News & Photos: 2012 Grand National Roadster Show

31 Jan

We arrived back at the shop last night after a long, six-day trip to this year’s Grand National Roadster Show. Gary and I helped Jim Tipper display his Brasher & Cummings ’33 Willys Gasser. Showing a car is a lot of work. Jim has been organizing photos and memorabilia since last summer and the installation took more than a few hours. It was well worth it. We shared our ride home in Jim’s Crew Cab with a giant purple best-of-class trophy.

I met this snazzy trophy queen on set-up day. She was more than happy to pose with Jim’s color-coordinated coupe.

This year the show’s promoters once again cut a deal with the Southern California weather gods. Temperatures soared into the 80’s and remained pegged there throughout the weekend. Hundreds of hot rods and customs drove onto the fairgrounds to park between the buildings, adding to the 500 cars, trucks and bikes already on display. There was no way you could see it all in a day.

The GNRS is also a great place to catch up with old friends. The gossip, exaggeration, and flat-out bullshit are part of what makes this hot rodding’s number one social event. With that in mind, here’s what we saw and heard:

Bill Lindig won the Big Casino with his hand-hammered roadster. Originally by Indy car fabricator Jackie Howerton in his Gasoline Alley shop, it was finished at Pete Chapouris’ SoCal Speedshop. The word “finished” doesn’t begin to describe the craftsmanship and attention to detail. According to people familiar with these matters, the number 3 on the door refers to the cubic dollars that went into the build. We’ll let you figure how many zeroes to add. We were fortunate to hear it drive by as we were loading our trailer Sunday night. It rolled up on us like an earthquake, rumbling past with its cam growling and barking. This car could have won the nine foot trophy on its exhaust note alone.

Another AMBR contender, Paul Shaugnessy’s Sylvester III, was discovered sitting rusty and neglected in a garage out in the salty Avenues of San Francisco. Originally built in Castro Valley, it features a five inch channel, a tube chassis, torsion bar suspension, and a six-carbed ’56 322 Nailhead. A true Bay Area survivor, its resurrection was handled by Marcus Owens at New Metal Kustomz. In the AMBR competition it took Best Paint, Best Engine and Best Undercarriage.

Best Detailed AMBR Roadster went to this Brizio-built Tom Gloy channeled Deuce. Highly-trained professionals were flown in handle the detailing; Roy multi-tasks.

Other AMBR contenders included a Riley V8-powered(!) roadster built by Hatfield Restorations for Argentine racer Juan Fas Boogar; a gorgeous full-fendered ’34 built by Steve Moal for GNRS Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Varni; an interesting but awkwardly mammoth Marmon V16, and an extremely tidy little flattie-powered ’34 from Squeeg’s in Arizona.

We’re always on the lookout for off-the-hook examples of talented tin-bending. Eric Zausner’s Steve Moal-built Aerosport Roadster was another stunning example of metal craftsmanship. Look hard, there’s a real Henry ’36 Ford roadster under there somewhere.

Wisconsin’s Richard Munz has an uncanny knack for uncovering bitchen cars. He also gives them the sympathetic and accurate restorations they deserve. A warm and gracious guy, it’s always a treat to see what he brings to an event. We saw his Chuck Porter-built flathead-powered lakes car at the Palo Alto Concours last summer. Now he’s tracked down the Chuck Porter Push Truck and treated it to a drop dead, period perfect restoration.

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Ford, a Driven Deuces exhibit took an entire building and featured 80 cars. Interestingly, only one came from the Rolling Bones shop: Dennis Varni’s Deuce Sedan. Fortunately, the Boner’s had their own display this year. It featured Jorge Zaragosa’s and Dick deLuna’s wicked three windows.

Down at the other end of the main hall we found GoodGuy Gary Meador’s Chrysler Town & Country. Its old, lazy flathead has been replaced by a Mopar with a bit more testosterone: a Viper V10. A real luxury liner, this T&C rolls on an Art Morrison chassis with one-off wire wheels. Is it fair for Gary to be a contender for his own Street Rod d’Elegance award?

Sometimes the real gems aren’t on the show floor at all. We spotted Tom Leonardo’s 5W and Don Dillard’s roadster parked between the buildings at the Saturday drive-‘em-in.

I’ve seen this clean little coupe before and it always puts a grin on my face. It was obviously built on a budget, but has an extremely bitchen stance and proportions. Have you figured it out? It’s a ’34 Plymouth.

For some reason the Suede Palace seemed a little stale this year. I can’t figure out why, there were definitely some standouts:

Over in a corner of Building 4, in a humble display decorated with show-issue curtains and a cardboard sign, we found another standout. This Chip Foose-designed ’36 had all the earmarks of a Ridler-level build. Its proportions, styling and craftsmanship stopped us dead in our tracks. The unremarkable display didn’t fool the judges though, the coupe walked away with the overall Best Hot Rod trophy.

Finally, in closing, I had my own celebrity moment. When it comes to motorcycles, my personal design sense never progressed much past the street choppers I remember as a kid growing up in the 60’s. I was shooting a photo of the bike above when I sensed someone standing at my shoulder.

Without looking over I said “man, how did we miss the memo on this trend?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, “but I’m glad I did.”

I turned my head and standing next to me was Billy F. Gibbons, complete in black tie, trench coat, and that trademark macaroni noodle hat. I grinned, but by then he was totally surrounded by autograph hounds.

Man, this show had it all. We’ll be back next year.

4 Responses to “News & Photos: 2012 Grand National Roadster Show”

  1. Lee "Hank" Tinder January 31, 2012 at 7:20 PM #

    Again, great coverage of a great event Dave! Your narrative is spot on. Thanks for thinking of us. Any more info on that fetching purple-gowned package next to the B&C
    lunge box?

  2. Lynn pew January 31, 2012 at 2:54 PM #

    I missed you again. Great photos as usual! I loved the show.
    Lynn

  3. Connor January 31, 2012 at 2:27 PM #

    “It’s the RIDLER award. Named after a person, not a comic book character.”

    Right on Harry, ignore all these epic cars, there’s a TYPO!

    Anyways, great post, and as usual the best car was parked outside. Don Dillard’s roadster is a classic, perfect proportions, love the full fenders, style for days…

  4. Harry January 31, 2012 at 1:58 PM #

    It’s the RIDLER award. Named after a person, not a comic book character.