Goodguys Rod and Custom Association has been around for over 20 years. Their founder, Gary Meaders, started Goodguys in the small, Northern California town of Alamo. Their first car show was held at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds in March 1983, when there were 400 cars in attendance, a pretty incredible turnout for their debut. This show is still being held in the same place, now yielding more than 3,000 cars. Since that first event in Pleasanton, Goodguys has put on almost 500 events, from vintage drag racing, to laid-back all-year get-togethers, to the National events where some of the most prestigious awards are bestowed.

Goodguys isn't just an organizer of events, but host to a culture. The Goodguys roster is over 70,000 members long, making it the largest hot rodding or street rodding organization in the United States. Anyone can visit and show their cars at their events, but members get some added bonuses. Aside from discounts for car show registration, members receive a subscription to the monthly Goodguys Gazette. The first issue was out in 1989, and has evolved into the full color, extra-large publication it is today. (We're subscribers too!) Goodguy's headquarters has had to move twice since its establishment because of the growth it's experienced. The company now has over 40 full-time employees to keep up with the growing hot rodding community. If it's rodding, and if it's hot, we're there. We made sure to pack some water bottles and some folding chairs in the trunks of our '76 and '68 Camaro project cars, and headed on down.

Del Mar is a beautiful city off the Pacific coast, just north of San Diego. It's home to fairgrounds famous for their horse racing. There were no races this weekend, however, and the horses' gallop was replaced with the sound of motor-brewed horsepower. This was Goodguys Rod and Custom's 9th annual Del Mar Nationals. Just weeks after the Goodguys Orange County get-together, everyone in Southern California already had their cars dusted off and ready to hit the show.

Unlike the Orange County get-together, the entries are limited to American cars '72 models and older--although as VIP guests, we did manage to sneak the '76 in for display purposes only. This makes for many more rods and customs, but also more classic American muscle cars. Even with the cut-off year of '72, there were still 2,700 cars entered; this gave the 70,000 attendees a lot to look at.

Over 200 vendors set up their rigs and erected their E-Z Ups and displayed the parts these rodders want to see. We always like to get our hands on what's new, as well as what's tried and true from these guys. What's really neat are the hands-on displays that let you put these parts into action. There aren't just new parts up for sale either; there are old treasures for sale in the swap meet too. If you don't have a project to scavenge parts for, take a trip to the Cars 4 Sale Corral, where anyone can park a project that needs a new home.

This was the first Street Challenge autocross event for Del Mar. Car show participants can actually drive their show cars on the autocross with timed results. I even gave it a shot with my '68 Camaro, which was a blast. The Autocross always draws a crowd, not just from the Pro Touring guys, but from everyone who enjoys the sound of wide-open-throttle V-8s and spinning tires.

This event is only once a year, so if you always wanted to visit SoCal, you'd be doing yourself a favor to make your way toward San Diego for this once-a-year event packed with beautiful cars, deals, autocross, and an all-around good time.