29 Years of the NSRA Street Rod Nationals

With nearly 10,000 attendees, the Street Rod Nats remain a highlight of the summer car show season.

For 54 years running, the National Street Rod Association has thrown its biggest bash in the waning days of summer, the NSRA Street Rod Nationals. For 29 of those years – 26 of them consecutively – the NSRA has brought its annual stampede of horsepower to the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, directly under the flight path of UPS Worldport and Muhammad Ali International Airport. Louisville’s central location in the United States and proximity to NSRA’s headquarters in Tennessee have helped the city by the Ohio River retain its place on the annual NSRA schedule, kicking off the big sendoff to summer bookended by the Kentucky State Fair.

“I remember growing up as a kid and seeing weekends in August when street rods would take over our city and [I’d] run into them at the mall and the park,” said new Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg, “That was always so fun and brought a smile to my face. That’s probably part of what made me such an enthusiast that led me to wanna get my own car.”

Mayor Greenberg led the pre-Nationals parade out of the backside of the Kentucky Expo Center into Fourth Street Live in Louisville’s commercial business and entertainment district in his own 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, one similar to his first car that he bought at the age of 16 before, like so many of us have regrettable done, selling it for something more practical.

A total of 9,111 registered participants from the United States and beyond turned up for the 54th annual Street Rod Nationals between August 3 and 6, bringing over $100 million worth of rides to the Kentucky Expo Center. From traditional pre-war street rods and cool muscle cars from the 1960s and early 1970s to badass Eighties pro street machines and custom pickups, if it made the 30-year cutoff from the present day (model year 1993 for this year’s event), it could be found basking in the Kentucky sun and summer heat.

“You’ll find all walks of life [at the Nationals],” said NSRA representative Jerry Kennedy. “People have said, ‘Don’t they get tired of being mechanics, and then coming out here on the weekend?’ You would be lucky to find 1 out of 10 people that are in these cars that have anything to do with an automobile during the week. You have doctors, lawyers [and everyone in between] who put away the jackets and ties, and don the blue jeans and tennis shoes who are [at the Nationals] for a good time.”

The 55th edition of the NSRA Street Rod Nationals is scheduled for August 1 through 4, 2024. Until then, the 2023 NSRA schedule continues on with the Street Rod Nationals North from September 8 through 10 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Northeast Street Rod Nationals from September 15 through 17 in Burlington, Vermont, and the Southwest Street Rod Nationals from October 13 through 15 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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