It's been decades since bored GIs back from World War II took to swapping engines and parts from old Ford Model Ts and As, turning them into drag-strip terrors at the birth of hot rod culture. If you think that every permutation of piston, rod, body and seat has been explored, you haven't visited the Grand National Roadster Show, which held it's 64th edition last weekend. It's annual America's Most Beautiful Roadster award, the most prestigious honor in the field, goes to the hot rod that best mixes art and mechanical skill — and this year's winner took the trophy by going back to the future.
The 1927 Ford Track T roadster — a car that combines Model T parts with Model A bodywork — began as a project car for various owners in the 1980s, including NHRA Top Fuel champion Kelly Brown, but was never fully finished. Hot rod collector John Mumford discovered the car, and gave it to ace builder Roy Brizio to bring to life.
Like any subculture of art appreciation, what makes Mumford's roadster more special than any of the other 500 entrants at this year's gathering wouldn't be discernable without some background about its build. It starts with the engine, a traditional Ford flathead V-8 topped with an Ardun overhead valve setup made by Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette. Arkus-Duntov only made eight sets of these heads, and Mumford owned two. From the front axle from a '37 Ford to the Kinmont brakes, nothing on Mumford's T was made after 1952.
While the AMBR award gets the most attention, the Roadster show long ago evolved to include hot rods of all varieties, from a '32 Ford powered by a modern 4.6-liter Ford V-8 built by Ford sales and marketing chief Jim Farley, to a 1962 Chrysler 300, chopped and lowered by Richard Zocchi and painted a shade that can only be called orange sherbet in summer. To see the proof that America's love affair with hot rods still burns strong, click through the gallery above.
Photos: Howard Gribble via Flickr, used by permission