The Goodguys PPG Nationals has demonstrated once again why it’s The Big One! With three days of full-throttle thrills, crusin’ and fun – not to mention some of the best weather ever for Columbus in July – the 21st edition of this midsummer tradition brought together hot rodders and car enthusiasts from across the country at the Ohio Expo Center.

For some, the celebration began last weekend at the Heartland Nationals in Des Moines. As that event wrapped up, more than 40 rods, customs, and classics hit the road for the three-day Cruise to Columbus, seeing some cool sights (and generally having a great time) along the way. They rolled into Columbus just in time to hit the last stop on Thursday’s poker run, which helped to get things rolling on registration day. Cap it off with a high-energy kickoff party at the Crowne Plaza host hotel and the stage was set for a fantastic weekend.

A few Friday morning clouds did nothing to dampen the mood of the gathered faithful as they cruised a colorful and rowdy collection of cool vintage iron into the massive Ohio Expo Center. Old friends found familiar parking spots while plenty of new rides rolled through the gates to wow the crowds. More than two dozen of those fresh creations vied for the prestigious Street Machine of the Year and Street Rod of the Year honors. After much evaluation and fanfare Friday and Saturday, we crowned Mark and Dennis Mariani’s ’29 Model A as the 2018 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year and Stuart Adams’ ’69 Camaro as the 2018 PPG Street Machine of the Year.

There were plenty of other awards to be won, as well. Kyle Tucker of Detroit Speed picked the Builder’s Choice Top 10, while the Goodguys team selected three finalists for our coveted Top 12 awards: Doyle Thomas’ ’70 Camaro for Griots Garage Muscle Machine of the Year; Sean Provost’s ’70 C10 pickup for LMC Truck of the Year Late; and Brent Erikson’s ’62 Bel Air for MSD Muscle Car of the Year. And since Ohio is Lobeck country, we also gave out the Barry Lobeck Memorial Award to Sean Black’s ’32 Ford roadster – a true Lobeck-style car.

The biggest winner of all, though, was Pete Schmid, whose key fired the supercharged Edelbrock crate engine on our Grand Prize Giveaway ’67 Camaro built by Goolsby Customs! Actually, it was Pete’s stand-in, Dave Fowler, who cranked the Camaro’s engine, then quickly called Pete in New York to congratulate him. We also unveiled our 2019 Grand Prize Giveaway vehicle – a killer ’69 F100 built by Lucky 7 Speed Shop! Watch for more details coming soon on this fine Ford – including how you can enter to win.

Mild temperatures and long straightaways proved to be a winning combination on the AutoCross track, where more than 100 vehicles were pushed to their limits in the quest for fast lap times. It was a great weekend for Robby Unser, who won Friday afternoon’s Sponsor Shootout in the Team Speedway ’67 Camaro, then doubled up on Saturday by winning the PRO class and working his way through the 16-car Summer Shootout field and coming out on top there, too. Class winners for the weekend included Danny Popp in Street Machine, Jason Brady’s Blazer in Truck; Bob Presta’s ’46 Ford convertible, and Mike Gailagher taking the All-American Sunday win in his 2016 Ford Focus.

Next to the AutoCross course, we held the first-ever Goodguys Burnout Contest in Columbus. The crowd was stacked five deep all around the burnout box, where nine drivers did their best to put on the most impressive smoke show. When the fog cleared, Mitchell Cohn’s ’66 Comet proved the crowd favorite, aided by tires spewing purple smoke. The popular Nitro Thunderfest, meanwhile, filled the air with raucous noise and nitromethane from an amazing selection of vintage race cars.

Friday night brought more than just race car noise – there was actual quarter-mile action for the Friday Night Drags out at nearby National Trail Raceway. Hundreds of local racers turned out to blast down the track and put on a show while four Nitro burning exhibition cars flung fire from the pipes and clicked off 200+ mph with ease – those cars being the Hilton Family’s “Great Expectations” top fuel dragster pairing up against Diamond Dave’s AA/FD and the traditional Rat Trap and Nanook Fuel Altereds.

If thousands of cool cars and action-packed sideshows weren’t enough, there were hundreds of manufacturers and parts vendors on hand showing their latest wares, a massive swap meet filled with cool old parts, live music from Ashley Wineland and Riley Biederer, a Goodgals Gallery, lots of great fair food, plus kids fun and the popular Revell Make ’n’ Take. Simply put, if you couldn’t find something to peg your fun meter in Columbus this weekend, you probably needed to have your car-guy credentials double checked!

Yes, the PPG Nationals proved yet again why it’s the place for rodders and car enthusiasts to be in early July. If you missed out this year, the accompanying photos will provide a taste of the fun we had. Our suggestion? Start making plans to join the celebration next year, July 12-14 right back here in Columbus!