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Chip Foose takes the big one

Ken Reister's Chip Foose-built '36 phantom roadster won the Don Riddler Award earlier this year in Detroit.


25.1.6. Hot from winning the Riddler Award in Detroit, Chip Foose took The Big One - America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award - at this year’s 57th Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) with Ken Reister’s Illusion. Cost estimates for the build are well into six figures but the car is stunning. Whether it’s your style or not you can’t fault the workmanship and attention to detail. A well deserved win.

Chip Foose, Steve Stanford and Larry Erickson - three of the most talented designers in the hot rod genre.

This year, the show is under new management and operator John Buck did an awesome job considering it was his first year. He had more vehicles on display, he pulled in more people - both spectators and participants, who all seemed to go away happy. An excellent result.

New this year was the Suede Palace. A hall full of rust and primer, book-ended by Jimmy Shine’s “bare nekid” ’34, Billy F Gibbons (ZZ Top) pick-up and David Edward’s original Fifties road racing special. There was also Barry Weiss’ ’48 Cad complete with Mexican wrestling midgets in fancy dress - one height-challenged man was even dressed as Marilyn Monroe - it was a show within a show.


Barry Weiss' '48 Cad complete with midget Marilyn Monroe who was really a man. I think I preffered shows when they had Playboy Bunnies.

Also of interest was Brit Steve Fletcher’s ’46 Ford Woody. Built by Tim Hammond in Norfolk, it travelled all the way to LA to be upholstered at Gabe’s and entered into the GNRS. It won its class and was well received. Yet another Brit “suitcasing” the show was Eddie Wimble with his new Stromberg 97 carb. Built with partner Clive Prew, it’s the business and has American hot rodders all a-buzz wondering why it took a Brit to recast an American icon. I hope he sells a container load, or two.


Steve Fletcher brought this Tim Hammond-built '46 woody all to the way from England to have it upholstered at Gabe's and on show at the GNRS. They won their class—good boys

One of the coolest displays was put together by the Ford Motor Company, who in 2007 celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Deuce. They’ve had 25 so-called knowledgeable people work on compiling a list of 75 important hot rods - they came up with 510.- and Ford are now trying to find all 75 cars to display at the 2007 GNRS. The list of knowledgeable people included Brits Kevin Elliott, late of Custom Car, guitarist Jeff Beck and yours truly. To kick off the celebration, Ford displayed the Bob McGee roadster along with pictures of the 75 chosen few. Amazingly, quite a few of the missing cars were found during the show, with one guy coming up and saying, “I have two of ’em!” If it all works out, next year's Grand National should be quite a show. Besides, Pomona is always nice to visit—NOT!


In 2007, Ford will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the 32 Ford. A committee of 25 selected the 75 most influential Deuces displayed on this wall. The next job is to find them all so that they can be displayed at next year's Grand National Roadster show. Centerpice of the Ford display was Bruce' Meyer's Bob McGee Roadster

Builder of the Year this year was Chuck Lombardo of California Street Rods, who displayed not only the company’s Bonneville coupe but also the 1983 AMBR winner which he still owns.

What made this show particularly interesting was the wide selection of vehicles on display. Drag queens would be happy to know that they were well represented by the likes of the Speed Sport Special and Top Banana roadster, both owned by Don Prieto. Also on display were a slew of front-engined Sixties diggers including the Loukas-Preising Competition Coupe and Jim Davis’ fueller from 1970. To make what is usually a static display more exciting the famous “Frantic Four” had their dragsters on display outside and for $100 they’d put you in one and fire it up. It was a hundred bucks well spent.


Don Prieto owns the Speed Sport Special (foreground) and the Top Banana roadster. What a cool pair to have in your garage.


The Loukas-Preising Competition Coupe was just one of many front-engined diggers on display. For $100 you could go outside to the "Frantic Four" display and sit in a dragster while they fired it up—cool!

Of course, in a show dominated by angel hair, midgets and the likes of John D’Agostino’s ’59 Caddy, a lot of cars were lost in the crowd but my personal favourites included the three “Black Sisters” out of SO-CAL. Belonging to Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top, Jim Kipp and Jim Jard, they’re a mean “ménage a noir.” Likewise George Poteet’s ’32 Roadster pick-up and fashion designer Mossimo’s hiboy—both cars built by Roy Brizio. Also easy to walk past were the two cars of Ron Kellogg: one was a custom-bodied ’56 Jaguar called the Aerodyne Streamliner, while the other was a hand-built ’38 Bugatti 57-59 Supersport Roadster. Both stunning, both sadly missed by many show visitors.


Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top displayed one of the three "Black Sisters." Originally built by Rudy Rodriguez, it was re-worked slightly by SO-CAL.


Ron Kellogg's amazing hand-built 1938 Bugatti 57-59 Supersport Roadster. sadly, lost in the crowd.

If you’re in any way a fan of the genre, then you should put the 58th Grand National Roadster show on your calendar and try to make it next year when Ford will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the ’32 Ford and the weather will again be sublime.

And, as if that all wasn’t enough gear juice for you petrol heads, across the parking lot sits the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. It’s a great place to visit made all the more so by their latest exhibit, entitled “60 Years of Speed.” Dedicated to SO-CAL founder Alex Xydias, it traces the 60 years history of the company. It's well worth the $5 it costs to get in.

Story & photos: Tony Thacker

 Further pictorial selection below

Gordon Peter's beautiful '35 Roadster didn't even place - go figure

John D'Agostino's '59 Caddy was outstanding

George Poteet's Brizio-built Roadster pickup—nice!

Rat customs take all forms but this toothy grille looked like the work of an English dentist! 

The "Ratster." Built by Boyd Coddingto for Gil Losi, this flat primered Boydster was powered by a highly-polished Magnusson-blown small-block Chevy. It was not displayed in the Suede Palace!

Bill Neumann, who used to be an editor at Rod and Custom many years ago, runs Neuspeed and built this BMW V-12 powered Deuce Roadster.

Bob Cutler's Jag-V-12-powered, NOS injected Roadster is his daily driver

Steve Moal-built track Roadster was very clean

Rocker Jimmie Vaughn (brother of Stevie Ray) was there with custom car builder Lee Pratt.


Pop Browns