50 Years Of The LA Roadsters–Father’s Day Weekend, Classic Car Style

If you live in California and are a car guy or girl, every Father’s Day is spent at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona (hopefully with dad) to attend the LA Roadsters Show & Swap. There are two big rod shows in Pomona each year, the Grand National Roadster Show in January and the LA Roadsters’ Fathers Day show. If you’re a fan of street rods, or just a casual hot rod enthusiast, you’ve got to make it out to one of these shows.

The Los Angeles Roadsters Car Club was formed way back in 1957, making it 57 years old. This year’s Father’s Day show marked the 50th of the annual event itself, the first one happening in 1960 (they skipped a few years for various reasons) as a small gathering at the Hollywood Bowl.

Hey look, the LA Roadster booth, the only booth with a defibrillator.”—John Kiley, LA Roadsters President

Over the years, the show has become a Father’s Day tradition for car enthusiasts from around the world and features more than 800 pre-‘36 roadsters, 1,500 pre-‘72 specialty cars, a giant swap meet, and a commercial vendor midway. The annual Roadster Show is planned and operated by the active, lifetime, and associate members as well as their spouses. The members consist of 30 active members, 11 lifetime members, 19 associate members, and 5 honorary members. This is truly a family affair and an annual tradition in the street rod industry.

Inside the main gates of the fairgrounds, the only cars you’ll find are pre-’36 roadsters— no coupes, no sedans, no 40s, no musclecars…nothing but early roadsters, which formed the basis of the original Southern California hot rod culture. Exceptions this year included a new exhibition of coupes, sedans, and trucks in the Closed Car Corral inside the Avalon Ballroom. Building 4 was packed with vendor booths and show cars, while outside, roadsters packed every nook and cranny of the grounds.

One of the highlights inside Building 4 was the McGee-Scritchfield Charity Roadster. In celebration of the 50th LA Roadsters Show, this “Spirit of McGee” package will be completed by AXC and community supporters of the Learning Centers at Fairplex. The ’32 roadster will be a highlight of a Barrett-Jackson auction in 2015, with all proceeds from the project benefiting the Alex Xydias Center for Automotive Arts. The original McGee-Scritchfield roadster represents the history of Southern California hot rodding, from its legendary innovations in 1947 to its Safety Council Roadster role in Wally Parks’ SCTA Safety Campaign. It was the world’s fastest roadster at one point, running 167 mph, and was used for the image of the LA Roadsters logo. 

Outside, we saw a lot of cars from magazine features throughout the years, as well as several hundred that were brand new to our own eyes. When the owners were there, they were more than willing to talk to you at length about their hot rods. Once you venture outside of the fenced-in main show area, there was even more to see. A Cacklefest of 12 vintage, nitro-burning, front-engine dragsters was on display directly across from a Southern California Timing Association display of lakes and Bonneville race cars and a Save The Salt exhibition.

Beyond that were hot rods of all types as far as the eye could see, ranging from a bunch more street rods to cool oddballs like Hot Wheels designer Larry Wood’s radical COE truck and bitchin’ aluminum house trailer, which he found languishing in the weeds and restored to its current retro-modern style. There is also an impressive swap meet (not as big as the bi-annual Pomona Swap Meet, but bigger than many other swaps) with everything from T-shirts and junk to rare and incredibly desirable car parts, hot rod equipment, and collectibles.

Each year, the LA Roadsters pick a Builder of the Year, and 2014’s honor went to Roy Brizio Jr. As the club stated, “Roy has for more than 20 years earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the parts and pieces as well as complete turnkey cars that have defined modern hot rodding. In fact, the Brizio name has been synonymous with quality hot rods for nearly a half-century and has spanned two generations. Their philosophy is simple: to build and help others build the finest looking and driving hot rods of our time. Their achievements point to the successful implementation of this thinking. They have built Oakland Roadster Show winners and Hot Rod magazine’s 50th Anniversary celebration T-roadster, and last year Brizio Hot Rods won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) Award.” In case you weren’t aware, the AMBR and Ridler (presented at the Autorama in Detroit) are the two biggest honors one can get in hot rodding.

If you call yourself a hot rodder and you haven’t been to the LA Roadsters Father’s Day show in Pomona, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s not only one of the best street rod shows in the world, it’s also a great time hanging out with dad. That must be why people come from around the world (we saw friends from New Zealand, Australia, and Europe for example) to check it out. You should too.

Helping the Community

Formed in 1957, the LA Roadsters were chartered as a 501©(4) non-profit corporation in 1968 and are, “dedicated to community service and preservation of the American Hot Rod.” Proceeds from the Father’s Day show have been distributed to worthy non-profit organizations for four decades.

RA’s Top 3 Roadsters of the Show

Tracy Rufenacht of Monument, Colorado has been wanting to come to this show with his dad for years. Finally, they made it this year with his really slick ’32 roadster. It was a father-son project that they did mostly themselves in their garage, using a Brookville Roadster steel body and a warmed-over Flathead with four carbs. Look closely at the engine and you’ll see the home-made carb extensions on top of the manifold— they were shaped by the same guy that polished them— and one of our favorite details, the copper fuel lines. A Halibrand quickchange is in back and a Pete & Jakes aluminum dropped axle is up front. The Moon tank is plumbed, but it’s just for show.

Originally built by Hollywood Hot Rods and refurbished by Bata Mataja, Gail Fray’s ’30 roadster pickup grabbed our attention in a big way. It has a 276 ci flatty built by Howard Allen with a S.C.O.T. blower mounting a pair of Rochesters, way-expensive Ardun heads from Don Ferguson, a Hunt electronic distributor (made to look like an old Hunt magneto), front and rear torsion bar suspension, and HHR’s typical over-the-top build quality. The body is from Brookville and has a modified cab and bed, and the grille is from a Whippet with a 30s bronze mascot ornament. Just plain cool.

We went back multiple times to talk to Robert McCarter of Harrisburg, North Carolina about his roadster, but he was never around. We chose it as one of our top rods of the show anyway, not only due to its styling and knock-off steelies, but also because he obviously uses it for what a hot rod is supposed to be used for— driving! The paint chips may turn some off, but to us they’re a badge of honor signifying that this thing gets driven. Sorry we can’t tell you much about it, but maybe Robert will see this and comment? Anybody know him?

The goal was to pick RA’s Top 3 cars at the show, but we had to include a fourth; the Boyce Asquith roadster. Built in the late-80s, this Fruehauf Yellow bomber competed in a group trying to have the fastest, truly street-driven rod against guys like Fat Jack, Jerry Moreland, and more. With a full-tile Gary Hansen chassis and a 495-inch B&M-blown, 1,000 hp rat motor, this thing ran mid-8s at 160 mph in the quarter-mile (with a bolt-in chrome ‘cage, wheelie bars, wing, and ‘chute). When it appeared in Hot Rod magazine, it left a deep, lasting impression on many souls (including the author’s) as one of the baddest hot rods of all time. It was later crashed hard, twice, and is hitting the show circuit once again with current owner John Lawson.

Be sure to check out Rod Authority’s exclusive gallery from the 50th LA Roadsters Show below:

 

About the author

Rob Kinnan

Rob Kinnan requires very little introduction. Many would recognize Rob from his days as the Editor of Hot Rod Magazine. He is a dyed-in-the-wool hot rodder and muscle car enthusiast, a road racing aficionado behind the wheel of his Factory Five roadster, and a hardcore NASCAR fan.
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