Retro Rumblings – Goodguys First Street Rod of the Year
The Goodguys Top 12 awards program came from singular, humble beginnings. During the first three years of national events for the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, the biggies in terms of awards were basically confined to the West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton. The most coveted of those was the Stroker McGurk award selected by Tom Medley himself.
Medley, the creator of Stroker McGurk – one of Hot Rod Magazine’s most popular 1950s-era cartoon characters – would come to Pleasanton and comb the grounds for the quintessential ’29 Ford hot rod roadster, then present it with a bronzed Stroker cap. For the roadster guys, it was one of the greatest honors one could receive outside of the AMBR crown. It’s still presented today by Tom’s son Gary, who makes the trek to Pleasanton each summer to make the choice in his dad’s honor.
In subsequent years, Goodguys would add more big awards to the West Coast Nationals, but Goodguys founder Gary Meadors knew that in order to grow his association’s burgeoning national event series, he needed to up the ante. He wanted to do an award that would have industry-wide recognition and prestige.
At the end of the 1990 event season, an opportunity came along to stage a few springtime events with special indoor car displays. Bill Moeller, a Goodguys staffer at the time, had close ties with the International Show Car Association (ISCA), so these new events would offer points for those chasing ISCA championships. To that end, the 1991 Goodguys “Kar Kapades” event was born. It was a two-day event at the Monterey Fairgrounds, and it was to be the venue where Goodguys would stage the competition for a brand-new award – the Street Rod of the Year. The winner, chosen from the indoor show contestants, would receive the illustrious title of the nation’s top street rod, national bragging rights, and the coup de grace – a brilliant silver cup stuffed with cash.
The criteria were pretty straightforward. It had to be pre-’49, it had to be driven, and the fit, form and function as well as overall build quality had to be spot on. With that, the selection committee (including Meadors, Bill Burnham, magazine guys, and ISCA judges) set out to pick the first winner.
While the field was stout, including a billet masterpiece of a Deuce roadster belonging to Jerry Ruskin, it was a black ’29 Ford roadster pickup with perfect gaps, a perfect stance, and a multitude of machined parts that kept coming to the forefront. After two days of deliberations, Dave Marasco’s RPU was chosen as Goodguys first Street Rod of the Year. It was a popular choice.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Back in 1962, Marasco hit the magazine scene with his first ’29 RPU – a black lacquer hot rod with a small-block Chevy, dropped axle, and plenty of handmade components. Marasco was a talented machinist as well as woodworker. An interesting side note is that Marasco built the car in response to a bunch of Northern California rodders forming the Bay Area Roadsters. Marasco’s ride at the time happened to be a Model A coupe, and by switching bodies so the ’29 chassis carried roadster pickup sheet metal, he was eligible for membership. After five years of driving the pickup to Bay Area Roadster functions and local events, Marasco sold it to Greg Sharp in 1969. Greg still owns it today.
Wanting to rekindle his love affair with his first roadster pickup, Marasco built a stunning successor in the late 1980s in his Carmel, California garage. This is the car that won over the selection committee for Goodguys first Street Rod of the Year that fateful weekend in Monterey.
Like the original, this one featured all of the timeless essentials – double black lacquer, a dropped axle, Halibrand wheels, tan interior, intricately whittled in-bed luggage rack sourced from Hawaiian Koa wood, and a hand-formed, one-piece dash. Nearly every panel and component was scratch built by Dave in his machine shop. About the only panel that remained from OEM sheet metal was a small portion of the cowl.
Marasco’s masterpiece set the tone for Goodguys Street Rod of the Year and what winners would look like for years to come. It embodied the award’s early emphasis on being handcrafted and regularly driven. To his dying day in December of 2018, Marasco owned and drove his roadster pickup.
Same with the 1992 Goodguys Street Rod of the Year winner – Dale Kirkham’s sano ’32 Ford Tudor sedan. It was equal to Marasco’s RPU in terms of build quality and road miles.
In 1993, the Monterey event went away so the Street Rod of the Year was selected at the All American Get-Together. The selection committee, under the direction of Meadors and Bill Burnham, got even more stringent in terms of the winner being regularly street driven.
Burnham penned a “contract” for all SROY contenders, clearly stating the car would be regularly driven. The contestants were required to sign the paperwork as part of the award criteria! Dennis Varni’s red ’29 Ford roadster, fresh off an AMBR win the year before, took home the title in ‘93.
With the expansion of the Goodguys summer series national events came more Of the Year awards. Later in 1993, Goodguys crowned the first Custom Rod of the Year in Des Moines – an honor that went to Ray and Myrna Bozarth’s ’51 Buick.
As the event calendar expanded, so did the awards program, eventually encompassing the 12 categories making up today’s Goodguys Top 12. After years of selecting the nation’s finest machines and gathering them together in Scottsdale each year, The Goodguys Top 12 awards program is unique in that it’s the only format of its kind and better yet, the only such program that gathers all winners together at season’s end.
Nobody could have envisioned what the Goodguys Street Rod of the Year award would eventually become, let alone the entirety of the Top 12 program. It all started with Dave Marasco’s roadster pickup on a damp April weekend in the spring of 1991.