Street Machine Nationals 1991 Time Capsule; A Deluge in DuQuoin
Story and photos by David Fetherston
The Street Machine Nationals is a well-known event and institution for horsepower freaks. Once upon a time, the Street Machine scene was outlandish, bombastic, and hilarious in hot pink and green neon hues. It looked nothing like the Pro-Touring cars we love today. Mickey Thompson “meats,” 8-71 blowers, wheelie bars that never got used, neon graphics and hood cutouts and owners with mullets and Oakley blades ruled the day. It was epic!
We’re throwing it back today for your viewing pleasure. Looking back at the 1991 General Tire Street Machine Nationals, you can see that the fans of this show brought horsepower, beautiful cars and girls…and wild weather! Under heavy overcast skies, the Nat’s went from sunshine to pouring rain and back again throughout all three days.
The Street Machines were bitchin’ once again, but there was not the show of force that happened in 1990, when a multitude of new machines arrived at the show. Maybe the forecast scared ‘em off? Nonetheless, the 1991 show had some cool new Pro Street and Street Machine cars rolling around the fairgrounds, like Keith Eickert’s Grand National Street Machine winner, the injected purple Monte Carlo street machine.
On Saturday afternoon, it bucketed down three inches in 45 minutes, flooding the grounds. During this one storm, six folks were injured when lightning struck the trailer under which they were sheltering. They were all treated for “minor terror,” and allowed to leave. The boys from Hot Rod Magazine camped out in a motorhome at the back of the fairgrounds during the storm. The tree, right next to the motorhome, was struck by a huge bolt of lightning. They were all fine, but a little jumpy at any loud banging noises for the rest of the show; the late, great Gray Baskerville claimed that his Japanese safety shoes (rubber flip flops) saved his life!
One of the most popular new attractions was the Mild to Wild in 55 Hours Pro Street truck building display. Rick Dobertin, Mark Grimes, and friends spent the weekend converting a ’91 Ford F100 into a slammed Pro Street driver. On Friday morning, it was a stock-box, F100 and by Sunday 5 pm, it was out on the pavement ready to roll. Other crowd-pleasing attractions included the seminars: Fan Belt Toss, Puddin’ Feed, Radiator Fill, Loud Mouth Drag and the McCord Engine Building Competition.
Larry Hall, who was with Blower Drive Services, led a seminar with his then-famous Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Supercharging. Larry knew his blowers, so anyone who absorbed his “pearls of wisdom” went away with a head full of information on blower technology, set up, and performance.
The street machines came from over 24 different makes, representing 200 models with 3,500 vehicles entered, ranging from a ’40s Willys coupe to a 1991 Corvette coupe with radical Greenwood body package.
Colors seemed a little brighter than 1990, although the push for pastels is still running strong. Pale turquoise, ambers and orange were common, along with bright candy purples and a mass of red vehicles. In fact, red was the most common choice of color—twenty percent of all entries.
License plates were also another eyeball highlight. Spied over the weekend were such trick titles as, I LOFRD, C U ALL, FOOLIN U, CU LOKIN, ADMIRE, and ENUFSED.
The crowd was pleased with the sights of such “Street Beasts” as Walter Elder’s outrageous red and white blown alcohol Hemi Daytona. Other crowd pleasing wild rides included Dave Pleasant’s blown, custom, orange ’57 Chevy Panel Delivery and Danny Taylor’s trick chopped ’78 Malibu with its triple color paint and suicide doors. Anyone know if these cars are still around?
One incomplete project arrived on a trailer. It was the ’34 Chevy chassis with a V12 Alison engine from a Mustang fighter plane slung in between the frame rails. It was due to have a ’34 Chevy two-door sedan body placed over it. Trucks continued their invasion into Street Machine land with a show of force rolling out chopped, multi-colored, slammed, molded, filled and custom pickups of every persuasion.
In 1991 at the time of the SM Nationals we noticed guys were infusing more custom ideas into the fold with shaved door handles, pastel paints, slammed chassis, and a retro-cars like Anglia’s, ’50s Mercury’s and compact Fairlane’s, as well as the newer Grand Am Pontiacs and late model Malibu’s. This could have been the beginning of the spectacular fit and finish prevalent in today’s Pro-Touring cars.
In all, the 1991 Street Machine Nationals was its usual grand affair. The weather was not a friend that weekend, but it did keep the heat down. The folks were all friendly, the cars bitchin’, the trucks stunning and the Pro Streeters, mean and nasty. Nevertheless, we loved them all, wet or dry, at the Street Machine Nationals.