The weather wasn’t looking too friendly early Saturday morning. Silver clouds blocked out the sun, casting the Southland in a gray overcast. The streets were wet with morning drizzle, waves of light rain speckled the windshield as I drove to the Del Mar Fairgrounds to cover this year’s annual Goodguys Del Mar Nationals. The twelve consecutive year of the famed event usually was blessed with sunny skies and cool sea salt-kissed breezes. Not so much this time around.

Clearly the original RS-optioned split-bumper Camaros (1970-1973) have hit a new stride in popularity with the pro-touring/autocross crowd.

Friday – the day before – was quite the opposite, and typical for the locale. Bright skies unmarked except by the passenger jet streaking its contrail above warmed the ground and welcomed travelers and fellow show attendees with “as advertised” Southern California weather. Never to miss a moment, the growing crowd of drivers converged on the Goodguys AutoCross course.

Attacking The Autocross

A gaggle of increasingly popular early second-generation Camaros were accompanied by the occasional Mustang, vintage truck, or Mopar. In fact, the resurgence of the split-bumper Camaro comes as first-generation Camaros increase in price and as racers like Mary Pozzi and her ’70 Camaro continue to prevail. The aftermarket has taken notice too, flooding the market with LS-swap equipment, suspension upgrades and the like.

With companies like Factory Five producing ready-to-race '33 roadsters like the two shown here, budding autocrossers are free to flex their customizing muscles and pick and choose any powertrain combination they can imagine.

Classic muscle is a shoe-in for competitive autocross racing as there is such a ripe aftermarket for it. Enthusiasts like Car Craft technical editor Jeff Smith and his red-and-flamed El Camino is an old hand at these courses, having participated in the earliest stages of this sport decades earlier.

RideTech's blacked-out '68 Camaro showed its stuff out on the course. Flogged to death by the participants of the Editors Challenge, it was powerTV's Sean Haggai who drove the last nail in the coffin of its transmission in his final run.

We watched as a local car club of all classic Chevy and Pontiac muscle lined up at the autocross entry. Chevelles, Camaros, Novas, El Caminos and a lone Firebird eagerly awaited their swing at bat.

The weapon of choice for most autocrossers is the venerable LS motor in all of its iterations. Lightweight and potent, the plant is also affordable and plentiful.

It became pretty clear that there was such a thing as too much horsepower, especially when and if the car in question didn’t have the right shocks, springs, or tires to put that power to use. Many a street car spun, fishtailed and riotously drifted through the corners, losing valuable time.

Showcasing what top-tier equipped muscle machines can accomplish with such components, both corporate sponsored and privateer racers took to the course with gusto, chipping away at track times with each pass. What times were clocked early Friday morning became distant benchmarks as racers pushed their cars and their skills further. For those spectators gathering on the adjacent bleachers, the show was nonstop.

Capping the auto racing festivities was the return of the “Editor’s Challenge,” an invitational that welcomes magazine editors from across the hobby to participate in a face off of sorts. Big titles like Car Craft and Popular Hot Rodding were in attendance as well as niche publications like Camaro Performers and Chevy High Performance. The velvet-tongued Chad Reynolds of BangShift.com participated as well as called the play-by-play over the loud speakers.

In the end, Nick Licata from Camaro Performers took the win for a second year in a row, while our own Sean Haggai murdered the transmission in the RideTech Camaro, an annual tradition for powerTV, as LSXtv.com editor Paul Huizenga killed the Optima One Lap Camaro’s clutch the previous year.

Detroit Speed and Hotchkis also lent over the keys to their sponsored rides, including this gorgeous and nearly six-figure Chevy II belonging to Stacy Tucker.

No longer regulated to the straight-aways, today's vintage muscle can be modded to do just about everything. This '71 convertible Chevelle rode high on 18s, and could be lowered a bit more, but fared surprisingly well especially when considering how they originally handled.

Goodguys AutoCross Results

Pro Class Winner
Brianne & Mike Maier, Hayward, CA ’66 Mustang 33.409

Street Machine Class Winner:
Mary Pozzi, Carmel, CA ’72 Camaro Elapsed Time: 31.05

Hot Rod Class Winner:
Erik Hansen, Aliso Viejo, CA ’33 Factory Five Roadster 32.913

Truck Class Winner:
Rob Phillips, Signal Hill, CA ’69 Chevrolet C10

Super Sunday AutoCross Winner:
Joy Wheaton, Norco, CA ’00 Ford Mustang

Editor’s Shootout AutoCross Winner:
Nick LiCata, Orange, CA Winning Three Lap Average Time (34.352)

The more cool, custom Microbuses we see, the more we fall in love with them. Part of the hot rodding scene - and often forgotten - is the massive presence of the German-build 'people's car.' The Microbus was a key fixture in Southern California surf culture and retains a place in hot rodder's hearts.

Acres and Acres of Miles of Chrome

The Saturday morning drizzle had warded away some of the more delicate trailer queens who shiver at the thought of a waterspot marking their car’s finish, while many more daring car enthusiasts dared the gray skies and drove their rides in from wherever they called home. Sure, there were those who braved the open roads to transport their classics, but parked their haulers and drove their vintage iron into the fairgrounds. Others just did without the trailers altogether.

As Friday’s weather welcomed and Saturday morning’s forewarned, by noon that day, San Diego’s sun was back on schedule and temperatures finally began to rise. By early afternoon, nearly every inch of asphalt was accounted for, whether by milling crowds or thousands of classic American cars.

This year’s Del Mar Nationals was special for a number of reasons. Several rows of parking were dedicated to the venerable ’32 Ford as it continued its year-long 80th birthday, while hot rodding legends Ed Iskendarian and Ed Pink greeted fans and enthusiasts who lined up to meet the “hot rod heroes” and receive an autograph.

Outside of the manufacturer’s midway, beneath the clock tower were an array of meticulously restored front engine, alcohol-burning dragster, which were fired up before the gathering crowd twice a day, both Friday and Saturday. Children sitting upon their parent’s shoulders plugged their ears as the cacophony reverberated off the walls, shaking the glass in the buildings and on the cars.

Participants who had played in Thursday Poker Run all had a great time, as they left from the Fairgrounds and careened through the streets of Del Mar and the surrounding hills, enjoying the oceanside scenery.

The newly minted “Got Wood?” show class made specifically for the famed woodies of the past were given the central courtyard location this year, over a dozen hand-picked Woody wagons parked surrounding the ornate fountain.

We morn the loss of the great art form known as 'badging.' So much can be communicated as well as used to identify a car by the trim, tags, and badges it uses.

Mirror, mirror on the grille, is that a car magazine photog we see?

Undercover Wonders

The nice thing about the Del Mar Nationals (and the Fall Nationals, also held in Del Mar in late November), are the usage of the huge indoor Show n’ Shine in the Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien Halls.

Not to be overshadowed by their later deuce siblings, plenty of polished and metal-flaked T-buckets came out in fine form.

Separated by the middle hall given to vendors and exhibitors, the aforementioned indoor halls house some of the nicest customs and restorations that the show has to offer. If you were to only peruse these two buildings, you would’ve gotten your money’s worth.

The Crosby Hall building is known usually to carry specific themes. Last year was the celebration of the woody. This year, the hall featured a collection of customs and built racers that embodied the spirit of hot rodding from its earliest days until today. We’ll admit that we saw a surge in vintage and classic trucks among the ranks of roadsters and shoeboxes.

In the other hall were more miracles of metal than before. Previous show winners like James Hetfield’s “Voodoo Priest,” were on display for all to gawk at. We got lost perusing the ranks of roadster ‘Vettes, drop-top Plymouths, and full-fendered coupes and sedans. When it came to locating the bevy of lowrider Cadillacs that were on scene last year, we had to only look outside to the jam-packed parking lot, where slammed ’60s Caddys all lined up shoulder-to-shoulder.

Wrapping Up, But Not Wrapped Up

The Goodguys Del Mar Nationals are a great southern California tradition that encourages enthusiasts from everywhere, regardless of location, to attend and enjoy the company, culture and climate. We’re always glad to attend and be a part of it and so are all the car owners, participants, racers, and promoters involved; until November!

Raw steel might look 'incomplete' to the snobbier reader, but we see the beauty and unmatched talent in making a completely virgin piece of metal look flawless. Remember, there's no filler or paint to cover up high or low spots.

Woodies, muscle cars or front-engine dragsters; this year's Del Mar Nationals had 'em all.

Street Rod d’Elegance Winner
John Coenen, Tacoma, WA 1937 Ford

Street Rod d’Elegance Finalists
Scott Van Steenwyk, Los Alamitos, CA ’33 Ford
Bill Lindig, Houston, TX ’27 Ford
Tom Gloy, Incline Village, NV ’32 Ford
Bob Matranga, Newport Coast, CA ’35 Ford

Goodguys 2012 Hemmings Muscle Car of the Year Finalist
Robert Stokes, Buellton, CA ’70 Olds 442

Goodguys 2012 LMC Truck of the Year – Late Finalist
Hilton Vail, El Cajon, CA ’55 Chevy pick up

Goodguys 2012 Grundy Kustom of the Year Finalist
James Hetfield, Carlsbad, CA ’37 Lincoln

Goodguys 2012 Intro Wheels Muscle Machine of the Year Finalist
Sean Cassar, Camarillo, CA ’59 Corvette

Super Sunday Awards
Todd Abrams, Murietta, CA ’06 Dodge Viper
Mike Filion, Santa Ana, CA ’11 Dodge Ram
Roger Pollonels, El Cajon, CA ’05 Ford GT
Rudy Schings, Chatsworth, CA ’11 Dodge Challenger
Rick Caltagirone, Escondido, CA ’07 Ford Mustang

Builder’s Choice Awards
Larry Henderson, Carlsbad, CA ’51 Henry J
Bud Wolff, Graham, WA ’60 Edsel
Keith Christopherston, Santa Rosa, CA ’28 Ford
Karpo Murkijanian, Arcadia, CA ’54 Corvette
Ralph Holguin, Bellflower, CA ’56 Ford
Sam Hardink, Wildomar, CA ’55 Chevrolet
Al Davis, Denver, CO ’37 Lincoln
Dave Cook, Yorba Linda, CA ’55 Chevy
Wilson Green, LaMesa, CA ’32 Ford
George Sepulveda, Lake Havasu City, AZ ’65 Impala

General Award Highlights

PPG Dream Car
Mike Toberman, Anaheim, CA ’55 Chevy

Wonderful Woody
Richard Munz, Madison, WI ’49 Mercury

Long Distance Award
Robert Kovaly, Palm Coast, FL ’30 Ford Coupe

Boyd Coddington Memorial Pick (selected by Chris and Greg Coddington)
Ryan Reed, Corona, CA ’37 Ford

Goodguys Pick
Rick Reed, Murietta, CA ’35 Ford

Young Guys Pick
Andrew Pelloth, San Diego, CA ’72 Olds 442

Magnum Axle Real Hot Rod
Paul Bundy, Escondido, CA ’32 Ford

Real McCoy Award
Roy Reed, Fontana, CA ’32 Ford Roadster

Deuce Doins 80th Anniversary Pick
Dan & Monica Sobieski, Anaheim Hills, CA ’32 Ford