In 1957 Dick Scritchfield distributed a simple hand bill in all the right places to announce: “A meeting of all people interested in forming an exclusive roadster club will be held Sunday, June 15, at 6 p.m. If unable to attend, but interested, contact Dick Scritchfield, N. 5-4909. Meet at Weiand Equipment Company, 2733 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles.”
Robert E. Petersen, founder of Hot Rod magazine in 1947, was responsible for the knowledge going international and taught us how to make them. His editor, Wally Parks, founded the National Hot Rod Association in an attempt to get drag racing, the new sport Hot Rod had created, off the streets and onto a nation-wide series of simple, quarter-mile strips of pavement that could offer safety for spectators and medical support to the rapidly exploding (pun intended) culture of engine-based car builders across the country.
The Wally Parks NHRA Museum, a tribute to the visionary roadster owner who poured his life into his idea, occupies a front row seat in the Los Angeles County Fairplex and was a popular access to history and air conditioning during a clear bright Fathers Day pushing slowly past 100 degrees in the San Gabriel Valley. Roadster drivers were undeterred. Several hundred of the high school-time machines converged on the historic property dedicated to road racing, drag racing and farming — at different times of the year.
Ken Gross, the cross-cultural voice of the hot rod story, described the event: “Baby boomers reliving their youth (or the youth they wish they’d had).” Gross was also responsible for convincing the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to include a category for the legendary hot rods.
The old guard remains in the game: Andy Cohen has re-established his Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories on Robertson Boulevard and shares his Father’s Day Rodeo Drive Concours with the Roadster Show, while his old racing partner, Jim de Frank, used that historic car-guy day to stage his “California Car Covers” traveling retail trailer in the center of the Pomona Fairplex next to Brizio’s among the die-hard roadster fraternity in the center of Pomona’s historic Fairplex county fair facility.
Edelbrock is a regular — everywhere. They brought Vic’s roadster from one of the best hot rod museums in the country and enough high horsepower hardware to go into car manufacturing. I didn’t see any family members at the show, but did recognize the company veterans from my time in the crew.
All the inside spaces were occupied by the reproduction and new-exotic component manufacturers and a few car builders for Ken’s Baby Boomer high school dreamers. While they all saw the best of the best in Hot Rod magazine, few could have completed their high school builds at the quality level they now demand from the classic artisan coachbuilders masquerading as hot rod builders. They produce works of art worthy of a concours d’elegance with the performance of a supercar — think hand-built automatic transmissions, air conditioning and sound systems worthy of the best of luxury.
“Deuces Mild” seems to be the new theme. There is power to spare with new engines, electronics and blowers in new reproduction Deuce frames, but all of the bright colors did not translate into a tribe of warriors. Most are beautifully crafted cruise-night show-stoppers — or show-winners.
In the name of authentic are plenty of Fad Ts and capped-header licensed Model A race cars alongside a few late-‘30s fat-fender Fords, the last offered with “roadster” windshields. They, too, were filled with leather and traveling luxury.
The paint! It needs to be known that the “Pebble Beach finish” was created by the hot rod/Kustom kar community in Southern California. They called that flawless paint surface and detailing “Sano” shorthand for sanitary. We’ll call it perfection. The grandest of classic cars were never finished the way they win awards on the links of Pebble Beach today until the SoCal kids showed them how.
If you haven’t made the pilgrimage to the Pomona Fairplex on Fathers Day, the Roadster Show should be on your “bucket list” — some of us run out there after an early lunch at Andy Cohen’s Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance. Nothing exceeds like excess.
Photography by Larry Crane