This past weekend was the 65th annual Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) and it proved to be one of the largest and most memorable yet. With the feature exhibit this year being the “Century of Speed” celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Bonneville, high profile show cars to be debuted, a live charity pin striping auction, new Americas Most Beautiful Roadster Contestants (AMBR) and a forecast for perfect SoCal weather, we knew it was gonna be good. I decided to skip town and get out of the record cold temps in Eastwood-Country to check out the show.
The schedule for the GNRS is pretty packed and setup begins mid-week for the weekend event. During this time all of the “feature” cars that are parked indoors find their spots, and the early parts of judging for AMBR begin. This year didn’t start out as well as past years when one of the contenders for AMBR had a stuck throttle during judging and crashed through the entrance to the building, injuring a judge. Hot Rod Magazine was one of the first to report on the unfortunate event and you can read more HERE. We’re just glad all of those involved weren’t critically injured!
Despite the unfortunate accident, the show setup continued and the doors opened Friday afternoon to a sizable crowd. The first day of the show is just for the feature cars inside the buildings before the entire outdoor section of the Pomona Fairgrounds are filled with classic cars in the “cruise in”.
I decided to start with one of my favorite buildings, the Suede Palace. The Suede Palace is where everything cool and custom happens at the GNRS. You’ll notice in this building the theme is flat and satin paint, flake, and slammed to the ground. It’s no secret I like lowered cars and trucks so I was right at home with this crowd. This is the place to be if you’re into the SOCAL hot rod and Kustom “culture” Saturday and Sunday with rockabilly and surf rock bands playing throughout the show.
A must-see building is the one that houses the AMBR contenders. This building proves to have some of the highest quality cars in the show. Even if you’re not competing for the AMBR just to exhibit or show a car in this building is an accomplishment. The class of contenders for AMBR this year was amazing and some familiar builders and names were in the running. We were happy to see that “Blue Steel” and the builders made it to the show. Checkout our video feature from SEMA on the car HERE.
Another buzzworthy car debuting in this building was the newest car built for Metallica Frontman James Hetfield called “Black Pearl”. This hand shaped Marcel bodied car was finally debuted in its “finished” state. The car is the epitome of a coach built radical custom. Even if you don’t agree with the color scheme (I felt chrome trim would have gone better) or aren’t into radical customs, there was just something undeniably sexy about this car. I’m glad to see this car in paint and its finished state. I can’t imagine what it cost to build, I just hope James drives it once in a while!
The rest of the buildings each had their share of “themes” with something for everyone. I for one was excited to check out the crop of high-end lowriders that make their way into the show. Again, even if lowriders aren’t your thing, few cars beat the attention to detail and paint finish these cars have. I hope an entire building is dedicated to them one of these years!
Finally the feature exhibit building was the Century of Speed. Before I laid eyes on the cars inside, my sense of smell told me we were in the right spot. The Century of Speed smelled of race fuel and vintage speed and I quickly made my way through the building looking at some of the biggest legends in Bonneville history. I was really excited to see some of the cars that were pulled out JUST for this event. One of my personal favorites was the Williams Bros Bonneville Roadster that was built and raced in 1954 setting a speed record, then put away in the corner of their shop UNTOUCHED until it was pulled out for this show. Everything was “as raced” even down to the nuts and bolts. This thing was like stepping back in time and a real treat to see in person.
Saturday is the largest day of the show with the cruise-in filling the grounds with over 500 cars.This is the best day to check the show out and get the full experience. I love wandering the cruise-in, as every corner you turn is another crop of nice cars, divided by car club. Don’t be fooled, the cars parked “outside” aren’t low quality “junkrods”. Many of the cruise-in cars are as nice as the stuff inside. Enthusiasts and car builders alike choose to park outside to avoid the stress involved with competing indoors. Instead they spent time relaxing and enjoying the show with friends. I can’t blame them with how nice the weather was outside to be honest!
Sunday evening is when the awards for show cars are handed out. Some of the larger car clubs will give awards to their favorite cars in the Suede Palace and outside. The big-award that everyone waits for is the announcement of Americas Most Beautiful Roadster. This award is the grand daddy of them all (like the tagline for the show says) and it makes even the Stanley Cup feel small and meaningless! The judging was tight, but in the end the winner was Wes Rydell’s 1935 Chevy Phaeton. This beautiful roadster was built by Rad Rides by Troy and designed by Chip Foose. When you put names like that together you can be sure something beautiful will come out and this year it was the AMBR winner. Congrats to everyone involved in the process of putting the car together as well as ALL of the AMBR contestants!
With the show over I made my way back to the east coast and was met with snow and bitter cold weather more inspired than ever to work on my own project vehicles! I want to thank all of my friends on the west coast that said hello, showed me around their car, or let me visit their shop before and after the show. I can’t wait to come back the GNRS next year, maybe one of these days I’ll drive one of my own vehicles out!