Gary Meadors, founder and chairman of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, died Sunday of natural causes, the association said today. Meadors, who had a history of heart issues, was 76.
Meadors grew up on a farm in Dinuba, a small town in California’s Central Valley, where at age 16, he built his first custom car. To give his 1947 Plymouth the stance he wanted, he cut several inches out of the car’s coil springs. Later, Meadors built a 1932 Ford Tudor hot rod, and a drawing by Thom Taylor of the bright yellow car has served as the centerpiece in the Goodguys logo since 1987.
It was in 1983 that Meadors, a traveling salesman, and his former high school girlfriend and wife of more than 50 years founded the Goodguys as a local custom and hot rod car club that by 1987 had become national in scope and schedule.
The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association has more than 70,000 members and stages nearly two dozen hot rod and custom car events each year. The group has published the Goodguys Gazette since 1989.
Even before launching the Goodguys, Meadors had been involved in car clubs, helping to organize the Nor-Cal Early Iron Car Club in Fremont, California, and its inaugural Street Rod Mini Nationals meet at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds in 1973. When more than 500 hot rods showed up, Meadors decided there was a future in organizing and promoting such events. He also helped start the Danville Dukes car club and became a regional event director for the National Hot Rod Association.
He and Marilyn quit their day jobs to launch the Goodguys in 1987. In addition to hot rod and custom car shows, the group developed vintage drag racing events and an autocross series.
Meadors did much more than organize events; in 1994 he joined the Bonneville 200 mph club, driving the Dozier & Hegarty Chrysler-powered streamliner to a top speed of 223 mph on the Utah salt flats.
The Meadors’ youngest son, Marc, took over management of the Goodguys organization in 2009, leaving Gary, Marilyn and their dog, Whitewall, time to make a series of cross-country trips in their favorite cars.
AutoWeek magazine once asked Meadors about the risk of quitting his real job to promote hot rod and custom car events.
“What got me turned on was the thought that I could get people excited about our hobby, and then they would have as good a time as my family and me,” he responded. “I’m kinda the Billy Graham of hot-rodding.”
“Amen to that,” the magazine said today in its report of Meadors’ death.