One of the earliest advertisements for the first National Roadster Show appeared in the Oc
Quite possibly the most well-known accolade in hot rodding—the Amercia’s Most Beautiful Roadster award—originally came into being as a publicity stunt. When Al and Mary Slonaker were busy organizing the first National Roadster Show (later to be called the Grand National Roadster Show) for 1950, Al came up with the idea of having a magnificent trophy to really impress people and call attention to the show—and it worked.
Mary, now 94 years old and living in Arizona, easily remembers that Granat Brothers was contracted to construct the trophy that, in its original form, stood 8-1/2 feet tall. Granat Brothers was on the corner of Mission and 20th Streets in San Francisco for several decades before being bought by Zales in the ’60s, but back in the teen era of the early 20th century they sponsored baseball teams in the San Francisco Midwinter League. Nowadays the Art Deco rings and jewelry made decades ago by Granat Brothers fetches thousands of dollars at auction, so a one-off, 8-foot trophy crafted by them would have to be nearly priceless.
Mary is still surprised at the success and longevity of the show, which recently celebrated its 62nd anniversary, and she comments that neither she nor Al “thought it would last” and that the roadster show “would be a local thing.” But nothing could be further from the truth as the show has grown to be not just a major national event, but an international one as well.
Rico Squaglia poses in 1951 with his AMBR-winning roadster alongside the trophy, which has
In the earliest days of the show (which was 10 days long to take advantage of the week between Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays), winners of the AMBR were allowed to take the big trophy home for the year, as Mary believed “it was a good promotion for a business if they had it in their showroom or place of business.”
That practice of letting the winners take the trophy home stopped in the ’70s, but each winner’s name is still engraved on a plaque secured to the base of the trophy—a base that grows by 3 inches every time a new tier is needed. Which brings up another question: How tall is the trophy? Some have said 8 feet, or 8-1/2, and even 9 feet and beyond, so some measurements had to be taken. Before this year’s show STREET RODDER senior editor, Eric Geisert, broke out his trusty tape measure to measure each section of the trophy as it emerged from its brand-new storage case.
The official height of the trophy as it stands now is 9 feet. It used to be 8-1/2 feet in its original form, which is before a 3-inch tier was added for extra names of the winners and the trophy’s topper was changed. So, by the numbers, four sections of 3-inch tiers (12 inches) makes up the stepped base, the large wooden center structure is 28 inches tall, the cup comes in at 51 inches, and the little man at the top is 17 inches tall.
But now that the mystery of the trophy’s height is solved, another has crept up to take its place. The trophy looks decidedly different today than when it made its debut in 1950. To further muddy things up, all through the ’50s and ’60s the trophy changed its looks, seemingly every couple of years.
It used to be wrapped up in only mover’s blankets between the shows, but recently a very n
The upper section of the cup has had several different engravings while today there is none, and in the ’60s the trophy featured small orbs along the middle section along with a five small stars secured to the outer uprights. By 1970, when Andy Brizio won the award with his Instant T, the middle section sported winged victory figures and no star-shaped tabs. We contacted historian Greg Sharp to see what he had in vintage photos, and his collection surprised us even more as, upon closer inspection, the pictures detailed even more changes through the years.
No one seems to know why the trophy changed through the years but, one thing that hasn’t changed: the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award has been and will continue to be the highest honor a roadster owner will ever know. If anyone has old photos of the AMBR trophy they’d like to share, we’d like to see them. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish them.
Show promoters/owners Mary and Al Slonaker pose with the AMBR trophy in 1967, with the 196
The trophy’s victor-with-wreath topper stands 17 inches tall, is solid metal, and heavy fo
The main front plate of the trophy lists the first 10 winners’ names for the first seven y
Andy and Sue Brizio show some affection toward the AMBR trophy after Andy won the award in
On the left, the Ala Kart (the first back-to-back winner of the award in 1958 and 1959) is
STREET RODDER’s Eric Geisert climbed a ladder to measure the total height of the assembled
The irrepressible George Barris stands with the AMBR trophy and the car that won it for hi
Mary Slonaker stands alongside the AMBR trophy in 2009 at the 60th Grand National Roadster