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Grand National Roadster Debate . . . er, Show?

In 2007, the annual Grand National Roadster Show, located for the fourth year in a row at the Fairplex, Pomona, California, right next to the NHRA Motorsports Museum, clearly enjoyed the benefit of the 75th Anniversary of the '32 Ford.  The celebration really gave the old show girl a face lift, with a stunning display by Ford undoubtedly lifting the proceedings. This year, there was none of that, and it kinda showed. Next year, however, it's the grand ol' dame's 60th anniversary, so that should definitely be a GNRS to attend.

The amazing Ala Kart. Originally built for Richard Peters by Barris, it won the America's Most Beautiful Roadster in 1958 and '59. It was restored for John Mumford by Roy Brizio and shown complete with tin foil-wrapped axle stands as it was in 1958.


Typically, the weather in southern California is sunny, but this year it rained long and hard, which certainly helped to dampen enthusiasm.  Nevertheless, there was much buzz surrounding the restored Sam Barris Merc – the first Merc ever chopped – and the two-time America's Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) winner, the Ala Kart, built originally by Barris for Richard Peters.  Both have been painstakingly restored by Roy Brizio for collector, John Mumford, and for the first time in almost 50 years, these two kustom icons were displayed along with the Aztec, likewise Barris-built for Bill Carr.  Seeing these cars in one show at the same time was like taking a Tardis back to the Oakland Roadster Show circa 1960. 

This fine '33 Willys was detailed to perfection


Ala Kart, of course, won the AMBR in 1958 and 1959 (one of only a couple of cars ever to do “the double”), and the Brizio restoration was stunning to the point that I think every show goer, with the exception of the other AMBR entrants, wanted it to win.  Originally, the Kart featured a fully chromed chassis, hand-formed bed, acres of white tuck n' roll inside and out, and white pearly paint with Dean Jeffries scallops.  The restoration, with paint by Teri Brizio's hubby, Darrel Hollenbeck, was one step beyond, and the truck did pick up the Blackie Gejian Award of Excellence and the well-deserved Outstanding Paint Award. 

And the winner is "Undisputed" built by Scott's Hot Rods of Oxnard, California for Rudy Necoechea. It was not exactly my cup of tea but then everything is in the eye of the beholder.  Nevertheless it was an incredible piece of work.


Unfortunately, though, it was not to take home the "Big One," as the Kart was beaten out by a controversial, champagne-coloured, '32 highboy, built by Scott's Hot Rods of Oxnard, California, for Rudy Necoechea.  Named "Undisputed", it was anything but, judging by the blogs, but hey, it's just a car show.

Thom Taylor designed and built by Barry Lobeck, this '40 Ford Roadster missed the big one. One of the problems with the show car thing is that the judges like the hood, door and deck lid open so the cars look like they're driven over a roadside bomb which doesn't do them any favours. It would be better to see them as they were designed and they would be seen on he road.


One of the most interesting discussions on the show floor this year concerned where the whole high-dollar car thing can go.  Imagine paying well over a million dollars to build a car – maybe more – going to the GNRS, and then not winning, as was the case for about 14 contenders.  You can't win the Ridler Award after showing your car at the GNRS, you can't sell it for what you have in it, and in many cases, you're not going to drive it, so what is it all about?  Beats me.

“Undisputed” featured some undisputedly amazing workmanship, from the serrated grille bars and the hand-made steel body, to the "formed" and sparingly padded interior and the fully chromed IFS, but somehow it lacked cohesion.  There was also a squashed top fitted to it on the first day, but that soon found its way on to the floor.

Designed by Mark Allen of Chrysler this '27 T Roadster was plenty cool but even my 7-year-old daughter said its headlights were too big. The industrial interior was very cool but the Bugatti-style wheels were a bit odd.


Other contenders that didn't make the grade included the SO-CAL-built Spencer 2, assembled this year to claim the Outstanding Engineering Award, a couple of cool, custom '36s, from Rick Dore and Ontario, Canada’s John St. Germain, plus a very interesting '27 T from Mike Checuti,  of Livonia, Michigan.  Styled by Chrysler designer, Mark Allen, it was pretty cool and won the Chip Foose Design Excellence Award – a big ol' billet pencil.

With over 600 vehicles in the show, however, I must confess to not seeing them all.  I tended to hang in the "Suede Palace", where the real art of hot rodding and customizing seems to be painted in various shades of rust.  Interestingly, it appears even the so-called “rat rods” are becoming better finished than they used to be.  Maybe it's just a natural, inevitable evolution.

Rad Rods by Troy, Trepanier that is, built the 2007 Ridler winner for Beth and Ross Myers. A truly amazing car and Troy and his team were well deserving of Builder of the Year.


Finally, and definitely not to be overlooked, Troy Trepanier was named Builder of the Year.  He displayed Beth and Ross Myers' 2007 Ridler Award winner, "First Love", and at one time or another, most everybody at the show could be found on their hands and knees, looking up at the underside of this simply amazing '36 Ford 3-window.  Mr T was a well-deserved and popular choice.

Story: Tony Thacker
Photos: Tony Thacker & Keith Atkinson


Another car that almost works is this Spitfire MG exercise. One can't help thinking that a little restraint would help.

This Ford five window sported Chevy-style hood sides 

One of the latest projects to roll out of the So Cal Speed Shop

Hollywood Hot Rods displayed this Bentley-fied Roadster with a stretched grille and a wooden boat-like deck lid. It displayed some very interesting details. Troy is definitely a young gun to watch.

Rick Dore always seems to come up with something cool and this '36 with Packard grille and French-styled fenders got my attention. Sadly, it got nowhere.

Triumph GT6 influence in the roofline of this radical custom 'Vette

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