The Grand National Roadster Show, 2017

David G. Fox

The AMBR Competition

The America's Most Beautiful Roadster competition continues to be dominated by a modern interpretation of the traditional hot rod aesthetic. Model A Fords were well represented among the contenders, along with various examples from the '32 Ford lineup and a nearly resto-modded '34 phaeton. But, there was also a full custom '37 Ford, a '27 Dodge that looked straight out of '60s-era GNRS competition, and, the big winner, a hand-built roadster based on a '36 Packard.

Looking for a trend? Of the thirteen roadsters competing, five wore whitewall tires.

The Mulholland Speedster.

Bruce Wanta's '36 Packard, constructed by Troy Ladd's group at Hollywood Hot Rods, could be considered more old-school custom coach craft than present-day hot rod build, but that's kind of what the hobby has come to at this level of the game. This year's recipient of the big trophy was unusually difficult to get close to during the show, such was the degree of spectator interest. The Lincoln V12 was an interesting engine choice; this one features Hogan (of New Zealand) finned aluminum heads and a Latham axial-flow supercharger. You can probably find build photos elsewhere on the www; had some right after the show. The frame includes a figure-eight center structure, IRS, and a front suspension that Ford truck guys might call twin I-beam independent. Of course the body, which incorporates a top that flips back into the trunk area, was largely custom built.

Wayne Johnson's track-nose '29 Ford roadster, from Beaverton, Oregon, is appropriately called "Proboscis." The early A body and '32-style frame envelope a healthy Ford small block, five-speed Tremec, and a narrowed nine-inch Ford differential. This roadster rolls on custom Dayton wire knock-offs.

Matthew Gordon, of Columbiana, Alabama, calls his '32 Ford roadster pickup "The Time Merchant." The car was constructed in Alabama by Goolsby Customs. While finished to perfection, the overall look strongly says the 1950s, right down to the white sidewall tires, Oldsmobile Rocket 88 engine, and motorcycle-style fenders.

Another '32 Ford roadster pickup in the AMBR competition was this one belonging to Don Lindfors from Orange, California. A little more modern, a little more racy (but with full fenders), the owner-built car is called Boss 32. Power from the Boss 351 engine gets to the Winters quick-change through a Ford top-loader four-speed. Ron Mangus double-stitched a diamond-patterned interior. In case you are unfamiliar, these Brookville roadster pickup bodies are much prettier than their original '32 Ford counterparts.

Perhaps the most vintage- and race-inspired contestant this year was the high-boy Model A entered by Bill Grant, of Upland, California. The '28 Ford body still rests on A-style rails, and power comes from a healthy-looking four-banger.

Shawn Killion's red roadster is referred to as a 1928 Lincoln and sports Lincoln Zephyr lettering on the quarter-panels and dash. An early Chrysler hemi fills the engine compartment. Shawn is from Alpine, California.

Rick Dore Kustoms presented "After Shock" a "completely hand- built car." Styled by Dore, the car features a body by Luc DeLay (of Marcel's Custom Metal), '37 Ford chassis with Art Morrison modifications (including air suspension), Dan Fink grille, Ron Mangus upholstery, etc. Glen McElroy, of Carlsbad, California owns this beautiful car, which was entered as a '37 Ford.

"Fool's Goldster" is Matt Taylor's '27 Dodge, a real throwback to AMBR competitions of maybe fifty-plus years ago. Note the white pleats everywhere and the '56 Mercury spinner hubcaps encircled by the whitewalls.

After coming to the show with coach-built cars of late, James Hetfield brought out from Marietta, Georgia, one of the most authentic looking vintage-themed roadsters this year. "Blackjack" features all original '32 Ford sheet metal, a mild windshield chop, and a padded, Carson-style top. The frame is also original Ford, and it supports a '46 flathead engine with vintage speed equipment, a '39 trans with Zephyr gears, and a '36 Colombia two-speed differential. The front axle is a '32 dropped one inch. Wheels with '36 Ford centers are fitted with Zephyr caps. Electrification is even six volts; talk about old school.

"Back in Forty-Seven" was Scott Hawley and Joe Rebozzi's Washington blue '32 Ford entry into the field. It may look like 1947 on the outside, but there were no 383 Chevy's, T10s, or nine-inch rear-ends back then. Interior shows a '40 Ford dash and Sid Chavers upholstery. Chassis for the Burlingame, California, roadster came from the So-Cal Speed Shop.

Gordon Gray, from Surrey, British Colombia, contributed this black '32 Ford to the competition. A Kiwi Konnection chassis supports the Brookville body, H&H Flathead, T5, V8 quick change, and Pete and Jake's front suspension. The laid-back windshield, which looks to be one of Rodwell's Stan Wanlass-designed pieces, helps establish the great profile.

Dan Peterson, of Austin, Texas brought over the "Hill Country Flyer." Built by the Austin Speed Shop, this gold (copper-ish) '32 Ford has a great big dose of Chrysler FirePower and a Duval-style windshield. Very clean.

Nashville, Tennessee's Jim McPherson is the owner and builder of this black '34 Ford phaeton. It's not really a resto-mod, with the alloys, nerf bars, and (I assume) Barnes cylinder heads on the small block Chevy.


Rods & Customs in the Show

Joe Bailon's Shampoo Truck, from the early '50s, has been restored by Bob Dron.
The '49 Ford convertible full custom uses a Cadillac engine.

Ed Roth's '56 Ford shop truck has been restored and is owned by Beau Boeckmann.

There were multiple places in the show to stop and remember Pete Chapouris.

Larry and Juana Carter's '32 three-window was one of the tasty treats in the Roy Brizio Street Rods area.

This '28 Ford Roadster on '32 rails is a tribute to the Jack Calori car.

Mike Nicholas brought his tribute to the old Kenz and Leslie truck, the vehicle that laid the basis
for the K&L Streamliner, over from Englewood Colorado.

The August, 1961, Rod & Custom cover car, passed, I believe, through the hands of multiple R&C staffers, including Neal East.

This is another Rick Dore designed coach-built coupe, with a body fabricated by Luc DeLay. It also is owned by Glen McElroy.

A '38 Alfa Romeo club coupe is an unusual choice for the show, but this one is heavily modified and fits in beautifully. It was originally a four door, and, in addition to all of the custom body work, it now uses a Chevrolet LS motor. Bart Bartoni owns the Alfa.


Outdoor Cruise In


NHRA Museum

I took a quick tour of the NHRA Museum before going into the GNRS on Saturday morning. Located just beyond the largest exhibition building used by the roadster show, the museum has seen some renovations in the relatively recent past. There are excellent dioramas that provide teaching moments for youngsters and the otherwise uninitiated. And many of the varied drag racing vehicles that have long resided there still do. One can spend hours studying the collection of drag racing artifacts on display, also. I particularly enjoy the early dragsters, cars that were famous in the magazines of my youth.

Following are photos of just a few of the sights from visiting the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

Ted Cyr's "The Lincoln" has always been one of my favorites among the early rails in the museum, if for no other reason than the engine choice. Everyone knows the Chrisman cars and many of the others featured. I was unfamiliar with Cyr's car until one of my earliest visits to the museum, years ago. There were engines other than Chrysler hemi's that had success in early 1960s drag racing, and Ted's Lincoln was one of them. The late Mr. Cyr restored the car to participate in the first Bakersfield Cacklefest.


Planes of Fame Air Museum

On a gorgeous Sunday morning, the last day of the GNRS, I decided I had seen the cars and should find another attraction in the area. I had a few hours, and, on advice of a friend, decided to visit the Planes of Fame Air Museum at the Chino airport, several miles south and east of Pomona. There was not a lot of activity going on, but just seeing the array of old aircraft there in static mode was well worth the trip. There are obvious projects, current and future, on the site, but everything that looks restored is supposed to be kept air worthy.

Out front sits one of the ongoing projects, a WWII era B-17G bomber. Following are photos of a small sampling from the Planes of Fame Air Museum.

B-17G Flying Fortress Restoration in Progress and Donations Welcome

Boeing P-26A

P-51A Mustang North American Aviation Fighter-Bomber, with Allison Power

P-51D Mustang North American Aviation Fighter-Bomber with Packard-Built Rolls Royce Merlin Power

B-25J Mitchell North American Aviation Medium Bomber

Yakolev YAK-3U Allison V1710 Powered Russian Fighter

A6M5 Reisen (ZERO) Carrier-Based Fighter, Range 1194 Miles

Focke-Wulf WF 190 German "Butcher Bird" Fighter, a New Build Started in Germany
and Finished in California Using a Pratt & Whitney Engine

Heinkel He 178 World's First Turbojet Aircraft, from 1939 Germany

Fokker Dr. 1 Dreidecker A Replica with a Warner 165 Radial Engine


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AMBR Competition

Rods & Customs in the Show

Outdoor Cruise In

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NHRA Museum

Planes of Fame Air Museum

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GNRS Main Page

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