Rod Authority’s Fab Five From The 2014 Grand National Roadster Show

Fab Five GNRSNo one should be shy about their reluctancy to judge another persons automobile. Rod Authority will surely gather, photograph, and report on the results of any given show across the nation, but you will never see a judging sheet and this logo in the same hands.

gnrs15It’s not that it’s difficult to judge a car for something as prestigious as the Grand National Roadster Show, it’s more of a desire to give every car an award. Every single build within the halls and lots surrounding the Pomona Fairplex has a story and an owner that loves his or her automobile. Who are we to say one is better than the other? On the other hand we do have the right to say what cars “spoke” to us personally.

Maybe it was the paint, maybe the chrome, maybe just because it was driven to the event and parked in the back lot–you can ponder on that when you see the choices in a minute. We have pulled just about every trick short of, “my dog ate my judges badge” to get out of the task but on the other hand Rod Authority is right at home perusing the hallways and picking a few favorites.

The 65th annual Grand National Roadster Show was no different and it was quite easy to find what we’ll call the “Fab Five for 2014” for this years picks. Make note that Rod Authority tried to look at the picks from different levels of investment and drivability–better said, what might be a great blend of pure show cars with everyday driving capability. Check out the Fab Five below:

gnrs11932 Ford Roadster: Tom Branch – San Gabriel, California

First to catch our eye was Southern California native, Tom Branch’s 1932 Ford Roadster dubbed “El Dorado.” Sprayed in what could be described as a hue of “golden delicious” this is a 60s hot rodders’ dream. The draw of the car is the pure yet complex simplicity. Beyond the eye-catching paintwork the chosen parts and pieces really make this ’32 Roadster hard not to notice.

When the perfectly louvered hood is not closed a Studebaker 304 stuffed with flattop pistons, a polished Spencer manifold garnished with four Stromberg’s with the upper halves sporting a “backdraft” attitude tops a high-lift cam and ported heads. Mallory electronic ignition sparks the mill that is backed by a Borg-Warner T5 to help keep 3:70 gear-set spinning as little as possible in the ’56 Chevrolet housing.

Everything from the Weiand valve covers to the straight-shot exhaust complete with hidden mufflers seems to be thoroughly thought out. From the steel 16×4 and 16×5 wheels with ’46 poverty caps wrapped with Firestones to the simple yet elegant interior sporting Stewart Warner gauges, there is a thorough sense of balance that landed this little roadster among our favorites from this year’s show.

Fabian Valdez of Vintage Hammer Garage helped hike the rear rails, custom fabricate a rear cross member, and custom brackets for the 1940 Ford steering gear. More custom fabrication on the tube structure helped mount the body to the frame. A handmade floor for the channeled body rounded out some of the custom touches.gnrs6

gnrs91932 Ford 5-Window Coupe: Jerry Logan – Hillsboro, Oregon

Built by Pyramid Street Rods out of Belleview Washington for owner, Jerry Logan, this 1932 5-Window coupe named “LOWboy” is a tour-de-force of craftsmanship. Sitting on John Barbero modified American Rails the Magnum front suspension and rear mounted Winters quick-change are suspended by coilovers giving a mounting spot for the Team III wheels and BF Goodrich rubber. 

Powering this ’32 is a bored and stroked 351W Ford powerplant sporting a Borla Cross-Ram fuel injection system. It is cooled by a Griffin radiator and is backed by a C4 automatic transmission that’s connected to a Gennie Shifter. Inside, the Tobacco leather stitched by Sid Chavers is framed by the Tri-C steering column and Wheel Shoppe wheel. American Nickle gauges by Classic Gauges keeps track of engine vitals and several small touches like custom door handles built by Bob Drake help define the beautiful interior.gnrs14

Kenny Gilmore chopped the top 4 1/2-inches, channeled the body 2-inches, and raised the rear wheel wells to help frame up the frenched ’50 Pontiac taillights. Other body modifications and suppliers like Brookville Fenders, Bob Drake grille and running boards, Dan Fink grille, and other custom touches make this 5-window stand out in a crowd. Also worth noting on this 5-Window coupe is the PPG “Classic Clay” paint job laid down by Jason Mortenson and striped by Mitch Kim who are both residents of the Pacific Northwest.gnrs8

gnrs201934 Ford Five-Window Coupe: Dave Shuten

There is no possible way for Rod Authority to highlight what has not already been said about the Iron Orchid–it is an icon among the elite examples of classic automotive art. For us it starts with the chrome or better said the 2000-plus parts and pieces of chrome-plated wonderment that is the Iron Orchid.

Friend and true car nut, Dave Shuten, has allowed us to infiltrate his world on multiple occasions. From the debut at the Detroit Autorama to gaining access to the shops at Galpin Auto Sports Dave has always had a common denominator when it came to his love of era-correct vintage style builds–do them right or don’t do them at all.gnrs23

Past the chrome and the “bling” of the Iron Orchid you start to see all the small touches that set this ’32 apart from all others. Starting with things only a few have been close enough to see–first would be the Top Loader’s case that is of course completely chrome plated, but more than the chrome it’s the Plexiglass cover that gives you an up close and personal look into the gear sets while driving.

gnrs26After you’re done being mesmerized by the exposed Top Loader’s internals you will need to make note of the immense list of custom touches added to the FE427 sideoiler. From the vintage valve covers to the Buick Nailhead side plates covering the Decca plug wires, there are layers upon layers of touches that make this coupe so very special.

There is nothing that has not already been said and there is not enough room on the internet to try and detail everything that is so great and wonderful about the Iron Orchid. From the pearl white frame, one-off front axle, custom Schroeder steering box, lace paint work by Darryl Hollenbeck, pearl-white Cragar steering wheel, or real Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt seats, the details are practically limitless. What can be said is that the Iron Orchid was an easy choice for this list.gnrs25

gnrs181954 Chevrolet Coupe: Jeff James

Starting life as a ’54 Chevrolet 210, Jeff James handed off his ride to Jesse Miller of Sacramento Kustoms to chop, french, and smooth out the little bowtie ride, but it did not stop there. The chop totaled 4 1/2-inches in the front and 7 1/2-inches in the back. The b-pillars were angled and custom sail panels were fabricated to accommodate the ’53 businessman coupe rear glass. 

After that the hood seam was welded, nosed, and peaked. Front corners were rounded and the grille from a ’56 Oldsmobile was fitted into the front sheet metal opening with a ’57 Chevrolet truck center. The headlights were frenched with ’54 Mercury rings to set off the welded and shaved front bumper. Side trim was bobbed welded and polished by Jesse Miller at Sacremento Kustoms. The rearend has been extended with ’54 Mercury tail sections including cut down tail lights, rear bumper is off a ’56 Packard Patrician that has been narrowed with a ’53 Kaiser over rider. Handmade rear skirts extend under the body line to complete the look.

gnrs19The engine compartment has a smoothed and bead rolled firewall, handmade inner-fender well panels that have been louvered, and a handmade radiator panel. Suspension is handled by a TCI front end on slam bags, rear is Air Ride 4-link on slam bags all running via Accuair e-level system. A 10-bolt sporting a “Posi” differential with 3.36 gears out of a ‘65 Nova SS is supported by a 700R4 transmission. Powering the ’54 is a Al Liest Racing built 383 Chevy 4-bolt main with forged rotating assembly 10:1 compression short block. RHS heads, a set of roller rockers, and cam from Comp Cams maintain time and Sacramento So-Cal Speed Shop supplied polished intake and Rochester carbs keep the fire lit. 

Inside, Paco’s Custom Upholstery from Roseville, CA handmade the headliner and rear seat by using ‘54 Mercury door panel boomerangs on the front and rear door panels. The dash has been filled and smoothed. Frenched AC vents, handmade floors, panels, and door poppers bring the fantastic interior together. James Dean at Rebel Design in Roseville, CA started with House of Kolor KBC Root Beer that was modified to work with the Caramel Pearl top which is a custom mix by James himself. The pinstriping and gold leaf work by Lefty aka Joshua Mullican from the Poor Boys Car Club ties the custom colors and look in concert.gnrs17

gnrs311954 Ford Coupe: Mat Egan

Like so many others that gathered around Mat Egan’s 1954 Ford, it was the eye-popping paint job that first grabbed our attention. Not only is this a true street driven ride, it’s also an international pick. Owner Mat Egan, out of Melbourne, Australia, is no stranger to Kustom Kulture and is best known for builds like his shoebox with bare metal flames and the extreme talent he possesses with a striping brush–check out more here.

Having built a reputation for sporting some of the coolest customs around, this ’54  was originally owned by a mutual friend. Mat then handed over his new acquisition to Noble Fabrication out of Ventura to help blend his personal touches into the, at the time, Vanilla White custom.gnrs30

The chop, section, and channel–6-inches, 3-inches, and 3-inches respectively was already in place, but it was the laid down rear glass and blend into the rear quarters that sealed the deal.

gnrs32Riding on airbag suspension you can see the ’54 sitting at rest. Dustin Phillips has the distinct job of caretaker for Mat’s ’54 while he’s bouncing back and forth from Australia, but while Mat is in town there are no boundaries for where they will take this beautiful ride.

After debuting it’s current look at last year’s Sacramento Autorama Mat took to the road. First stop was Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, then Austin, Texas. From there he hit all points in between while cruising at more than 80 mph thanks to the freshly rebuilt Ford small block sporting Edelbrock aluminum heads helping keep up with the likes of Alex Gambino–who we were told “drives fast as sh*t”, but Mats ’54 had no problems keeping pace.

Sure there are several small items that stick out, the ’55 Mercury grill or the wide-whites and caps for instance, but it’s the one-two punch of eye catching paint and being driven hard daily that make this fifth pick outstanding.

Check out Rod Authority’s Fab Five gallery from the 2014 Grand National Roadster Show below.


About the author

Dennis Pittsenbarger

Admitted knucklehead and automobile aficionado to the bone, Dennis shares his car obsessions and current news with a hot-rod-loving audience worldwide.
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