The longest running indoor custom car show in the world, the Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS), recently completed its 63rd annual installment and was held at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, California.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the world who is into hot rodding who doesn’t know about the GNRS, as the event showcases the very best of the best when it comes to rods and customs. Part of the passion for the show comes from the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award, handed out yearly since 1950 to a pre-’38 roadster of exceedingly exceptional build and design characteristics. The method of judging for the AMBR award drastically changed last year in comparison to years past, and the result has been enthusiastically accepted by the show’s spectators.

Eight large buildings at the facility are packed with cars, with some of the buildings themed to a particular facet of hot rodding. The Suede Palace, or Building 10, is not only full of traditional and lowbrow customs and hot rods, but it is also lined with lifestyle booths catering to that crowd.

Building 9 was filled with only ’32 Fords and was part of the 80 Driven Deuces display organized by Bob Kolmos in honor of the 80th anniversary of the ’32 Ford.

Building 3 is smaller than the others, and sometimes overlooked due to its location, but it was full of historic and vintage Gassers, dragsters, and race cars that ran at local Southern California dragstrips, including Lions. In Building 5 customs dominated the landscape and it’s where you found cars built by Watson, Dore, Zocchi, and D’Agostino. Buildings 7 and 8 are chock full of rods and customs from all over the country, including those of some major rock ’n’ roll (such as Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters) and television stars (Tim Allen).

But the big building, number 4, was the main course. It housed many manufacturers and hot rod builders from around the country (Brizio, Johnson, Walden, Trepanier, Pinkees, Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, Hot Rods and Hobbies, to name a few), many of which had their latest vehicles on display (most of them in fresh metal). Another builder, Dave Lane, of FastLane Hot Rod Shop, had a booth in Building 4 but he was also being honored as the show’s Builder of the Year, and he had three award-winning cars he’s built on display.

Michael Stanford, STREET RODDER’s art director, reported on the PPG Pinstriper Charity Auction, which was run by Art “East Coast Artie” Schilling. Stanford said Schilling’s crew of about 40 stripers included such top shelf artists as Tom Kelly, Ron Foreman, and Ron Myers from the West and Howie Nisgor and Zeke Lemanski from the East, as well as guys from as far away as France, who all donated their panels and 100 percent of their work for the auction. After famed blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan played around on a pinstriped Fender Stratocaster guitar for the crowd, it was auctioned off for $9,000. In total, the auction raised $88,500, which benefitted the Gavin Stevens Foundation, seeking a cure for a childhood blindness condition.

One of the main draws of the GNRS is, of course, the cars selected to compete in the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster class, and they are presented front and center in Building 4. This year’s competition was first rate (as you’d expect), but also many of the cars were more traditional than some of the outrageous designs of past years. In one corner Hayden Groendyke’s chocolate brown ’31 Marmon roadster, with a tricked-out V-16 engine was in the lineup as was Don Smith’s aero-inspired ’32 Ford roadster with an even rarer Riley overhead-valve conversion for power. Larry Reynold’s Flathead-powered roadster was a satin black with a green lift-off roof ’28 Ford that featured an amazing interior with lots of exposed curved wood on the floor, door panels, and seats, while Dennis Varni’s emerald blue ’33 Ford roadster appears quite elegant before you notice a Hilborn-injected, 8:71-blown Donovan small-block lurking underhood. Another ’33, this one owned by Steve Lyman, brought brilliant color to the show with its merlot paintjob while underhood was a injected 427 Ford motor.

There were a couple of tasteful throwbacks to classic hot rod looks with Keith Christopherson’s ’28 Ford roadster and Eddie Baumann’s ’29 Ford roadster. Both cars were painted black, but Christopherson’s was ’40s-inspired with wire wheels and a Flattie, while Baumann’s had an injected Nailhead and Halibrand square-window wheels.

Two more roadster that got tongues wagging were Tom Gloy’s understated Porsche blue ’32, which had its cowl narrowed and body channeled, and Paul Shaughnessy’s candy red ’32 (nicknamed Sylvester II), which was a restoration/update of a roadster that first appeared in the show back in 1962.

But the winner of this year’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award went to Bill Lindig for his all-aluminum ’27 Ford roadster. Started as a project by Jackie Howerton two decades ago, the car went through several iterations before arriving at SO-CAL Speed Shop in Southern California where it spent the last four years being completed and fine-tuned. With its unique paint-and-polished aluminum design and hundreds of visible details inside and out, the most common comment overheard was “I can’t imagine the work that went into it.”

There is also a Hall of Fame associated with the event, and a brunch on Saturday morning saw four more folks inducted into the fraternity, which now boasts 157 members. Two people, George Brancacio and Kathy Livingston, have long been associated with the show, with Brancacio having judged cars for 42 years and Livingston helping run the operation behind the scenes.

The other two, Dennis Varni and Art Chrisman, have long been proponents of drag and dry lakes racing (Varni has run 225 in his ’32 roadster at Bonneville, and you just can’t have a complete history of the drags without including Chrisman). Varni also won the AMBR award himself in 1992, and Chrisman helped build AMBR winners in 1982, 1992, and 1994.

Besides the AMBR, there are many other highly coveted awards at the show, including The Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Restoration award, the Blackie Gejeian award, the Brizio Family award, the George Barris Kuston D’Elegance award, the Chip Foose Design of Excellence award, the Triple Gun Award of Excellence (awarded to the painter/builder of a car), and others. There are a lot of awards because the show brings out the highest caliber of custom and hot rod vehicles, and everyone knows it. If you can make a mark at the Grand National Roadster Show, then you’ve really accomplished something, and that national acclaim is what the show has been able to provide to builders and owners for more than 60 years.

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