It’s Not All Roadsters At the Grand National

The Other Cars at the Grand National

Okay, we all are very excited to see which of the slick open cars nominated for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) will take home the replica trophy and have it’s owner’s name inscribed on the nine foot tall perpetual trophy. But it’s Sunday Morning, and the awards have not been given yet, and won’t be for hours while they give out the other hundred or so trophies. Meanwhile, there are other cars at the Show.

There’s another Hot Rod Show

In Detroit they hold a show called the Autorama. It’s a lot like the Grand National they tell me. (My travel budget won’t stretch that far.) One difference is that their most prestigious award, the Ridler, is not limited to one class of car. Last year it went to a radical custom Buick.

Over in Motor City the big rod and custom show is Autorama. Their Big Award is the Ridler, more akin to a concours’ Best in Show than the AMBR. In 2014 it was awarded to J. F. Launier of Osoyoos, British Columbia for his customized 1963 Buick Riviera, displayed here along with this year’s AMBR contenders.

If They Did Award a Best in Show

I’m not sure what measures the Ridler judges use, but I’d certainly include originality, creativity, and faithfulness to the concept among mine. Ron Berry of Washington, Utah, certainly embodies all of that, with no small touch of humor for their entry in the Radical Van Class. Note the curve of the roof exactly matches that of the lifestyle-correct surfboard, and the wealth of correct styling cues, with just a touch of aggressiveness.


The Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus was the preferred transport for a generation of “Alternative Lifestyle” types. (See Arlo Guthrie’s Alices Restaurant Massacree.) I can imagine one of them seeing this version and observing in a fog of chemically-enhanced memory, “Yeah! That’s exactly how I remember it!”

You Don’t Know What I Got

Google “Little Deuce Coupe Images” and you’ll see a bunch of pictures of Clarence Catallo’s 1932 Ford 3-window coupe that was featured on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in July, 1961. The car was not at the Show, and they don’t say which images are copyright-protected so I’ll leave it to you to look it up. It’s a bit radical for a Deuce, with canted quad headlights and a grille reminiscent of some Chrysler 300 models of the mid ’60s.

But it inspired a young Brian Wilson to feature it on the Beach Boys  album of the same name, so now that car is forever so labeled. Funny thing is, Catallo’s car did not fit the description in the song. Instead of the traditional “flathead mill,” it carries a monster supercharged Oldsmobile engine


In all the 250 plus photos at the Grand National Roadster Show, not one showed a Ford flathead and lakes pipes. This is “The Borde’s Coupe,” a 3-window ’32 Ford powered by a Ford flathead V8. No doubt it has a competition clutch and four on the floor, but there are no lakes pipes to roar. No top speed was claimed, either.

In case you need a primer, flatheads had their valves in the block, opening upward into a space comprising, with whatever space was left above the piston at top dead center, the combustion chamber. Intake and exhaust took circuitous paths to and from the valves, with exhaust passing through the block between the cylinders.

This arrangement was not optimal for intake breathing and exhaust scavenging. Hot rodders would enlarge the intake and exhaust ports (the song’s “ported”), and remove some material between the valves and the cylinders (“relieved”) for the same purpose.

Displacement was enlarged to increase the volume of fuel mixture burned in each power stroke, by installing a crankshaft with longer throws (“stroked”) and widening the cylinders (“bored”)

In the end even with all the hotrodding you could do, a flathead was still at a huge disadvantage compared to the overhead valve V8s that appeared in GM products in the late ’40s. Still, tradition keeps die-hards building them. Thank goodness! Flatheads forever!

The Unexpected

Low riders, dry lakes racers, dragsters, radical customs, even surf wagons, are what you expect at a show like this. Every so often though, they can surprise you.


If you had seen the Petersen exhibit “Town Cars; Arriving in Style” or visited their cars at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library recently, you may note everything forward of the cowl on this car is basically the same as the Petersen’s Fred Astaire Phantom I Rolls-Royce, only this is a 1929 “Ascot” entered by Erik Baltzar of Palm Desert, CA. I suppose in a loose sense you could say it’s a roadster, kinda. Otherwise I have no clue what it’s doing here in a hot rod show.


If you came from the sports-car-slash-road-racing side of motoring, you may, like me, have been influenced by Don Sanford’s The Red Car, This could be the very 1948 MG TC at the heart of the book’s young protagonist’s story, except . . .


You could be forgiven for thinking Brian and Bart Trinchero had violated this British Icon by stuffing a Mopar Hemi in it. That’s because the 2.5 liter Daimler V8 under that supercharger is a hemi – of sorts. It’s the engine you’d have found in a Daimler SP250.

The New Petersen is Coming

If you’ve seen the pictures of the new facade of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles (opening December 1, 2015) you may have been startled by the flamboyant look. Keep in mind though, that the founder of the Museum, Ronald Petersen, got started on his road to publishing greatness with a little magazine called Hot Rod.


Click on the image above and note the similarity between the flame job on Jimmy Ruiz’ 1949 Mercury and the exterior treatment on the new Petersen Automotive Museum. I think I’ll carry a copy of this picture around in my wallet so I can explain the inspiration to doubters.

Artistry, Color, and Patience, Patience, Patience


The Detail in the paint and metal work on Michael Herrera’s 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline Mild Hardtop low rider can only really be appreciated up close and personal, so click on the image to enlarge it.


Summer Madness, a 1963 Chevy Impala SS, one of several low riders entered by members of Lifestyle Auto Club of Los Angeles exhibits the intricate detail the best of these cars present. Even the trunk and hydraulics are lavished with the same paint layering and pinstriping as the rest of the car. She’s real fine, this 409.

The Other Extreme


Fords were being raced long before the V8 years. Dawn and Dustin Smith’s Mint-T from Spokane, WA, looks authentic, stripped for the track, although I doubt Henry Ford ever approved a chrome-plated carburetor.

I am on deadline to get this out before the awards are presented, so I will be free to publish the results. I trust I got a picture of many of the award-winners, and I hope you’ll join me here to read about them.

Carma is a publication of
The OM Dude Press
a service of
Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.


About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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2 Responses to It’s Not All Roadsters At the Grand National

  1. Jon N says:

    Super cool cars

  2. rwklarin says:

    well-written. Curious world of exotic cars.

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