The Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale plays host to the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association twice each year for a reason: It’s one of the hottest hubs in the hot rodding scene. The combination of great weather all year round, and its proximity to Southern California and Las Vegas also make it a great crossroads, but there is something unique about the Phoenix area itself that produces some of the coolest muscle cars to ever hit the asphalt. It is a city on the move, and its occupants have a great love of the American automobile that we seldom see elsewhere. From a car-building perspective, Phoenix is close enough to other major influential markets that it can partake in prevailing design and building trends, yet it’s isolated enough to have a distinct set of styles all its own—and that’s one of the reasons that keeps Popular Hot Rodding coming back for more every year.

The 13th Southwest Nationals was held at Scottsdale’s monstrous Westworld facility this past November 19-21. It was the final event of the 23-event Goodguys schedule for 2010, and was capped off by the grand finale giveaway of the ’70 Boss Snake Mustang, which we featured on the cover of our October ’10 issue. Congratulations to Goodguys member Tom Ramsey of Hazelwood, Missouri, for being the lucky key holder. We know he’ll enjoy driving this trendsetting vehicle! Now check out some of the coolest iron we found at Westworld.

Ring Jr.!

There’s no doubt that the Ringbrothers out of Spring Green, Wisconsin, have had an incredible impact on the art of muscle car building—and Fords in particular. This ’65 Mustang fastback, built by our friend Heath Elmer and owned by Robert Bell (Scottsdale, Arizona) shows how effective the Ringbrothers ethos can be when toned down a notch and geared properly for the street. Elmer’s work is gaining notoriety, and he is arguably one of the best-known muscle car proponents in the Phoenix area. Bell’s car relies on a stout 427-inch Windsor making 572 flywheel horsepower, which is funneled through a five-speed Tremec. RRS suspension bits and Baer brakes round out the stunning fastback design.

Retro NASCAR

The retro NASCAR and Trans-Am styles seem to be gaining momentum everywhere, and we see examples at most Goodguys events these days. The trend runs from outright clones of real race cars that are all but undriveable on the street, to mild customs that have paint, graphics, and tires, but are otherwise imminently driveable. Jim Hatzelis (Tucson, Arizona) built his own 440-powered NASCAR clone out of a ’66 Dodge Charger. It looks like a four-speed car, but actually has a 727 TorqueFlite under the tunnel. Other than the 10.50-inch racing slicks, the Charger looks completely streetable. Check out the period-correct helmet hanging from the windshield header.

Pro Street Ain’t Dead!

For a moment, we thought we had landed on the south side of Chicago when we laid eyes on Chris Petrone’s blown ’69 Pro Street Nova. The 8-71 blown, ZZ502 mill makes an easy 800 hp at the crank, and has drilled and thrilled its way to 10.50s in the desert heat. Beefcake abounds with a built Turbo 400, Chris Alston Fab9 rear and four-link, and Mickey Thompson 33x18.5 meats. We love it even more when a guy has deep convictions about his ride—Petrone told us he had to move out of his old neighborhood because the HOA complained about the engine noise!

Pro Touring Gasser!

Only time will tell if Butch Robbins will start a trend with his patina’d and rat-rodded Pro Touring ’39 Fiat gasser, but it sure looks like he’s off to a great start. Unfortunately, Robbins did a great job dodging us all weekend long, so we never got the chance to talk with him. We’re hoping Robbins will see this and drop us an email with his contact info and some car details. It looks like the Ford-powered Fiat is designed to handle, and if his intentions are real, we will entertain doing a full feature on it on our next trip out. The serious suspension bits underline the notion that today’s builders are coming to expect a lot more from their cars than just making loud noises on the fairgrounds. Are you one of the serious guys, Butch?!

Here’s another Heath Elmer creation in the works—a ’72 Buick Skylark with GSX graphics that he’s wrenching on for himself. (That’s him peaking around the open trunk.) Elmer has built too many cars to count, but Buicks are especially near and dear to his heart. This one has a Buick 350 small-block, DSE suspension, Baer brakes, and Budnik Gasser 18-inch wheels.