By Goodguys Rod & Custom Association
Gary Meadors, founder and chairman of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, died last Sunday of natural causes. He was 76.
Meadors founded Goodguys in 1983 in Northern California before branching out to stage a national series of hot-rod and custom-car events beginning in 1987. What started as a passion-based idea blossomed into one of America’s premier automotive event production companies in Goodguys. Today, Goodguys Rod & Custom Association has a worldwide membership of more than 70,000 people, and promotes 21 hot-rod and custom-car events that attract millions of visitors each year. The Goodguys Gazette, the official magazine of Goodguys, was first published by Meadors in 1989.
Meadors grew up in California’s Central Valley in the tiny town of Dinuba. It was there he discovered his love of custom cars, tricking out his first rod—a ’47 Plymouth when he was just 16 years old. It was the first in a long line of hot rods and custom cars Meadors built and collected, the most recognized of which was his bright-yellow ’32 Ford Tudor. The Ford hi-boy sedan, as drawn by artist Thom Taylor, has served as the centerpiece of the Goodguys logo since 1987.
In 1973, the Nor-Cal Early Iron Car Club—a club Meadors helped create in Fremont, California—organized the first “Street Rod Mini Nationals” at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds. More than 500 hot rods attended, and it inspired Meadors to move forward as a promoter. Just a few years later while working as a regional event director for the National Street Rod Association, Meadors would develop the Western Nationals in Merced, California, into the West’s signature event for vintage street rods and customs.
When Meadors and his wife Marilyn quit their day jobs and launched Goodguys as their own association in 1987, the Western Nationals became the Goodguys West Coast Nationals and was moved to its current location at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds. The event will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Pleasanton next August and is known as the “Crown Jewel” of all Goodguys events nationwide due to its propensity to attract the top cars and personalities in contemporary hot rodding. The Danville Dukes, a car club Meadors co-founded with Tom Walsh and the late Bill Burnham in the early ’80s, has played a pivotal role in the West Coast Nationals.
As Goodguys grew as an association with popular events anchored in cities such as Pleasanton; San Diego; Des Moines, Iowa; Columbus, Ohio; and Scottsdale, Arizona; Meadors successfully developed and sanctioned vintage drag-racing events in California and Indiana, adding them to the Goodguys event tour. Historic events, such as Bakersfield’s March Meet were resurrected to flourish under Goodguys’ direction and care. Meadors gained membership to the Bonneville 200 mph club in 1994, when he drove the Dozier & Hegarty Chrysler-powered streamliner to a top speed of 223 mph.
In 2008, Goodguys began staging AutoCross racing competitions at select events, giving event participants the opportunity to “flog” their hot cars and street machines on a timed course. Today, AutoCross is held at 16 Goodguys national events offering five classes of competition, a season-long points series and year-end Championships.
In 2000, Meadors and Goodguys spearheaded the development of the Trendsetter award—a perpetual honor presented at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas to rising young hot-rod craftsmen. Chip Foose was the first recipient. Other recipients have included Troy Trepanier, Ringbrothers, Troy Ladd, Dave Kindig and many others.
Meadors is enshrined in the Street Rod Market Alliance Hall of Fame, Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Hall of Fame and is a recipient of both Street Rodder magazine and the HRIA’s “Lifetime Achievement” awards. In 2014, he received the International Show Car Association’s “Legends of Hot Rodding” award.
Funeral arrangements are pending.