Indoor car shows are a great tradition in our hobby. Oh, sure, some jaded cynics may complain that these enclosed extravaganzas put too much emphasis on pomp and flash-that they are, perhaps, a bit too showy. But most enthusiasts genuinely look forward to such climate-controlled, midwinter respites, recognizing them as great places to congregate with fellow rodders, unveil new rides, and study the ingenuity and craftsmanship on display.
Among the nation's indoor events, few have as much tradition as "The Grand Daddy of Them All," the Grand National Roadster Show. It's not only the longest-running indoor car show in the world, but also home to one of rodding's most coveted awards, America's Most Beautiful Roadster. Despite its great history, however, many enthusiasts-including us-were skeptical when the Grand National show broke tradition and moved to the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, California, a few years ago.
Leaving its longtime San Francisco Bay Area home was bold enough, but landing in SoCal-a region not known for supporting indoor car shows-seemed especially risky. Fortunately, the show's promoters have proven us wrong. The Grand National show has not only flourished in SoCal, but many enthusiasts are calling this year's 58th annual Grand National show, held January 26-28, the best one since the big 50th anniversary gala.
For us, it just felt like there was more to see this year. Maybe that's because there were more rods and customs on display, and fewer street machines and late-models, especially in the main building. The AMBR competition felt a little more spirited as well, with several serious contenders, and even a few with traditional influences and styling. The big trophy ultimately went home to Iowa with Kevin and Karen Alstott and their '35 Radster,a custom-bodied job built by Lakeside Rods & Rides.
As exciting as the AMBR race can be, the show's biggest attraction was arguably Ford Motor Company's display of the 75 Most Significant '32 Ford Hot Rods, marking the 75th anniversary of the beloved Deuce. Incredibly, the selection committee was able to gather nearly 60 of the cars on its list and present them in a museum-like setting. It felt almost otherworldly to wander through one building packed with so much rodding history.
Several more recent traditions helped give the event even more flavor. For the second year in a row, the Suede Palace showcased a cool assortment of hardcore, retro-styled rods and customs (not to mention some great bands), while the Pinstripers' Reunion brought together talented artists whose auctioned wares raised thousands of dollars for charity. And finally, the Grand National Drive-In-a "show within a show" that invites street-driven rides to be displayed between the event buildings-was held on both Saturday and Sunday this year, allowing even more rod and custom owners to participate.
Take a look at the accompanying photos from this year's Grand National-plus the expanded coverage on the Rod & Custom Web site-and we think you'll agree this is one tradition that's well worth continuing.
Rodding On A Smaller ScaleThe most recent, and smallest, additions to the Grand National Roadster Show were the Hot Rod Hero Pedal Cars, on display in the same building as the 75 Most Significant '32 Ford Hot Rods. Ten prominent builders each created a custom pedal car, provided by Warehouse 36. Each car is autographed by Edsel Ford II and will be auctioned at the RM Auctions Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction later this year. All proceed will benefit charities selected by the builders. To see all 10 pedals cars, go to our Web site and check out the Grand National Roadster Show coverage (www.rodandcustommagazine.com).
Never AgainThe talk of the show was Building 9, and rightfully so. This once-in-a-lifetime display of 58 of the 75 Top Deuces was reason enough to make the trip out to Pomona. The atmosphere inside was almost museum-like as the hot rods were displayed on black carpet, each with a display board detailing its history. Lining the walls were old photos and magazine features along with more display boards giving the history of the others that were either lost over time or unable to make the trip.
Some of them appeared in restored or as-built condition just as they had been in magazines so many years ago. Others were unrecognizable, as they had been parted out, rebuilt, or continuously modified through the years. Many of these Deuces will be showcased at other events this year, but not as many as were here. We don't have the space here to show them all, so take a look at our Web site, where we'll post a photo of each one.
The Suede PalaceIf you love traditional rods and rockabilly bands, then you didn't have to look any further than the Suede Palace to get your fill. Hot rods, customs, venders, and musicians aimed at the retro crowd filled the building all weekend with activity and a vibe completely different from any of the other buildings.
Drive-In ActionThe action wasn't confined to just inside the buildings. Last year's Drive-In outdoor car show worked so well they expanded it to Saturday and Sunday this year. The areas around the buildings were filled with cars that cruised down from all over the western U.S. Several venders also took advantage of the mild SoCal temps and set up booths outside, giving them a chance to spread out and really show off their goods.