For the first time, a truck starred in Street Rod Nationals’ annual giveaway

Cameron Aubernon

Every August, Louisville, Kentucky sends off summer with the National Street Rod Association Street Rod Nationals. What began with around 600 street rods in Peoria, Illinois, all the way back in 1970 has become a gathering of about 10,000 vehicles, dating from the start of the automobile all the way to 30 years before the present day. The custom builds spend four days on the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center, a place the Nationals have called home since the 1990s, across the highway from the UPS Worldport and the Muhammad Ali International Airport.

Alongside attractions like the NSRA Autocross, which we covered last year, and the Nitro Knockout, where drag cars let their nitro-breathing V-8s pop off for a few moments, Street Rod Nationals also hosts live music, seminars on making the most of your street rod, and, of course, thousands of vehicles parked on the expansive grounds of the Kentucky Expo Center. However, there is one attraction that every NSRA member looks forward to every year: The street-rod giveaway, held at the expo center’s Freedom Hall each year since Nationals decided to call Louisville its permanent Old Kentucky home.

1977 Chevrolet C10 truck built by Harrison’s Rod & Custom giveaway room
The giveaway truck waits for its lucky new owner. Cameron Aubernon

“In the original [giveaway], we had a club that wanted to do it, and they were going to do it as a raffle,” said Jerry Kennedy, a retired NSRA special events director who comes out to help with the Nationals giveaway every year. “[After the first giveaway], the NSRA said, ‘The raffle thing isn’t gonna work for one if it doesn’t work for ’em all. Who’s gonna be responsible for this after it’s done?’ That’s when [the NSRA] decided to do [the giveaway]; 1982 was the first year we gave a car away.”

According to Kennedy, the builder chosen by NSRA comes up with the giveaway vehicle based on what they’re best at building. For most of the giveaways, the vehicle was a 1948-or-earlier machine. Then, at the event’s 50th anniversary in 2019, both a classic street rod and 1971 Chevrolet Nova SS were given away.

In 2023, for the first time in Nationals history, a street-fighting truck was the giveaway vehicle. The NSRA tapped Harrison’s Rod & Custom of Greenville, Tennessee, to build the giveaway vehicle for the 54th Street Rod Nationals. Since the shop specialized in 1973 through 1987 “Square Body” Chevrolet and GMC trucks, the giveaway vehicle would be a 1977 Chevy C10 regular cab.

“A couple of years ago, a friend of mine … was talking about ways we can do something a little different to get a different market,” said Bryan Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Rod & Custom. “Truck guys don’t always think of coming [to the Nationals]. They think it’s just a street rod show. I’m known for doing a lot of trucks. It’s how it started, and here we are.”

1977 Chevrolet C10 built by Harrison’s Rod & Custom giveaway cab badge truck
A close-up of the blue Chevy bowtie on the B-pillar of the C10. Cameron Aubernon

According to Harrison, the giveaway truck is “98 percent all brand-new.” The build started as just a cab with a clean title sourced by the shop via social media from a local Chevy fan. With the help of various vendors also specializing in ’73 to ’87 GM pickups, Harrison’s crew got the raw mock-up of the truck ready in five to six months. They spent the next year getting the ’77 Chevy ready for its Nationals visit, right up to an hour before heading out to Louisville.

1977 Chevrolet C10 built by Harrison’s Rod & Custom giveaway sponsors
The vendors who helped make this Chevy possible. Cameron Aubernon

“The biggest challenge in building the giveaway truck is that there are so many companies that want to send parts they want to donate; they want to be known for being on that truck,” said Harrison. “It’s very easy to get caught up in so much free stuff coming in that you end up overdoing things.

“At the end of the day, [the winner is] getting a free truck regardless of what it is. You don’t need to slack on it. It’s not an issue of backing off of quality or anything like that. But there comes a time when you need to say, ‘This is a giveaway truck. We’re not trying to win a national award here. We’re trying to give somebody a really good, driveable, quality truck. We don’t want to overdo it.’”

1977 Chevrolet C10 built by Harrison’s Rod & Custom giveaway interior steering wheel
The winner will have a nice view of the custom gauges featuring the logos of Harrison’s Rod & Custom and the NSRA. Cameron Aubernon

Under the ’62 Corvette Fawn Gold and Adobe Beige paint, complemented by a deep brown distressed leather interior, the ’77 Chevy truck turns up the heat on the street via a GM Performance V-8. The 502-cubic-inch mill pumps 502 horsepower through a Tremec five-speed manual to a Ford 9-inch rear. The 20-inch chrome American Racing wheels (18s up front) are wrapped in Diamond Back Classic Tires. The whole package looked wonderful heading out from its display area inside the expo center’s front lobby towards the rear entrance of Freedom Hall. Onlookers strained to get a glimpse of the truck, each hoping they’d be the one to bring it home.

After the pre-giveaway entertainment that Saturday afternoon, Kennedy drew three numbers one at a time, calling each number out in the hopes the matching ticketholder would reveal their presence. After each number was put aside, the audience cheered, knowing they all still had a shot at the truck. Kennedy and Harrison found the new owner upon the fourth number drawn: one Rocky Earney, whose own truck at the Nationals had a few issues along the way to Louisville. No doubt he’s happy to have this Square Body Chevy.

1977 Chevrolet C10 built by Harrison’s Rod & Custom giveaway winner
Rocky Earney is all smiles in his new Chevy truck. Cameron Aubernon

“[The giveaway has] touched a lot of people,” said Kennedy. “It’s always one that says, ‘I never thought this could happen to me.’ But it can. That’s always been NSRA’s goal, that it would, hopefully, go to somebody who could really use it and appreciate it and keep it.”




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