Cliff McAdoo, 67, of Avilla, knows cars. His 50-plus years of car-building experience culminated this month when he was awarded the 2011 Arkansas Street Rodder of the Year by his peers.
"I was nominated back in November by James Hallman, a fellow street rodder," McAdoo explains.
In March, an awards dinner, with approximately 200 in attendance, was held in Conway for the 10 Arkansas nominees.
"All 10 of us received a plaque, and I won the top honor. I could not believe I got the award. Boy, I tell you what, it really made me feel good. All nine other boys said, 'Cliff, you deserve it.' I got a hat and shirt and lots of phone calls from friends across the country congratulating me," he said.
It is no wonder McAdoo gravitated to the auto industry; it is what he has known his entire life.
He and his family moved to Benton when he was 4.
"In 1950 my dad opened a NAPA store in Benton. I bought my first car when I was 14 years old. I didn't even know how to drive," McAdoo says.
He worked for 25 years as an automotive sales representative traveling Arkansas.
"Then I managed the local parts store, Crow-Burlingame, for eight years," McAdoo said. "Now I sell big truck parts for Weldon Manufacturing."
His current ride, which he simply calls "the '32," is a 1932 Ford roadster that he and his wife, Martha, built 11 years ago.
"It took us 11 months to build the 32 from the ground, up. It has a 350 Chevy motor, a 350 transmission and a Ford nine-inch rear-end," McAdoo says. "It's all chrome."
Building cars is more than a hobby for the McAdoo couple, who had been wed only six months before starting their first project.
"Me and my wife have been building cars together for 44 years. Martha does all the upholstering, and believe it or not, she gets the motor running," McAdoo said.
"I do the rest; it makes you feel good."
The two travel across the country going to car and street rodder exhibits.
"We put 5,000 miles last year going to shows. We have 20 shows to go to this year. We'll go to Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, and other states," he said.
They plan to drive the 32.
"We drive it everywhere! That's the fun of it really!"
McAdoo said they normally re-build a car, keep it three or four years, then sell it.
"This is the 12th summer we've had the 32. We take her everywhere. If you see her on a trailer somewhere, she is either broken down or stolen!" McAdoo exclaimed.
On Jan. 16, 2005 McAdoo suffered a stroke, and the outcome appeared grim at best.
"The doctors predicted I had three days to live. Of course, they didn't tell me that, but, when all my family started coming in, I knew something was wrong," McAdoo recalled. After 15 months of eating through a feeding tube, rehabilitation and therapy, he was back in the shop doing what he loves most and working four days a week at Weldon.
"My friends would say they couldn't believe I was going back to work."
However, he contends that "going back to work was the best therapy for me."
McAdoo says his outlook on life has changed since his stroke.
"I have probably won 100 awards over the years; I've been in shows where there were 900 cars, and ours made it in the top 25. It used to be about winning, and it does feel good to get the recognition," McAdoo acknowledges. "Now, I feel like a winner when I drive away in my car and meet a new friend."
Cliff and Martha McAdoo's current project is a 1962 Chevy Nova.
They say they will be on the road again this spring in their shiny, red '32.