At this year’s Grand National Roadster Show, 12 cars were chosen to compete for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy. The winner was Wes Rydel’s 1935 Chevy Phaeton, a car that uses subtle cues instead of brash hot rod design.
The Most Prestigious Hot Rod Trophy
The competition was launched in 1950 as a concourse event inside the Grand National Roadster Show. Cars are accepted by invitation only, and the show must be their first public appearance. The cars themselves must have been built before 1938, and the vast majority have been Ford Roadsters. This year, seven of the 12 entrants were based on this genre-defining car.
Although traditionally dominated by professionally built cars, there has been a shift towards more home-built vehicles, including this year’s inclusion of “Mad U SA,” a 1934 Ford truck constructed by an after-school club from the Detroit suburb of Roseville.
The Winner – Wes Rydel’s 1935 Chevy Phaeton
A “phaeton” is a car with two rows of seats and a convertible top. It’s the most common body style after two-seat roadsters used in hot rod builds. The Chevy was joined by a ’32 Ford Phaeton in the concourse this year, and phaetons have taken the title twice before in the event. Exact production numbers for the Chevy are unknown, but it’s estimated to be around 200 vehicles, making it surprising that Rydell chose to customize the car instead of restore it to original condition.
On average, cars accepted into the show take three to four years to build, but they can take a lifetime to plan. GM dealer Wes Rydell bought the Phaeton 30 years ago, decided to turn it into a hot rod 15 years ago, commissioned Chip Foose to draw a design over a decade ago and finally began work on it three years ago. After completing about a quarter of the project, he handed the car over to Rad Rides by Troy nine months before the show. Towards the end, famed builder Troy Trepanier and his crew were working on the car seven days a week to make sure it was ready for the concourse.
The overall design is very subtle, adjusting the shapes of the body parts rather than cutting them off. Even the wheels retain a somewhat stock look, combining alloy rims with hub caps. Under the hood, the intake is designed to look like a third valve cover with a small chrome air cleaner. The overall effect blends the look of ’30s and ’50s stock pieces with the low stance of a traditional hot rod.
Even after winning such a prestigious award, Rydell plans to use it as a driver, having installed power steering and an air conditioner to make it more travel-friendly.
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