63rd Annual Grand National Roadster Show: Jan. 27, 2012
L. A. Fairplex at Pomona, CA
Richard Parks & Roger Rohrdanz
The 2012 Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) has come and gone and I can only say that this year’s show was the best one ever. John and Annika Buck have found ways to improve on every show that they have produced. On the way to the show I had trepidations as to the parking and move in for the vehicles, which had been a thorny issue in the past, as with all shows. This year the show was held on January 27-29, 2012 but Roger was exhibiting his wife’s 1950 Ford in the show and so we went up to the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California on Thursday the 26th as well. Roger drove the ’50 Ford and I rode along with Judi Rohrdanz. This year the move-in line was short and it didn’t take long at all to reach the buildings and to park the cars and set up the display signs. The staff along the way was unbelievably polite and efficient. Although this wasn’t an official day for the public to come in and view the cars and exhibits, this was a perfect day for a reporter to see how the show was setting up and would be a good gauge of what was to come. I love move-in days because of the freedom that it gives me to get the story. The first thing to do was to enter the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Building 3B, where I was to meet Bob Falcon. Bob is a good friend who knows a great deal about early hot rodding and oval track racing. He was a racer himself and a successful businessman. Since losing Walt James, I have come to rely on Bob Falcon as my go-to guy for knowledge about old time racing, especially in the Southern California area.
Bob and I left to see if the www.hotrodhotline.com booth was set up in Building 4 and as we arrived, there was Jack, Mary Ann and Jack Lawford Jr setting up their display booth. The Lawford’s are super people and great supporters of hot rodding and racing of all sorts. They also ownwww.landspeedracing.com and www.bikerhotline.com, a really nice motorcycle website. While we were there Big Al Liebmann came by to say hello. Big Al is a volunteer just like Roger and I, for the three websites owned by the Lawford family. Big Al was a drag racer on the east coast and now he is a partner in the Frantic Ford Funny Car. He covers car shows and events and posts his photographs on the Lawford websites. Big Al is truly big in size and personality. A friendly and gregarious man, he loves to take photographs with his camera with the “pole handle” that makes it so easy to take photos in any situation. “I can shoot with one hand over a crowd and still get the photo and it doesn’t tire me out that way,” he iterated. I’ve always wanted to meet the very popular and charismatic “Big” guy from the east coast and here he was in person. When he wasn’t around there was a six foot plus cut-out cardboard likeness of the man that so many car guys and hot rodders adore. Falcon and I moved on and came to the Brookville tent and semi-truck. There we met Kenny Gollahon, president of the company that was founded by his late father Ray Gollahon in 1972. The plant is located in Brookville, Ohio, hence the name of the company that makes around twelve different models of car and pick-up truck bodies. “The bodies sell for around $4900 for a pick-up body and $6500 for a roadster body. We sell about 250 metal bodies a year and many of our bodies have been used on America’s Most Beautiful Roadsters (AMBR cars),” Gollahon told me. They were delivering around a dozen bodies to purchasers who were going to attend the GNRS, saving the customers some $1200 in shipping costs. The plant has forty-two employees and proudly heralds the fact that Brookville steel bodies are a genuine reproduction of America’s past glory cars and made in America.
Bob and I then walked through all of the buildings and into the brand new Trade & Convention Center on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fairplex. The new center can hold up to a thousand people in their ballrooms and there are also six media and conference rooms. We bumped into Larry Grossman, an excellent painter who now uses the computer to make graphic designs that are so amazingly lifelike. He is well-known for inserting your car and your face into the crowds of people in his paintings. He used to be represented at the Motorsports Museum, but lately I have been unable to find his work there. It is a shame because his artistry is truly fantastic and he is a hot rodder at heart. Penny Pichette hung a banner for the Alzheimer’s Awareness Project to help raise funds for this worthwhile research program. She runs the West Coast Kustom car show in Santa Maria, California. She mentioned that the Gene Winfield King of Custom video tape is now available. Tom Fritz was setting up his booth with his hot rod art. Tom is one of the premier artists in his field and his work is shown in major car museums and in private collections. He always shows his work at the GNRS and does very well at the Barrett/Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. We ran across Shige, the owner of Mooneyes, who invited us to come to his grand opening of the Mooneyes exhibit at the Wally Parks NHRA MotorsportsMuseum on January 27th.
A very special exhibit was the pedal cars, which I remember from my youth and were very popular with toddlers and young children. Today pedal cars are collected by adults who played with them fifty years ago. Barry Rose exhibited his 1980 Manco original fire engine. His brother, Bill Rose, brought his 1932 Ford roadster pedal car made by Gene Winfield. The Chopaderos pedal car club was represented by Chuck Bradford who explained that the club has 200 members in thirteen countries. Chuck belonged to the Nomads chapter of the Chopaderos. The group has pedal cars, trucks and bikes of all varieties. Their website is www.chopaderos.com. In addition to the AMBR award for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, the GNRS also gives out the AMBM award for America’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle. Two that stood out were Dawndra and Cadamia 300. Cadamia is owned by Gino Ilacqua, of San Leandro, California and is a 2007 custom pro-street chopper. A very interesting and talented car club was Lifestyle, a Los Angeles car club with seventy members. Their president was Joe Ray, the editor of Low Rider magazine, and their website is at www.lifestylecarclub.com. This club started in 1975. “We are the trendsetter in the low rider community,” Danny Lugo told me. They had three cars lined up and they have to be the hit of the show. Sleek, long and graceful, these cars were as perfectly designed and built as any custom car that I’ve seen. The club took sixty-eight cars to the Los Angeles Convention Center for a Low Rider show there. Besides the Convention Center show they also attend the Torres Empire Show, the Los Angeles Low Rider Show and another half dozen shows a year, according to Audie Munoz, the vice-president of the club and a member since 1977. George Spesock Correa was another active member and a media representative for the Lifestyle’s car club.
On Friday, January 27th, Roger and I were back at the GNRS to see the final preparations before the show opened to the public. This is a hectic day as the reporters and photographers were given an update of the events at the show and the exhibitors finished the set-ups on their cars and displays. I walked through building 3A, which is the Fine Arts area where the old race cars are on display. The first car was the 1948 Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) high points championship car raced by the Spurgeon/Giovanine team. Since I was wearing an Albata club shirt I naturally went over and admired this special ’25 Chevrolet roadster owned by Ernie and Elaine Nagamatsu of Los Angeles, California. This car set six consecutive land speed records at the six meets that it competed in during the SCTA racing season. It was later on the cover of the March 1949 issue of Hot Rod magazine. The next car was the Brasher/Cummings/Rose 1933 Willys Super Gas drag car owned by James Tipper of Pleasanton, California. The Continental Kid is a 1960 dragster made by Chassis Research and owned by Steve Wertheimer of Austin, Texas. Diane Cerveny, of Malibu, California exhibited the #13 car, a 1958 Lujie Lesovsky, Indianapolis roadster. The 1965 Bob’s Muffler Shop dragster by the Hume/Johnson/Hogan team and owned by Steve Rutkowski of Duanesberg, New York.
The Motorsports Museum displayed the 1967 Howard Cam Rattler dragster. Next to the Rattler was the 1962 Tommy Ivo dragster, which is now owned by Ron Johnson of Escondido, California, who brought three cars, including; the 1965 Shubert & Herbert dragster and the 1955 Bob’s Muffler Shop dragster. Junior Thompson of Tustin, California exhibited his 1968 Opel Cadet. The famous Chrisman Brothers & Cannon 1959 Hustler I dragster was put on display by the Motorsports Museum. Red Greth of Tucson, Arizona brought the 1956 Speed Sport roadster. Robert Rey, of El Monte, California showed off the 1948 Ford Blood, Sweat & Gears car. Kevin Brooks, from Mount Shasta, California brought his Bianchi & Brooks ’31 Ford-A gas altered coupe. The Smaldino & Yates 1960 dragster, owned by Barbara Steel, of Whittier, California. There was a Junior dragster on display; 2008 Daddy’s Worst Nightmare, driven by Sophie Cambra. Bobby Tocco, from Riverside, California showed off his ’23 Ford AA/Fuel Altered Tocco/Harper & Garten car. The Vulcan’s Vicky, a ’32 Ford Victoria was exhibited by owner Bill Workman, from Long Beach, California. This was an altered competition coupe. As a side note the Vulcan’s car club of Wilmington, California raced at the old Lion’s drag strip. El Green Pepper, the 1967 AHRA Winternationals winner was on display. The A Altered roadster is a ’32 Austin Bantam owned by Ray and Rosario Zaragoza. Les Brusatori of Amador City, California exhibited his ’41 Willys, the Stockton Capital Speed Shop super gas coupe. Psychotic Reaction, a ’66 Chevy Nova super stocker was shown by Augie Delgado of Fullerton, California. The Media presentation for all the reporters was led by John Buck and we were given our instructions and then left to shoot as much as we could before the spectators were allowed into the show. I counted some 85 writers and photographers who were covering the GNRS.
As I walked through the buildings and outside displays and booths I saw a large variety of things to see and vendors who had products to advertise or sell. There were globes, the Mooneyes, Goodguys and Flowmaster companies, silk screening, tee shirts, wheels, tool chests, clothes, Rodders Journalmagazine, headers, tires, model planes/cars/boats and trucks, head and rear tail lights, books, magazines, plating companies, auto parts, chassis, engines, grills, pans, shocks, auto restorations, and much more. Von Hot Rod had a booth for his pinstriping and other products. He took his work and had a stamping machine emboss pinstriping into the metal on head covers for small block Chevy cars. He also had beautiful pinstripe designs on brake caliper covers. I ran into Ron Main, Ron Martinez and Jay Ohrberg. Main founded a video sales company called Main Attractions, and sold old movie favorites, many of which were hot rod movies filmed around the period of 1940 through 1970. He sold the business to Ron Martinez, who in turn sold it to Jay Ohrberg who has grown the company since then. It is a great place to find that special movie that you loved to watch when you were a teenager. The website is at www.hotrodmemories.com. I ran into Jack Stewart, a long-time member of the Los Angeles Roadster club, who also co-wrote the book L. A. Roadsters, with Dick Wells.
The Save the Salt committee was on hand to educate the public about the deteriorating condition of the Bonneville Salt Flats, a National Landmark. Intrepid Chemical Company is willing to place the waste salt from their salt pans and turn them into a brine solution to pump the material back onto the salt flats. Unfortunately the BLM is dragging their feet on the deal, leading to the destruction of this national wonder. Normally we think of corporations as environmental polluters and the government as the savior of our landscape, but here we have it in reverse. The Save the Salt committee has an attorney, Russ Deane, working on their lawsuit and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) backing them on this project. Still, it takes the public interest to help prod politicians to do something to save our chief land speed racing venue. Present at the Save the Salt booth was Anne and Larry Lindsley, Miriam MacMillan, Jim Travis, Skip Hedrich and Norm Adams. MacMillan, an official in the SCTA and a first class LSR driver, summed it up, “We are working with Intrepid Chemical Company, but the BLM is dragging their feet, doing nothing. There were two options, A and B. Option B was approved by the SCTA/BNI to replenish the salt on the lake bed. Option A was to stand pat and do nothing. The BLM chose option A.” The committee is working on a plan to raise money and buy all the excess salt in the pans and ship it back to the lake bed. Chemical companies have been dissolving the salt and extracting the potash, magnesium and other valuable elements for use in agriculture and manufacturing. That represents only a small amount of the volume of salt, or sodium chloride, which are then left in waste salt pans doing no one any good. By taking this salt and liquefying it, the excess waste salt can then be pumped back onto the Bonneville Salt Flats to thicken the salt surface, which is perilously thin. When my father, Wally Parks first signed the lease with the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, the thickness of the salt was over eight inches deep and as hard as concrete.
There were some land speed and other race cars in the main building. The #17 Ruddy & Weinstein’27 Ford Bonneville roadster was owned by Richard Munz, from Madison, Wisconsin. The Spirit of Rett is a streamliner owned and driven by Charles Nearburg, from Dallas, Texas. It is named after his son Rett, who passed away. The car set an FIA record of 414.316 miles per hour and Lee Ryan, the crew chief believes the car is capable of much faster speeds. Members of the crew include; Roine Andersson, Tom Brown, Scott Sargent, Brad Morgan, Ron Pruitt, Chuck Horrell, Ed Stuck, Mike Burkee and Rick Cameron. The Ack Attack is a streamlined motorcycle that has set an international record, going 376.363 miles per hour. The streamliner is owned by Mike Akatiff of San Jose, California and driven by Rocky Robinson. It weighs 2000 pounds. The crew chief is Ken Puccio and the machinist is Frank Milburn. They expect a number of challengers who want to take away their record and the Ack Attack team is preparing to up the record this coming year. The Speed Demon streamlined car is owned by George Poteet and built by Ron Main, from Chatsworth, California. Poteet is from the South and is one of the friendliest guys you will meet. The Speed Demon is capable of speeds up to 500 miles per hour and may someday go over that speed. Mike Cook was talking to the Speed Demoncrew. He organizes a special race at Bonneville for cars that wish to race on dates other than the normal Speed Week or other BNI/SCTA/USFRA events. He rents the salt flats and hires a timing organization and provides all the security. It’s costly, but very effective for the high-speed teams.
On display was an old bike, the 1948 Triumph T120 Salt Ghost, owned by Wes White, who restored this vintage LSR motorcycle. He also produced a video called The Salt Ghost; Return of the Nitro Express. A review of this video can be seen on the website www.hotrodhotline.com, in their review section. It was time to visit the Suede Palace and see the retro hot rods that are referred to as ‘traditional hot rods.’ We no longer use the old pejorative term ‘rat rods,’ as that doesn’t do justice to these well-built and every day driven hot rods. There are many terms for hot rods. ‘Trailer Queens’ are hot rods that are brought to shows on trailers and are rarely driven on the streets. They are usually very expensive and are basically show cars. ‘Traditional’ hot rods are everyday drivers, used by their owners to get around town. These hot rods might have a few dings here and there and sometimes the primer paint coat is all that is on the car and the amount of chrome is minimal. Traditional hot rods are what we used to drive in the 1930’s, through the 1960’s. As we have become more successful the finer paint jobs, pinstriping and chromed parts have become the norm. The vendors also have an edgier feel to them. This is the place to come to watch the bands play oldies and the pretty girls dress up in pre-1970 clothes and compete in the ‘Trophy Girl’ beauty pageant.
‘Big Toe’ Tom Laura had a booth with his “way out there colors” that rival the French Impressionists. One of the other artists called it ‘Cartoon Surrealism,’ but Big Toe refers to it as ‘Drunken Art.’ Regardless, it was very impressive and eye-catching. Big Toe just returned from a hot rod show in Australia and plans on attending the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Show in April. Kent Reppert II has art that is somewhat similar except that the main character is a rather dissolute human size rat with all the vices of the human species. Reppert likens his work to that of cartoon art. There is a liveliness and quality to his work that ought to catch the spirit of the young traditional hot rodders. Other vendors sold Pachuco clothing (Zoot suits), Rod & Culture magazine, leather jackets, Pendleton shirts, helmets, hats, coats and clothing with a rebellious motif. Two vendors who have had success in the past include Vintage Clothing and My Baby Jo. Outside the Suede Palace were many other booths, including Faith Granger’s Deuce of Spades movie, Baron/Tattersfield racing equipment and Cruisin’ for a Cure. Faith’s movie was made independently of the major studios as she resisted any efforts to change her vision of hot rodding in the 1940’s. It is a major hot rodding movie and you can order this film from her atwww.DeuceofSpades.com. It’s a movie that would make a great, but inexpensive gift during the holidays or to see with your special lady. Cruisin’ for a Cure was founded by a special lady too; her name is Debbie Baker. This organization runs one of the biggest car shows on the West Coast and the money from this event helps to fund prostate cancer research. This cancer took the life of her husband and she has vowed to fight on until a cure has been found. Many hot rodders have been saved due to her efforts.
Friday evening the Mooneyes Company held a banquet to open the new Mooneyes exhibit at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in building 3B on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California. This event was hosted by Shige Suganuma, the present owner of Mooneyes and a good friend and generous hot rodder. Some of the guests included; Dick and Beverly Martin, Dave Wallace Jr, Tom Schiltz from www.dragraceronline.com, Scotty and Mark Gosson from Hot Rod Deluxe magazine, Mark and Carter Lueck, Bert and Renee Luna, Gene Winfield and Rita Irban. Special guests from Mooneyes were Chico Kodama, Shunichi Kasai, Akihiko Kitamura, Yuji Ando, Yukihiro Tanaka, and Masahiro Kato. Guests from Japan were; Yoshiki Sakurai, Kyohei Sakurai, Nash Yoshii from Burnout magazine, Mr G (pinstriper), and Krazy Dotty, a lowbrow artist. Other guests included; Louie Senter, Bob Leggio, Art and Shirley Goldstrom, Bob and Sharon Muravez, Pete Chapouris, Joe Scalzo, Doug Stokes, Dick Dixon, Mark Brazeau, Richard Gonsalves, Blackie Gejeian, Ed ‘The Camfather’ Iskenderian and many more.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.