My Car Quest

April 24, 2024

The Grand National Roadster Show

The Grand National Roadster Show, held in Pomona, CA, is now in its 73rd year. Previously known as the Oakland Roadster Show, it is the longest running indoor car show in the world.

Text and Photos by Wallace Wyss –

I grew up in Michigan and I saw hot rods there, on occasion, but here I am many decades later at a hot rod meet that is like my distant memories made into a Hollywood production. Hundreds of cars, some with workmanship that I’ve only seen from automakers on a concept car to be seen by millions.

The fairgrounds in Pomona, California covers many acres but basically there’s at least six big buildings which are big enough to be airplane hangers, and those were stuffed with cars, plus hundreds outside.

A pure hot rod, chopped top Merc, rear skirts nicely fitted

A pure hot rod, chopped top Mercury, rear skirts nicely fitted

My general impression was that it’s not quite like stepping back into the ’50’s, no “angel hair” wisping around the cars. Not so many parked at crazy angles to show you their air bag suspensions. A very tasteful note was Mustangs and other muscle cars “redone” the way the automaker should have done them–bodies made seamless, much of the rear underside hogged out for wider wheels and tires, the interiors redone. Once you see this done to, say, a 1968 Mustang, you see it could have been a contemporary car if only they had kept the design (a good argument for Elon Musk keeping the same design in production for over a decade with only subtle changes).

This gold '32 was almost the essence of hot rod

This gold ’32 was almost the essence of hot rod

There were a few rough cars–rust covered (but not pitted), unpainted, raw metal showing, but that was more of a look-at-what-I-found-in-the-barn thing, vastly outnumbered by cars that had thousands of hours and maybe hundreds of thousands poured into them.

I met two or three fine artists doing paintings of the cars, one painting priced at $1,200 (for an original, the print of it on canvas was under $300).

Another low rider Merc, I haven't ever seen workmanship this good except on concept cars

Another low rider Merc, I haven’t ever seen workmanship this good except on concept cars

I can see someone not into rods asking “Why would someone spend $100,000 or more modifying a car that doesn’t look any better than what the automakers brought?” Well, if you look upon the owner as an artist then he saw the car only as raw material for a statement he wants to make in metal. He (or she) is merely choosing metal as the sculpting material.

I also saw things I didn’t expect to see. One man from a shop called Marcel’s had a ground-up sports car which had a body similar to a ’50s Ferrari that had the workmanship of an early ’50s Ferrari. That car–which took him three years to build–by all rights should be at The Quail (I’ll even contact the Quail and tell them why…).

The crowd was mature to say the least, not all grey bearded, but I was wondering age-wise where this hobby of hot rodding is going? Ironically there was one group that seemed larger than before–VW air cooled beetles of every year from the ’50s were there, one a VW Thing with a huge Porsche 911-based six-cylinder for power.

The Beetles have become the hot rod for a generation that grew up in the Sixties, where the guys who grew up in the Fifties still could find Model A Fords for $50 (I know I turned one down at that price around 1960).

Pin stripes

Pin striping –ah there’ an art that I thought lost forever

Not all had great workmanship, this Chevy Nomad into a targa was one example but Chevy would have sold a million of them

Not all had great workmanship, this Chevy Nomad into a targa was one example but Chevy would have sold a million of them

For a sport car aficionado like me, a hot rod show is singing the wrong song, but hey, I grew up to the sound of rock & roll (I remember before rock and roll in fact) this is vaguely familiar. But it almost seems out of place in 2023, when we as a country are working on flying to Mars, and here’s guys still wondering “How do I get those Moon hubcaps” for my ’57 Chevy?”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR Wallace Wyss is the co-host of Autotalk, a radio show on cars broadcast each week from KUCR FM radio in Riverside, CA

 
 
 
 
 

Truck

Yes, even work trucks are customized– looks like it should be a character in a Disney movie

This one guy had a cutie pie painted on the back of his car along with the pinstriping. A guy in his '70s, he  told me she still calls. wants to get back together--maybe he's the only beau who memorialized her on his trunklid...hey, I see nothing but true love.

This one guy had a cutie pie painted on the back of his car along with the pinstriping. A guy in his ’70s, he told me she still calls, wants to get back together–maybe he’s the only beau who memorialized her on his trunk lid…hey, I see nothing but true love.

Lola

A Lola T70. What was it doing there at a hot rod show? Well it has an American made engine and hot rodders know engines…

Rusty Rod

It’s good they show some where the work hasn’t started. Then you can imagine where you would go from there…

Summary
The Grand National Roadster Show
Article Name
The Grand National Roadster Show
Description
The fairgrounds in Pomona, California covers many acres but there's at least six big buildings which are big enough to be airplane hangers, and those were stuffed with cars, plus hundreds outside at the Grand National Roadster Show.
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Comments

  1. Fred Johansen says

    It was epic this year. It seems to improve every year. Lots of talent & crafstmanship. I do miss the Oakland venue though.

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