The rod and custom faithful are blessed with dozens of great car shows throughout the country every year, a good share of which even cater to the traditional crowd. But there are still only a handful of gatherings where customs-or kustoms-take center stage. The KKOA Leadsled Spectacular was one of the first, and is once again one of the best.

Now in its 29th year, the Spectacular has regained a lot of ground since finding a stable home in Salina, Kansas. With tree-lined Thomas Park as its setting, the show has seen steady growth-officially hitting the 1,000 entry mark for the '09 event July 24-26. Many participants are diehard KKOA members who've flocked to the show since the '80s. Others are second- and third-generation enthusiasts who just recently discovered the Spectacular's fun, laid-back atmosphere. All of them journey to Salina to get a yearly fix of whitewalls, dual pipes, and candy paint, not to mention a chance to meet custom royalty like George Barris, Bill Hines, and Darryl Starbird.

Friday night drag races are one of the added bonuses of the Spectacular's Salina home. KKOA President Jerry Titus has somehow convinced Salina's city fathers to allow heads-up eighth-mile drag races at the old Salina airport. The just-for-fun races are a great way flog your kemp or rod, and thousands of spectators flock to the 'strip to check out the spectacle. When the right cars are running the whole scene looks like it was transplanted straight from the '50s.

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the '09 Spectacular felt a little lonely without the presence of Elden Titus, who lost his battle with cancer in late 2008. The younger brother of KKOA President Jerry Titus, Elden helped relight the kustom torch in the late '70s and early '80s and did far more than his part to keep it burning bright. Elden was an avid builder of both full-size and scale-model customs, and his memory was honored at the Elden Titus Model Kemp Spectatular model car contest, hosted by the KC Slammers Club. On the 1:1 scale side of things, Gary Gerberding created the Elden Titus Design award, which was presented to a very appreciative Tim Strange for the '52 Buick he built for Erik and Paul Hansen.

While hot rods and street rods are both welcome and plentiful at the Spectacular, the show's spotlight will always shine brightest on the cool customs it attracts. With that in mind, we hope you'll allow us to indulge our custom senses on the following pages. If the low 'n' slow life appeals to you, maybe you'll consider checking out next year's 30th anniversary Leadsled Spectacular, scheduled to hit Salina July 23-25, 2010. Cruise over to www.kustomkempsofamerica.com for details.