Most grandfathers who are 64 years old might show some signs of aging, but not the Grand National Roadster Show. Celebrating its 10th year in Southern California at the Fairplex in Pomona (the previous 54 years were spent in NorCal's Oakland region), the Grand Daddy Of Them All continued its tradition of laying claim to the title of being the longest running indoor custom car show in the world.

And though you could find movie stars at the show (from George Lucas' American Graffiti), the real stars of the event are the several hundred cars that come from all over the country to participate. Slack-jawed first-timers are always amazed that the rumors they've heard are true: The quality of vehicles at this show blows away that of most any other event, and there are several buildings full of glossy examples to prove it.

On the north end, Building 9 is usually host to a themed group of cars (it's the same location where the 75th anniversary celebration of the '32 Ford was held a few years ago). This year, and coincidentally jiving with the event's "Aloha" theme, more than 100 woodies and wagons were on display, showing how a car made from wood could be both practical and stylish.

In Building 5 you could find the rolling artwork of John D'Agostino, Richard Zocchi (and now his son, David), Gene Winfield, and builders who can creatively wield both torch, saw, and spray gun. In Building 3 a group of Gassers from the Golden Age of drag racing were displayed with their nosebleed stance, reminding all of the power, fury, and spectacle that's surely missing from today's era of racing.

In Building 7 and 8 more hot rods, street rods, and motorcycles filled the rooms and, in Building 10 (affectionately called the Suede Palace), a more traditional feel was generated with cars and their owners who continue to live and breathe a decades-old custom car lifestyle.

But of course one of the major components of the event is the presentation of the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award, which has been part of the show's fabric since its inception in 1950. Nine-feet tall, the trophy doesn't go home with the winner (a smaller version does), but your name gets engraved on a plaque and attached to its base for all eternity. A quick walk around the trophy finds iconic hot rod names, such as Blackie Gejeian, George Barris, Don Tognotti, Art Himsl, Boyd Coddington, and SR cofounder LeRoi "Tex" Smith listed as past winners, and this year there were 12 contenders in attendance trying to add their name.

Some years it looks to be an easier job to pick a winner than in others, and this time around folks were only able to narrow it down to two or three that might win, as each were strong contenders. In the end though, it was John Mumford's '27 Ford roadster that took home the top prize. Built at Roy Brizio's Street Rods in South San Francisco, the highboy had a simple and subtle look coupled with a list of parts that would make any vintage speed equipment collector drool. From the Culver City Halibrand quickie to the Ardun-topped V-8/60 engine, the roadster exuded what a hot rod should look like, and its paintjob and attention to detail was well above par. Brizio has been involved in several AMBR contenders over the years, and his shop built the 1987 winner for James Ells.

Sue Brizio and Mel Taormino were inducted into the show's Hall of Fame along with Cole Foster. Sue is the co-patriarch of the Brizio clan since she met her husband, Andy, 50 years ago, and the two have given back to the street rod industry for decades. Taormino attended the very first National Roadster Show (as it was then called) in 1950 and has had a love affair with hot rods, and has built award-winning cars in the decades since. Foster has built cars and motorcycles for well-known rock stars as well as regular folks, too, and all of his creations have a certain stylish out understated look about them.

Each year the Grand National Roadster Show kicks off the indoor car show season and gets people motivated with their own projects, too. So, if it is any indication of what lies ahead, 2013 looks like it will be a good year for hot rodders!


Bobby Alloway: Builder of the Year

You know you've made it when they can identify how a car looks by using your name. The Alloway Look is typically exemplified by an aggressive stance, big-block engine, an inky black paintjob (sometimes topped with flames), and an attitude that instinctively says "hot rod". Bobby Alloway won the Ridler award for himself back in 1985 and has built up an impressive portfolio of cars for customers, including George Lange, for whom Alloway built the 2003 AMBR winner. Alloway had three cars on display at the GNRS this year, including his own '56 Ford Ranch Wagon, which features an Art Morrison chassis, a 427 cammer motor under the hood, and big 17- and 20-inch wheels.


The theme of this year's show was "Aloha" and over in Building 9 more than 100 woodies of all types and descriptions were on display. The show-within-a-show ran the gamut of possible wooden examples, including John Dusckett's subtly customized '51 Mercury, which featured Richard Graves fabrication, Doug Carr woodwork, and a 2.5-inch chop. Elsewhere in the show, Brent Young's '39 Ford highlighted more of a street rod look with a supercharged Cobra motor, a six-speed trans, and 16- and 18-inch Billet Specialties wheels.