As we’ve become accustomed, the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association brought the heat to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, California, for the 31st edition of the West Coast Nationals. Registering more than 3,500 hot rods and street rods, the Goodguys crew pulled off another scorching event.

West Coast Nationals

The sun was so strong that it didn’t matter how low you got, it was still cover your eyes bright.

If it sounds like we are using a theme of hot weather adjectives, we most certainly are. The weather was triple digits all weekend long, with a high of 107 degrees on Sunday. Add a couple thousand blazing-hot street machines to the mix and you have something in the heat range of Dante’s Inferno. If memory serves correct, Dante’s Inferno was the beginning of his trip toward heaven, which is the right metaphor for our trip through the West Coast Nationals.

West Coast Nationals

The only thing cool was the music.

While the outside temperatures crested the century mark all three days, the events of the show keep everyone as cool as the other side of the radiator with each display. The highlight of the weekend was the Steve’s Auto Restorations’ candy-red 1933 Ford roadster that won the America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod on Saturday night.

Buddy Jordan’s Renaissance Roadster built by Steve’s Auto Restorations won the top award.

Dubbed the “Renaissance Roadster” by San Antonio-based owner Buddy Jordan, the car is currently the latest Ridler Award winner from this year’s Detroit Autorama. The win puts this marvelous roadster in the Goodguys’ Top 12 cars of the year, with the potential to add more hardware to the trophy case.

Kenny’s Rod Shop won the Builder’s Choice Award with Pat and Marcia Thomas’ 1932 coupe. Photo by Jason Wilcox.

Young Guns Award

The SEMA Young Guns award is new to the Goodguys events, and is part of the SEMA initiative to add younger car builders to the Battle of the Builders, and give these builders recognition to advance them in the hobby. The Young Guns program was designed to be featured at five Goodguys’ shows:

  • 24th Summer Get-Together, Pleasanton, California, June 3-4
  • 26th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals, Des Moines, Iowa, Jun 30-July 2
  • 20th PPG Nationals, Columbus, Ohio, July 7-9
  • 30th Pacific Northwest Nationals, Puyallup, Washington, July 28-30

The overall goal is to provide three Young Guns winners – one in the Hot Rod category, one in the Truck category, and one in the Tuner category, an all expenses paid trip for two to the 2017 SEMA Show for the Battle of the Builders competition. The season long search ended at the West Coast Nationals on August 26, when 22-year-old Zach Johnson was chosen as the Goodguys contender for the SEMA event in Vegas. Zach and his charcoal grey, Pro Touring 1970 Camaro have a good shot to win when he and other finalists from around the country gather to compete for the first-ever Young Guns crown.

Our local builder from Escondido, California, 22-year-old Jacob Griffin did well in the SEMA Young Guns competition. Photo from Brian Griffin.

We had our own favorite in the Young Guns competition with local builder Jacob Griffin and his radical little ’27 Ford roadster. At 23-years-old, Jacob crafted this custom creation using pieces from a T- roadster and a shoebox Ford, powering it with a blown Buick V6. While Jacob didn’t win the free pass to the Battle of the builders, we certainly haven’t heard the last from this young craftsman.

The rear view of Jacob Griffin’s build. Photo from Brian Griffin.

Inside The Exhibit Buildings

The fairgrounds contain several exhibit buildings around the midway, with most of these buildings featuring vendors that display their latest products and performance parts. We found one of the buildings off the beaten path that housed a great model-engine display hosted by the Bay Area Engine Modelers (BAEM). This group focuses on building and maintaining miniature engines, mostly gasoline ignition engines with a couple of steam engines thrown in for historical sake.

The model engine exhibit featured scale-sized powerplants ranging from single cylinder steam engines to more complex 8-cylinder internal combustion engines. The exhibit was organized by the Bay Area Engine Modelers.

The group was rightfully proud to show of the level of machinery that is used by their group, featuring everything from lathes and mills to 3D printers. While it looks complicated, the members were explaining to visitors that most start with single-cylinder steam engines and work their way into other projects like a complex, multi-cylinder internal combustion projects. It was very clear that these folks put as much into the miniature engines as most top-end high-performance engine builders do. Anyone interested in these model engines can see more by visiting the BAEM club online at www.baemclub.com.

Swap Meet

Our crew has always found the swap meet to be a real highlight of these shows. We are privileged to travel around the country and visit many of the swap meets in different areas. It is always interesting, and sometimes surprising, to see what is “hot” in the different areas, and the prices of things from one region to the next. It’s true that the internet has leveled out some of the pricing, but there are still differences from one show to the next.

There’s all kinds of great finds at the Goodguys’ swap meets. We spotted this GM Muncie SM420 truck transmission waiting for a new owner.

Because we still turn wrenches and appreciate people that can work with their hands, common hand tools are always at the top of our list. We love to see what vintage tools are showing up at the meets. Probably one of the best finds we came across were a couple of P & G Model 300 Valve Gapper tools with a price tag of $15 for each one.

The P & G Model 300 valve gapper.

If you are unfamiliar with the Model 300 valve gapper, we highly recommend you do some internet homework and find out how this little tool can help you in setting your valve gaps equally between the valves, and then measure the amount of cam wear over a period of time. These were very popular in the 1950s.

Vintage adjustable monkey wrenches of all sizes.

We also found some adjustable monkey wrenches of different sizes and styles. These are also neat to have in the toolbox, because everyone recognizes them as vintage tools. Our search also uncovered an AMMCO dry-cylinder grinder. These are really neat for the do-it-yourself home-machinists. The model we found would accept both size A and size B stones, covering cylinder sizes from 2 1/2 inches to 4 1/8 inches. The old school home builders used these for rough and finish honing. A bargain for the $35 asking price we saw at the meet. New stones for this grinder are still available at Goodson Tools and Supplies.

An AMMCO dry cylinder grinder for the home-machinist.

Upcoming Events

The Goodguys event list is still full of upcoming events with six more in just about every region. The 20th Colorado Nationals is up next, happening September 8-10, 2017, followed by the Lone Star Nationals at the end of September, the Nostalgia Nationals in Kentucky, and the Southeastern Nationals in Charlotte, in October. The season will wind down in November, with the Autumn Get-Together in Pleasanton and the Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale. For more information on Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, visit them online at www.good-guys.com.

Stay tuned for car features from the show!