With the Grand National Roadster Show rolling around again this January, the annual America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award was in full swing over the weekend. The field of 13 cars was very unique, showcasing everything from high-tech modern street rods to traditional and expertly presented traditional hot rods.
A change in the rules this year meant cars which had competed in years past were allowed to re-enter, doing away with the earlier stipulation that all cars had to ‘debut’ at the AMBR award show. This meant there were four cars vying for a second crack at receiving the 9.5-feet tall trophy.
Here’s a quick run-through of all this year’s contenders:
Maureen Magnuson 1932 Ford Roadster, Magnatude
This 1932 Ford called Magnatude belongs to Maureen Magnuson. It was built by Jerry Magnuson and finished by Chip Foose when it was first entered into AMBR contention in 2010. It was back again this year due to the new rule change, and has done more than 3000 miles since its debut.
It’s powered by a Magnuson-blown LS1 and a Tremec six-speed, and it rolls on one-off Foose 17in and 20in billet wheels. In fact, almost all the metal work is one-off and designed by Chip Foose.
Another cool feature is the Kugel-designed four-wheel independent suspension. This is bolted to a hand-built SAC frame, and the bodywork is all custom and modified.
Phillip Ray 1933 Ford Roadster, Nugget
Phillip Ray was lucky to have another shot this year due to the new rules, and his 1933 Ford looks exactly how it did at AMBR 2011. It was built by American Classic Limited in Auburn, California, with the design handled by Bryan Robeck.
It features an LS2 topped by a Magnuson Supercharger and a 4L65E transmission powering a Ford 9in rear end. It rolls on 17x7in and 18x9in Budnik Wheels.
The interior was done by Finish Line Automotive Interiors in Santa Clarita, California, and the fibreglass body was painted a ‘dirty grey’ by Stockdale’s Hot Rod Paint in Morgan Hill, California.
Jack Stirnemann 1931 Ford Roadster
Jack Stirnemann brought this 1931 Ford from St Louis, Missouri, over for the show. While the body may be a ’31, the chassis and fenders are ’32, so plenty of detailed fabrication work went into making everything match, including a 2in channel at the cowl and 2.5in section of the nose. The rear fenders have been bobbed over 6in.
It’s powered by a ’49 Mercury flathead, C4 auto and Halibrand quick-change rear end, and it rolls on genuine knock-off wheels.
The interior includes original Stewart-Warner instruments. The roadster top is handmade, with a 3in chop to match the shorter ’32 windshield mounted to Model A Ford stanchions.
James Hetfield 1934 Packard Roadster, Aquarius
James Hetfield (yes, the James Hetfield of Metallica) brought this 1934 Packard to play against the Fords. Built by Rick Dore, the roadster has a removable hardtop and is reminiscent of luxurious coach-built vehicles from the 1930s, but with all the modern underpinnings of a high-tech build.
The design is influenced by French coach-builders Figoni and Falaschi, as well as 40s American customs. It features a Duvall-style windshield, enclosed fenders and completely unique bodywork coated in paint by Art Himsl.
It’s powered by an LS1 and six-speed automatic for effortless reliability, while the Art Morrison chassis kisses the ground easily thanks to AccuAir air-ride suspension.
Gary Matranga 1932 Ford Roadster
Gary Matranga’s roadster might be the only car to ever compete in the AMBR three times! It first debuted in 1989, and then again in 1991 after making significant changes to allow re-entry. With the new rule added this year, Gary set out to re-build his 1989 entry, employing the help of Tim’s Hot Rods in Rio Linda, California, to revive the initial car first built by Dennis King.
There’s a blown 1957 Chrysler Hemi 401 at the front of the car; an engine Gary pulled from his own Top Fuel Front Engine Dragster. It features Hilborn four-port EFI, and it’s mated to a 727 Torqueflite and CAE quick-change independent rear end.
The roadster has a bunch of interesting 80s styling cues, including rectangular headlights that can retract into the hood area and aggressive 15x14in American Rebel wheels out back.
Dean Scott 1932 Ford Roadster
Dean Scott’s 1932 Ford is a classic high-boy with a hint of drag-racing inspiration. It was originally purchased by Dick Eaton in the 30s and built into a hot rod in the 60s. It was featured in Street Rodder and Classic & Custom magazines, and was purchased by the Scott family in the 80s.
The body is still original, but the Jaguar running gear was removed after purchase. It sports an injected 1970 Boss 302 and Ford AOD auto ’box, and was built by ASR Performance and Customs in Grass Valley, California.
It has a Winter V8 quick-change rear end and Halibrand wheels. The Interior was trimmed by Mike Miller in Grass Valley, California.
Tom Lieb 1929 Ford Roadster
Tom Lieb got a second chance at glory after his 1929 Ford was first entered in 2010. Tom has owned the car for 58 years, and it has gone through many guises in that time. The 2010 look was constructed by Pete Chapouris and the So-Cal Speed Shop team.
The traditionally-styled car sports a 199hp Ford flathead and aluminium Borg Warner ’box, along with a host of unique and rare parts including ’29 Lincoln air-cleaners and Wills St Clair twin headlights.
The idea behind the build was: ‘what would Henry Ford have built in 1929 for a discerning customer who demanded perfection?’ Jimmy Shine was tasked with taking over the build for the re-entry of the car.
Ron Simms 1931 Ford Roadster Pick-up, Salt Scorpion
Ron Simms’ 1931 Ford roadster-pickup comes from Desert Hills, Arizona, and had an outstanding display to match the Bonneville-inspired build. It had the fabrication help of Skeeter Oderwerdle.
There’s a 375hp big-block Chevy up front mated to a 700R4 ’box and 9in rear. The aircraft seats and large upswept headers fit the racecar theme.
There are details to pick up everywhere, starting with the modified Model 40 grille. The scorpion motif found in various places across the car, as well as the gold pin striping, gives components some extra interest.
Darryl Hollenbeck 1932 Ford Roadster
Darryl Hollenbeck’s 1932 Ford was crowned America’s Most Beautiful Roadster for 2016. Darryl is a Californian local and a highly respected automotive painter. He is the owner of Vintage Colour Studio, and his roadster reflects much of the traditional Californian high-boy style.
The chassis was built by Cory Taulbert at Webb Automotive Art in Michigan. It holds a simple Edelbrock crate small-block Chev mated to a T5 Borg Warner ’box.
Clean, simple and beautifully detailed, the final assembly was handled by Bill Ganahl of South City Rod & Custom. It’s hard to believe it’s been driven more than 10,000 miles since being built, including to the Lone Star Round Up in Austin, Texas!
Chris Evans 1931 Ford Roadster, Blue Bayou
Chris Evans’ Blue Bayou is inspired by the famous mid-50s hot rod The Neuman Special – a car owned and built by Rod & Custom magazine editor Bill Neuman. Chris wanted to recreate the look of his high-school dream car.
Built by Charley’s Garage in Mesa, Arizona, the baby blue 1931 Ford is packing a stinking 1954 Chrysler Hemi 331 up front, featuring aluminium hot heads, an Isky cam, six Stromberg EFI throttle bodies and a bunch of other tricky componentry.
Using the five core principle of design – components, craftsmanship, colour, stance and detail – Chuck and Charles Spencer nailed the design and assembly of this timeless high-boy roadster.
Wes Rawlins 1932 Ford Roadster Pick-up
Wes Rawlins of Charlotte, North Carolina, with the help of Hollywood Hot Rods, managed to stuff a Jon Kaase Boss Nine Shotgun motor into the front of his 1932 Ford roadster-pickup.
The 629hp Hilborn-injected Boss motor and six-speed Tremec are not the only cool parts about this RPU. There are also Eric Black-designed wheels, a unique torsion bar suspension set-up and an early Duvall windscreen that’s had some work done to it.
The paint job was handled by Stephen Cognata at The Paint Shop in Burbank, California, and the interior was trimmed by Mark Lopez out of Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland, California.
Jeff Romig 1936 Ford Roadster, The Long Beach Legend
Hollywood Hot Rods had two entrants at this year’s AMBR, with this 1936 Ford dubbed The Long Beach Legend being an entrant owned by Jeff Romig. The concept was designed by Eric Black and is homage to the concept and styling of the Fords and Lincolns of that era.
There’s a beautifully detailed Lincoln V12 flathead under the bonnet, which was actually shortened 2in but still able to house the long motor.
Other modifications include a complete reshape of the fenders, a leaned grille and a stretched wheelbase thanks to the front wheels being moved forward four inches.
Jon Wright 1936 Ford Roadster, Tribute
Jon Wright’s 1936 Ford was more reminiscent of an early custom style rather than a hot rod-look, but the Squeeg Jerger-fabricated roadster was quite eye-catching with a stretched wheelbase and rear fenders, super low ride height and jet-black paint by Hot Rod Garage in Oklahoma.
The initial design was based on a Dave Bell cartoon drawing and was built as a tribute to Bell, Jon’s dear friend. Jon had originally purchased the roadster body during his childhood and was shocked to find it was the same car he’d owned originally when he purchased it again in 1992. It’s powered by a 351 Windsor coupled to a Ford AOD ’box and 9in rear.