Indeed, if you look back over the years at STREET RODDER covers (there have been nearly 500 of them), you'll notice a common thread-most of the featured cars occupy a significant place in our hobby. For the sake of discussion, we'll call it the cool factor, and the cool factor is color blind. That, of course, helps explain why we've had bare-metal cars, red cars, black cars, flamed cars, purple cars, earth-toned cars, body-less cars, even wood cars, positioned beneath our familiar front-page logo. This magazine is about cool cars-specifically cool street rods-and the coolest of the cool generally get picked for cover-car status.
June 1999: Blackie Gejeian's...
June 1999: Blackie Gejeian's '27 roadster, Shish Kebob, won the AMBR trophy in 1954. The car sat disassembled for years until Gejeian restored it in time for the GNRS's 50th anniversary.
The idea for the Cars That Made a Difference exhibit came during the '09 Grand National Roadster Show when show guru John Buck discovered someone on his staff couldn't count! The overflow of cars showing up for the '09 show was more than could be accounted under the existing roofs set aside for the GNRS so Building 3 (Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at the Fairplex), normally reserved for art exhibits, was pressed into service. This building has carpeted floors, painted walls, direct lighting, and distinctly lower ceiling-all lending to a more intimate feeling. That's when Editor Brian Brennan began mulling over the idea of a special magazine exhibit at the GNRS. With the blessings and pocketbook from the show, an idea began to take root. The staff of both SR and Rod & Custom began thinking, "Why not showcase some of our cover cars at a big event?"
Fittingly, Millard Owen Sheets was a well-known painter born in Pomona, and since our exhibit would focus on the art aspect of the cover cars, this modest structure tucked away in the corner of the Fairplex would be just right. The gallery's soft lighting, painted walls, and carpeted floors lent an artsy flavor to our exhibit, too, which prompted the magazine staffs to take the idea to the next level. We'd place the cars in formation along the walls, and there would be no ropes or stanchions to block the view. This is art, dangit, so we didn't intend to spoil the experience for people visiting the gallery.
March 2010: George Poteet's...
March 2010: George Poteet's chopped 1934 Ford Salt racer added just the right dash of seasoning to the exhibit.
As a way of showcasing each car, educating patrons, and as a small token of appreciation, the metal 24x36 covers featured each car. Poster-sized covers, with a few facts about each car, were ceremoniously placed on the wall behind the cars on display. Another "aha" moment produced gallery-sized photos that served as additional backdrops throughout the entire exhibit. In all, we had more than 100 photos that have appeared in our magazines. (The photos eventually ended up as artwork adorning the new office walls in Irvine, California.)
Back to the show: Invites were sent to far too few (room was an issue) of the magazine's cover alumni. Too many cars, not enough space. And as a bonus, many of the builders and car owners spent time in the gallery during the three-day show where they could answer questions or share some of their memories with visitors. Tommy Ivo, Magoo, Blackie Gejeian, Jim "Jake" Jacobs, Roy Brizio, Bobby Alloway, Jimmie Vaughan, Chip Foose, Richard Graves, Bob Kolmos, Spence Murray, and other icons were there, and they were quite accessible to anybody willing to make conversation with them. If you were a street rod fan, and you were in the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts during the '10 Grand National Roadster Show, then you were in a position to also enjoy a moment of hot rod nirvana.
Perhaps one enthusiast said it best when the three-day show had run its course: "It [the cover car exhibit] reminded me of a high school class reunion, and the homecoming queen and her court were celebrated one more time. The only difference," he added, "was that most of these homecoming beauties haven't aged a bit!"