Last weekend before I headed to San Diego for the Coronado Speed Festival, I dropped by the Long Beach Arena to have a look at an event called the Long Beach Motorama.
I very nearly missed this event entirely, and I'm sure I glad I didn't. I think this was the best custom car show I've ever been to.
I had heard about the show earlier in the year, but it had kind of slipped from my mind as I was planning my trip to San Diego. On the Thursday night before the show I saw a TV commercial advertising teh event, and I decided I'd head down to Long Beach on Friday to check out the first day of the show.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but after I bought my ticket and walked inside the arena I knew I'd come across something special.
This was much more than a car show, it was like stepping back in time. The event was done in tribute to the Renegades Car Club of Long Beach, formed way back in 1941.
The Renegades were famous for hosting car shows around the Long Beach area in the '50s and '60s, and this new event is done very much in the spirit of those early shows.
While there were definitely less cars at this event than others I've been to, the quality of the vehicles was unmatched. At times you'd literally think you'd been sent back to the late '50s or early '60s. The indoor "showcase of kustoms" was limited to pre-1964 cars, with nearly all of them built in period correct style. The entire floor of the Long Beach Arena was full of beautiful cars like John Denich's '51 Chevy Coupe seen here.
There were also plenty of hot rods in the arena. Not "rat rods" or modern street rods, but high quality cars done in the traditional '50s and '60s style.
Outside there were cars spread all around the lagoon. Come April this area is the heart of the Long Beach Grand Prix course, but right now it's all about the customs!
I did spot a few rat rods in the outdoor section of the show, but this definitely wasn't a "rust and primer" type of event. I don't think you'd see any cars like this at the shows the Renegades did back in the '50s…
What I did see plenty of were '49-'51 Mercs – the quintessential custom.
Pickup trucks were also welcome, such as this '57 Chevrolet built by Richie Valles of the San Fernando Valley.
Not all of the cars in the show were from Southern California. This '61 Ford Falcon Wagon was built by Boerne Stage Kustoms out of Center Point, Texas.
This incredible '59 Caddy was built in Australia and was sent across the world to be shown in Long Beach. Shipping a race car around the world is one thing, but how nerve-racking would be it to ship a one-off custom like this?
There was even a "wall of history" featuring old magazine articles on famous SoCal cars and builders. Great to see the event organizers trying to promote the history and artistry of car customization instead of just putting on a car show or "lifestyle" event.
Speaking of history, no that's not a batmobile prototype, but the original X 51 – a heavily customized '51 Ford that made waves in the scene back in the late '50s.
Custom cars also filled the hallways surrounding the arena. It was something to see.
There were even a few old drag cars parked outside the main entrance to the show. History!
The heavily customized '60 Ford Starliner was built by our friends at Starlite Garage in Torrance. The paintwork on this car is some of the most incredible I've ever seen…
While on the subject of paintwork, here's Larry Watson's "Vino Paisano" '58 Thunderbird. Watson, who passed away this summer is a legend in the custom car scene, and it's to people like him the Motorama is dedicated to.
I'll be back soon with much more from this fantastic event.