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We Preview the Grand National Roadster Show

Fri, 24 Jan 2014

Every year at the Grand National Roadster Show you'll find one guy who gripes about all the multi-million-dollar cars entered in the show's premier competition category, the dozen open-topped two-seaters competing for the prestigious title of America's Most Beautiful Roadster. Well somebody find that guy and bring him by because this year there's only one – count it, one - Chip Foose-designed, Troy Trepanier-built entry. The rest are built by regular guys just like you and me. Well, you, anyway, since building a show-contending roadster for this, the “Grand Daddy of Them All” as the Roadster show bills itself, takes quite some doing, whether you're a professional or not.

Most entries seem to take about three or three and a half years, but one guy has had his car 30 years, the last 15 of which he's spent bringing it up to the shape you see here.

“I decided 15 years ago to make it into a hot rod,” said owner Wes Rydell. “That's when I asked Chip (Foose) to make that drawing.”

He pointed to a drawing on a sign board in front of the car. Thus began a 15-year journey that concluded with Rad Rides by Troy converting Rydell's 1935 Chevrolet Phaeton into the stretched, roomy and old-school elegant ride you see here.

There were two other phaetons: Paul Gommi's black '32 Ford and Richard Chiarenzh's 1934 Chevy.

“This build was three and a half years with just friends, just regular friends,” said Chiarenzh with no small amount of pride at being accepted to the show.

“Actually we were kind of shocked,” he said. “We thought that there were going to be a lot of big builders.”

As far as we could tell, there weren't any more.

There were several more or less traditionally proportioned '32 Fords present, including John Lawson's Boyce Asquith roadster, built for Nostalgia Drags; Ronnie Goodwin's Goodwin Speedster; Dave Van Auken's Havasu Speed Equipment Deuce Roadster Low Boy; the Bill Grant All-Steel '32; the Gerber Special Syclone Racing '32; and the Blue Steel '32 Ford. There was one pickup truck entered in the AMBR category, the Rose Hills High School auto shop MadUsa. And then there were two Lakes Modifieds, with their own unique proportions.

Bill Teta built one of the latter. He got a call two days before the show was to open. One entry had a bad accident while lining up for judging for the show. A throttle had stuck and the roadster roared ahead, injuring a judge before crashing into a door frame. The judge had two broken ribs and needed stiches for a scalp wound. He will recover but was still in the hospital as of press time.

Teta, meanwhile, up in Northern Claifornia, didn't know any of that. He had applied to enter his “Tub For Two” '23 Ford Roadster in the AMBR class but was told it had filled up. When the other roadster was wrecked, Teta got the call.

“We left Redding (in Northern California) at six last night and got here at six in the morning.”

Is his shop in Redding?

“Shop? No, it's a house.”

A definite home-built but with unique proportions, especially with the soft top in place.

Across from Enderson's entry was another nice-looking Lakes Modified roadster that may or may not have had a high budget – it looked like it might've. The M&M Special is nicely proportioned, with a 110-inch wheelbase and lots of unique features. The more you look, the more you find. The shifter looks like a set of brass knuckles but is really owner Charlie Madison's uncle's WWI trench knife bayonet grip, for instance. The fuel filler opening is hidden under the tank strap. The frame is hidden inside the body. The three exhausts-per-side cross over one another under the frame to act as a muffler.

“This is a smooth car,” said builder Dave May, the other M in M&M.

With the engine in a front, midship location and the two-seater tub forward of the rear axle, all located within the 110-inch wheel base, it looks like it would handle well.

“Oh yeah,” said May. “It's super good.”

As is the field this year, super-good and home grown.

The 65th Grand National Roadster Show kicks off today at the Fairplex in Pomona with over 500 cars, trucks, motorcycles and race cars. On Saturday and Sunday there will be even more, as the ninth annual Grand Daddy Drive-In adds another 400-800 cars that will park on the grounds of the Fairplex outside the halls. Each of the nine giant halls has its own collection of lead sleds, muscle cars, rat rods and motorcycles. There'll be the annual pinstriping charity event, trophy girl contest and live bands all three days. Be sure to check out the massive Hall 9, which this year houses a tribute to 100 years of racing at Bonneville, with 100 cars from the past, present and, if all goes well for them, future of Bonneville racing.

The weather is going to be perfect, and entry is only $25 - $22 if you go to O'Reilly Auto Parts and get a discounted ticket. What are you waiting for?

By Mark Vaughn