We've come to expect a lot of things from the Grand National Roadster Show in its 57-year history. We know there will be debuts of great new rods and customs from top car builders in the Western U.S. It goes without saying that there will be heated competition for the coveted America's Most Beautiful Roadster award. And there's bound to be plenty of pomp and tradition considering that this is the longest-running indoor car show in the world.
Given such expectations, it can be difficult for the Grand National show to dish out surprises and innovations year after year. This could have been especially true this year. Few people expected any upsets in AMBR competition knowing that Ken Reister was bringing his Chip Foose-designed and built Impression roadster-the 2005 Ridler Award winner in Detroit-to contend for the big prize. (Indeed, the car did win.) Furthermore, with two successful years under its belt at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, the Grand National had already disproved theories of demise resulting from its move away from the San Francisco Bay area. So, could there really be any new news or features to capture the public's interest in 2006?
In a word, yes. Credit new show owner John Buck with thinking outside the box-or rather, outside the building-and hosting the first-ever (or at least the first we can remember) Grand National Saturday Drive-In. This "show within the show" allowed several hundred local custom and rod owners to participate in the Grand National event by displaying their street-driven rides outside between the show buildings. Additionally, there was an extra hall added this year, dubbed the Suede Palace, which displayed some of the area's coolest primered, down 'n' dirty hardcore rods and customs, and also hosted Saturday's Pinstripers Reunion. Both venues allowed many "average Joe" rodders to be part of an event that many of them have likely only dreamed of entering.
Of course, roadsters of all shapes and sizes are a focus here, although there were plenty of cool customs filling the event's six show halls. Among these were several spectacular debuts, including J.F. Launier's '51 Kaiser, Keith Kaucher's '54 Ford, and Roger O'Dell's '57 Eldorado. Rather than tell you about all the cool cars, though, we're going to show you some of our favorite entries on the next few pages. Take a look and we think you'll agree that, after nearly six decades, the Grand National Roadster Show exhibits no signs of diminishing expectations.