Growing up in Loveland, Colorado, I always knew when the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association was in town. Although there were plenty of people who owned hot rods and classic muscle cars in the area, you never saw as many out and about as you do on the weekend of the Colorado Nationals.

I was 17 years old when the Goodguys Colorado Nationals moved from its previous home at the Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs to The Ranch complex along I-25 in Loveland. It was then that I vowed to someday not just attend the massive hot rod and customs show, but that I wanted to cover it for an automotive publication. This year, that dream came true as I headed from my Fort Collins home just 19 miles to The Ranch early Saturday morning to experience the Goodguys 15th Colorado Nationals in its entirety.

I’ve been to a number of car shows but nothing could have prepared me for the massiveness of the Colorado Nationals. When I got to the show Saturday Morning, hundreds of hot rod, classic, muscle car, and custom owners had already staked out their positions on the rolling hills of the grounds and settled in for a scorcher of a day. As you can imagine, every bit of shade was taken up by lawn chairs, blankets, coolers and a few cars parked under trees by the early bird owners.

Whether you're a street rod, rat rod, lead sled or resto-mod fan, the Goodguys Colorado Nationals had some of every hot rod flavor.

With cars still trickling in and vendors setting up shop for the day, I started my rounds. Knowing the AutoCross course opened in just over an hour, I wanted to see as many cars before 9 a.m. as possible. As it turns out, that was easier said than done, as I only got through about a tenth of the cars by the time 11 a.m. rolled around.

Among the first few vehicles I came across were a 1929 Ford finished in matte black paint with classic etched details, a bright red 1959 Impala, a 1935 Chevy Master, and a couple Ford Model Ts decked to the nines in flames and chrome. These cars joined hundreds of others like them to make up a sea of bright greens, cherry reds, vibrant oranges, popping purples, sparkling blues and eye-catching yellows.

No matter what kind of rod you're into, the appeal is in the details, whether its shiny paint schemes or classic chrome accents.

Of course, there were also a few cars of the sleek black variety just asking for dust and falling ash from the fire that started on the hills west of Fort Collins early that day to settle in. The weathered metal finish of traditional rat-rods was also well represented with most vehicles of that finish sitting well poised between vehicles with $20,000 paint jobs. Every genre of rodder was welcome and they all showed up in force.

Rare Muscle Discoveries

This AMC AMX may not be your idea of a hot rod, but it's rarer than rare in the muscle car world.

Getting lost in the sheen and glitz of hot rod culture is easy, especially when you’re surrounded by over 1,500 show vehicles. But tucked in the sea of cars at Goodguys events, you’re likely to find some rare gems along side all the one-of-a-kind customs. Upon going down the first row of cars, I found myself face to face with one of only 122 Big Bad Orange AMC AMXs built in 1970 (that believe it or not, was still owned by Terry Hoyt of Cheyenne, WY who special ordered the car in 1969). It was then that I realized I was in a world full of cars that were more than just shiny paint jobs, sparkling chrome details and boisterous engines. These cars all had stories and all I had to do was listen.

Being a muscle car girl, I immediately gravitated to the pony cars and rubber-melting models that graced the muscle car era with their presence. An all-original ‘69 Oldsmobile 442 owned by Bill Turley of Omaha, Nebraska immediately piqued my interest. “My father bought the car new,” Turley told me. “And I have a son that I’ll pass it down to and he now has a 2-year-old, so if he keeps it, it should be in the family for quite sometime.”

Rare and factory-original cars were around every turn at the Colorado Nationals.

Turley’s Olds wasn’t the only rare find I came across. Just down a few cars I found a ‘63 ½ Ford Galaxie owned by Loveland resident Terry Plummer. As one of the Galaxies that squeaked through the cracks without being transformed into a race car, this shiny black classic was a sight to see with its numbers-matching 427ci V8 under the hood and correct factory digs, except for the wheels and tires. After racing in circle track competitions for 40 years, Plummer told me his wife was given fair warning that if he ever found another Galaxie, he would buy it. And that he did, purchasing the car just a few months ago.

In the hours that I hiked through the grounds on Saturday, I also came across unique finds like Mark Murray’s ‘65 Chevelle 2 Door Wagon equipped with a 454ci engine. “I played in one as a kid,” Murray told me. After 20 years of building it, the wagon is near completion with only tidbits like the muffler placement needing refinement. “I’m now sleeping in the back of it because I spent all my money restoring it,” he laughingly told me.

A ‘69 Camaro with a 427ci ZL-1 engine, ‘71 Buick GSX Stage 1, ‘37 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe, and a ‘53 Willys Station Wagon were also on my radar for their unique and rare show appearances.

Unique pieces of automotive history come in all different forms within hot rod culture.

Big Power

Hot rodders have a knack for combining vehicles that were way under powered from the factory by today’s standards with modern engines and transmissions, and there was no lack of beefed up rods of all types at the Colorado Nationals.

With so many cars with their hoods open, it was hard not to stare at the massive power plants some hot rods were packing, whether it was the 6.0L Vortech supercharged unit I came across in a ‘55 Chevy Suburban or the countless LS-variety engines that were in anything from classic trucks and lead sleds, to 30s street rods and Tri Fives. I even found a 2005 Viper V-10 poking out from under the hood of a ‘36 Dodge complete with bright green snake skin valve covers that matched the paint and interior details of the same finish on the car.

Backing these engine upgrades seemed to be a slew of 4L60, 4L80 and 700R4 transmissions, although I did see a few Turbo 350s, Powerglides and Turbo 400s in the mix. Although they all did it differently, the one factor that held true for all of the beefed up hot rods was the fact that everyone seemed to want more power whether it was just to show that they had it or to actually use it on the street.

LS or Viper-powered, these hot rods are certain to give modern performance cars a run for their money.

Cone Crazy

I have to admit, until Saturday, I had never seen an autocross course in person, and frankly, any pictures of autocross courses just confused me. But the folks that were less than content sitting in their lawn chairs and looking to show off what their cars were made of in the Goodguys AutoCross competition at the Colorado Nationals, didn’t seem to have any problems finding their way through the course at blistering speeds.

Muscle cars and trucks packing quite a bit of heat seemed to make up the majority of the field as each driver worked to better their times from earlier runs. Some like the 1964 ½ Mustang built by G3Rods of Rapid City, SD and the 1967 pro-touring Camaro owned by Dwayne Klippert of Calgary, Alberta Canada were obviously purpose built to take on courses like the one set out for Saturday’s competition, while others, like Todd Lessman’s 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible had the body roll of champions going on with stock suspension systems still in place.

There was plenty of muscle on the Goodguys AutoCross, from stock cruisers to highly modified pro-touring beasts.

Most competitors drove the traditional autocross greats like early Corvettes, Mustangs and Camaros through the course, while others, like the Wenger brothers from Cheyenne Wyoming competed with 1971 Chevelles. Other competitors raced in built trucks and some even competed in Datsuns, like Ryan Zielinski that was piloting a 1972 Datsun 240Z that he built for a client of his self-owned business Ronin Motorsport out of Milliken, CO.

These may not be your typical hot rods, but they tore it up with the best of them on the autocross course on Saturday.

While the onlookers in the stands cheered every time a driver bettered his or her time, the drifts, spin outs and narrow misses of barricades executed by drivers seemed to be the real crowd pleasers. With’s Chad Reynolds on the mic announcing, both the crowd and the drivers got their fill of laughs as Reynolds found something to poke fun of with almost every competitor.

Goodguys AutoCross – 1st Place Pro Class
Gordon McGilton, Clayton, NC- 67 Chevy II

Goodguys AutoCross – Street Machine Winner
Dave Leisinger, Hartford, SD- 70 Camaro- 33.747

Goodguys AutoCross – Street Rod Winner
Dan Jetter, Auroa, CO- 54 Cadillac- 54.709

Goodguys AutoCross – Truck Winner
Taylor Sewald, Glenda, WY- 67 Chevy

Sales of All Kinds

In addition to the car show and autocross, Goodguys also puts on an amazing vendor midway at all their events. At the Colorado Nationals, this midway was separated into three different areas, two for large big rigs and outdoor displays, and another for booths inside the complex’s many buildings. Big names like Flowmaster, Speedway Motors, Classic Instruments, Meguiar’s, Jet Hot Coatings, Baer Brakes, Airaid, and Prestolite Performance were all on hand offering their latest products for killer deals to hot rodders of all kinds.

If you were looking for something old rather than new, the swap meet also proved to be a popular place. Everything from vintage taillights to cabs from old Model A pickups were put on display for those show attendees looking for a good deal or a rare part. There were even old motorcycles and an ancient jukebox up for grabs.

There's nothing like vintage parts at a bargain like you can find at the Goodguys swap meet.

The car coral also turned up some interesting deals, like a 1947 Hudson project car sitting on a Corvette subframe for sale for just $2,800 and a 1969 Chevelle Nomad Yenko clone being offered for $7,500 with the tagline, “Don Yenko built 199 Yenko Coupes in ‘69. If he had built a wagon, it would look like this one” on the sale information sheet. Whether you were looking for a bare-bones project car or a nearly complete cruiser, there were plenty of vehicles up for sale to choose from.

How It Stacks Up

We’ve covered a lot of Goodguys events but being a Colorado native myself, I wanted to know how the Colorado Nationals compared to other events. So I got in contact with Goodguys’ Harry Daviess to ask him about it.

“Every region has its own flavor,” Daviess told me. “And Colorado is a hot bed for hot rods.” While a majority of people that I talked to at the event were from the surrounding area, Daviess told me that the event had also attracted people from 21 different states.

In total, over 1,500 participants had brought their cars out for the show. Families like that of Monty Stubnow, who had brought his 1939 Lincoln Zephyr to the show on the back of a matching 1942 Ford Car Hauler, along with another hot rod pulled behind in a trailer, traveled from South Dakota to attend the event because the Colorado Nationals was the closest Goodguys event to their home.

While some rodders only traveled a couple miles to get to the Goodguys Colorado Nationals, others traveled from across the country.

When Pikes Peak International Raceway closed, Goodguys had to find a different place for their Colorado event. “Our goal is to produce first class events at first class facilities,” Daviess told me. “The Ranch provided us with that first class facility.”

On the grounds of The Ranch, you’ll find a hotel, a nice wide open grassy landscape for cars to park and plenty of space for everything from vendors to the autocross course. This makes it nice for everyone that attends, including the “lone wolf” hot rodders as Daviess calls them, to the couples and families that Goodguys events are seeing more and more of across the country.

With a membership, magazine, and perks like a swapmeet, autocross, vendor midway and tons of awards at their shows, it was clear to see that Goodguys puts on events that are more than just car shows. They’re experiences like no other.

“Goodguys is about having fun, getting to know people in the hobby and seeing quality cars,” Daviess said. Walking to my car with miles on my tennis shoes for the day, I found myself thinking that Saturday at the Colorado Nationals had certainly lived up to that standard.

Hemmings Muscle Car of the Year Finalist
George Poteet, Memphis, TN- 63 Ford

Intro Custom Wheels Muscle Machine of the Year Finalist
Rocky Hamley, Radid City, SD- 64 1/2 Mustang

Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year Finalist
Gary McKay, Fife, WA- 57 Ford

Street Rod Headquarters Truck of the Year – Early Finalist
Martin Askvig, Loveland, CO- 49 International

Pinkee’s Builder’s Choice Awards
Jim Landsparger, Broomfield, CO- 30 Ford
Joe Qualls, Westminster, CO- 57 Ford
Jim Cooper, Tacoma, WA- 56 Chevy
Bill Davis, Morrison, CO- 40 Ford
Craig Wick, Auburn, WA- 28 Ford
Mike Gould, Penrose, CO- 72 Plymouth
Kent Lundine, Casper, WY- 55 Chevrolet
Torri Braun, Lakewood, CA- 29 Ford
Bobby Hull, Pueblo, CO- 27 Ford
Gary McKay, Memphis, TN- 57 Ford
General Awards:
Chevy Truck Pick
David Perason, Montrose, CO- 57 Chevy Camep

Best Ride on BFG’s
John Canzoneri, Denver, CO- 69 Camaro

 Best Ride on Billet
Don & Jani Paulson, Stillwater, MN- 55 Chevy

Chris Altson Chassiworks Mighty Mustang
Rick Mayersky, Colorado Springs, CO- 66 Mustang GT 350

Classic Instruments Trophy Dash
Gary Mc Kay, Fife, WA- 57 Ford

Flowmaster American Thunder
Dave Hendrix, Walden, CO- 64 Chevelle

Goodguys Gazette Pick
Bobby Hull, Pueblo, CO- 27 Ford

Goodguys Pick
Dale Grau, Rice, MN- 32 Ford

Goodguys Staff Pick
Mike Detwiter, Winsor, CO- 32 Ford

 Jet Hot/ HPC Coatings Young Guys Pick
Jordan Santi, Colorado Springs , CO- 71 Maverick

Long Distance Award
Marvin Sterling, Newark, DE- 36 Chevy

Magnum Axle/Real Hot Rod
Larry Christensen, Arvada, CO- 32 Ford

Meguiar’s Magnificent Masterpiece
Apolo Ohno, W Jordon, UT- 64 Cadillac

Meguiar’s Magnificent Masterpiece
Frank Thomas, Kona, HI- 60 Corvett

Speedway Motors Homebuilt Heaven
John Patricolo, Brighton, CO- 64 Chevy II

Speedway Motors Traditional Homebuilt Heaven
Roger Jetter, Auroa, CO- 55 Cadillac