By Brian Brennan – Photography By the Author & John Gilbert – Videography By Ryan Foss
Each year, February is the time to visit the Pomona Fairplex in SoCal for the annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) Presented by Meguiar’s. The 74th annual show this year gave hot rodders all they could wish for, with 450 cars under the roof competing for such awards as the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) trophy and the Al Slonaker Memorial Award, along with many other prizes and awards.
- Advertisement -
The show focuses on these two significant awards representing the pinnacle of building within our hobby, but there is much more to the tune of 500 individual awards. Both major winners received smaller versions of the perpetual trophies with their names engraved. The iconic 9-foot AMBR trophy has been around since 1950, and the Slonaker Award, which began in 1974, was substantially upgraded in 2020 to a custom billet trophy by its current sponsor, ARP. ARP is also the sponsor of the AMBR, and along with trophies, plagues, jackets, and the like, ARP presents a $12,500 check to each of the winning owners.
Outside is the increasingly popular 18th Annual Grand Daddy Drive-In sponsored by Modern Rodding, Classic Truck Performance, and All Chevy Performance, brands of In The Garage Media, Inc. This event on Friday and Saturday featured an additional 850 hot rods of all styles of cars and trucks. Sunday was hampered outside by the threat of rain, but the wet stuff held off until dinnertime, allowing for an additional day of hot rod viewing. Both inside and outside there were 250 vendors with a walk-in gate of some 30,000 spectators, making this one of the more successful GNRS events.
- Advertisement -
One of the most popular displays appeared in Building 9 where “Street Machines: Then & Now” was full of Pro Street, Pro Touring Mustangs, Camaros, Chevelles, Novas, Fairlanes, Falcons, Cudas, and others. Modern Rodding and All Chevy Performance sponsored it. The always-popular and evolving “Suede Palace” was once again filled with lots to see. Located in the World War II Quonset-style building, that old-timey feel is abundant. Once again, the “Pinstriper Charity Fundraiser” was in full swing, raising $56,000 for Teen Challenge of Southern California.
Another noteworthy event at the GNRS was the three-day challenge of transforming a stock ’69 Camaro into a Pro Touring monster initially designed by Sean Smith. The crew from Orange County Hot Rods took the low-mileage, family owned first-gen Camaro and worked their magical transformation.
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that Cambra Speed Shop of Orange, California, was the 2024 GNRS Builder of the Year. A unique display recognized the local speed shop that has turned out some great-looking hot rods. Several were displayed in their booth, such as early- and later-style Novas.
- Advertisement -
Hall of Fame Induction
On Friday night was the annual Hall of Fame dinner, which began in 1960 and is currently sponsored by the Petersen Automotive Museum, NHRA Motorsports Museum, and the Lions Automobilia Foundation and Museum. It was big. It always is. As you can see, the people who make a difference in our hot rod world are recognized for their lifelong efforts.
This year, Mooneyes president Chico Kodama; lifelong enthusiast and behind-the-scenes influencer Terri Brizio-Hollenbeck; hot rod builder, journalist, and one of the founders of Pete & Jake’s Hot Rod Parts, Jim “Jake” Jacobs; along with the always-present and multi-talented builder Pete Eastwood, were all recognized as part of the Class of 2024.
AMBR-Winning ’32 Ford Phaeton
Beth Myers took home the AMBR trophy, winner’s jacket, and a check from ARP for $12,500 for her channeled ’32 Ford phaeton based on a Brookville Roadster body built at Roy Brizio Street Rods. It features a beautiful black paintjob from Vintage Color Studio with Art Himsl flames and Eric Reyes pinstriping–how’s that for bringing out the masters? (“For the rest of the story,” stay tuned to Modern Rodding as we work on the final in-depth feature for an upcoming issue.)
Slonaker-Winning ’59 Chevy Impala
Named “Bespoke,” the ’59 Chevy Impala belonging to David Rush and built at Steve Cook Creations was awarded the Al Slonaker Memorial Award with a $12,500 check from ARP. It rests on a Roadster Shop chassis and is powered by a Don Hardy–built 518-inch LS3. Along with this recognition, look for this beauty in Modern Rodding in the future.
Well, there you have it: a quick look at this year’s Grand National Roadster Show and some of what it has to offer. Make sure to follow along; we will feature a handful of the cars from the show in upcoming car features. Also, there will be videos with the builders on four AMBR competitors. MR