By now, everyone has figured out that Pomona’s Grand National Roadster Show covers almost every type of hot rod, street rod, or custom car known to mankind. Most are done by very skilled builders, and each year brings another group of Chip Foose wannabes, all producing some very polished creations. But hidden in building 10 of the fairplex at each GNRS is the heart of hot rodding.
Affectionately called the Suede Palace, this building should be considered a show within the show, and almost a stand alone event. If the thought of glossy shops with guys having manicured hands, and spotless clean floors bothers you, then the Suede Palace is your place. It even smells like a real hot rod shop. The air is filled with the combination of Pomade mixed with raw fuel.
Almost every piece of media printed that describes the Suede Palace, refers to the contents of the building as vintage-style hot rods and customs. This is true, but the real dividing line is the people behind the builds. While AMBR contenders are often described as traditional builds, every car in the Suede Palace truly is a legitimate traditional build.
Spearheaded mainly by Alex Idzardi, or “Axle” as he is better known, the Suede Palace is a university where spectators get a quick education in traditional hot rodding. Each project car in the building is built by the car’s owner or by a car club, the way it used to be done.
Car clubs are strongly represented in the building, and the cars recreate the hot rod eras from the fourties, fifties, and sixties. There are some cars with shiny finishes, but most are less flashy with low-gloss paint. Many of these rods have flat paint finishes, which is where the suede name comes from. On those cars that are not suede, there is no shortage of scallops, lace, or pinstripes on the sheetmetal. Most of the cars are fitted with pleats or tuck-and-roll upholstery, with hula girl or Virgin Mary dash accessories.
Authenticity is the look, feel, and smell of the atmosphere in the building. Tall and thin bias-ply tires sporting a large white sidewall, adorn many of the vehicles. This is the place where you can see unrestored Ford Flatheads, real Buick Nailheads, big Cadillac engines, Oldsmobile Rocket 88s, and a few other vintage pieces.
Music is constantly playing in the background, whether it is live or piped in, and the attire is mostly rockabilly. The walls are lined with vendor booths that support the hot rod lifestyle with clothes, shoes, and accessories. Local automotive-themed artists like Max Grundy were selling and signing their art near the front entrance of the building.
If you are looking for a real throwback to an earlier day when things were simpler, people were nicer, music was easy on your ears, and cars were built like … well … cars that are built like they were back then, the Suede Palace is a must see at the GNRS. So make your plans for next year’s show, and step into building 10 where survivor cars from an age gone by are still worked on by their owners or a car group, in the traditional style, and put on display for everyone to enjoy. See you there.