Goodguys lure 2,000 fantastic hot rods and custom cars

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Major national events such as the recent Autorama at Cobo Hall and the Grand National Roadster Show out on the West Coast are the prominent and very visible tip of the hot rod and custom car iceberg. Grassroots events such as those staged by the Goodguys and the National Street Rod Association comprise the perhaps submerged but much larger part of the hobby.

The 70,000-member Goodguys Rod & Custom Association opened its 2011 season here in March with its second annual Spring Nationals, an event that attracted more than 2,000 cars and their owners and parts vendors and a multitude of spectators to the WestWorld equestrian complex.

Among those owners were Greg Selvidge, a native and resident of Washington State who also has a winter home (and huge garage) here in Arizona, and Jack and Tammie Nelson of Farmington, N.M.

Selvidge brought one of the most unusual of the more than 2,000 vehicles on display — a 1964 Citroen built over a NASCAR racing chassis and powered by a 610-horsepower LS7 Corvette V8.

Selvidge also displayed a car at the first Goodguys event, held in 1983 in northern California. A native of the Seattle area, Selvidge invented the California Car Duster (subsequently and to this day found in car enthusiast’s trunk) as well as those folding chairs that fit into narrow canvas bags. At one point he also produced Craig Craft boats.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, and everything I do is different,” Selvidge said, listing previous projects such as customizing a series of 1940 and ’41 Graham Hollywoods, one of which was purchased by comedian Eddie Murphy. Selvidge also removed the wood from a 1951 Ford woody wagon, replaced the wood with metal but then airbrushed woodgrain into the metal. The car won at the 1991 Grand National Roadster Show and was purchased by comedian Tim Allen.

But Selvidge admits the Citroen, which looks stock until you notice the size and style of the wheels, the internal roll cage, or open the hood and see the big racing V8, may be his weirdest and most complicated project — so far.

The 1970 Ford Mustang convertible the Nelsons brought to the Goodguys’ event wasn’t nearly as radical as Selvidge’s French custom, though at least two aspects of the car catch your eye — its 482-cubic-inch Ford V8 engine and the hand controls Jack Nelson uses when he drives, as he did during the autocross competition that was part of the Spring Nationals.

Thirty-five years ago, when Nelson was a teenager, his car was struck by another. Nelson got out to get information from the other driver, who took off. Nelson was standing between his car and one that had stopped to help when another car slammed into those already parked. The impact severed Nelson’s legs.

Nelson, who works for his family-owned business that transports oil-drilling rigs and other equipment around the Four Corners area, owns “17 or 18” vehicles, including an RV that he drives with hand controls for road trips such as the visit to Scottsdale. All of his cars are Fords, he said, with one exception — he recently traded a drag-prepped Fairlane for a 1971 Plymouth Scamp.

While he loves his Fords, which include seven Mustangs, Nelson said he’s always wanted to see what it was like to experience some Mopar muscle on the street.

While there are no Goodguys events in Michigan in 2011, the group will stage weekend car shows July 8-10 at Columbus, Ohio; Aug. 12-14 at Joliet, Ill.; and Sept. 16-18 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.