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2014 Grand National Roadster Show

by Dave on January 27, 2014

This year’s GNRS was once again blessed with T-shirt weather. While awesome for a car show in January, it’s a forewarning of the water rationing California is inevitably due to face this summer. Up in the Bay Area we just closed the books on our driest calendar year on record, we’re now coming to the end of our first January ever with no measurable rain.

The drought has been especially hard on the Central Valley; it’s turned their fertile topsoil into bone dust. Driving south to the show on Interstate 5 I was caught in a massive dust storm and had to pull off the highway – way off – a number of times when I couldn’t see past my windshield wipers. The white-out conditions, combined with the reek of the massive Harris Ranch feedlot, had me imagining myself trapped in a blind, smelly hundred car pile-up.

While not exactly stinky, the eight-car line-up for this year’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy was, by general consensus, underwhelming. Bill Grant’s Deuce roadster was pretty neat. A real Henry car, it featured a 265 small block, a ’40 trans and a ’32 banjo. Lots of chrome with a bit of a kustom vibe, it could’ve driven straight out of the late 1950’s.
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The grille shell on this Deuce has been shortened, narrowed and dropped; a shitload of work that IMHO only resulted in the loss of the graceful proportions of the original.
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Paul Gommi’s phaeton has been around awhile, he added fenders for the show. The car features a perfectly chopped top and more bolt-on accessories than an ELA low rider. I was told that a car designer once commented that Paul must’ve rolled through a Pep Boys with a giant magnet. Paul responded with display cards justifying every part and piece on the car. These cards, a veritable history of early accessories and speed equipment, continued all around his display.
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Wes Rydell’s ’35 Chevy phaeton took home the Big Trophy.
2014 GNRS_05The nicest roadster in Building 4 wasn’t even an AMBR contender, it was a flathead-powered Deuce in Roy Brizio’s booth. In fact the owner wasn’t even interested in showing the car, Roy brought it down to Pomona on his own dime. It was one of nine cars in the Brizio display, including Scott Gillen’s beautiful Ardun-equipped three window.
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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bonneville, the “Century of Speed” exhibit easily upstaged the AMBR competition. The LSR streamliners were a colorful study in the aerodynamics of their day, you can only imagine what they looked like in that white-hot light out on the salt.

The 990 car was built in the early fifties by Tommy Thompson, an engineer at Coors. Oldsmobile-powered, the number on the side denoted the number of dollars he had tied up in the project.
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Dennis Varni’s diminutive streamliner has a five foot wheelbase and is just 33 inches tall. Recently restored by the original driver Tony Lloyd, it’s powered by a direct chain-drive, three cylinder McCulloch outboard motor. It must’ve taken massive cojones to drive this thing at 172 mph, how did he ever fit ‘em in this tiny car?
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The room was full of ‘liners from all different eras.
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The exhibit also included vintage roadsters and belly tanks. The Williams Bros. AV8 was uncovered in a shop in the Ventura area a couple of years ago. The Rodders Journal ran a lengthy feature on its preservation. Bobby Green’s Old Crow Speed Shop tanker is well-known. His shop in Burbank is loaded to the rafters with an absolutely unbelievable stash of vintage hot rod gear.
2014 GNRS_172014 GNRS_18Rob Johnson stumbled across this little modified when one of his employees told him about an old car a relative had stashed in her garage. Totally surrounded by boxes and covered by a slot car track, the “old car” turned out to be the Woody Lee Special. It features Jack Hagemann metalwork, Tommy the Greek striping, and a 133.6 mph best pass at Bonneville.
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More outstanding metalwork could be seen on the Bill Breece three window. Another landmark car, it’s now owned by collector Richard Munz. Restoration and paint are in the capable hands of Bill Ganahl and Joe Compani at South City Rod & Custom/Compani Color in South San Francisco. I’m predicting this build helps bring back stock-height headlight bars.
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Outside in the sun, photographer Tim Sutton’s van glowed in its awesomeness. If you know vans you know that’s not litter. Those Tootsie Roll Pops outside the doors are bait.

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As always, the Suede Palace featured a diverse collection of rods and kustoms, both in patina and paint. There were some especially good-looking tops this year.
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The patina on this Deuce was counterfeit, but the accessories were the real deal including this rumble seat cover-up.
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Two more good-looking tops, this time in steel. Check the twin Winfields on the five window. The Rolling Bones three window is packing a Hemi, check the little clearancing on the forward hood louvers.
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A number of nice kustoms were parked between the exhibit halls on Saturday. The midget magenta car is a Nash Rambler. The maroon Merc is just plain bitchen.
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