The Goodguys Heartland Nationals: Throwing Convention to the Wind


The show season is in full swing, and that includes the daddy of them all – the Goodguys Nationals show series. This last weekend, the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association rolled into Des Moines, Iowa, for one of the organizations largest shows of the season, the Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals.


Celebrating its 26th year in the capital city, the Heartland Nationals once again brought its best to the Iowa State Fairgrounds, hosting upwards of 5,000 show vehicles and thousands of spectators. In traditional form, the show offered specialty car parking, autocross competition, a growing swap meet, cruising, and a larger-than-ever vendor midway.

Highlights of the weekend included the Duel in Des Moines autocross competition, a free concert, and fireworks on Saturday night in the grandstands, and of course, a TON of cool cars.


More radical customs made appearances than in years past at the weekend show, with COEs seemingly taking the charge in the “most represented compared to last year” category (not that we’re complaining).

Of other notable value were a number of vehicles/builds we had never seen at a Goodguys show before, including an autocrossing Corvair pickup truck, a three-wheeled tractor/semi/monster truck hybrid, a 1930 Studebaker Erskine, “Dektout” the full-size patio on wheels. And yes, there was even a fully driveable Tri-Five with a 10+ year-old tree still attached to its rear bumper where it had grown. This brings us to some of our favorites, albeit unconventional. SO, without further adieu, here are our picks of the Top Three vehicles of the show:


The Smith Family Farms’ 1957 Chevy 210 Wagon

There are a lot of unique vehicles to be seen at cars shows all over the country, but just about the time you think you’ve seen ’em all, someone will surprise you with something you never in your wildest dreams thought you’d ever see cruising the main thoroughfare of a major show like the Heartland Nationals. This year, the Smith family out of Pawnee City, Nebraska, brought a car that did just that.


This 1957 Chevy 210 wagon, grabbed everyone’s attention immediately upon pulling into the fairgrounds, and for good reason. Caked in dirt from over the last at least decade or so, the otherwise “factory” Tri-Five drove down the fairgrounds’ main street complete with a 10ft chunk of live tree protruding from its rear bumper. Over the last several years, it had bore its way through the weathered metal. The wagon’s show registration tag fittingly reads, “Comes with Shade.”


As the story goes, the ’57 was moved around the family farm since the mid 1970s, having gone from one shed or parking spot to another. It eventually found its way to be stored where it sat for the last 10+ years. Over time, a tree sprouted under the car’s bumper and grew to become more a part of the wagon than a separate object, warping around the Tri-Five’s passenger side tail fin in true form.


While the wagon with a tree growing through it had become a standard centerpiece on Smith’s family farm over the years, a few months ago, unbeknownst to the family’s patriarch, a number of family members got together with the intent of getting the car back to a drivable condition to surprise their dad and grandfather with a running car at the Heartland Nationals.

Brakes, fluids, and a little window washing were all taken care of before the tree was cut just hours before the group left for the show. The top of the tree was also trimmed down so the car could be put in an inclosed trailer to make the three and a half hour journey to the event grounds.

Needless to say, pops was beyond surprised to see his classic lawn ornament driving through the grounds of the show!


Jon Budenz’s 1933 Ford Roadster

Ok, back to the more conventional picks – one of the top being Jon Budenz’s LS3-powered 1933 Ford roadster.

This gorgeous ’33’s sleek, deep red paint scheme caught our attention right away, along with the car’s stance and potent powerhouse under the hood. Powered by a modern Chevy small-block, the car features Billet Specialties valve covers and a 4L65e automatic transmission to bolster the engine.


Planting the car to the ground are 17-inch front and 20-inch rear Foose five-spoke wheels wrapped in 205/45/ZR17 and 315/35/ ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports respectively. Other modern features on the car include a coilover-bsupported suspension system, disc brakes, and a stout rearend.


Inside, the roadster is decked out with dark-fawn leather upholstery, Classic Instruments gauges, and a tilt steering column among other amenities such as a stereo system and air conditioning.

An amazingly clean build, this roadster was a real attention-getter no matter where it was parked during the show.


Jerry and Arvy Hagan’s 1948 Cadillac 62 Series Convertible

The metal was beautifully finished in dark blue, which coordinated perfectly with the folding dark blue top. This gorgeous 1948 Cadillac 62 Series convertible traveled more than four hours from Buffalo, Minnesota, to make its appearance at the 26th Heartland Nationals. Decked out with a completely upgraded and off-white interior, you’ll find plush, adjustable bucket seats, a modern center console, and white leather-wrapped steering wheel.


Outfitted with a 502ci V8 that is good for 540hp, the car is bolstered with a 4L80e automatic transmission, as well as 18-inch Boyd Coddington wheels, Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires, and Baer brakes. With these features, this Caddy is more than capable of easily cruising down the highway as well as cruising the Iowa State Fairgrounds.


A fan and Goodguys favorite alike, this beautiful Cadillac ended up winning the Heartland Nationals’ “Cool Caddy” award. For the show’s other awards, be sure to check out the list of more than 80 award winners on the Goodguys website.



There were so many cool rides at the show this year that we just couldn’t dwindle them down very well, so consider this the first round of “Top” vehicles. We’ll be showing off a couple more of the exquisite cars you see here in future full feature articles, but for now, be sure to click through the massive photo gallery below. It was a huge event, so we have an extra large collection of photos to share.


Photo gallery


About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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