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Itís difficult to see where the National Custom & Sports Car Show, which took place last month at Doncaster race course on October 18/19, and which coincided with the Custom & Sports Bike Show at the same venue, fits in to the UK hot rod scene. In the 1970/80s if you wanted to see the cream of Britainís rod and custom industry, you would attend the big annual shows held at Belle Vue in Manchester, those at Londonís Alexandra Palace or others dotted around the country. However, as outdoor shows evolved, events such as the NSRA Fun Run, Supernationals and the NASC Nationals now seem to be the places to debut new cars. As a result, indoor custom car shows have become less popular over the years and I guess the recent demise of the Xtreme Wheels Show held at the revitalised Alexandra Palace is probably a classic case in point.
Calum Anderson's deliberately understated '34 coupe. Note the hand-formed chrome side spear which replaces the body swage line and the Dan Fink grille
Calum with his Best in Britain Trophy which features caricature hot rods by Terry Ross
So what does the Doncaster show offer to help make it a more unique, more enticing event for exhibitors and the general public. Well it showcases what has come to be known as the ďBest in BritainĒ - a term used to attract the cream of the UK's rods and customs. The show awards prizes along the Best in Britain premise, but as the venue is limited in terms of the number of vehicles it can accommodate, it can only really represent a small percentage of the quality hot rods and customs that exist in the UK. Were not trying to take anything away from this yearís very worth winners, but I am sure it would have meant much more to the owners of those vehicles if the awards had been won from a larger and perhaps more representative number of hot rod entries.
Five or six suggestions were put forward by a well known Southend trimmer before arriving at this distinctive burnt orange interior solution. The alcantara headlining came from Italy, the carpet from the US and the leather from the UK
This year's event was notably different from last year's as it saw the debut of two new hot rods and both walked away with major prizes. Calum Andersonís fresh í34 Ford, three-window coupe took the Best in Britain trophy. It was expertly assembled by Tim Hammond with interior trim by Neil Tadman. Calum started out with a Ďglass body imported from Pete Osborne Productions - in New Zealand would you believe! Tim dropped it onto a semi-pro-street TCI frame equipped with a crate GM ZZ4 motor, TH400 and Currie rear end. The body quality is said to be superb with a steel cage and side impact protection built into the door skins.
The second newcomer to the show was Dave Rothwellís Standard Flying 12, which took third place, Best in Britain and apparently started out as a four-door bodyshell. It now sports two doors and a Volvo T5 drive train. Itís an unusual choice on which to base a street rod, but clearly one which has been beautifully executed. In case you were wondering, Steve Fletcher's equally wonderful '46 Ford Woodie took the runner-up Best in Britain trophy.
Dave Rothwell's Standard 12 is a masterpiece wherever you look - from the drastically modified body, to te knockout interior and unique custom Volvo T5 drivetrain
The winners of the Best in Britain section - Calum, Steve Fletcher and Dave Rothwell (from right to left)
As for the event itself, it seems to have attracted mixed emotions and so we decided to talk to the organisers, exhibitors and the general public, to get a snapshot of their thoughts and experiences. Clearly a lot of hard work has gone into this show by organiser Cliff Moore and Live Promotions and of course itís great to have a hot rodding event to look forward to over the winter months, but is it working? We put this question to our panel and hereís what they had to say.
The Brookville-bodied '32 Roadster of Paul Rogers now equipped with a wicked Pro Sign flame job
Cliff Moore, organiser
If you cast your mind back to past shows we organised in Doncaster, you might recall we combined hot rods with modern hatchbacks to provide one show that attracted a bigger audience. However, we became aware that hot rodders wanted a hot rod-only event, which is why we now have two events instead of one. As a result, we knew footfall for this event would suffer and in actual fact the show currently operates at a loss, but we are trying to build it up. This year we looked at the custom bike scene as another alternative to help bolster the appeal of the show, which is perhaps a better fit with hot rod culture.
Directors of Live Promotions visited the show and enjoyed their experiences. We think the current venue isnít big enough though as we want to grow the event and will be looking for alternatives next year. We were not happy with some aspects of the show this year, we know the lighting wasnít very good, but there were other issues too.
If we invite vehicles or bikes we feel are of a quality to be entered into the Best in Britain category, we pay for entry fees, the entertainment on Saturday night and hotel accommodation too, so itís a good deal for those who participate.
As mentioned above, the long term aim is to get the show better established so that it has a brighter long-term future.
Itís a great idea, but it needs more exhibitors, more venders and more people. There were very few trade stands dealing in hot rod merchandise and not a lot of rodding people seemed to be about. It would create a better atmosphere if more people from the hot rodding community supported it. I think we do need more indoor shows but they need to be better supported. I think the £15 entry fee is a bit steep when you consider you can walk round the show and see it all in about one hour.
I drove over 150 miles to the event and overall I had a good day out, but that might have been because I met up with some old friends and generally had a very relaxed day. Maybe others saw it differently.
Tony Osborne and Kev Foster had their immaculate cars on show
It was disappointing, I thought the show would be much bigger and it was expensive considering how small it was. There seemed to be too many bikes and the traders were mostly bike related. The biggest trade stand appeared to be for Orange County Choppers. The lighting was really bad and you couldnít get any decent photographs. I went on Sunday, it was reasonably busy and the quality of cars was good, though there were some that, in my opinion, shouldnít how been allowed in. I thought the Chop Shop people didnít really fit in when you think the show is supposed to be about quality. The stuff they turn out is far from that and in my opinion gives customising a bad name.
There needs to be more cars, and more traders to create a buzz. It would be great if the organisers could make it an international show as there are some fantastic hot rods in mainland Europe and of course the US. Maybe invite one or two top names to bring over a couple of their cars? That would really create a real stir.
I thought more needed to be happening outside too, I just saw monster trucks and a trials rider, it could have been so much better. Iíd probably go again because I like to support the hobby, but I think the organisers need to get a bit more creative.
This immaculate 67/68 mustang was one of the attractions outside the exhibition
Itís great to have an indoor show at this time of year when everything seems to shut down, but it was mostly a gathering of the cars Iíd seen during the summer. For the general public who may not go to some of the big events then I guess it would have been worthwhile attending as there were some really nice quality cars on show. However, I would imagine that as the show is so small it would have put a lot of people off travelling long distances to get there.
Itís a brave move for any organiser to put on an indoor rod and custom show these days. Doncaster doesnít exactly strike me as the ideal location and Iíd be surprised if the show is making any money. I hope it continues though as itís on my doorstep.
Nigel Lockley's radical '34 is for sale at
I went along to Donny. I think more shows should be indoors. The cars seem to take on a new life under the lights. There were cars there that I have seen numerous times before but they looked so much better indoors. I thought that it was a shame that it was combined with the bikes as I felt the show was good but there weren't enough cars. I took some photos but they came out crap as it was so dark. I met the guy with the black Ď34 coupe and it really is a work of art.
Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Steve Kirk & Nigel Lockley
The halls were shared with the custom bike fraternity, and there were some pretty extreme examples with equally creative paintwork on show
quality local fayre for the public
This lovely chopped and channelled coupe graced the NSRA stand
Moving cars into position was a bit more interesting for some exhibitors than others