Since 1950, the Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, has represented the finest roadsters in the country, with a select number vying for the coveted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) award. With more than 500 original, restored, and custom automobiles competing for class recognition, and hundreds more featured at the annual “drive-in,” there truly is something for everyone, of every age, to appreciate.
At the 67th Annual GNRS in January, the cars, trucks, custom bikes, vintage memorabilia, and aftermarket companies displaying their latest wares did not disappoint. With an overall show theme of the “Nifty ’50s,” an entire building was dedicated to celebrating all things from the era — and ranged from whimsical car displays, complete customs, and authentic stock models representing true throwbacks to one of the greatest generations of car design.
We picked the top 13 pickup trucks from the show that had truly timeless beauty, no matter when or where they were shown. And, if you want to enter your vehicle in the 2017 show, you’re in luck — registration is open and you have just five months to get your car ready for the spectacular show and shine in January 2017.
We usually gravitate towards hot rods, but decided for this show to concentrate some of our attention on trucks. Originally, we thought we should single out our top five favorites. Seems easy enough, right? Yeah … well … not so much, we found well beyond that number. Months later, after discovering these beauties in our files, the inability to narrow it down to only five is your gain. Below are a baker’s dozen — 13 trucks that stood out to us at the show for a variety of reasons.
Unknown to us at the time, and after the fact, we discovered that we had judged them fairly spot on; the trucks below represent four first places, three second places, and two third place awards. Not too shabby if we say so ourselves.
1. 1965 Chevrolet C10 Custom
This baby blue Chevrolet C10 Custom was in the first building we entered. It stood out with its exterior paint, laid down by Monrovia Auto Body. While not quite the color of a Tiffany jewelry box, it sparkled like a diamond.
Owned and built by Rolo Rolofson, it is equipped with a 406ci four-bolt Dart block with a USA 6-71 supercharger, Hilborn fuel injection, GM 4L80E transmission, and power steering by Lee Manufacturing. A 12-bolt Posi-traction rearend is geared to 3.73:1 with Chip Foose wheels and Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners.
Other qualities included a fine interior stitched by Ron Magnus Hot Rod Interiors. Universal Metal supplied the chrome plating. Keeping things in the family, all custom fabrication was performed by Rolofson’s son, Blu Mahuron, and included one-piece side windows, African spell redwood, with custom bumpers, and hood panel.
2. 1929 Ford Model A Roundabout
Named “Wicked in Suede,” the sinister personality of this vintage pickup is evident by its devilish touches inside and out, most notably a shifter topped with a miniature skull with glaring, beady glass eyes and red streaks of faux blood flowing from the top.
Sporting a semi-matte black paint by B&E Custom, it is further set off by honey oak redwood in the compact bed. A cold industrial blue patina on the wheels and dashboard inside houses three simple Mooneyes gauges set in the center. Pinstripes throughout the cab and engine compartment are faint, like the wisp of a ghoul, and was done by Rick Grindle.
Owner John Martinez of Woodland Hills, California, selected 101 Auto Upholstery in Oxnard, California, to complete a bench seat that is tucked and rolled in black leather, and Rick Kanes to wire the electrical components. Riding on a chassis by Total Cost Involved (TCI), it is propelled by a small-block Chevrolet with a 2004R overdrive transmission, and a Currie 9-inch rearend geared to 3.5:1.
3. 1934 Ford
Featuring an all-steel Henry body, owners Jim and Jan Shield returned this truck to its roots with an old school drop axle, four-link suspension with panhard bar, and P&J chassis. Powering this classic is a high-performance ’74 Chevy 350 with aluminum heads, and a 350 turbo automatic transmission mated to a Ford 8-inch rearend. Adding a feel of nostalgia are Truespoke wheels, a 1933 Pierce Arrow dash with dual glove boxes, Classic Instrument gauges, and classy two-tone red/beige exterior paint.
4. 1956 Ford F-100
Appropriately titled “Sunstroked,” this full-size truck was a red-hot addition to the show. Now, we all know that red trucks are very common, if not the most popular color, but this all-steel ’56 F-100 owned and built by Reid and Donna Johnson was as cherry as they come.
Although this truck was completely built in the owner’s home garage, a few friends helped out the Reid’s. Ed Owens outfitted the pickup with the engine, suspension, and custom trim; Mike Jorns handled the mechanicals and final engine install, and Sean Smith was responsible for the design, chassis fabrication, and custom metal work. Two additional craftsmen contributed: upholstery was completed by Joe Coker, and Manny Medina laid down the paint.
Modifications were made to the body to shorten the overall length by 30 percent under its factory size, including front axles that were moved forward 5 1/2 inches, and wheel openings pushed to the front four inches. In addition, the roof panel was lowered 1 1/4 inches at the front with drip rails removed, rear fenders widened, door corners rounded, and many more mods to achieve the look.
A showboard near the display noted Sunstroked it is equipped with a NASCAR-modified trailing arm, all-custom rear suspension, and Jaguar front suspension. Plus, every piece of sheetmetal or trim was modified or custom-fabricated. The build features a total of 37 custom one-off billet aluminum or steel pieces. In addition, 14 Ford oval shapes were incorporated into the overall design.
5. 1931 Ford Sedan Delivery Panel
While this is not a typical pickup, it qualified as a truck in another sense in that it was once used as a workhorse to make deliveries and keep commerce moving forward. The restoration is top shelf, especially the custom blonde wood used on the headliner, rear door, floor, and tool box, which is a fantastic contrast to an original Ford factory color on the exterior – Washington Blue.
Owned by Art Vigil of Granite Bay, California, this refined delivery truck was built by Ben York, owner of Roseville Rod & Custom in Roseville, California, who also sprayed the paint. It is powered by a 302 cubic-inch Ford Racing engine with Edelbrock fuel injection and a Ford AOD transmission with Lokar shifter.
Riding on a chassis by Ray Zarick from the Model T Shop, the front suspension has a six-inch dropped axle with four-link control arms. The rear suspension is a Ford 9-inch, also with four-link control arms and coilover shocks. It rolls on BFG 205/60R15 front, and 235/70R15 rear radial tires with steel covers.
6. 1930 Ford Model A Hometown Delivery
There was a second delivery truck that was so unique with personality, we had to stop and talk with the owner, who was quite a character himself. About two years ago, Mike Lauden of Sacramento had the winning bid at an auction and snapped up this 1930 Model A Hometown Delivery truck rather cheaply.
“It didn’t have a motor or transmission or internals because it had been stored in a warehouse for more than 12 years before I bought it,” Lauden said. “Ford only built about 400 of these trucks and I’d been looking, so when this came up at auction I was hot after it!”
Tearing into the restoration right away, Lauden knew exactly what he wanted to portray on the panels. “The knight theme is a Scottish temple — the sign of a black knight — and there is a Scottish family crest,” he said. “The castle depicted is Lauden Castle as it looked in the 14th century, and still stands today. It is one of six castles in Europe that has never been sold, and remains in our family lineage and ownership.”
While he had the knight’s tale down right, making power was a different story. It took three tries to get the engine just right; first a Buick, then a Chevrolet, and finally a Ford 350 — which stuck. Lauden revealed his truck has 16-inch Coker tires on the front and 17-inch in the back, Ford disc brakes in the front, nearly original suspension, rear shock coilovers on a 9-inch Ford rearend, and a polished exhaust. Inside, Vintage Air keeps things cool behind the Angel/Banjo steering wheel. Indeed, it makes a fine rolling steed for this knight in shining armor.
7. 1935 L5 Studebaker
See a penny, pick it up! Out of Paso Robles, California, Jerry and Suzie Rava brought their ultra-rare 1939 L5 pickup to the show, and boy was it a stunning sight! One of only 25 ever built by the factory, Mattson Street Rods brought this beauty back to life. The all-original steel Studebaker is a stunner with Copper Penny Pearl Valspar paint sprayed by Rick Sharp at Sharp Auto Body in Paso Robles, California.
Powered by a 396 cubic-inch Chevrolet small-block capable of 495 horsepower and paired with a 700R4 transmission, it sits on a suspension by TCI engineering with a 9-inch Ford rearend by Chassisworks. The custom burlwood bed, Budnik wheels wrapped in Nitto tires, and drilled/slotted Wilwood rotors on all fours complement this build with pristine perfection.
8. 1930 Mercury Roadster
Compared to the majority of classic trucks falling under the Ford or Chevrolet marques, it was a treat to see a horse of a different color with this 1930 Mercury roadster. With the stance of a cut-off Highboy that could do double-time at Bonneville, this roaster hit all the notes for owner Lynn Park of La Cañada, California.
A rich sapphire hue is highlighted with gold and maroon pinstriping outlining of the front engine gills, which is carried over to the matching interior and tailgate expression bringing attention to the Mercury namesake stamped in the tailgate.
Underneath, there is plenty of bling in the form of a polished, stainless rearend. Blonde bed wood with polished chrome slots and a custom toolbox set flush against the cab wall keeps this two-seater on track with authenticity.
9. 1935 Ford Pickup
What was once a barn find for Brooks and Jamie Laudin has become a good luck charm for the Walnut Creek, California, couple. Rebuilt by The Forge of Loveland, Colorado, it features a bored and stroked small-block Ford Cobra engine, Edelbrock aluminum heads, a four-pack of Weber 48 IDA carbs, four-speed top-loader transmission, 9-inch rearend, and green body paint that contrasts beautifully with black fenders and running boards.
10. 1948 Thames 1/4-Ton Panel Delivery Truck
From across the pond, this 1948 Thames 1/4-ton delivery panel truck belongs to Guy Murphy of Portland, Oregon. A complete rebuild by Steve’s Auto Restorations, the wheelbase was lengthened to 96 inches and the grille, windshield, and pillars were slightly laid back. By the way, that handcrafted grille is a definite focal point as each of its three elongated openings are trimmed in rolled and polished billet.
In addition, Anglia doors were installed on the cab, with a custom rear door built by craftsmen at Steve’s shop. It motors along courtesy of a Chevrolet Performance ZZ4 small-block paired with a 4L60E automatic transmission.
11. 1955 Chevrolet Truck
Seeing this Chevy under the lights took our breath away. Apparently, the judges thought so, too. It was awarded second place in the Semi Pickup class. The color is stunning, not quite blue, and not quite lilac — but rather a custom pearl color fusion of both laid by Jimmy T. at Double Z Hot Rods out of Dinuba, California, who also did the bodywork and completed the build.
Dubbed the “Jackson 55” and belonging to Matt Jackson of Kingsburg, California, it rolls on a custom frame by Art Morrison. Power is secured through an LS3 that sits in a custom-fabricated engine compartment, and is mated to a 6L80E transmission. A dual, polished stainless steel exhaust is courtesy of Lucky 9 Fabrication.
Other new components include a streamlined interior with a center console and billet accessories by Motion Motorsport, gauges by Dakota Digital, caramel leather seating and door trim, and a cream painted dash to complement the same colors on the Mob Steel wheels, and wraparound rear window and cab.
12. 1962 Ford F-100 Unibody LSR
The only Salt Flat truck we came across was “Jake,” a 1962 Ford F-100 D/Production Pickup (D/PP) owned and driven by Tim McMaster. Just looking at it, you know it was built for speed and setting land records.
To keep McMaster safe, a full cage was fabricated by John Garner, which Lewis Milnich painted to match the lower half the body. Powered by a 301 cubic-inch Ford Y-block built by Hanford Auto Supply, it has recorded top speeds of 142.21 at El Mirage, and 147.19 at Bonneville.
13. 1956 Ford F-100
Owned by Tom Anderson, this 1956 Ford was pure sunshine. Maybe we were partial to it because yellow is one of our favorite colors, or that this big dose of citrus zing was simply meticulous – from the Billet Specialties wheels to the varnished wood rails on the stepside bed.
Crafted by Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors, the custom dash with single gauge housing, carpet, and steering column turn up like a shiny new copper penny. Two-tone blush and caramel leather wraps the bench seat and door trim panels. The work paid off for Anderson and his assembly team – it placed first in the Semi Pickup Class.
A former Grand National Roadster Show Builder of the Year, Scott Bonowski of Hot Rods & Hobbies was in charge of the custom paint and build, which was from the ground-up with a new custom chassis plumbed with stainless steel tubing. Making power to the wheels is a 347 ci Ford stroker small-block fired by MSD Performance in a gorgeous body-matching yellow engine bay.
Greg Cox of Artistic Silver Plating handled all of the intricate chrome pieces on the truck bed, and also polished the GT40 intake and front drive assembly. Other standout features are a Ford 9-inch rearend, Flowmaster mufflers with 2 1/2-inch pipes, and a stainless fuel reservoir from Rick’s Tanks. Wilwood four-piston calipers on the rear and six-piston on the front with slotted and drilled rotors at all four corners provide stopping power.
And there you have it, 13 passion projects for owners, and a joy for enthusiasts to admire, but not touch. Let us know which one of these beauties is your favorite in the comments below.