You can never go wrong visiting the Father’s Day L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet. It is a tradition that has been going on for 47 years now. The weekend show began on Friday, June 17, 2011 with the move-in day for the vendors, sponsors and many of the show cars. The main event for the spectators began on Saturday, June 18 and continued through Sunday, June 19. The show and swap meet is so huge and complex; there are smaller events going on all the time. By that I mean that people often set up dates to meet their friends and conduct their own reunions. Some of the swap meet sellers stay in their motorhomes and vehicles all night long. It is the social event of the season for many hot rodders. The L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet is produced and promoted by the L. A. Roadster Club. It is therefore a club produced and sponsored roadster show and swap meet and sometimes it appears to be spontaneous. I can’t say that it is a non-professional effort, because most of the members are very professional and talented men and know how to run an organization. But I can’t say that it is a business corporation like the Goodguys. This is an important topic, because the L. A. Roadster Show is unique in how it is run and organized. There is always the unexpected to be found at this event, which makes it a fun show to attend.
The L. A. Roadster Club is composed of eleven Life members, thirty Associate members and five Honorary members. Those fortysix members of the club, their wives, family members and friends volunteer to run the entire show and swap meet and they do a fantastic job. Remember, this is a car club that is doing this and they have perhaps 900 cars to park, over 200 vendors and sponsors to take care of and thirty thousand spectators to accommodate. They also have hundreds of people who rent spots in the swap and sell all sorts of car related parts and objects. The tasks needed to run this huge operation are immense. This is a very prestigious and honored car club with a long waiting list to join. Membership is limited and you have to live within 250 miles of the Southern California area to be a member. You also have to attend the club meetings and take a job in the show or the swap meet areas. Associate members can join and they can live outside of the Southern California area and are not required to attend the meetings, but they must help out at the show and swap meet. The show and swap meet takes a full year to plan. As soon as the show and swap meet end, the club starts all over again to plan for the next year. Roger Rohrdanz will take a huge number of quality photographs of the show and swap meet with excellent captions.
This year as Roger and I drove to Pomona the big issue was the change in the venue site. For years, if not decades, the L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet was held in the parking lot just to the west and the south of the horse racing track, under the cabanas or shaded metal structure and out into the parking lot. The cars would enter through gate 16 off of Arrow Highway, and pass along the NHRA drag strip, and then go into the parking areas. The Los Angeles County Fairplex was in the process of redeveloping certain areas and the cabanas had been torn down. The L. A. Roadster Club and the Fairplex entered into a new contract to lease Building 4 for the vendors and sponsors and to include all the area from around several more buildings to park the roadsters. The club gives free admission and parking, a free dinner, along with a pewter mug and other souvenirs to any person driving their roadster to the show and parking it for the spectators to see. A special area is reserved just for the roadsters belonging to club members. This year they were expecting somewhere around 800 roadsters at the show. The club and the Fairplex agreed to the terms and the expansion of the area. Specialty parking switched places with the swap meet and the total area was expanded. The vendors and sponsors booths extended all the way from the old cabanas around the horse racing track and down to the huge event building. Building 4 housed 174 vendors and sponsors and the pinstripers auction tables.
It is hard to measure how much the L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet grew from the previous year in size. I really wondered how much walking we old-timers could do, but was assured by many of the club members that they had thought of this. The spectators, the thirty thousand coming to the event that I mentioned, were redirected to the White Avenue parking lot. Two trams were rented by the club from the Fairplex and one was assigned to the swap meet area and the other to the spectator parking lot. As Roger and I entered the specialty parking lot, the only way to see this show in my opinion, we began to see the expansion of the L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet. Roger, impervious to concrete or asphalt and with legs of steel, which is needed if you want to be a photographer, set out into the swap meet area. I passed by Tommy Mushegan, Harvey Hambarian and Jim Troutman who had come in from Fontana in their 1923 Model-T Ford Touring car.
Two volunteers gave me a ride to the tram. They were Norby Saavedra and Tom Schumacher. I met Jack and Sally Stewart and Bob Ritchie. Stewart assists the media and makes trips in his cart to help out where needed. He told me about the cacklefest drag cars on display. I headed for the tram and after a short wait the tram appeared. A person that I had seen many times, Dennis Shellenbarger, but had never really met, greeted me. I hopped on the tram and he took off, going about 3 mph. “My father drove a tram for the Fairplex as far back as 1948. They called it the Elephant train because the front of it looked like the head and ears of an elephant. My wife is driving the other tram from the parking lot to the ticket windows,” Dennis added. The ride from the back gate of the swap meet to the other end of the horse track had taken 15 minutes. The tram had 14 rows of seats and each row had 5 seats. The return trip took another 15 minutes back to the starting point at the swap meet gate. I was impressed with the safe way Dennis drove the tram through a sea of people. Once I reached the end of the tram ride I still had another 500 feet to go to reach the buildings. There is so much to see that I missed some parts of the show. It isn’t the old roadster show; it is an entirely new event.
I stood at a major intersection of the venue site and talked to Bill Mackenzie, an associate member from Phoenix, Arizona. Bill’s job was to direct the traffic, especially the roadsters that had entered a check point controlled by Mort Smith, down by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Bill flagged the roadsters and led them to another checkpoint further away. I was really impressed this year with the traffic control. This event was so spread out that the vendor trucks, roadsters and all the other cars and carts seemed to effortlessly move about, even with large numbers of spectators milling about. Most of the vendors and sponsors had moved in and set up on Friday, in about five hours. The skill and expertise of the club members in moving an army of vehicles and people around amazed me. But the volunteers still had to bring in those 800 roadsters and right during the crush of spectators on opening day (Saturday). It was a perfect place to stand next to Bill and find out all about the show and where everything was happening. But they did their jobs admirably. There were also food, snacks, water and refreshments brought to the volunteers as they worked their duty stations. These were brought by the wives and they made sure to check on everyone. In addition there was a food café where the wives made some very delicious meals for the breakfast and lunch breaks. Around five o’clock the volunteers and their friends would head up the hill to the club barbecue for dinner; a feast that I have had the privilege of going to.
Being with MacKenzie in the middle of the event gave me a chance to meet some new and old friends. Hardy Allen dropped by with some of his friends. Gerry Harris offered to be a contact point for Hardy. Allen is a tall, jovial man of Afro/American heritage who has worked for some of the best racing teams in oval track racing. He is admired and loved by everyone. So many people stop to talk to him that he walks a lot slower than the tram, which is why he wasn’t on it. Hardy now lives in the Prescott, Arizona area and he has promised to give us his biography. Ed Osepian peered at me and I peered back; yes we knew each other, but our eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Ed won his class at the first “Official” drag strip that we know of, the race at the Santa Barbara Airport, in Goleta, California in 1949. The first “Professional” race is the one in 1950 at the Santa Ana Airport drag strip and Ed was there too. The difference is that Goleta didn’t charge admission. If there are any earlier drag races than those two, please let us know. Ed was there at the show with his friends Bud Boudear and John Bazakis. Zeke and Shane Zacherson came by and asked where the Bonneville cars were. Zeke moved to St George, Utah and helped Marvin Jenkins restore the Mormon Meteor endurance racing car from the early part of the twentieth century. He told me that he now owns Frank Oddo’s race car.
Bob Igo and Ken Walsh also were looking for the Bonneville land speed cars. They are both land speed racers who have raced at the famous salt flats and Ken is a member of the 200 MPH Club. To become a member a driver has to set a record above 200 miles per hour. You can’t just go 200 mph; you have to set a record as well, so if the record is 298 mph, you have to go 299 mph to get into the club. It is a very selective club and those wearing the red hat are rare and special. They also have a club for 300 mph, and up. There is only one man in the world who can claim admission to the 700 mph club; Andy Green of Great Britain. Pat Ganahl, an editor and writer came by to talk to MacKenzie. I met old friend John Duran from the Cal-Rods car club who put on their own car shows. “The L. A. Roadster Show is quite different this year,” Duran told me. I finally made it to Building 4 and the first person I met was Harry Hibler, a former editor of Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines. Harry was talking to Ed Justice Jr who is a major sponsor of the L. A. Roadster Show and Swap Meet. Ed is very happy with the layout of the show and to have Justice Brothers Car Care Products as a sponsor. His wife and two daughters were with him, surrounded by cases of oil products and polishes that they sell out of their plant in Duarte, California. If you haven’t seen their museum then you need to add that to your list of road trips. They have a collection of race cars that is impressive.
Hibler and Justice talked about the publishing business and how hard it was to get books published these days. Ed formed EJJE Publishing Group in order to publish worthy racing books that are often turned down by major publishing firms. He published The Chrisman Legacy; Always Faster, which was written by Tom Madigan. I reviewed the book for www.hotrodhotline.com. You can order this excellent book on the Chrisman racing legacy at www.chrismanlegacy.com. The building that housed most of the sponsors and vendors was huge and many of those who had their booths there felt that this would protect them from heat or wet conditions. They needn’t have worried because the weekend was nearly perfect with sunny and mild weather. It was overcast and dewy in the morning, but by noon the conditions were ideal for a car show. I talked to Ed Hill at Bob Drake Reproductions, out of Grants Pass, Oregon. The company specializes in ’32 to ’48 Ford reproduction parts and they go to about six shows a year and wouldn’t miss the L. A. Roadster Show. Ed Dillard owns ‘Remember Then’ metal reproduction signs. He sells a wide variety of metal signs, some copied from antique garage signs and some that are more modern. ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and other signs from WWII are very popular with hot rodders. Dominick Olivori has a booth that sells special knives, gemstones in silver and military style war surplus items. He goes to twenty shows a year and prefer the car shows.
Jim Webb at the Glide Engineering booth has been coming to the L. A. Roadster Show for fifteen years. The company makes Ford and Chevy metal framed seats and is located in Rancho Cucamonga. It is a family owned business and all their seats are made here in America. Bomonster shirts is run by The Bomonster and his wife Debbie. His art work found a home on the H.A.M.B. drag racing/hot rodding website and he was encouraged to create his shirt company based on his art designs. This is his first booth at the L. A. Roadster Show and he is very excited to be here. I ran into Fred Blanchard who works with Nick Arias Jr in the Nick Arias Racing Components company. Nick also owns Arias Pistons, run by his daughter, Carmen Arias. Blanchard told me that they ran their lakester at El Mirage last weekend and went 229 mph. They are after a record of 250 mph in their class and they believe that they have the power to get that record. Ben York is their driver and he studied under Rich Manchen. The car was built in 2003 and Steve Montrelli, a master engine builder, is also on the team. Mike LeFevers, from Placentia, California worked on the engines and used his dyno in testing. Carmen Arias told me that this is the first time that they have had a booth at the L. A. Roadster Show and they are promoting a new engine for the Shelby Cobras. She introduced me to Lanny Trefz, who is from Lake Isabella and builds NASCAR racing engines through his LTR Racing Engines Company. They are building ten of these powerful engines (427 Windsor) for Ford (Cobras). The cars are brand new Cobras based on the original Carroll Shelby design from the 1960’s. Trefz told me that he is having a 90th Birthday Party for Ed Iskenderian at his shop on July 23rd and the public is invited.
Dwayne Vance is the Master of Chicken Scratch; he does models and paints in oil and acrylic and is from Corona, California. He likes to go to El Mirage and is keen on seeing the land speed cars race at Bonneville. Jesse Enriquez has a business called Last Rides. He makes a model of your car in clay, then molds it in resin and mounts it on a wooden base. This is his first L. A. Roadster Show and he started sculpting in 2009. He comes from Tucson, Arizona. He explained to me that Last Rides is a play on words from “Last Rites.” The car model is actually a funerary urn that you place your ashes in when you pass on! “It’s a big seller for wives, who want to store their husband’s ashes in a replica of the car that they always loved,” Jesse told me. He will also make models of boats, planes, trains and motorcycles. What an interesting idea. Retrovisions is owned by Larry Grossman and I’ve admired his work for years. His style reminds me of James Ibusuki and Tom Fritz and Larry is an exceptional hot rod artist. He likes to paint old gas stations, cafes, garages, hotels, motels, drive-ins and other nostalgic places. He will put your car, you, your wife and family into the painting as if you were really there. Larry is a friendly and rather reserved man. He used to exhibit his paintings at the California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway and at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. For some reason he was not asked to return and this is a loss to the hot rodding community for Grossman’s work is really first class. I hope the museum can find a place for this outstanding painter.
Leah and Frank Gabrielli have a booth selling battery chargers and the name of the family owned business is Granite Digital. This show is as much social event for them as a business. This is one of forty shows that they attend each year. Risa and Jose Hernandez own JRH Books and they sell hundreds of books each year. It’s a trade secret where they get these books, but if you’re in the market for a car manual or a how-to book then they will probably have it. They have so many titles that I couldn’t begin to tell you what they have. You will just have to find them at future car shows and sort through the tables of books for sale. Jay Ohrbach was there with his video business and if you want a video, he has hundreds of different movies to sell. Many are old car movies from the 1940’s and ‘50’s. They were the movies that we took our dates to; the kind where the monster shows up and your future spouse buried her head into your shoulder. Prolong lubricants is back in Pomona after reorganizing and leaving Irvine, according to Dan Griffin. Prolong is a subsidiary of Goldenwest Lubricants and they sponsor Extreme Automotive, based in Corona.
A special treat was the opportunity to spend some time with the family of the late Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Cody and Amber Roth brought their children Brayden, Caleb and Mariah down from their home in Utah. They drove down in a van, packing the family and all the tables, stands and tee shirts with them. This is a family business. Cody’s father was a well-known pinstriper, artist and car designer. Some time after his passing the brand name was reacquired by Ed’s second wife, Eileen, and with the help of her four children they brought the company back to life. Besides Cody there is Rusty, who is in the 145th Utah National Guard. Tammy is Cody’s sister and she is the mother of four children and does a lot of the internet sales of tee shirts and memorabilia. Cody goes to car shows and represents the company and sells merchandise. He is also a pilot for Utah Valley University in the Provo area. He trains new pilots at the school. Cody and Amber also have a franchise for Isogenics International Health Care. The family attends a number of shows a year, including Moldy Marvin’s Ed Roth festival and the Mooneyes car show. Cody’s brother, Wyatt, is a full time electrician and also works on on-line sales for the family. The Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Inc is a family owned business and one that keeps this large and growing Utah family together. They hold a number of family reunions and their heritage is a special reason they are so close. The next booth was Graphics Express, another family owned business in Phelan, California, which has been in business since 1979. They take photographs and put them on sheet metal. Adrianne Cochran showed me around the booth and explained the process. Gene Chomowycz is the owner and the company sends their employees to about 40 shows a year.
Two artists of renown have their booths close to each other. Tom and Molly Fritz are the owners of Tom Fritz Art. Fritz is one of the premier hot rod artists and his penchant is the 1930’s through the 1950’s, but he will paint whatever you want him to. His paintings are top of the line and expensive, but his prints are very reasonable and that’s where he does the bulk of his business. I would love to own an original Tom Fritz painting someday. Fritz wasn’t joking when he told me that he would give me a payment plan. The other artist was Bob McCoy whose art reminds me a little of the comic book genre. Bob can add dozens of his friends and former racing competitors into his work and you wouldn’t know it until it was pointed out to you. Bob was also a well-known racer and rodeo rider. His wife wrote his story in a fabulous book that I reviewed for www.hotrodhotline.com, called Circle of Impact. The book is still available directly from Lynn and if you buy it at a car show, Bob will autograph it for you. Vic Cunnyngham, a Cal-Rod car club member and good friend, bought out the Deuce Factory and changed the name to Deuce Rod Parts. He has the old company’s parts, inventory, tooling and manufacturing capacity. “All the parts are made in the good ‘ol USA,” he told me. Rick Cresse at Tri-C Engineering showed me a 1938 Gilmore Special sprint car that has been restored for the Gilmore family in Los Angeles. The Gilmore Oil Company was famous for sponsoring car racing in the early part of the twentieth century. The Gilmore Reunion was produced by Carmen and Gordon Schroeder at the Gilmore family adobe for three decades and was the reunion for west coast oval track racers at the time. The sprint car was painted in the traditional gold and maroon paint colors of the Gilmore family.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.