On the eve of the season opener and again just before the final show for the year, both occurring in Scottsdale, Arizona, members of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association congregate at WestWorld where they are given a top-secret list of locations scattered around the greater Phoenix area.
From WestWorld, hundreds of classic cars take off in search of these locations. It’s not a race. It’s not a treasure hunt. You don’t get any cool prizes for visiting all the locations. But you do get a warm welcome from the participating shops and a glimpse of what they do.
Being a Phoenix native with a father who restores classic cars, I figured I knew all the cool shops and spots in in the area for all things classic-car related. And while I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a veteran, having done the tour now for the third time, albeit in my not-so-classic 2005 Ford Mustang, I am constantly surprised with the places we get to sees.
On each tour I have been introduced to new shops that specialize in restoration, customization, performance mods, and niche-style shops that focus exclusively on hot rods, rat rods, or other categories. The tour has taken me to top-notch automotive museums I didn’t know existed as well as some local classic car dealerships and storage facilities.
However, this year’s tour, on the eve of the 7th annual Spring Nationals, was something special. Of the five stops, I already had been to three of them.
The first stop was at Vintage Iron and Restoration, a full-service and maintenance shop in north Scottsdale, followed by a stop at Bill Boat Performance Exhaust specializing in — you guessed it — performance exhaust.
Next was a place somewhat near and dear to my heart — RamJets Speed Shop. My dad has always teased me that my project car, a 1965 Mustang, wouldn’t be cool until it had something on it from RamJets. Why? Because RamJets is known for carrying high-performance mods for full-on classic race and street cars. It’s essentially a one-stop shop for your street-to-track needs.
In an adjacent parking lot was the third stop — Street Rods by Auto Art, a high-end custom car designer, builder and maintenance shop. Here, everything from fab work to body shaping, paint, interio, and, of course, all those lovely performance functions, can be done.
Just down the road, we visited another familiar shop — Who’s Your Daddy Street Rods, which does everything from a frame-off restoration to custom fab work which, of course, will accent whatever powerhouse engine you select for your vehicle. The shop is in tune with the performance aftermarket industry and has years of experience and knowledge to assist with everything from a new air cleaner to a custom forced induction set up.
Maybe it was because I knew where I was going without the aid of a GPS or because the shops were in close proximity to each other, but this tour proved to be stress free and therefore, at least for me, the best one yet.
You would think with a driving tour that you would see hundreds of classic cars following each other from place to place. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Sure, we all leave together and while going to and from the different locations you will see groupings of cars, usually anywhere from three to as many as 15, some participants skip the first location to avoid the congestion and start at the second, while others work backward.
If you go from the first location to the next and so on, in the order provided, you will face parking issues. Most of these locations are not equipped to handle more than 50 cars, so parking gets creative real quickly. If you are the first to arrive, you will be sent to the back of the lot and blocked in until the dozens of cars behind you decide it’s time to leave. If you arrive last, now that parking is beyond maxed out, you are left with overflow options that include the surrounding neiborhoods and side streets. It makes coming and going easy, but it also means leaving your car where anyone can get up close and personal with it, as well as having to walk a ways to reach the shop.
Taking on the Phoenix streets and freeway system is no easy task — especially now with all the snow birds in town for baseball spring training — and is only made harder depending on the time of day and the part of the city where you are driving. Previous tours took drivers everywhere — from Fountain Hills to Mesa to Chandler to downtown Phoenix, and over to the west side. This tour pretty much stayed in a focused area along one major road. And with fewer stops, the tour ended early enough we could avoid the rush-hour traffic.
Photography by Nicole James