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						Truly Grand A10

Truly Grand

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

The one constant about the Grand National Roadster Show is change. First held in 1950, GNRS is the longest running custom car show in the U.S. No wonder, then, that it’s been called “The Grand Daddy of Them All.” But even an old dog can learn new tricks, as evidenced by a shift in the type of cars taking home trophies. Before digging into those details, a bit of background.

GNRS wasn’t always known by that name, as it was called the Oakland Roadster Show for the first five decades or so, since it took place in its namesake NorCal city. For the last 14 years, though, it’s been based in SoCal at the Pomona Fairplex, the home of the NHRA Museum. Featuring more than 1,000 of the nation’s hottest custom vehicles, the cars include every imaginable category: customs, restorations, race cars, trucks, suede vehicles, hot rods, muscle cars and street machines.

The centerpiece of the show is the intense competition for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR), a highly coveted award for the best open rod in the country, a trophy that owners and builders dream of winning. Just looking at the cars vying for the crown, it was easy to see that all of the competitors had put forth a maximum effort, and also have adjusted to changing tastes in style and execution.

As a prime case in point, this year the massive 9.5-foot-tall AMBR trophy (along with $10,000 in prize money — a mere fraction of what was spent on the build) went to the Mulholland Speedster, a 1936 Packard Roadster built by Troy Ladd and owned by Bruce Wanta. Swarmed by onlookers, it was an obvious favorite throughout the event for its exacting workmanship and flowing form. Not only that, it represents a dramatic departure from the street rods that typically win.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since the AMBR award has always recognized remarkable innovation, and builders continually find new ways to put a fresh spin on classic vehicles. As John Buck, owner of Rod Shows and producer of the Grand National Roadster Show observed, “Troy Ladd brought one of the most spectacular and highly detailed roadsters we have seen to date. Throughout the event the crowd around this car was immense and it was the talk of the show.”

But there were still plenty of nods to old-school rides. Debuting this year at GNRS as well was the Pete Chapouris Memorial Award, presented by Vintage Air. This new trophy honors the style and customs of traditional hot rodding, and Matt Gordon’s 1932 Ford Roadster was the winner. So obviously there’s something for everybody at GNRS, which is all part of its enduring appeal.

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