CALIFORNIA CITY – One weekend out of the year, Phoenix Auto Owner Ron Griffith closes up shop and relocates a few miles outside of California City. At the Wasteland Weekend site near Aerial Acres, he sets up Central Garage and assumes the name Godfather, joining some 4,000 other fans of the Mad Max universe.
“I’m probably one of the greatest Mad Max fans the world’s ever seen,” said Griffith. “I always wanted to build a Mad Max car, but never had a reason to, you know.”
One of the customers at Phoenix Auto was looking around at the salvage cars on his lot a few years back and asked him if he’d ever heard of Wasteland Weekend.
“I said ‘what the hell is Wasteland Weekend,’ you know,” said Griffith. “So we started talking back and forth and then I went on the Wasteland Weekend website and I found a phone number. I called them and left a message saying ‘hey, if you are needing a place to store stuff before the event and some place to keep stuff – some kind of a staging point, you know – call me back.’ I just told them I have a big yard and I just love Mad Max. They called me back and that kind of got the ball rolling.”
In March of 2012 decided he needed to do more than just help store vehicles for the event.
“I thought to myself, well, you know if I’m going out there - I’m a gearhead, I’m a car guy - I gotta have a car,” said Griffith. “So I built a car, The Monster Carlo.”
The car took first place in the car show its first year at Wasteland Weekend.
“It was awesome, but it also kind of bummed me out,” said Griffith. “Because once you get first place, you can never win again.”
The first year he attended, he said there were probably only 30 cars, in recent years the number of custom cars has climbed into the hundreds.
“Everybody loves the cars now and brings them out,” said Griffith. “But I had a blast. It was a lot of fun. I met some really awesome people. It was like a family environment, you know. Of course it’s 18 and older so your kids got to stay home and the dogs got to stay at home, all that kind of stuff. But it was it was just amazing. I mean it was in a you go through that gate, you’re so immersed in the whole Mad Max thing everybody’s dressed in character you know and it’s just like a Renaissance Faire. They kind of want to put you in a place to where it looks like you’re you’re you’re there. I love it, I have a lot of fun with it. I built a lot of cars over the years so my sold, some I scrapped, some didn’t work out so great.”
Some of the vehicles stored at his yard include screen accurate reproductions from a company in Michigan.
As much as he loves Wasteland Weekend, Griffith had to sit out the 2018 event.
“That was my third heart attack,” he said. “Normally it’s right after Wasteland Weekend. My first heart attack was right after Wasteland Weekend 2013, then I had another heart attack the last day of Wasteland 2015. Then I skipped a year and had one last year. Even though this is my vacation time and time away, I sometimes get overwhelmed.”
Griffith also has two repurposed buses that have been modified to fit into the Wasteland Weekend theme. He uses one for camping at the event and the other for commodities – Wasteland largely uses a barter system for commerce and people are always looking for something to add to their vehicles or outfits.
“We barter so much stuff, you can’t imagine,” said Griffith.”It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s stuff that people decide they just can’t live without.”
Air conditioner parts, aluminum plates, items found in the trunks of junked cars, road signs and many other items have found their way from his shop into a costume piece or car project.
“We just sort of store stuff in the buses throughout the year and we start saving stuff up,” said Griffith. “They are basically like an arts and crafts project. So it becomes cool cosplay.”