It isn’t easy getting an idea off the ground and turning it into a success story, but Kenny Harrison and Nick Smith should be very proud of what they’ve achieved with Culture — Backstreet Car Meet. Their idea for a car show came to life in Hamilton on Saturday, December 3, and if we could use only one word to describe it, it would be ‘quality’. 

Culture — Backstreet Car Meet is more than your usual hot rod meetup, and more than your average import-oriented hardpark. Fusing elements of both, Culture straddles the grey area between the many facets of the local automotive scene. It is an event organized and run by low-riders, but one at which all aspects of classic and custom car culture are welcome — low-riders, customs, hot rods, bikes, and pre-1987 Japanese and European cars, as stated on the official event poster.

Held at the massive Harcourts car park in central Hamilton, Culture occupied four separate car park areas, with the main one holding low-riders and bombs, which made up the majority of the vehicles on display. Two more car parks were for the other cars — hot rods, muscle cars, classics, Japanese, and Euros — while, to keep the family vibe going, the end bay was dedicated to merchandise, food and drink, live music, and Charlie ‘Chaz’ Allen’s pinstriping services. 

The show officially kicked off at 12pm, although to provide a cohesive vehicle display, Kenny and Nick had an array of low-riders and bombs roll up in advance, for a consistent central display. From left to right here, we have Justin Ferris’s ’67 Chev Impala, Melissa Hannan’s ’59 Chev Impala, Jason Walsh’s ’39 Chev tudor, Kenny Harrison’s ’77 Ford Thunderbird, Grant Harrison’s ’37 Nash Lafayette, and Kenny’s ’46 Chev Fleetmaster and ’78 Chev Camaro. 

Note how ‘different’ — for want of a better word — these cars are, when compared with what most people would expect from a show like this. One of the best examples of this is Nick Smith’s beautiful ’70 Buick Riviera, looking the part on hydraulic suspension and Cragar SS wheels. His future plans include paint by Fergus Hope at Peninsula Panel and Paint, so if you think it looks good now, wait until you see it then!

By midday, any pre-event nerves were long forgotten, as a number of cars began to roll in, and kept on doing so. The main car park quickly filled up with low-riders of all varieties, but as mentioned earlier, this show is open to so much more. 

Don Pentecost has owned his New Zealand–new ’38 Chev coupe for 35 years, and restored it all the way back in 1983. Being a panel beater by trade certainly helped, as, no word of a lie, this car looks like it could have been restored just five years ago! It still runs the factory six-cylinder motor, with three-speed crash box, and although he’s made minor changes here and there in the interests of refinement, it’s still largely as it was when it was built. 

The Japanese and European vehicles comprised far smaller numbers, but included a pair of super-slammed VW Beetles, a number of rotary-powered Mazdas, and a handful of others, including a tidy little Ford Cortina MkIII. 

Classic cars were also catered for, with Tim Wood’s beautifully restored Mazda RX-3 drawing a constant stream of admirers throughout the day. This car is the rarest of rare things — a totally unmolested factory-spec RX-3 rebuilt to concours level, and it was great to see it getting the recognition it deserved. 

Parked opposite it was Kevin’s stellar ’67 Pontiac GTO, which looked amazing at a factory ride height, on factory Rally II wheels.

Just as cool was Josh Reid’s Holden EH wagon. At first glance, it looks like a tidy EH on Weld Draglite wheels, but look a little closer, and you’ll discover that it’s somehow packing a big block Chev under the bonnet. He went to great lengths to keep everything under the bonnet — including a drop-base air cleaner — and it runs a Saginaw four-speed gearbox. Not even the interior hints at anything, remaining almost entirely as the factory intended.

Speaking of wagons, Choc’s ’61 longroof has been around the local scene forever, and still looks as good as ever. This car is less-is-more simplicity at its finest. 

You can’t beat a rag on a summer’s day like this, though, and you can’t beat a black Impala ragtop on hydraulics, wires, and with a Continental Kit — just like the combination of the ‘B1GPUN’ ’62 Bel Air and ‘OGROLA’ ’63 Impala.

’64 Impalas are the essential low-rider to most, and there were more than enough in attendance. It doesn’t matter how much of a cliché you may think they are — you can’t argue with how cool a ’64 looks laid out on wires! 

It isn’t all hydraulics and flashy paint, though. Willie and Sarah Ardern’s ’37 Chev Master sedan was one of the coolest ‘bomb’ style low-riders in attendance. Like a number of vehicles in attendance, this car is all about subtlety — from the custom period-style colour scheme, through to the abundance of period-correct accessories. If you’re looking at this and don’t feel like hopping in for a cruise, you’re probably on the wrong site … 

But for understated quality, you simply can’t look past the team at Valley Custom. Murray’s ’42 Chev Fleetline Aerosedan has been faultlessly restored, and modified with only period-correct accessories. Meanwhile, the ’47 Chev Delivery is subtle perfection at its finest. Innumerable custom touches have gone into making this what it is, and you’d never pick it, but it runs a draw-through turbocharged small block Chev with water-methanol injection, backed by a BorgWarner five-speed manual ’box. ‘Cool’ doesn’t even begin to describe it, and you can find out why here… 

With cars of such quality in attendance, it didn’t make prizegiving easy, but by 2pm it was all go. The Culture trophies included Best Japanese, Best Hot Rod, Best Muscle, Best Low-rider, Best Bike, and Best Overall, with a Valley Custom Award to go to the car deemed ‘coolest’ by the Valley Custom team. You can read a little more about the prize-winner cars here.

  • Best Japanese: Tim Wood’s 1973 Mazda RX-3
  • Best Hot Rod: Roger Johnson’s 1928 Ford Model A pickup
  • Best Muscle: Kevin Johnson’s 1967 Pontiac GTO
  • Best Low-rider: Emerson ‘Elmo’ Field’s 1983 Cadillac Sedan De Ville
  • Best Bike: Squid’s 2011 Harley-Davidson Softail
  • Best Overall: Shimmy Zaguri’s 1964 Chev Impala SS
  • Valley Custom Award: Joel John Miller’s 1960 VW Beetle.

Making the most of the perfect afternoon, a number of the cars headed out for a cruise around the ’Tron. And with that all done and dusted, it was time to wrap the show up. Everything had gone far better than expected, and it’s with high hopes that Kenny, Nick, and everyone who pulled the event together are beginning to think about just how good next year’s could be.