Tognotti’s Auto World – Now called the Grand National Roadster Show, it is the oldest hot rod car show in the world. This time let’s look at the psychedelic era of the seventies and the transition to some degree of normality in the eighties. In 1973 the Roadster Show went on sale. Al and Mary Slonaker decided to move to Arizona due to Al’s health issues. A trio of new show owners have been brought to the International Association of Auto Shows, leaving NorCal show car enthusiasts wondering what will happen to their beloved GNRS. But let’s not anticipate.
The Roadster show continued to grow throughout the 1970s. The quality of cars, both show cars and street rods, has improved dramatically. The Slonakers, with the help of Bob and Rosemary Accosta, managed to attract and personally offer only the best vehicles. With six months to go before the annual Roadster shows in February, they hit other west coast shows and rod runs in search of quality cars for the GNRS. This combination, along with a variety of daily driver-style hot rods and roadsters, kept the show’s roots visible while also showcasing the latest creative custom vehicles.
Tognotti’s Auto World
The year was 1964. A young street rodder from South San Francisco had an idea: sell a cheap Ford T-Roadster in kit form that could be the platform for a budget-conscious street rod, built in home Andy Brizio and his friend Pete Ogden modified a Dragmaster T-bucket chassis (Andy was a Dragmaster dealer) to create the Instant T, while his wife Sue worked in a small office behind Champion Speed’s shipment orders for stickers and t-shirts. leadership shop. The kit started selling for $595, and after Andy and engine builder Cub Barnett bought the Champion from Jim McLennan, you can buy everything you need to build an Instant T from the Champion catalog. Have you ever wondered why the first Andy’s Instant T cars had slightly vented Chevrolet engines? Also give it to Cub Barnett.
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In 1968, Andy took the Instant T to the Grand National Roadster Show to compete for the AMBR Award. Originally covered in purple metal pieces, he now wore a bright red robe. He didn’t win. Close friend and master artist Art Himsle said to Andy, “Your car is so simple.” Submitted by Tommy the Greek, the red paint stood out to a beautiful, drivable and highly detailed street roadster that really doesn’t stand out from the crowd. It began a two-year redesign that completely changes the look of the T-Roadster and gets the auto show crowd on edge.
The summer of 1967 brought to San Francisco nearly 100,000 misfits, activists, and dreamers. These young people have traveled far to join a community of artists, musicians and poets who influence popular culture through music and art. They opposed war with peace and love; and ushered in an era of wider communication. This meeting was called “Summer of Love”.
So what does this collection of hippies and young protesters have to do with the Roadster Show? The Summer of Love in San Francisco was an event that rejected a cultural movement that was influencing young people around the world. Many car owners and builders have caught some of the glamor or psyche of the hippies. One definition of the word psychedelic actually applies in the world of custom cars. He says: “It indicates either a calm and strong color or an abstract swirling design. Synonyms: colourful, chromatic, colourful, lively, abstract’. Contract artists suddenly had a new range of ideas to draw inspiration from.
Apparently the 1970 GNRS judges were also impressed by the radical new psychedelic look of the Brizio roadster. In 1970 he was awarded the AMBR Award. Extreme details, hidden wires, blown and chromed small block 4-71, all topped off with multi-stripe Himsl paint in 27 colors wowed everyone. Art Himsl and his wife Ellen share credit for the livery design.
Tognotti’s Auto World, 2509 Fulton Ave, Sacramento, Ca 95821, Usa
1972 marked a transition to the Roadster Show. For more than twenty years, Al Slonakers health was taking its toll and the decision was made to sell the show. Midwestern talk show host and well-known automaker Darryl Starbird flew to Scottsdale to meet the Slonakers. In a recent interview with this author, Starbird recalled: “The terms and the price were agreed by both parties; Al told me he had to pay me the full purchase price upfront. I did 12 other exhibitions in different parts of the country. Revenue was hard to come by. Then I contacted my friend and fellow road rodder Bill Roach, who owned a Budget Rent-A-Car franchise in Oakland. Bill said he would invest in me but only as a silent partner.”
The second meeting with the Slonakers threw another curveball at Al Darryl. “Al wanted the new owner or one of the new owners to be the promoter of the show from Northern California. Slonaker suggested I get in touch with Harold Bagdasarian, the producer of the Sacramento Autorama,” Darryl said. Harold Bagdasarian, or Baggy as he is known in the NorCal car community, agreed to be the third partner, but he had no time but to remain silent. He told Starbird that his full-time career was in the lighting business. A short time later, Bagdasarian surprised Darryl by unexpectedly selling the lighting business, telling Starbird that he was now a working partner. Darryl added: “Baggie was a very vocal workmate. Roach then became a referee, a position he was not comfortable with.”
“After a year, Bill (Roach) sold his share, half to me and half to Baggie.” The next 14 years were not easy for either partner. Starbird wanted the show to include the main floor of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum arena, as well as add live entertainment, more cars, celebrities, and a new rating system (more on that later). This formula has worked very well for Starbird in the Midwest. Baggie is not entirely convinced by some of the ideas.
Darryl continues, “On the advice of my lawyer, I tried to sell my half of the show to Baggie for a low price, only to find he couldn’t match my price.” Don Tognotti, owner of a local speed shop in Sacramento and a Friend of Baghdasarian stepped into the picture. “Tognotti bought half the show for the price I told Baggi and I left. I loved the show and I’m very sad that it went the way it did.” To this day, Darryl Starbird, 84, and his wife, Donna, host highly successful car shows in the midwest every year.
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After celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1973, the Grand National Roadster Show opened its doors in 1974 with new owners, new judging rules and much controversy. The International Automobile Association (I.S.C.A.) was formed in 1963 to act as the sanctioning body for competition in specialty car and hot rod shows, but does not actually produce indoor shows. His job was to oversee the competition at each event, supervise the judging panel, evaluate the exhibitors and administer the Show Car Series Championship.
Today, I.S.C.A sanctioned events are produced throughout the United States, Coast to Coast and parts of Canada. With over 350 categories, the selection includes almost every type of vehicle: Hot Rods, Customs, Trucks, Street Cars / Competition Cars, Sports Cars, Sport Compacts, Bikes and Restored Vehicles.
How has this new association with a national governing body impacted the Grand National Roadster Show? In the February 1974 issue
Magazine, this RA writer and editor, the late LeRoi “Tex” Smith, discussed the topic of the new Grand National Roadster Show. Since one of the shows new owners is Darryl Starbird, his Midwestern shows are already I.S.C.A. family, it made sense to include GNRS in the mix. This did not sit well with the NorCal show community. For example, the new regulations classified roadster pickups as off-road vehicles, but touring cars were not roadsters. There were many more classes in the I.S.C.A program, and thus it was difficult for many of those attending the show to find the right one to enter. Allegations of empty engine blocks, questionable driveability and a mantra, if you can’t, a lot of chrome. GNRS has always been the showcase for NorCal designers to present new ideas and innovations for custom road vehicles. Scoring points based on the amount of chrome in a car has angered many West Coast rodders.
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So what happened from the GNRS to the I.S.C.A. Show? This author has been a regular member of the GNRS since 1962 and missed quite a few shows in the 1980s. As with any major annual event/competition, change is both inevitable and good
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