A spotlight on the winner and contenders for the 2017 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster gong


THERE aren’t many shows in the world that can say they’ve been at it for as long as the Grand National Roadster Show. January 2017 saw the 68th year of the show, and the 68th time the honour of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster was awarded. By far the most covetable gong in the American hot rod world, the time-honoured trophy this year went to Bruce Wanta’s 1936 Packard Roadster.

Built by Troy Ladd and the blokes at Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank, California, the Packard dubbed the Mulholland Speedster is the first AMBR winner in quite a few years to stray from the traditional Big Three-manufactured hot rod. The stunning coach-built Packard was designed by eBlack Design alongside the Hollywood Hot Rod team, and the striking Mulholland Merlot paint job was applied by Mick Jenkins from M.G.J. Enterprises. The tasteful tan leather interior was handled by Elegance Auto Interiors and the dash is mostly refurbed Packard pieces.

While what you can easily see from the outside is already top-notch, what’s hidden underneath the Merlot mask is even better. The Speedster is powered by an immaculately detailed 292-cube Lincoln V12 flathead fitted with a Latham supercharger and aluminium Hogan heads, mated to a Borg Warner T5 trans and Winters independent quick-change rear end. This all sits in a custom-made chassis with independent front and rear I-beam suspension and 1/4-elliptical springs. White walls and Packard caps top the styling off for a powerful and striking look. Congrats to Bruce, Troy and the team from Hollywood Hot Rods!

Wayne Johnson’s 1929 Ford Roadster

Named the Proboscis, Wayne’s ’29 Ford was designed and built by A & M Deluxe Customs out of Cornelius, Oregon and cuts a racing-inspired figure with cues such as a track nose and custom knock-off Dayton wire wheels. The final paint, fit and finish was handled by Crossroad Customs from Hillsboro, OR who also fabricated the custom headers.

Hiding under the bonnet is a 420-cube small-block Ford built by Gray’s Racing Engines good for 537hp and 567ft/lbs. It’s mated to a painted and polished 5-speed Tremec ‘box and narrowed 9in Posi rear end. The black and tan interior was stitched by V34 Custom Interiors.

Don and Cathy Lindfors’ 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup

One of two Ford roadster pickups contending for top spot this year belonged to Don and Cathy Lindfors. Dubbed the BOSS 32, it was built by Don and features a Brookville re-pop steel body and rails painted in bright orange by Pete Santini. The tan leather interior was handled by Ron Mangus of Hot Rod Interiors in Rialto, California. Little details include chromework by Redmond Bumpers and subtle silver-leaf pinstriping by Phill Whetstone.

It’s powered by a Boss 351 Cleveland with a race-ready quad-carb injection set up and Edelbrock go-fast bits. The Clevo is mated to a Ford top-loader 4-speed trans and fed to the rears by a Winters quick-change rear end. Perfect for smoking up the fat Coker Tire rear rubber mounted to classic Mickey Thompson E/T 5s.

Bill Grant’s 1928 Ford Roadster

The Muroc Roadster is a pre-war styled contender built by the Stokers Hot Rod Factory in Upland, CA. Owner Bill Grant and the Stokers decided to stick hard to the early hot rod theme using the complete original Model A chassis they already had and turning it into an immaculately detailed version of its former self, all the way down to the chrome mechanical brakes. The mirror-finish black paint was handled by Albert de Alba and the neat leather and fabric cockpit was stitched up by Elegance Auto Interiors, also in Upland.

The pre-war roadster is banger powered, based off a 1932 B-block Ford four-banger fitted with an original Miller overhead conversion kit and twin Stromberg carbs on a Zepher intake. Everything on the car fits the early 40s look, all the way down to the ’35 Ford wire wheels and big ’n’ little Firestone rubber, but if you look closely there are a few killer touches like an uncapped and curved windshield top and nickel-plated engine hardware.

Shawn Killion’s 1928 Lincoln Roadster

Owner and builder Shawn Killion’s entry is based off a ’28 Lincoln roadster, quite similar in styling to the Ford equivalent. It retains the Lincoln dash and running gear including brakes, but is otherwise modified. The sheetmetal has been customised quite a bit from stock at the hands of Lonewolf Customs and the paint and body was done by Scott Laukner and Nick Battaglia at Loose Cannon Customs in Santee, CA.

The Lincoln is styled with some standout touches including chrome Duvall windshield, rare E&J headlights and a flat chrome grille behind the traditional vertical insert. The biggest standout, however, is the stonking Chrysler Fire Power 331-cube Hemi poking out of the engine bay. Offenhauser heads, and Eddie Meyer intake adaptor and a big finned air cleaner atop two Stromberg carbs complete the hi-power hot rod look.

Glen McElroy’s 1937 Ford Roadster

Sitting atop a rotating stand, Glen McElroy’s After Shock roadster made an impressive mark on its audience. Designed by design genius Rick Dore, After Shock is based off a 1937 Ford body but every piece of tinwork has been hacked up and moulded into an elegant body by Luke Delay, son of legendary coach builder Marcel Delay.

It sits on an Art Morris chassis on an Accuair air-ride system to keep it slinky and the chopped windshield and black-trimmed hard top bring the car even lower in stature. The metallic PPG champagne-silver paint was applied by Richie Viez and chromework by Sherm’s Custom Plating in Sacramento, CA set off the elegant Dore styling.

Mathew Gordon’s 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup

The Time Merchant was the second RPU to be in contention for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and Matthew Gordon enlisted the help of eBlack Design to come up with the 60s style look and feel. The ‘32 was built by Goolsby Customs from Hueytown, Alabama to mid-century perfection with immaculate BASF sky blue lacquer and brightwork by Advanced Plating.

The detailed tan leather interior was also designed by Eric Black of eBlack and was handled by M&M Hot Rod Interiors in Holly Pond, AL. Sitting between the Deuce rails is a beautifully detailed Oldsmobile Rocket “88” painted in gold with as much chrome and polish as possible including valve covers, headers and the whole induction set up.

Jim McPherson’s 1934 Ford Phaeton

Jim’s ’34 Phaeton was the only hot rod ‘tub’ entered in the 2017 AMBR race. Jim hails from Nashville, Tennessee and styled his Phaeton with some race-inspired touches including gold knock-off wheels and a bright red chassis hiding underneath the full fendered black body.

It’s powered by a small-block Chev with vintage sprint car Barnes heads and quad-carb injection. Al Barnes developed the heads for sprint cars in the late 60s and was quite successful, utilising a flatter valve angle and smaller combustion chamber to minimise damage to the piston in the normally-high compression sprint car field.

James Hetfield’s 1932 Ford Roadster

After entering his jaw-dropping ’34 Packard roadster in last year’s AMBR field, Metallica frontman James Hetfield was back this year with a very different car. Dubbed Blackjack, the ’32 Ford was a traditionally-styled hi-boy built by Mills & Co out of Marietta, CA. It’s all original Henry steel and features a removable padded Carson top, customised splash aprons, side panels and frame horns and was painted in custom black ‘Molasses’ by Keith Arnold.

In keeping with the traditional styling, Blackjack is still on a 6-volt system and features period-correct mods like dropped front heavy axle, Columbia overdrive and a ’39 Ford tranny stuffed with Lincoln Zephyr gears. The neat-looking flathead mill is a 296-cube 59L Ford V8 with Osiecki Racing heads, Edelbrock intake, Winfield SU1A cam and Harman & Collins magneto. It’s all an ideal picture of an early high-end Southern Californian hot rod.

Matt Taylor’s 1927 Dodge Roadster

The radical 60s style Fools Goldster is Matt Taylor’s ’27 Dodge. It was built by Taylor Made Kustoms – Matt’s own business and the radical body is channelled 4in over the chassis and features hand-formed rear fins and beaver panel, quad tailpipes and a handmade grille shell. Much of the bodywork was done by Brian Jennings with Brett Jennings helping out on drivetrain and paint. Legendary custom painter Art Himsl also contributed to the radical fade paint job.

The classic white tuck ’n’ roll interior and gold piping was handled by Divine Interiors and includes an insert for the firewall and the cabin includes a unique steering wheel Frankensteined from a ’60 Dodge Polara and a period speedboat. It’s powered by a 350-cube Chevy small-block mated to a ’64 Powerglide and rolls on classic white-white Coker rubber and 15in steelies.

Dan Peterson’s 1932 Ford Roadster

Dan Peterson’s deuce roadster, named The Hill Country Flyer, was built by Austin Speed Shop in keeping with a restrained, traditionally styled look. The Brookville body was painted by Customs by Gary Howard after getting a once over by Kail Withers and the Speed Shop team.

Eric Black of eBlack Design rendered a concept for the interior and this was a large motivating factor in the team getting the car ready and up to AMBR spec. The classic upholstery work was done by Cato’s Custom Upholstery in Troy, TX. The Hill Country Flyer is powered by a ‘Roach’ Cockrell-built Chrysler Fire Power 331-cube Hemi feeding a Winters quick-change rear end and it rolls on killer Halibrand solid wheels and Firestone rubber.

Gordon Gray’s 1932 Ford Roadster

Canadians Gordon and Carolina Gray brought their hi-boy deuce roadster all the way from Surrey, British Columbia for 2017 AMBR contention. Its a Brookville body with paint and metalwork done by STR. It sits on a Squeak Bell (Kiwi Konnection) chassis with a Pete & Jake front end

The Navarro-equipped flathead Ford V8 was built by H&H Flatheads to a neat, traditional spec including a triple Stromberg carb setup, mated to a Borg Warner T5 trans and a Winters quick-change rear end. The Inside Edge-trimmed interior is styled with black vinyl and pressed and riveted sheet metal for an aircraft look.

Scott Hawley’s 1932 Ford Roadster

Another traditionally-styled hi-boy was Scott Hawley’s Back In Forty-Seven deuce. It’s a steel ’32 body painted in Washington blue with colour-matched steel wheels built by Glenn Begor. It sits on a So Cal Speedshop chassis with chromed running gear including axle, hairpins and brakes. The tan interior and black top were stitched up by Sid Chavers Interiors.

It’s powered by a dressed-up 383-cube Chevy in red with Edelbrock running gear, mated to a Borg Warner T10 4-speed and spins the tyres at the business end with a Posi 9in rear end. Scott and co-owner Joe Rebozzi enlisted the help of some big industry names along the way including Roy Brizio and Darryl Hollenbeck.