AMBR Is Gold: Dave Martin’s 1931 Ford Wins Big At 2018 GNRS

When the 69th Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) set up shop last weekend at the Pomona Fairplex in Southern California, hundreds of hot rods and custom cars from around the world rumbled in and the old school facility was suddenly transformed to a gigantic mecca for motor heads.

The Fairplex is worth a pilgrimage all by itself. Built as the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in 1922, it retained that moniker until 1984 when it was re-christened with it’s current name. With 43 acres donated by the City of Pomona, the grounds now cover 543 acres and includes nearly 325,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and parking for 30,000 cars.

Among other features, the Fairplex offers various scenic parks, plazas and picnic areas, a historic train exhibit, and 12 acres of carnival grounds. A treat for art deco architecture fans as well.

If you’re heading to GNRS for the first time, be sure and study a map of fairgrounds and familiarize yourself with the grounds.  Be sure check the onsite NHRA Museum as well, which is a MUST SEE for car geeks of all ages.

Big Daddy Hot Rod Show indeed. At the ripe old age of 69, GNRS  is THE place where all the hotshot builders – and driveway Da Vinci’s – battle it out.

If your thinking about a build of your own and want to get acquainted with best painters, wrenches and upholstery guys currently working in the hobby, look no further. They also have their best work on display for your consideration.

The most coveted and prestigious award at the GNRS is “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” aka the AMBR award.  Not only is there a $10,000 cash prize, but the winning car – and it’s owner – are etched forever on the AMBR trophy alongside some of the greatest custom car builders of all time.

Although America’s Most Beautiful Roadster is a key part of the Grand National Roadster Show, cars of all stripes were present and accounted for. Painter Dan Hansen from Dan Gogh Painting brought this custom van with Astros and whitewalls

This year’s AMBR contenders numbered 15, after an undisclosed 16th entrant bowed out.  When the smoke cleared, 14 early Fords and one Cadillac made the list of finalists.

After three days of intense judging, first time entrant Dave Martin won the AMBR with his dark blue 1931 Ford Roadster with a jaunty orange stripe.

2018 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster – Dave Martin’s 1931 Roadster built by Hot Rods and Hobbies. ▼


All metal, “Ford-ish” body, ’32 rails modified with MOAL front suspension, EdPink one off fuel-injected, all aluminum Brodix motor, Richmond five-speed and EVOD custom wheels. Interior by Elegance.

According to show promoter RodShows, “A 1931 Ford Roadster owned by Dave Martin and built by California based Hot Rods & Hobbies, earned the coveted ‘America’s Most Beautiful Roadster’ title in a highly anticipated announcement made Sunday during the closing ceremonies of the 69th annual Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) at the Fairplex in Pomona.”

A crowd favorite throughout the event, “The Martin Special” was praised for its precision craftsmanship and dazzling aesthetics, as well as its provenance. In a prior form the car competed in the famed Silver State Classic open road race and while the latest, show-stopping iteration of the car has Indy Roadster influences it also has a 500hp Ed Pink Racing Engines built small block power plant harkening back to its prior form.

“Dave Martin’s car is an amazing hot rod that began as a bare metal race car and ultimately earned the highest honor in the rodding world,” said John Buck, owner of Rod Shows and producer of the Grand National Roadster Show. “This Ford Roadster possesses all the qualities that our judges look for, truly blowing us away thanks to its exceptional craftsmanship and innovative styling.”

Not our favorite, but a killer indeed. Let’s take a look at all the contenders, starting with Dave Martin’s winning car and ending up with Rod Authority’s favorite.

The Runner Ups:

Bill Nash’s 1930 Ford Roadster ▼

Warren Boughn’s Precision Hot Rods in Northridge, California build this 1930-31 roadster for owner Bill Nash of Los Angeles. Built 383ci Chevy small block fed by dual Edelbrock carbs, with a Halibrand Champ quick change rear on coil-overs. Welded in cowl and the gas tank moved to the rear. Deuce grille shell dropped down into the frame. Boughn frame, paint by Dan Hansen of Dan-Go, red leather interior by Albert Laura.

 Pete Aardema – 1934 Ford Roadster “Porch-Chalet” ▼

The steel repro body lengthened three-inches and widened three-inches by Steve’s Auto in Portland, Oregon. 2002 Corvette torque tube and six-speed transmission mated to the engine. Corvette rear was narrowed 3-inches with front sporting Corvette A-arms with opposed coil suspension. Most everything was dreamed up in Pete’s shop. The big-block Chev V8 with Porsche DOHC valve train grafted on top was the cherry on top of the sundae.

1932 Ford, Scott Helliesen of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey ▼

Heavily pattered after the McGee roadster featured in Hot Rod Magazine in 1948. The Brookeville body sits on Shadow frame rails. Ford flathead hooked to an S-10 trans. Classy Chassis did the bodywork and paint. Offenhauser supplied flathead components, with a set-back dual carb intake and heads. Dropped front axle is a heavy Deuce, with 1932 Ford split wishbones.

1927 Ford concept car, Daniel Hostetter of San Diego, California ▼

R&C staffer Joe Henning, who had a knack penning cars, came up with what he called “The Roadster” way back in 1955, Never produced until now, kudos to Daniel Hostetter for finally bringing this thing to life. Very cool in person with butterscotch leather and black and white Chrysler steering wheel.

1932 Ford owned by Brian Cruz of New Braunfels, Texas ▼

Cruiser’s Customs in Braunfels,Texas, built this traditional Deuce for Ryan Earhart. The Brookville body sits on a Kiwi Konnection chassis, SoCal Speed front and rear brakes, 5-inch front I-beam and 9-inch Ford rear. A 420hp, 350 Chevy crate motor, Vintage Air air conditioning, 4L60E automatic trans, and stainless exhaust. We dug the icy blue paint and cream colored engine compartment that was refreshing in a sea of black and dark blue.

1936 Cadillac custom, Rick Dore of Carlsbad, California ▼

Rick Dore showed “Shangi La” at SEMA in metal last year and GNRS was it’s debut in deep pearl navy blue with a silver top. Chatter at the show was mixed, we thought it killed. Another beauty from metal benders Marcel’s and Luc Delay.

1936 Ford, Chris and Robyn Parmelee of Norco, California ▼

A nice departure from the other contenders with LS-1power/4L60E, modern wheels and low profile tires. Great colors and top notch craftsmanship sparkled under the lights. Ron Mangus interior, Chris Parmelee paint.

1932 Ford, Bruce Meyer of Beverly Hills, California▼

Built by Bob Thelan's Buffalo Motor Cars in Paramount, California. Bob Morris and Tim Allen former owners. Ford 302 small block, John Carambia paint.

1932 Ford, Alan Johnson of Fallbrook, California▼

Northstar guru Alan Johnson brought “Blackstar,” a little roadster with the prettiest chromed-laden Cadillac DOHC V8 you’ve ever seen. In a sea of Flatheads and Chevy mills, this diminutive 32v motor set this rig apart.

1932 Ford, Sean Black of Hartselle, Alabama▼

Owner/Builder Sean Black’s “Stinger” was stunning. Brookeville body, So-Cal chassis, 327/365 Corvette V8, Adams Hot Rod Shop Body and Paint. M&M Hot Rod Interiors.

John and Pat Miller’s ’32 Ford Roadster▼

You can have color you want as long as it’s black. The Miller’s ’32 Ford was resplendent in ebony with expertly hewn, pale mocha leather interior. Built by Adams Hot Rod Shop with Brookeville body, 420hp small block Chev, Adams HRS chassis and body and paint by Chad Adams and Dion Wilcox.

Eddie Dye Roadster – Thomas Bobowski▼

Built in 1950 by the Ayala Bros at Gil’s Auto Body. Raced at the 1951 Bonneville Nationals, featured in the film “The Lively Set.” Built by Circle City Hotrods, Body and Paint, East Bay Speed and Custom. Kudos to owner Thomas Bobowski for bringing back this classic roadster.

John Leonti’s 1932 Roadster “il Dolce” Duece

Owner/Builder John Leonti's 1932 Ford Roadster "il Dolce" Duece. 355/460hp Chevy V8, Ron Magnus Interior, body and paint, Gary's Rods and Restorations, TCI chassis.

And Rod Authority’s Favorite, “Elrod” 1936 Ford owned by Dana Elrod of Sunrise Beach, Missouri▼

We here at Rod Authority really dug this car, our favorite. Old school Hemi power, stack induction, killer stance, dripping with cool. A stand out at the show. Kudos to the Elrod’s for putting together the star –in our eyes – of the 2018 GNRS.

In retrospect, we don’t envy the judges. Any of the cars that battled it out for AMBR could have won. Some say that the hot rod hobby’s days are numbered, but we say the scene is as healthy and robust as it’s ever been. The 2018 Grand National Roadster Show bristled with young talent, creativity and innovation.  Couple that with new technology like CAD/CAM design and 3-D printing and the sky’s the limit.

Kudos to RodShows for a smooth production and Kahn Media for their hospitality!

For more information about the Grand National Roadster Show and for the full list of 2018 award winners, please visit

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About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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