As the event’s name implies, this show, first launched in 1949, focuses on four-wheeled vehicles albeit not all technically qualifying as “roadsters” which back in the day meant an open two-seater minus doors and even windshields. Tracing the nomenclature further, “roadster” initially was the label attached to a horse well-equipped for traveling, and later applied to bicycles and tricycles of the late 1800s.
Sportiness was the operative word no matter the size of the chassis, so “roadster” could include the full spectrum of cars from an everyman’s Model T to a celebrity’s 16-cylinder Caddy. It’s noteworthy that “roadster” is an American creation, the Brits calling such cars a “two-seater tourer.”
So, to stretch the rules a bit, motorcycles, in that they are very “open” and often offer seating for two, have found their way into the Grand National Roadster Show, including this year’s 68th running of the event. First staged in Oakland, California, a.k.a. the Oakland Roadster Show, this go-around was the 14th year the GNRS was held at the Pomona Fairgrounds Fairplex.
Along with some 500 show vehicles, a section was set aside for motorcycles as seen here.
Best Flat-out Flathead
You gotta dig the four-stack of drag pipes that make some beautiful flathead music. Jeff Leighton (Orange, CA) brought his stellar 1942 UL flathead Big Twin. ULs first appeared in ’38, and their success brought Harley-Davidson out of the Depression doldrums.
Best Candlestick Pipe Bike
Builder Ryan Grossman got on the “Green” bandwagon with his appropriately named Alien’s Poison 1947 FL sporting an exposed OHV powerplant and reach for stratosphere ape-hanger bars. Out of this world green paint was sprayed by Matt Busby, engraving by Nick Potash. Note mega hand-shifter.
Do It In The Dirt
Tank slapping Harleys and Indians made for one helluva display of TT racers, all thanks to the efforts of the Hell on Wheels MC.
Best Bear Of A Bike Display
John Edward’s 1959 Panhead wore a biker tuxedo black paint job, its visual impact heightened by rolling it over a hopefully oil resistant furry friend. Is it just me or do you notice how the bear’s eyes follow you, and why is it laughing?
Best Trident Missile Panhead
This exhibit – brought all the way from Osaka, Japan, and the Revolt Custom Cycles shop by designer/builder Masao Inoue – is a ’53 custom 1450cc Panhead named Trident. The paint reflects its ocean theme in the wave-like elements as well as the anchor-shaped sissy bar. Braking is activated by the left grip, the oil tank integrated into the rear fender, an O.G. king ’n’ queen seat, plus tons of metal fab and chroming.
Best Brass Monkeying Around Bike
Andrew Ursich wrenching from his portside garage in Long Beach, CA continues to build non-stop show winners, the 1980 Sportster-based Brass Monkey leading the parade. Last year at the 2016 Grand National Roadster Show one of his bikes was judged “America’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle.”
Best Go Big or Go Home
The exceptionally talented designer/builder Kiyo Mitsuhiro, working out of his Gardena, CA shop, Kiyo’s Garage, mind-melded this double-engined, Weber-carbed 1620cc, 1972 Honda CB, entering it in the Competition category. The bike is heading to El Mirage to make a record-breaking attempt.
Special Double Feature: Best Tasting, Most Far-Seeing Triumphs – Root Beer Barrel and Binocular Bike
In this case, we’re looking at a pair of bikes created by the same builder and the only Triumphs appearing at the GNRS. The attention to detail and novel innovations made both Trumpets a stand-out and, fortunately, the builder Anthony Robinson happened to show up while I was salivating over the two Britsters.
Now Anthony builds his bikes in Palmdale, CA, but via his company A-C Garage Door Company earns his keep installing heavy-duty garage doors all over California for the likes of Edwards Air Force Base, all the Home Depots, and others.
Both bikes are of the 500cc variety. The white bike with #69 gas tank seen further below is based around a Triumph Daytona, thus is dual carbed. The other is a ’61 standard single carb model. He calls the #69 bike “The Root Beer Barrel” because of its wood/steel band motifs. The other is tagged “La Mosca” which translates to fly, thanks to the fly eye-like tank graphics, the observation made by his wife.
Says Anthony, “She made a deal with me that I could build anything I want as long as I didn’t use any business money or personal money. Since I own a garage door company, I took the old ones we replaced and recycled them, using the money to build the Root Beer Barrel bike. It took me two years, but that’s how I did it. The “La Mosca” bike is also a real kick in the pants to ride and actually has great suspension with the girder front and posting seat. I just want to build bikes that have the vintage feel and that you could just jump on and go racing.”
Final Results: When the winners were called up to the podium, Anthony had to make the trip twice since both First and Second Place wins in the European Class went to La Mosca and the Root Beer Barrel bike.
Greatness is the Details – “La Mosca”
The custom gas tank was fabbed by friend R.J. at Lucky Mother Garage.
How Low Can You Go?
Hardtail frame benefits from an original 1937 Triumph T-80 Girder front end and a pair of mountain bike seat shocks. The leather seat was glove-stitched by Javier.
Anthony repurposed a non-working 1960s battery charger, gutted it and stuffed all his electrics and 12-volt Antigravity mini-battery into it. Carb is a single 628 Mikuni. The oil tank is two conjoined old fire extinguishers.
Stamp of Excellence
Motor rebuilds were entrusted to Dean Collins originally from the UK. Triumph drag pipes were sourced from Factory Metal Works. Anthony also fabbed the Triumph-inscribed motor mounts out of billet.
All That Glitters
Matt Egan painted both bikes, spending half the year at home in Australia, half in the U.S. Anthony opted for copper leafing rather than gold leafing to bring out the warm patina.
Anthony has racked up 13 first place wins even though he’s only been building bikes for two years. His work is garnering national attention, and he was recently invited to a slew of upcoming events.
High Octane “Root Beer Barrel” Bike
Note the “board track” feel of the ’69 T-100’s display platform. Bars were turned upside down to give a ’30s racer feel. The seat is an iconic Messenger unit. Springer front end is originally from an H-D 45 Servi-car.
Paint by Mike Eagan replicates the use of rare woods in the bike’s design. A 7/8ths steering stem was another rare find.
A Plate Full
Signature Triumph scoop front brake got treated to chrome, brass, zinc and aluminum polish for high-contrast functional art. Brakes all around are original drums. Note unique handmade brake stays.
By Machine And By Hand
Using his CNC machine, Anthony milled out the conical hubs. The engraving is special in more ways than one. The 12-year old son of a friend did the hand engraving, the young man dealing with Asperger’s. Says Anthony, “He did an amazing job.”
Seeing Is Believing
Notice the key switch in the 1941 Naval binocular case? Yes, inside you’ll find all the electro stuff and lithium battery.
Reversal Of Fortunes
Not a photo foul-up. Carbs and exhaust have switched places. Dual 628 Mikunis feed the Daytona cylinders.
Get A Grip
Cool use of a 1950s vintage wrench to serve as a headlamp attachment.
Chrome, brass, and cork conjure an eye pleasing potpourri.
Cone of Unsilence
Anthony hand-crafted the stainless pipes as well as all hanger and hardware gizmos.
Z Is For Zebra
At first glance, I thought it was a recycled skateboard, but no, another bit of rarity, a slab of exotic Zebrawood no less; straps are stainless. For tires, Anthony opted for Coker repops of old Firestone and Goodyear rubber.
Postscript: Best Dream Team
Our pick for Best of Both Worlds, Chip Foose Design and Ken Reister’s Rod Shop double-feature custom car/custom bike. Sure the car is awesome and would look cool as a tow vehicle, but let’s focus on its bike buddy. Over 4,800 hours went into crafting the 125 HP RevTech V-Twin-powered super swoopy by master builder Foose. The bike features one-off Foose Metalsport wheels, 262 chrome parts, 596 fabricated components, Goldammer forks, hidden gas tank, you name it. Actually, the bike’s named XPRESSION. News Flash! At the end of the competition, the Foose bike’s owner, car builder Ken Reister, took home the event’s America’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle Award.
And the AMBR Winner (4-wheeled) is…
If you were wondering which of the cars took home this year’s “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster “ (AMBR) top award, that went to a very Kustom 1937 Packard designed by Eric Black and built by Troy Ladd at Hollywood Hot Rods for owner Bruce Wanta. Under that long, long hood is a honking Lincoln V-12.
Best downsized ’55 Merc roadster and pilot.