Retro Rumblings – “Low Fat” Larry Westervelt 1943-2021
The week before he passed away, I heard someone briefly mention that “Low Fat” Larry Westervelt was dealing with a health issue. Less than a week later came the dreaded call that we all get at some point in our lives. It’s shocking. You wish you would have reached out sooner. You just never know when you’ll see or talk to someone for the last time. In some instances, there isn’t time to say goodbye. It’s rough and this one hurt bad.
There’s such a void when a friend passes. In this case, it wasn’t just a friend. Larry Westervelt was family. Not by genetic terms, but the blood, sweat, and hours he spent on tour with our organization made him part of our tight fraternity of former Goodguys team members. He was one of the best. He stood about 5 feet 6-inches tall and had a hot rodder’s belly, hence the nickname Low Fat.
What made Larry so fun and popular was his quick wit, hot temper, and his love for rodding and racing. With his wit, he would have you in stitches. With his spicy temper he would have you on your toes at events, demanding you perform. He held staffers accountable. When he was “up on the tire” and wound up, he wouldn’t walk toward you. He would march at you with his head about two clicks in front of his feet, arms flailing. Larry had the exact same passion for Goodguys as our late founder Gary Meadors.
Larry Westervelt died Thursday, November 18, 2021 due to complications of diabetes. He was 78. He worked for Goodguys in several roles over a 10-year period.
You might remember Larry for his stewardship of the Goodguys West Coast Championship Series – a group of points events and a year-end championship for vintage drag racers. While serving as Goodguys Race Director, Westervelt oversaw every aspect of the races, including relationships with host facilities, the tech inspection team, rules, race scheduling, staffing, and keeping the series organized and on track. He forged close relationships with many race teams, cementing him as one of the most popular race directors Goodguys ever had.
A longtime hot rod enthusiast, Larry was first introduced to Goodguys founder, the late Gary Meadors, in Newark, California in the early-’70s. The Meadors’and Westervelt families lived down the street from each other. Gary and Larry’s love for hot rods was the foundation for a decades-long friendship. Both men were some of the earliest members of the Nor Cal Early Iron car club.
Larry was an airline mechanic most of his adult life, repairing and maintaining planes for Pan American Airlines, PSA, and U.S. Air before retiring. It was during his airline retirement that he came to Goodguys to join the event staff. He was a popular team member and even though he was older than most of the Goodguys staff, he fit right in. You could never beat Larry to the racetrack or fairgrounds. If you got there at 5am, he was already parked and getting things going for the day. He was also the last guy out of the gate. An added bonus of the racing days was that his son Larry Jr. got the nitro bug from his dad and served as a crew member on several Nostalgia Top Fuel teams, allowing father and son to be together on race weekends.
On the street, Larry’s black, flamed ’32 Ford roadster was a fixture in the Northern California hot rod scene for over 40 years. He was a frequent attendee at Roadster Roundups, Andy’s Picnics, and regional events like the Lodi Mini Nationals, Western Nationals, West Coast Nationals and more with his wife Lani riding shotgun.
“One thing I will always remember about Larry Westervelt was his passion for hot rods and drag racing,” said Goodguys President Marc Meadors. “From the time I was little until the last time I saw him, Larry was always talking about hot rods and race cars. He was a great fit for our staff during the years he worked for us. He always showed up for work early, made us laugh, and was a great asset to Goodguys and a great ambassador for the hot rod industry.”
Personally, I remember Larry as not only a great friend but a brother. Even though he was from another generation, we would hang out, do crazy stuff, and laugh so hard. When I crashed our hot rodded “Moon Wagon” ’93 Chevy Caprice wagon into a gas pump on the way to an event, Larry was riding shotgun. I have never seen him laugh so hard. He yelled out “I’m laughing at you not with you, John.”
One of Larry’s guilty pleasures was eating hot dogs. He put mayonnaise on them. I was so freaked out the first time I saw it I nearly lost my lunch. The entire time he worked for us he had a Diet Coke in his hand. He never drank booze or smoked anything. For a straight arrow he was pretty damn fun.
Underneath the hilarity and jokes was a kind, giving man. For instance, he would always come to work on Valentine’s Day with a special gift for every female employee Goodguys had. When there was tragedy at the racetrack, Larry always made it a top priority to comfort the families of stricken racers and make sure they were taken care of. When any of his friends were enduring hardships of any kind, Larry was always one of the first to call. He thought of others more than himself, which is the greatest trait a man can have.
Larry’s legacy will live on through our hearts and through his wife Lani, daughter Holly, son Larry, grandsons Brandon, Cooper and Griffin, granddaughter Julie, son-in-law Matt, and daughter-in-law Jami.
Goodbye, Larry. Thanks for the love and laughs. You were truly one of a kind.
Photos courtesy the Westervelt Family