For the 71st year in a row, the Grand National Roadster Show has attracted the coolest custom cars. Every last weekend in January, thousands of people flock to the Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, California to see some of the coolest hot rods, drag cars, custom cars, and muscle cars around. Since 2004, the Pomona Fairplex has been home to this great show, after having been held in the Bay Area of Northern California since 1949. It is one of the oldest running custom car shows that is still going.
We were able to attend the show on Saturday, January 25th, 2020, and pick out all the Mopars that were in attendance. On Saturday and Sunday, spectators had the option of bringing their own classic car to drive in, and park on the show grounds, which increases the number of cars that attended. Starting off in the drag car exhibition, we were able to find some great examples of Mopar history in drag racing.
The first car we picked out was the 1968 Plymouth Barracuda dubbed the Hemi Under Glass. The Hemi Under Glass is one of the most famous wheel standers of all time, next to the Little Red Wagon. Current owner and driver Mike Mantel was on hand with original driver “Wild Bill” Shrewsberry to answer questions from fans.
We were also able to spot “TV Tommy” Ivo, who drove the Barnstormer top fuel dragster in the early 1960s. Another big highlight was Lynn Park’s Samurai AA/FD top fuel dragster from 1966. The Samurai is powered by a Chrysler 392 Hemi, and was the very first dragster to hit over 200mph in Japan. We were also able to spot out the Texas Longhorn AA/FD top fuel dragster, also powered by a Chrysler 392 Hemi. Other famous top fuel dragsters included the Magicar AA/FD, and the Baney Chrysler Plymouth AA/FD, which was recently restored by the late Lou Baney’s son, Frank Baney.
Outside, we were able to find a 1964 Chrysler Newport station wagon, an old 1966 Plymouth Valiant, a 1940 Willys replica, a custom 1962 Chrysler 300H from the Sultans Car Club, and a 1965 Chrysler Imperial. We were also able to pick out a Dodge Tradesman 300 van from the California Street Vans Club, based out of Southern California, which specializes in custom 1970s “shaggin’ wagons.” Nearby, was an exact replica of The Surfers’ AA/FD dragster, and the original Mastercar AA/FD, which was owned and raced by the late drag racing historian John Ewald. Throughout the day, show spectators were treated to a cacklefest featuring these two cars.
As we neared the Suede Palace hall of hot rods, we picked out a spectacular example of a 1962 Chrysler 300H. The owner, who goes by “LV” told us that the car was newly purchased. Recently, LV had the car pinstriped, with artwork by DA Designs just in time for the show to represent the Varrio Vamps Car Club, which she is currently part of.
The Suede Palace is a very special hall, dedicated to traditional hot rods. The organizer, Axel Idzardi spends countless hours getting the right cars for this special display hall. The term “suede” is a fancy name for primer because when it’s sanded smooth, it feels like suede material. Recently, the Suede Palace was immortalized by Southern California surf band Maxx & The Anchovys with a surf instrumental of the same name.
Inside the Suede Palace, we were able to find the original 1963 Dodge 330 Super Stocker sponsored by the Ramchargers drag racing team. Yes, this is the same team that ran the cars with the red and white candy stripes on their Mopars back in the 1960s when drag racing was in its heyday.
On display in the main building, where the contenders of the prestigious title of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) are staged, we found a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda that’s totally custom, along with a 1972 Barracuda built by the Lucky 7 Speed Shop. Additionally, we wound a stunning 1940 Willys Americar gasser that was built as a tribute to the original gassers that drag raced in the 1960s.
Walking back, we found a stellar 1970 Plymouth Superbird painted in Top Banana yellow with a black vinyl top, and an immaculate 1970 Dodge Coronet finished in black. These two cars were treated to concours quality restorations, and put on display at the show for the public to enjoy. At the back of the hall, we found a 1933 Willys gasser that was also on display. Nicknamed “Past Gas,” this beast features a custom paint job with products from House of Kolor, a pair of pie-crust drag slicks, and Halibrand-style wheels in all four corners.
Additionally, we found a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440 finished in Moulin Rouge with black interior. Last, but certainly not least, we were able to find a custom 1972 Plymouth Road Runner at the Bardahl booth. Underneath the hood was a 340 cubic-inch V8 that has the old-school “340 Four Barrel” air cleaner.
The Grand National Roadster Show does not disappoint. Every year, there’s always something for everybody. Hot rods, drag cars, classic cars, custom cars, roadsters, and the list goes on. If you want to see some of the best hot rods and custom cars in Southern California, then the Grand National Roadster Show is the place to be. Annually, the show gets bigger and better. If you haven’t been, you have to get this show on your bucket list.