Inside The LA Roadsters Show And Swap Meet

The Los Angeles Roadsters car club was formed in 1957, and is still going strong today. The membership consist of 40 active members, 9 Life time members, 4 honorary members, and 19 associate members from all over the country, all with pre-1936 roadsters.

The club celebrated their 60th anniversary this past weekend, June 18 and 19, 2017, with their 52nd LA Roadster Show and Swap Meet. The history of the show is as storied as the car club itself. Beginning in 1960, as primarily a swap meet at the Hollywood Bowl where the show was held for the first three events. In 1962, the show went into a five-year hiatus. In 1967 the show was resurrected and scheduled for Father’s Day.

In 1968, the show was moved to the Great Western Exhibit Center where it thrived and grew until 1979. That’s when urban redevelopment forced the club to move the show to another location. The Exhibit Center was sold to the City of Commerce in 1978, for redevelopment, and subsequently demolished. The LA Roadsters moved their growing car show and swap meet to the Fairplex in Pomona, California, in 1980, where it has found a stable home for the past 37 years. In 1985, the show was increased to a full two-day event. In 2000, 800 roadsters were displayed during the show. By 2009, the show hit a new high with over 850 roadsters displayed.

The event uses all of the fairgrounds for the Roadster exhibition, with manufacture’s displays outside and vendor’s booths inside the large air-conditioned building number four. Three of the facilities parking lots are used for the swap meet and specialty car (non-roadsters) parking area. Roadsters from states as far away as Texas, North Carolina, and Washington, travel to the annual Father’s day weekend event.

It is not all about Roadsters, there is something for everyone at the show.

LA Roadsters Show 2017

The show had a different flavor this year as the event was managed by the Roadster Shows Inc., management company. This is the same group that operates the Grand National Roadster show at the same venue earlier in the year. With the new management, the show had a slightly different feel this year. There was an excitement for what was coming in the future.

Our first stop was just inside the entrance of gate 9, where most of the pedestrian traffic enters the venue. We were fortunate to spot a car that had some historical significance. Dean Lowe’s 1929 Ford yellow roadster pickup sat under some shade in the first row of cars on display. Lowe’s roadster has family history. His father purchased the truck for his son, for the economical rate of $175 in 1960. At 15 years old, this was his first vehicle.

Dean Lowe’s roadster pickup set a land speed record in 1962. It was Lowe’s first car.

Lowe tore the truck down to the bare frame, and family friend and legendary racecar builder, Frank Kurtis did the chassis work for the roadster. The car had some body work done by the crew, and got the running board apron’s punched with 35 louvers – which became a signature piece for the truck. Another family friend, Vic Edelbrock Sr., suggested an Edelbrock three carb intake with three Holley 97 carbs and a Spaulding Brother’s Flamethrower distributor.

When it comes to engines, there were several that caught our eye at the show.

As the young Lowe started racing, he realized that he needed something with a little more grunt under the hood. The bored 265ci small-block with stock heads was replaced with a new 283ci long-block from Chevy. They used a 1956 Corvette dual AFB carb set up, and ran some pretty solid track times. With a little more finesse to the cylinder heads and a new Iskendarian roller cam, the crew went back to the track and set a national record in the B/SR class. There’s just no telling what cars you will see at the show.

There was plenty to see. This peach-colored roadster had its fair share of admirers.

Some Other Rare Cars With History

Right next to Lowe’s roadster pickup was another car with history. According to Lowe, the black 1932 Ford roadster sporting a 468ci big-block Chevy with Doug Nash five-speed has the very first Kugel independent front suspension. It is the real deal.

Joe Lassalette’s ’32 roadster with a monster 468ci big-block Chevy.

We managed to find another jewel a little further down the line. This 1932 two-door sedan is a rare B400 model, the most expensive Ford you could buy in 1932. Offering the best of both worlds, the B400 combined the luxury and protection of a sedan with the sportiness of a convertible. Sadly, the 400 was only offered for two years: 1931 on the Model A (A400), and the V8 and Model B in 1932 (B400). Only 842 V8s and 41 Model B B400s were built in 1932.

Steve Hayes’s 1932 B400 made it here from Morton, Illinois.

This one is owned and built by Steve Hayes of Morton, Illinois. Hayes maintained the fully functional fold down top and the overall fit and finish on this build. For those that did not know the history of Fords and anyone that passed by this machine without stopping to take a closer look, missed a chance at viewing one of the truly rare pieces at the show.

Other Cars That Caught Our Eye

Larry Sedlacek’s yellow deuce with lime green flames made the trip from Livermore, Calfornia. According to Larry, it is his first car with no top. These deuce roadsters are as iconic as you can get. They never go out of style, and they represent the entire genre of hot rods.

Larry Sedlacek’s yellow deuce.

We found Jim Burdick’s 1928 Ford Model A roadster hiding in the mix of roadsters down one of the side aisles. Parked under a tree so that the mixture of light and shade played tricks with the orange paint job, we fell in love with the pickup. Burdick drove the car from Groveland, California, with a for sale sign on it. His asking price is a very reasonable $32,000.

Jim Burdick’s Model A roadster pickup.

No one can walk past a belly tanker without stopping. The same is true with us as we passed the SCTA booth and spotted the Flying Norwegian Lakester. The car was built outside of the country, and just passed through customs a couple of months ago. According to the crew, there have been more people on Mount Everest than have driven over 200 mph, which is the goal of the Flying Norwegian team. They plan on breaking the magic mark at this year’s event on the Bonneville salt.

This Ford Cosworth engine is actually from one of the scale models. We zoomed in tight on the engine to appreciate the details on this build. If you didn’t know better, this looks like it could have actually run the Indy 500.

The Scale Model Contest

We’d really be amiss if we didn’t say anything about the scale model display and contest in the center of building number four. Art Laski Jr., and wife Lisa, pour a lot of effort into keeping scale modeling a part of the hot rod culture. Very few of today’s hot rodders didn’t start out by building a model car when they were kids growing up. Honestly … who hasn’t built “The Red Baron” model from a kit?

The scale models were being photographed for media work.

Laski’s contest features some of the best amateur and professional model builders in the nation. Because the scale of these cars is so small, they must be examined with a careful eye as to not miss the details. This isn’t a matter of economy. It is not about settling for a plastic model kit because you can’t justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on an actual hot rod. Not at all. These artists put forth as much time and effort building a scale car as many builders invest into building an actual car.

While the heat was in full-engage mode, we found enough cool breeze, cold drinks, and fun to make the show enjoyable. It has become a favorite tradition of ours. Mother’s day is about expensive diamonds, but Father’s day… it is all about the LA Roadsters Show and Swap Meet.

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About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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