WICHITA (KSNW) — The Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, was back after last year’s event was canceled. And this year’s winner is putting Kansas in the national spotlight.
The event is the longest-running indoor car show in the world. You have to be invited, and you cannot show the car to anyone other than your team until the day of the car show.
“It had to be unveiled at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California for its first viewing,” Jeff Breault, owner of winning roadster, said.
A roadster is a car with no roll-up windows, mostly a convertible, and most don’t have fenders. More than 1,000 of them were displayed at the show. Of those, only one car took home the title of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, and it was from Kansas.
Where it started
Wichitan Jeff Breault said his passion for cars ignited when he was young.
“My passion for cars started as soon as I was walking and racing people on my tricycle,” he said. “I have always been into mechanical things, and dad always showed me how to fix things.”
It has revved up into adulthood. It started in 2008, with Breault’s first restoration.
“The first one was a 1934 Pontiac Coupe,” he said.
Since then, he has restored several more.
“Lots,” he said.
The search for the winning car
“I wanted to build a roadster, but it had to be a Chevrolet Roadster because I am a GM guy,” he said. “I didn’t really understand until I started that quest … that Chevrolet didn’t make a lot of them.”
He said they made 3,000 of them in the United States and 31 in Australia.
“This is number 29 of the 31 of them,” Breault said.
The hunt for the 1934 Chevrolet Roadster wasn’t easy.
“I scoured every chat room, every magazine, every car corral, coast to coast,” he said. “It took two years, and I stumbled on a very old chat room conversation where a gentleman was selling a couple cars for a widowed lady in Connecticut, and so I called the number, and this one was still there.”
He said it was total luck.
“It was in her garage under a bunch of stuff, but it was a running, driving car, so when the transport got here, we drove it,” Breault said.
He got the car in 2012 and immediately went to Devlin Rod and Customs in Wichita, a place he has trusted with all of his other restorations.
“I came to Tim Devlin, and I said, ‘Tim, we got to build a roadster, and since we’re building a roadster, why don’t we build the best one.’”
He named the Chevrolet Roadster Lucille.
“She has some class but is a little crazy and aggressive at the same time,” Breault said.
Winning the car show was his mindset all along.
“That was the plan — to win America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” he said.
The process to restore it
Breault and Devlin first focused on renderings, colors, and other details. Once they worked those out, it was time to begin.
“This was the biggest endeavor that I’ve had,” Breault said.
Brandon Wegerle is a part of the restoration team. He said he was excited to learn they would take on such a large project.
“It’s obviously a once in a million thing to have a shop owner and a car owner that is willing to go this distance and length and build a car of this quality,” Wegerle said.
He said it took nearly eight years to get it completed.
“It’s blood, sweat and tears, I mean, the four of us that were down in the bones of this car building it, we all have had it out with each other and had our moments, but at the same time, we all come together to finish the car,” Wegerle said. “It’s definitely probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done, and I’ve learned so much from this car that, you know, I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and I’m still learning every day, and this car’s showed me things that I didn’t know were possible and things that have changed the way I do things.”
The gas tank is in the truck, along with the original registration plaque. The convertible roof was built so it is hidden and looks good up or put away.
No bolts are showing on the outside, and each individual piece was polished.
“Every part was made, and it takes a lot of cooperation and idea exchange, and so it couldn’t happen without these guys,” Breault said.
“When you work for a shop, and this is what you do for a living, it’s more or less a Super Bowl of car shows,” Wegerle said.
The day had finally come to present the car.
“We were real nervous because last year’s show was canceled because of COVID, so that gave all of these other builders around the country an extra year of time,” Breault said. “We didn’t know what we’d be up against.”
“We just kind of sat around all day with sweaty armpits and palms and, and nervous as we could be,” Wegerle said.
The tension was high.
“You always have some bit of doubt that if you know a little shop from Kansas can go and compete at the center of hot rodding in California,” Wegerle said.
“The best builders in the country build cars to go for that award and have been since 1950,” Breault said.
He had to drive the roadster into the event. After that part was over, the nerves went down a bit.
“Once we got there and rolled the car up and just seeing how everybody reacted, a lot of the nerves went away, and it was just like, wow, we did this, and this is a huge thing and accomplishment just to get there,” Wegerle said.
“You feel good all weekend, but you’re nervous, and the award ceremony is quite long,” Breault said.
The hard work paid off.
“I jumped out of my shoes,” Breault said.
“It’s a bit emotional,” Wegerle said. “This is the biggest award that I’ve ever won, and to be a part of a car like this is once in a lifetime.”
The team did not get to take the nine-foot trophy home, but Breault’s name and the year of the car will be on that forever.
“They did let me hug it,” he said.
It’s also a rare win.
“Since 1950, every other car, but this one and two others, has been a Ford, so it’s a pretty rare event,” Breault said.
This is the first Kansas entry to win the coveted title, but Breault said Kansas has a rich history with the show. One of the original show owners was Kansan Darryl Starbird.
“Myself and the team, we had a great time explaining to all the California guys where Kansas was and how we are doing hot-rodding out here,” he said.
The team said it’s exciting to put Wichita on the map at a national event.
“This could drum up business from all over the country, and touring with this car obviously will bring in more people and hopefully bring in higher caliber cars, you know, that sometimes is hard to do with local,” Wegerle said.
They plan to do some tuneups for the car before going on tour and competing in other competitions, but for now, they are enjoying the win.
“Buckle up,” Wegerle said.
Breault did not say how much he spent to restore the car. He has no plans at this time to sell it.