This was it – the BIG one! Columbus, Ohio served as the epicenter of the hot rodding world this weekend as the Goodguys PPG Nationals celebrated its 20th anniversary with a non-stop, no-holds-barred, four-wheeled extravaganza at the Ohio Expo Center.
The buzz on this year’s PPG Nationals has been building for weeks and the event did not disappoint. The city was overflowing with energy and excitement as more than 6,000 hot rods, customs, muscle cars and trucks cruised into town to celebrate two decades of hot roddin’ fun in the Buckeye State. After rough and tumble thunderstorms kept things wet Thursday and part of Friday, the Expo Center came alive under sunny skies Saturday as tens of thousands of fans came from far and wide to see America’s finest customized vintage cars.
The always-heated Street Rod of the Year and Street Machine of the Year competitions drew two dozen competitors combined, with some of the country’s most respected and influential builders vying for two of the industry’s top prizes. From the 13 Street Machine of the Year entries, five finalists were selected: John Wilkus’s Roadster Shop-built ’69 Camaro; Casey Homik’s ’70 ‘Cuda from Z Rodz and Customs; the Ringbrothers-built ’69 Camaro belonging to Don Atkinson; Dennis Johnson’s Split Ray ’66 Corvette from The Auto Shoppe; and Rob Roberts’ GAP Racing-built ’71 Camaro. When emcee John Drummond opened the sealed envelope at the Saturday evening awards festivities, Inferno – the radical, crisp bright yellow ’69 Camaro from Roadster Shop – took home the top title. This incredible machine combines exotic styling influences, impeccable craftsmanship and brute power – it’s truly a creation befitting the Street Machine of the Year honor.
Competition was equally tight for Street Rod of the Year. The 11 entries were whittled down to these five finalists: George Poteet’s ’32 sedan, a Great 8 contender from Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop; David Thomas’ ’35 Chevy coupe, built by Cody Walls at Traditional Metalcraft; the Mike Goldman Customs-built ’33 Ford 3-window coupe owned by Sonny Freeman; Tim Wilson’s Hot Rod Garage-built Deuce coupe; and Mike Markin’s phantom, Art Deco-style ’38 Graham coupe. John McLeod from Classic Instruments helped John Drummond open the envelope to reveal George Poteet’s gorgeous black Tudor as the winner. It’s Poteet’s third time winning Street Rod of the Year (he’s also won Street Machine of the Year once), and Johnson’s fourth time earning either SMOY or SROY as a builder.
While history was being made with this year’s top awards, it was on display in Cardinal Hall as part of the Trendsetter Reunion. There, 11 past recipients of the Goodguys Trendsetter Award gathered, held court and had more than 20 of their trendsetting creations on display. It was truly an incredible site. There were many past Street Rod of the Year and Street Machine of the Year winners there, not to mention a Ridler Award winner and some of the most influential and memorable rods, customs and machines from the past 20 years. And these were only a portion of the cars on display in this special indoor show area.
On the east side of the Ohio Expo Center, AutoCrossers were shredding rubber as they cut and carved corners with a cool 5k on the line for the annual Sponsor Shootout event. A total of 16 racers battled it out, each representing a Goodguys AutoCross series sponsor. In the end, it was Corvette vs. Corvette as Danny Popp and Chris Smith went head-to-head for the grand finale. Popp dropped the hammer down with a sub-60 second lap to claim the win for JRi Shocks. Smith, driving for Forgeline Wheels, knew he had to push the 72-hour Corvette to the max to dethrone Popp and nipped a few cones on his final run, each resulting in a penalty and an eventual runner-up finish. Other big winners on the track included Ryan Mathews (PRO), Matthew Braun (Street Machine) and Aarik Gualt (Truck).
The biggest winner of the weekend though, was sixty-three year old retired wrecking yard owner Dennis Brazer of Vallejo, California, who was the lucky winner of the Goodguys 2016/2017 Grand Prize Giveaway ’63½ Ford Galaxie built by Tennessee’s Legens Hot Rod Shop. And man, what a car he won! Better yet, he will be driving it back home to the west coast!
This weekend may have been the last event on tour for the Galaxie, but it also marked the first event and debut of the 2017/2018 Grand Prize Giveaway 1967 Camaro built by Goolsby Customs. Unveiled Saturday evening after the SMOTY & SROTY ceremony, this ground-pounding, supercharged first-gen Camaro is nothing short of fantastic and is an already proven driver as it logged some road miles from Alabama en route to Ohio on Wednesday. We loaded the Camaro in the box and will be hitting the road with it for a calendar year drawing another 20-some qualifiers for one to drive it home come Columbus in 2018!
All that action just scratched the surface of the Columbus experience. Artist Eric Brockmeyer was on hand to select the Builder’s Choice Top 10 from among the thousands of vehicles in attendance, and there were more than 400 vendors showing off the latest equipment, tools and goodies for our favorite machines. We also had an ear-splitting Nitro Thunderfest, fun activities for kids, technical seminars from the industry’s top manufacturers, Rick K. and the All Nighters playing live music, and plenty of late-night fun in the host hotel parking lots throughout the weekend.
No doubt about it, after 20 years the Goodguys PPG Nationals continues to live up to its billing as the BIG one. After the party we experienced this year, we can’t wait to see what happens when this event hits legal age in 2018! Until then, enjoy this action-packed recap.