Photos by Larry Edsall
Larry and Marg Bohnen were enjoying their lunch Thursday when Marg spotted their friends Barry Wright and Mike Eller and invited them to join them at a big round table in the garage at Speed Sports, a hotrod and custom car shop in Gilbert, Arizona.
The Bohnens live in Billings, Montana, when the weather is quite frigid up near the U.S./Canada border, but they spend the winter months in the Phoenix area. Thursday, they drove their 1940 Ford on the annual Goodguys Rod & Custom Association Hot Rod shop tour. Friday, they’ll take their 1932 Ford to the WestWorld complex in Scottsdale for the start of the Goodguys three-day, 17th annual Goodguys Southwest Nationals.
Wright and Eller are also from Billings, and they drove down just for the weekend in Wright’s 1948 GMC Suburban. It was 5 degrees below zero when they left Billings early Wednesday morning, and they drove the first 200 miles through some serious snow.
While snow might not be a big issue for a modern Suburban with four-wheel drive and all sorts of electronic traction- and yaw-control driver aides, it’s quite another matter in a classic vehicle that’s been customized with the running gear and tweaked 350-cubic-inch V8 engine from a C4 Corvette.
“So, how is a C4 in the snow,” we asked Wright.
“Not too bad,” he responded. “It weighs 4,400 pounds and you just have to take is pretty easy.”
The original plan was to use the Suburban to tow down Wright’s rat rod as well. But the weather changed that plan.
“It’s a really good road car,” Wright said of his customized Chevy wagon, adding that he drives the ‘burban on a regular basis, about 6,000 miles each summer. Earlier this year, he drove it to a National Street Rod Association meet at Springfield, Missouri.
Wright has owned the Suburban for about three years.
“It’s not quite done,” he said. “It’s still in primer.”
And it appears that he likes it that way. On his front windshield he has a note offering the “Top Ten reasons to leave your rod in primer:”
- You can wash it with Comet.
- You don’t have to buy a car cover.
- You can buy primer at the grocery store and paint your rod in the parking lot, instead of waiting to get home.
- You can park anywhere without worrying about getting door dings.
- You can stand on the roof and get a good look at what’s going on around you.
- You don’t have to worry as much about getting it stolen.
- You don’t have to spend sleepless nights trying to decide on a color for your rod.
- If you forget your lawn chairs, you an sit on your fenders (providing you have fenders).
- You don’t have to do the body work until you are good and ready.
- You can use a pencil to do your pin-striping, lettering, flame, or graphics. If you need to remember a phone number, you can just write it on your trunk lid.
This is Wright’s fifth or sixth trip from Montana to Phoenix for the Goodguys gathering. He said he comes not only for the weather and a car show that attracts more than 3,000 rods and customs, but because of the big swap meet up the hill on the south side of the WestWorld complex.
He and Eller will display the Suburban throughout the Southwest Nationals, he said, then head back to Montana when the show ends Sunday afternoon.
For those arriving early, such as Wright and Eller, and for those who live in the area, such as the Bohnens, the Goodguys annually stage their Thursday tour of Phoenix-area hot rod and custom shops.
This year the tour featured shops in Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, better known to Phoenix-area residents as the East Valley.
The day began at Local Motors, a car-design, engineering and builder business in Chandler, then went to Interstate Sales and Interiors, also in Chandler. Lunch was at Speed Sports, a Gilbert shop celebrating its 10th anniversary.
After lunch, the spots were Dirty Dingo Motorsports, Main Street MC, Roadkill Customs and Tooter Weaver Upholstery in Mesa, and then to the new Steel Dreamz location in Chandler. The tour ended just a few blocks from Steel Dreamz with a car show and kick-off party at Squeegs Customs, a paint and primer specialist celebrating its 50th anniversary.