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Symco’s 'Hotrods and Kustoms' Packs Unionville Again

Words & Photos: John Gunnell

August 9 and 10, 2019, brought thousands of old school hot rodders to the Symco Hotrods & Kustoms Weekender in Symco, Wis. The venue in which the show takes place is called Unionville. It’s a vintage town built and taken care of by the Union Thresherman’s Club. In early August it’s an Ol’ Skool lifestyle with hot rods, “Bettys” and old tractors tooting and steam traction engines driving around belching noise and smoke.

If you have a passion for the ‘50s and ‘60s, Symco is the place to satisfy it. The cars are some of the best traditional hot rods and customs in the Midwest. The weekend also features plenty of rockabilly bands, burn-out contests, mini-bike drags, pin-up contests, old-fashioned camping trailers, a swap meet with auto parts and nostalgia items and vendors offering everything from balloon style bicycle whitewalls to vintage clothing and ducktail haircuts. Unionville is simply the best place on Earth for this type of show.

The weather this year was calendar-picture perfect and that brought out cars, campers and a crowd. Symco had more dressed-up “Bettys” than earlier editions of the show. Cars that looked like early “jalopy” hot rods were definitely more prevalent this year, too. Another trend was a growing interest in “something different” kustom cars such as Pontiacs, Dodges, Plymouths, Mercuries, Kaisers, Studebakers and Willys.

Vicki and Rich Tessmer of Weston, Wis., won the Symco raffle prize: a purple Advance-Design Chevy pickup with a brand-new crate engine. Rich, who is a Pontiac buff, was trying to figure if he could swap a GMC grille for the Chevy grille so he could take the truck to Pontiac-GMC Club shows.

Bonneville racer Burton Brown brought his blown-GMC-six-powered 1933 Chevy roadster to Symco. Spectators crowded around to hear the engine roar and check out the blue jeans interior that the Brown family whipped up. Burton - a.k.a. Doug Brown - built the car for his dad, who recently passed away.

The Symco Rod & Kustom Weekender has some Sym-ple rules. You need a pre-1965 traditional hotrod or kustom with two or more modifications or a pre-1961 stock vehicle. All bikes must be pre-1970. There’s plenty of room in Unionville to show off your hotrod in the VIP area for specialty vehicles not meeting show criteria, but all vehicles are still required to be pre-1975 models. The show is held the second weekend in August.