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The American Dream


Get a load of this baby.
  • Get a load of this baby.

Why won't the damn thing just come off? No matter how you twist it, the pipes just won't break. A wrench is useless; the rust has melded the metal together and there is no breaking it apart. You can't cut anymore because your hacksaw is hitting the body, and you can't see either, thanks to the block. Your friend is hanging over the bumper of the '65 Newport, turning the manifold one way while you twist it the other. This frightens you because, although the great car is securely propped up on old rims, you never know. Things give, cars fall. You do not want to die in the mud under a Chrysler in a vast junkyard.

You give the pipes a good whack with a mallet and, in doing so, slice your knuckles open. This makes you jump, and your browbone says hello and good morning to the oil pan. There's mud in your hair and steel filings in your eye, but you need this manifold. It's an exact match with your Fury, down to the manufacturing plant. With that in your engine bay, your friends will be green with envy, just green. You are the Zen master. You are one with Mopar. Resistance is futile -- the manifold will be yours.

Hot rodding, by its very nature, is a blue-collar hobby. It's filthy, dangerous backbreaking labor, but anyone who's ever been behind the wheel of a gut-rumbling old firebreather, fighting to keep it from lunging over the line, knows it's worth it. It's an infectious pastime, passed down from parents to children, transmitted in suburban garages and weekend cruise nights. Consequently, like-minded gearheads and speed freaks seek each other out for support, friendship, competition and, most importantly, parts swapping.

One of the most respected hot-rodding groups in the country is Goodguys Rod and Custom Association, whose events drew over a million and a half auto enthusiasts last summer alone. This weekend Goodguys hosts the 4th Colorado Classic, a car show of epic proportions. More than 1,500 pre-1973 vehicles of all persuasions -- racers, haulers, daily drivers and rare showpieces -- will convene at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

But the cars aren't the best part of a Goodguys event. Like the world's most impressive cruise night, you get a chance to mingle with people who understand your sensitive, nostalgic side. More than a fondness for half-inch wrenches, it takes a hefty dose of sentimentality to pick a lemon off the tree that grows in every junkyard and turn it into an American dream. Maybe your dad had a '37 Ford Coupe, or your first car was a '69 Plymouth Roadrunner -- Plum Crazy Purple. In any case, old cars evoke another time in your life, and Goodguys aims to bring a bit of that time to every event. For example, this weekend features a DJ spinning golden oldies all day and look-alike Mick Kieffer and his mini Mayberry museum. That's right, Mayberry. Like Opie-Andy-Aunt Bea Mayberry. Begin whistling now.

The Colorado Classic also boasts an antique race car display, manufacture and commercial midway, Street Rod "how to" seminars on Saturday, a model and pedal car show, arts & crafts, specialized vehicle corrals (also on Satuday), and a NASCAR track cruise (for a separate fee). Of course, the swap meet -- the holy, holy swap meet -- will be open all weekend.

It's a huge event, and even grown gearheads have been known to become physically overwhelmed. That many cars can do something to you, cause your eyes to glaze over and cause spittle to dry in the corners of your mouth. So take it easy, go one car at a time, and use the buddy system. Remember, you are the Zen master.


Goodguys Colorado Classic

Pikes Peak International Raceway, exit 123 off I-25, 15 miles south of Colorado Springs.

$12, $6 for kids under 12. Kids 6 and under free, 382-7223.

To register a pre-1973 vehicle, call 925/838-9876.

Friday-Saturday, Sept. 7-8, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 9, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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