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> The Goodguys Nationals In Columbus 2010 - Coming Of Age
post Dec 13 2010, 11:57 AM
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Have Muscle Cars Finally Gained The Acceptance Of The Straight-Laced Street Rod Crowd? The Goodguys Nats In Columbus, Ohio, Is Proof They Have.
From the December, 2010 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Robert McGaffin

If you could revisit a typical street rod show 20 years ago, you'd be greeted by vastly different sights and sounds than what we see at a Goodguys show in 2010. Cabbage Patch Kids cleverly mounted to grilles, over-the-hill gals in poodle dresses, old men loafing in folding chairs, and doo-wop songs pouring syrup-like from loudspeakers were the stock and trade of rodding events until just a few years ago. If you were lucky, some octogenarian might pour some high-octane juice into his fairgrounds motor and get his blown, chromed-out highboy to do a burnout on his way out the gate-provided he remembered to take his Geritol that morning. Yes, for many years, performance slept quietly, living only in faded vintage magazines sold in the swap meet area.

Peter White, the owner of this '68 AMX, is possessed by a vision of outright track domination. Built by Xtreme Restorations of Slatersville, Rhode Island, the AMX has a race-inspired one-off suspension, a 451ci all-aluminum Indy AMC mill, a Richmond five-speed trans, Wilwood 14-inch brakes, and a completely hand-fabricated interior. By the time this hits, White will have already had it on several road courses to sort it out. To the incredulity of most of the pro builders we spoke to at Columbus, White's AMX did not make the Top 5 in the SMOY competition. Look for more on White's ultimate AMX in a future issue of PHR.

Meanwhile, muscle cars played the part of whipping boy. While street rods received all the lavish fabrication and craftsmanship, muscle cars were doomed to one of two lives: either become restored to like-new condition and wind up in a collection, or be unceremoniously hacked up into a bracket racer. Yet a few cars remained on the road, serving as reminders of our greatest automotive days. These survivors often found themselves in the hands of those who we now think of as visionary. Hot rodders who saw the light got involved with fast street car racing, fast appearing stock tire racing, open-road racing, autocrossing, road racing, and the nascent Pro Touring movement. These guys weren't content with restoring and garaging; they wanted to live life on the edge.
Those intrepid muscle car men learned much, and got faster. Engines, suspensions, brakes, chassis, and fabrication methods improved, much of that know-how ironically coming from the top echelon of the street rod biz. Now, construction quality and style-paint-mattered. Street rod insiders watched in disbelief (and magazine readers with cynicism) as muscle cars became "street rodified." Fortunately, we'd been down that road before. When R&B music morphed into disco in the early '70s, smart listeners recognized the error, and the "disco sucks" movement arrived in the nick of time to squash the errant style. Within a few years, the genetic defect known as "disco" was extinct. (Can we get an "amen?") Like disco, rodified Pro Touring cars are getting a righteous beat down from the real McCoys. And those real McCoys have one primary destination on their calendar: the Street Machine of the Year (SMOY) competition in Columbus, Ohio.

Enigmatically, the Goodguys' SMOY competition places seemingly opposite values on car building. A SMOY contestant must be possessed of award-winning style and build quality, while being capable of very real performance. Every SMOY entry must complete a thorough flogging on the autocross, regardless of pristine paint or sparkling undercarriage. At least that's what's supposed to happen-when it doesn't rain, as it did for the '10 competition. Be that as it may, prior years have seen fierce autocross competition at SMOY, and that's exactly what this year's competitors signed up for.

The SMOY competition notwithstanding, the entire field of cars at this year's Goodguys Nationals-street rods included-are light-years ahead in terms of real performance. The theme has almost unanimously become, "Let's all build cars we can drive regularly without worry." We can thank both the forward-thinking group of enthusiasts at the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association for that, along with some very influential muscle car builders who place a premium on driving their dreams.

Street Machine Of The Year
Every year at the Columbus Goodguys Nationals, the coveted RideTech Street Machine of the Year award is bestowed on the nicest Pro Touring car in the land. The field of competition was tough this year, with many stand-out competitors vying for the top honor. When the dust settled, Karen Leisinger's radical first-gen '67 Camaro, built by Lakeside Rods & Rides in Rockwell City, Iowa, took home the bacon.

Leisinger, a self-proclaimed first-gen Camaro lover, wanted a '67 Camaro that featured wicked performance while combining some of the design and style elements of the new '10 Camaro. Roger Burman and his Lakeside Rods crew did yeoman's work on the Hyper Orange PPG-colored Camaro, dropping in a 600hp LSX mill, Lakeside chassis with Detroit Speed components, and a lot of body mods, hence the car's nickname "Scar." This is the first major award Leisinger has won in hot rodding, but the fourth time Lakeside Rods & Rides has built a Goodguys Terrific 12 award winner.

Karen Leisinger Wall Lake, SD '67 Camaro
Dale and Stacy Johns Van Buren, AR '67 Ford Mustang
Mike Manning Belmar, NJ '69 Camaro
Jeremy Gerber Mundelein, IL '70 Dodge Challenger
Ken Smith Spring Green, WI '64 Ford Fairlane

George Poteet's '66 Chevy 300 was another overlooked car in the Street Machine of the Year competition. There are so many subtle details that many casual observers walked right by it without recognizing them. The appearance shouts "grandma," but the large-diameter billet wheels-which are painted to match the car-are a hint. We'll have more on it in a later issue, but suffice it to say that this car's performance is incongruous with its appearance-quite the opposite of the build ethic of two decades ago.

Woody's Hot Rodz is typical of many shops that have traditionally built street rods and are now moving into muscle cars. This Viper Red '68 Dart GTS belongs to Brian Shackelford, and has an overdrive trans, RMS suspension, Wilwood brakes, and Bose alloy wheels (17s on the front, 18s on the rear). Power comes from a very streetable 400hp 360ci small-block.

Patrick Plenge's '62 Rambler is admittedly a work in progress, but he will also point out, "Hey, at least I'm driving it!" Don't laugh, it's bagged, and it's a roadster, but Plenge is quite serious about putting his homebuilt baby on the track. A 440ci Mopar Wedge puts power through a 700-R4 overdrive. Note the subtle faded "484" racing graphic on the door.

Question: How do you know expensive suspension parts are going to work right before you buy them? Answer: If the people who design and sell them actually race them all-out in their development car, it's a good bet the parts are serious. That's the case here with the Mustang rear suspension system from Gateway Classic Mustang.

Gateway's unique rear suspension is quite possibly near perfect; a Watt's link centers the rearend perfectly at all excursion points, and a tubular torque arm increases bite off the corner and reduces brake dive. This maximizes the amount of work done by all four tires for faster lap times, and it improves driver feedback and confidence.

Bowler Performance is well-known for building high-horsepower automatic overdrive transmissions, and to test them, they have a keen interest in building and racing project cars for both autocross and road racing. As part of the R&D into the Ford side of their business, Bowler has built this '70 Torino project, which features a 540hp Roush 427ISR motor and their Bowler 4R70W overdrive trans. Suspension is by RideTech.

Kevin Musser is just a regular guy-he's a forester by trade-so in choosing a shop to build his lifelong dream, it was critical to find someone who could stay inside his budget and deliver him a reliable, driveable car. RPM Hot Rods-the builders of the Goodguys Boss Snake giveaway car on our October cover-was chosen for just that reason. Musser's '69 Mach 1 has a 392ci Windsor, Tremec five-speed, Total Control suspension (including a rear four-link), six-piston Wilwood brakes, and Boze 18-inch wheels.

One car that didn't get ignored for the SMOY competition is Mike Manning's dark titanium LS7-powered '69 Camaro, which got a Top 5 finish. Manning owns American Autowire in Bellmawr, New Jersey, so he knows his way around some muscle cars. His Camaro is the perfect business calling card, and has so many DSE components on it that some folks at the Columbus show dubbed it the "DSE Camaro." Kind of ironic, seeing as it's the American Autowire Camaro!

Rad Rides By Troy brought out their most controversial project car to date-an '87 Camaro called the F87 Raptor. We briefly mentioned it in our Sept. '10 issue (see "What's Next") and showed a clay model at that time. Here's the real thing in all its metal-fabricated glory. We're lobbying Troy hard for an exclusive on it. Check out the speed-activated spoiler, the '10 Camaro taillights, and all the cool body mods-including the all-metal nose piece.

Tri-Five Chevys get most of the glory when it comes to '50s GM iron, but we'll argue that the Buicks were the pinnacle of styling, and none looked better than the '56 Buick Special. This one is owned by a pilot from Atlantic Beach, Florida, named David Marco. Goodies on Marco's Buick include a 520hp 502 big-block Chevy and a Tremec TKO five-speed trans.

This sweet '66 Sport coupe Chevelle is owned by Tom Farrington of Mooresville, Indiana. Farrington built it at home using components from DSE, Global West, ATS, Currie, Edelbrock, Hotchkis, Eaton, Moser, and Baer. After an eight-year build, Farrington took it straight to the Motorstate Challenge, where he promptly got rear-ended, then spun a rod bearing on the road course. Sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles!

Detroit Speed & Engineering has outdone themselves with their new bolt-on '62-67 Chevy II front suspension clip. Starting with OEM-quality stamped crossmembers, DSE added tubular upper and lower control arms, C6 uprights, power rack-and-pinion steering, coilover shocks and springs, a splined sway bar, and custom stamped inner fenders that can handle up to a 9-inch-wide tire. The system handles both standard small-block Chevy or LS-style engines. The Chevy II clip made its debut at Columbus, and the display was mobbed all week long.

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