73rd Annual Grand National Roadster Show

“The “Grand Daddy of Them All” Continues to Grow

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By the Author   –   Videography By Ryan Foss

The 73rd Annual O’Reilly Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) held at the Pomona Fairplex in Southern California is still “The Grand Daddy of Them All!” of indoor car shows. While it’s true that it is the kickoff of the indoor car show season, with some 600-plus cars and trucks (competition, display only, and the Suede Palace) under roof, there were another 900 or so cars and trucks that partook in the outdoor show. Yep, the GNRS is two shows in one, each bringing plenty of excitement and entertainment to those who attend. It is well located in SoCal, making it an easy drive for thousands of rodders to attend.

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The outdoor show is in its 16th year and is referred to as the “Annual Grand Daddy Drive-in” held all three days. They are parked around all the show buildings as well as filling an adjacent parking lot. It should also be noted that this year the area between Building 7 and 9 was reserved for custom trucks that were part of the Keep on Truckin’ exhibit that took over Building 9 and included over 100 trucks with provenance from years past. This exhibit was sponsored by LMC Truck and Modern Rodding’s sister publication Classic Truck Performance.

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Watch for a series of build articles in Modern Rodding on this year’s AMBR-winning ’32 Ford roadster owned and built by Jack Chisenhall. Feature coming to Modern Rodding soon.

Other noteworthy building exhibits included Building 4 and 6. Building 4 held the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster competitors and the iconic 9-1/2-foot perpetual trophy all vying for the title, trophy, and the $12,500 check, all made possibly by ARP.

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In competition were Sandy Chadd and her Rad Rides by Troy–built ’32 Ford Muroc highboy roadster, J.F. Lanier and his ’29 Ford highboy roadster with a cool “welcome young rodders” theme, Jack Chisenhall and his ’32 Ford highboy roadster with a definite “competition flavor,” Ken Sapper and his bright red ’32 Ford highboy roadster out of Dominator Street Rods, Jon Hall with his truly striking ’27 Ford lakes-style fenderless roadster out of Greening Auto Company, local rodder Steve Schmidt with his ’32 Ford Muroc full-fendered roadster, another local rodder Danny Hyde with his ’36 Ford roadster that started life as a five-window coupe, Scott Williams with his ’32 Brookville-bodied Ford roadster built on a theme many of us will remember (the Tom McMullen roadster minus the flames), and the Joe Kugel Brookville-bodied ’32 Ford full-fendered roadster complete with, you guessed it, a Kugel Komponents independent suspension.

Taking home, the AMBR honors for 2023 was the Chisenhall ’32 Ford roadster and the goodies that accompany the title. There was no denying that this year the competition was topflight for the AMBR award as there were multiple cars that could have won, but as the saying goes, “There can be only one Number 1.”

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The Slonaker award is gaining “steam,” signaled this year by the wining ’60 Buick owned by George and Angela Eliacostas and built by Andy Leach and his staff at Cal Automotive Creations. Feature coming to Modern Rodding soon.

Other points of interest in Building 4 were the ’23 T-bucket originally built by Andy Brizio back in 1968 and now owned by his daughter Terri Hollenbeck, the wife of noted hot rod painter Darryl Hollenbeck. Hollenbeck took home the Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Preservation Perpetual Trophy for the T-bucket as well as a class award. This year the GNRS Builder of the Year exhibit honored Mike Filion of Pro Design Hot Rods from Lake Havasu, Arizona.

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Danny Hyde of SoCal was one of the AMBR competitors with his ’36 Ford roadster. The hot rod started life as a ’36 Ford five-window coupe before Hyde went “to town” with his sheetmetal skills fabricating a roadster. Feature coming to Modern Rodding soon.

Moving over to Building 6, it is rapidly becoming the “place to be” with the Al Slonaker Memorial Award now housed in this building. There were 11 competitors for the Slonaker all looking to take home the beautiful perpetual trophy, supplied by ARP along with the $12,500 check to the winner.

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This wild-looking custom ’49 Buick Sedanette belongs to Cody Walls of Traditional Metalcraft. You’ve seen tech stories in the past on the pages of Modern Rodding.

Competing this year were Carl Akins and his ’32 Ford coupe, Bruce McDowell with his ’34 Ford coupe, Thomas Bengtsson and his ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air, longtime hot rodder and multi-award winner in Ken Reister with his ’56 Chevrolet Nomad, Neil Braun and  his ’37 Buick coupe, Danny Schaffer and his ’67 Ford Mustang, Steve Schock with his ’32 Ford coupe, Dennis Kilpatrick and his ’29 Ford coupe, Cody Walls with ’49 Buick Sedanette that readers of Modern Rodding should recognize from previous tech stories, Lori Mabe and the ’34 Plymouth four-door sedan, and George and Angela Eliacostas with their ’60 Buick Invicta.

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Very popular with hot rodders was the ’27 Ford lakes-style roadster built by Jesse Greening of Greening Auto Company with owner Jon Hall. The roadster also took home a pair of AMBR Outstanding Achievement awards for Undercarriage and Engine. Feature coming to Modern Rodding soon.

The Eliacostas’s ’60 Buick took home the Slonaker trophy, and rightly so. It was built at Cal Automotive Creations by the Andy Leach crew. Back in the day this was a beautiful car; our hats are off to congratulate Leach and crew for taking a great-looking car and making it better.

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In the Slonaker competition was the ’32 Ford five-window chopped top coupe belonging to Steve Schock and built by AVS Fabrication. This Deuce took home double Slonaker Outstanding Achievement awards for Paint and Undercarriage.

More excitement could be seen in Building 5 as it was the Custom Room where the handiwork of Gene Winfield and George Barris were on display, along with many other fantastic-looking customs. One could see customs and traditional hot rods with styling from the ’50, ’60s, and ’70s.

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The highboy Muroc roadster belonging to Sandy Chadd was in the thick of it for the AMBR award. Her roadster took home two AMBR Outstanding Achievement awards for Interior and Detail.

Building 10 once again was home to the Suede Palace (the Quonset building leftover from World War II). This has proven to be another show within a show and has for years been a destination for traditional rodders, as always there were traditional rods and customs mixed in with rockabilly bands continually playing music throughout the weekend. Saturday is their special moment as the custom handmade trophies are handed out by different car clubs for their favorites. MR

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This channeled and fenderless ’34 Ford three-window coupe belongs to Bruce and Debra McDowell from San Diego, CA. It is “garage built” and one of the competitors for the Slonaker award.
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Joe Kugel (son of rodding legend Jerry Kugel) of SoCal was on hand with owner-built, Brookville-bodied ’32 Ford roadster competing for the AMBR. The roadster took home an AMBR Outstanding Engineering award.
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Another Slonaker competitor was the ’37 Buick coupe belonging to Patricia and Neil Braun and built by JF Kustoms.
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Another SoCal rodder is Steve Schmidt who was on hand with his full-fendered Muroc roadster competing for the AMBR award. His roadster took home an AMBR Outstanding Paint award.
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This ’32 Ford highboy three-window coupe was another Slonaker competitor. It belongs to Carl Akins and was built at Rick LeFever’s shop with paint by Mick’s Paint. Deuce took home a Slonaker Outstanding Detail award.
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Scott Williams out of Minnesota was on hand with his ’32 Ford highboy roadster to compete for the AMBR trophy. The car was a crowd favorite with a distinctive “McMullen roadster” look.
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Lori Mabe out of NorCal had her beautiful ’34 Plymouth PE on hand to compete for the Slonaker award. It was built at Roseville Rod & Custom. The Plymouth was a double Slonaker Outstanding Achievement award winner taking home Engine and Interior honors.
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The “Arrest Me” red ’32 Ford highboy roadster belonging to Ken and Joan Sapper of SoCal and built at Dominator Street Rods was on hand for the AMBR competition. If the name sounds familiar think of Speedway Engineering … manufacturer of precision-built rearends for race cars but many rodders use their quick-changes for the street.
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Down from Canada is well-known, award-winning builder J.F. Launier competing for the AMBR. He is the owner/builder of this great-looking ’29 Ford roadster on a Deuce chassis with a ’62 Pontiac 409 (Canadian).

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Competing in the Slonaker competition was this ’67 Ford Mustang owned by Danny Schaffer powered by a supercharge Coyote. The Mustang also took home Slonaker Outstanding Engineering award.
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While walking the floor of Building 4 we visited the South City Rod & Custom booth and found the interestingly striped ’34 Ford five-window coupe of Coby Gewertz out of SoCal. Last year this drag racing–influenced coupe was in all metal. For history buffs, think of Wild Bill and the L.A. Dart from the ’60s and imagine this coupe doing a wheelstand … the striping comes more into focus.
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Bruce Meyer (right) presents the Hot Rod Preservation Perpetual Trophy to Terri Hollenbeck (left) for her T-bucket. Just happens to be the one her dad, Andy Brizio, built back in 1970.

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One of hot rodding’s true iconic individuals is Jim “Jake” Jacobs and he was on hand with his latest ride. The original ’28 Ford highboy roadster body sits on a Model A chassis currently running a Chevy four-banger (181 cubes).
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. Out of the garage of Hot Rods & Hobbies is this F56 by Scott Bonowski. Yep, that’s a ’56 Chevy Nomad stuffed with all things Ferrari, such as the motor, complete dash, and workings, as well as the seating. (Look for build stories and feature on the pages of Modern Rodding over the coming year.)
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This ’56 Chevy Bel Air owned by Ron Jones of SoCal competed in the Radical Hardtop/Sedan class. The Chevy features lots of mods, including top chop, ’60 Chrysler taillights, ’65 Rivi headlights, and PPG custom-mix paint sprayed on by Ron.
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In Building 9 the Keep on Truckin’ exhibit featured many great-looking, historic classic trucks, such as this ’79 GMC owned by Dave Simard from the earliest days. Truck features a 6-inch chopped top and is lowered 6 inches.
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Coming in from Enid, OK, is the ’54 Chevy pickup owned by Tom and Barbara Seedorf and built by Harold’s Hot Rod Shop. Truck is a past cover pickup for our sister publication Classic Truck Performance.
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Blazer-turned-pickup is this ’67 owned by Tony Hunter of Georgia. Oh, did we mention that this was Lil’ John Buttera’s handiwork back in the day with a custom chassis … and everything else. Alan Johnson of Johnson’s Hot Rod shop brought the truck back to today’s amazing condition.
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John Callahan was on hand with his homebuilt ’59 Ford F-100 in the Keep on Truckin’ exhibit. Power comes from a supercharged Ford 4.6L V-8 backed to a T56 five-speed, all riding on an AccuAir air management system with Ridetech shocks.
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First in Radical Early Custom is this ’51 Merc belonging to Brian Omatsu of SoCal. Fabrication and finished by Kraftsman Autoworks with Dreamex handling the body prep.
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Kevin and Suzanne of Atwater, CA, were on hand with their chopped-and-channeled ’31 Ford pickup that took home First in Early Altered Street Pickup as well as an Outstanding Detail Sponsored by PPG.
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Roy Landeres of Claremont, CA, brought out his very kool ’40 Lincoln Zephyr and had it on display in the Suede Palace.
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Once again visiting the exhibitor’s booth, such as Old Anvil Speed Shop, we came across this very cool ’69 AMC Hurst SC. Only one of 1,512 made. We know this car and it’s the real deal!
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This ’67 Chevy C10 … truly one of the amazing builds in the Keep on Truckin’ exhibit. Built by Born Vintage Hot Rods with body and paint by Bobby Ybarra and a Ron Mangus interior. Power comes by way of a Magnuson supercharged LSX backed up to a TCI 6x six-speed trans.
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At first, we weren’t sure what booth we were in. We thought it was Alloway’s Hot Rods, but all the cars were white! I guess even Bobby Alloway can appreciate a change of pace. The ’56 Chevy is a former Modern Rodding feature vehicle and the Fairlane in the background is former Street Rodder cover car.
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