After a busy weekend in Bakersfield, we’re back at the office and able to sort through some of our photos from the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion. Now in its 26th year, the show is revered as a mecca for those drawn to vintage racecars of all shapes and sizes. Although things kicked off with rain and uncharacteristically chilly weather, the skies cleared and the temperatures rose, creating ideal conditions on and off the track.
Shades of the “Rattler” Fiat Topolino, the “Little Blue Coupe” was a big hit at this year’s Hot Rod Reunion. From the injected smallblock Chevy to the candy blue paint and matching Plexiglas windows, it was a favorite of ours too. Stay tuned for more on this period-perfect Competition Coupe in the not-so-distant future.
From Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, Auto Club Famoso Raceway was jam-packed with everything from restored front-engined dragsters to heavily altered match racers. Hot rods filled the famed Bakersfield Grove, while the top dogs in Nostalgia Top Fuel tuned their slingshots in preparation for their next sub-six second pass. No matter where you stood, you weren’t far from a pair of slicks and a fuel-burning Hemi.
Like any reunion worth its salt, the people are what bring the CHRR to life—and you never know whom you’ll run into. Within a few hour span, I saw Don “The Snake” Prudhomme wearily eyeing the (looong) line of people waiting for autographs, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen zooming around the pits in a ’57 Chevy golf cart and Robert “Bones” Balogh browsing Gasser books at The Rodder’s Journal booth. To put things simply, the NHRA brings together legendary racers and legendary racecars for one memorable weekend.
Speaking of memorable, the Cacklefest put these old cars into motion on Saturday night. Supercharged Chryslers snarled and shot flames while wire wheels and Metalflake twinkled beneath the track lights. Eyes watered. The ground shook. For a few loud, glorious moments, it’s as if Famoso was warped back to the 1960s: and that’s what the Hot Rod Reunion is all about. —Joey Ukrop
It wouldn’t be a Hot Rod Reunion with Bill Pitts’ Winkel, Trapp & Fuller “Magicar” AA/FD. During its heyday, hot shoe Jeep Hampshire pushed the gold Metalflake Fueler deep into the sevens at more than 200mph. Ever since its rebirth, the car has been a Cacklefest staple.
Out in the grove, we were drawn to this ’40 Willys survivor campaigned by Bruce Frumweller during the Gasser Wars. With its fiberglass tilt front end, injected smallblock Chevy and nose-up stance, the C/Gas coupe looked as if it were untouched by time. We were all over it.
Race cars, hot rods, you name it—you can find them all at the Hot Rod Reunion. Here Burbank Choppers member Deron Wright and his son, Murphy, catch some of the racing action from atop their ’32 Ford three-window.
Every car on the Famoso grounds had a story to tell, and the Doss, Clayton & King slingshot was no exception. Originally built by Tommy Ivo for Ed Schutzs, it was eventually purchased by the DC&K team and outfitted with a 354cid Chrysler on fuel. The car set records at tracks across the West Coast and ran a 7.56 to claim the top e.t. on the Drag News 1320 list. It has since been restored to its 1964 version and made plenty of noise at the Cacklefest.
Bakersfield’s Jeff Jones is a multitalented hot rodder with a deep appreciation for the ’60s. He has owned his Hemi-powered “Chry Terror” ’36 Willys for 55 years, and he recently completed a faithful clone of Ed Roth’s “Mysterion” that he documented in a book of the same name. We’ll have more on Jeff and his projects further down the line.
The Minnesota-based Kroona & Sandberg team garnered plenty of attention with their chopped AA/Gas Anglia back in the late-’60s and early-’70s. Based on a scratchbuilt chassis and supercharged 354 Hemi, the car ran in the low nine second range before it was replaced by a flip-top Opel GT. Both black lacquer beauties have been meticulously restored.
Straight axles were out in full force in Bakersfield. This high-riding GTO and ’38 Willys pickup made a nice pair in the grove. The metallic blue Goat sounded healthy cruising through the pits.
The “Beaver Hunter II” was one of many short-wheelbase monsters at Famoso Raceway over the weekend. Originally campaigned by Nolan Pritchard, the T-bodied roadster gives us a glimpse into how wild Fuel Altereds were during drag racing’s Golden Age. Power comes from a blown, Enderle-injected Chrysler Hemi.
“This right here is worth the price of admission,” a curious onlooker said as he studied this sliced and diced Plymouth. “It’s what hot rodding’s all about,” chimed another. On Friday, it seemed as everyone who stumbled upon this mid-engined creation had to stop for a closer look. Highlights included a 6-71-blown big block Mopar (complete with Predator carbs), a V-drive and eight bell-tipped straight pipes. It runs, drives and usually requires a double take or two.
Whether you’re restoring a Fueler or just daydreaming, there’s more than enough vintage speed equipment to pick through at the swap meet at the big end. The two-port Hilborn topped with a scoop made out of a ’39 Chevy headlight bucket came off a car that raced at Bonneville in ’62, while the CT and American mags were too good not to get a picture of. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any of them home with me.
Another Hot Rod Reunion has come and gone, and it’s time to get back to the garage. Looks like these two already have a head start. Until next time, Bakersfield!