The Rules have Changed: 2011 AMBR Award Judging Explained

How to Win the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award

America's Most Beautiful Roadster winner, AMBR winner, America's Most Beautiful Roadster judging, AMBR judging, Pomona Car show, 2011 Grand National Roadster Show judging, 1934 Roadster

In case you haven’t already heard, the 1934 Ford Roadster owned by Daryl Wolfswinkel’s and built by Doug Jerger and crew at Squeeg’s Kustoms in Chandler, AZ won the highly coveted “AMBR Award” or America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award. Those of you who’ve seen the story posted here at about the 2008-2010 AMBR winners are SHOCKED! (but maybe tickled too!!)


Disagree? Here’ your chance to Vote on the AMBR winner yourself!


The Trophy for America's Most Beautiful Roadster and Vic CunnynghamAt the Grand National Roadster Show on Saturday morning, I learned the judging criteria for the AMBR award changed. Guess who told me?  Ironically, it was my buddy Doug Jerger! (I’m in Chandler too) Sniffing a great story, I asked around and found Vic Cunnyngham, the judges coordinator for the 2011 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. (Yes, that’s the correct spelling of his name…)


Vic, a long time hot rodder and hot rod builder set me straight on selecting the 2011 AMBR award winner. To sum it up in one, simple sentences, I’d say: It’ll be the most beautiful roadster at the show. A quick clarification: A roadster is a car with no fixed roof (obviously) but also does NOT have roll up windows.


So what’s changed and how is “beautiful” defined?


What’s changed?  First off, the points system of the past is GONE.  Now, there’s a panel of 12 judges who subjectively choose the AMBR car.  The process is totally different as well.  In past years, it was like an ISCA points system where the bulk of the judging took place with the roadster on display on the show floor.  Vic explained that on display, it’s hard to see the overall car…. “It’s hard to see if it looks like an automobile or not!”


Compare the display of the 2011 AMBR winner to past years. Quoting a friend, “It looks like the car exploded!” Squeeg’s Kustoms purposefully displayed the car with doors, trunk and decklid closed and wheels on so everyone (not just the judges) could see it as it is: A Hot Rod Roadster!


Only for the judges to see, the AMBR cars were the first to arrive in the Main Hall. After staging at the far end, the roadsters were driven in, one at a time, to the center of the hall and parked on a piece of black carpet with a white backdrop. No lights, no jack stands, no bling. The car had to move on it’s own, like before, but this method accomplished two very important judging points:


  • The judges can hear the car
  • The judges can see the driver sit in the car


I can understand the first one, but had to ask Vic about the seating position. Vic explained that in past years, when the AMBR winner was leaving the show, people saw someone sitting in the car and it, “Looked like he was sitting on a milk crate!” No doubt a truly beautiful car should be something you could comfortably sit in and (gasp!) drive, in comfort. Vic and the judges made it so.


For the engine sound, I couldn’t agree more. America’s Most Beautiful Roadster should make a point that it can walk the walk too. Having heard Daryl’s 34 Roadster running, I promise you it helped this car win.

1951 AMBR winner, AMBR Award, AMBR rules, AMBR Judging, 1923 Ford Roadster
Interesting side note… Parked next to the AMBR trophy and across from the 2010 AMBR winner, Rico Squaglia’s 1951 AMBR winner sat on display. When the 23 Ford Roadster won in 1951, Vic says the flathead V8 it has now was missing! It didn’t have an engine!  Starting in 1952, rulebooks stated the cars had to run. (Click the pic to see it full size)


Back to the new AMBR judging on the black carpet… the judges started from 50 feet away.  Each car was judged for 10 minutes from every angle. They looked, most importantly, at the overall lines of the car. The engine and interior judging would come later.  The fit quality, body gaps and the all important sound of the door closing were closely inspected.  After that, the judges each had 10 minutes to interview the car owner or builder to hear the unique, but maybe not so obvious, features of the roadster.


After, the cars were put on display and judging continued during the show. At that time, the judges each had a judge’s sheet to keep notes on the following:


  • Visual Detail
  • Engineering
  • Interior
  • Engine
  • Paint and Chrome
  • Under carriage
  • Display


In the end, the judges wrote down a number, 1-12 corresponding to the AMBR contender that was best in each category.  Finally, they wrote one number in the box for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. I assumed there was a weighted criteria for the list above or that the roadster with the most votes in any judging criteria would win. NOPE!  Vic told me that a car that didn’t “win” any of these could still take home the AMBR award.


So who are the judges?

Vic wouldn’t name names… he did say that 2 were representatives from the ISCA. After that, the judges were from a diverse background liking different kinds of roadsters. He said some like the swoopy lines of a somewhat modern roadster and some dig the traditional or vintage look of a hot rod.  On Saturday night, Vic planned for an organized dog fight as the 12 judges came together to decide which car should be labeled the most beautiful in America. I would have loved to be in that room! 12 people with 12 strong opinions…


Vic concluded, “It’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster! That’s what it is, not what it was. That’s why they changed it.”


No points, not anymore… and the competitors and  spectators I talked to like it.  How about you?