By Mick Jensen
Some 150 cars from around the country are expected in Ashburton for the Street Rod Nationals over the long Easter weekend.
The gathering coincides with the 50th anniversary of the local Americar Rod and Custom Club and includes a large car display at Ashburton Racecourse on April 1.
The display includes around 35 cars belonging to Mid Canterbury enthusiasts.
The Americar Rod and Custom Club was formed on July 3, 1968, with a constitution drawn up along New Zealand Hot Rod Association guidelines.
Minute books show that early meetings were held in an upstairs room in a building at The Triangle, before a shift just down the road to a rented clubroom shed, where a number of cars were built or worked on by members.
Early activities included some interaction with the Christchurch-based “Benders Club, a swap meet and also a hill climb event near Mt Hutt with the Kustoms Car Club.
The club bounced back from a decline in numbers in the early 1970s.
Founding member Bernard Bradley is still in the club alongside others “with long associations including Doink McKenzie (1975), Manny Sim (1976), Keith Drummond (1978), Lawrence Gordon (1979), Keith Sutton (1980) and Peter Kilgour (1980).
In 1984, and with just 30 cents in the bank, the club opted to build its own clubrooms.
Some $12,000 was raised in 12 months for the project and a piece of land next to the Tinwald Domain was chosen.
The new building was opened in 1986, but an official opening did not happen until 1988.
The club went on to host the Street Rod Nationals in 1981,1983, 1985, 2001 and 2008.
Americar Rod and Custom Club secretary Jason Gourlay said the club was friendly and welcomed new members.
“Our members have a really wide selection of cars, mostly American, and there is a lot of knowledge in the club, which members are happy to share.”
The club had around 65 members, who regularly cruised out for lunch after 10am meetings that were held on the second Sunday of the month, he said.
Visiting hot rods will be displayed at Ashburton Racecourse between 10am and 3pm on April 1.