Carlisle Events’ 19th Chevrolet Nationals was nothing short of a high-octane celebration of all things from the Bowtie brand, extending the passion to other four-wheeled General Motors favorites as well. Boasting a show field of nearly a thousand, a robust swap meet, a burnout contest, and a rip-roaring autocross circuit, there was a ton of action on the ground and, new this year, in the air. A star attraction was the Bandit Jump, performed by the Northeast Ohio Dukes stunt team. As the name implies, the group of daredevils took a Pontiac Trans Am, gussied it up like Burt’s beloved getaway blocker, and proceeded to launch it high off a ramp. After soaring some 30 feet up in the air, it slammed back down to earth, traveling a total distance of 120 feet. Driver Ray Kohn gave the thumbs-up indicating he was OK, and the crowd cheered.
Shifting gears, another popular highlight was found under the massive tent of the Hurst Showcase. This display featured a roundup of Hurst-equipped vehicles and seminars throughout the weekend by several of the employees who worked with the famed aftermarket supplier. One notable speaker included Hurst engineer Don Glover, who in November 1967 penned the design for the original Hurst/Olds badge. Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, Linda Vaughn, was also onsite, thrilling fans and enthusiasts.
Making a happy coincidence, next year’s show will mark the 20th edition of the event, which promises to be even bigger and better. Clear your calendars now; it’ll take place on June 26-27, 2020.
Solid Lifter Showroom
No visit to the Chevy Nats is complete without a spin through the Solid Lifter Showroom, now in its 11th year. Assembled by Brian Henderson and his crew at Super Car Workshop, and joined by friends at Super Car Restoration, the display boasts some of finest and rarest classic Chevy performance vehicles.
“One of the staples of the exhibit has always been no barriers or stanchions,” says Henderson. “The last thing we want is for spectators to feel like they’re walking into a zoo. We want them to be welcomed and interact with the vehicles and owners.”
Another exclusive hallmark is the ability to gaze underneath these topnotch builds. Two lifts allow a pair of vehicles to be shown in the air, giving guests the rare opportunity to inspect the chassis and other components that are seldom, if ever, visible. “I’m just as proud of how much work we put into these undercarriages,” says Henderson. “It’s nice to be able to show it off.”
Vehicles taking part in this SLS came from around the country and Canada. They ranged from just completed multiyear builds to untouched, surviving legends.
Henderson also likes to inject added interest by inviting top authors and subject-matter experts to come in and participate, too. This year, Charlie Morris was on hand to talk about Ford’s high-performance efforts, while I gave several seminars detailing Chevy’s surreptitious COPO program. [The author of this story, Matt Avery, also wrote COPO Camaro, Chevelle & Nova: Chevrolet’s Ultimate Muscle Cars, available from CarTech Books.—Ed]
You never know what to expect when you pass through the SLS, and Henderson, with creative wheels always turning, likes it that way. “Even after 11 years, we still have fresh ideas,” he says.
The Northeast Ohio Dukes stunt team paid homage to Burt and the Bandit by staging this jump on the Carlisle show field. Don’t worry, purists, the car that was used for the stunt was a cobbled-together Pontiac made to look in much better shape than it really was. If you’ve ever wondered how a car really looked at the end of a movie-stunt jump, check out the final frame in the sequence. Driver Ray Kohn gave a thumbs-up after landing.
Nestled within the Chevy Nationals was a familiar sight but new to this event: the Hurst Showcase. The display and gathering has been held over the past several years in conjunction with the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals, but in effort to mix things up, it was put with the big Bowtie show.
“Hurst had its hands on all of the domestic brands back in the day, but GM was the largest brand it interacted with,” explains Ed Buczeskie, who is the Event Manager for the Hurst Showcase. “It just made sense.”
This year, 14 Hurst vehicles were displayed, ranging from an original-owner 1969 Hurst/Olds to a modern 2017 Camaro SS Hurst Edition. Cars participating came from the local Pennsylvania area and from as far away as New Jersey, Ohio, and South Carolina.
Throughout the weekend, engineers and team members who worked for Hurst gave seminars, with the highlight being an employee roundtable, where the discussion centered on how the third-party engineering firm went from designing components to full-blown vehicles. The vivacious Linda Vaughn, Miss Golden Hurst Shifter herself, was on hand, too, participating in the discussions and signing autographs.
A special exhibit within the SLS was the Huffy Camaro Bike display. During the 1960s, it wasn’t just GM cranking out metal machines with the Camaro nameplate, but Huffy Bicycles, too. The collection of seven Camaro bikes all came from Rick Smith. Quite poetically, he traded a 1968 Camaro door shell for his first in 1986 and hasn’t stopped adding to the collection of pedal power since.
The bikes weren’t licensed by Chevrolet, and production stopped sometime in the early 1970s.