Time Capsule – 1995 California Rod & Custom Classic
The Goodguys 1995 California Rod & Custom Classic was held at the Merced Fairgrounds the first weekend of June nearly 23 years ago. These images capture the look and feel of what the Rod & Custom scene looked like in the mid-1990s – a blend of pastel fat fenders, lots of Tri-5’s, some 60s cruisers and a few traditional cars sprinkled in. Boyd “Tri Fan” billet wheels were flooding the market. The rat rod scene hadn’t yet arrived although it was percolating.
The official rallying cry for the Western Nationals was “Motate to Merced” coined by Meadors himself in the 1970s. Somewhere in someone’s collection are “Motate to Merced” fliers, buttons and tee shirts. It was a popular slogan and a popular event, to say the least. If you were a hot rodder or custom guy, hitting Merced was a must. The host hotel was the “Pine Cone Inn” – a legendary haunt with a bar. The parties that went down were off the hook, led by the hard chargers in the “Pan Draggers” car club. The Merced Valve Burners were the official host club of the California R & C Classic. The West Coast Kustoms were also in attendance.
The city of Merced rallied around the hot rod shows at the Fairgrounds like no other city in America. They rolled out the welcome mats, painted their windows with “Welcome Street Rodders,” restaurants catered to the rodders with daily specials and the mayor got involved by welcoming everyone to town. It was a LOT of fun.
The Merced Fairgrounds used to have a dirt oval. Things would get pretty crazy out there. Meadors would book in sprint and midget clubs to hold exhibition races but after 20 beers, several hot rodders snuck out to the oval doing dirt-slinging sideways laps to the roar of the crowds. To our recollection, nobody ever stuffed one into the wall.
The fairgrounds itself was a charmer with plenty of exhibit buildings, wide streets for cruising and plenty of grass and trees – the perfect recipe for a car show. The groundskeeper was a guy named “Louie,” (below on the left) who was so ingrained in helping the event come off smoothly, he was given the honor of making his own award pick. Super cool guy! Speaking of cool check out Goodguys President Marc Meadors and his long flowing locks below on the right presenting the Merced Mayor with an award! Marc was 28 at the time.
There were even a few years where Tom Medley would come up to Merced and select the coveted “Stroker McGurk” award picking the weekend’s best roadster.
The Goodguys California Classic was shelved in 1997. The West Coast Nationals had taken over the reigns as the “Crown Jewel” for Goodguys and Merced just didn’t get the numbers it used to back in the 70s and 80s. But it was a magical event for a good 20 year run. We wonder what Louie is doing these days.
Merced Photo Extra!