Turkey Rod Run – Four Decades of Fun
The Turkey Rod Run at Daytona International Speedway has become an institution for eastern states car guys and gals. What started in 1975 as a one-day gathering of 45 cars at a hotel on Daytona Beach is now one of the country’s largest combined car shows and swap meets.
The Turkey Rod Run, which celebrated its 44th edition a few weeks back now covers four days, filling the infield at the Daytona International Speedway with more than 5,000 show cars, 1,200 cars for sale and 1,500 swap meet vendors. Rain and clouds dampened Thursday and Friday, but Saturday dawned to clear skies and mild mid-70s weather. Sunday also experienced a perfect fall day in Florida.
A stroll – a pretty long one actually – through the show car field mixes muscle with the mundane, exotics with unusual creations. Where else would you see a ’57 Chevy station wagon stuffed with a turbo diesel engine as well as a ’30 Model A coupe sporting a 2.8-litre turbocharged Ford four-cylinder? And just about everything else in between.
One show-field feature that you don’t often see elsewhere is assigned parking areas for car clubs, some for specific types (woodies, etc.) and others for clubs with a broad member base. One regular spot hosts a group of rodders from Vermont who escape the cold for Florida each fall.
An annual feature of the Turkey Rod Run is a display of vintage racing cars, from historic NASCAR racers to 1960s AFX drag cars.
The car corral is deep and riddled with deals. And perhaps a few orphans that no one wants. Regardless, handshakes and money-exchanges were the order of the day.
The swap meet portion of the Rod Run is a monster. Enthusiasts can find everything from new-product manufacturers to odds and ends being sold out of a pickup bed. From vintage speed parts to unusual collectibles, it’s all there. At least two vendors were selling restored vintage outboard motors. The ocean is just around the corner ya know!
So who are the principles behind this big event and just how did it come to be?
When Stu Sarjeant along with friends Rick Finzer and Olin Hopes founded the Daytona Beach Street Rods in 1975 and produced the first event at a Howard Johnson hotel on the beach, they weren’t expecting the event to grow as it has. The run moved to Seabreeze High School in 1982 and added a swap meet. By 1987 the Turkey Run had grown to more than 900 cars and relocated to a property at the Daytona Beach airport.
In 1989 the Daytona Beach Street Rods partnered with the Daytona Beach Racing and Recreational Facilities District (Daytona Beach Car Shows) and found a permanent home in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway. By this time, the show had grown to more than 1,500 show quality cars and 250 swap meet vendors. That is how it evolved.
For tens of thousands, it’s as much of a holiday tradition as a fresh roasted turkey. Gobble, gobble!
Photos by the author with additional images courtesy of the Turkey Rod Run