For the first time, classic American muscle cars from the '60s and early '70s, the ones that inspired a generation of songwriters from Jan and Dean to the Ramones are being welcomed to the Goodguys show in Pleasanton today through Sunday. Whether the perfect car tune for you is "Mustang Sally," Ronny and the Daytonas' "GTO," or the Jonathan Edwards' classic "Roadrunner," you'll be in good company.
"Prior to this year the event was only open to 1957 and older vehicles but we wanted to swing open the gates to the muscle cars to welcome more people to this prestigious event," explained John Drummond, Goodguys spokesman. "Muscle cars also appeal to the younger generations so we'll see a lot more young guys showing cars and coming to see the muscle cars."
Pleasanton's muscle car contingent will be out in force, with at least six muscle car owners and their vehicles expected to enter the competition.
Among them is Don Micale, whose 1964 Pontiac GTO can be seen on Pleasanton streets with its top down from early spring to late fall. This is the third early model GTO Micale has owned. He bought his first off the showroom floor when he was just 17, earning the money by playing stand-up bass in a jazz combo in clubs he was too young to enter as a patron.
Micale recently sold his second, one he'd had for years, after acquiring his third. His current GTO, a black convertible, was owned by the grandmother of a friend, whose family bought it new in 1964.
For Micale, entering the show is about camaraderie, not winning.
"People come up and say, 'My dad had one,' or 'My friend had one,'" Micale said. "People appreciate it."
Like many Americans at the time, when gas was less than 50 cents a gallon, Micale said he never thought muscle cars -- with their big block engines, carburetors, lots of horsepower and low gas mileage -- would ever die out.
The muscle car owners interviewed from Pleasanton have a few things in common. For one, each wanted the same car they had as teens.
"I always loved the car in high school," explained Lou George, owner of a 1970 Mustang Boss 302. "I always loved it and wanted it back but, you grow up and have kids. It's always been important for me, personally, to have that car again."
Beyond that, each said they had understanding wives, although Ben Haddad, the owner of a 1967 Camaro SS, joked that his wife "hates that I have more time and money for this than for her."
Haddad has spent 12 years restoring his car to its original condition, although he upped the engine size to a 502, larger than this car originally had.
Everyone also is willing to spend big bucks to have exactly the kind of car they want. Haddad, for example, has poured more than $45,000 into his Camaro.
George, who has had his Boss 302 for nearly five years, has spent an estimated $80,000 -- and he's not done.
"I've spent the last four years bringing it back to factory condition," he said.
He wants a car that looks like it's still on the showroom floor, right down to the invoice on the window. "To see an original car to original factory specs, it's pretty unusual.
"The car was restored by Scott at Car Concepts in Idaho by removing every nut and bolt and placing the shell on a rotisserie for body and paint," he said. "I've personally spent the last four years tracking down all of the factory Ford original parts, and my goal is to return it to the original showroom condition by 2012."
Much of that involves networking, like finding the former Ford employee who saved documents when the factory she was working at closed. That was where George got the factory invoice -- the sticker -- that one day will go up on the window of his car.
"Much of it is tracking down parts. People who have parts are not willing to let them go without a premium. People who know these cars and what goes into them realize they'll appreciate," he said.
George is happy that the Goodguys show here finally opened up to later model cars
"These are my favorite shows of the year. This August show has always been one of the Goodguys' largest events," he said. "Unfortunately, I couldn't bring my car. It's always been a complaint of mine to the Goodguys: 'You need to open this up to 1972, 1973.'"
George said he wins an award of some kind about 80 percent of the time at shows.
For Bob Hansen, the owner of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Rally Sport, it's about more than owning the car he had in high school -- it's a love story. He met his wife, Sherri, through his car.
"We both had Camaros. She had a '68 and I had a '69 when we met in Oregon," Hansen explained. "You get older and have kids and you always want your old car back."
He spotted one in the 1990s that took about 10 years to restore.
"My wife told me to go ahead and buy it. My goal was to bring it back to complete original," Hansen said, adding his car was modified to run as a street racer before and at that time "was made to get you in trouble."
Hansen did what's called a "frame on" restoration, having parts taken off one at a time.
"Inside, outside, every nut, bolt, clamp was original," he said. "The tires and the headers are the only things that are not factory correct."
There are a couple of things on Hansen's car that make it a rarity, including a dual carb cross ram (a carburetion system), and "Vigilite" Lamp Monitors, which are fiber-optic head, tail-lamp and directional signal monitors. He estimates his car to be worth about $60,000.
Although Hansen isn't banking on taking home a prize for his Z28, he has nothing but praise for the Goodguys show.
"The Goodguys is a great show to go to, and Pleasanton is a great place to live and work and have a hot rod," he said.
And, as Chevrolet pointed out in a billboard a few years ago: "They don't write songs about Volvos."
Good guys, good gals to gather