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Published 1/12/24

The 2023 Goodguys Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year Winners

WORDS: DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS: LUCAS PRIAMO and NATE LIGHT

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The Goodguys Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year program completed its third season in 2023. In that short time, the award has become one of the most coveted on the show circuit.

While many awards and trophies go to vehicle owners, builders nationwide have grown to appreciate the recognition of their hard work by Goodguys and the Bowtie Brand. Plus, the prizes in the form of Chevrolet Performance Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain Systems don’t hurt either.

The Goodguys Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year program is popular among builders nationwide.

Two categories make up the awards: GM Iron and GM Retro Iron. In 2023, the GM Iron prize went to Sand Springs, Oklahoma’s Hot Rod Garage for its 1963 Corvette with a Don Hardy-built 427 cu.-in. LS engine under the hood. Rutterz Rodz out of Bristol, Tennessee, took the top honor in GM Retro Iron for its 1941 Willys coupe powered by a Mast Motorsports LS3 engine.

The GM Iron category recognizes a GM-bodied and powered vehicle, while GM Retro Iron honors a non-GM vehicle with a General Motors powertrain.

At shows across the nation throughout the year, the vehicles are parked in a special Builder of the Year area, with judges selecting finalists in each category from participating events. The winners are then chosen in the fall. Finally, each special build is on display in a place of honor during the season-ending Goodguys Speedway Motors Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Below is a look at both the 1963 Corvette and 1941 Willys as they were featured on the WestWorld of Scottsdale grounds in November.

Hot Rod Garage’s 1963 Corvette took home the Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year GM Iron award.

1963 Corvette

Built by Hot Rod Garage for owner Casey Shires, this 1963 Corvette is a prime example of restomod beauty.

The car is powered by a 427 cu-in. LS engine built by Don Hardy Race Cars and backed by a six-speed manual transmission utilizing a McLeod clutch. Engine highlights include an Edelbrock crossram intake with dual throttle bodies and custom air intakes. The engine also incorporates one-off emblems and a significant amount of paint detailing.

The Corvette sits on a Roadster Shop FAST TRACK chassis featuring independent front and rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and 14-inch Baer disc brakes.

The 427 cu.-in. LS engine under the hood of the Corvette.

The body remains original and is painted in PPG Grigio Alloy. However, it has undergone modifications including sharpened lines, along with filled cowl and B-pillar vents. The hood and fender scoops have been modified as well. The body also sports sectioned and tucked bumpers, along with custom pieces such as rocker panel moldings and exhaust cutouts in the rear pan.

The car rides on Nitto tires wrapped around one-off Eric Black-designed knock-off wheels measuring 18 x 8 and 18 x 12.

Inside, Chuck Rowland was responsible for the custom blue leather upholstery. The interior features various restomod accouterments like custom Dakota Digital gauges, a Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel with a tilt column, and a Vintage Air unit. Both the console and dash are also custom-built, and the driver and passenger sit in low-back bucket seats. Custom wood trim adds additional flair to the interior.

This Corvette is simply a work of art.

For their efforts, Hot Rod Garage received a Chevrolet Performance LT4 Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System featuring an LT4 crate engine* and SuperMatic 8L90-E eight-speed automatic transmission.

Rutterz Rodz won the GM Retro Iron award for its LS3-powered 1941 Willys coupe build.

1941 Willys

This Willys coupe maintains all the style and class of vehicles from the early 1940s with updates for today. The Willys was built for Doyle and Karen Thomas by Rutterz Rodz.

It all starts under the hood, where sits a Mast Motorsports LS3 engine. The LS mill utilizes Holley dual-quad-style fuel injection and a custom Cadillac-style bat-wing air cleaner. In addition, the engine utilizes finned valve covers and a Vintage Air front-runner system. The engine is paired with a 4L80-E four-speed automatic transmission.

The LS3 at the heart of the Willys.

The chassis came from Street Rod Garage and has a wide range of modern features. They include a coilover independent front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, four-bar rear suspension, a nine-inch rear end, and Wilwood disc brakes all the way around.

The body is original steel and was painted in Axalta Desert Beige by Rutterz Rodz. It also has the original hinges and moldings. Custom elements include a side-opening hood, smooth running boards, and a one-off grille by Jim Rench. Tucked bumpers complete the Willys’ stunning look.

The car rides on ETIII 18 x 8 and 20 x 10 wheels with gold coating and are complemented by BFGoodrich tires.

Paul Atkins was responsible for the distressed brown leather in the Willys coupe’s interior.

The interior features Paul Atkins-created distressed brown leather upholstery on 1964 Thunderbird bucket seats, matched with custom luggage built to fit in the trunk. Other highlights are a modified dash with Classic Instruments components in an engine-turned panel, a Billet Specialties steering wheel with a Flaming River column, and Vintage Air climate controls.

All told, the Willys is a picture of perfection.

As the category winner, Rutterz Rodz received a Chevrolet Performance ZZ6 Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System with a ZZ6 EFI crate engine* and HydraMatic 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission.

Thanks to a show calendar that attracts unique GM-powered builds from around the country, the Goodguys judges have a difficult task to select just two to be Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year winners.

Yet, they nailed this year’s choices. Just as they always do.

Keep watching The BLOCK for features on a wide variety of vehicles utilizing Chevrolet Performance engines and parts.

*Because of their effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, these engines are intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles. These engines are designed and intended for use in vehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public roads, streets or highways. Installation or use of these engines on a vehicle operated on public roads, streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions.

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