The coastal city of Del Mar, California, has long been a paradise for cool cars and hot rods. The city’s name in Spanish, literally means “by the sea”, and was considered a summer playground for the Hollywood elite from the 1930s until the 1960s. Part of the attraction to the area came when the Del Mar Racetrack was built in 1937. In addition to popular actors Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien’s support as a founding members, Paramount Studios was a corporate sponsor of the track. Big, beautiful, and powerful luxury cars, were often seen cruising the area as the city grew.
The Del Mar race track hosted some of the most famous horse races of all time, including a winner-take-all match race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti in 1938. When the horsepower moved from thoroughbreds to man-made machines, a highly publicized 100-mile AAA champ car (Indianapolis 500-type car) race was conducted at the track. Unfortunately, Rex Mays, one of the most popular racers of the time was killed during the event, which stopped Indy type car racing in Southern California for the next 18 years.
A temporary auto racing circuit raced in the Del Mar fairgrounds parking lot in the mid-1960s, then again in the late 1980s through the early 1990s to satisfy the car crazy southern California enthusiasts. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association has become one of the marquee events at the fairgrounds, returning each spring to kick off the car show season in SoCal. The Goodguy’s autocross event brings back the automotive horsepower to the fairground’s parking lot, harkening back to earlier days when iron horses competed there. This year’s Goodguys’ event covered the last day of March, and the first two days of April, and despite falling on April Fool’s Day weekend, the pranks were minimal.
Surf And Turf
One of the many motto’s that Del Mar uses is “the place where the surf meets the turf.” Nothing represents southern California’s surf scene like a surfin’ Woodie. Jan and Dean called the surfing icon out in their hit Surf City: “I bought a ’30 Ford wagon and we call it a woodie.” Back then, they truly weren’t very cherry, but certainly oldies and goodies. These days, they are very cherry, and contrary to the song, they have back seats and rear windows. The surf boards gets strapped to the roof.
We spotted several Woodies cruising the fairgrounds, most of which seemed to be associated with the San Diego Woodies National Woodie Club. The non-profit organization was established in 2001, and always have their designated display area at the fairgrounds for the Goodguys event. Goodguys’ founder Gary Meadors had a special place in his heart for these unique automobiles, and that support has carried on.
Southern Californians Love Their Cars
Like almost every Goodguys event that occurs from coast to coast, there is a wide variety of cars on display. At the Del Mar event, most of the cars have a distinct SoCal or western flavor, complimented by the exterior and interior theme of each build. Rick Dore’s “Shangri-La,” features an Art Morrison chassis covered by hand formed and custom made polished aluminum, and made an appearance. The roadster is described as a marriage of classic French styling with an American vision. Whatever the description from the designer, it must include California elegance in the description somewhere.
Another California-only design, specially developed by Kellie DeFries, better known as the Crystal Ninja, returned for a curtain call. The vintage 1956 Porsche holds the world record for the most crystals on a vehicle. Originally shown at the 2015 SEMA show in Las Vegas, the car makes occasional appearances at car events, usually drawing a crowd of interested onlookers. Car enthusiasts either love it or hate it, but there is always a crowd. The car features over $65,000 worth of Swarovski crystals in 20 different shapes and 10 different colors.
One of the most unexpected finds during the weekend was a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal four-door sedan. Not that that model is an ultra-rare or super desirable car, but the one we found was completely original. It was totally stock, without a single modification or restoration, except for hand controls for a disabled driver.
The paint was worn in certain areas, like the hood and the roof, but although lightly thinned, it was not completely worn through to bare metal. The Custom Royal was the top trim level in the Dodge line from 1955 through 1959.
The Dodge was parked off on a side area, not seeking or finding much attention. We spotted it from a distance and drew closer so that we could see the unique tail light surrounds, chrome tail fins, and the upscale interior. Unfortunately we were not able to get a look at the original Hemi Red Ram engine under the hood as the owner was not to be found.
A Throwback From A Distant Day
Once upon a time, vehicles that are now considered SUVs were used for family trips along the highways like Route 66. Many of these utility vehicles have been resurrected and restored to their former glory. We found Ray Deschenes’ 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster with a 1939 custom teardrop trailer at the show. This combo reminded us of a time when south-westerners used their vehicles on weekend trips to Yosemite and other vacation destinations. Ray is a member of the San Diego Woodies National Car Club, which brings our story back to the beginning.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the weekend long cruising of cars around the fairgrounds, some even ventured outside the fairgrounds to take advantage of the glorious California spring weather. More than one group of enthusiasts found a spot just off of the main drag to sit and watch the caravan of cars cruise by. Next year … we’re bringing a folding chair.