Classic Instruments’ John McLeod Talks Time Merchant At GNRS

The Grand National Roadster Show’s (GNRS) main attraction each year is the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) award. It’s been a rare occurance in recent years that roadster pickups are approved for entry into the AMBR competition. But, this year saw two pickups vieing for the award. One had a definite west coast traditional-build flavor, and the other with a classic east coast look. Whatever your preference, both were phenomenal.

While at the GNRS, we caught up with John McLeod, owner of Classic Instruments, and wanted to get his take on the some aspects of the show. McLeod has become one of the guys with a real feel for the hot rod community – a finger on the hot rod/street rod pulse kind of guy. Not only is he the owner of a company that specializes in manufacturing and selling custom instrumentation for cars and boats, he is also the chairman of SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) counsel. Classic Instruments also frequently gives back to hot rodders by sponsoring many awards in hot rodding, including the Pro’s Pick award at NSRA events and the Goodguys’ Street Rod of the Year awards.

Because McLeod is an industry expert, we are always interested in hearing his take on the cars entered in shows. Normally a man that plays his cards close to the vest, we pushed McLeod to give us some insight to what he felt was the best execution of a traditional roadster looking to win the AMBR award.

Obviously, he has greater insight on cars that feature his company’s products, because there is some “hands-on” familiarity with those cars. MeLeod lead us over to the Goolsby Custom’s entry, The Time Merchant, and explained that this build had an interesting back story. “I like to say that I’ve produced some of the ugliest gauges and sent them from my shop,” McLeod says with a smile. “I try not to interfere with a builder’s ideas, because the customer is always right. Then, when I actually see the final product, I understand what the theme is, and it all comes together,” he said.

“This was one of the few times that I saw what I thought was a better looking set of gauges for a project, without the final touches that the builders wanted,” he continued. “I picked up the phone and called Jonathan [Goolsby] to explain what I was seeing. Then I shot him some photos so he could see. Fortunately, he agreed, and these gauges really added to the theme of this build.”

We asked McLeod about the build itself. “These guys really did their homework on this one. They researched every past AMBR winner to get a feel for what it takes to win the award. Goolsby Customs really did a great job on this build, and everything stayed on point following the theme of the car. So many times that slips away, but these guys got it right.” We have to agree.

The Time Merchant started out as a Brookville ’32 roadster, and then the team at Goolsby Customs got ahold of it. Traveling back in time, the team decided to power the roadster pickup with an engine of legendary status – the Ford Flathead. Building a ’32 roadster with a flathead is the kind of hot rod that your grandfather would build. But, a Starfire Blue ’32 roadster pickup with an Oldsmobile Rocket V8 engine is different, and something that melds modern day drivability with a traditional flair. Sort of a time machine type build… a Time Merchant, if you will.

The Time Merchant won the Pete Chapouris Memorial award, The Outstanding Engine award, Outstanding Paint award, Outstanding Undercarriage award, and the AMBR Achievement Award at this year’s GNRS. It seems that John McLeod does have a pretty good eye when it comes to hot rods.

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About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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