For those who haven't been to the Grand National Roadster Show in some time—now is the time. Always a sentimental favorite among rodders, especially West Coast types, it has undergone a noticeable rejuvenation, a renaissance you might say, since moving to the Pomona Fairplex.
For starters, it's more than an indoor car show during the indoor season. There's also the STREET RODDER and Rod & Custom Grand Daddy Drive-In outdoor car show on Saturday and Sunday. While the weather in SoCal in January can range between warm and sunny to butt-cold and monsoon, there are always plenty of hot rods that survive the weather. This year was no exception. It was a bit cold and wet but still there were 600 outdoor cars on Saturday and 175 on Sunday that showed up to go along with the 600-plus indoor entrants, truly making this two cars shows in one.
A noticeable change in the show is the steady growth in entrants and bodies through the turnstiles. It has grown such that those of us walking the aisles can see and feel the difference. Rodders walking the show speak well of it and everyone appears to be having a good time. (Yes, let me state up front that there are always hiccups and there will always be those who go home pissed, but that's life. I for one always complain about parking—either the distance I have to walk or the price I have to pay.)
But the biggest change in the show over the past three years has been the way the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award is handled. The competition has changed and the way the cars are judged has dramatically changed. It seemed for a number of years, especially in the mid '90s until 2010 the style of cars featured a dramatic departure from what was really going on or what was really enjoyed by the rodding public. It was back in the early '90s that the Dennis Varni Model A won the AMBR. Not only was the car befitting the award but it has covered many a mile on the open highway; it's a hot rod in both appearance and performance. It's a driver for sure.
About five years ago conversations began about trying to change the judging structure so that it became less of a judged award and more about aesthetics. Cars that were winning were beautifully crafted but the look was going further and further away from what a hot rod was supposed to be. Now, over the last three years while not everyone is going to agree, I believe it is safe to say that the cars selected are coming back to be more in line with what America's Most Beautiful Roadster should be and what the general rodding public considered a hot rod.
The crowning glory has to be this year's AMBR-winning Track T that is owned by John Mumford and painstakingly built by Roy Brizio et al of Roy Brizio Street Rods. The roadster was named the "Kelly Brown Track T" after the original owner Kelly Brown, a onetime NHRA Top Fuel champion; he and Steve Davis, a legendary metal man, crafted the beautiful race car nose and hood, along with other items. This is truly a car befitting such a lofty title as America's Most Beautiful Roadster as it will effortlessly withstand the test of time. All of us have seen plenty of cars that feature a great deal of imagination and workmanship and while they may be this month's flavor these cars do not stand up well to the test of time. Oftentimes, one maybe two years go by and no one can remember the car when asked to describe that year's AMBR winner. That is a sad commentary when you are talking about the oldest and one of, if not, the most respected and desired award our industry has to offer.
I for one feel good about how the judging has evolved and the types of cars that are now competing. All that can be said is, "Let's see what next year will bring."