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What an automotive event! Over 2,700 1955-57 Chevrolets all in one place. Participants from every state in the union and 14 foreign countries. Drag racing, a swap meet, automotive product vendors, a fantastic car show, and a host hotel parking lot party; this event has it all. What am I talking about? The 2017 Tri-Five Nationals, held August 11th and 12th. This was my second year attending the Tri-Fives, and the event has quickly rocketed to the top of my favorite automotive event list.
Other than (possibly) at a GM shipping facility back in the day, when have that many ‘55-57 Chevys been gathered together for a two-day event? I’m quite sure this is a first, and it is only their third year. The first year had 1,800 entries; last year had 2,200; and for 2017, there were over 2,700 ‘55-57 Chevy cars, trucks, and Corvettes present. That’s a lot of growth in just three years! And, that should come as no surprise; this is a very well-managed event.
The Tri-Fives event is held at Beech Bend Raceway in beautiful Bowling Green, KY. This is a well-kept facility that hosts a wide variety of automotive events throughout the year. There’s a large amusement park right next to the race track to provide entertainment for those who may not be up for two full days of cars and racing. The city of Bowling Green is an automotive oriented community, being home to the Corvette Assembly Plant, the National Corvette Museum, and the Holley factory. Abundant lodging, camping, and great eateries all make Bowling Green a great place to visit.
For the Tri-Fives, the majority of the car show area surrounds three sides of the racing facility itself. Here the cars are displayed on the grass, with trees throughout providing much appreciated shade. (Bowling Green does get hot and muggy in the summer.) There also is a special display area in the center of a racing oval that held a huge array of “gassers”, “junior stockers”, and ultimate restorations. Many of the drag cars in this area were historically significant in that they were national drag racing event winners from back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Drag racing ran throughout the event and well into the evenings. Many of the cars racing were hard-core racers that travel to nostalgic racing events around the country. As a special feature, the historic junior stockers present got on the track for some racing, mostly in a “grudge match” format against each other. This made for some great photo ops with these significant cars lined up to race. Gassers have been immensely popular the last few years around the country, and the gasser entry here reflected that. If you enjoy watching loud, wheel-standing gassers, this was the place to be.
There was a good-sized swap meet where it appeared you could find just about anything you might desire for a tri-five. A variety of cars for sale were in the swap meet area as well, many of which seemed to be priced within reason.
The new merchandise “vendor row” is where I spent most of my time. I was on this trip working for Dakota Digital. Our booth was in a great spot between a builder of some very high-end gassers and the large Comp Cams display. Other automotive vendors from all across the industry encircled much of the show center area. As in the swap meet, about anything you might need for your tri-five build could be found among the vendors present.
One highlight for me was the parking lot party at the host hotel on Friday evening. Since this was a working trip for me, I didn’t have the luxury of roaming the show grounds at length during the day. But, the party at the host hotel was a fantastic car show in itself. There were hundreds of cars from the show there, many of which were coming and going throughout the evening. A DJ playing ‘50s and ‘60s music, an outdoor bar, and folks strolling around checking out the cool cars on a pleasant summer evening made for a great time.
Having said all this, I know that not all of you are Chevrolet fanatics such as myself. However, if you appreciate nicely built cars of any brand, quality drag racing, and historically significant drag cars from the past, this might just be an event you’d enjoy. And, here’s one for you: this hard-core Chevrolet guy is attending the Mustang Club of America Nationals in a couple weeks. How’s that for staying open-minded?