These are some of the most iconic cars in American history, and in mid-August literally thousands of them make their way to Beech Bend Raceway in the Bluegrass State. The three-day affair features a massive car show, drag racing, vendors and other car show staples
For event organizer Chris Sondles, who owns a Tri-Five from each year, the ever-expanding event is a source of pride.
“I don’t think anyone, myself included, could have dreamt it would have grown this big,” he said. “But I think we’re a long way from maxing out.”
This year the party kicked off on Thursday, August 9, at the Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green. There participants picked up registration packets and were witness to the American Tri-Five Association’s Heritage Spotlight program. It featured 31 classically restored Tri-Five Chevys, including seven of the 32 El Moroccos ever produced.
Drag racing was originally planned under the lights at the track across town that night, but rain earlier in the day forced the program’s cancellation. Still, participants seemed undeterred.
The three-day celebration ended on Saturday at Beech Bend with a lucky couple winning an LS3-powered 1955 Chevy giveaway car custom-built by Woody’s Hot Rodz, the company owned by Sondles. This was after five stunning Tri-Five Chevys were chosen as the top five in the entire show, with one brilliant 1957 selected as Tri-Five of the Year.
In the interim, folks cruised up and down the picturesque, fence-lined two-lane road leading to the track and its surrounding hilly grounds. They are flanked by Beech Bend Park and its classic wooden roller coaster. Participants set up tents and folding chairs and told stories, laid out blankets and ate picnic lunches, and tested their cars’ mettle on the drag strip in-between watching some serious racers ply their craft. There was also plenty of after-hours cruising and hanging among participants in the Sloan Center and host hotel’s parking lots.
The entire event was simply a massive display of Bowtie machinery and the men and women who drive it.
The 2018 edition of the Tri-Five Nationals featured over 2700 cars including Bel Airs, Nomads, a few trucks and many others. Some were restored to their original glory, others were custom machines dripping in chrome, still others had Chevrolet Performance crate engines under the hood, and there were more than a few slammed builds and sky-high gassers. Even the 2018 Ridler Award winner, a silver chopped ‘57 hardtop, was on hand.
“Every walk of life involved in the Tri-Five hobby is here,” Sondles said. “You’ll see cars that are jacked up higher than four-wheel drive cars as gassers, and cars that the rockers are cut off of because they’re so low to the ground. It’s just really a nice mix of everything Tri-Five.
“The cool part of it is the guy that’s sitting there with a quarter-million dollar show car is sitting beside a rusty rat rod and [the owners] get along like best friends. It’s the cars that they draw them together.”
These are very nice people indeed, all of whom simply love the Tri-Five Chevy and want to tell their stories. We’re glad they do.
Check out a photo gallery from the event below and be sure to keep watching The BLOCK and @theblockdotcom on Instagram for more coverage of the 2018 Tri-Five Nationals.