Reliable Rods! Goodguys 2021 Tanks, Inc. Hot Rod of the Year Contenders Hit the Road

Goodguys will be crowning the 2021 Tank, Inc. Hot Rod of the Year this weekend at the 15th BASF Nashville Nationals, and a big part of the Hot Rod of the Year title is reliability. These cars need to prove their worth by being regularly street-driven, having a mean attitude, and scream the words “Hot Rod”.

The group of contenders this year checked all those boxes…and then some! A field of nearly 20 Hot Rods rolled out of Nissan Stadium yesterday morning to begin a 100-mile reliability run through the backroads of Tennessee. To add another layer into the mix, Mother Nature welcomed us with a downpour of rain for the first half of the day. It was quite possibly the most grueling Hot Rod of the Year reliability run we’ve had in recent years.

The route was planned, and led, by Tennessee local Ben Smithson of Smithson Speed and Engineering. The first leg of the run ran us 40 miles up to Portland, TN to visit Advanced Plating and the Days Gone By Museum. Steve and Sherri Tracy and the entire Advanced Plating crew greeted us like celebrities with VIP indoor parking, warm coffee, and sweet donuts. After guided tours through Advanced Plating’s new facility, we headed down the road to the Days Gone By Museum to check out a massive collection of neat old farming equipment, vehicles, race cars, and other memorabilia.


As soon as we headed for stop number three, the rain really hit hard. We had a 25-mile haul down to Goodlettsville for a lunch stop, but those 25 miles took nearly an hour as the group cautiously navigated the roads in the rain. Goodlettsville finally welcomed us with sunshine and we were able to stay in the sun the rest of the day.


After grabbing a quick bite at Campione’s Taste of Chicago the group headed to Music City Raceway for the final stop – which is always a highlight of the Hot Rod of the Year competition. Not only do we want to see that these cars are reliably street-driven, but we also want to see and hear them scream “Hot Rod” on the drag strip. This group embraced the drag strip challenge with massive burnouts and a handful of cars dipping into the low 9-second ET’s in the 1/8th-mile!

All of the Hot Rod of the Year contenders were cleaned up and parked together on Saturday for a final review. Overall build quality, stance, final fit & finish, as well as performance on the Friday reliability run and drag strip passes were all taken into consideration. Once the deliberation was done, these five Fords shown below rose to the top.

The overall 2021 Tanks, Inc. Hot Rod of the Year winner will be announced on Sunday afternoon, and we’ll have a full feature on the winning vehicle published right here on Fuel Curve come Monday. Be sure to check back for that. Until then, check out this gallery below recapping the reliability run action!

Photos by Steven Bunker | Video by John Jackson

Associate Editor

A lifelong car kid, Steven grew up around drag strips – his name may sound familiar because his grandfather is Bob Bunker, a Pro Mod pioneer who piloted the “Folsom Flash” ’55 Chevy from the ’70s through the ’90s. Steven’s father, Bob Bunker Jr., heads up Bunker Motorsports and is a regular in the West Coast racing scene, building chassis and race cars for more than 30 years. With genetics like that, it’s no wonder Steven has a passion for both cars and motorsports. In addition to helping his father and honing his fabrication skills at Bunker Motorsports, Steven began shooting photos at the drag strip and capturing the action with his Canon camera. He is now artfully crafting stories around the awesome machines at the shows, as well as the men and women behind them. When he's is not on the road covering events, he spends his downtime out on the water fishing, building his 1962 Chevy Nova, or cruising his 1987 GMC Suburban.