For car guys, summer means far more than warm days, family vacations to the beach, and lazy weekends around a pool. For gearheads, summer means an opportunity to pull the cover off the hot rod, finish up those winter modifications, and hit the road to any of the hundreds of car shows taking place all over the country.
One of the powerhouses on the car show scene is the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, which holds an enormous number of events all over the country throughout the spring, summer, and fall. And for the past 19 years, their car show circuit winds down with one last hurrah in November at Westworld in Scottsdale, a huge venue also known for the Barrett-Jackson auctions. It’s the last chance of the year for the thousands of Association members to show off their hot rods, street rods, musclecars, and customs before many are placed in storage for the winter.
Everyone Is Welcome
The Goodguys Southwest Nationals may not be the biggest show on the Goodguys schedule, but it still draws well over 3,000 cars, and is one of the most unique events on the Association’s calendar. The mid-November timing means it has started getting cold in other parts of the country, and as a result, the snowbirds have started flocking to Arizona to enjoy the mild winter and lack of white stuff falling from the sky.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of license plates from the midwest and Canada, as well as a surprising number from the East Coast. Of course, the size of the show also draws people from all over Arizona and neighboring states, so Colorado, New Mexico, California, and Nevada were all well represented. Sometimes it’s possible to pick out popular themes or modifications among the different regions of the country, and it’s refreshing to see all of them jumbled together in one place.
Like other Goodguys shows, there really isn’t brand or model-specific parking for the show cars, though there are areas reserved for homebuilt hotrods and people that drove long distances to attend the show. What little grouping does take place is usually put together by car clubs or just groups of friends. One might think that is a disadvantage, but actually the effect is just the opposite. Instead of seeing dozens of variations of the same car era or build style, you might see an immaculate, professionally-built traditional street rod next to a restomodded musclecar sporting a late-model drivetrain.
Right across the aisle from them could be a rat rod parked between a lifted 4×4 and an all-original survivor. The variety is part of the fun, and as long as it’s 1972 or older, it’s welcome at a Goodguys show. On Sunday, they lift the year requirement and welcome any vehicle. Unfortunately, Sunday’s weather didn’t cooperate, as an unusual rainstorm lasted most of the day.
Going For Gold
Though the vast majority of the people attending the show were simply there to have a good time and check out the cool cars, every entrant was also vying for one of the many trophies up for grabs. Judges prowled the grounds looking for the best candidates for a variety of categories, and even participants had a voice with the People’s Choice Award.
Like other Goodguys shows, dozens of awards were handed out for things like the Tri-Five Chevy Pick (which went to Phoenix local Albert Flores and his 1956 Bel Air), the Hot hauler (Anthony Gonzales and his 1968 C10), Cool Camaro (Jack Hodson’s 1967), and the Classic Chevy Pick (Bob and Cathy Cantwell’s 1962 Bel Air. In addition to the traditional awards, there was an even bigger competition happening – to name the Top 12 Cars of the Year.
For those not familiar, the cars that compete for the Top 12 are often concours-quality builds where no expense was spared and excellence is the goal. Though the 2016 Hot Rod of the Year didn’t go to a Bow Tie product (Brian George’s 1931 Ford took that spot), Chevrolets had a strong showing with Tom Demrovski’s 1967 Chevelle, which was named the 2016 Muscle Machine of the Year. Several other Chevrolets were finalists for the Custom Rod of the Year, but in the end the top award went to a breathtaking 1952 Studebaker owned by Paul and Betty Gilliam.
Racing – With Corners
Then there was the autocross. Five years ago, the Goodguys autocross competition was introduced as a lighthearted affair, with people signing up and entering just for the fun of taking their vehicle around an autocross course. There certainly weren’t dedicated autocross racers in attendance.
The last three years, however, have seen dramatic changes. Though autocross competitors are still good-natured and friendly toward one another, the top vehicles are dedicated hardcore racers with a lot of horsepower and advanced suspensions designed explicitly for hustling around corners as quickly as possible without knocking over any cones.
It wasn’t surprising to see people using infrared thermometers to check how hot their tires were, suspensions constantly being fine-tuned, and people making very involved changes to their cars, all in the desire to drop a few more tenths from their track times. This year’s Duel in the Desert brought dozens of competitors searching for a win, but it was also the final event that would determine the points champions for the entire Goodguys Autocross series. The pressure was on, and competition was fierce with several vehicles in the running to win the series. But in the end, Robby Unser walked away with both the Street Machine and Pro Class points championships in his 1965 and 1966 Novas, while Danny Popp won Autocrosser of the Year in his 1972 Corvette. In fact, Chevrolet cars dominated the autocross in Scottsdale, with only a real Shelby Cobra spoiling a clean sweep of the top five.
The show grounds are a great place to get ideas for project cars, but for many, the next project starts by finding a good deal on a foundation for a build, rather than just replicating things that others have already done. There was plenty of that on hand in Scottsdale.
Aside from the thousands of cars that you could find on the show grounds and the dozens of vendors on display, there was also a huge swap meet area and a car corral reserved for complete vehicles for sale. Whether you were looking for a vintage tunnel-ram intake manifold, obscure trim piece, or a random collectible, chances are you could find it in the swap meet area. To us, prices appeared to be a little higher than you might see at other venues, but so was the quality of the parts being offered. We saw the same price phenomena in the car corral area, but that didn’t stop several buyers becoming proud new owners of projects.
If scouring for used bargains wasn’t on your list of things to do, there were plenty of vendors on hand showing off their newest vintage-vehicle parts, and all of them had staff on hand that were prepared to answer any questions one might have. There were several high-end chassis and suspension manufacturers on hand, including Detroit Speed and Ridetech, but there were also plenty of performance parts manufacturers on hand, including Edelbrock, K&N, Baer Brakes, Wilwood, Centerforce, and many more.
In fact, we would be willing to bet it was entirely possible to nab a project from the car corral, pick up the few odd pieces that might be missing in the swap meet area, and then shop for everything needed to transform the project into a formidable Restomod…just add a healthy checkbook and plenty of elbow grease. There was no shortage of opportunities to get new ideas for current builds and dream up new ones.
Though the Goodguys staff takes a well-deserved break through the holidays, it won’t be long before the show season will be back in full swing for 2017. They have already announced the 2017 schedule, which will kick off right where they left off in 2016, back at Westworld in Scottsdale March 10 through 12. For more information on the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association and their event schedule, visit www.good-guys.com