1966 Oakland Roadster Show Archives
The Grand National Roadster Show, popular for over 65 years now, could be a candidate for the Survivor show. Initially called National Roadster Show, it has remained surprisingly popular despite having changed location six times over the years, attracting crowds from across the country. The current iteration held at Fairplex in Pomona is tailor made given its size and close proximity to the birthplace of hot rodding. Show owner John Buck has done a phenomenal job expanding on the event’s rich history.
The show has had an amazing evolution catering to new trends since 1949 when it opened under the care of Al Slonaker at the Oakland Exposition Building on Fallon Street in Oakland, CA. That year, it was a barn-storming event with sixty thousand people streaming through the doors. It featured the World’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) crown, rivaled only by the Detroit Autorama’s Ridler Award.
The event was the center of the world for hot rodders. Through the years, it featured beauty queens, indoor midget car racing from the Bay Cities Racing Association, pinstriping competitions, monster trucks, celebrity appearances, rock music, and more. It was only rivaled by the promotional prowess of Bob Larivee.
The sixties saw many of the classic custom hot rods change the world of hot rodding forever. In 1964, Don Tognotti won the show with its elegant Purple-Mist King T, a 1914 T roadster. At the time, they also had a top prize for Competition classes. That honor was taken by the Dorricott and Sheehan Fiat Comp Coupe.
In 1965, Carl Casper rolled in with his totally mind-blowing multi-supercharged Casper’s Ghost, a hand-built T. The next year, the Barris-built T plus II T Ford roadster pickup took the honors and Nick Mura’s 1940 Willys pickup took the Competition class in the AMBR.
Also, Gene Winfield was named winner of the Tournament of Fame for his hand-formed, Corvair-powered futuristic Reactor, which later appeared in The Man From Uncle TV series.
For the next 20 years, the show highlighted Hall of Fame inductions. This crowd included Andy Brizio, Chuck Trantham, Ray Brock, Joe Cruces, Carl Casper, Jim Giminez, Dave Puhl and Don Lokey.
Even today, years after the show left Oakland for the warmer breezes of Southern California, no matter what you call it—Oakland, GNRS, AMBR or the Roadster Show—old hot rodders instantly know what you’re referring to, and you might notice they get a little blurry-eyed!
The images you see here in today’s time capsule were taken in 1966. Story author David Fetherston was in a now-defunct Berkeley bookstore and saw them for sale. Naturally, he snatched them up for a song, scanned them and we are stoked to share them with you.
The 1966 winner of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster went to the Barris-built Don Lokey T-bucket T plus II. This ’27 roadster pickup featured a chrome frame, a brass radiator flanked by European Cibie headlights inside a sculptured nose and candy and pearl paint.
This traditional ‘23 T pickup complete with US Mags and slicks, showed off its V-belt-drive blower topping off a 292ci Chevy small block.
George Barris’ Surf Woody is the classic custom hot rod woody of all time. It graced the the cover of Hot Rod Magazine and toured the world during the height of its popularity.
Custom Corvette Stingrays were at the height of their popularity in the mid–sixties. This 1963 featured a Manta Ray-like reformed nose, custom hood scoops, radius wheel wells, Halibrand mags, a 327 under the hood, custom interior and louver moldings.
Bobby Greenwood extensively toured his Cosma Ray custom Corvette bubbletop all over the nation. It won dozens of awards with its wild pink metallic custom paint and radical interior. Built with the help of Daryl Starbird and others, it appeared in several TV shows, including the Wonderful World of Wheels.
Goldfinger, a custom brass-plated chopper bike, was shown by Steve Liserra.
A classic street custom of the mid-sixties would have been something like this 1954 Oldsmobile Holiday Coupe two-door hardtop. It has all the classic touches: frenched headlights, street mags, lowered, shaved trim and door handles, and custom paint.
Another classic street custom of the mid-sixties, this shoebox Ford convertible features a chopped Carson-style top, shaved body, custom paint, custom grille, radically frenched headlights, chrome reverse wheels and custom trim spear.
Chuck Brazier showed off his ‘29 Model A roadster with a Deuce grille. The rod featured a 327 Chevy and a chrome reverse wheels up front and mags with slicks on the rear.
This Barris-built Chevrolet El Camino featured a fade-away pink and red paint scheme with white pleated interior. It ran on Ansen mags and featured a custom grille with rectangular French Cibie headlights.
The Dorricott and Sheehan Fiat Comp Coupe had won top prize for Competition classes in 1964. It was back this year, but there was no longer a special top award for this class.
This famous Les Popo channeled, but not chopped, 1940 Ford Coupe owned by Bob Crespo has gone through several iterations. Here, we see it in 1966 after it lost its bright blue metallic paint. Barris, Cushenbery and Hal Hutchins all had a hand in building, or remaking this classic. It was last heard to be in the hands of Mark Moriarity, who was restoring the coupe.
The famous 1956 Continental Classic, a Lincoln Mark-II bubble top, featured headstone bucket seats covered in snappy white pleated upholstery. It was apparently built for TV personality Alex Dreier. The body was splashed in metallic gold paintwork and featured a radically restyled nose, Mercedes grille, frenched quad Lucas headlights, and custom wheels. It was built by Lee Wells, Jack McKay and Gary Lee. Junior Conway put on the final color coat. This car has recently been restored.
Don Bell showed off his World Champion Custom Cycle at Oakland this particular year. It was a fully chromed classic Harley Chopper. Bell called it “Big Daddy’s!”
John Capman rolled in from Santa Rosa, CA with his neat ’26 Ford roadster pickup complete with long side-pipe headers, mags and slicks.
Michael McPherson showed off his full custom Kellison Coupe at the event. He entered it in the Street Sports Coupe class. The coupe features cantered quad headlights, dual side vents and custom paint.
The Wasp was a bright yellow Model A Roadster Pickup. It featured zoomie headers, pleated interior, roll bar and slicks—all typical of show rods the time.
Another custom that appeared at the show, appears to be a Chevy that’s been channeled, hood pancaked and decked out, with a full custom grille treatment using vertical headlights.
Another very neat T-bucket was T for 2. This beauty was shown by Dick Frost from La Habra, CA. Finished in greenish blue it was Pontiac powered with a 4-speed and Halibrand Quick-change. Eddie Martinez did the upholstery. It appeared on the cover the October ’64 Car Craft magazine. The T’s styling was classic of the time with a fancy rear window opening, mags, slicks, a painted grille shell, whitewalls up front and white headers.
This T was built out of touring car body pieces and called “Julie’s T Cup.” It featured a full pleated interior that wrapped around the bucket seats, later Ford grille and chrome reverse wheels. The motor featured an eight-stack of Stromberg’s and long chromed zoomie headers.
Steve Scott’s Uncertain T became one of the most famous hot rods of its time. It was made into a highly successful model kit with its fuel injected Buick nailhead motor. It is one of the classic custom hot rods. Note the skinny wire wheels up front with the huge mag/slick combination on the rear. The tilted roof line was a first!
Another of the Comp Class cars was the Kelso-Kerr & Schroder BM/SP Corvette. It featured a fuel injected small block and enormous dump headers! Coffee cans maybe?
From nearby San Leandro, Nick Mura’s wild ’40 Willys pickup was the Competition Class winner of the AMBR this year.We recently ran a feature on its recreation.
Carl Casper rolled in from Michigan to show off his radical custom roadster pickup known as “Casper’s Ghost.” The Ghost was powered by a Pontiac V-8, topped with a pair of 4-71 chromed GMC blowers, and drove a Tempest swing-axle rear end.
The Mark Mist GT starts somewhere in the late-fifties, when Richie Feliz commissioned Joe Wilhelm to build him a custom coupe. Richie wanted something super creative, so he headed to Wilhelm’s Custom Shop in San Jose, CA to get the results he wanted.