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Land of the Giants!

American cars from the 1920s through to the late 50s comprise the core element of the Rally of the Giants, the annual classic car show which took place at Knebworth Park last Sunday, July 15 and which is claimed to be the largest classic automotive rally outside of the US. 

This yearís event seemed smaller than that of last year, with fewer early model cars on display.  Contrast that with the public car park, which was busy, and it suggests that many owners had left their classics at home in favour of more modern transport in order  to avoid the unpredictable weather.

Fewer classics this year but the standard was high

The quality of cars entered was high, as always, with the majority beautifully prepared for the occasion. Examples of famous American marques, from Auburn, Pierce Arrow, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Duesenberg, Edsel, Ford, Graham and Hudson were assembled and paraded though the main arena for all to see - with the usual enthusiastic commentary from Pete Tucker. The early model Fords were of particular interest to DRCReview, with a bone stock í34 coupe on the wish list.

Pete Tucker explainds all (and more besides) about this lovely old Pontiac

This stock '34 was just lovely

There were one or two surprises outside of the classic car arena too, though not necessarily relating to stock American metal.  Parked up on a hill was George Barrisís famed six-engined,  six-wheeled Snake Pit - a massive one-off custom built at the height of Barrisís career in the 70s and equipped with six Ford V8 engines that reputedly delivered 2000 horsepower.  The car was jointly developed at Barrisís shop, apparently with assistance from Harry Bradley and Joe Bailon, but it was decidedly more show than go Ė especially when you consider the nightmare drivetrain scenario.  What was it doing at the Rally of the Giants you might ask? Well, its new British owner, Gary Hillman, recently purchased a job lot of 10 Barris customs in France.  Six are being retained and restored, with four more being sold on to fund the restorations.

The Snake Pit is one enormous 70s custom

Just a quick tune up please!  Imagine taking this to your local garage with six small block Ford motors, 12 carbs and 48 spark plugs to change!

The all important Barris crest alongside Joe Bailon's 

Inevitably, with any American automotive event, a cross-section of enthusiasts from classic car buffs to hot rodders will usually attend, and this was illustrated in the display of  cars parked up on the hillside which overlooks the main arena.  If you read the magazines, you may remember seeing a gorgeous black and yellow 56/57 Ford Crown Victoria which was involved in a fairly major impact a few years ago.  It looked a write off back then but has just been rebuilt by its new owner and put back on the road.  Itís certainly different - see below! 

Crown Victoria has been rebuilt and customised after major shunt

John Lyleís ex-three window coupe also put in an appearance and the rod looked just as good as it did the day it was finished.  One of the major highlights of the event for us was meeting up with automotive illustrator and self-taught metal worker Paul Barrow and his wife Beth and getting to see their radically reworked Model A in the flesh  Ė itís a real masterpiece.  The car has lots of past hot rodding influences and Paul specifically set out to build himself one very cool 50s style car. With much perseverance and a lot of hard work, thatís exactly what heís done.  Itís far too complicated to go into right now, but needless to say weíll have a full story for you shortly.

Paul Barrow's radically reworked '31 Model A Tudor

As for the event itself, it was another  great success for the organisers and general public.  Itís always a tonic to see the flamboyant styling used throughout the fifties and sixties on display, especially in todayís prim and proper, eco-obsessed world.  It makes us think that although technologically, automobiles may be more efficient,  they certainly donít look any more attractive or have as much presence as a 1960s American barge.

Story & photos: Andy Kirk 

The ex-John Lyle coupe looked pristine

1965 'Vette had the number plate to match

Pick-up beds are obviously more comfortable than they look!

These are the six Barris customs that Gary Hillman will be restoring

Part of the impressive T-bird line-up

We bumped into Dave Cowler (below) the owner of the neat orange '34 (above) who was at the ESRA meeting in France earlier this month

beautifully presented Model A was a highlight

Amongst the assorted trade stands were some pretty unusual pieces - like this neat old injection system (below) minus four stacks

Model A's seem to be very popular at the moment

This tubbed '34 looked extremely tough 

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