In the beginning – 1960’s

In the spring of 1959 two young men had met at St George Tech at Kogarah, while completing their Electrical Trades Certificates. One was Jeff Dellow, who had started to build a ’35 Ford coupe at his home at Bardwell Park, while the other, John Chignall was building a channelled ’32 Ford roadster at his garage in Ramsgate.

During the many late nights and weekends spent on their hot rods, Jeff and John discussed the idea of forming a Hot Rod Club. They eventually agreed on the name for the club which would become the Romans Hot Rod Association. Around that time, they were joined by other local hot rodders they had met who shared the same passion. They both asked a fellow rodder by the name of Ray Morris to design and draw the emblem for the club.

Their choice of the 'Romans' name came from the fact that Roman society was very strong, influential and innovative. The choice of the helmet in the club logo is obvious and the crossed flags symbolises winning in automotive circles. They then proceeded to design and produce Club courtesy cards which remained unchanged for many years. These read as follows:

"A Hot Rod organisation formed to promote interest in various types of hot rod activities, and to create an attitude of good sportsmanship, good citizenship and safety among its members."

The Foundation members of the Romans were: John Chignall, Jeff Dellow, Ray Morris, Lynn Arrowsmith, Dennis Jones, Eric Lightfoot, Terry Riley, Alan Abrahams, Alan Keed, Richard Brett, Robert Porter and Tony Barrington.

During the early years, Jeff Dellow had personal contacts with the L. A. Roadsters, and Bay Area Roadsters of San Francisco, which enabled swapping of colour slides and photos over many years, helping the Romans keep in touch with American trends and know-how. In later years, many prominent rodders from these clubs visited Sydney.

In the early 1960’s hot rod shows were becoming popular. The Romans became involved and by 1965 were the organisers running the Annual Hot Rod Show.

As the first Hot Rod club in NSW, Romans had many firsts;

  • Courtesy cards
  • Roman club jackets
  • Roman car plaques
  • Regular newsletter – the Romans Scroll (still going strong)
  • First Sydney hot rodders to travel to Victoria to meet up with other clubs
  • Participants in Sydney’s first organised Hot Rod Show at Cremorne 31st March 1963
  • First organised club run to Minnamurra Falls, 1963
  • Participated in Sydney’s first hot rod drag meet at Castlereagh 28 March 1965
  • Organised first swap meet at Roselands November 1967
  • Participated in and helped organise first International Hot Rod show Roselands 1969
  • Romans were featured in first edition of Australian Hot Rod magazine May 1964
  • Foundation members of Australian Street Rod Federation

Hot rodding in Australia in the 1960’s was a 'raw' experience, no speciality shops for brackets or parts, anything needed had to be made by the owner. There were lots of very talented young men and women turning their hands to hot rod construction, and although the American magazines provided a source of inspiration, builders still had that “good old Aussie ingenuity” and that was evident in the impressive hot rods appearing almost monthly. These days, the Aussie hot rod scene is easier to become part of, yet far more costly!

1970's, 80's and 90’s

In the 1970’s rodding was taking on another facelift, with low profile tyres and lots of chop tops. There was a further trend for the "resto rod" look, especially with the reinvention of Mag wheels that was gaining momentum. The appearance of makes other than Ford was becoming increasingly apparent and this opened up the hot rodding scene to more people, as these different styles and brands were more affordable, and easier to find. In 1973, a major step for hot rodding in Australia was the Australian Street Rod Nationals, held in Narrandera bringing hot rodders from around the country together for the first time. Many long term friendships started at that run. Approximately 250 hot rods attended that first Nationals event.

Hot Rod shows were also being affected by change. Shopping centres replaced drab car parks. In 1969 the Romans along with other clubs as part of Associated Hot Rod Clubs (AHRC) were instrumental in establishing Australia’s first International Rod and Custom show at Roselands Shopping Mall. Throughout the history of the Romans Hot Rod Association, numerous members and their cars have been successful in winning trophies and acclaim at these local hot rod shows. The highlight of the 80’s was the Romans 21st Anniversary – celebrated with a special display as part of the 1981 Hot Rod Show at Bankstown Square where 10 Romans cars were on display. Later a Ball celebrating the Romans 21st Anniversary was held at Parklands Function Centre where many club members from earlier years joined the activities to talk about old memories and acquaintances.

Canberra hosted the ASRF Nationals over 1985, ‘87 and ’89, and was a popular and relatively close destination for a growing hot rodding scene to get-together and talk over old times. The 1980’s also saw the introduction of Street Rod Registration, and the Australian Street Rod Federation created a new committee to help manage and control this new scheme, the Street Rod Committee, with Romans supporting and participating in this initiative.

Hot rod options began increasing with quality fibreglass reproduction bodies becoming more affordable, new trends towards the “smooth” look that removed door handles etc, and yet the Nostalgia scene also still had a strong following. Hot rod shops began popping up in bigger cities, providing a wider group with hot rod interests to get into the sport. Also during this period the Romans Breakfast Run was started. It was held annually at Chipping Norton and was a great success for many years.

The 1990’s brought some major changes to the Romans, one of which was the move from the Bexley School of Arts club house, to the Gwawley Park Scout Hall at Taren Point, where the club still meets. Throughout the history of the Romans Hot Rod Association, new membership has always been about the intending member(s), and their character and contribution to the sport of hot-rodding, not simply which vehicle they might own or be building.

40th Anniversary (Year 2000) to current days

The 40th anniversary of the Romans Hot Rod Club was celebrated in October 2000. A memorable evening was held at the Bankstown Trotting Club where over 250 members and guests enjoyed an evening of dancing and entertainment.

During the next decade, the Romans built on the "family" heritage that has been a hallmark of the club since its inception. The membership has consolidated at around 65 members including a strong core from the early years of the club’s life as well as some second generation rodders. The Romans have always had a strong focus on new “projects” with a considerable number of very high quality cars being built and regularly getting good use on the road. The club has a periodic "new car on the road" run to help owners celebrate completion and registration of build efforts – an activity that still continues today.

With strong membership numbers, Romans participated in hot rod runs up and down the country, with strong support for Wintersun at Coolangatta , Bright, Port Macquarie, Forster, and runs closer to home at Kurri Kurri, later at the Entrance as Chromefest, Blue Mountains, Stanwell Park for the "Tug" run, Bobbin Head, as well as many trips to Bathurst. Roman cars often cruised in convoy, enjoying coffee stops , and the technical support when anyone had the misfortune to breakdown, as inevitably happens in hot rodding.

It was during this period that the Romans family lost a number of popular and well known members to ill-health - one notable being Kevin Daley who for many years had been a driving force in the Romans. Kevin was totally involved with the NSW Hot Rod Show, through administration leadership in Associated Hot Rod Clubs (AHRC). Towards the end of his time, Kevin had embarked on an ambitious rebuild of his 1958 Pontiac Star Chief, and many club members worked frantically to get the car completed before Kevin passed away in 2006. He did however get to see a phone video clip of the car starting and driving, mostly completed. In 2010 the club celebrated 50 years of hot rodding with varying events held throughout the year. In the October, 275 members, previous members and loads of supporters from some of the local hot rod clubs came together for an evening of nostalgia and fun at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre. This was followed the next day by a less formal show and shine at the Romans club HQ at Gwawley Park, Taren Point. As the years roll by, the fierce rivalry that existed in earlier times between local hot rod clubs, at drag racing and other activities, has mellowed. Nowadays hot rod clubs often work together supporting each others’ events. Generally with life – the more things change – the more they stay the same – some examples;

  • The move to the Taren Point Scout hall venue has continued to serve the club well – now nearly 20 years at this location.
  • The famous Romans Chariot built originally by Malcolm Kieselbach was first taken to the second Narrandera Nationals in 1974. It has had a number of upgrades – the most recent (nearly 8 years ago) again by Mal to make the Chariot into the club BBQ trailer. 2014 marked another special landmark with the Chariot – the original tyres were replaced.
  • The Romans Breakfast – begun in the 80’s, has been incorporated into the Romans Kiama weekend rod run where breakfast is still provided for weekend entrants. This event is held in the second weekend in September and concludes with a show and shine at Black Beach Park, Kiama.
  • The history of the Romans club members supporting hot rod shows continues, with a club display at the Hot Rod and Custom Expo at Rosehill Gardens in 2014 and 2015.

The Romans are very proud to be the first club in NSW!