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Richard Parks

Gone Racin’

richardwila

57th Grand National Roadster Show

January 20 – 22, 2006

Story by Richard Parks Photos by Roger Rohrdanz

Wear the most comfortable shoes you can find. The Grand National Roadster Show is like a candy store for hot rodders and you will definitely see everything that you could possibly ever want to see, and walk a lot further than you thought you would. This year’s show continued to improve over the one that Dan Cyr brought to Pomona in 2004, and 2005. The previous shows were outstanding, because the Grand Nationals are the premier Hot Rodding show in the nation. Can you improve on perfection? In this case, the answer was a resounding yes. John Buck, a local Southern California young man, decided to go for it all, and invested his savings by purchasing the Grand Nationals and the Sacramento Autorama shows from Dan Cyr. He then set out with the old time zeal of the hot rodder and contacted as many people as he could, and invited them to display their cars and products. That he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams is a testament to his love of beautiful cars and his friends in the business. Producing a show as large and complex as the Grand National Roadster Show is no easy matter, and there is often some grumbling among the vendors and exhibitors. So I sent Roger Rohrdanz off to take pictures of the show while I poked around and tried to stir up all the inner thoughts and views of those at the show. The GNRS actually begins on Wednesday and Thursday, at the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California, as the exhibitors, vendors and officials arrive to set up their shops and cars. The event opens to the public on Friday, and runs through Sunday, when the winners are announced and the awards and trophies are handed out.

We arrived on Friday morning to a long line of cars waiting to enter and set up their exhibits. After a delay and initial confusion, we found the right entrance and there to meet us was John Buck. He seemed to know each and every contestant, and something about the men and their cars. Although the stress on opening day was telling, John and his crew personally welcomed every exhibitor who came through the gate. In line were Tim Burket from Tulare, California, representing Burket’s A+ Distributor, and the Ford Team from Detroit, led by Mark Robinson, who were going to set up their booth and announce the 75th Anniversary of the ’32 Ford All Time greatest Deuce Roadster’s Program. Roger and I drove around the complex, including 6 huge buildings full of exhibits and vendors, and areas set up outside the buildings to hold even more exhibits. The first building that we entered was The Suede Palace, where the theme was all about original hot rods in the “Rat Rod” tradition, primered but unpainted cars. None of these cars will ever win the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) Award, but they are still popular and beautiful in their own right

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An awesome example of Rat Rod art. This “A/Gas” ’27 Dodge 4 door belongs to Freddy Divincenzo of Mira Loma, CA. Most of the “Suede” cars are driven in

At the Suede Palace we met Daniel Delgado, who showed us his car, The Wanderer, a ’53 Plymouth with flame throwers, removable Carson top, 350 Chevy engine, and a DeSoto Grill. Daniel said that this was his first show and he was really excited to be invited. The GNRS is famous for showing million dollar cars, but John Buck made it very clear that the show is for everyone and every style of car. Stephanie and Gabriel Baltierra organized the Suede Palace exhibits. Stephanie puts on the Blessing of the Cars in Los Angeles on the last Saturday in July. With a bubbly and friendly personality, Stephanie said that this was her first show with the GNRS and her 14th year with the Blessing of the Cars. She explained that suede refers to cars that are primered but unpainted. John Buck approached her with the idea of the Suede Palace, where these types of cars could be shown. They call their cars sleds, bombs, hot rods and nostalgia cars, while the older generation calls them rat rods, and the pejorative has kept them out of other car shows in the past. These basic cars, free of paint and chrome, and dabbed with rust, have their own shows, but thanks to John Buck and the GNRS, have been accepted into the mainstream of hot rodding.

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Don Small of Alhambra owns this ’33 Ford Roadster. A replica of a car that ran in the “Gilmore Gold Cup Road Race” in 1934.

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One of things that set Rat/Nostalgia Rodders apart from “normal people” are their friends names. The “Special Thanks to” names on Ray Dunham’s storyboard are Beanie, Slugo, Lynch and Flipper, see what I mean? This is an awesome blown flathead powered ’36 Ford.

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reddy Divincenzo exhibited his ’27 Dodge, chopped 4 door Sedan, with slicks, keg gas tank, no floor or window glass, 8 Strombergs, Hemi powered, flame headers, ample rust and fenderless rat rod. They may seem junkyard to the common eye, but they are often carefully crafted cars, made to look as derelict as possible. Sharing the Suede Palace were race cars, including: George Bolthoff’s TFD, Red Greth’s Speed Sport Special, Doug Peterson’s #2 TFD, Loukas/Preising AA/FC Coupe, Steinegger & Eshenbaugh TFD, Shubert & Herbert TFD owned by Ron Johnson, Bill Pitts’ Magicar TFD, Paul Schavrien’s The Poachers, Don Prieto’s Top Banana ’29 Ford Roadster, and The Frantic Four TFD, owned by Norm Weekly and his team which is intact from their racing days. The Frantic Four team put on scheduled shows and lit up the motor to the delight of the crowds.

The next building was dedicated to motorcycles and cars. I hope next year they can find enough bikes to fill up the whole building. The design and craftsmanship of these bikes were breathtaking. Mark Warrick of Amarillo, Texas, made the trip west to show off his bike, The Vegas Stripper. He said that the best shows are in Laughlin (Nevada), Sturgis (South Dakota), Daytona Beach (Florida), and Southern California. Warrick likes the Southern California site better than when the GNRS was in Northern California. He says the crowds and facilities here are much better.

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“Wally’s Roadster” – Built by the Cal-Rods car club and presented to NHRA founder Wally Parks last December.

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An overview of the motorcycle building

Trying to stir up trouble I asked Terry and Jack Clift, coin jewelry and wooden toy vendors what their complaints were, and they said they didn’t have any. “They’ve been very nice and gave us a very good spot,” they said. Tom Nye, Kustom Airbrush T-shirts, from Aptos, California, has been doing the GNRS since 1968, when it was a 10-day show. He said that Southern Californians are more finicky than they are up in Northern California. “Classic car shows are not getting the kids to show up anymore. It is just the older group,” but he did say that the current management of the GNRS is trying to change that. At the Media news session, Greg Sharp introduced us to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, located next door to the GNRS. John Buck outlined his plans for the growth of the GNRS and introduced Brett “The Big Schwag” Wagner, from Monster Garage, who in turn introduced the speakers and guests. Wagner is indeed BIG, and a former wrestler and wrestling promoter.

Pete Chapouris and Alex Xydias showed us the new So-Cal Speed Shop exhibit that will be at the museum for the next few months. They told us the history of the famous speed shop that was instrumental in early land speed and drag racing. Joanne Webb and Andrea Winter announced that the next Route 66 Rendezvous would be September 14-17, 2006, in San Bernardino. Last year’s cruise drew over half a million spectators and 2000 cars.

Paul Hansen, last year’s winner of the AMBR award, was asked to exhibit two of his cars, the 2002 AMBR contestant Midnight Conspiracy, by builder/designer Tommy Walsh, and his 2005 AMBR winning entry, Sedeuced, by master car builders Steve Moal and Tommy Walsh. Hansen, from Discovery Bay, California, said, “we had a theme that it had to scream speed and power with a coachbuilder’s style and a creeping elegance.” In an answer to how much did he spend, Hansen said, “Where do you stop pouring money into these projects?” He came to California 23 years ago from upstate New York, as a struggling CPA, and founded Adaptec with 50 people. That company grew in size to over 3500 employees and a billion dollars in sales and cash, and went public, allowing Hansen to cash in, and start up a new business. The freedom allowed him to indulge in a sport that he has always loved, building, owning and driving cars. His collection has grown to 11 cars, including 2 sports cars and 3 hot rods. But what hot rods they are, including an AMBR winner. Building and exhibiting the cars are a family affair with his son and wife, Judy, who is looking for an old firehouse, so that she can turn it into a museum to house Hansen’s growing car collection. Hansen transported his cars to the GNRS in a 44-foot van and it took 16 hours to set up the displays. Sedeuced will be displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum after the GNRS has ended. Tom Walsh and Steve Moal have been building cars for the last 30 years. They are looking for a sponsor for another AMBR project, and they had no cars in this year’s show. “The bar goes up every year, and the formula for winning keeps changing. It takes a determined sponsor and the commitment of skilled craftsmen to follow through, ” said Moal. He said that Rich Guasco has been a great influence on his team. Hansen said that Walsh and Moal allowed him to realize his goal. They “discovered it along the way,” he said. The team devoted 2 years on Sedeuced. “Money won’t do the job alone, and there are no guarantees that we will win, but we are still friends after all the turmoil we went through,” said Hansen and echoed by Walsh and Moal. They said, “you must have teamwork, and the last 25% of the project is crucial. That’s when you see that you are over budget, tired and cross, and the dedication to the project wears thin.” There were 30 major contributors working on Sedeuced, and Hansen wouldn’t discuss the final cost of the car.

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“Blue Velvet” – This 1937 Ford AMBR contestant was built for Jack and Carolyn Kiely. Designed by Maynard Albertson and built by Konocti Motors it won “Outstanding Engineering”, “Outstanding Display”, “Outstanding Interior”.

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The “Blue Velvet” team (l-r) Mike Bishop, Justin Muncey, Maynard Albertson, Jack Kiely and Richard Albertson. They built this car in 14 months!

2004 AMBR winner, Charlie Lambetecchio was attending the show. His award winning car was a ’36 Ford Roadster, designed and built by Larry Ruth. Charlie said, “you need the right team, with a good builder, and good ideas to win the AMBR. If you’ve got the money, spend it on what you want to do. There are no armored cars at your funeral.” The reference to armored cars meant that the bank couldn’t deliver your money to you when you are gone, and it does you no good then. “Winning the AMBR award was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. It was time to see the AMBR contestants for 2006. Entry 901, owned by Fred Bogardus, from Los Angeles, California, with his ’35 Ford Roadster with a yellow body and black top paint scheme. Built by Jim Noteboom and his Bones Concept Cars and Trucks, in Hemet, California. It had a 302 c.i. Ford engine, and black leather interior. Entry 902, owned by Matt Tachdjian, from Orange, California, was a ’32 Ford Roadster, with a Candy Orange paint scheme and tan leather interior. Called the Muroc 1, it is car number one in a series of ten cars to be built on the prototype, with a Chevy LS1 engine, on a Jerry Kugel body. Entry 903, owned by Charlie Tachdjian, from La Verne, California, was a ’33 Ford Roadster, black painted body, with a gray top and fenders, and a decided modern look and feel to the car. Entry 904, owned by Steve Tracy and Butch Buford, from Nashville, Tennessee. Named Chromzilla, it was designed and built by Jesse Greening from Cullman, Alabama, and was truly a work of art. When asked why they built it, their answer was “to prove that we could.” Tracy came up with the idea 3 years ago using childhood memories, rat fink cartoons and the help of an Indy 500 car designer whom he can’t mention. It reminded him of an AJ Foyt chassis, and it “has no square corner, being all rounded and smooth edges.” Tracy is the owner of an electro-plating company in Tennessee and showed off his products on the Gibson Guitar, which was part of the motif of the car.

Entry 905, owned by Mike Young, from San Diego, California, was a ’31 Ford Model A, with a jet-black paint job and a 350 c.i. supercharged engine. It had that traditional white leather with red striping and was exceptionally clean looking. It would have been the car Henry Ford would have chosen for the top honor. Entry 906, owned by Gordon and Cindy Peters, from Sun Fish Lake, Minnesota, was a ’35 Ford with a 383 c.i. stroker motor, Muncie 4 speed. It was painted a Washington (deep) blue and was called Cool Blu, with Mercedes carpeting and tan leather interiors. Entry 907, owned by Jack and Carolyn Kiely, from New Jersey, was a ’37 Ford Roadster, painted a Konocti blue. It was built by Maynard Albertson from Lower Lake, California, just northwest of Sacramento, California. Maynard brought his whole crew, who set up video players and actively and animatedly talked to the crowds. The car took 14 months to build, according to Carolyn. “It far outstripped our expectations,” said this Southern lady who now lives among the Yankees in New Jersey. “It has 172 handmade pieces, a real working top, computerized electrical components, and tan leather interior,” she went on. The first time that they saw the car was as it was being displayed at the GNRS. They have built cars before, but they had complete faith in Maynard and his crew, and giving their thoughts on the design and decoration of the car. This is a family affair for the Kiely’s, and their exuberance is well founded. Their son John was the 2004 National Offshore Boat Racing Champion, and the car reflects the rakishness of those long cigarette boat hulls. The family was originally in boat building and racing and then went into car building. Carolyn is an interior designer and the color and some of the design is her own. The spokes on the rim were painted a light brown, simulating the old wooden spokes on the very earliest cars. This was Maynard’s first time as an AMBR builder and he and his team went all out. The control panel had a futuristic Buck Rogers look to it that closed to form an armrest, with the wires going through a 6-inch steel tube to the dashboard. The engine was an LS6, with Magnusson blower, CP suspension, air ride, 4 onboard computers, air-conditioned, electric hood lock, and hand made bucket seats. Maynard, who was a robotics designer and has designed cars for the last 35 years, let his imagination and genius loose on this car.

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