48th Annual Los Angeles Roadsters Show & Swap
Story by Richard Parks,
Photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.
The 2012 L. A. Roadsters Car Show and Swap Meet is in the books. Just like last year the club put on and ran another fine car show and swap meet. It traditionally is one of the best shows in the country and people from all over the world make plans to attend this outstanding event. The club rents a considerable amount of space in the parking lot, around the horse racing track and in building 4 in the Los Angeles County Fairplex. Building 4 is a huge building that houses many of the sponsors, vendors and booths for other car clubs. All around the building, almost down to the Convention Center are spots for roadster owners to bring their cars and show off. Here’s how the L. A. Roadsters club organizes this event; the swap meet is in the parking lot, the roadsters are parked around the buildings, and the specialty cars have their own area. It is a two day, week-end event that takes a good two days to see everything. Roger and I went on Friday during the set-up time so that we could get the best photographs before throngs of people arrived. The show attracted over 800 roadsters and a large number of specialty cars of all types, but it is the roadsters that make this show what it is. Roadsters are given free admission and a place to park. The driver is given a two day free pass that entitles him to a gift bag, a free pewter mug and a barbecue on the hill on Saturday. A passenger pays $20 and that covers his or her admission and the barbecue. It’s a great deal and each year this event attracts the best roadsters in the country.
The swap meet is also a rite of passage. It is inexpensive to rent a spot and it is first come, first served. To allow the swap meet venders to enter in an orderly manner the club staffs the three entrances with plenty of volunteers and makes the sellers wait in about seven orderly lines. The club members don’t fool around as I found out. You stay in that line or else. So I set off walking past the long lines of cars, across the empty parking lot, past the trucks and rigs and the horse track. The big trucks containing the sponsors are given special treatment since it is quite a feat to move in and then out in a short space of time without blocking traffic and I saw no blockages or traffic jams. It was a very smooth operation, but then the L. A. Roadsters Club has been doing this for 48 years now.
I walked on past the big rigs as they unloaded their products and came to Building 4 where I met Jack Stewart and his good friend Sally Bowen. Jack is a gentleman and always ready to help. You can always expect the most courteous welcome from Sally and Jack. Jack also co-wrote the book L.A. Roadsters with Dick Wells and it is still on sale. Jack had a huge amount of the Roy Richter books but they are no longer available. He has a few cases of The Fast Lane, which I have reviewed for www.hotrodhotline.com. Jack has recovered from his throat cancer and is in charge of press releases for the club. He was inducted into the West Coast Kustoms Hall of Fame this year in Santa Maria, California. Another thing that I did not know is that he was in the National Guard in Lynwood, California, in an anti-aircraft unit with my uncle Kenny Parks from 1947 through 1955.
Here’s a tip, when you see a vendor or swap meet seller try and strike up a conversation. Often you will find out a lot of information about the show and that you have common interests. I learn a great deal from the vendors. Just be careful not to start a conversation when they have customers, because they have to sell in order to pay for the costs of being at the show. Now if you have a product that you would like to sell then the L. A. Roadsters Show might be right for you. The booths can range from $40 all the way up to $275 for a space that is ten by ten feet. It all depends upon whether you want to be indoors or outdoors or out in the swap meet area. Since there are about 12,000 spectators who come to the show and they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t like cars, then you have a large audience to sell to. But some of the vendors and sponsors are simply there to promote their product and to support the L. A. Roadsters club. The vendors and sponsors enjoy being at the car show and swap meet. It is as fun to be there and meet old friends as it is to promote their products or make sales. They are there to talk to you and to gain your loyalty as a potential customer. I did meet a few grouches, but be patient with them and they will open up too.
Some of the bigger sponsors are the Grand National Roadster Show, Meguiar’s, Street Rodder magazine, Bob Drake Reproductions, Brookville Roadsters and J&B Car Care Products (Justice Brothers). These sponsors not only support the L. A. Roadsters Club but many other car shows, reunions, racing leagues and car events. These sponsors always make you feel welcome and I enjoy talking to them and you will too. I noticed some of the rigs and trucks; B&M, Flowmaster, Scott’s Hot Rod & Customs, Barry’s Speed Shop, Edelbrock, Coker Tires, Ironworks, and Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop. Joe Mitchell drove by in his cart and Jack introduced me to him. Joe is the co-Show Chairman and a lot of duties are delegated to him. Inside building 4 at the Justice Brothers booth I came across a great looking ’40 V-8 Ford coupe with the #22 on the side. It was a stock car that raced in the south and was built by Red Vogt and first owned by Parks’ Novelty Machine Company of Atlanta, Georgia. There was no one around at that time to tell me the history of the car, but it was one of Ed Justice’s Senior’s favorite cars. One of the busier vendors is ‘Remember Then’ metal signs. The owner has a wide variety of metal signs made to look old and worn, but actually mass produced. They run about $15 and because they are inexpensive the owner remarked to my question about the recession with, “Business for me has always been great,” he said gruffly.
Bob McCoy was at his favorite booth towards the back of building 4. Bob has been an oval track racer, rodeo contestant and car racing artist. Lynn McCoy, Bob’s wife, wrote the book Circle of Impact to portray his fascinating life. The writing is crisp and the photographs and artwork are excellent. It is reasonably priced and Bob and Lynn will autograph the book for you. Parnelli Jones wrote the Foreword and there is a review of the book at www.hotrodhotline.com/bookreviews. Besides McCoy’s oils, pen and ink and other painting styles, he is also very adept at working on metal. He makes his own metal cutouts and has them powdercoated and enameled. Two metal sculptures on display were a model plane and hot rod, both over two feet long with movable parts. He is a master at design and sometimes his metal work merges with his canvas paintings to form an interesting and innovative art genre all of his own. McCoy also sells original paintings and numbered prints of his work. He does his own matting and framing and if you ask him he will paint you and your car into one of his masterpieces. He has both humorous and serious auto art-work for sale. He was busy setting up and so I moved on. Today was not the day for getting great interviews.
Kent Reppert Kustom artist shared a booth with Victory Jane. Reppert’s hero in his paintings is ‘Wolf,’ the scraggly and wanton cartoon character. This wild, free, uninhibited and utterly unrepentant canine works his way through painting after painting in a hot rodders fantasy of rebellion. Wolf’s name is ‘Mr Fixit’ though he didn’t exactly look like the fix-it kind of guy, er wolf. He was more the Hells Angel sort of bad boy, with a few too many pounds around his midsection and years of overindulgence. Still, the women fell in love with this bad-boy and he still has that James Dean charm. “I do well at traditional hot rodding events like the Grand Nationals, West Coast Kustoms, L. A. Roadsters, the Johnny Cash Show ‘Revival’ and the Primer Nationals,” Kent added. Gene’s Hats, run by Su-Hsiung Lin, was selling hats of course. All kinds of hats for women and men and this was his first time at the show. “A friend of mine said that I would do well here at the L. A. Roadsters Show, especially with the women shoppers,” he told me.
I found a very friendly vendor in Vince Magnante who is a dealer for Rodder’s Journal magazine and he had a great looking delivery van. He buys up back issues of Rodder’s Journal magazine and sells them to people who want to complete their collection of this outstanding publication. He also has book-bound copies of the magazine that takes in a year’s worth or more of the magazine. The quality of the book and the binding is superb. “The public is going crazy for the bound issues. I also have a bound ‘Rodder’s Journal Scrapbook’ that is doing quite well. It has old photographs and articles on hot rodders sent in to the magazine. These are photographic collections that have never been seen before,” Magnante told me. He and his son-in-law, Troy Bailey, also sell pedal cars. They buy the basic pedal cars from Warehouse 36, then they sandblast the cars and have them restyled and then powdercoated. The paint work is by Doug Dorr and the pinstriping is by Jimmy C. The finished cars are priced from $500 all the way up to $3000 and he sells about a dozen a year. Magnante also is a licensed ‘Rat Fink’ dealer and sells limited production bobblehead dolls, metal signage and other memorabilia.
Jose Ceron and his son Luis were setting up the Master Formula metal gloss and wax display. “We go out to shows every weekend and we do very well at car, bike and boat shows,” Jose exclaimed. I liked a display that he built that really catches one’s eye. He built a wooden frame in the form of an arrow and then filled it with empty soda pop cans. The shiny aluminum bottoms flickered in the lights cast off by the show. Simple, cheap and effective; this father and son team were real hot rodders at heart. The next person that I spoke to was Nick Arias III, son of Nick Arias Jr, who has been honored and inducted into many racing Hall of Fame programs. He was setting up the Nick Arias Jr Racing Components booth. On display was a street legal Chevy engine, with ARIAS heads, all ready to install. Next to it was a LS 1 Chevy with, relatively new, ARIAS heads on it. Fred Blanchard said it was is doing very well in race cars and in street rods. It’s a huge power-plant though. Nick III offered to write the history of his father’s involvement and development of a Hemi engine design for Chevy motors. It ought to be an enlightening and interesting article and we will bring you that story in the www.hotrodhotline.com guest columnist section.
Another interesting vendor was Graphics Express and they had some quality t-shirts, custom signs, clocks, neon and metal signs. They’ve been in business for thirty years and have consistently supported the L. A. Roadsters Club. They are always a very friendly bunch and I enjoy seeing them at the car shows that Roger and I attend. Faith Granger was setting up the display for her movie Deuce of Spades. It is quite an impressive rig that she has, but then she is quite an impressive lady. She created the quintessential hot rod movie, better than American Graffiti and told me that she is in the planning stages for a sequel. “I might even have to split the sequel into two movies. It will be completely fictional as that is how I do my best at creating film projects. I try and stay away from biographical stories. I’m doing between 30 and 40 car shows a year in order to get the word out about Deuce of Spades. This year I drove from Los Angeles to Maine, south to Key Largo and back to Los Angeles,” she mentioned. I tried to get an idea of the plot for the sequel, but Faith was a step ahead of me and said she couldn’t divulge the content. It looks like we will have to wait for the Premiere showing.
I left building 4 and headed over to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum to see what was happening there. A lot of spectators to the L. A. Roadster Show will buy their tickets at the museum. On my way I passed the entrance to the show where the roadsters enter and met Mort Smith who was busy doing registration duties for the club. But as busy as Mort was he always had time for a reporter such as me. With Mort were Teresa Mitchell, Billy Stecker, Wayne Pendola, Larry Jimenez and Dolores Smith. They explained their jobs and were the pleasantest bunch yet. Next to this group was Anne Corno and Luanne Meissen and their jobs were to give out the wrist bands that get the roadster driver and his passenger into the show and they were equally as nice. At the museum I met Sherry Watson, Ed Ostashay and Just Ed. Ostashay is the volunteer coordinator for the museum and has 110 active volunteers to oversee. He retired from the city of Arcadia Police Department as a field commander where he oversaw that city’s Reserve Police Force and the VIP program (Volunteers In Patrol). He then was offered nearly the same position at the museum to oversee their volunteers. He said that there is only about ten staff positions at the museum that are on the payroll, the rest are volunteers. Sherry asked if I had seen the new opening of ‘Carsland’ at Disneyland. She said it was quite something. “They even have a ‘build a car’ booth, similar to ‘build a bear’ where you can make your own car and embellish it,” she concluded.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.