The history of Hot Rods Unlimited

A big thanks goes out to Dave Lindsay with So Cal Car Culture for the treasure of fantastic pictures which chronicle many of the great moments of the car culture in Southern California and helped us bring our story to life.

Hot Rods Unlimited is a friendly, social car club based in south Orange County, California with members from all over Orange County and beyond. We share a love of great cars, great friends, and having fun by going to car shows, cruises, and parades with special events that focus on helping our community and participating in events centered around the enjoyment of the car culture in Southern California. Most of our club members own and enjoy many types of cars that may be known as Hot Rods, Street Rods, Classic Cars, Specialty Cars, Muscle Cars, Sports Cars, or Collector Cars. Several members own more than one.


Founded in 1999, Hot Rods Unlimited has had many great club members over the years. In fact, we still do! Our members have included a race driver for the Carroll Shelby race team, an famous actor, a stuntman, professional athletes, auto mechanics and other members of the automotive industry, teachers, tradesmen, first responders with the police and fire departments, entrepreneurs, architects, real estate professionals, engineers, banking & finance professionals and more. Many of our members are also military veterans. We’re very proud of our members and we’re thankful for the love of cars that brought us together.

A few members have had their cars appear in national publications such as Hemming’s and Hot Rod Magazine, including a few covers.

Check out our photo albums and see just some of the events we’ve done over the years:

Original and founding members of Hot Rods Unlimited include: Jim Poetker & Debbie Baker, Gary & Jane Yapp, Terry & Kathy Beezley, Bill & Nancy Gleason, Eddie & Judy Paskey, Jim & Marlies Maring, Don & Kelley Yegan, Tom & Penny Pawloski, Dave Lindsley, Frank & Sally Dalton, Ted & Susie D’Orazi, Les & Louise Bent, Mike Watson, Roger & Esther Myers, Roger & Gerri Gibb, Dick & Sally McMullen, John & Janice Cruella, Ross & Jody Kroenert, Al & Maxine Gandall, and Ted & Peggy Fleetwood. Please forgive me if I have neglected to include anyone on this list.

We remember and honor the club members who are no longer with us but their legacy lives on and we’re grateful for the profound influence they’ve had and continue to have on our lives.

Charitable endeavors of Hot Rods Unlimited

Hot Rods Unlimited supports our local community and has worked with many wonderful charitable causes every year by hosting events and raising money and awareness for specially selected charities. These have included City of Hope, Ronald McDonald House, Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Orangewood Foundation, the Rotary Club, Team Darkhorse, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and many others. Each year, our members come together and provide new, unwrapped toys to brighten the holidays for local kids. There’s no better feeling than giving back and providing smiles to someone in need.

In 2022 we raised over $6,500 and were able to purchase a wheelchair for a wounded veteran named Dana. We were able to do this through a variety of events throughout the year including our first-ever Hot Rods Unlimited garage sale, where club members donated their items and their time to make this an outstanding success.

In 2023, we raised over $5,000 thanks to our friends at Innova Electronics, fellow car club members with South Orange County Rods & Customs, The Old Cranks, Cool Runnin' Camaros, and Just Having Fun, along with Glenn Huggins with the National Street Rod Association at our first "Invitation-Only Car Show", all to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Again in 2023, and for the 24th year in a row, Hot Rods Unlimited members proudly volunteered in support of Cruisin' for a Cure, the west coast's largest one-day cars show and event held every September at the OC Fair & Event center in Costa Mesa, to raise awareness and support for prostate cancer research. This amazing event literally saves lives.

In January 2024, wonderful and long-time club members Dick & Vicki Varela read a story in the newspaper about Lina Esquela, a great lady who, just after opening a new restaurant, the green Chile Cantina in Mission Viejo, found out she had lymphoma. Most folks would just turn the page, but not Dick, he hopped in this '64 Nova and went to the restaurant to meet Lina and her husband Tony. He set-up a car display fundraising event for 2 weeks away. We were all set with 20 cars with a week to go, when the restaurant caught fire rendering it closed. Did this stop us? Heck NO! We doubled our efforts and, with the help of the TV news, city of Mission Viejo, the MV Chamber of Commerce, lots of local residents and businesses, and our friends in the car community, we held a fundraising event on Jan 27, 2024 with tremendous success!

Here's a video from Alerts SoCal about the event.

Check out these photos too

Jan 27, 2024        Green Chile Cantina Fundraiser               PICS

On May 18th, 2024, Hot Rods Unlimited hosted our 3rd annual "Invitation-Only" car show charity event at Innova Electronics in Irvine, along with our local car club friends from South Orange County Rods & Customs, The Old Cranks and The Mercifuls. This year our chosen charity was One Step Ministry, who provides assistance to single-parent families in south county. 

For the past three years, One Step Ministry held their own "Car Show for a Cause" at Floor & Decor in Mission Viejo. A Friday evening was usually selected for their 3-hour event, and though that event was local favorite, it just didn't provide the donations to overcome the cost of putting on the event. Sometime around January, we had heard that One Step Ministry had decided to cancel the 2024 "Car Show for a Cause". Shortly thereafter, we approached One Step Ministry and asked if we could work together. We knew we had a great car event, and we knew lots of generous people would be there. They could simply focus on the charity aspect of the event and HRU will take care of everything else.

The Saturday event from 10:am - 3:pm featured a live band, carnival games & prizes, Xclusive food truck, Carmen's Coffee Co, and some great vendors like Segerstrom Shelby Event Center, Pinstripes by Snick, LabTech Supply Co, Michael Douglas Photography and more. Almost 100 beautiful classic and specialty cars were there (the event was full). Participants again had the opportunity to have their car inspected by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) and have their cars photographed in front of a green screen, allowing the final image(s) have a background of their choice (ie: race track, dessert scene, beach scene, etc.....18 backgrounds to choose from). Each driver arrived to a goodie bag full with excellent items courtesy of Innova. Activities were available throughout the day culminating and the trophy presentation and auction & raffle winner announcements.

Over $9,950 was raised and donated to One Step Ministry, all in a single day.

Check out the pics of this incredible day:

2024 "Invite-Only" Car Show charity event

Cruisin' for a Cure

Cruisin’ for a Cure

The first Cruisin’ for a Cure was held at the Irvine Meadows parking lot in September of 1999. Here are photos from the 2nd annual event held on September 23, 2000.

Cruisin' for a Cure is now held every year at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.

Cruisin’ for a Cure was started in 1999 by Debbie Baker whose husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and lost his life in 2009 from this illness. It became and continues to be Debbie’s passion to do something for our men by bringing awareness of prostate cancer to help save their lives through the offering of free prostate screening at the event.   Over the past 20+ years they have tested well over 15,000 men and saved more than 4,000+ men who would have never known they had a suspicious lump or prostate cancer. As Debbie tells the men: “you take care of your cars, you need to take care of your body.” “We are very grateful to continue offering our free prostate screening to men 40 years and older through a simple blood test.”

Cruisin’ for a Cure is the world’s largest one-day charity car show with over 3,000 vehicles on display and over 150+vendors and exhibitors. Owners of the vehicles can cruise through the OCFair & Event Center for 1.5 miles and/or park to just display their vehicles. The logistics, marketing, and organization of the show is all handled by volunteers dedicated to our cause of saving our men from prostate cancer. Be assured that your participation in the event and any donations go directly to prostate cancer research at the KSK Cancer Center of Irvine to help find a cure!

Hot Rods Unlimited is very proud to be the original host club for this amazing event and our members continue to volunteer every year to help save lives.

Hot Rods Unlimited was founded in 1999 but our glorious history goes back much farther, with roots going all the way back to the Saddleback Knights car club.

The Saddleback Knights began as most car clubs do, with a few guys who love cars meeting up on Tuesday nights at Fuddruckers on El Toro road. As the story goes, after meeting and seeing the same folks there often, a few of them decided to form a car club.

The first Fuddruckers opened its doors in San Antonio, Texas in 1980. Within three years, there were more than 20 Fuddruckers locations all over the Lone Star State. Then, in 1983, the company went public and expanded throughout the U.S. during the '80s and '90s.

I’m unable to find out when the Fuddruckers on El Toro road first opened, but it’s agreed it was there for about 30 years, eventually closing in 2020. It may have opened in 1989.

Hot Rods Unlimited held our monthly club meetings here for many years on the second Thursday of the month. The food was great and so was the staff. We always enjoyed the rock-n-roll decor starting with the Elvis statue greeting you near the front door and all the Automobilia throughout.

The tradition of the Tuesday night car show at Fuddruckers on El Toro road was a staple of the south Orange County classic car scene. Chip Foose, John Force, and Barry McGuire have all been to the Tuesday night cruise-in at Fuddruckers.

There is a wealth of pictures from many Fuddruckers Tuesday night cruise-ins thanks to Dave Lindsay at SoCalCarCulture going all the way back to July, 2001. The last photo album Dave has posted is from January, 2013.




The Tuesday night cruise-ins at Fuddruckers must have been discontinued sometime in 2013 since Dave Lindsay has an album from a cruise-in at Chick-Fil-A, which is not too far down the street, from June, 25 2013, which was also a Tuesday.


JC Penny cruise nights

Dave and Marty Lindsley started a cruise-in at the JC Penny at the Laguna Hills mall that was very successful and enjoyed by many.



In-N-Out Tuesday night Cruise-Ins

Launched in April of 2022, Hot Rods Unlimited brought back the good old car days at Fudd’s by hosting a weekly cruise-in at In-N-Out Burger on El Toro Rd at the former Laguna Hills Mall. All cars are welcome at this event held from 5:pm – 7:pm every Tuesday night and the response and attendance are often tremendous. You never know what amazing cars you’ll see arrive and wonderful car owners you’ll meet. Stop by sometime. We hope to see you there.

Saddleback Knights & Jack Gottfried

The little info I could find on-line about the Saddleback Knights car club is an O.C. Register story from July 13, 2010 titled: A man of humor, hot rods and Hawaiian shirts

Jack “Action Jack” Gottfried passed away in July, 2010 at 66.


When he wasn’t working on his seven cars at Dickey’s Hot Rods in San Juan Capistrano, Gottfried was drag racing in Pomona until the very end, wearing his treasured Mickey Mouse watch. He also led south Orange County’s Saddleback Knight’s car club.


Gottfried, born in Yonkers, N.Y. in 1944, moved to California in 1952 with his family. His mother was one of the first women to sell cars in Los Angeles, and influenced her son’s love of cars. His latest purchase – a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air Bubbletop with black exterior, red interior and lots of vroom.


Gottfried, known in San Juan Capistrano for getting a playground and dog trail at San Juan Creek Park named after his beloved golden retriever, Honey, was a giving man, friends said. He donated $5,000 to the city to help build the park and often volunteered at the Mission.


He had recently spent time in Maui to celebrate his and his fiancée’s birthdays, like they have every year for almost a decade. “He had such a big heart and we’d be laughing all the time”. Gottfried loved the casualness and good times of island life.


You could find him sipping a gin and tonic with two limes or a fancy drink with an umbrella as he joked with friends. He joked so much that friends and family coined a term for his one-liners: Jackisms. Before he died, he turned to his priest and said: “Will you say something nice about me at the funeral? Because all these people are going to lie.”

Again a big thanks goes out to Dave Lindsay of SoCalCarCulture for the treasure of fantastic pictures which chronicle many of the great moments of the car culture in Southern California and helped us bring our story to life.

Check out Hot Rods Unlimited
Past 3 Events
Click the links to view our videos and pics from our events

July 4, 2023          Lake Forest 4th Parade & Club BBQ        PICS
March 4, 2023      Dana Point Festival of Whales                  Video
Aug 7, 2022          Laguna Hills Chamber Car Show              PICS

Check out all our other recent past events!

Club Photo Albums
Click on the Picture Below to view the 
Hot Rods Unlimited photo album collection.
In Memory of our past club members