The call came at 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 24: "Troy Ladd, this is John Buck ... where are you?!"

Troy Ladd is the owner of Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank, California. John Buck is the producer of the Grand National Roadster Show, where Troy's '32 roadster, Respect Tradition, was entered as one of 12 finalists for the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award. The car was supposed to be inside Building 4 at the Pomona Fairplex by 4 p.m. Instead, it was 40 miles away-still at the shop in Burbank-with no radiator, no grille shell, no hoses, no seats, and no wheels.

Respect Tradition isn't the first car Hollywood Hot Rods has entered in the GNRS. The Big Sister and Little Sister sibling '32s drew a lot of attention for the shop when they were entered in years past, but they were never in contention for the AMBR award.

"The roadsters that I had entered before weren't specifically built for the show," Troy says. "They were nice cars, built for driving, that I wanted to display. This roadster was geared to be a show car, although it wasn't intended to be an AMBR competitor at the beginning. I'd been working on the car for two years, and as the design evolved and became more complex, we started to toy with the idea.

"The cars that compete for AMBR are typically swoopy, two-tone, big-billet-wheel kind of cars. I wanted to try to stir up the status quo a little bit. It's a redesigned, handformed, high-end car, but with the look of a traditional car. There have been other over-the-top, traditionally influenced cars before, such as the Pinkee's roadster pickup and Troy Trepanier's '32 roadster from a few years back. Neither of those cars won AMBR, but they both made a huge impact, which is exactly what I wanted to do. John Buck was very encouraging when I told him what we were building. I sent him photos and got his approval.

"Another motivation was the fact that there aren't many owner/builders in the competition. We're younger, the shop is relatively new, and I didn't have a million dollars to sink into the car.

"Being an owner/builder put me at a huge disadvantage because I didn't have the budget some people do. My time was free, but it's time somebody would ordinarily be paying me for.

"For most of the three-year buildup, I worked on the car by myself. During the last year, I dedicated Mondays or Saturdays to the car, with guys from the shop putting time into it. In the final three months, it got crazy, and by the last month, we pretty much shut down the whole shop and everybody worked on it all the time. As the guy paying the bills, I freaked out because it was taking so much time and there was no money coming in; but once you commit, you've got to come through, and I had committed to a lot of people-John Buck; the companies that contributed parts; Butch Lynch, who did the bodywork and paint; and Mark Lopez, who did the interior within one week. All these guys were part of it.

"The great part was that the guys at my shop, Troy Morris and Garret Wilson, got excited about the car, and took so much pride in their work on the car. Everybody has their ideas and their handiwork in the car. At the end, when we thought we wouldn't finish it, everybody was freaking out because of how much they'd contributed to it."