On the eve of their season-opening, three-day car show at the WestWorld complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., some 300 members of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association — early arrivals and area (at least wintertime) residents — gave their rods and customs and other classics a little exercise on a tour Thursday of Phoenix-area automotive specialty shops.
The day started with registration at the WestWorld equestrian center, where real horses share the grounds a few times a year with mechanical horsepower, whether it’s cars for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s big Scottsdale auction or the horsepower produced by the thousands of cars being shown at the twice-a-year visits by the Goodguys.
Photos by Larry Edsall
The first stop on the Spring Nationals tour was a twofer since Early Iron and the Arizona School of Automotive Refinishing are nearly across the street from each other in Glendale, a northwest Phoenix suburb.
Early Iron was started by Jock Evans and his teenage son, Bruce, who has run the business since his father died six years ago.
Bruce Evans not only does amazing work — especially for a one-person effort — but he is amazingly well-organized, from the way donor vehicles and future projects (Evans may have cornered the market on 1960 Chevrolet El Caminos) are parked in a well-ordered salvage yard to an everything-in-its-place series of buildings and sheds on the property.
However, it wasn’t always that way. Just a few years ago, entering the place was like walking into a maze.
“When my Dad passed, there was sort of a path from the gate,” Bruce said. “I started organizing.”
Evans said his collection of ’60 El Caminos traces to their agreeable egress for taller drivers (Jock was 6-foot-6, Bruce is a little shorter but his legs are just as long).
Evans takes on four or five ground-up projects a year, as well as upgrades and suspension work for “a good group of customers who turn into friends.”
He does everything himself, in part because he’s been disappointed with some of the stuff he’s subcontracted.
I know they’re not my cars, but it feels like it to me.”
— Bruce Evans
“I know they’re not my cars,” he said of his demand for perfection, “but it feels like it to me.”
There’s no paint shop at Early Iron, but there is a full paint facility just across the road.
Spencer Caldwell was working at ADCO Paint and Supply “and people would come into the paint store and ask how to do something,” Caldwell said.
So Caldwell started teaching automotive painting techniques at the back of the ADCO shop, then moved next door when that half of the building became available.
That was 3 1/2 years ago. Since then, he and his staff have taught more than 2,000 people how to do automotive painting in two-night class sessions, each session focusing on one of more than a dozen subjects, from Introduction to cut-and-buff and from scuff ’n’ shoot to restoration.
Classes are only $50 or $75. One way to keep them affordable is through car owners who pay the school for restoration work done by its students.
While most students have been retirees who want to work on their own cars, Caldwell said the school is working to launch a program to prepare high school- and college-age students for careers in auto painting and restoration.
From Glendale, the cars made their way a little way east to Phoenix for another two-in-one stop, and this time it was two businesses in one building since Steve Szymanski’s Industrial Chassis also is the home to Robert Hernandez’ Rabbit Hole Vintage Works.
Industrial Chassis is a fabrication shop with all sorts of metal-bending equipment (as well as equipment for rebuilding engines and more) while the Rabbit Hole specializes in Harley Davidson engine and transmission work and custom motorcycle builds.
From the northwest side of Phoenix, the tour headed back toward Scottsdale, stopping for lunch on Cave Creek Road at Street Rods by Auto Art, which is just a few steps away from Ramjet’s Speed Shop, a high-performance parts and accessories store.
After having cars sitting in his garage for a quarter-century awaiting work, Phill Beck launched the Auto Art Studio in Prescott, Ariz. The business moved to the north side of Phoenix in 2011 and does its builds under the Beck Custom Motorsports brand.
Although relocated to Phoenix, Beck still is loyal to Prescott, and his shop is helping with the Jesse Steed Memorial Project to honor one of the 19 firefighters who died fighting the Yarnell Hill blaze in 2013. Jesse Steed, captain of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, had been restoring a 1957 GMC 4×4 pickup truck, and Street Rods by Auto Art is helping to complete the project.
The tour ended at the 5 and Diner restaurant at the Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center, where the Goodguys held their own mini-version of the huge and widely acclaimed Saturday night Pavilions car shows.