Beth Meyers already had one 1932 Ford Phaeton, but it was set up as a street rod, with fenders and other amenities, for just cruising around. Then she got the idea to get another ’32 Phaeton and take it in another direction.
“I thought it’d be fun to do something really cool, different, and make it hot and happy, and there it is,” she said.
That sounds pretty simple, but there was a lot involved in making the second Phaeton into the car you see here, America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. The AMBR award is the most prestigious in hot rodding, voted on by a small committee of industry experts, handed out only once a year at the Grand National Roadster Show, now held in Pomona, California.
The AMBR has been going since 1950, when the Roadster Show was started by Al and Mary Slonaker in Oakland, California. In 1950, the Slonakers drove around the Bay Area, stopping at places like The Circle Drive-In in Oakland, and got the local hot rod kids to bring their rides to the Oakland Coliseum. Argue all you want, but hot rodding started in California and the best hot rods come to the Roadster Show every year.
This year the best hot rod was Beth Meyers’ Phaeton.
Ross and Beth Meyers had already won America’s second-most-prestigious award, The Ridler, held at the Detroit Autorama, in 2007. This was the couple’s second big win, and the name on this year’s winning car was Beth’s. Ross and Beth Meyers own the 3 Dog Garage in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
True, that museum has a restoration shop, but to win an AMBR requires specific talents and access to numerous specialists. When they won The Ridler in 2007 with a 1936 Ford Coupe, they went to hot rod builder Troy Trepanier. For this car they worked with Brizio Street Rods in South San Francisco, California.
“Beth has a ‘32 phaeton we built for her already, a full-fendered one, a kind of a resto-rod style,” said Roy Brizio, second-generation hot rod builder whose works have now won three AMBRs, four if you count the time his dad Andy Brizio won it in 1970. “And when this project came up, she goes, ‘Let’s do something crazy and wild.’ And I laid this on them and they said, ‘Let's do it.”
So they did it. The project took two years.
“It just kind of evolved along the way,” Beth explained. “You know, it was just like, ‘What do you want for this?’ ‘Well, we really looked to have a winner.’ So it just evolved little by little. Things came out. ‘Well, we ought to try this.’ And, ‘We want to try that.’ And you know, I cannot tell you, I’m not the mechanic. But it just came together.”
Brizio is the mechanic, and he can tell you.
“We wanted to build a hot rod from the ‘60s, kind of like the Tom McMullen roadster: gas tank out front, flames, you know, hot rods, loud pipes, all that.”
Specifically, that meant rebuilding a Brookville body with heavy modifications to a vision shared by all parties.
“The car’s channeled six inches over the frame rails. And if you look at the front of it, the grille shell’s two inches narrower than a stock ‘32 Ford, and the cowl is an inch and a half narrower than a ‘32 Ford. The rear wheel wells have been radiused up, the doors have been shortened, the back of the body has been changed around, so, you know, it takes all those little things to add up and come up with something like this.”
Brizio enlisted experts in all areas. Those flames, for instance.
“Our dear friend Art Himsl, who’s 82 years old, and who has been doing this for 60 years, he came through for us. He’s semi-retired and we brought him out of retirement. He just nailed it perfectly.”
Himsl’s flames were put on top of black paint laid down by Darryl Hollenbeck, who has, as of now, painted five AMBR winners.
“We did all the body and paint on it, all the fit and all that kind of stuff, then painted it black, got it all prepped, sanded down, and then took it up to Art’s and Art laid out all the flames,” said Hollenbeck, who is married to Roy Brizio’s sister (what a gene pool!).
Himsl also had some help, Hollenbeck said.
“Art laid out all the flames, and he’s got a kid that helps him backmasking, all that kind of stuff. Art comes in, does the flames, then Eric Reyes came in and did all the pinstriping.”
There was another hot rod legend involved, too: AMBR winner Steve Moal.
“Moal helped us with the torsion bar suspension—he’s a good buddy,” said Brizio. “We got all our favorite guys: Sid Chavers doing the upholstery, Darrell Hollenbeck doing the paint, and our crew that we do this with, we’re sharing all this with them.”
It was truly an all-star team.
“We’re very fortunate to have an all-star team, the same team that we do all the cars with,” Brizio said. “We’re all proud and happy.”
And so was Beth, the owner of record. She ran up onto the stage to get the award and started whooping and hollering. They were well-deserved whoops and hollers. In several decades of Roadster Shows, her celebration was probably the most joyous. And it was catching. The crowd loved it, just as the judges loved her Phaeton.