Well, gearheads and lovers of the Bow Tie, we’re back at the extremely difficult task of choosing our top-five favorite rides from the 2020 Grand National Roadster Show. It was a tough call last year, and Chevrolet owners apparently wanted to make this task a little more difficult this year, because they brought the heavy metal in an assortment of flavors.
I’ll preface this by saying you might not always agree with our top-five list selections when you see some of the other contenders — we were disappointed that we couldn’t make it a top seven… or eight… or ten. The boss said to give you the five we liked the most. However, there’s also an honorable mention thrown in there, too, just because you deserve it.
The show brought out some great rides again. This year we had our hands full sticking with the inside cars. The eight buildings were full of great vehicles from all decades and venues — including a look back at classic drag racing. After tallying the photos, we ended up with nearly 500 pictures of vehicles that simply stopped us in our tracks, and we mean literally stopped us from walking past. So let’s get at the top choices, shall we?
Honorable Mention: DWS Classic’s 1972 C10
This CSS/C10 build by DWS Classics, in Huntington Beach, was red. Red on red, with more red added. Even the carpet was red. But under all that red was a slew of sponsor goodies that stood out. From the Hilborn injection to the custom radiator treatment highlighting Champion Cooling Systems, there were trick touches throughout the truck. The injector stacks are tilted forward to clear the cowl and sit inside a plexiglass hood scoop.
Inside, square Dakota Digital HDX gauges for a 1969 Camaro reside where the round C10 instrument cluster belongs. But, builder Darin Smith tossed out standard fare when he began building vehicles with his partner in crime, Gino Capps, more than six years ago. The truck was built with a TCI Engineering suspension for the intention of autocross, but for now, it’s going to be seeing the show circuit, we’ve been told.
Pick Number 5: Brad Apicella’s 1952 3100
We went from a red-on-red truck to an Electrified Blue 3100, and this young builder did an amazing job with this one. Brad Apicella of Apicella Designs laid down some of the brightest blue paint we saw at the show. Under the hood, he planted a Chevrolet Performance LSA crate engine and a 6L90E six-speed automatic. Keeping the engine clean and looking like it belonged there, he mounted a Concept One front-drive system and touched up on some of the details with the same paint as the exterior.
Inside, the contrasting tan leather is a perfect touch and helps make this old truck really pop. As we’ve seen in many of the builds, Dakota Digital Retrotech Series gauges are upgraded with TPMS sensors to keep the tire pressures in check. The suspension is a full TCI Engineering setup with Ridetech shocks, Wilwood brakes, and Raceline billet wheels to complete the package. Tucked up under the bed is a stainless gas tank from Rick’s Tanks to help keep the fuel flowing for the blown LSA.
Pick Number 4: Larry Brager’s 1955 Nomad
Picking a Tri-Five as a Top Five almost seems to be an expected choice, and this year there were more than a worthy few. We wanted a little variety, and while we did have a Tri-Five that was our number one pick, Larry’s Nomad was just too cool to pass it up. It was almost plain looking, but how can you pass up a Nomad?
One thing that really stood out about this wagon was the black finish on the hood support and billet hinges. It was actually nice to see something other than polished billet all over the place — not that there’s anything wrong with it. The contrast came out well and stood out. The rest of the underhood was just as clean, with a satin finish on the engine components which matched the interior.
Pick Number 3: Sonny Freeman’s 1965 Chevelle
It was difficult not to notice Sonny Freeman’s Chevelle. This Great 8 award winner and Ridler contender sports a very cool looking engine compartment with concealed wiring and plumbing, thanks to the custom panels and intake components. The Mast Motorsports LS7 is putting out about 900 horsepower, so this car is more than just good looks, it’s got a bit of a ‘tude, as well.
If you’re checking out those wheels, you’ll have to get in touch with Mike Curtis Designs (American Hot Rod fame) to make you a set. The interior and dashboard looks more like a 1960s futuristic design and works well with the build. Another nice touch is the redline tires, reminiscent of decades past. The car looks fun, and the Art Morrison sport chassis equipped with Ridetech shocks and a billet four-link rear make it handle like a Corvette. Wilwood brakes keep it slowed down long enough to check it out.
Pick Number 2: Howard Groff’s 1962 Impala
You can almost hear the Beach Boys song “She’s So Fine, My 409” in your head as you walk past this gorgeous Impala SS. But, that 409 is quite a bit more than your average, run of the mill, big-block — it’s been pumped up to 509 cubic inches pumping out 623 horsepower. The satin finish on underhood components seems to be all the rage, much like “Hot Rod Black” was a few years ago. The eight-stack injection is a great upgrade from twin carbs, too.
It’s probably fairly easy to see why this Cal Automotive Creations build was our second favorite in the show. Whether it’s the paint, the interior, or the so fine 509 that catches your fancy, the whole package caught our attention and, as mentioned, made us stop in our tracks. Who’s not a sucker for a classic Impala, anyway?
Top Pick: Gary Stell Jr’s ’55 Chevy
We were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of Gary’s sweetheart build, Roxanne, while it was going through its many build phases. There are definite custom touches throughout, as Cambra Speed Shop nailed it with this one, including the Nomad appearance given to this 1955 210 sedan. The popular Hilborn injection sitting atop the 427 cubic inch LS7 gives it a bit of a business approach, and you can sit back in that comfortable office and let the 4L80 transmission take you through the gears.
More than just another pretty face, this ’55 is sitting on a Roadster Shop chassis with Wilwood brakes to keep it under control when the skinny pedal is mashed to the floor. Inside, a Vintage Air A/C system keeps you cool while listening to the Seductive Sound audio system. This was our favorite for a few reasons, but mostly because out of all of the top picks above it’s the one we wanted to drive the most. How about it Gary?
There you have it, our top-five picks from the 2020 Grand National Roadster Show. Do you agree with our choices? You can check out a bunch more of our contenders for the top-five in the gallery below. Tell us which was your top pick from the show?