962 pictures from the 33rd-Annual KKOA Leadsled Spectacular in Salina
Last year, my dad and I had every intention of checking out the Kustom Kemps of America (KKOA) Leadsled Spectacular in Salina, Kan. We had been hearing about this event for years, and everyone said it was not to be missed. Unfortunately, dad ended up getting heart surgery, and going to a car show ended up being out of the question. But things were much better this year. Dad is doing much better, so we loaded up the truck and headed to central Kansas for the weekend. We even met up with our Colorado friend Pat Casey, who reserved our motel rooms and took care of some of the logistics. Wonder if he’d like to be a travel agent …
This show was everything we had hoped it would be. There were some 1,700 cars on the grounds of the lovely, 24-acre Oakdale Park. It rained before, after, and all around us, but on Saturday, the main day of the show, it was rain-free and extremely comfortable. And everybody that’s anybody in the history of custom cars was there. They were chopping a top over here; Connie Stevens was signing autographs over there; there was a swap meet along this road; and KKOA Hall of Fame car builders were everywhere. This was car heaven.
It would be hard to pick a favorite at a show like this, but I think this ’56 Chevy, owned by Dennis Bergwarth, epitomized everything this show was about. I’m almost certain that I’ve seen pictures of this car in some of my dad’s old customizing magazines from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s. According to the owner, the customizing started when the car was brand new. From the canted headlights to the ’57 Chrysler taillights, it uses every old trick known to the leadsled hobby. Plus, the work is first-rate. And plus, plus, the car is just plain neat. This is the way these cars are supposed to be done.
Pat’s “favorite” pick was this really pretty ’50 Pontiac Catalina that came down from Nebraska. The Catalina was a two-door hardtop model that was comparable to a Buick Riviera or Oldsmobile Holiday. It might not seem like in now, but in 1950 this was a pretty radical body style. This one was as beautiful as they come, with acres of genuine leather upholstery, pristine paintwork, and even a lighted chief at the end of the chrome-streaked hood. It is probably the nicest ’50 Pontiac I have ever seen.
My dad’s favorite car at the show was really conservative. He kept talking about this ’59 Thunderbird. Save for a little hand-painted pinstriping, it wasn’t customized. It even had the original wheel covers. But it was a really nice car, and it had factory air conditioning, which is really rare for any ’59 Ford. He had a few of these old Square Birds around back in the day, and he liked the way they drove. I think they just bring back good memories. It was a really nice car.
’55 Nomads were pretty great all on their own, so customizing them is rarely an improvement, but I sure did like this one. They really didn’t deviate too much from stock here, but the bright gold paint combined with the chrome wheels and spider caps really made this car stand out from the crowd. Maybe it’s because I had an iridescent gold ’55 Nomad Hot Wheels car when I was a kid, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of this car.
There were lots of great hot rods there too. This Model A might have been my favorite. It was built in the 1950s, and still wears the same paint and upholstery to this day. Everybody tries to build “old school” hot rods, but this really is one. You can just feel the history here. The lady that owned it sat on a lawn chair on the curb in front of it and hung out the entire day. And you could tell that she loved it whenever people stopped and asked her about this car. I’m sure she had to answer a lot of questions throughout the day, because this was one stellar old hot rod.
When it comes to legendary customizers, Gene Winfield’s name is high on the list. In the 1960s, be built a Ford Econoline truck known as the Pacifica. It was part of the factory-backed Ford Custom Caravan. Over the years, Winfield lost track of the original Pacifica, but recently built this recreation out of a ’62 Econoline truck. It appeared under the bright lights of this year’s SEMA show, but looked just fine sitting in the grass at the Leadsled Spectacular. That’s the beauty of a show like this. You get to see someone’s backyard creation parked right next to a high-profile vehicle like this one.
I could easily write a blurb for any of 100 more cars from this show. But instead, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. This is one of the single biggest slideshows I’ve ever posted here—962 pictures. But if you think that’ll take a long time to go through, just remember that we walked along and took all of these. You can see them in the slideshow below, or click this link for a better version.