Hot Rod and bike shows in the Midwest

It’s Spring here in the upper Midwest, but don’t let the calendar fool you. In Minnesota, the state I hail from, the earliest Spring car shows are held indoors due to the inclement weather this time of year. Temps are only in the 50’s (teens Celsius) at best usually, and snow at the worst. It is at this time of the year that we occasionally look forward to visiting two annual motorsports shows unrelated to each other, but usually on the same weekend and in the same nearby city.


The first would be this year’s, “54th Annual GSTA Rod & Kustom Spectacular.” The GSTA (Gopher State Timing Association) is Minnesota’s oldest car enthusiast organization associated with hot rods, and drag racing in the state. They began in 1954 promoting hot rods and organized drag meets. It’s not the most popular show during the year, but it is the most venerated being the original, that could rightly say they started it all in this state.


The atmosphere was its usual sedate and luxurious self, like waking up after a long hibernation to beautifully wrapped sparkling Christmas presents all around you. If you’re like me, and on a working mans wage, it’s all just so much “unobtanium.” Like looking at the gorgeous model you have no business thinking about, –she’s out of your league. Still it was nice to look, and get the Spring car juices flowing again for another great year in motorsports.

The other annual venue was of the two-wheeled variety. Not just any bike show, a serious hardcore biker show, but with a family friendly face. The, “23rd Annual Donnie Smith Bike Show” in St. Paul, Minnesota, was for a weekend the Mecca for Midwest bikers.


Donnie Smith is a legend among bike builders with a 30 year career, and clientele that stretches around the world. Smith was inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 1995, with 3 of his famous bikes on display at the Sturgis museum. A drag racer back in the early 70’s, Smith listened to his accountant one day, who told him his skill at building custom bikes was greater than his skill at drag racing, so, Donnie made the switch, and the rest is history.


Donnie Smith, middle, getting ready for a TV interview.

The Donnie Smith show was packed with thousands of biker fans , dozens of venders, and a few club chapters not the least of which was the Minnesota chapter of the, “Hell’s Angels.” Adult beverages were as plentiful as the leather clad biker chics, a somewhat unusual activity at more demure shows.



The atmosphere was calm and peaceful in the same way rival immortals behave on neutral holy ground, tense but restrained. A remarkable and stunning “Bettie Page” lookalike was also on display for pictures too.


The bikes were mind blowing, and are starting to reach a level in some cases akin to cartoon art, or maybe more dignified comic book art. Many of these super hero creations are so extreme and pristine, the last thing you think of doing with them is going for a ride on one!


Both shows were good ‘warmer uppers’ on this cool March weekend in the land of 10,000 lakes, and we will no doubt return next year for more.

Full Throttle,


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