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.
Atomic Orange was no factory color in 1967 when Blake Grandil’s Chevelle was built, but it
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.
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.
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.
Luckiest Guy In The World Award
We featured the ’70 Boss Snake Mustang built by Curt Ukasik and his band of brothers at RPM back in our October issue. We told you about the Snake’s trendsetting body styling, the Kaase-built big-block Boss 520, and the take-no-prisoner’s suspension in our October issue, at which time we mentioned it would eventually be given away to one lucky Goodguys member. That day finally came at the Goodguys 13th Southwest Nationals. Twelve lucky members were chosen at random at Goodguys events leading up to Scottsdale, each of them given a key to try in the Snake’s ignition at Scottsdale. On this day, the lucky key that breathed fire in the Kaase Hemi was held by Tom Ramsey of Hazelwood, Missouri.
John Spencer (Mesa, Arizona) is another modern hot rodder who believes that the muscle car experience just isn’t complete unless you practice what you preach. His Mulsanne Blue ’68 Camaro Z/28 was built for driving—and racing. Vintage Trans-Am racing doesn’t allow a whole lot of modifications, and those that are allowed are usually period-correct mods, like the vintage four-wheel disc Corvette brakes, the Ford 9-inch rear, the Muncie four-speed, and some Global West bushings. The stout little solid-roller 302 small-block makes 485 hp at 8,000 rpm. Once John gets some laps under his belt, we’ll check back in with him.
Muscle Machine Of The Year
Barry’s Speed Shop of Corona, California, built Dennis DeCamp’s ’70 Ford Mustang, which won the Goodguys Muscle Machine of the Year at Scottsdale—a real nice follow-up to DeCamp’s previous America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award in 2007. In spite of the fact that the Roush 427-powered fastback cost a small fortune to build, DeCamp left the trailer at home and drove it over 9,000 miles to six Goodguys shows. Says DeCamp: “If you don’t drive it, what good is it?!” We totally agree. One of the best perks of having the Muscle Machine of the Year award bestowed on you is that Snap-on gives you a custom roll-around toolbox with a huge wrap of your car on the front of it. Congrats to Dennis DeCamp and all the talented builders at Barry’s Speed Shop!
When Chevy came out with Tuned Port Induction (TPI) on the ’85 Corvette, it was considered state of the art. Its long runners worked with small ports and a short-duration camshaft to produce prodigious amounts of torque for its era. Engineers were working under heavy constraints mandated by the EPA and CAFE, and TPI allowed the greatest performance gain with the technology then available. But times changed and technology marched on. TPI is now just a footnote—its torque merit badge having since passed on to the LT1, then the LS1, and now the LS7 and LS9. Some folks, however, still appreciate the look, sound, and power of a good TPI, and Jack Hodson (Glendale, Arizona) is one of its proponents. His homebuilt ’67 Camaro features a fuel-injected 383ci small-block TPI with a secret weapon—an ATI intercooled ProCharger. The extra cubes and blower handily make up for ground lost to the LS! It’s also great to see something besides an LS stuffed between the fenders in this nice near-retro move.
Cruising With Style
The year 1967 was the first for the “modern” Buick powerplant, and nowhere was it showcased better than the Riviera. Always a styling icon, the Riv turned heads, and with few exceptions, was the aspirational luxury car of its era, much like a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Lexus is today. Nevertheless, the Riviera has been scandalously ignored by modern hot rodders, its sleek lines, unequalled comfort, and glass-smooth handling completely spurned. Gil Losi of Murrieta, California, however, has kept the flame lit for the big boat Buick. The original 360-horse 430 V-8 and Switch-Pitch Turbo 400 have been well maintained, to which Losi has only added a complete RideTech suspension, nicer two-tone paint, and modern rolling stock. It might not be the fastest thing on the road, but we’ll bet it has caused more accidents from rubberneckers!