2009 GNRS: Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner
To be honest, this whole thing started awkwardly. After the GNRS post last year, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. I knew that my idea might ruffle some feathers, but at the end of the day I was still promoting the GNRS and that had to count for something – right? A few misunderstanding later and I found myself as a fairly and carefully welcomed guest at the 2009 Grand National Roadster Show, but I’m getting ahead of myself – lets go day-by-day, shall we?
Dr. Dan, Johnny Joyo and I landed at LAX fairly late in the afternoon on Thursday. A buddy had hooked us up with a room for that first night in the swankest hotel on Sunset Drive and we figured the location was ripe for an adventure. After throwing our bags in the rooms, we headed out with a purpose. I’ll spare you the nitty gritty, but we ended up at the Old Crow Speed Shop and in the company of Bobby Green, Lucky Burton, Piero, and Skratch.
To put it simply, Old Crow Speed Shop is a mecca of all things decadent and old. Sitting in Bobby’s belly tank and making engine noises while imagining the speed that only Bonneville can inspire was the absolute highlight of my trip. Getting to know a couple of really great guys was just icing on the cake.
We retired drunk and sleepy.
The plan was simple – shake off the Corona, pick up Piero, and head for the show. Due to the capacity of the Southern California highway system, that check list took us about 7 hours to complete. We finally arrived in Pomona only to find that there was a mix up with our press credentials. Not really a big deal and I actually enjoy supporting the show by paying up, but it did mean that I was going to need to gather submissions for our award and photograph the cars before closing time and with a ton of people standing around.
The results were less than stellar. Lack of time and talent lead to photography that, well… sucked. In preparation for next year, I will definitely need to improve my technique. I’m on it fellas…
Nevertheless, we managed to get the cars shot and uploaded in time for voting on The Jalopy Journal Roadster Pick to begin at around 11:00pm. Dr. Dan, Joyo, and Piero made it all possible. I pretty much just ran around like an idiot and took really poor photographs!
The frustrations of the day before melted away in no time at all. Thom Thaylor met me in the Sheraton Hotel lobby and got our press credentials squared away and soon after, I met up with Rod Powell to be his guest at the GNRS Hall of Fame luncheon. It was an incredible honor to stand with Rod and an experience only matched by meeting Rod’s pals. Throughout the afternoon, I found myself in conversations with the likes of Art Himsl, Dick Bertolucci, Mike Alexander, Pat Ganahl, Larry Watson, Alex Xydias, Dean Jeffries, Gene Winfield, and so many more that my head was spinning faster than Blackie Gejeian’s lips were moving. It was incredible…
Even so, two moments really stand out. The first was watching my pal Steve Coonan accept his nomination into the GNRS Hall of Fame. He’s about the only guy I know that detests crowds (and speaking to them) as much as I do, but he performed beautifully under pressure. The second was listening to Dick Bertolucci tell the story of Harry Westergard and his final days. Incredibly fascinating and something I hope to be able to tell you guys much more about in the coming months.
With the luncheon over, I finally had a chance to casually look at cars and enjoy the show. This was the first GNRS that I have attended since the 50th anniversary a decade ago. Considering the “twice in a lifetime” exhibit of former winners and contenders combined with the absolutely incredible display at the NHRA museum (on the same campus as the show), this event rivaled and maybe even matched my first experience. Buck and his boys pulled it off.
As I’m writing this, the clock has just struck 9:30pm on Sunday evening and I’m back in Austin. The winner of the AMBR award has yet to be announced, but I just got off the phone with John Mearns (more on him later) and have been told that Tom Branch has been crowned with The Jalopy Journal roadster pick. It’s a decision that you guys made and one that I just happen to be extremely proud of.
Some logistical problems with show entrants lead to the last minute acquisition of a small building on the outskirts of the GNRS campus. To see the cars in the building, you almost had to know they were there as the traffic flow of the show just didn’t lead through this new addition. Once inside, that negative was almost certainly turned into a positive. The building was cloaked with carpet and white walls – a museum setting perfect for the Tom Branch car.
Once I finally found the building, I walked through the doors and turned to my immediate left. Sitting in the very back corner was Tom Branch’s gold roadster.
“Nobody puts baby in a corner.”
The H.A.M.B turned out to be Patrick Swayze to the Tom Branch Roadster’s Jennifer Grey. How bout that?
John Buck. I’m confident that John is not my biggest fan. Last years coverage of the GNRS combined with a few misunderstandings in the past couple of weeks put this entire project on hold more than once. Still, John looked passed it all and gave us the space we wanted to do our thing.
More important than that though, John really impressed me with the way he was able to keep such a big and modern show focused on the folks that built it over the 60 years of its existance. I left Pomona excited about the fact that John is at the helm.
John Mearns. Not only did he build the trophy for us, but he also took over once I flew back to Texas and made sure our trophy got to where it needed to be and presented appropriately. I should make him make another trophy just to give to himself. Hero.
The Contenders. To me, being a contender for The Jalopy Journal Roadster Pick is just as galvanizing as actually winning the hardware. All of these cars were picked by some of the best craftsman in the industry… and that really is saying something.
The Voters. Hell of a turn out… We had 2200 votes in just under 18 hours of voting. Thank you all for contributing and giving us your two cents. I think ya’ll picked a great one.
Rod Powell. Man… I still can’t believe Rod Powell is my friend. Life is crazy.
Jimmy White. I love his latest roadster almost as much as I love him.
Troy & Hollywood Hot Rods. Thanks for watching out for me!
Bobby Green & Lucky Burton. After all of the amazing things I was lucky enough to do this past weekend, sitting in Bobby’s tank and checking out Lucky’s coupe remains the highlight. That’s hot rodding.
Piero. The mad man was our tour guide and host throughout the weekend. He’s become a good pal and one of my favorite left coasters.
Dr. Dan & Johnny Joyo. Seems like I’m always in tight spots with Joyo… and Dr. Dan saved my life just a few short months ago. I’ve got good pals.