Episode #136: Ventura Nationals

"The Best Traditional Hot Rod and Custom Show in California"

Ventura Nationals

Recorded at Studio 503 in Oxnard …lots of event coverage talk.  Great day and great show.  Holly and Aaron did an awesome job along with all staff at the event.  Also the usual updates on shows, etc.  If we missed something about the show, check out the blog.  Thanks for listening and tell a friend.


Episode #136

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August 30, 2014


The Ventura Nationals annual show is probably one of the best outdoor traditional hot rod, custom and motorcycle show of the year. The coastal fairgrounds in Ventura, California is an ideal location right off the 101 Freeway and the Pacific Ocean. We got into town late Friday afternoon after fighting through the Los Angeles traffic. This year’s goal was to attend the photography and art show held at the Majestic Theater in downtown Ventura on Friday night.


After the cab ride to theater, we were immediately on foot with camera in hand shooting pics of the local semi-organized cruise in the historic downtown area. Open headers from gassers, sirens from the low riders, no problem. Johnny Law didn’t seem to mind at all since the town invited all the out of town spectators to browse the local eateries, brew houses and shops along the two main streets. Some of the local businesses got together and added their names to the helpful show flyer with a map. It all paid off with the foot traffic that grew as the sun went down. Spectators were not only from out of town, but also from out of the country. Plenty of media from Japan, Germany and New Zealand took advantage of the photo ops in front of the 1920’s mission architecture theater with cruisers idling along the street. It sorta reminds us of Paso Robles back in the day when they had their Friday night cruise for the West Coast Kustoms annual show. We miss Paso.


Out on the street in front of the theater was a 1931 Ford roadster built by Aaron Valencia, car builder from Lancaster, California. This particular project car was built solely as a raffle prize to benefit The Lost Angels Childrens Project. All proceeds were divided equally for two charities, the Grace Resource Center and the Union Rescue Mission to help kids living in homeless shelters in Los Angeles. This roadster featured a metal body, ’32 frame, small-block Chevy, turbo 350 transmission and white wall tires. The deep metallic green paint and white interior with tuck and roll upholstery looked period correct for 1960. The lucky Daniel Espinal won the roadster at the end of the awards ceremony on Saturday. Lucky bastard. We met Aaron briefly and he could not believe how crazy the build came along with the windshield being installed just two days before the event. He had enough time to take the roadster down to the shelter and shoot pics with kids in and on the roadster on the previous Thursday. He’s a talented young man with a heart of gold and he plans to do another build for next year’s show. We’ll be sure to catch up with him for an interview later next year.


Inside the theater, were some local artists selling automotive prints, paintings and artwork. The interior for this event worked out great with a full bar and plenty of room to chat and look at some neat art. Most of these artists set up booths the following Saturday in the vendor area of the show. It’s great to see black and white portrait photos as well as car shots depicting the car culture. Downtown Ventura had a different look when we returned to our cab with more hot rods parking in the diagonal spots in the congested areas. Next time I’ll bring a tripod for some night shots.

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8 a.m Saturday, we rolled out of room 503 fully packed to spend the whole 7 hours at the show. When you show up to an event and there are no lines, it’s either a good thing or a bad thing. This show, it was a good thing. All show cars and bikes were already loaded in by 9 a.m. Holly Gollob, show promoter stated “we had over 290 pre-registered cars and bikes, making it larger than last year.” No doubt there were more day-of-show registrations, but they managed to get 90% of the fairgrounds covered with cars, bikes, builders and vendors. We strolled a continuous 5 hours gazing, shooting pics and talking to folks we haven’t seen in about a year since the last show or the Mooneyes events. We shook hands with the legendary customizer, Bill Hines as he sat comfortably in his 1950 Lil Bat custom. The white collared shirt, suspenders and the ubiquitous cigar makes him stand out just about anywhere. Glad to see he’s in better health too.


We ran into Manny Figueroa, who made the cover of the April issue of Rod & Custom magazine with his 1951 shoebox Ford doing a fantastic burnout. The discussion followed with the inside story of how the pictures were staged on an open street and resulted with the rear tires catching fire with the super-heated rubber caked up in the wheel wells. Some speedy extinguishing and sweat later, they were able to kill the flames and prevent the Ford-powered custom from being burned to the ground. Manny said ,“I must be completely f*** crazy to do this and eat up $800 worth of rubber, but it was absolutely cool to do it a couple of times.” I agree. On a side note, we’ll be missing the Rod & Custom magazine now that its been discontinued by the publishing company located here in Los Angeles. A lot of articles were written about the traditional hot rod and custom over the past 50 years. RIP R&C.


Saturday’s music lineup comprised of the James Harman Band, Big Jay McNeely, the Freight Shakers and the Hurricanes. One of these bands came from Australia or there-abouts and we have to commend them for making the trip up. Instead of the usual pin-up girl contest, this show had a Pedal Car Contest. The idea was to get more families involved and to participate with their kids. That’s right, the kids got to share the attention while cruising the main avenue to get judged for their work. Start the car bug early and keep hot rodding around for the next generations. Great idea, we have to keep hot rodding alive.


We missed Sunday’s Reliabilty Run up to Lake Casitas and the party afterwards at Noble Fabrication’s open house barbeque due to family obligations. So we’ll have something else to share next year for this annual run up-to-the lake. We should not forget the artwork by Bomonster, for his expertise and talent providing the cool, custom t-shirt and print designs for this year’s show. My tardiness getting an event shirt didn’t help as they completely sold out in the afternoon. Guess we’ll have to go back again next year. Lucky bastards.