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Former AMBR painted by Larry Watson




The first winner of the prestigious Most Beautiful Roadster award, at the Oakland Roadster show in 1959, was Bill Niekamp’s 1929 Model A Roadster. Third owner Delmar Brink had Larry Watson repaint the car twice.

Bill’s Roadster at the 1950 Oakland Roadster show, after it was awarded with the huge America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award.

Bill NieKamp built his famous roadster in 1949. Bill, who was a body assembler/painter at the Plymouth factory in Long Beach, California, wanted to built a Hot Rod for show and go. He started with an $15 1929 Model A Roadster body, which he channeled over an 1927 Essex frame. Bill did most of the work himself. But it was Whitey Clayton who created the full bellypan, the hood, and the track nose for the Roadster. For the go part, Bill installed a 1942 Mercury flathead V-8, dressed up with Evans heads, a Weiand intake manifold, a Winfield cam, and a pair of Strom­berg 97 carburetors. When the car was finished, Bill painted it 1950 Chrysler Blue. Bill showed the well detailed car at the 1950 Oakland Roadster show, and won the first America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award with it. With that the car became and Icon.

CCC_1951GNRS-AdThe 1951 National Roadster Show was advertised using the first year winner of the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award. Bill Niekamp’s 1929 Model A Roadster.

After showing the car, Bill NieKamp took the car out to the Lakes, and raced the roadster at El Mirage for three seasons. He had his best run in July 1952, when he managed a speed of 142.40 mph. Soon thereafter he put the car up for raffle, to help benefit a racer who had been seriously injured at Bonneville. Dick Russell was the lucky winner, and drove the roadster as his daily driver. He  raced the car during the weekends at the Santa Ana Drags. In 1958 Dick sold the car to Delmar Brink.


CCC_Larry_Watson_Delmer-Brink05WWe have no idea who the guy is kneeling behind the frame, it is not Delmar, so perhaps its a guy working at the Bill DeCarr/Larry Watson shop. These two photos show the hole that was cut into the firewall, prior to installing the Buick engine.

CCC_Larry_Watson_Delmer-Brink06WA nice side snapshot in front of the Artesia Blvd shop, shows the Buick Engine installed, but the nose and hood are still missing. It shows the original Bill Niekamp created nerf bars on the front, and the rear as well, as the chrome plated roll bar. The hay trucks across the street, show the dairy origins of the area of the shop.

And now we get to the part the where the Larry Watson photos fit in

Larry first painted the car in a candy purple for Delmar. Unfortunately we have not been able to find any photos of this version in the archives. In 1960 Delmer decided he wanted to have a Buick Nailhead engine in the car and redo the paint. Bill DeCarr worked on the car in the shop he shared with Larry Watson at Artesia Blvd. Several photos of the project are part of the Larry Watson Collection. It shows the car with a cut firewall to make the Buick engine fit. And later with the engine in place. In all cases, Larry already had painted the body in a fading candy maroon/red in the front to gold all the way at the back.

Delmar Brink sold the car to Jim “Jake” Jacobs in 1969. Jake recognized the car as the Niekamp Roadster, the first AMBR winner, and decided to restored it in a 1971. As Associate editor for Rod & Custom Magazine, he decided to create a series of articles around the restoration for the magazine. Doing so, Jake’s project was the first known historic hot rod restoration.


CCC_Larry_Watson_Delmer-Brink01WThis great snapshot shows the Roadster put back together. It also shows the fade front to rear paint job by Larry, the best of all the photos. Look how nicely detailed the interior and all the suspension parts are.

CCC_Larry_Watson_Delmer-BrinkTRJRare photo of the cars 1958 version, was taken by Joe Barnett at an Los Angeles outdoor show. (TRJ #18) The car now has 1955-56 Ford hubcaps, and white pin-striping on the nose, and the louvres.

CCC_Larry_Watson_Delmer-01-MovieLynwood CA 1959 Car Show Movie shot, sorry for the poor quality, but this photo shows the fade front to rear the best.

CCC__Bill_Niekamp_Jake-CoverThe cover of the Feb. 1971 issue of Rod & Custom magazine, showed Jim “Jake” Jacobs with the Roadster, still wearing the Larry Watson last fadeaway paint job. A Mercury Flathead engine was already put back into the car at this point.


Sources and more info:

  • Rod & Custom Magazine Feb, 1971
  • The Rodder’s Journal # 18
  • The Larry Watson Personal Photo Archive



Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

2 thoughts on “Former AMBR painted by Larry Watson

  • Rick,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your article! Great pictures of my Father’s old car! I especially loved the photo with the hay trucks in the background!
    I had the pleasure of sitting in that car as a little girl and pretending i was a race car driver.
    As a journalist, you probably like accurate Information, please note:
    The photo of the man kneeling is not Del Mar, and our last name is spelled without ana at the end,BRINK.
    Thank you again for a great article!

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