Picking our top 15 raddest rides from the Grand National Roadster Show in California


WHILE the Grand National Roadster Show held each January in Pomona, California is home to one of the most revered trophies in the States – America’s Most Beautiful Roadster – it also plays host to hundreds of other cars on display competing for tinware in all kinds of categories. Nostalgia drag cars, radical customs, survivor hot rods, you name it, it’s all there at the show and with over 650 cars in six massive halls and 40,000 pairs of punters’ feet pounding the pavement, there was plenty more to see than just the 13 top contenders for the AMBR trophy in the main hall. Here’s our pick of 15 of the coolest cars at this year’s show:

Dalton Walker’s Big Orange

One of the wildest standouts was Dalton Walker’s Big Orange Triumph hauler. A radically customised 1923 C-Cab hot rod, it was built to carry his killer ’51 Trumpy and has since raised the bar at the Born Free motorcycle show. It’s powered by a small-block Chev with a half-dozen carbies sticking out the top and super-long polished sidepipes. It’s details galore on Big Orange, including brakeless front wheels that match his chopper, custom tube axle front end, and tiny flourishes that tie the bike and hauler together. Dalton built the car out of SK Motorcycles in Hanford, CA.

Ed Roth’s 1956 Ford Shop Truck

Famous freak and fink drawer Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth first customised this ’56 F-100 in the late 50s before selling it to a Californian hot rodder that painted it green and used it as a farm truck. Galpin Motors prez, Beau Boeckmann, managed to recently purchase it this year and along with the Galpin team started the process of restoring it to Roth’s former version. Dave Shuten was responsible for most of the heavy restoration work, with Hotdog handling the pinstriping and lettering. A custom airbrushed tonneau cover was created by Von Franco, and lowbrow art god Robert Williams painted the custom dash.

John and Don Coleman’s 1932 Ford Coupe

This deuce coupe was an awe-inspiring time capsule and it’s history goes as such: It was bought stock from a Fresno used car lot in 1950 by the previous owner at the age of 16. It was his first car and was hot rodded piece by piece and was driven until 1967 when it was parked for good. In the late 70s it was moved to a ranch in Central California and left untouched in a shed until John and Don Coleman purchased the car in September last year. It has since been left as is, with its near 70-year hot rod history. Awesome!

Fred Steele’s 1928 Ford Tudor

Marcus Edell of Castro Valley, CA is the current custodian of Fred Steele’s Tudor. Steele was a prominent East coast hot rodder and founder of the Ty-Rods Car Club. The car was first built starting in 1949 and heavily inspired by Art Chrisman’s chopped Tudor. It’s powered by a ’58 283-cube Chevy small block still running strong since new and mated to a ’39 Lincoln Zephyr trans and Columbia two-speed overdrive rear end. The awesome period-specific purple is a custom blend of Ford and Dodge tints and the white tuck ’n’ roll interior was done in Tijuana, Mexico for the grand total of $107.

Bill Traquair’s Mod Rod

Canadian Bill Traquair built the radical 1915 Model T Mod Rod in 1968 with nothing more than a gas welder, a power drill and some hand tools. The resulting masterpiece, with a tilting body, 289-cube Ford donk, C4 auto and Jag rear end, collected awards across North America for years, including Best Engineering and Paint at Vancouver Motorama 1973 and Best Paint and First In Class at the Portland Roadster Show in 1972. It spent the next 40-odd years floating around garages on Vancouver Island before Bill’s son Shane Traquair tracked it down managed to put it back in the family’s name. With a team of some of its original builders (some well into their 80s), it has been restored to the exact condition it was in at the Oakland Roadster show in 1972 – the same show that has now become the Grand National Roadster Show.

Richard Gregg’s Capri

The Capri was originally built by Richard Gregg in 1959 and debuted at the 10th National Roadster Show in Oakland that year. It’s a 5in sectioned 1950 Ford sedan body formed into a beautiful custom ute with a 5in roof chop and custom bodywork all ‘round. It was originally painted in Copperlust with Sunburst panel paint by Dick Katayanagi and was named a Top 10 custom of 1959. Current owner Tony Gomes found the car 6 months ago in a barn in San Ramon, CA where it had sat for over 40 years. It’s now in the process of being rebuilt from bare metal.

Daniel Nelson’s Henry Jaded

One of the coolest new rides in the Galpin Auto Sports stable is Daniel Nelson’s Kaiser Henry J, named Henry Jaded. It was built by Dave Shuten of GAS and features radical custom panel House Of Kolor paintwork with striping, leafing and lettering done by Hotdog. It’s a throwback to the radical era of showy drag cars with the muscle to suit – a 600-cube big-block Chev is hiding in a full tube chassis under the blue duco. Rumor is it might make an appearance at this year’s Hot Rod Drag Week.

Beau Boeckmann’s Pink Panther

Jay Ohrberg, known as the builder of the signature cars from Back To The Future and Knight Rider, constructed this insane Panthermobile for the 1960s animated Pink Panther series with design help from Ed Newton and Bob Riesner. After the show ended in the 70s, it was sold to an Englishman and spent over 40 years across the pond before Galpin purchased it and put in five years restoring it to its 60s form. Under the new ownership of Galpin prez Beau Boeckmann, Dave Shuten handled the restoration and the luscious pink shag interior was completed by Joe Perez. And yeah, it’s a complete driver thanks to the Oldsmobile Toronado V8 and three-speed auto.

Dan Wathor’s 1937 Ford Coupe

Kenny’s Rod Shop in Boise, Idaho was responsible for building this mean looking ’37 Ford coupe for Californian owner Dan Wathor. It’s an all-steel body with subtle modifications including curved glass and a sloped nose to create the ideal design for a ’37 Dan had in mind. It’s powered by a beautifully detailed Ford 427 Stroker with Arias Hemi heads, custom fabbed EFI manifold and beefy C4 trans. It hugs the ground thanks to air ride fitted to its full round-tube cro-mo chassis.

Bruce Leven’s GT-51

Wicked Fabrication in Auburn, Washington brought Bruce Leven’s concept to life with the 1951 Ford GT-51 coupe. The body was sectioned in a wedge (more in the front than the rear) and the roof was chopped and flattened to give it an aggressive race look. Byers Custom finished the car in a subtle grey and the interior is aircraft-inspired with exposed pressed and riveted metal along with distressed tan leather accents. It sits on an Art Morrison chassis with IRS and race-spec suspension. It hauls arse thanks to a Hillborn-injected 368-cube Lincoln mill and T5 trans. Those real magnesium knock-off wheels are a killer final touch.

Gene Winfield’s Reactor

Gene Winfield’s radical custom named The Reactor has had cameos in a number of hit 60s shows and movies including Bewitched, Star Trek and Batman. It’s a full custom aluminium body designed by Ben Delphia originally for Connecticut show promoter Joe Kizis in the early 60s. It has the hydraulic suspension set up from a ’56 Citroen DS and an air-cooled flat-six Corvair engine with four-wheel drive. The finned and wedge-like body also has electric doors, an electric bonnet opener and hidden underneath are inboard disc brakes. After changing guises for all its screen time, Gene finally restored it to the original green and gold metalflake version in 1999.

The California Kid

Pete Chapouris passed away last year, but one of his most well-known creations was on display in his memory – The California Kid. One of the most widely recognised hot rods in the world, the ’34 Ford coupe starred in its own movie The California Kid (1974) and was instrumental in the wave of nostalgic and traditional hot rods in the decades that soon followed. Pete had no idea it would become a movie star when he purchased it for $250 in 1973, with the top already chopped, but it was picked up as the hero car for the movie after being spotted on the cover of Rod and Custom Magazine, Nov 1973. The Manuel Reyes flame paint job is now synonymous with popular hot rodding culture for generations of enthusiasts. The coupe has racked up over 90,000 miles in its lifetime but shows no signs of aging thanks to owner Jason Slover who received the car with the purchase of the Pete And Jake’s hot rod parts business.

Horace Davi’s Shampoo Truck

The Shampoo Truck was built by Joe Bailor in the early 50s for Horace Davi and was dubbed America’s Coolest Pickup on the cover of Car Speed And Style 1955. After being discovered as a rough survivor in the early 90s, it was offered for sale in 2009 and Bob Dron is the current custodian, who undertook this massive restoration. The ute-styled custom was originally built from a wrecked ’49 Ford convertible with huge body mods including 3in roof chop and 5in body channel. The tailgate is all handmade and frenched headlights, custom grille pieces and reshaped wheel arches give the Shampoo Truck its distinctive style. It’s powered by a Caddy motor and the majority of the resto work was handled by Nickell’s Customs in Lodi, CA and Kandy Man Ramirez in Stockton, CA.

Dave and Deana Thomas’ 1935 Chevy Coupe

Cody Walls of Traditional Metalcraft in Milton, Delaware received huge attention after finishing his custom two-tone green, straight six-powered ’59 Chevy wagon a few years ago which has recently landed on Aussie shores with its new Canberra owner. One of his latest achievements is this stunning 1935 Chevy coupe, built for Dave and Deana Thomas. It’s powered by an immaculate Corvette small-block mill screwed together by Davis Race Engines and the beautiful paint colour was laid on by Richard and Brandon Glymph. Their work was enough to earn the car an Outstanding Paint award at the show, alongside a Second In Class.

Josh Hodges’ 1969 Chevy Camaro

HED Industries Speed Shop hail from Bakersfield, CA and have put together this absolute beast of a ’69 Camaro, dubbed Calling Card, for locals Josh and Tamara Hodges. The body’s been widened 5in, suspension jammed 2.5in further up into the car to bring the whole profile lower without sacrificing travel or ride quality and HED say there’s only about 10% of the car they haven’t taken a knife to. It has a killer interior by Ron Mangus and is set off by giant Forgeline CV3C rims in 18in and 19in but the real gem is the ERL-built 441-cube LS7 donk. It’s fitted with a Magnusson Heartbeat blower, custom headers to a 3in Magnaflow system, tuning by Cal Speed and Performance, and its mated to a Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed. Tough as!