It is with very heavy hearts that we report on the passing of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association founder and chairman Gary Meadors. The long-time hot rodder and beloved icon of the custom automotive industry passed away unexpectedly at the age of 76 from natural causes on Sunday, December 27th at his home in Arizona.
Most widely known for founding Goodguys back in 1983, Gary was much more than this accomplishment to everyone who knew him. The presence and passion he brought to this industry was overwhelming, his dedication to keeping the hot rod scene alive through many generations was exemplary, and the love he showed for not only his close family, friends and employees, but the entire hot rod family was admirable. And that smile… what more can we say about that smile than it was everlasting and incredibly infectious?!
Gary’s passion for hot rods started at a young age with influence from his father. By the time he was 16, Gary was already well on his way to making his mark on the industry, customizing his first hot rod – a 1947 Plymouth. Just like with all the cars that proceeded this one, Gary opted for that old-school slammed stance for his first custom car, achieved by cutting the coils in 1950s hot rod era fashion. It was driving this car that Gary and his high school sweetheart Marilyn took many dates with.
Following high school, Gary took up a day job as a traveling salesman but never left his hot rod passion behind. With Marilyn by his side, Gary helped found the Nor-Cal Early Iron Club, which went on to host the first Street Rod Mini Nationals in 1973. Only a couple years later while working as a regional event director for the NSRA, Meadors went on to help develop the Western Nationals into the premiere vintage car event in the West.
In 1987, having already founded Goodguys, Gary and Marilyn moved the rod and custom club to be their own national association, taking with it the Western Nationals event. Today, the event is called the Goodguys West Coast Nationals and it will celebrate its 30th year in Pleasanton, California in 2016. Over the years, this one event grew into many, with the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association now hosting over 20 automotive events every year all over the country, as well as boasting over 70,000 individual members in the association.
Gary’s foundation of Goodguys has also helped in advancing the popularity of auto cross racing, provided the basis for the Trendsetter Award – which is given out every year at SEMA to an amazing builder (Chip Foose was the first recipient) – and of course, the integration of more modern American cars into the hot rod world through the popular Goodguys Super Sundays.
In 2009, Gary stepped down as the “head” of Goodguys, appointing his youngest son, Marc Meadors, as president. Though Gary and Marilyn went into semi-retirement at this point, they both remained a major part of the organization, enjoying a number of shows each year, traveling cross-country on the many Goodguys Road Tours and remaining ever-present icons in the hot rod community.
A member of the prestigious Bonneville 200mph Club, Street Rod Marketing Alliance (SMRA) Hall of Fame and the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Hall of Fame, as well as the possessor of two Lifetime Achievement awards, one from the HRIA and the other from Street Rodder magazine, and the International Show Car Association’s “Legends of Hot Rodding” Award, Gary was an extremely accomplished automotive icon even beyond the Goodguys brand. But more than that, we can’t say enough about how kind, humble, and loving this man was to everyone that crossed his path. Ultimately, his love for the automotive industry was only out-weighed by one thing: the love he had for his wife Marilyn, who was married to Gary for over 50 years and took on the roll of Goodguys matriarch right from the beginning, his sons Marc and Marty Meadors, and his grandchildren.
All of us here at Slam’d Mag have worked with Gary over the years and he always made us feel like part of the extended family no matter how much time had passed in between visits. We can only hope and help work toward 2016 being the best year of Goodguys events yet in order to help honor and carry on his legacy. Farewell old friend, you will be truly missed!
For more information; Goodguys’ official memorial HERE.