photos: Thee Inland Emperors and Goodguys
In our world, the Grand National Roadster Show is, well, The Big Show. It’s the Majors to the Minors for hotrodders. It’s the ComiCon to the Airport Holiday Inn Star Trek Annual. The AVN Awards to your cell phone video. It’s a Big Fuckin’ Deal.
And the cherry floating on top of the Manhattan is the AMBR trophy: America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. Not only is this sucker one of the physically tallest trophies we’ve ever seen, it’s the kind of trophy that guys will build a car specifically to win. And every stop is pulled out, every checkbook is decimated, every good name is raked across the Hawaiian-shirted, lion tamer-shorted, clipboarded judging crowd for a full weekend of scrutiny. It gets ugly out there, son.
And speaking of ugly, we contend that, since the early Seventies, the AMBR winner has turned into some sort of abstract unicorn: a car never to be driven, purpose-built to win this monstrous trophy and make a name for owner and shop – almost never, by the way, the same name. The AMBR is awarded to a car detached from reality, set upon a pedestal for the magazines and to be knocked off by the cars built just for the following year. Which means that we rarely pay attention to it, other than to justify our slight disdain for it, year after billet-laden year.
So, when we first saw Russ Freund’s (of Thee Inland Emperors C.C.) “Takeout T” roadster make a run for the AMBR a few years ago, we finally woke up from our Manhattan-fueled haze and started to pay attention to the race for the trophy. All of a sudden, it seemed like an actual real-world car that was (GASP!) tastefully built and worthy of sweaty-palmed desire by the fastest-growing group of gearheads was making it worth the parking lot slog on the last day of the GNRS to hang around for the award ceremony.
This year, John Gunsaulis – also an Inland Emperor – is making a bid for the AMBR this very weekend with his “Woodward Roadster:” a ’28 Ford roadster pickup built with old-timey goodies and a flathead and what looks to be most of a ’39 Ford Deluxe grille and some other neat stuff. It’s jet-fucking-black, simple, clean and, if we know anything about the club, will be driven. That’s right, Old-Guy-Checkbook crowd, we said DRIVEN. And there’s a good chance some beer hit the floorboards when a pothole got hit in it. Deal with that shit.
The Emperors made it to the Pomona Fairplex and got the car installed under the hallowed striped badge of the GNRS banner yesterday and we’ll wait with a chilled beverage in the comforting blue glow of the laptop for the results of the AMBR race on Sunday. So, if you’re in Pomona, CA this weekend, look for the dirty-shirted, kinda-funky-smelling giant panda suit and follow it to find the Woodward Roadster and let us know what you think.
FINALLY, the AMBR is getting interesting again…