GNRS 2015: 66 Years Of Pushing Creativity To The Next Level

Event Coverage - 2015 GNRSThe Grand National Roadster Show is a welcome site for hot rodders and kustom nuts from all around the globe. Steeped in equal parts tradition and pushing creativity to the limit, this 66 year old event is a God-send for enthusiasts dusting off that end-of-the-year lull.IMG_1628

Being a January show is more crucial than some may think–it provides a baseline and eclectic landscape which reveals the ideas and styles that are rising, and constantly changing. The Grand National Roadster show is not just a testament to tradition. It also stands as a torch illuminating the path for future generations of enthusiasts.

IMG_2067Rod Authority was in full pursuit cataloging the halls full of debuts and veteran participants–from big-name builder unveilings to the AMBR contenders, our hope is that our documentation (which will be released in several articles over the course of the next few weeks) of this year’s show serves not only as a look back for those that were in attendance, but a solid glimpse into the rampant inspiration for those who weren’t. One thing is certain, GNRS is one show that you must attend at least once in your life.

Below are two spotlights on cars from completely different times, with two different applications, but fueled by the same love for golden-era American automobiles.IMG_1795

Heyday Survivor & Icon From 1st Oakland Roadster Show: The Woody Lee T

The Woody Lee T

  • Notable owner: Richard “Woody” Lee of Castro Valley, California
  • Builder: Jack Hagemann
  • Engine: 296ci Mercury, Navarro Heads, three-pot intake, Winfield cam, Harmon Collins magneto
  • Features: Tubular chassis, Indy Novi aluminum nose, full belly pan, Franklin steering box
  • Paint by “Tommy the Greek”
  • Cal-Neva Record: 131.11mph
  • Tracy 1/4 Mile Record: 124mph
  • Bonneville Top Speed: 133.6mph
Below is an excerpt from the Woody Lee T’s placard detailing its history, owner transitions, and plans for the future.

Excerpt from current caretaker: “The “Woody” Lee T was constructed in 1949 by Jack Hagemann for Larry Neves of Oakland, California. The car was entered in the inaugural 1950 Oakland Roadster Show where it finished runner-up to the NieKamp roadster.

Richard “Woody” Lee purchased the car in 1951 and raced it as a member of the Cal-Neva Roadster Association at both dry lakes and quarter-mile events holding multiple records. During 1951 the car briefly changed hands from Woody to Chuck Chenowth of San Diego, California and then back to Woody who raced and showed the car through the mid-1950s. Magazine photos show the car being co-owned by David Thorne in 1952…Ownership of the car is unknown between 1954 and the mid-1960s.

During the mid to late 1960s the car wound up in the hands of Jim and Yvonne Ranger who were most notable for owning and racing the unlimited hydroplane, “My Gypsy.” Yvonne was the heiress to the Horace Dodge estate.IMG_1743

In 1969, the car was purchased by a family friend, Danny Gilmore, of Covina, California as a project during retirement. Unfortunately, Danny passed away before he was able to begin work on the car. The car was passed on to his daughter and her family where it was partially disassembled, covered over with plywood (slot car track), and vanished into the garage untouched for the next 45 years.

The current caretaker was fortunate enough to be a work acquaintance of Danny’s daughter, acquired the car and removed it from the garage in August of 2013. The car is an original condition survivor, has undergone cleaning only and is currently being brought back Mechanically. If you or someone you know is aware of additional history, pictures, or publications of this car please contact Rob Johnson at (714) 788-6438.

The Woody Lee T is an embodiment of chasing the dream, literally, through heyday performance “rights of passage” on the salt flats and the quarter mile. Our next spotlight, B. Von Kleinsmid’s ’32 roadster “Rip Kurl,” is an expression of modern luxury and craftsmanship blended with the beauty of old-time American aesthetic.

Spotlight Street Rod: B. Von Kleinsmid’s ’32 Ford Model 18 Roadster “Rip Kurl”

1932 Model 18 Roadster "Rip Kurl"

  • 600 horsepower GM crate big-block, ramjet fuel injection, MEFI4 computer controls
  • Heidts IFS and IRS in show chrome finish
  • Polished posi-traction rearend with 3:70 gear ratio
  • Side-access doors, widened three-inches, with tinted power windows
  • Hidden on-board dark blue pop-up Haartz top
  • TCI 700R4 Super StreetFighter
  • “Cruzer” wheels by Circle Racing
  • Hankook front and rear tires
  • Brookville Roadster steel fenders and Bob Drake running boards
  • Dan Fink stainless steel curved bar front grille
  • Stewart Warner electric gauges with crescent moon pointers
  • Custom hand-formed sub dash for entertainment
  • Three-inch chopped windshield with tinted glass
  • Paint: Hot Hues “Warp Speed Double Metallic Blue”
  • Ceramic coated Sanderson headers
  • Magnaflow three-inch stainless steel exhaust with down flow tips
B. Von Kleinsmid of Newport Beach, California displayed a fine example of a street rod that puts the brand on class and appeal. It’s easy for a street rod to be massaged and wired into modernity, so much that it loses its spirit. After all, while modern comfort and safety is of utmost importance to street rodders, if maintaining essence didn’t matter why else would anyone use an American classic as the foundation for a project?

The following is an excerpt from Kleinsmid’s show placard that gave us some insight into the theme of the build: “Rip Kurl” is an all-steel ’32 Deuce roadster produced from precision dies and hand labor to the highest quality standards. It includes unique design features not found in any other ’32 replica. Having owned an original Deuce three-window coupe back in the 50s and always wanting a roadster, the dream build was initiated in 2007. Dearborn Deuce was selected for the basic steel body because of their quality, strength, and outstanding fit and finish. The goal was to create an all-steel [replica] with all the comfort, ride quality, power and performance that you’d get from a modern Lexus.”


Rod Authority’s Straight-Eight Hot Rods & Kustoms

With more than eight halls to document and an expanse of outdoor displays, there were more than enough gorgeous creations of all build styles, makes, and models that we could spend the rest of the year writing about. Below are just a few vehicles that Rod Authority would like to put the spotlight on.

The Stevie’s Speed Shop ’41 Willys Pickup

Steve Jarvis’s all-steel ’41 shop truck is a fine example of “hot rodding” a vehicle encased within a fine show-quality finish.

The big-block Chevy powerplant uses 427ci crank and rods and is topped off by a Weiand 6-71 blower with 600 Holleys. Jardine fender well headers keep your eyes’ attention on the body of the pickup but your ears intimidated. A TH400 and nine inch rearend complete the drivetrain. A Sun tachometer and Stewart Warner gauge ensemble keep the driver in tune. Tires are adorned with magnesium American Racing 12-spoke wheels in the front and magnesium Halibrand wheels in the rear. A Simpson parachute, amber plexiglass windows, and candy apple red paint hold a glass up to the tradition of nostalgia racing.

  • Chassis & fab: Rods West
  • Engine: Engine dynamics
  • Exhaust system: Mufflerville
  • Wiring: James Harres
  • Body & Paint: Butch Lodahl
  • Gold leaf lettering: Tom Clark
  • Interior: Tony’s Upholstery

IMG_1691Clyde Wooten’s ’58 Pontiac Chieftain “It’s Closing Time”IMG_1716

The name of Wooten’s mild-kustom certainly does it justice. The Chieftain already hails from a long line of cars that “nailed the design.” The Pontiac’s out-the-door perfection coupled with Wooten’s crisp paint treatment, crossbar hubcaps that complement the chrome trim, and the California-flavor afforded by the lowered stance is enough to make any passerby throw in the towel due to this ride’s mouthwatering quality.

  • Owner: Clyde Wooten of Portland, Oregon
  • Metalwork: Paul “Kiwi” Gilbert
  • Interior: Guy’s Interior Restorations
  • Scallop design: e. Black Design Co.
  • Grille, Stance & Exhaust: Ian “Sinus” Davis
  • Wiring: Tim Winchell
  • Stainless: Dave Stromberg
  • Chrome: Ogden Chrome
  • Pinstriping: Paul Comeau


Brian Nieri’s 1940 Cadillac LaSalle “Low Salle”

There’s something to be said when you run into a car several times over the course of several show seasons and you constantly hear spectators say, “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Brian Nieri’s ’40 LaSalle is one of the finest examples of 40s luxury that we see making its rounds during show season. This vehicle has been massaged and seam-welded to kustom perfection. On top of that, it’s now for sale according to the cars display placard at this year’s show.


  • Owner: Brian Nieri
  • Metal fab & bodywork: Frank DeRosa & son, Pittsburg, California
  • Pinstriping: Rod Powell, Salinas, California
  • Suspension: Sean at Comerson’s Toy Shop, Campbell, California
  • Paint: Ryan at Nor-Cal Autoworks, Campbell, California
  • Glass: Tony at Tri-Valley Glass, Pleasanton, California
  • Features: House of Kolor “Brandy Wine,” 509ci Cadillac big-block, Fatman front clip, four-inch chop, ’49 Mercury dash, ’65 T-bird interior, handcrafted steel center console, rear fenders widened two-inches, molded front grille and skirts, all body panels welded

Doug Beattie’s 1936 Ford Coupe “In The Mood”

Beattie’s ’36 Ford definitely put us in the mood when we saw the vehicle atop its well-lit display. The soft under-lighting of the circle platform revealed just how well the deep red paint caressed this 36’s timeless body lines. If there was ever a car to take up to “lookout point” this voluptuously-fendered Ford would be the perfect getaway to whisk away a smoking hot date!

  • Owner: Doug Beattie of Vancouver, Washington
  • Body modification: Donn Lowe
  • Paint: Joel Jones
  • Interior: Dave Feeken
  • Glass: Kevin batey
  • Chrome: Oregon Plating Company



Richard Zocchi’s ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 Radical Hardtop “American Idol”

  • Owner: Richard Zocchi of Walnut Creek, California
  • All work performed at Lucky 7 Customs Antioch, California
  • Paint: Marcos, owner of Lucky 7
  • Bodywork: John Aiello
  • Interior: Bob Divine Interiors, Martinez, California
  • Engine 351ci Cleveland
  • Special thanks: Gene Winfield and Art Himsl

IMG_2028Mickey Himsl’s “Moonshiner” 1926 Ford T Roadster

  • Owner: Mickey Himsl of Concord, California
  • Class: Altered “T” Roadster
  • Builders: Mickey Himsl, Jerry Van Dyke, Jim Rose
  • Chrome: Howard Walker of Walker’s Custom Chrome
  • Upholstery by Freddy Diaz
  • Pinstriping: Art Himsl x Brandon Flaner
  • History: “Originally built in the early 50s. “Moonshiner” was shown in 1959 at the Oakland Roadster Show and again in 1963…It was reconditioned in 1998 to its original appearance as shown in 1959.”

Marty & Pat Wells’ ’56 Lincoln Capri Of Yorba Linda, California

IMG_2017When you see kustoms like Marty and Pat Well’s ’56 Lincoln Capri it’s hard to wonder why we slowly shifted into the abyss of driving unmodified-mass production-certainty. This Capri is what a 60s style kustom is all about. The one-off steel dashboard straight out of the atomic age is enough to cause nuclear meltdown from sheer awe when you look at it.

If that dashboard doesn’t get you, or the color is a little too “soft” for your taste, there’s definitely more under the body to steer skeptics in the right direction. A 460ci big-block matches up with this big-body cruiser.IMG_2020

The four-inch chop, redesigned front end, ’54 Lincoln front bumper, ’56 Packard rear bumper, and custom front and rear grilles create a subtle visual spectacle. A four link rear, air suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and rack and pinion steering afford this beautiful ride some modern convenience.

Gary Chopit’s 1950 Mercury Radical Hardtop “Tuff Enuff” Of Stanton, California

Gary Chopit’s ’50 hardtop Mercury was designed and built in-house by Chopit Kustom. A 1957 Cadillac engine and transmission combo moves this space-age sled. All the body modifications were performed using hammered, rolled, and massaged steel–no cheating for these gearheads. Narrowed Cadillac bumpers and an out-of-this-world rear treatment exhibit unique flavor for a vehicle that is oftentimes regarded as the poster-child for the kustom scene. The pearl lacquer paint job exudes a luster that would make it easy to mistake this masterpiece for a comet passing if you were to see it moving through the streets.IMG_2060

Which of our spotlight vehicles caught your attention? Have you had a chance to attend the Grand National Roadster Show? Are you a fan of hot rods, kustoms, or both? Don’t forget to leave a comment below telling us your thoughts and stay tuned for more recap coverage from this years show.IMG_1697

Photo gallery


About the author

Andrew Almazan

Andrew Almazan is a graduate of CSULB with a degree in English and a passion for traditional kustoms and hot rods. His first exposure to out of this world vehicles was through the prevalent low rider, baja bug, and kustom culture of LA county.
Read My Articles

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