While many people travel to Detroit in January in the cold weather for the North American International Auto Show, the really smart people head west to attend the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California. The GNRS is one of the largest car shows for customs and classics, and it’s where they hand out the award for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, or AMBR.
Put on by The Rod Shows, GNRS has been a staple in California for 66 years. It all started in Northern California in 1950 as the National Roadster Show, then later the Oakland Roadster Show. The show came about because of those early hot rodders who started their own car culture, which quickly transformed from outlaw to mainstream, attracting a lot of attention from the public, who were willing to pay to see the cars in one big show. The eight-foot trophy, on which every year the winner’s name is engraved, also was a big draw, and still is today!
In addition to hot rods and customs, the show also highlights motorcycles, rat rods in the Suede Palace, and a ceremony to induct builders into the Hall of Fame. This year, Troy Trepanier of Rad Rides by Troy and Bobby Alloway of Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop were the newest inductees that will now stand alongside legends like Wally Parks, George Barris, Dean Jeffries, Gene Winfield, Arlen Ness, Von Dutch, Pete Chapouris, Vic Edelbrock, Art Chrisman, and many more.
For 2015, the GNRS set a record for the most entries vying for the AMBR award (18), with all of them extremely competitive. We selected a mix of some AMBR contenders and other show vehicles that caught our fancy. But there can only be one winner. Read on to see which vehicle/owner/builder took home the AMBR title.
The Grass Hopper
Half the fun of the show is seeing the names of the cars. The Grass Hopper was in the running for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show. It’s an all-metal and chrome 1915 Ford Model T Roadster owned by Beau Boeckman, son of one of the largest Ford dealers in the country, Galpin Motors, located in So Cal. Boeckman is biginto customized vehicles, and owns Galpin Auto Sports, a customizing shop that’s part of the Galpin family. The Grass Hopper was built by Dave Shuten, and is a loose recreation of the lost original show-and-go roadster. The original was a cover car for Hot Rod Magazine in October 1959. The engine is from a 1949 303 Oldsmobile enhanced to 461 cubic inches, with a 4-71 blower.
Here’s one of those great car names that’s a play on the owners’ Greg and Dotty Meyer’s last name (admire, get it?!) This 1933 Chevrolet Custom Roadster was built by A&M Deluxe Customs. The body is an all-steel original three-window coupe, now painted in House of Kolor Tangerine. As you can see, a lot of modifications were made to this pretty ride, including the hood, top, sides, fenders and, well, basically everywhere! The engine is a Chevy crate LS6 enhanced with Comp Cams, chromed Holley oil pan, and aftermarket headers, pulleys, valve covers and transmission. This was a beautiful entry, but alas, also not good enough for the title.
Pinkee’s Rod Shop, a staple in the hot-rod industry for years, has won its share of awards for some great vehicles. This 1932 Ford Roadster is owned by Larry Christensen, and not only is about looks, but also big power. Giving this beast the beef is a 392-cubic-inch HEMI motor mated to a TKO 600 five-speed transmission. Other modifications include Hot Heads aluminum heads, and a Hilborn injection system. The rivet work, intensive to say the least, was done by Frank Wallic, truly making this roadster a unique vehicle, but not a winning one at the show.
There were other contenders for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the show, but we wanted to give a shout out to all the other buildings that offered up a variety of rides; anything and everything from low riders, to a modified VW bus to woodies galore. The Pantheon was one of our favorite non-AMBR contenders, created by John D’Agostino. This custom 1968 Buick Riviera is sitting on the ground, and when it’s time to get up and go, airbags raise the car to a normal ride height. That paint is from House of Kolor, and was painted by OZ Customs. The Tires are Coker, and Sherm’s did the Custom Plating.
33 Ford Roadster
We made you wait long enough, so here it is, the winner of the 2015 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, this 1933 Ford Roadster owned by Larry and Carol Olson and built by Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop. Alloway did all the modifications to the body and chassis, as well as put on the PPG paint and all those cool flames painted by Wade Huges and designed by Josh Shaw. Under the hood is a 1955 Dodge 241 Red Ram mated to a Legend Super Sport five-speed transmission. Inside are 1933 Nash gauges in the instrument panel, along with an ididit steering column, 1950s Motorola aftermarket accessory radio, and a 1962 Corvette steering wheel. This was a great show for Bobby Alloway, between winning the AMBR and being inducted into the hall of fame, it’s going to be a tough weekend to beat.
The other big award in the hot rod industry is called the Ridler, presented at the Detroit Autorama show in March every year. However, to win the Ridler, you car cannot have been seen in final paint, nor have been entered into another show before Autorama. The AMBR rules are less strict, as you can see by this vehicle. The Mulholland Speedster, being built by Hollywood Hot Rods owned by Troy Ladd, was an exhibit at this year’s show, and will go for the award when it’s finished in time for the 2016 show. It’s a modified 1936 Packard that is reminiscent of the cars belonging to the Golden Age of Hollywood era. The Speedster, named after one of the most famous drives in Los Angeles, is going to be a show stopper when completed.
Another attention grabber that’s already our pick to win America’s Most Beautiful Roadster next year the Grand National Roadster Show is Aquarius by Rick Dore Kustoms, another top builder. Like the Mulholland Speedster, Rick Dore’s car is based on a 1934 Packard, and also features a long body and expressive pontoon fenders. It was styled by Dore, Marcel, and Eric Brockmeyer, and the body is by Marcel’s. Aquarius is owned by James Hetfield of heavy-metal band Metallica and, once finished —if the correct paint color is chosen — will steal the limelight from everything else there. The roof is removable, the DuVall-style windshield is ornate, and the Ron Mangas-created upholstery is stellar. Photos don’t do this ride justice. It was a smart idea to show it now, because we are compelled to return next year to see the finished product.