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Speedway hot rods

07 June 2008
The Goodguys are betting that the Atlanta area will eventually be a good location for a major hot rod and custom car show.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based Goodguys Rod and Custom Association, which boasts a national membership of 70,000, is hosting the second NAPA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 13-15.

The hope is that the show, which drew about 1,050 show cars last year, will draw nearly double that this year and more importantly, blossom into a highly successful annual event rivaling other shows across the nation that draw several thousand cars each year.

"That's exactly what we're hoping for," said Goodguys publicity director John Drummond. "Our biggest show every year, in Columbus, Ohio, draws over 7,000 cars a year, and that's the model that we'd like everything to conform to."

But neither location lived up to expectations.

Organizers believe the facilities at AMS will make the difference this time, and they point to the successful NOPI shows held at the track each September.

"The reason we chose Atlanta Motor Speedway is because they have had some big, successful automotive shows, such as the NOPI show, so the model has already been cast in that area and at that track," Drummond said. "We just have to stick to it and hope it grows."

Having the show at the speedway allows participants to drive their rods and custom cars around the 1.54-mile track as well as participate in the autocross road course in the infield, which tests the limits of vehicle performance around tight turns.

Some veteran exhibitors, like Bob Johnson of Gainesville who plans to display a 1970 Toronado, say the size of the facility at AMS could be a drawback, at least for now.

"It's kind of like a bar," he said. "The more crowded it is, the better people seem to like it. That's a mighty big infield to fill up."

One particularly encouraging sign from the inaugural event at AMS was the volume of parts in the swap meet area, which had to be expanded to accommodate the overflow.

"Good swap meets are hard to find," Drummond said. "Last year tells me that there are a lot of people sitting on a lot of parts in this part of the country."

Garry McWhirter of Holly Springs, editor of Rodder's Digest, is like many in the car show community who say it's important for the overall health of the hot rod and custom car hobby to have a major show in the Atlanta area.

"There are a lot of car activities on a smaller scale in this area, but people sometimes don't realize the importance of supporting a national show," he said, explaining that national shows raise awareness of the hobby through the accompanying advertising and publicity, including features shown on TV and articles written for magazines.

"If the national organizations don't take it to the mainstream, then you wouldn't have as many local events," McWhirter said.

McWhirter points out that the Goodguys shows tend to draw a younger audience because the rules allow cars up to 1972 to be displayed, whereas some other groups require cars to be much older.

That allows younger enthusiasts to enjoy American muscle cars as well as the Camaros, Challengers and Mustangs.

But Drummond and others are seeing a new trend of younger gearheads gravitating to much older cars.

"There's kind of a rockabilly scene going on," Drummond said. "A lot of kids in their 20s and 30s like to slick their hair back like the '50s, wear a white T-shirt and drive a primered '32 Ford. That's kind of a hot thing right now."

By Rick Minter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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