The cars coming for the 36th annual Western Street Rod Nationals this weekend at the fairgrounds are racking up the miles to get here.
Bakersfield is stop No. 2 on the 11-city NSRA circuit, which kicked off the season recently in Oklahoma City and will head to Knoxville, Tenn., next week. Rods from as far away as Mississippi will be making the drive west this weekend, said Mike Chrispyn, event director.
"It's just worked very well in the city of Bakersfield because of its automotive and racing history," said Chrispyn, who noted the event previously was hosted in Merced, Ventura and Santa Maria, before landing in Bakersfield in 1987.
The three-day show will feature about 2,000 street rods, customs, muscle cars, street machines and pro-touring vehicles, and 12,000 local car enthusiasts are expected to attend, Chrispyn said.
Registrations will take place today through Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bakersfield, which is the event's host hotel, he said.
Participants pay $70 for two people for the entire three-day event. The fee comes with a year's NSRA membership, including an annual subscription to the association's monthly magazine. For members, the registration fee is $40.
Chrispyn said the vehicles are all street-legal, and they are driven to the event. There will be 40 awards given out to participants from various people outside the NSRA, including Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, who gets to pick a winning car. The fairgrounds staff also picks a winner.
"We give away over $72,000 in merchandise to our registered participants," Chrispyn added.
And what goes better with hot rods than ... quilts? At least the Kern County Quilt Club thought so, Chrispyn said, and so there will be a display as well as an arts and crafts show.
"The arts and craft vendors will also be displaying items they've made, and they are for sale," Chrispyn said. "It's all produced by the NSRA, and just another part of the event."
In addition, 80 commercial vendors will sell items during the show.
"So, if you are looking for a part for your car, you will probably find it there," he said.
On Saturday, the first 75 kids will get a model car they can put together.
Two trends Chrispyn expect to see this weekend are "rat rods" and "pro-touring" enthusiasts.
"Rat rods usually are cars built way back in the '50s," he said. "They are a traditional car and they not so much worry about the paint job, which is usually really faded or worn off."
The pro-touring category combines classic cars with a modern twist.
"Say you have a '69 Camaro," he said. "Well, you use the Camaro for the car body, but use modern parts and equipment. It's a big popular trend, combining whatever people like."
For those looking to get into the culture, Chrispyn advised starting out by customizing an early pickup.
"A person can get in and not have to spend a fortune on it," he said. "We have no rules, and we want to have fun and level the playing field for everyone."
He points out other car show associations have long lists of rules to go by.
"When building a street rod, you can build it the way you want to," he added.
Chrispyn, who hails from Indiana, has two custom rods himself: a 1932 Ford Coupe and a 1932 Ford Victoria.
"I don't have them with me this week because of the mileage," he said. "But after I return home, I will drive one to Knoxville for the next NSRA show."
The event has an onsite DJ, "Wings Callahan," he said, who travels from show to show. "He'll be spinning records and commentary constantly during the three days."