The Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals Was A Filled-To-Capacity Celebration

We all dig Chevys, and no Chevy enthusiast’s summer should be complete without a visit to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the Danchuck Tri-Five Nationals. The 2019 edition of this Chevy celebration brought upwards of 2,800 examples of Chevrolet’s most renowned production vehicles to the pastoral grounds of historic Beech Bend Raceway. In its fifth year, this event seems to get better with the passage of time, with much of the credit directed toward the American Tri-Five Association, Danchuk Manufacturing, and Woody’s Hot Rodz for keeping their pledge of remaining true to Tri-Five Chevys.

tri-five nats

The ‘Cherry Bomb,’ a 1957 model-150 equipped as a straight-axle gasser, cruises through the Beech Bend show field.

The Hot One Arrives

The roots of Chevy enthusiasm run deep, but arguably, the genesis of Chevy’s high-performance as we know it was born with the introduction of the 1955 models. Sure, you could lean on a stovebolt inline six-cylinder engine with a selection of early speed parts, but the Babbitt bearings and the “splash” oiling system would still leave you chasing the newest overhead-cam V8-engine designs of the post-war era.

Aubrey King’s ’56 Chevy 210 Sedan, also known as Project Gift Horse, made its debut at the Tri-Five Nationals.

However, GM Chief Engineer, Ed Cole, knocked it out of the park with the introduction of the Chevrolet small-block. Since that original 265 cubic-inch V8 found a home between the fenders of the then all-new ’55 models, the Chevy small-block V8 has become the defacto standard for both high-performance and on-the-road reliability.

It’s no surprise to see how the 1955 models became an overnight sensation for American drivers. They were looking for something new after years of staid automobiles that seemed all too similar from one model year to the next. The new, affordable car with a lot of newfound-horsepower was just the ticket to keep them coming back for more. The 1955 through 1957 model Chevys would see continuous refinements until GM chose to shake up its offerings in 1958, with an entirely new design.

Aged Like a Fine Wine

The enduring popularity of these cars and their mostly straightforward parts-interchangeability kept them at the forefront of high-performance advancements for decades. Today, there is a strong aftermarket that caters directly to Tri-Five enthusiasts, and it’s now possible to build a ’55 through ’57 Chevy using only new parts.

It’s hard to imagine a situation like this could exist back in the days of scrounging through the junkyard. But here we are, with legions of specialty manufacturers providing support to the owners of these classics. Survivor cars benefit from the vast array of replacement and upgrade parts now offered for Tri-Five Chevys. The enhancements we see on cars today should ensure that they will be with us for many years to come.

A '56 Bel Air sedan cruises the grounds, while a street/strip '55 shares space with a custom cruiser '55. Nomads always give me wanderlust, and this '57 was no exception.

A great example of a car that needed substantial updates — and found them through the network of specialty suppliers serving the Tri-Five community — is the ’56 Chevy sedan known as Project Gift Horse. Aubrey King wanted to unveil the completed car at this year’s Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals. Aubrey is the definition of dedication, and he burned the midnight oil through Tuesday night before the event. The net result was the truly slick 56 210 sedan that was displayed in front of the TMI Products booth all weekend.

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The 2019 Giveaway car built by Woody’s Hot Rodz.

The Giveaway Car

With a vast support network, the craftsmen at Woody’s Hot Rodz see to it that all the participants at the Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals have a chance to drive home in the annual giveaway car. The car is always (naturally) a Tri-Five Chevy, built with the best the aftermarket has to offer.

Each year, the creation perfectly exemplifies the quality that can be obtained in a modern build with all new parts. The suspense over who will win is always intense, and this year, the lucky winner took home an all-new 56 Chevy convertible, that just happened to be trimmed out as a 210 model.

Chris Sondles of Woody's Hot Rodz prepares to give away the '56 convertible, as Cindy Konoski emerges from the crowd to claim the prize. Chris Sondles and representatives from Ed Rinke Performance Parts, Golden Star, and Danchuk pose with the happy winners.

Eagle-eyed observers among you will note that no such combination of a mid-level 210 and a convertible was ever made by Chevrolet. Regardless, the finished car is a stunner, and equipped with an all-new big-block engine from Ed Rinke Performance Parts. It will no doubt provide Donald and Cindy Kanoski with many miles of driving pleasure.

The Kanoski’s won the slick Golden Star Classic Auto Parts-bodied Chevy at the conclusion of the event, and could not have been happier with their good fortune. They drove away in the silver drop-top wearing smiles as wide as the ’56s chrome-plated grill. They appeared to be set to see the USA in their Chevrolet.

Tri-Five Nationals

This ’56 Bel Air hardtop was honored as the 2019 Tri-Five Chevy of the year, as presented by the Griffen brothers of Twin States Rod Shop in Meridian, Mississippi.

Is That Old Chevy Supposed To Be Fast?

Drag racing is part and parcel of the Tri-Five experience, and there is no shortage of racing action at Beech Bend Raceway during the Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals. From Jr. Stockers to gassers, to Pro Mod animals, there’s something for just about every fan of the sport-of-sprint. They even make plenty of time available for ‘fun runs,’ so you can grudge race your fellow Tri-Five Nats entrant. Or, maybe you just want to see what your old Chevy will do when asked nicely.

tri-five nationals

The ‘Beast’ gasser cooks up a smokey burnout while flying old glory from the back bumper.

If you can’t get enough Chevys while at the track, you can always hang out at the Sloan Convention Center after the show ends. The adjoining Holiday Inn was the official host hotel, and the convention center served as registration-central for the event.

Both Friday and Saturday night gave us a spontaneous cruise-in that featured a wide variety of classic Chevys. As expected, they were mostly of the Tri-Five variety, but sometimes another interested onlooker would appear in the parking lot. Oddly, this is where a large number of Tri-Five barn finds seemed to settle in for some Chevy-social action, and some of them were pretty unusual as cruisers go.

From full-on six-second racecars to fourteen-second Jr. Stockers, it's all Tri-Fives on the track, during the event.

Improving For The Future

Unfortunately, a highway accident did put a damper on what was a great weekend. The incident claimed the life of a participant on I-65. As a result, the American Tri-Five Association has decided to initiate a voluntary safety inspection of participant cars starting with next year’s event. Patterned after the long-running safety inspections performed at NSRA events, the Jerry “Waco” Andres Safety Lane will begin inspecting cars at the 2020 Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals.

tri-five nationals

The inspection will follow a list of recommended safety guidelines that will be made public soon. Considering the age and the various states of restoration of our beloved classic Chevys, it is highly advisable that participants take advantage of this free service once it becomes available. Both the safety aspects and the peace of mind the inspection will provide, are advantageous.

From left to right, the 2017 giveaway car at the Sloan Convention Center, a crusty '55 drag car, and a "custom" Tri-Five that has proven to be a survivor from the restyling era. If you are one to hunt for a bargain, the swap meet can be a gold mine.

Also announced during the 2019 Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals is the addition of a new event for the benefit of our West Coast-based enthusiasts. The ATFA ‘Western Invasion’, is scheduled to take place at Autoclub Famosa Raceway in Bakersfield, California on May 1, and 2, 2020. So, no matter which side of the country you live on, you’re out of excuses for not attending.

The Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals will return to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2020, and will pick up an extra day of activities, as the event stretches from August 13 through 15. Mark your calendars for the Tri-Five event of your choice, or better still, make them both since we really can’t get enough of Tri-Five Chevys.

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