Damn Yankees Summer Slam 2019

North Weald, Essex, July 21st

Words & Photography: Ben Klemenzson

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The Damn Yankees show is one of those events that betrays its hot rod/custom roots as it kicks off so early, with cars streaming in from 8.30 am, even as traders are setting up and lazy journalists are arriving to cover the event. This year’s event was blessed with warm, occasionally sunny weather and that meant an exceptional turn-out of vehicles.

            Busy polishing his fresh-out of the paint shop was sprayer Jim Read, who’d done an absolutely exceptional paint job on his ’73 Dodge Dart Swinger. “I’ve done this for myself, if I added up the hours on it, it wouldn’t make financial sense…” he explained. And that’s the beauty of being a sprayer and the ability to do your own paint jobs! Jim explained that now Chargers, Challengers and Barracudas we’re now becoming all but out of reach for ordinary folks, he’d always had a soft spot for Mother Mopar’s sexy little compact A-bodies, such as his Dart. It wasn’t just the paint that impressed either, in the engine bay sat Chrysler’s bullet-proof super clean slant-six motor with a new Offenhauser manifold and 390 Holley four carb set-up and a twin exhaust.

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            Dialling the clock back a few years to the Sixties was an oh-so stunning ’66 Olds 442 in eye-popping Target Red, belonging to Peter Webb from Bromley in Kent. Not just a 442, this Olds had the W30 performance package, which includes a hotter cam, cold air induction with snorkels under the front grille and a Hurst shifter. Although  it looks it’s wearing old school redline cross-plys, which are very period, they’re actually those Coker radials which look like the old cross-plies, but perform like a modern radial.

            The Damn Yankees do a pretty good job of weeding out non-American vehicles and there was an incredible variety of cars and trucks on display, from brand-spanking-new Camaros, to some pretty weird and wonderful European stuff and some really old stuff too, including Bill Rogers from Cambridgeshire, who rocked up in his 1914 Ford Model T which also served as a cooker for his bacon sandwiches which he was retrieving from the engine bay: “ You need at least a 30 minute run for them to cook…” he explained. They looked delicious!

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            What’s always fun about the Damn Yankees Summer Slam is the mixture of cars on display as already mentioned – old, new, modified, stock, rods, customs, familiar and new. One car that caught my attention was the 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible featured back in the January 2014 issue (CA273). This Arcadian Blue pony car features a four-barrel A-code 289 and a a four-speed manual T-10 gearbox and is pretty basically spec’d, but is incredibly original, still wearing its original seat covers and even carpets. Owner Tom Killeen had purchased the car from Richard Ward in Oldham, Greater Manchester: “I think if people can be bothered to go up North, there are some real bargains to be had…” said Tom.

            Another familiar car, but not seen for literally decades was Ricardo Godfrey-Bonnici’s ’71 Chevelle SS. This eye-popping gold GM A-body used to be a regular sight at Billing Aquadrome in its glory days in the mid- to late-Nineties. Now sadly it’s big block had bitten the dust (although Ric has kept it to possibly rebuild one day,) replaced with a GM small block crate motor from Roadcraft (www.roadcraft.co.uk / Tel 01273 455057,) which was installed by Back to Life Cars in Southend (www.backtolifecars.com / Tel. 01702 870 087).

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            Dipping his toes in the American car scene for the first time was Ben Fitch and what a way to start: a 1968 Camaro in the one year only colour of Britsh Green. He and a bunch of mates had piled in the ragtop, dropped the hood and it looked like they were going to cruise the miracle mile – and that’s what it’s all about. Other show stopping cars included a brace of hearses (featured on these pages in the past,) a ’60 Eureka and a ’62 Miller Meteor and various drag demos in the arena with John Price. They say time flies when you’re having fun and soon it was 3.30pm, prize-giving and the end of yet another vintage Damn Yankees Summer Slam, roll on 2020.

Prize Winners

Best in Show – 1967 Buick Riviera, Nick Barnes

Best Hot Rod – Ford Model A, Dave Sharp

Best Pick-up – Chevrolet 3100, Graham Richardson

Best Custom – 1956 Chevrolet, Tony Nash

Best F-body – 1972 Camaro Z28, Brian Stachini

3rd Original – 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger, Jim Read

2nd Original – 1967 Corvette Sting Ray, Jeff Shadbolt

1st Original – 1956 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, Gary Cremer

3rd Modified- Ford Ranchero, Dave Gilbey

2nd Modified – 1941 Ford Pick-up Steve Johnson

1st Modified – Vauxhall Firenza, Alex Veal

Kingstown Shipping & RH Insurance Car of the Year Heat winner

The winner of heat 6 at the Damn Yankees Summer Slam, held at North Weald was this stunning 1967 Buick Riviera belonging to Nick Barnes from Enfield, Essex. This California car has had a respray in the original Buick colour of Platinum Mist, but retains a stunning original and unmarked black vinyl interior with immaculate real wood trim. Power comes from Buick’s 360bhp 430 cu in V8 and being Buick’s top line personal luxury offering, it features all the goodies one would expect including air con, power steering and power brakes and auto transmission.

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