Top 10 Custom Car Builds for 2020

November, 2020

Top Custom Builds

Although many of us would probably like to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, the year did mark the debut of an impressive collection of Custom Car Builds.  Fortunately, two of the biggest car shows of the year are held every year by the first week of March – the Grand National Roadster Show and the Detroit Autorama – before COVID-19 caused events to be rescheduled or cancelled.  These season opening events award the ultimate prizes in head-to-head competition –  “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” the “Al Slonaker Award,” and the “Ridler Cup.”

As restrictions eased across the country later in the year, other events, such as the Goodguys Rod and Customs Association and the National Street Rod Association shows, also presented their custom build awards.

Here are our picks for the Top 10 Custom Car Builds of 2020, which are based on vehicles shown in the above mentioned premier classic car shows.

1963 Chevy Wagon “Impressive”

Award:        Ridler, Legend Cup, and SEMA Battle of the Builders

Owner:       Bradley, Brady, and Cory Ranweiler

Builder:      Show Cars Automotive

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

This was the second consecutive year a station wagon won the Ridler Award, which is interesting since wagons rarely compete at the Detroit Autorama.   Starting as an ordinary 4-door family car, this wagon got a major overhaul.  One of the more noticeable mods was the removal of two of the doors, resulting in the car taking on a more Nomad-like appearance.    Of course, technological gadgets are huge draws in these new Builds, so the remotely-operated hood and tailgate feature was another modification that made this station wagon stand out from all the rest.   However, if there was one factor that nudged it over the finish line, it was the laser-straight bodywork.  Black paint was chosen, because this is the most difficult color to hide imperfections, making the fit and finish on this wagon as good as it gets. 

In the below video, the Ranweilers provide a walk around description of their 10 year project.

1932 Ford Roadster ‘32 Kugel Muroc No. 4

Award:        America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR)

Owner:       Monty Belsham

Builder:      Squeeg’s Kustoms

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

There is nothing more iconic than a 1932 roadster, and the execution of this Ford Roadster Build checks all the boxes.  Even more significantly, after being judged against the best roadsters of 2020, it came away with the AMBR award – the most sought-after prize in the roadster hobby.   Sitting on an original hot rod chassis by legendary builder Larry Kugel, which was enhanced with all the latest technology, it’s obvious this Highboy received  expert craftmanship throughout.  It has a removal hard top, a killer stance, a plush blood red interior, and just the right amount of flame accents to make any gearhead weak in the knees.

1933 Willys Pickup “Model 77”

Award:        Al Slonaker Memorial  

Owner:       Ron and Vicki Ernsberger

Builder:      Tin Man’s Garage

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

Although Willys may be a favorite marque in custom car building, usually the donor vehicle is an early ‘40s coupe.  However, this transformation started as a right-hand drive mail delivery truck, of which very few originals still exist.   Essentially, “Model 77” is a scratch Build, with a one-off tubular chassis and countless body mods, including the switch over to left-hand drive.  It features an ultra rare 498ci Arias V-6 Hemi (1 of 5 built) that turns out 800 HP, a front-mounted gas tank, and cheater sticks in the back.   Decked out in Ferrari red paint, this cool straight axial pickup looks ready for the “gasser war years.” 

The Al Slonaker award has become one of the most sought-after prizes in the custom car hobby, giving this Willys bragging rights as one of the best new Builds of the year.    

1969 Camaro”Burgundy Brawler”

Award:        Goodguys Street Machine of the Year  (also a contender for SEMA’s  “Builder of the Year” in 2019)

Owner:       Chris McPhie

Builder:      Dutchboys Hot Rods

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

This is not just another Pro-Street ’69 Camaro.  It’s a fully functional road course racer that doubles as a show car.  Although, it may look like the popular Chevy pony car, subtle changes were made, including widening the body to accommodate super wide track tires.  Fitted with a finely tailored roll cage, racing seats, and a custom action oriented interior, it would be the perfect car to carve-up a challenging set of curves.  There is no lacking of high-tech drive train components to bring this Camaro alive, including  675 horses in an engine set back 6 inches for better balance.  Then roll in for a pit stop for a quick change of rubber, and on-board air jacks lift it entirely off the ground.

1932 Ford Tudor “5th Avenue Special’”

Award:       Goodguys Street Rod of the Year  

Owner:       Nathan Powel

Builder:      Goolsby Customs

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

The first thing that grabs you about this “Gentlemen’s show car” is the unusual light green paint, with the contrasting black fenders and running board.  The paint scheme, steel colored wheels, and the uncropped body give it an almost period correct look.  That is, until you notice the lowered front end that is unmistakably pure hot rod.  The interior is all-class, with modern amenities and finely customized upholstery that looks exactly right for this particular Build.

1935 Ford 3-Window Coupe “The Grind”

Award:        NSRA – Builder of the Year and Goodguys Street Rod d’Elegance

Owner:       Dave Gonzales

Builder:      Lake Side Rods and Rides

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

The cool factor is off the charts for this 3-Window coupe.  Its profile resembles a ’30 Ford, but curves were accentuated, and there were plenty of nips and tucks to clean up the sheet metal for a super smooth look.  Inside the cockpit, a full custom interior awaits the lucky driver.  Set low to the ground, with huge killer wheels, this is the ride you want to be seen in.

1955 Chevy Bel Air “Brute Force”

Award:       Ridler Great 8 Finalist and Goodguys “Most Beautiful” title

Owner:       Bob Matranga  

Builder:      Matranga Hot Rods

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

The car’s name says it all. This Tri-five , with its monster 1,400 HP motor, is an absolute brute. However, there’s a lot more to this custom Chevy that makes it truly exceptional. Whereas other high-end Builds feature a lot of modifications, this car has essentially been built from scratch, using one-off parts not found in any catalog. Only the very best materials and master craftmanship were used in this Bel Air.   Although this Chevy wasn’t selected as the Top Build of the show, many believed the final competition came down to this Bel Air and the car that eventually won the Ridler.    No doubt – it was a close call.   In the below video, Bob tells us about “Brute Force.”

1956 Oldsmobile 98 “Oldssled”

Awards:        Ridler Great 8 Finalist and Goodguys Street Rod Custom of the Year

Owner:       Jeffrey Hess

Builder:      Pro Design Hot Rods

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

Oldssled is an interesting blend of old school customization and modern technology.  The throwback cues include Corvette-style grill, fender skirts, Packard tail lights, and spinner-style hub caps.  Further demonstrating “old meets new,” the wheels were specially machined to mimic hub caps, but the car features a high-tech suspension and drive train.   Mike Filion, the builder gave us an overview of his creation in the below video.

1929 Ford Model A “Driftwood”

Awards:      Ridler Great 8 Finalist

Owner:       Greg & Gail Wilson

Builder:      Brad Starks Rod & Custom

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

Here’s a show-stopping custom Woodie that anyone would be anxious to take home.  Everything about this Build is appealing, from the great looking wood trimmed Model A body, to the tricked out flat head V8, to the wire wheels, to the surfboard sticking out the rear of the bed.    Appropriately named “Driftwood,” it is the vision of the owners Greg and Gail, who are definitely beach people.  In the below video, they told us about their special pickup and how their Woodie got its name.


1915 Model T “Leg Show T”

Awards:      America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Finalist

Owner:       Walter Sigsby

Builder:      Walter Sigsby/Danny Eichstedt

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

If there were a runner up at the Grand National Roadster show for “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” this Model T would definitely fit the bill.  In what looks like an upsized Revell model kit, “Leg Show T’” is the definition of the classic T-Bucket.  Skinny tires up front, big slicks in the back, multiple 90 degree bends on the chrome exhaust pipes out the sides, funky steering wheel, rakish cloth top, and attention to the smallest detail, all contribute to the exceptional quality of this build.    This is one fun ride whose design never grows old.

Photo Credit: Photos from the following business were used in this article and are noted as such on the image – Goodguys Rod and Custom, Hot Rod Magazine, Cars-On-Line, and Opposing Cylinders.  Photos without embedded notation were taken by eClassicAutos