50th to 60th Grand National Roadster Show

Written by Len Stupski

50th Annual Grand National Roadster Show ProgramI moved to the Bay area in 1996 and attended the 1997 & 1998 Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS). As good as they were, nothing prepared me for the 50th Anniversary show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco that next year in 1999. As I set my eyes upon the main floor my jaw dropped down to my shoulders. Just about every previous America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) winner right there in one spot. Awesome!!. Then, scattered throughout the rest of the building were more and more dynamite cars, built by guys like Bill Reasoner, Gene Winfield, Dave Crook, Marcos Garcia and many other great craftsmen. Saying hello to Big Daddy Roth was a great highlight of the event. After taking in all the colors, the chrome and history I vowed to be at the 60th show, God willing.

Fast forward ten years and I’m living in Gilbert, AZ, and the show is being held much closer now in Pomona, CA. Pure chance? I don’t think so…. perhaps God shares my love of cars.

Early Saturday morning I pile into Pikesan’s car with my son Brian and new friend Paul “Swanee” and head west on I-10. Along the way we catch up to Jimmy Smith and Boston Mike and caravan into Pomona. We stopped for some much needed coffee, oversized breakfast and a quick lesson in water glass safety. (a story for another time, perhaps) All finished we head to the main gate and wait anxiously in line.

As I pass through the turnstile it’s like “Wow…” I’m the farm kid on his first visit to the big city. The show encompasses eight buildings full of cars and has even more cars parked outside in between all the buildings. We head for building 5, and the first car we stop to look at is the ’52 Buick, “Resilience” designed by my son Brian and built by Tim Strange & the crew from Strange Motion. So, when I finally stopped drooling over this Motorama-styled beauty and shoved my eyes back into their sockets I took off to see the rest of the cars.

Flier from the 50th Annual Grand National Roadster ShowSo many cars and so little time. Did I mention I was there for two days? This had to be the finest collection of automotive art I have ever witnessed. Masterpieces by Foose, Cotati Speed Shop (talk about fit & finish), D’Agostino et al. blew me away. There was a dynamite ’61 Impala from Stockholm, Sweden, the recovered Orbitron of Roth lore and the fantastic tributes to the late Boyd Coddington, Dick Dean and ‘Lil John Buttera. Then a trip to the “Twice in a Lifetime” display which featured winners from the ’50’s thru the ’00s. It was great to see the late Ermie Immeroso’s multi AMBR winner which I first saw in Buffalo, NY in 1989, the Hansen’s 2005 winner “Seduced” and so many many beautiful cars. I could go on forever.

Ticket Stub from the 50th Annual Grand National Roadster ShowSadly it was time to hit the road. During the drive back to Gilbert I took some time to reflect and compare the 50th to the 60th show. And when I really look back and think about how well done the cars shown in 1999 were, the new paint concepts introduced, the styling by the trendsetters of that era, I realized how they had raised the bar of excellence. Then when I look at the things being done today with the tremendous advances in technology, paint, computer driven machinery to make “one off” parts I can say that a new and higher bar has been set. The 60th Anniversary GNRS has surpassed any level previously known to man and automobile. I can’t wait to see what happens at number 70.

Len Stupski