When the Florida chapter of the Poor Boys hosted the second annual Billetproof Florida Free for All on March 21, 2009, people took notice. The first event, held in 2008, featured 514 spectacular cars, while this year’s numbers exceeded 650. The crowd of spectators was enormous, with the spectator parking lot filling up early in the day, and additional parking needing to be added in an adjacent area. What’s so special about this event? Where do we start…
Billetproof touts its five national hot rod shows – in Florida, Michigan, Washington, Texas, and California – as “The World’s Least Important Car Shows.” Created as a sort of backlash against the glossy, expensive, and totally impersonal hot rod shows that most enthusiasts’ cars are never quite “finished” enough for, Billetproof was intended as a place to gather and show off rods in all stages of completion. And there’s no expectation of what a “finished” car will look like; a car with rust or primer doesn’t mean that it’s unfinished. Founders Kirk Jones and Jay Ward wanted a place for rodders to feel welcome, regardless of the condition of their cars – or their bank accounts.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and something truly special does happen when a bunch of DIY-ers get together to show off their home-grown, limited-budget creations. These are not the soulless street rods built in a shop with blank check in hand. Each car has something unique to see, a personality all its own. That’s not to say that these cars are in any way “junky” or unsafe; the show is about enjoying and driving your car without the pressure for it to be by-the-books perfect. Billetproof is about getting back to the basics and enjoying the individualism of driving a car of one’s one creation. After all, owners have chosen to have a car, not a painting; if you just want to look at it, it might as well be hanging on the wall.
The Florida Billetproof show was held at the Big Daddy Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum in Ocala, Florida. There was no fee to attend the show, in order to keep the museum accessible for anyone who wanted to visit. In fact, the Garlits Museum posted the biggest day ever in the history of the museum on the day of this year’s Billetproof. Big Daddy Don Garlits displayed both his Swamp Rat V-B dragster and his enormous Chrysler Hemi-powered air-raid “Victory Siren.” Prior to the show, it had been teased that Garlits would be showing two special pieces, “one fast and one loud,” and when he cranked both up for the crowd, they did not disappoint.
Of course, in addition to the draw of Big Daddy Garlits, the Florida Billetproof has the distinct advantage of being, well, in Florida. This gives it a definite draw for out-of-state visitors looking for a little vacation as winter winds down. March in Florida is mild and pleasant, not the sweltering humidity that’s to come, but a nice break from the winter for non-locals. Cars drove in from places like New Jersey, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Glenn Hayes and the rest of the Florida Poor Boys are just about ready to start planning for next year’s event, which promises to be even bigger and better. They’re working on a way to allow even more cars to participate. We can’t wait – a day with the unique cars at Billetproof is an excellent way to kick off show season!