A Tourist at the Grand National Roadster Show

I had to share these photos with you. It seems our pal Tim Payne really gets around and takes in some choice hot rod happenings. This past January, Tim made a journey to the left coast, and came back with a pretty good sampling of traditional rod & custom photography from the most famous indoor rod & custom event ever... The Grand National Roadster Show.

Now Tim wasn't on assignment to cover the GNRS for anyone. He was on vacation... on a sort of hot rod sabatical... but he kindly agreed to share his photos, and gave me the go-ahead to post some of them on this web site. Good for us, because he found some nifty traditional rides on his travels, and he even found a few surprises of interest.

Tim is the owner of a very cool channeled deuce roadster that has deep roots with the Memphis Rodders as well as with Tim's own family. He has expended a lot of effort to put the storied old hot rod back on the highways and has been gradually making it suit his tastes while still staying true to it's history. He even brought it to the 2010 Memphis Rodders Reunion so it (and Tim himself) could hang with former owner Marshall Robilio while we explored the earliest history of the Memphis Rodders club.

While I'm pretty sure that Tim didn't really go to California to drool over the chromed and polished AMBR contenders that are displayed like the Queen's jewels while they vie for the "big trophy", I do feel confident that Tim is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of traditional hot rods. Just our luck... as the old-school cars are now in full bloom at the GNRS right alongside the super fancy cars. These days, the GNRS has something for just about everyone, and features a building dedicated to traditional iron. You'll even see tasteful cars wearing primer, something that was unheard of a few years back. Then there are the customs, in all their re-styled splendor, right at home on the show floor. Around 500 entries are housed within the buildings of the Fairplex... and don't forget that there are another 600 or so cars power parked outside the buildings, including quite a few that you might expect to find on the inside.

Dig the primer, the flathead, and twin Strombergs on this 34 Ford Cabriolet. Not what we usually consider a "show" car, but more like a time-machine to a bygone era.

Lowering, scallops, chopped tops, rounded hood corners, wide whites, Caddy bumpers, canted headlights, bullet grills... some of the many re-styling techniques used by the custom car crowd, and seen on these two tasteful boulevard cruisers.

For those of you that might like a little background regarding this event , be advised that 2011 marked the 62nd consecutive year that this historic show has awarded the title of "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" on a deserving winner. The show began in Los Angeles in 1949. The following year, it moved to Oakland CA, and remained a staple in the bay area for many years. Eventually the show came to be known more by it's "unofficial" name of 'The Oakland Roadster Show', or just... Oakland. Persistent scheduling problems with adequate venues brought the show back to Southern California in 2005. It is now held in the buildings of the expansive Pomona Fairplex, and is now bigger than ever.

Unless my eyes deceive me, this is a perfect recreation of the legendary Nick Matranga Mercury by Sam & George Barris.

Old timers... take a long look at this lead sled. If you read the "little pages" back when you might recognize this one as the famous "Aztec" by Barris Customs. You might not recognize it as a 55 Chevy, but that would only reinforce the depth of re-styling that this car has received. Now fully restored, it was one of many period perfect custom cars on hand.

Talk about tradition, here is the fully restored 23 'T' roadster that Rico Squaglia won the AMBR trophy with in 1951!

More traditional cars (sometimes we call them hot rods) that were built without the aid of a CNC machine.

Some of what was on the outside... from the flathead in this full fendered 32 Ford, to a James Dean like 49 Mercury, the hot rod history was hard to miss.

More goodies from outside... The 55 Chevy street gasser simply speaks to me, and Kirk Hammett's new age (yet still traditional) 36 Ford custom may be the very definition of perfection.

And how about this for a surprise! Yes, those are the Memphis Rodders working with the NHRA on the 1955 Safety Safari drags at Halls TN. While Tim was at the Fairplex, he visited the NHRA Museum (also on the Fairplex grounds). The NHRA tells it's own story in considerable detail at the museum, and it is also a repository for many historically significant hot rods and race cars. The portion of the museum that explains the significance of the Safety Safari, features this displayed photo of the Rodders spreading the good will of organized drag racing at the all concrete B-17 training facility that was the Halls airstrip. A great acknowledgment of what car clubs did in the formative years of NHRA drag racing, and nice tip-of-the-hat to the Memphis Rodders early efforts.