PLEASANTON, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2016) — Gary Meadors, founder and chairman of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, died Jan. 3 of natural causes at the age of 76.
“Driven by his passion for family, hot rods, cool cars and good people,” Mr. Meadors “touched the lives of millions of car enthusiasts with his vision and enthusiasm for all things automotive,” according to an obituary posted on Goodguy Enterprises Inc.'s website.
“With his high school sweetheart and wife of over 50 years Marilyn riding shotgun,” Mr. Meadors founded Goodguys in 1983 in Northern California, then branched out to stage a national series of hot rod and custom car events beginning in 1987, according to the group, which is based in Pleasanton in Northern California, about 40 miles east of San Francisco. “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 and promotes 21 hot rod and custom car events that attract millions of visitors each year. The group noted that Goodguys Gazette, the official magazine of the association, was first published by Mr. Meadors in 1989.
The son of a farmer, Mr. Meadors grew up in California's Central Valley in the tiny town of Dinuba, the association said, noting “it was there he discovered his love of custom cars, tricking out his first rod, a 1947 Plymouth, when he was just 16 years old.
“The first requirement was that it sit way down low — a Meadors calling card. To get it to sit just right, he ‘cut the coils,' removing a few inches from the factory coil suspension springs — a common practice in 1950s era hot rodding.”
That ride was the first in a long line of hot rods and custom cars Mr. Meadors built and collected, with the most recognized being his bright yellow 1932 Ford Tudor, Goodguys said. The popular Ford hi-boy sedan, as drawn by artist Thom Taylor, has served as the centerpiece of the Goodguys logo since 1987.
While his professional life as a traveling salesman in the 1970s and ‘80s consumed his days, the group said Mr. Meadors spent his spare time “dreaming up ways to have fun with cars and to spread his love and passion for hot rods.” In 1973, the Nor-Cal Early Iron Car Club — an organization Mr. Meadors helped create in Fremont, Calif. — organized the first “Street Rod Mini Nationals” at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds. More than 500 hot rods were on display, inspiring Mr. Meadors to move forward as a promoter.
A few years later while working as a regional event director for the National Street Rod Association, Mr. Meadors developed the Western Nationals in Merced, Calif., into the West's signature event for vintage street rods and customs, attracting thousands of them with the rallying cry, “Motate to Merced.”
The association said that when Gary and Marilyn Meadors 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.