The 2015 California Hot Rod Reunion invited hundreds of cars to Bakersfield, California, to relive the sport’s glory years. On Saturday night, historic drag cars of all types were fired up and set to cackle until the tanks went dry. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)
More than a decade ago, nine front-engine dragsters were rebuilt or unearthed from museums to shoot fire and flames on a quarter mile strip of asphalt in Bakersfield, California. Through the years, the basic structure has remained the same. But forget the single-digit dragster lineup; close to 70 historic drag cars cars roared to life underneath the lights last weekend for the Cacklefest at the 24th annual California Hot Rod Reunion.
There’s far more to the Reunion than just the Cacklefest. Since its start in 1991, CHRR has grown into a must-attend event for hot rodders and drag racing fans alike. For three days, over 400 hot rods and drag machines invaded Auto Club Famoso Raceway. From straight-axle Gassers to svelte slingshots with chute pack bodies, both the pits and the dragstrip were filled with survivors, restorations and faithful recreations. The weather stayed warm and dry while pairs of everything from Nostalgia Top Fuelers to Funny Cars blasted off the line in full-fledged competition Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It was great on all accounts, absolutely huge,” Greg Sharp, curator of the NHRA museum and longtime TRJ contributor says. He approximates 20,000 spectators came to the event, which he says has been one of the biggest to date in terms of racing and swap meet participation.
Our man in the field Tom Davison shot a number of photos in the pits during this year’s event, some of which are seen here along with Marc Gewertz’s images. It was another action-packed weekend in Bakersfield, and we’re already counting down the days until the 2016 CHRR.
The original “Anaconda” AA/FD was campaigned by Marvin Schwartz and sported Tom Hanna bodywork and a George Cerny paintjob. Bob Hirsch’s recreation is just as beautiful as the original with its abundance of chrome and polish and full chute pack body by Terry Hegman. (Photo by Tom Davison)
The Akron, Ohio-based team of Art and Walt Arfons built their “Green Monster 5” in 1955 and campaigned it first with a 770cid V12 Ranger airplane engine and later an Allison V12. Jon Rowley of Tucson, Arizona, now owns the beast of a car. (Photo by Tom Davison)
The newly finished Dunn & Reath “Rainbow” dragster made its debut at the 2015 California Hot Rod Reunion. Pete Eastwood and Derek Bower handled the restoration and John Carambia sprayed the Technicolor motif. “Big Jim” Dunn, who piloted the car during the late ’60s, was this year’s CHRR grand marshal. (Photo by Monique Friezer)
Only at Bakersfield can you see a Westergard custom push-starting an original ’50s survivor slingshot. Mike Hegarty, the son of the late Ed Hegarty, is the caretaker of both the Bertolucci-Ohanesian ’40 Merc convertible sedan and the flathead-powered “Silhouette” dragster. The two-car team received the CHRR Cacklefest award, which is given to participants who best capture the spirit of the event with their era-correct push car/dragster combinations. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)
The “Sidewinder” dragster has appeared in many forms through the years, and current owner Jack Gillett has combined pieces from several iterations to create the car you see here. The unusual dragster runs a transversely mounted, nitro-burning 465c.i. Chrysler. At one time Jack Chrisman drove the car, which was later painted by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. (Photo by Tom Davison)
At the dawn of 1965, the Waterman-Hampshire slingshot was one of the strongest runners in Southern California’s Top Fuel ranks. The car’s highlights included a Race Car Specialties “legs under” chassis and a Waterman-tuned Chrysler. In 2007, the original owners spent three years recreating the car with the help of Kent Fuller. (Photo by Tom Davison)
Shifters member Kevan Sledge’s Mercury was one of many traditional cars on display at the 2015 California Hot Rod Reunion. The ’40 was given the early custom treatment with a heavy chop, mild shave and Dark Organic Green paint. We featured Kevan’s Merc in TRJ #65. (Photo by Tom Davison)
This year’s Nostalgia Top Fuel winner was Bill Dunlap (far lane), a 74-year-old from Capitola, California. Dunlap, a longtime racer, took home Top Fuel honors at the first CHRR in 1992. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)
Along with the diverse mix of racecars, the hot rods and customs were out in full force in Bakersfield. Here’s a small sampling of what the Reunion had in store, including Mike Smith’s Sonora, California-based Model A complete with magnesium spindle mounts, blown smallblock and light green paint. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)