Jack Chisenhall’s ’32 Ford Is America’s Most Beautiful Roadster
Jack Chisenhall has loved hot rods just about his entire life, certainly since he was 10 years old and went to his first USAC Midget race. He bought his first car—a Ford Model A—at age 13, and he’s been into cars ever since. He founded Vintage Air in the 1970s to bring air conditioning into hot rods and custom cars that had never had it and ran the company for 47 years, only recently selling it. He also ran 241 mph at Bonneville in a ’53 Studebaker. But the whole time he was thinking about this car.
“I made the deal with Brizio like 20 years ago,” he said, before his car was named America’s Most Beautiful Roadster.
He’s been working on it 20 years?
“Twenty years I’ve been working on the damn thing. Well, you know, all together longer than that. But really well, I started collecting the parts…”
He got the idea in high school, envisioned the car then, and thought about it his whole life thereafter, in between reading about other hot rods in car magazines that he’d put inside text books so it would look like he was studying.
“I had it in my head. Many years ago, I had Thom Taylor do a rendering of it in about 2000. Okay, so that’s 23 years ago, but I was already gathering parts before then…”
He loved Indy cars more than anything.
“I was more on the race-car, performance-oriented side of things. I wasn’t a big custom car guy. I mean, I like ‘em now a lot more but I really liked the hot rods.”
Chisenhall said he was inspired to make the car he would name “Champ Deuce” by Tony Capanna’s Dodge-powered Indy car and by hot-rodder Jackie Howerton. After his decades of work on it, he sent the car to Roy Brizio’s shop in South San Francisco. Brizio’s son-in-law Darryl Hollenbeck handled the body and paint (the Brizio family has had multiple AMBR winners); Sid Chavers built the interior and top; and Brizio provided project support, finish details and final assembly.
The car was finally done three weeks ago.
Before the winner was announced, I asked him about the prospect of getting the coveted AMBR award.
“So you got a bunch of guys that have opinions, and… it’s gonna go whatever way it goes. I did the best I could. I liked the car. I’m happy. So if something else happens, that’s all good.”
When they had all the AMBR contenders up on stage and they were handing out awards for Best Paint, Best Undercarriage, Best Whatever Else, Chisenhall’s car didn’t get anything, which either meant he was going to go home empty handed or he was going to win it all.
He won it all.
“I can’t even believe it,” he said walking from the stage to his car. “It’s like, ‘No way!’”
While the AMBR award is reserved for roadsters only, in recent years, the show has been promoting its Slonaker Award to honor the best of the hundreds of other cars there. Al and Mary Slonaker started the show in 1949. The Slonaker Award has been handed out since 1974, with added significance in the last several years. This year there were 11 entries for the Slonaker, won by the 1960 Buick Invicta Custom owned by George and Angela Eliacostas and built by CAL Automotive Creations.
Invicta features a centrifugally supercharged Buick 401 nailhead V8 with smoothed and polished block and heads. The two-door hardtop’s interior has custom hardback bucket seats with custom pearlized leather and woven aircraft carpeting. The Eliacostas say the car pays homage to the design wonders of the B-52 Stratofortress. It has a one-piece machined rear bumper, for instance, to “deliver a refined and polished flow for an overall elegant and aerospace-inspired final product.” The team spent over 10 years making it in the Bennington, Nebraska-based shop.
“The caliber of vehicles in this year’s awards was simply outstanding, and we are honored some of the best in the business continue to choose the Grand National Roadster Show to unveil their builds to the world,” said John Buck, owner of Rod Shows and producer of the Grand National Roadster Show. “The ‘Champ Deuce’ and ‘X-60’ Invicta bested an incredible field of contenders to take top honors and join their place in Rod Shows history.”