As tens of thousands of classic car enthusiasts head to Pleasanton for next weekend's 28th annual West Coast Nationals, Goodguys founders Gary and Marilyn Meadors reflect on how they started the event in their Alamo home in the winter of 1987.
The husband-and-wife team didn't know it at the time, but their plan to form an association of hot rod and custom car aficionados would put Pleasanton on the international map of motor sports.
It was a big gamble to quit their day jobs and go into show business full time, but the Meadors' family passion for cool cars fueled the dream. That dream blossomed, turning their new Pleasanton-based company into one of the world's leading promoters in the automotive realm and the Alameda County Fairgrounds serving as the anchor facility of a fledgling network of national hot rod events.
Looking back, it was really just a simple plan that morphed into something much more. The Goodguys show caught lightning as baby boomers grew to a time in their lives when they sought to rekindle their youth through Lil' Deuce Coupes and hot rod roadsters, the kind of cars the Beach Boys sang about.
Goodguys' events and their association grew almost as fast as a 1,000-horsepower muscle car. Today, the association is 70,000 members strong, holds 20 annual events across the country (including four each year in Pleasanton), publishes a monthly color magazine and employs more than 30 full-time staffers at its Serpentine Lane corporate headquarters. The Meadors' son Marc, now 43, serves as company president.
The West Coast Nationals, called "The Perfect Rod Run" by Hot Rod Magazine, is known as the industry's "Crown Jewel," due to its propensity to attract hot rodding's top cars and star builders, said John Drummond, communications director for Goodguys.
"The pull of Pleasanton and the Goodguys West Coast Nationals is truly international," he said. "Hot rodder Martin Lundqvist of Stockholm, Sweden shipped his car to Georgia in July and is driving across America to Pleasanton to fulfill 'a lifelong dream.' Years of national automotive magazine coverage have made it like Woodstock for car enthusiasts."
The three-day celebration of vintage American iron will be held this weekend, Aug. 22-24, at the fairgrounds, attracting close to 4,000 cars, 1972 and older, and tens of thousands of fans.
Not only is the event popular around the world, it's a boon to Pleasanton.
"I still remember my first meeting with Gary Meadors," said Scott Raty, president and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. "Many years ago Gary came to the chamber office and shared his enthusiasm and vision for a weekend event that would sell-out every hotel room in town."
"There were about 1,000 new hotel rooms coming online at the time, and it was exactly what was needed to put Pleasanton on the map for weekend visitors and convention business," he added. "Not only did Gary make it happen then, the Meadors family is still making it happen today with capacity crowds and every hotel room both here and around the Valley sold for three-plus days each August as well as for the other events Goodguys stages. With all the visitors come significant boosts in retail and dining all over town."
Pleasanton Downtown Association executive director Laura Olson echoed Raty's sentiments. She told Drummond:
"Downtown Pleasanton is, as always, excited to welcome the Goodguys back to Pleasanton. Goodguys events bring energy and excitement into our community, and we love seeing the attendees enjoying our beautiful downtown as part of their visit to Pleasanton. We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with the Goodguys organization and appreciate all they do for our community as a whole."
Barbara Steinfeld, president of Visit Tri-Valley, agreed.
"Every time Goodguys comes to the Alameda County Fairgrounds, the Tri-Valley thrives," she said. "The event's loyal crowd fills our hotels and animate downtown's Main Street with jaw-dropping cars. Goodguys brings new visitors to the Tri-Valley every year. As their audience grows, so does the exposure for our region."
Indeed, Goodguys and events such as the West Coast Nationals and others throughout the year have been good for Pleasanton.
The city has also been very good to Goodguys. After operating for 15 years in their hometown of Alamo, the Meadors family decided it was time to expand. The search for a new Goodguys corporate headquarters led them to Pleasanton.
"We've always considered the city of Pleasanton home," Marc Meadors said. "It's a friendly place with a great community spirit and the fairgrounds is second to none."
"When looking for a new home for the company in 2003, we looked here first and found a perfect home on Quarry Lane," he added. "We envision being here for decades."
Goodguys firmly believes in being a good community partner and giving back. It supports Foothill and Amador Valley high school athletic programs and is active in local community events as well as aiding those at the Veterans Hospital in Livermore.
Two key Goodguys staff members also have roots firmly planted here. Andrew Ebel, vice president of Business Operations at Goodguys, has been a Pleasanton resident 11 years. He serves on the executive board of Visit Tri-Valley in addition to coaching youth football here.
Drummond spent his youth in Sunol and Pleasanton, graduating from Foothill High in 1984.
The Goodguys 28th West Coast Nationals event will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Friday and Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24.
For complete event details, including admission prices, event attractions and more, visit www.good-guys.com or call 838-9876.