After spending the last three weeks looking for apartments, packing, unpacking, and starting a new job, I desperately needed some time for something else. Fortunately, last weekend was the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s 24th Summer Get-Together.
I think it’s obvious what that implies, and hundreds of guys brought their classics out to bake in the warm California summer sun at Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.
There were American cars nearly 100 years old parked next to Mustangs that just rolled off the assembly line.
While I haven’t been to a muscle car meet for quite some time, it was a refreshing reminder that this scene is still the same. And for the past 60 years, not a whole lot has changed. Over the decades, the cars and their owners just get more… classic.
A handful of older chaps at the event were more than happy to tell me about the cars they brought out and how they’ve been bringing those very cars to shows for over half their lives. Many were also quite enthused to share with me the stories of their previous cars, the cars before that, their first cars, the cars they wish they hadn’t sold, and so on.
The Goodguys meet was a breath of fresh air for me; events like these are one of the friendliest environments you can experience. From the youngest to the oldest, this is where muscle car fanatics are crafted and created.
The mass appeal of these things in America makes so much sense. It seems like it was just yesterday when I was peeking over the back seat of my uncle’s ’66 Mustang, likely breathing in far too many exhaust fumes, and feeling the old 289 cubic inch V8 engine rumble away into the night.
It was in my early 20s that I could no longer resist and I picked up a piece of good old American history myself. Although I had never previously been much of a car person, that same uncle somehow talked me into getting the same chassis he used to roam around in.
And just like that I accidentally became part of something so much bigger than I realized at the time. Everyone’s parents, grandparents, or friends here in the States have owned a car like one of these in some form or another.
The nostalgia for these machines affects everyone. I have to say the old homage really is true – they simply don’t make them like they used to. We’ve seen it everywhere, from every manufacturer and in nearly every new model that comes along.
More complexity, more technology, more driver aids, and a more removed driving experience. While there are plenty of guy at meets like these events who see all of these things as the demise of everything they hold dear in their hearts, is it such a bad thing?
I really do love my ‘66, but at the same time I have to admit that my time with the 50-year-old car isn’t always exactly the most amazing experience. I endlessly enjoy the 1960s styling and raw impracticality of the thing. Driving it is always a small event, a chance for me to connect with something that has its own personality.
But it really makes me wonder when the actual pinnacle of performance and styling was. And where did it happen? It’s really hard to tackle a question like this because it seems there really are too many answers.
On one end of the spectrum the Nissan Z always seems very well regarded in these circles. It definitely was one of the first Japanese cars that really caught my eye when my interest in the automotive world began to grow.
There are plenty of solutions to the problems associated with any older car, though. But like most good things, they come with a high price tag; money, time, and determination are always required when taking on any restoration or extensive upgrade.
That isn’t to say that you have to break the bank to enjoy a classic car. It’s often the cars with a bit of patina that have the most charisma; they’ve stood the test of time and they’re still chugging along with parts and paint straight from the factory floors they were put together on.
However, turning these old relics into performance cars by today’s standards is a huge task and I always admire the guys who pull it off well. And then there are the ones who staunchly refuse any modernization of these cars, seeing any sort of deviation from the factory blueprints as an unforgivable act.
Call it character if you want, but things aren’t always smooth sailing with a carburetor. While they’ve certainly come a long way since their invention in the 1800s, any car sourcing its power through a series of springs, floats, and diaphragms deserves a fair bit of attention.
But nevertheless, a carburetor works plenty well at dumping fuel into a motor when you give it the go pedal. I can only imagine the feeling the driver of this thing gets in his pants when over 3000hp launch him into another world where he approaches 250mph in under 6 seconds.
The idea of strapping yourself into one of these cars and going flat out is probably some people’s definition of insanity. During an era when safety was almost a dirty word, the unreliability of these insanely high horsepower builds coupled with the associated dangers eventually changed the regulations of this sport over time.
It’s also interesting considering the reason the American market went the direction it did, and why it stayed there for so long. Looking at these cars, they really aren’t anything like the cars you’d go down to the dealer and pick up today.
Long, straight highways and good old fashioned American grit keep the vast majority of these guys here from moving over to more modern technology. For the few who have moved over to what some may call more sensible setups, there certainly is no end to the creative options available for doing do.
This old Navy F-250 found itself a completely new chassis with reliable diesel power. At least, more reliable than the 50-year-old power plant the pickup shipped with way back when.
I rather enjoyed the execution of this build, with nice little vintage-feel odds and ends in the interior contrasted by the clearly 2000s steering wheel. The owner tells me he wanted something the family could enjoy together, tow a boat with, and be reasonable to live with. A 2004 4×4 chassis and drivetrain allowed this old stamped steel a chance for another go at things.
I’m sure the designers and the engineers – even the factory workers – would be quite pleased to see the condition of many of these cars as they sit here. American steel just has a way of staying around. I hope it continues to remain that way.
After all, what is more American than fried chicken and a ’31 Ford? The nostalgia affects everyone. This is a show I would happily bring either my grandmother or 8-year-old cousin to.
I have to admit there are a lot of meets and events I’ve been to that I definitely couldn’t say that about. There’s something for everyone here, even a good square kilometer of swap meet to peruse through. I ended up coming home with a tiny die-cast NASCAR that matched some expired film I have sitting on the shelf.
There are also plenty of booths set up where aftermarket companies are showing off their latest creations. The hunger for more horsepower is very much alive in these circles, and as we all know, there’s always some way to find a few extra ponies.
This is not a bad way to spend your weekend, and I don’t see these guys going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the changes coming to the industry, I don’t see the formula disappearing either.
While the internal combustion engine is finally seeming like it may someday not be the ultimate standard of automotive performance, there’s no way they’re just going to go away. Having felt the punch of a V8 in the flat of my back I can confirm that these old and oversized chunks of metal simply bring joy to too many folks.
But what are these meets going to look like in 10, 20, or 50 years? It seems like there’s no way they could actually be the same. But with the vast number of passionate builders, engineers, designers, and creators, I’m sure we have good things in store for us.
Trevor Yale Ryan
Cutting Room Floor