Pomona is fifth-largest city in Los Angeles County and a hub for America’s automobile hobby. Located at the Fairplex (formerly the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds are Auto Club Raceway, a drag racing haven that opened in 1951, and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, a facility that displays a variety of racing vehicles — from dragsters to land-speed record runners and from creations of Mickey Thompson to hot rods — and the stories of the people who built or drove them.
Pomona also was the home of the original Los Angeles Roadster Show, held on Father’s Day, and since 2004 has been the site of the famed Grand National Roadster Show, which Al Slonaker founded in 1949 in Oakland.
The show, this was the 72nd annual, features 500 cars indoors with as many as 800 others outdoors in what this year was the 16th Grand Daddy Drive-In showcase.
The pandemic cancelled the 2021 show but thousands of enthusiasts turned out this past weekend to visually devour hundreds of the best hot rods, customs, muscle cars, street machines, classics and trucks found anywhere in the world.
For the Volkswagen geek, Building 9 showcased “A Gathering of Hot VW’s,” presented by Hot VW Magazine and EMPI. Bugs, buses, Ghia’s, Baja Bugs, sand rails, drag cars, Type III and Billy Gibbons’ custom chopped Bug kept their fans gawking for hours.
“Each year the best in the world congregate in Pomona to participate in the Grand National Roadster Show and compete for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and the Al Slonaker Memorial Award,” said John Buck, owner of Rod Shows and producer of the GNRS and other events.
Judging vehicles is strict, using apoint system based on detail, quality, condition, safety, and originally. Cars must have a removable top, no roll-up windows, a removable windshield, be based on a 1936 or earlier body style, and be able to move under their own power.
Winning an AMBR Award is the ultimate achievement of a car builder and puts them in the company of past winners including Boyd Coddington, George Barris, Chip Foose and Blackie Gejeian.
One of Barris’ legendary creations, the 1951 Hirohata Merc that just sold at auction for more than 2 million dollars, was displayed by Galpin Motors and, as expected, attracted a huge crowd.
The annual pinstrippping auction raised money for the Slave 2 Nothing Foundation, which was established to help improve the lives of persons and families affected by substance abuse and human trafficking.
As in years in the past, Building 4 was the location for the 12 spectacular roadsters competing for the most coveted award, America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. Eleven were Ford-based roadsters but the other, and the winner, was a 1934 Chevrolet Roadster named “Lucille,” owned by Jeff Breault and built by Devin Rod and Customs, took the title and earned its place on the 9 1/2-foot perpetual trophy.
“It was my dream to build a Chevy Roadster,” said Breault. “I’m a Chevy guy, not a Ford guy.”
Breault said he found the car in a Google search in a garage in Connecticut where the widow who owned it didn’t want to sell it to anyone who was gong to “cut it up.” She wanted the new owner to drive it, just as her husband had.
While Fords have dominated the award through the years, a 1935 Chevrolet-based roadster took top honors in 2014 and a 1936 Packard, the Mulholland Speedster, won in 2017.
Contenders for the other major award, the Al Slonaker Memorial, presented to the best non-roadster in the show, were displayed in Building 6. Winning that group was a 1932 Ford Coupe owned by Paul Gauntt and built by Hollywood Hot Rods. The coupe has a race-built 331 Cadillac V8 with 390 heads and custom high-compression pistons.