More than 70,000 car enthusiasts attended the 23rd Goodguys West Coast Nationals at the Alameda County Fairgrounds this weekend, where 3,200 cars were on display.
The show ended its three-day run at 3 p.m. Sunday with the thousands who came to Pleasanton from around the country injecting an estimated $16 million into the local economy.
Classic cars and hot rods that were displayed at the show ranged from the once best-seller Chevy Bel Airs to fat-fendered 1940 Fords to Rosie Gilmore's red hot 1932 Ford from Pleasanton.
Many of the cars at the show were also parked downtown and at neighborhood and regional centers last night as owners and their families dined at Pleasanton restaurants. Main Street was crowded both inside and outside the eateries, with a number of retailers staying open late to take advantage of the hundreds cruising and walking the streets.
A highlight was famed hot rod builder Roy Brizio from South San Francisco. He was a featured part of the weekend Goodguys show where he held a one-time reunion of more than 100 Brizio-built cars whose owners brought them back for the get-together. Brizio has built cars for high profile customers such as Reggie Jackson, guitarist Jeff Beck and rock music legend Eric Clapton. He said this would be the only time he would round up all of the rods he's built over the last three decades to display them together.
Gary Meadors, founder of Pleasanton-based Goodguys and its board chairman, said this year's show was the biggest ever and he estimates the show and show-goers injected at least $16 million into the local economy. For every car owner (80 percent are men), there's usually a spouse, family and friends tagging along, meeting together outside the fairgrounds for meals downtown, shopping and touring the sites, including the wine country.
"We're lucky to have such a great host city as Pleasanton," said Goodguys marketing director Andrea Cervelli. "The retailers and restaurants here are really great, welcoming everyone to town, and the hotels help out with special rates so that families can also afford to make the trip here and enjoy the area."
"Hotrodding is a car culture for a guy who has a passion for cars that aren't stock cars," Meadors explained. "He might be a guy with just a car that has big wheels on it or a red convertible like the one I drive or a 1929 Ford with a Chrysler engine in it. Back in my days a 1948 Plymouth was a hot rod."
Although owners can name any year they want and call their car a classic or hot rod, Goodguys restricts most of its shows to 1972 model year cars and earlier.
For this weekend's West Coast Nationals, however, only cars from 1957 and earlier were allowed. They included a large number of cars from the 1920s and 1930s, with roadsters from the '30s among the most popular hot rods of all time.
The reason for making 1972 the overall cutoff in show cars at Goodguys events, Meadors said, is because manufacturers started focusing on less power and weight in 1973 and beyond. The oil embargo of that year led to government mileage restrictions. That was also when computers became an increasingly driving force for more sophisticated engines and drive trains.
"For example, a 1971 Hemi Cuda 4-speed muscle car probably had 400 horsepower," Meadors said. "By 1973, it had 170."
Still, vintage, custom and classic are terms that have moving targets. At one time, Goodguys resisted allowing 1955-57 Chevys because there were so many of them still on the road. That's changed. There are fewer of them and they're too expensive to drive every day.
Another restriction Goodguys made: all cars displayed at the show must have American-made engines. That's why there were even a few foreign-made cars at the show; they had American-made engines.
Besides the Brizio Street Rod Reunion, three famous hot rod coupes were on display at the West Coast Nationals. The original "California Kid", Jake's '34 and the Super Bell Coupe were on hand at this year's event, driven here by the Slover family and Frank Morawski, owner of the Super Bell coupe. Next year is the 35th anniversary of Pete & Jake's, and the Southern California to Pleasanton drive helped jump-start the celebration along Interstate 5. The three cars were photographed on their journey by Steve Coonan and the Rodder's Journal crew.
Another show-stopper was the bright orange Super Bell Coupe, built by the late Jim Ewing towards the end of the 1970s. A chopped and channeled coupe that features a track roadster nose over an extended front end, it is powered by a trio of engines including a big block Chevy, small block Chevy, V-6, all Ewing trademarks as he liked to try different techniques.
Although the Goodguys show dates back to 1987, Meadors' interest in hot rods started in the 1960s when he lived in Fresno. He moved to Fremont in 1973 as a regional sales representative for the Gillette Company and teamed up with others to expand his "hobby." With the help of others, Meadors put on his first show in Lodi, promoting it through other hot rod clubs.
"We had 566 hot rods come to the show from seven Western states," Meadors recalled. "It was unbelievable."
He started handling shows on a full-time basis and adopted the Goodguys name from a pseudonym he had used as a freelancer for car publications, signing his stories Gary Goodguy. Since the name had widespread, even national recognition, the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association was born.
John Drummond joined the organization in 1990 and is now its communications director, still writing stories for car publications and handling the media in cities where Goodguys exhibits around the country.
"My whole gig is promoting the shows and educating media on what hotrodding is and why so many Americans are into it," he said.
He produces the massive "Goodtimes Gazette" that runs more than 200 pages each month, packed with color photos of custom cars and their drivers/owners and vendor ads. He's also the "voice of Goodguys" who announced events, awards and specials at the fairgrounds this weekend.
Drummond graduated from Foothill High School in 1984 and even showed a goat at the Alameda County Fair while a member of the local 4-H club, close to where he was talking about prestigious and costly hot rod, custom and classic cars during the three-day show.