An event-record 2,500 rods and customs poured into the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Goodguys 2nd WIX Filters Speedway Nationals from every nook and cranny of the United States, creating one of the finest displays of award-winning machinery you’ll find anywhere. This show brought out the best of the best, and that made the job of selecting the Rod Authority Top 10 — something our staff does at each Goodguys show that we attend — a difficult task. Of course, we don’t need to tell that to the Goodguys judges, who have the unenviable chore of narrowing down so many incredible and worthy custom cars and trucks to hand out the awards.
But alas, it’s a job that must be done.
Now, as any rodder will attest, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad way to customize a classic street rod, road cruiser, or muscle machine. From meticulously restored cars that sparkle in the sunlight, to lightning quick resto-mods, rat rods, and wild machines that put the owners’ creativity on display – they’re all impressive in their own right. No matter the style, we dig it, and our goal in selecting the Top 10 from the Goodguys Speedway Nationals in Indianapolis was to illustrate the very core of the rodding hobby.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, we present Rod Authority’s Top 10 picks from Indianapolis.
Mike Marrelli’s ’64 Oldsmobile F-85
It’s not too often you see an F-85, but Fairland, Indiana native Mike Marrelli’s second-generation Olds is certainly one of the finest such examples of the former GM brand’s golden years.
Marrelli purchased the F-85 in 1999 and began the arduous process of restoring it to the like-new condition you see here. Fortunately, the car had belonged to a “grandma” who was pretty easy on the car and put relatively few miles on it, but the years of driving in a cold-weather environment had taken its toll on the body and the floorboards.
To remedy the damage done, Marrelli used the quarter panels from another ’64 Olds and the floor from a ’64 Chevelle to restore the car to show condition. Parts of the interior that had sat in the sun were worn and had to the replaced, but many of the interior components, such as the instrument panel portion of the dash and parts of the door panels are completely original. Under the hood is a very much like-original, high compression, Rocket 330 V8 just like that produced in 1964. This F-85 is truly immaculate inside and out and rightfully deserved a spot in our top picks.
Jack Dunning’s ’32 Ford
As we were caught drooling over this beautiful ’32, we were approached by its proud owner, Jack Dunning, who immediately began to tell us the story of this recently completed project.
“The best way to describe it is that the car was built with a theme,” Jack told us. “I wanted to build a car that was done entirely with parts available prior to 1942. Obviously there are some aftermarket and re-manufactured parts on the car, like the wheels and such, but as you walk around it you won’t find anything that isn’t just as it was on a car like this in 1942.”
To make the theme a reality, Dunning and the car builder Glen Hatcher utilized a reproduced ’32 Ford steel body with a ’39 Ford driveline, with a 221 cubic inch Offenhauser motor and three Stromberg 97 carburetors, original Offy heads and intake manifold, Smitty’s mufflers – the works. “It’s not souped up much, explained Jack. “I wanted to keep it as close to the original as could be.” Elsewhere, you’ll find a like-original dash, a banjo steering wheel, original Ford hubcaps, among a long list of other carefully selected and restored components.
Hatcher and another fabricator spent every day for a year and half building this ’32. The car is the first hot rod and a “bucket list item” for Dunning, an antique car collector who has some mighty lucrative awards on his mantle via his collection. One of Dunning’s cars, a 1921 Marmon 34B Speedster like the one used as the pace for the 1920 Indianapolis 500, won Best of Show during the Celebration of Automobiles during the 100th anniversary of the 500 in 2011.
Rob Palosi’s ’55 Thunderbird – “Thundersnake”
This classic Thunderbird is a spectacular example of the old meets the new, with a late model drivetrain and chassis placed underneath a timeless Ford body.
Rob Palosi’s T-Bird was built by Customs Unlimited in Ohio, with a body pulled from a donor car purchased 13 years ago in Hawaii. As part of the frame-off restoration, the front and rear bumpers were turned upside down and molded into the body, the door handles were removed, the gas filler was shaved, the rear peak was extended by an inch, and additions such as a frenched grille surround, a hand-built grille, frenched headlights and taillights, a hand-made rear panel and lower roll pan were completed.
Inside, the car features Glide Engineering seats, a hand-built console, a Dakota Digital dash insert, Flaming River steering wheel and column, a hand-machined dash, door, and column insert, and a complete interior done by Benny’s Upholstery in Akron, Ohio.
Customs unlimited paired the fresh new body and interior with an Art Morrison 2×4 tube chassis with Air Ride Technologies suspension riding on ET Classic Five wheels, with power supplied by a 4.6L Mustang Cobra engine, mated to a T-56 five-speed transmission. Another fine example of a worthy RA Top Pick.
The heyday of the Gassers is long gone, but no matter where these cars show up and what condition they’re in, they always get a ton of looks. And Don Don Hansen’s “Widowmaker” is certainly a looker.
Hansen recalls, “I used to run Gassers back when I was younger. I had a ’55 Chevrolet known as ‘Ol Irish’ that we ran really well and even traveled out to California to race. After all these years, I really wanted to build one last Gasser.”
Hansen wasted little time building the Widowmaker and the Goodguys Speedway Nationals was the first major show that the car had been entered in. Hansen purchased the car in February of this year and immediately pulled the body off the frame and placed it atop a Woody’s chassis. In little more than six months time, the car rolled out of the shop looking like a classic Gasser — straight axle and all.
Under the hood is a 383 stroker motor with Edelbrock heads and one of COMP Cams Mutha’ Thumpr camshafts, giving the car the sound to go with the looks. And if Hansen ever gets to take a lap down the strip, the four-speed will be two-tons-of-fun as well proving again that looks are no good without the performance to back it up.
Rick And Karen Basham’s ’31 Tudor Sedan Model A
If you like the racey look on an old school Ford roadster, you’ll certainly get a kick out of the Basham’s ’31 Tudor Sedan, which Karen affectionately refers to as “Mrs. B.” We’ll let your imagination decide what the “B” stands for if it’s not for Basham.
This ’31 was originally yellow in color and far more tame in its appearance and performance when the Louisville, Kentucky natives purchased it about 16 years ago. Then Rick spent some 2.5 years off and on transforming it from a quaint street cruiser to a big-tire brawler that will get the attention of anyone within a few city blocks.
“I like to say he took this cute little car that we had and ruined it,” said Karen with a laugh.
During the transformation, Rick, a self-proclaimed old-school type, stretched the frame and replaced the old powerplant with a 468ci big-block Chevrolet with an 8:71 BDS supercharger topped with Quick Fuel carburetors and a COMP Cams camshaft that produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 horsepower.
Finished flat black in color with some well-positioned pinstriping, aluminum bucket seats, and some classically styled Gasser ET wheels, and this thing screams just what Rick was after — old school. And if you’re wondering if those wide-open zoomie headers are loud, yes – we can certainly report that they are.
Jeff Matauch’s 1954 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup
There were a lot of trucks at the Speedway Nationals, and a lot of beautifully-done trucks at that, and this was one of them that truly stood out from the crowd. After all, it’s pretty hard to miss with the sun striking that custom PPQ Liquid Gold paint that produces just the right amount of sparkle without going overboard.
Jeff Matauch traveled down from New Hudson, Michigan to take part in the Indy Nationals with his stunning ’54 Chevy. The iconic pickup features power from a 502 big-block mated with a 700R transmission. Matauch and Fatman Fabrication built the chassis underneath the 3100 cab that includes suspension from Air Ride Technologies and Wilwood brakes, topped off with some trick Billet Specialties Riviera wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber. Inside, you’ll find an all-leather/alligator skin interior, and a slick bed finished with wood and chrome trim.
This ’54 has endless little touches, from the chrome inside and out and under the hood, to the wheels, the perfect stance, the well laid-out pinstriping, and the immaculate interior that all form to create one of the nicest rides entered in this year’s show.
Brad Jarvis’ ’69 Camaro
The Goodguys events always bring out a healthy showing of first-generation Chevrolet Camaro’s and if you want to truly stand out from the others, you’ve really gotta’ bring something special to the party. And in our opinion, Jarvis’ ’69 is a pretty killer ride with a few unique features.
This gorgeous ’69 is another prime example of the blending of early model and late model, using modern running gear cloaked under a largely unmolested, classic outward appearance. That and throw in plenty of great custom touches and now you have something a little more unique with that extra “cool” factor.
Under the hood of Jarvis’ car, you’ll find a stout 502-inch big-block with a Power Injection III setup, mated with a five-speed TKO600 transmission. Underneath, the car has been dropped two-inches and features a RideTech four-link rear suspension to deliver what is surely a smooth, powerful ride on those trips to the local show and shine. The rolling package is finished off with Intro Pentia wheels wrapped in Nitto rubber.
The exterior features a PPG and Clear Poppy, with stripes done in ’06 Chevy White colors, and of course – there is all sorts of chrome, billet, and stainless steel components that really get your attention. Inside are the goods you’d expect, including a fully custom interior, Vintage Air setup, Dakota Digital gauges, and a retro radio.
And apparently, we weren’t the only ones whose eyes were caught by Jarvis’ Camaro, as it was selected as one of the Goodguys Builder’s Choice vehicles.
Buzzy Dobbins’ 1950 Chevrolet Styleline Business Coupe
If any of the 40,000 attendees at the Goodguys Speedway Nationals found themselves dehydrated during the weekend, it may have been due to their much-warranted drooling over our Top 10 picks. And Buzzy Dobbins’ stunning custom 1950 Chevy could be blamed for the majority. Dobbins’ ride, following the trend of this show’s Top 10 picks, is really well-executed blend of the old and the new but this Chevy really takes it to whole other level, from front to rear.
Dobbins tells us, “Back in high school, there was a guy a couple of years ahead of me that had one of these cars and I really wanted one, and I told myself that someday, I was going to have one.”
Dobbins began the project five years ago, commissioning noted, Indianapolis-based chassis builder Mike Spitzer of Spitzer Race Cars and Spitzer Concepts to create the 2×4 rectangular tube chassis and the impressive display of carbon fiber panels and trim that you see here. Among the carbon components includes the trunk, hood, engine covers, and inner fender panels.
Moving to the driveline and the suspension, virtually everything is borrowed from racing technology, beginning with the 645hp, 572ci powerplant mated with a G-Force six-speed transmission transferring the power to a fabricated rear end housing by Spitzer. Underneath, the car runs on independent front suspension, with a four-link setup in the rear.
From there, it pretty well runs the gamut, from Italian leather interior to Kenwood Audio with a backup camera, GPS, Billet Specialties wheels (18-inch in the front and 20-inch in the rear) and all the modern, high-end amenities you’d expect in a car of this stature. Darrin Cutter created the immaculate interior, along with the custom center console. The Chevy Business Coupe means business!
Gary Meadors’ 1948 Chrysler Town & Country
Our list simply wouldn’t be complete without a stunning Chrysler in the mix, and this Town & Country that belongs to Goodguys founder and chairman Gary Meadors is big enough that you could call it a couple of Chryslers in one.
Meadors forwent a simple plane ride out to Indianapolis with his gorgeous ride, instead joining the Rodfather Tour and driving this intensely custom Town & Country car all the way from his home in Alamo, California – 2,200 miles one way, proving that this is anything but a trailer queen.
Meadors’ 1948 was built by Hot Rods & Hobbies and is powered by a late model Viper V-10 engine paired up with an automatic transmission. With such a unique custom drivetrain and so many clean and subtle custom touches, the ’48 even caught the eye of Mr. Leno himself and was featured on the Jay Leno’s Garage program. It might be a well-known car, but we dig the heck out of it and it rightfully deserves a spot in our Top 10!
Bob And Elaine Wunderlin’s ’64 GMC Pickup
If you want to garner some looks in a sea of spectacular cars and trucks, you’ve gotta’ go big – like 12 cylinders big! Mission accomplished, as the Wunderlin’s GMC pickup was without a doubt one of the most popular vehicles on the property, keeping Bob and Elaine busy answering questions from intrigued spectators and journalists like us all weekend long.
You see, this is no ordinary pickup, as underneath the long — emphasis on the “long” — hood is a rare 702 cubic-inch V-12 (regarded as a Twin-Six) built by GMC between 1960-65. Each time we stopped by the Wunderlin’s pickup, we overheard musings like “it’s got two small blocks in it,” or simply “what the heck is that?”
These engines, which were used in semi trucks, logging trucks, and other heavy duty chores, were the largest gasoline-burning truck engines that GM ever produced before switching to diesel. Wunderlin was familiar with these engines in the old semi tractors, giving him the idea to put one in a truck. This engine has one crankshaft, one camshaft, seven main bearings, two distributors, four cylinder heads, uses 72 quarts of water, 16 quarts of oil, and uses a 118 GPM pump. Even more staggering, the block alone weights 1,485 lbs. and the entire, assembled engine tips the scales at over a ton. With a 700R4 transmission, the truck gets 13 MPG and cruises at 70 mph at just 1,000 RPMs.
“You wouldn’t think it, but it drives as sweet as can be. It cruises at 1,000 RPM, but it’s got the power to really put it down like some of these faster cars out here when you want it to,” explained Wunderlin.
To accommodate the massive engine, Wunderlin shortened the bed and moved the cab back. The hood and fenders were then modified to cover the extra real estate, although the hood was later opened up to deliver more airflow to the warm-running motor and to show off the ingenious creation.
Quite the mix, but our theme of “Old Meets New” and an eclectic mix of Rod Authority Top 10 winners shows off exactly what Goodguys shows are all about. We’ll see you at the next one!