custom cars

January 30, 2017

Americas Most Beautiful Roadster 2017


AMBR 2017


Americas Most Beautiful Roadster award for 2017 goes to 1936 Packard named The Mulholland Speedster owned by Bruce Wanta. Designed by Eric Black and wonderfully hand-built by Troy Ladd and his crew at Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank California.

The oldest ongoing Hot Rod and Custom Car show, the Grand National Roadster show has been awarding a huge trophy, but more than that a very prestigious America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award sine 1950. From the very beginning this award has been an award high on the bucket list of many Car builders. In general this award goes to the most beautiful Hot Rod or Street Rod roadster, but since the last decade or so we have seen more and more Custom orientated cars being entered to compete for the AMBR. 2017 is a new milestone in the history of the GNRS AMBR event when Bruce Wanta’s 1936 Packard Roadster wins the top award, the famous 10-foot trophy.

The Mulholland Roadster with the AMBR award on Sunday evening.


When the 2017 68th Annual Grand National Roadster Show opened its doors for the contenders of the event, and the competitors of for the AMBR award on Wednesday January 25th the talk of the day was about the Mulholland Speedster. And especially about if it could win the prestigious award as a full Custom. For the past couple of years we have seen a major shift in the winners of the AMBR. The winners were looking like real traditional Hot Rods again. For many years many of the top award winners were high dollar street roddish cars that had no ties to the original Hot Rod scene other than perhaps the pure base of the cars. The entries for this year were all mostly traditional style cars inspired by several era’s of the Hot Rodding history. And one of them was one inspired by the Coachbuilt cars from the mid 1930’s. Lets hope this will set a new trend and more Custom oriented entries will be created for the future AMBR competition.

The Mulholland Speedster

The Mulholland Speedster is based on an 1936 Packard Roadsters, but is largely couch built by Troy Ladd and his crew at Hollywood Hot Rods in Brubank California from a design by Eric Black . The car is owned by Bruce Wanta of Bellevue, Washington. The car was built over a period of several years. Starting with a series of design studies created by Eric Black collaborating with Troy Ladd. One the basic design was approved on a full size rendering created by Eric Black was printed and the work for the real car was planned.

Early concept designs by Eric Black.


The Mulholland Speedster compared to the 1936 Packard Roadster.


Most of the car is hand built at the Hollywood Hot Rods shop with the body created out of 1-gauge steel, all metal finished. In 2015 the Mulholland Speedster was displayed at the GNRS mostly done but still in bare polished metal. The car had everybody talking at the show and for a very long period after that. After the show the car went back to the Hollywood Hot Rods shop to be taken apart completely for more detail work. The car is designed as a mid 30’s Coachbuilt Custom, inspired by the famous Coachbuilt cars from that era. But underneath the car was built with all the modern touches and techniques one can think of.

The humble beginnings, 1936 Packard.


Early construction work with one side of the car mostly there. On the wall is the life size Eric Black Illustration.


Packard grille and more body construction going on at the shop. The windshield is a heavily modified 1936 Ford Duvall brass windshield.


Getting one side all mocked up, then repeating it on the other side.


All body panels were made at Hollywood Hot Rods.


The Mulholland Speedster at the 2015 GNRS in polished bare metal.


No elements on the Mulholland Speedster were left untouched. Even the hinges were custom designed and hand grafted, and so were the Art-deco head and taillight moldings.


All put back together to check for fit and Finnish, then off to the bare metal photo shoot. 


One of the key features of this car was the plan was to create a metal lift off top that would disappear into the trunk (Retractable hardtop), very much like one done back in 1938 by Peugot. This require a lot of engineering, careful construction and some compromised had to be made to make it all work and the top to disappear into the trunk. To lift the bar even further the idea was to make it all operate using electric motors, and to operate it using your smartphone with a custom designed app. This app controls all the electronics on the Mulholland Speedster, including opening and closing the Packard winter grille, hood sides and suspension.

The car was mostly built at the Hollywood Hot Rods Shop in Burbank California, and the wonderful paint work, in a custom mixed Mulholland Merlot, was performed by Mick Jenkins at M.G.J. Enterprises. The interior was created by Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors.

Retractable hardtop roof. 




After everything was test fitted and after the final fine tuning and photo-shoot the car was all taken apart for paint, chrome and upholstery.


The complete handmade frame and all the suspension components specially designed for the Speedster are a work of art.


A Lincoln V-12 292 cubic inch with Hogan aluminum heads, three-pot Winfield (Double-D carbs used) intake with Latham-Hogan supercharger. Tires are Firestone 6.50×16 wide whites.


The Mulholland Speedster was displayed mostly with the top down, but from time to time the top was put up for a complete transformation.


Notice the umbrella sticking out of the door jam. Specially designed storage unit, and of course the umbrella was customized as well.  


Not only the car itself is spectacular. The way the car was displayed and the display itself was in something very special. Car owner Bruce Wanta wanted to display the car in such a way that car could be enjoyed for the coachbuilt custom, with the perfect stance, but at the same time he also wanted to show the amazing work done on the drivetrain of the car. He came up with the idea of a split level display. One side of the car could be experienced as a car sitting on the floor all closed up, while the other side could be inspected with all the details underneath and inside. Eric Black helped out with the design aspects of this great display concept.


The interior was created by Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors.


The instrumentation is original Packard fully refurbished. 


Car owner Bruce Wanta on the left, Builder Troy Ladd (Hollywood Hot Rods) in the middle and designer Eric Black on the right shortly after the award ceremony.


Troy and Eric.. did this really happen?…. YES



Special thanks to Hot Rod magazine, Rob Radcliffe, Howard Gribble, Eric Black and Hollywood Hot Rods for the photo material. 


 10,563 total views,  3 views today

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the Author

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)


  1. Nice write up Rik! So cool to see this car win it is truly a work of art.


  2. Simply beautiful car, I cant think of any other way to describe it. Thankyou for the build up pics and write up to,


  3. Thank you so much, Rik, for your intensive, short turnaround work in researching, explaining and illustrating what all went into this breathtaking streamline moderne masterpiece. Kudos to Eric Black (Casper, Wyoming!), and Troy Ladd for their “outside-the-box” creativity. Well deserved recognition:America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, YES!


  4. Truly one of a kind.


  5. Get rid of the gold on the Hubcaps.A less cow catcher grill. . . And I’ll take two. One to look at. One to drive. An onyx black and a sapphire green metallic please.


  6. Oh and pencil thin chrome blade bumpers..


  7. Incredible car. It has been fun seeing this one come together over the past few years and right when it seemed to stall, it came back in full force and then went straight to AMBR. Walking the show and seeing the flood of people around it made you realize a kustom could win AMBR and it is so wonderful that it did. There was too much on this car to ignore- the overall design and blending of traditional coach-built styling with modern technology below the surface was pulled off incredibly well. What a refreshing and well-deserved win! Congratulations!


You must be logged in to post a comment.