So many incredibly awesome street rods and customs compete for awards at national shows every year that it’s often a tossup which ones will win. But during 2017, one custom 1936 Packard stood out from all the rest with an audacious display of artistry, imagination and impeccable workmanship.
The Mulholland Speedster, so-named because it evokes the romance of 1930s motoring in Los Angeles, started off the year in January by winning, hands down, the coveted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster prize at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California. The car was only the second non-Ford ever win the award, which is the most-important honor in the custom car firmament.
Then, in February, the gleaming metallic-red Speedster dominated the Sacramento Autorama to win the top Custom d’Elegance award as well as recognition as the World’s Most Beautiful Custom.
Winning the prestigious awards in Pomona and Sacramento also was a significant honor for the Mulholland Speedster’s creator, Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hot Rods, who became the first builder to achieve both signature prizes in a single year.
“Troy Ladd’s history-making win as the first builder to ever win both the Custom d’Elegance and America’s Most Beautiful Roadster titles shows just how amazing his Mullholland Speedster really is,” an Autorama news release said at the time.
The low-slung custom beauty went on to win a gaggle of other awards during the course of the year, most significantly Goodguy’s Street Rod d’Elegance against some stiff competition of spectacular builds.
So what’s so special about the Mulholland Speedster? That would be mostly in the eye of the beholder, but the sleekly evocative roadster can be said to combine classic pre-war design from the iconic Packard brand with exceptionally elegant custom styling and modern features, such as a remote-control hardtop that disappears into the trunk.
The car is owned by Bruce Wanta of Belleview, Washington, who commissioned the build as well as having a hand in some of the decisions that were made in its design, such as the one-of-a-kind PPG paint hue formulated by Mick Jenkins of Pomona, California.
While the Mulholland Speedster is dubbed a 1936 Packard 1401 roadster, it is really a completely original coachbuilt car that draws inspiration and design features of that car, but very little else. The scale is about three-quarters the size of the classic Packard, and the engine is a magnificent supercharged Lincoln V12 with Hogan New Zealand aluminum heads.
The original drawing of the Speedster was done in 2010 by automotive artist Eric Black. Wanta and Ladd latched onto it as the ideal expression of what they wanted to create.
The Mulholland Speedster was spotted most recently at the Goodguys Southwest Nationals at Westworld in Scottsdale, where it stood lined up with the rod and custom association’s 11 other category winners of the year.
Even among such refined expressions of horsepower and stylistic expression, the coachbuilt Packard stood out as an otherworldly piece of fine-art sculpture, perfect in every way.