 Roadster of Worcester’s Hanspeter Wurmli, (above) which was a worthy winner of the event’s Participants’ Choice trophy.  It would have been so easy to walk right past this externally understated car, but to do so would have cost you the opportunity of checking out a beautifully executed, and genuinely innovative, street rod.  Specifically, Hanspeter has somehow managed to take the apparently irreconcilable concepts behind a lightweight E-Type Jaguar race car and a classic American hot rod roadster and successfully combine the two.

For example, the beautifully sculpted inset panel above the rear window of the hand-crafted aluminium roof mimics that of a lightweight E-Type Jaguar, yet on the Model B, it perhaps hints at a “lakes” racing heritage.  Similarly, who would have thought that utilising lightweight E-Type centre-lock racing wheels, a three-spoke, wood-rim steering wheel and sports car-style bucket seats from the 1960s would have worked either, but you can’t deny the fact that two very different automotive genres, one distinctly European and the other decidedly American, have come together beautifully in this ultra-cool rod.

Further evidence of Hanspeter’s free-thinking approach presents itself when the custom hood is opened to reveal another unique twist – a straight-six, Datsun 240Z motor running on twin SU carburettors.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, however, you take a peek under the car and find yourself gawping at a hand-formed, body-length, louvered, aluminium undertray – just as on Boyd Coddington’s  Aluma-Tub.  Watch out for a full story on this wonderfully original car very soon.

Another highlight for the DRC Review team was meeting Paul Kennedy, owner of the ex-Hamberis and Mitchell Willys coupe, along with sidekick, Brian Segar, and hearing tales of driving the famous, ex-drag racing car 200 miles from Liverpool.  “It only cost £50 to get here,” confided Paul with a genuine note of pleasure in his voice, which definitely can’t be bad for an aerodynamically unsubtle vehicle powered by a 392 Hemi.  A full story on this priceless car will also appear shortly.

Steve Fletcher gets his prize from American vistor Chuck Vranus

In addition to taking a close look at these two vehicles, we also managed  time with Steve Fletcher and his amazing custom ’46 Ford Woody.  This car seems to convert all of those doubters of half-timbered cars – it’s just so good.   We heard about another amazing car currently under construction, belonging to Tony Osborne. His ‘41 Willys coupe is another former race machine from the US, which currently resides in Jon Golding’s shop, and is being built with a 540cu in Merlin Chevy topped by a 8/71 supercharger.  On the dyno and with undersized  carbs, it made almost 800hp!  Rumour has it 1000hp-plus is on the cards – and the car will be used on the street!

Norm Grabowski made lots of new friends

This year’s NSRA Supernationals was notable, though, for more than just the wonderful array of cars present.  One of the highlights for all concerned was the appearance of Norm Grabowski, acknowledged godfather of the Model T hot rod, creator of the Kookie car used in the memorable US television series, 77 Sunset Strip (those old enough to remember will no doubt be humming the theme tune by now), and as it turns out, one of hot rodding’s real characters.  In between conducting seminars, sampling British cider, perfecting his “cor blimey” accent and handing out trophies at the prize-giving, Norm took time out to talk with us and provide a great interview, for which we are very grateful.  We’ll be posting this on the site in the near future.

Norm was joined by two fellow Americans at the event, namely Chuck Vranus (a contributing Editor to Street Rodder magazine) and his wife, who were also making their first visit to the UK.  Chuck commented that he was genuinely overwhelmed by the reception he’d received from UK rodders, by the standard of cars on show and by the venue itself.  It’s probably fair to say the California-style weekend weather also helped a little. 

As usual, this year’s Supernationals had a decidedly laid-back feel about it, and remains a great social event for like-minded enthusiasts to swap stories and generally chill out.  The “show and shine” on Sunday may have been the centrepiece of the weekend’s activities, (so full was the arena that cars had to be turned away) but with over 200 rods and customs taking part in Saturday’s cruise, that was also an amazing sight to see!

The prize-winners lined up on the hill

Congratulations must go to all at the NSRA for putting on arguably the best rodding event of the season.

Prize winners 

  • ESRA Hard Luck – handover to Graham ‘Whiff’ Smith 
  • Hard Luck – Chris & Michelle Haye – Chris started up his Hillman Husky in reverse and it hit the front of Michelle’s 37 Dodge Coupe 
  • Best Tot Rod – S1021 – Nathan Taylor - Fad T 
  • Under 25’s Award –  918 -     Joe Little – Ford Escort 
  • Rooster’s Pick (presented by Mel McClaine) – 086 – Richard Stein – Plymouth Roadrunner 
  • NASC Pick –  Sue & Dave Wright – Tiki Wagon 
  • UK Kustoms Pick – 887 – Herry Georges – 38 Peugeot 
  • Eye Catcher Award (sponsored by Suzy Retro & Time Warp Designs) – 887 – Neil Butler – 1962 Chevy Bel Air
  • Norm Grabowski’s Pick – 239 - Sue Manners, Model T Pickup 
  • Chuck Vranas’ Pick – Mark Gee - 32 Pickup 
  • Special Awards – Norm Grabowski & Chuck Vranas 
  • Top 10 –  Keith Murrel ’37 Ford, Richard Parker – 39 Ford, John Unsworth – 37 Pickup, Mark Miller – 35 Ford, Jason Weir – 52 Plymouth Suburban, Steve Fletcher – 46 Woody, Mark Belcher – 36 Chrysler, Chris Andrews – Model T Ford, Herry Georges – 38 Peugeot, Dave Greenfield – 49 Ford 
  • Participants Choice – Hanspeter Wurmli – 32 Ford

Below is a pictorial report on the event.  

Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk

This Mk10 Jaguar has been around for a while now but never ceases to amaze with its big block Chevy motor and heavily tubbed rear.  Put the bonnet on and the car appears near stock - a real street sleeper!  

Pete Stafford of USAutomotive shows off B&M shifter range to a potential buyer

Spoked wheels with dress rings helped lift the visual appeal of this neat primered  Model A 

One of the many continental entries that made the trip to Old Warden

£32,000 OVNO was the asking price for this trick Chevy. Tel: 07941 300915 

Amazing amount of work in this unusual Chrysler by Mark Belcher - from the faired in headlights to the shaved exterior.  It was making its show debut and was a worthy prize-winner

Amazing array of diverse rods on the Home Grown stand

This lovely Roadster could have quite easily made the top 10

David Biggadyke reported Sunday was so busy that the display field soon reached capacity and rods had to park elsewhere

Mike Pye, Features Editor at Custom Car, had his Model A on show - recently acquired from Adrian Smith/Lynn Stafford

Ok, answers on a postcard please.  What is David Biggadyke about to say to Norm Grabowski?

We loved the simple execution and paint of this Model A, which seems to hark back to the 70s

Another winner was Jason Weir's race-spec Plymouth with full tilt motor by Hauser Race Cars 

Colin Burbage had his '37 Ford up for sale complete with 4.6 litre Rover motor. He's open to offers around £20,000.  Tel: 01323 485974

Remember our report on the Model T owned by Nick Williams?  Well, he got to meet hot rodding legend Norm Grabowski and even got him to sign the dash of his car

This early Ford features 2.0 litre DOHC Ford power and was advertised for sale at £15,000.  Call Ray on 07730 534958

Sue Manners get her prize and a cuddle from Norm



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