Empire State Scene – 18th annual Syracuse Nationals

The 18th Annual Syracuse Nationals presented by PPG was everything you would expect from a summertime East Coast car show. Partying, thousands of cars, halter tops, frosty beers and slushy drinks, vendors, after dark partying and golf cart shenanigans, big awards and big hair.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

There was the kind of unbridled energy you would expect from an event in this region given the relatively short window of warm summer weather. When you only get a few months to blow out the carbon and wear your bandana, you tend to go all out in terms of party mode. The Syracuse Nationals had that and more.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

Like most big hot rod events, the 18th Annual Syracuse Nationals is held at a big fairgrounds – the New York State Fairgrounds to be exact. A massive and sprawling facility, it easily holds the event with enough space for a giant show & shine, cruising and parking. The New York weather was favorable this year making the event that much stronger. The participant vehicles were typical for this kind of show – ninety percent of them were workin’ man’s hot rods while the “ten-percenters” were elite show vehicles halfway through their yearly show tour.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

If you want a big show, you must dangle a big carrot in front of the “hitter” cars. In this case, the carrot was the Gene Winfield award and the $10k check that comes with it. Making it cooler is the fact that Gene himself flies in from Southern California to make the pick. Gene picked Chris and Lori Ryan’s “Scarlett Lady” ‘56 Continental Mark II – a car we have in the pipeline for a full feature.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve2018 Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve


In looking through the images taken by our freelance photo ace John Jackson, you can see the variety of machines here. You have all of the typical street rods and 50s classics you would expect to see, but a good dose of 70s and 80s muscle, tricked out trucks along with some oddballs and rare birds makes for a nice show field.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

How about a 1979 Chrysler 300 on American five-spokes? An LS-swapped VW Golf? Yep. We also saw Cougars, Camaros , Crosleys and Cadillacs. Our favorite vehicle of them all through was a slammed squarebody dually which was literally laying rocker.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

The big Eastern builders and stylists were on hand too. Dave Tucci, Murray Pfaff, RM Motorsports, the afore mentioned Chris Ryan and others. Catching our eye big time was the wild, Pro-Touring, Coyote-swapped 1974 MG of Joe Holyfield built by Michigan’s RM Motorsports. Talk about wild!

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

The indoor atmosphere was electric with heavy-hitting cars and trucks on display in front of the massive PPG Refinish rig which offered their signature hospitality – Knowledgeable reps, kids coloring contests and attractive product displays. More than any major corporation, PPG gets what we’re doing in this industry and gets behind it one hundred percent. Hot rodding is lucky to have them. In addition, the indoor “Arty’s Party” pinstriping exhibit was very cool.

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

With that, we ate a scrapple sandwich and a Tasty Cake, then headed out on the road to the next big happening. We had fun in sunny Syracuse!

18th annual Syracuse Nationals, Fuel Curve

18th Annual Syracuse Nationals Photo Extra!

Photography by John Jackson

Senior Editor, Digital Media

With three decades of automotive journalism under his belt, John Drummond serves as Senior Editor – Digital Media for Fuel Curve and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association where he has worked since 1990. Drummond got his start in motorsports reporting by making a fake press pass to gain starting line access. The ruse worked and he began covering auto races as far back as 1986 in Northern California, eventually getting his stories published worldwide. He has owned and driven everything from a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere to a ridiculously modded Subaru WRX as well as a string of Mercedes AMG’s, most of which had the warranties voided the day after leaving the dealership.

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