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The Winners! AMBR & Slonaker Awards Highlight 71st Grand National Roadster Show

Hot rodding’s longest-running major award, the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy, was bestowed on Monty Belsham’s ’32 Ford Kugel Muroc roadster this evening as the 71st Grand National Roadster Show concluded in Pomona, California. The black, flamed highboy was recently redone by Squeeg’s Kustoms in Chandler, Arizona. The AMBR tradition dates back to 1950, when Bill Niekamp’s Model A roadster became the first to capture this coveted 8-foot trophy.

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The sleek highboy is one of 10 Muroc roadsters built by Kugel Komponents using bodies crafted by Marcel DeLay and custom chassis by Kugel. Belsham’s car was originally sold to Nick Barron and built by Angie’s Auto Center with a bright red paint job. When Belsham purchased the car, he decided it needed more hot rod flavor and took it to Squeeg’s for a makeover.

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The custom-crafted roadster sports fully polished Kugel independent suspensions front and rear, an LS1 engine topped with eight-stack Hilborn electronic fuel injection, and a 4L60E transmission. The stylized body features a lift-off hard top by Matt Tomb and was meticulously massaged to perfection by the team at Squeeg’s before being finished in gorgeous black PPG paint topped with bold and colorful flames in traditional hot rod style. The long list of details includes a Dan Fink grille insert, plating by Russell’s Custom Polishing, one-off five-spoke wheels, and beautiful red leather upholstery by Gabe’s Custom Interiors.

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The Grand National Roadster Show is about more than just roadsters, and this year the promoters made some significant changes to the Al Slonaker Memorial Award to increase its competitiveness and prestige, bringing it up to a parallel stature with the AMBR. The Slonaker Memorial Award is given to the top-judged non-roadster to debut at the event and compete in the Slonaker class, and this year’s winner was Ron Ernsberger’s ’36 Willys pickup built by The Tin Man’s Garage in Sycamore, Illinois.

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This amazing Willys is the culmination of an 8-year build process in which nearly every part of the truck was hand-fabricated, massaged, modified, or perfected. This includes the custom-built chrome moly tube chassis and the flawless body, much of which was shaped from scratch.

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The Gasser-style Willys is powered by a distinctive 498c.i. Arias V6 Hemi built by Missile Engineered Racing Components with stack injection, a wealth of polished and chrome-plated details, plus one-off headers. It’s backed by a Tremec TKO five-speed. Similarly, the straight-axle front suspension and ladder-bar-suspended Dana 70 rear axle both consist of many pieces plated and mirror-polished by Advanced Plating. The body wears both subtle and substantial modifications to distinguish it from a stock Model 77 and is covered in a beautiful red finish by Adam Krause at The Refinery. Schober’s Custom Hot Rod Interiors did the diamond-pattern stitching on the seat and door panels, highlighting an interior with distinct competition flavor.

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Congratulations go out to Monty Belsham, Ron Ernsberger, the teams from Squeeg’s Kustoms and The Tin Man’s Garage, and all others who were involved in crafting these incredible machines. We can’t wait to see both of them at Goodguys events this season!

Photos by Damon Lee, Steven Bunker & John Jackson

Editor, Goodguys Gazette

Damon Lee began snapping photos at car shows when he was 10, tagging along with his father to events throughout the Midwest. He has combined his passion for cars and knack for writing and imagery into a 20-year career in the automotive aftermarket, writing for titles like Super Chevy and Rod & Custom and, more recently, working for respected industry leaders Speedway Motors and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.

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