Lynn Williams, who died just...
Lynn Williams, who died just a week after the show, debuted his latest ride: a ’33 roadster based on vintage parts and a Steve’s Auto Restoration steel body. Known to most folks as the original CW Moss, Williams built this ride with the help of the Kennedy Brothers and had it lettered by Tom Clark.
They may need to revise that old adage history repeats itself. After listening for years to complaints about how the Grand National Roadster Show picked their most-coveted and prestigious America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award (with the winner’s name being permanently placed on a huge trophy for all to see for eternity), organizers of the show finally relented this year and replaced the system they used to use to determine the winner with an all-new procedure, which surprised many who attended the show.
And because of that change, the final outcome of the chase for the AMBR between the 12 contenders ended with a stunning announcement: a vehicle that would have been a long-shot (not for quality, but because it was subtly presented) in recent years being named the winner. But even if the oldest indoor car show in the country never gave out another AMBR award, the rest of the event would still be enough to make any hard-core hot rodder slack-jawedit’s just that good.
Based in Pomona, California, since 2004 (having originated in 1950 in Oakland, California), the GNRS never fails to impress. The reason is simple: quantity and quality. You would be hard pressed to find any other show in the country that can consistently deliver the top-notch cars this show does and, when you add to the formula all the different types of vehicles shown (salt flat race cars, primered traditional cars, glossy trophy cars) the result is a great cross section of rodding at its best.
The Dal Porto roadster was...
The Dal Porto roadster was built in 1951 and achieved 155 mph on the lakes and 118 mph at the drags. Featured in the 1952 National Roadster Show (long before “Grand” was added to the name) and on the cover of Hop Up in July 1952, the center-steer roadster crashed at the lakes in 1953, stored ’til the ’70s, then sold again in 1993 and 1999. Restoration was completed in 2010 at Classic Craft Motorsports in Springfield, OH, complete with a Chrisman-assembled Flathead, for new owner Kerry Horan.
The Grand Daddy of Them All is a three-day event, and it fills eight buildings of the Fairplex facilitythe sprawling 543-acre location that is also home to the Los Angeles County Fair and both the NHRA’s Winternationals and World Finals. On both Saturday and Sunday folks who took advantage of the show’s Drive-In special were allowed to park their customized cars between the buildings, which provided an instant mini show within a show, and hundreds of vehicles showed up.
One of the ways that indoor shows (typically winter-born events) differ from outdoor events (scheduled during the summer) is the extra entertainment that is on tap. Sure, hundreds of hot rods may be enough for some but, if it isn’t, getting a few autographs from various celebrities on hand or buying some artwork from the Pinstriper’s Reunion and auction (with proceeds going to charity) gives you something more to do.
An outdoor Cackle Car Fire Up (where a Nostalgia nitro-burning dragster is started and revved in front of teary-eyed fans, most of whom have both hands pressed firmly against their ears) is a pretty unique happening, or you could attend the Trophy Queen contest over in the Suede Palace, where the cars displayed are more like the ones you might have seen cruising the scene back in 1955.
Just outside the Suede Palace is Building 9 that, over the past few years, has been the location of some of the most historic hot rods of all time. In 2007, Building 9 housed nearly 75 ’32 Fords during the Deuce’s 75th anniversary celebration and, last year, saw an unequalled collection of salt and dry lakes racers. This year, a gathering of several dozen custom cars from throughout history showed how influential customized cars have been over the years, from being shown on television to infiltrating the design studios of the Big Three in Detroit. Every year sees the popularity of certain types of car’s ebb and flow, and this year customs were the dominant style of vehicle in every building on the grounds.
Slammed to the ground and...
Slammed to the ground and rolling on black ‘n’ chrome wires, the ‘40 Ford sedan owned by Dave Rios had a lot of custom touches, but when you opened the hood, a twin-turbo 406 Chevy greets you. The car was built at Hot Rod Service Company in Campbell, CA, and painted at Nor-Cal Autoworks.
The show’s 2011 Builder of the Year trophy was awarded to Scott Bonowski, the young owner of Hot Rods & Hobbies based in Signal Hill, California. Starting out with early VWs but graduating to painting cars on the world-class level for Pebble Beach entrants, Bonowski has also been building hot rods for years. The ’50 Mercury he built and displayed at last year’s show was given the show’s World’s Most Beautiful Custom award and, this year, Bonowski brought a collection of cars he and his team are working on, including a ’48 Chrysler Town and Country woodie convertible owned by the Goodguys’ Gary Meadors.
Started in 1960, there has also been a Hall of Fame associated with the show, and its induction ceremony is held nearby on Saturday morning. This year Paul Bragg, Leonard Lopez, Bob Munroe, Jimmie Vaughan, and Tom Walsh were all inducted. Bragg is a custom car builder who ran a custom shop based in Paso Robles, California, for decades; Lopez runs Dominator Hot Rods in Brentwood, California, and has won the show’s Al Slonaker Memorial Award in the past; and Munroe is a well-respected metal fabricator in the Bay Area of California. Vaughan, when he isn’t playing guitar to worldwide audiences, has been an owner of several well-known custom cars, and Walsh is not only a member of the 200 MPH Club in Bonneville but has had his hand in at least 15 vehicles shown at the GNRS, including the 2005 AMBR winner: Seduced.
Bill Anderson’s ’54 Pontiac...
Bill Anderson’s ’54 Pontiac Star Chief was a frame-off build starting with independent TCI Engineering suspension pieces. Under the hood you’ll find a 502 Chevy and inside the car the leather interior came from Ron Mangus.
With its Z’d chassis and a...
With its Z’d chassis and a chopped and channeled Model A body, Chet Miller’s “Second Chance” ’30 coupe has both a great stance and abundant attitude.
Though Building 9 contained...
Though Building 9 contained the “Customs, Then and Now” display, it doesn’t mean stunning examples couldn’t be found elsewhere. The “Futurama Forty” was designed by its owner, Doug Beattie, but a great group of fabricators were involved in the build, including Donn Lowe and Eric Johnson, and painter Dave Baham.