On a perfect Southern California weekend, the best roadsters came to Pomona to once again vie for the title of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR). The Grand National Roadster Show, or GNRS as the veterans call it, is the longest-running indoor car show in the world, now celebrating its 63rd year.
The show started out as the Oakland Roadster Show, first held in Northern California. This is the 9th year it’s been held at the Fairplex in Pomona, California.
Walking around the fairgrounds, the cars are everywhere: down every outdoor aisle and stuffed into permanent buildings. While close to 1,500 cars show up, about 500 compete for awards, with the top prize of AMBR.
The GNRS is more than cars, though. It’s a study in culture, with pinstriping demonstrations, vendors galore, and an entire building called the Suede Palace that’s dedicated to rat rods and the rockabilly style of the early rodders.
The respected judges (including magazine editors and top builders) not only vote for the most beautiful roadster, but also the most beautiful motorcycle. Other award categories include boats, special interest (i.e., go karts, ATVs, and pedal cars), and kids categories. Judging criteria includes awarding points for detail, quality, condition, safety, and originality.
While the cars were the main attraction, the highlight of the event was the Saturday-night dinner held at the permanent NHRA Museum on the Fairplex property. The event, hosted by Dan and Ashley Webb of Webb Automotive Art, was a celebration of Webb’s recreation of the Dean Batchelor/Alex Xydias SoCal Streamliner. The Streamliner set an unprecedented speed record of 210.92 mph at Bonneville in 1950, but unfortunately was destroyed in 1951 while trying to set another record at Daytona Beach.
The Webb-built streamliner was recreated using old drawings printed in Hot Rod magazine. Webb found every old part he could and used it on the car, including the control wheel from a B24 Liberator World War II aircraft (same as was used on the original Streamliner) that daughter Ashley tracked down on eBay. One of the best quotes of the night is when Dan Webb said he paid $10,000 for parts that Xydias originally bought for $29.95!
To say that there were a few automotive celebrities at the unveiling is an understatement; it was the virtual royalty of the rodding industry. Our partial list of names in attendance were: Ed Iskenderian, or as many call him, “the Camfather,” Alex Xydias, Gene Winfield, Vic Edelbrock, Jr., Danny Thompson (son of Mickey), announcer Dave McClelland, builders Pete Eastwood and Mike Ring (Ringbrothers), Gary Meadors (Goodguys), Pete Chapouris (SoCal Speed Shop), designer Thom Taylor, Roy Brizio (Brizio’s Street Rods), and musicians/car buffs Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.
It was a great dinner, filled with plenty of bench racing tales told by the originators who were there when hot-rodding history happened.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TEAM KILLEEN