Retro Rumblings – Orlando or Bust
It’s not surprising Goodguys President Marc Meadors found drag racing as a primary hobby. He grew up riding in his father Gary’s ’23 T-bucket while going to racing events throughout the West. Dragstrips like Fremont, Bakersfield, Sacramento and even down to Pomona were a regular destination, as were dusty dirt ovals to catch sprint car races. Racing and hot rodding became part of Marc’s DNA.
That passion led him to purchase his first fast race car – a silver ’69 Camaro originally built by the late Ron Fry. Marc bought the Camaro specifically to join the “Fastest Street Car” phenomenon of the 1990s to go toe-to-toe with foes like Monty Berney, Rod Saboury, and other 8-second pace pushers. The big game ran in the NMCA’s Pro Street class and there were some really fast guys to knock off.
Knowing that 8-second quarter mile ETs take serious equipment, Marc took the car to Craig Hill’s Top of the Hill Performance in Dublin, California. Back then, Craig Hill was the talk of the west with his teal ’57 Chevy dominating western Pro Street racing. Interestingly, Hill’s Tri-five was also the first-ever Goodguys Street Machine of the Year.
At Hill’s shop, Jim Dunford back-halved the frame, setting it up for a four-link to handle the necessary ponies. By the time Hayward, California’s Mike Blackstone got done building the 598-inch Holley carbureted, tunnel-rammed Rat motor, it produced 930-horsepower. Quite the introduction to drag racing!
So, with the car dialed in through test runs, Marc and his brother Marty loaded the Camaro in a box, and the two of them set out for a two-race swing in the fall of 1994 beginning in Memphis, then Orlando, Florida.
Marc recalled that first excursion with fond memories. “We had a fast car, some tools, a dually, and a Goodguys banner but that was it,” Meadors laughed. “Monty Berney lent us his trailer which had an awning, so when we got to Memphis we looked like we belonged.”
The Memphis race was sanctioned by the NMCA. Jeff Smith and the staff of Hot Rod Magazine put the promotion together. Smith got Flowmaster owner Richard Small on board for sponsorship. Hot Rod’s intent was to award the Top 10 fastest street legal cars in America. The rules were clear; each car had to be registered in its state of origin, must weigh 3,200-pounds, had to have roll-up windows, and had to run mufflers. Hot Rod also put the contestants through a 25-mile trip around Memphis Motorsports Park’s road course. Once Marc easily checked all the prerequisites, the task at hand was to simply haul ass.
“We were fast from the start,” Meadors remembered. “Marty and myself serviced the car and did all the grunt work while Jim Dunford handled the tuneup. My wife Jess Ann flew in to help out. We were just a rag tag bunch from Northern California. We didn’t have the latest and greatest parts, but we did have passion and talent. We were so proud of our NorCal posse.”
“All of the fast guys like Mike Moran, Rick Dyer, Rod Saboury, Annette Summer, Dan Scott, Max Carter and Mark Tate had the engine of choice – sheet-metal-intake-fed 632c.i. GM V8s,” Marc continued. “We had 598 inches of big block Chevy. They all had Lenco transmisions and we had a Turbo 400 automatic. We had Dart 360 cylinder heads. We ran what we could afford.”
In the end it was enough. Marc, Marty, Jess Ann and Jim Dunford stuck it out, worked hard and when the weekend was over, the Goodguys ’69 Camaro finished eighth out of the Hot Rod Top 10 Fastest Street Cars. As you can see in the picture, both Meadors boys are beaming with pride. They did it. Marc’s 8.49 @ 165mph got him into the club.
With that feather in their cap, the crew went to Graceland to see the homestead of Elvis Presley, then pressed on to the World Street Car Finals in Orlando. Being tourists and racers, a stop at Disney World was squeezed in before the race.
“That Orlando event truly was the ‘World’ Street Car Nationals,” Meadors recalled. “They had guys racing from Sweden, Germany, the Middle East – they came from everywhere. The crowd was amazing. We had never seen anything like it.”
The Orlando weekend ended with carnage as the rear end twisted up like a pretzel when Marc launched the car during eliminations. With the two-week odyssey complete, there was nothing left to do but drive back across country, dog tired but with the distinction of being one of Hot Rod’s Top 10.
It made the ride home easier but both Marty and Marc told the story of just how long it takes driving through Texas. “Oh man, it took us forever to get across the Lone Star State,” Marc said. “It was the middle of the night, it was pouring rain for hours, and it was a slog. We stopped at a joint called ‘Happy Chaps’ to eat and regroup then kept going. We made it home in three days. It was a grind, but the end result was worth every minute. I still have the jacket!”
When it came time to park the Pro Street race Camaro, Meadors was promoted to President and CEO of the family business. For the next decade, Marc focused on Goodguys and its rapidly growing membership and event lineup.
But as any drag racer will tell you, the go-fast bug came back and bit him. He wanted a Pro Mod car as door cars were his true passion. The skill and talent required to keep a short-wheelbase ’69 Camaro with 2,500 horsepower going straight was a challenge he wanted to take on. The car was ordered, and man was it fast. Powered by a supercharged Brad Anderson Hemi and bolstered with a full Tim McAmis chromoly tube chassis, it was a force from the start. After plenty of testing, Marc assembled a team and hit the West Coast Outlaw Pro Mod Association’s points series.
With crew chief Jason Bunker twisting the wrenches, Meadors was instantly competitive. After two years in the familiar silver color scheme, Marc painted the car as a tribute to Rich Guasco’s “Pure Hell” AA/Fuel Altered. Coincidence or not, the car got quicker, faster and wound up in the winner’s circle several times before securing the series championship.
When the Pro Mod was sold off, Marc took delivery of a brand new ’70 Camaro Nitro Funny Car. It was an extreme challenge from the start, and success was limited. After chasing the Nitro dream for several years, Marc returned to the familiar door car scene this year with a wicked, 3,500-horsepower twin-turbo Xtreme Racing Engines-powered Pro Mod built by Jerry Bickel Race Cars. Although he’s just getting it dialed in, progress has come quick.
It’s the third silver Camaro Marc has raced and if past experience means anything, the twin-turbo monster will find a winner’s circle soon. What began all those years ago driving across America with his brother racing into the unknown, has blossomed into a decorated and successful racing career on the quarter mile.