The Danville Dukes - where it all began
Goodguys Rod & Custom had its beginnings in a local garage
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this particular case, a photo taken in a Danville driveway spawned a thousand memories for me as well as a world famous car club and an even more famous rod and custom association.
The three cowboys pictured are (l-r) Tommy Walsh, Gary "Goodguy" Meadors and the late but great Bill Burnham - all of Danville and Alamo. The year was 1978. Walsh's new home on Como Way served as the backdrop for this publicity photo shot by the late "Deuce Bruce" Olsen of Fremont. The plaque behind the trio reads "The Dukes Ford Clubhouse" and what a clubhouse it was and still is.
On April 1 that fateful year these three Northern California hot rodders got together to throw a garage-warming party referred to in fun as "The Social Event of the Year."
From the party emerged a car club. The club would be called the Danville Dukes. No dues or fees were to be paid and every member was to act as president- a totally revolutionary and unique concept as far as car clubs go!
"The only rules are...there are no rules!" was the club's mantra. Eventually word got out that the Duke's Ford Clubhouse was "THE" place to be on April Fool's Day if you were a car guy. From those foolish gatherings the Dukes gathered momentum and have seen as many as 400 members (er, presidents) join in on all the fun over the years.
Some 31 years later, the club still gathers every Saturday morning at Denny's off Sycamore Valley Road for breakfast and hot rodding fellowship. Walsh and Meadors are still active club members. Burnham passed away in August of 1996. Several other well known Danville residents are Dukes members including Dave Allen (his yellow '32 Ford roadster is a fixture outside Elliot's tavern), Ray Castor, Gary Levering, Gary Nauman, Sal Riele, Manny Schatz, Jay Souza and dozens of others.
It was also during those formative Dukes years that Meadors, along with help from family and friends, started holding one day "Goodguys Get-Togethers" at the nearby Pleasanton Fairgrounds. Like the Dukes' gatherings, the Goodguys events took on a life of their own, and some 27 years later Goodguys has blossomed into the world's largest association catering to hot rod and custom car events nationwide.
The grandest Goodguys event of them all- the West Coast Nationals- takes place this weekend, Aug. 21-23, at the Fairgrounds. The event is filled with rich tradition, not the least of which is the annual Danville Dukes "Shadetree Social" barbecue. The entire club gathers at the Fairgrounds picnic area Friday afternoon to cook out, talk cars and spread hot rodding cheer to thousands of revelers. If you're at the show that day - stop by for a hot dog and some beans!
For fun, I recently gathered the two surviving Dukes members for a re-enactment of the original picture outside Walsh's garage on Como Way. Joining the photo shoot was Danville's Harry Daviess - the late Bill Burnham's son-in-law who still meticulously cares for Bill's '29 Ford roadster, "Ol' Blue." Daviess serves as the vice president of Event Operations at Goodguys. As you can see in the picture, the Burnham's favorite cowboy hat is resting on top of the hood.
Walsh is still building hot rods in his garage, and the day of the photo re-enactment was preparing to head to the Bonneville Salt Flats to race with his son Justin (proprietor of Norm's Grille on Hartz Avenue). He turns out two or three cars a year for a select group of clients.
With Goodguys firmly seated as the nation's largest hot rod and custom car association and promoter of 24 annual hot rod shows around the country, Meadors has had the opportunity to take it easy in recent years. He still stays quite active in the family business but his favorite pastime remains driving a hot rod to Goodguys' and other hot rod shows throughout the country. Meadors' son Marc (also of Danville) serves as the Goodguys president and general manager.
Visit Goodguys this weekend, and remember that it all started in the Dukes Ford Clubhouse in Danville.