From a car guy’s perspective, we have two things going for us here in Southern California: sunny beaches and car culture. So what better way is there to spend a weekend than by bringing the two together?
On the weekend of April 1-3, Goodguys Rod and Custom Association did just that when the Del Mar fairgrounds became home to its 16th-Annual Meguiar Nationals. All year round, the beachfront location is alive with county fairs, equestrian derbies, wine festivals, and loads of other jubilant celebrations; for these three days, however, it was alive with the steady growl of American muscle.
Of course, all of the other fairs and festivals that Del Mar is accustomed to pale in comparison to Goodguys’ annual throw-down. From the Nitro Thunderfest dragster exhibition, to the adrenaline-fueled autocross, to the two-and-a-half-thousand classic cars basking in the sun – nobody knows how to party quite like us gearheads. As far as we’re concerned, the weekend-long event was heaven on earth.
As is typical of the Goodguys Nationals, there truly was something for everyone (which, in our opinion, is always a recipe for a great show). No matter what form of classic American metal strikes your fancy – whether it’s unorthodox hot rods, restomodded street machines or slow-paced cruisers, you could find something you’d like.
If a worry-free, getaway-weekend is all you were after, then you could simply soak in the ocean-side scenery, live music and old-school car culture. If your intent was to peruse the fairgrounds in search of insight and motivation from your fellow gearheads, then the several thousand cars on site could provide that. Or, if you were in the market for the latest hardware to throw into your machine, then the vendor booths – like Dakota Digital, Tremec, and K&N – were there to hook you up. Hell, there was even auto-trading area and an honest-to-goodness swap meet.
But while we were impressed with not only the vibrant diversity and well-roundedness of this year’s Goodguys Del Mar, we were especially captivated by the caliber of some the cars on display. Difficult though it was to pick favorites, there were a few machines that stood out to us; below you’ll find our top picks from the 2016 Del Mar Nationals, as well as plenty of pictures for you to feast your eyes on.
Our Top Picks From Goodguys Del Mar
1. 1959 Chevrolet BiscayneThe Biscayne is a bit of an outlier when it comes to rodding and customizing classic GMs. It’s not the ideal platform for performance builds like the GTO or the Chevelle, nor is it the go-to for a smooth-rolling cruiser like a convertible Cadillac or Buick. In general, it’s just not something you typically see gearheads toying around with – which is exactly why it caught our eye.
We loved the blend of mirror-like chrome trim and cool, pale green. Without a doubt, the color consistency throughout the car was our favorite part – with even the engine block and brake booster matching perfectly.
We didn’t feel that there was any over-the-top flashiness to the build, either; the green hue was reasonably neutral instead of being searingly bright, and even the intricate chrome dishes and retro roof added tasteful flair to the whole package. It seemed more as though the builder was letting the car speak for itself, with it’s round, bubbly lines and old-school-cool drawing the viewer in.
2. 1955 Chevrolet Bel AirAt least in respect to hue choice, this killer Bowtie sharply contrasted the above Biscayne – doing away with the tame and understated for a more “stick out like a sore thumb” approach. The color, Limetime Pearl from House of Kolor, was absolutely magnetizing; it was the sort of color that (admittedly) had you wanting to walk up and lick the fenders.
Once again, the shimmering chrome trim which marbled the car definitely added to the wow-factor. As we circled the car to inspect all the fine details, the overhead lighting danced off its spotless chrome accents as though it were covered in diamonds.
When we poked our heads inside the car to check out the interior, we were once again blown away by the richness of color. The leather-wrapped cabin perfectly contrasted the sharp lime green everywhere else. And with its 550-horsepower LS3, backed by a sturdy 4L65E transmission, the experience behind the wheel ought to be out of this world.
3. 1968 Ford Mustang FastbackWhile the others seemed more focused on dropping jaws and weekend cruising, this classic ‘Stang struck us as concerned with winning races. If there were any one way to describe it, it’d be by equating it to a life-size Hot Wheels car – and, frankly, we loved that about it.
There’s no doubt at all that the Fastback was built with performance in mind; between the twin-turbo, 363-inch V8 and the myriad of structural support, we imagine that the car is an absolute track warrior. But with its stubby fender flares, bold front fascia and engine bay crammed full of go-fast parts, the Mustang reminds us more of a childhood fantasy than the usual all-business, stripped-down race car.
Equal parts show and go, the car definitely captured our interest with its looks; our only disappointment with the car is that we couldn’t see it tearing apart a road course.
4. 1972 Oldsmobile 442Similar to the Biscayne, this ultra-clean Olds won us over with it’s understated simplicity. We were spared any over-the-top body work or color schemes screaming for attention, and instead got nothing but old-school American muscle – plain and simple. After all, it’s a 442 – what more of a statement do you need to make than that?
In its day, it was appropriately know as “The Keeper of Cool”; the 442 had a clean-cut, no-nonsense, badass vibe which stood it apart from its emasculated successors of the muscle-killing, mid-to-late-70s era. As such, there’s not a lot (if anything) that can be done for improvement.
Fortunately, the owner of this spotless ’72 felt the same way – save for a few sparse things like the wheels, brakes, and a few minor interior components, everything on the car stuck to the classic, early-70s muscle car vibe. The nostalgic gold and brown hues were consistent throughout the car and, despite the few modernized components, made the whole package feel like one giant throwback.
Topping it all off was the unprecedented level of cleanliness and detailing which had the car glowing from top to bottom, front and back. In a show full of high-shooting, wildly creative hot rods and restomods, a tastefully presented, no frills classic wearing nothing but a fresh coat of wax was a breath of fresh air.
As we’re sure you can imagine, this vibrant GTO wasn’t difficult to spot. The jaw-dropping shade of red it wore was nothing short of magnetizing, and the more it pulled you in, the more gorgeous it became.
Everything but the leather and the wheels was polished to a mirror finish, casting off various reflections as you circled the car. Bordered by beaming chrome accents, the matte-gray shoes were reminiscent of classic dog-dish wheels and offered an incredible contrast to the deep, canorous red above it.
From bumper to bumper, this ’65 Goat was truly a sight to behold. A close look at the upholstery proved the interior to be on the same level as the body – the dash and console alone were enough to speak for the quality of the entire car.But, rivaling the glorious red paint job for our favorite aspect of the car, the Pontiac’s dormant heart was the car’s crown jewel. An intricate mass of chrome, the mill sat in the midst of the paint-matched engine bay as though it were a million-dollar work of art rather than a road-going engine. Frankly, we wouldn’t be surprised if the whole rotating assembly was as chrome as everything else.
But, even if you’re not a fan of chrome, you hate red cars and drop-tops aren’t your thing, come on – who doesn’t love a badass eight-stack?
Goodguys has been hosting events for 33 years now and, in that time, have certainly gotten great shows down to a science. The quality level at their events – from the event itself to the cars and people it attracts – is unprecedented.
These were only five of the rides that we felt deserved a shoutout – after all, out of 2,600 cars, there has to be more than just a handful of good ones, right? Check out the gallery below to get a glimpse at some of the other clean machines we encountered at the 16th Del Mar Nationals. You can find a list of winners from the show at the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association website.