PLEASANTON -- Following a terrifying accident on a Sacramento dragstrip in 2010, Alamo drag racer Marc Meadors knew it was time for an attitude adjustment.
Meadors, president and CEO of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, was in the staging lane behind two dragsters when one of them malfunctioned and flew into reverse, crashing over his own '69 Chevy Camaro and breaking his 8-year-old son's leg in the process. Instead of quitting, Meadors and his team found a new commitment to winning.
"We had just about got taken out and killed," Meadors said. "We thought, 'Let's do something different.' "
So Meadors asked legendary Pleasanton racer and car builder Rich Guasco if he could borrow the copyrighted name and likeness of one of the most famous dragsters in the world -- "Pure Hell," Guasco's '32 Austin Bantam roadster that became the first fuel altered dragster to go over 180 mph and run the quarter-mile strip in under 8.5 seconds.
"It was just the baddest of the bad back in the day," Meadors said.
Guasco, a longtime Meadors family friend and International Drag Racing Hall of Famer, gladly obliged, lending the car's name to Meadors' rebuilt Camaro.
"It was a good way for me to thank him, to give him the name," Guasco said. "It's a top-of-the-line car and it shows in the way it runs."
Guasco, 76, started building roadsters at age 12, and though he was forced to retire from racing after a near-fatal accident in 1963, he continued building the Pure Hell series. In 1968, Guasco replaced the car's Chevy engine with a Chrysler, and set records of 214, and later 244 miles-per-hour. Pure Hell's striking paint job and performances made it an icon.
"They ran so much faster than any of the fuel-altereds that were running then and almost as fast as the cars today," Guasco said. "You'd go through the lights at 200 mph and your back end would be to the ground. ... You'd just hang on and try to keep it as straight as possible."
Gary Meadors, Marc's father and founder of Goodguys in Pleasanton in 1983, remembered the car well.
"It was an exciting car to watch and hear," he said. "Pure Hell has been a name to be feared in racing for a long time."
For the past three years, Marc Meadors has honored Guasco and Pure Hell's heritage with Pure Hell 2, his Camaro dragster designed with the original's distinct candy apple red-and-gold paint job and patented flame side art. The transformation seems to be working out this season as his team jells. Meadors has driven Pure Hell 2 to three wins in six West Coast Outlaw Pro Mod Association races to lead the point standings with two races left.
Pure Hell 2, made of lightweight carbon fiber and sporting a 3,200-horsepower engine, is capable of blasting through the quarter-mile in 5.76 seconds at 252 mph, ranking it the sixth-fastest pro modified dragster in the world as of June 2013. Getting behind the wheel of the car, Meadors said, is "a rush."
"It pulls 3 G's as soon as you let go of the button," Meadors said. "There's not a lot of guys who have been that fast."
Both Pure Hell cars, the original and its namesake, are scheduled to be displayed at this year's Goodguys 27th annual West Coast Nationals on Aug. 23-25 at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds. The show is expected to draw 100,000 auto enthusiasts nationwide to view 3,500 hot rods, muscle cars and pre-1972 classics, and browse the more than 300 vendors and exhibitors.
Other highlights include miniature engine displays by the Bay Area Engine Modelers Club, a car parts swap meet, the award for "America's Most Beautiful Street Rod," and the Cacklefest, a virtual symphony of nitro engines.
Guasco, who will be showing off a '32 Ford and '44 Ford Coupe, said he's proud to have his legacy carried on through Pure Hell 2.
"I think it's an honor" Guasco said. "I couldn't have given that name to anybody any better. The whole deal is over the top."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
The 27th Annual Goodguys West Coast Nationals will be held at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., from Aug. 23-25. Show highlights include more than 3,500 hot rods, customs, classics, muscle cars and trucks from 1972 and earlier, a car parts swap meet, vendor and manufacturer exhibits, classic car sales, a mini-engine display, cruises and special awards. General admission is $18, $6 for kids 7-12, and kids younger than 6 are free. Parking is $8 at the fairgrounds. For details, go to www.good-guys.com. To find out more about the original "Pure Hell," go to http://purehellracing.com.