Kick out the jambs Southern California’s hot rod culture was alive and well at the 71st Annual Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California and for 2020 the special feature in Building 9 was a tribute to Drag Racing Then and Now.
Drag racing was just another fun part of everyday life for kids growing up in California. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley during the 1950s through the 1960s and it seemed like almost every other little banana republic town had its own dragstrip and that’s where you would find us. Living in West Covina we were guaranteed to hear the bigtime rails run every weekend just a few miles away in Irwindale and during the week Wednesday night was $2.00 grudge racing at Irwindale. Instead of having a knockdown drag-out street race we’d tell the guy we wanted to run to meet at Irwindale on Wednesday night.
Just like skateboarding, surfing or playing rock n’ roll in a garage band having an avid interest in drag racing cars was in our blood. In the early days the Fairplex was called the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds and the Pomona dragstrip was the place to be for great drag racing events like the NHRA Winternationals. I still have my pit pass for the 1965 Winternationals it rained in the early part of the week, but on Saturday the sun came out and there was two days of pure racing.
The 1965 field of cars was packed full of future legends. The original Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracuda, the Little Red Wagon, Hodges Dodges white with candy apple red striped Ramchargers, Dick Landy in a Dodge and Tom Grove in his Plymouth the Melrose Missile freshly equipped with a 426 Hemi right before the Winternationals. I don’t remember how it came about, but after Saturday’s racing my dad and I gave Tom Grove a ride to Fullerton where he was staying with relatives. As dragsters (rails) evolved the wheelbases got longer and the engines moved from in front of the driver to behind the driver eliminating the need for a Kevlar jockstrap.
Pure Hell | 1932 Austin Bantam
Rich Guasco’s fiberglass bodied Austin Bantam roadster Pure Hell appeared in its latest configuration at GNRS. My recollection could be wrong, but I have a memory of watching Pure Hell race the Winged Express at Pomona in 1965. One thing is for sure with Pure Hell’s original shorty 89-inch wheelbase you never knew which way it’d lurch or dart on its brief few seconds shooting down the quarter-mile.
1961 Kent Fuller Dragster | Baney Chrysler Plymouth
The purple Metalflake rail with the matching blower scoop on a blown 1958 Chrysler 392 Hemi is the 1961 Kent Fuller dragster. Fuller built dragster chassis from his shop in in the same Canoga Park, California shop complex as custom upholsterer and fellow drag racer Tony Nancy — Checkout Tony Nancy’s distinctive seahorse logo patch sewn on Fuller’s black diamond tucked dragster seat with the purple threads.
1933 Willys Burgundy Bandit | Larry’s Performance Shop
Drag racing is a family tradition for Tommy Thompson his dad was champion drag racer Jr. Thompson, and the apple fell right below the tree. Tommy an avid longtime surfer as well as drag racer said, “Like most second-generation racers, I got my start polishing wheels on dad’s racecar. My earliest memories are from Lion’s Drag Strip with my Dad’s A/GAS Austin in the mid to late 1960s. My dad toured the United States professionally from 1967 through 1982.” Jr. Thompson lived in Norwalk, California and ironically his 1982 major accident was caused by rubbish that shouldn’t have been at the end of the dragstrip at Norwalk Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
1965 The Old Master | Ed Pink Racing Engines
Pretty in pink Pete Eastwood’s amazing restoration of The Old Master a Top Fuel dragster built in 1965 by dragster chassis builder Don Long and engine builder Ed Pink. Don Long’s chassis and Ed Pink’s blown Chrysler engines were a hard combination to beat and that reputation led to both of the San Fernando Valley shops attaining great success. Interestingly Ed Pink is related to world famous Pink’s Hot Dogs stand located at Melrose and La Brea in Hollywood. —Restoration lettering by Larry “Quicksilver” Fator.
1965 Ford Econoline pickup | Back Up Pick Up
Zany and a sign of the times at Southern California dragstrips Galpin Ford’s 1965 Ford Econoline pickup created for exhibition runs was constructed by Dick Harding and driven by George Tuers. Galpin Ford sponsored the rear-facing rig from 1969 –1971. The original Back Up Pick Up was wadded up, but thanks to Beau Boeckmann, along with Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) builder Dave Shuten the wrong-headed little Econoline pickup was recreated and debuted at the SEMA Show in 2013. The engine is a dyno-proven 950hp 427-inch Ford FE.
Groundshaker Jr. | Glenn Way’s AA/FA ’23 T
A little monster built originally in 1966 by Glenn Way on a Woody Gilmore chassis Groundshaker Jr. has the classic bitchin’ timeless look of a mid-60’s fuel altered. A short squirrely wheelbase with the T-bucket body cut with wheel wells indented for the forward-moved rear wheels. Another part of having the right look is the empty and chopped down ’23 T grille shell. Glenn Way’s Groundshaker Jr. is a great example of an iconic record-breaking dragster from back in the day restored to show car condition. The fiberglass ’23 T body is a Cal Automotive product Larry “Quicksilver” Fator received in in yellow paint and then webbed, lettered, and striped.
1968 Plymouth Barracuda | Hurst Hemi Under Glass
Think of mid-60s drag racing like a hauling ass mobile three ring circus with different classes that offered a little bit of something for everyone with exhibition racing as a new form of live entertainment. The first Hurst Hemi Under Glass was a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda and it was there for the 1965 NHRA Winternationals. In 1967 the original Hurst Hemi Under Glass was parted out to build its replacement and who knows where the ’65 Barracuda body went. The longest performing Hurst Hemi Under Glass is the 1968 Plymouth Barracuda piloted by Texas resident Mike Mantel and that’s car featured in the 2020 GNRS Drag Racing Then and Now exhibit.
B/Altered Dragster | Rollin’ Rice Bowl III
The Rollin’ Rice Bowl built originally in Pasadena, California by Paul Horning, Ernie Murashige and Gray Baskerville was never beaten in its class. B/Altered at 1963 Indy Nationals elapsed time 10. 75 seconds at 130.24 mph. In 1986 the restored Rice Bowl III was presented to Gray Baskerville at the Fremont Nostalgia Drags. The list of restoration sponsors and help rebuilding the car included Tom Prufer, Brian Burnett, Pete Eastwood, Jake Jacobs and Pete Chapouris with the help of the Fraternal Order for the Preservation of Baskerville-ism: “Chef” Carol, Art Chrisman, Gene Adams, Jerry Kugel, Bill “Birdman” Stewart, Jim Davis, Tony Piner, “Fat Jack” Robinson, Al Hernandez, Andy Brizio, Roy Brizio, Bob Hines, Marty Henkey, Lil’ John Buttera, Leigh Buttera, Don Blair, Eric Vaughn, Roy Fjastad, Dave Alexander, Ernie Murashige, Don Thelen, John Barrett, Doug Robinson, Boyd Coddington, Phil Lukens, Mike Harper, Dennis Rickleffs, Scott Knight, Ray Lark, Pat Ganahl, and Peter Chapouris IV. The May 1988 issue of Hot Rod magazine featured the Rollin’ Rice Bowl III with two pages.
1961 Mooneyes | Moon Speed Equipment
Mooneyes wasn’t Dean Moon’s first dragster, but it sure became Moon’s most famous dragster. One of Dode Martin’s Dragmaster chassis wasn’t a rare sight back in the day, but bright yellow paint with a Potvin blown Chevy engine sure made Mooneyes stand out from the crowd. Built in 1961 and a familiar sight at Pomona in 1962 Mooneyes won Middle Eliminator at the Winternationals. In 1963 Sydney Allard invited Mooneyes to race in England. Also, in 1963 Revell introduced a 1/25th scale Mooneyes dragster frame for only $.69 for hobbyists to build “their own version of Mooneyes.”
Newhouse Special | Blown Fuel Roadster
Joel and Dee Gruzen’s faithful reproduction of the Newhouse Special is a tribute to a golden age when drag racing was a hobby and not big business. Although one look at an advertisement in Hot Rod or Motor Trend magazine as far back as 1950 and Newhouse Automotive Industries claimed it was “one of the world’s largest speed equipment distributors. It’s interesting to note Newhouse Automotive Industries also advertised in the Saturday Evening Post. Speaking of the world in 1963-ish Gary Cagle pulled the engine out of the Newhosue Special Dragster mounted on what was likely a Cal Automotive fiberglass ’23 T body and at Lion’s dragstrip set the world’s record for a blown fuel roadster.
Texas Longhorn II | San Antonio Speed Shop
An avid collector of all the fun four-wheeled racing stuff Vintage Air owner Jack Chisenhall of San Antonio, Texas, hauled Dan Rightsell and Gordon Leland’s Texas Longhorn II Top Fuel dragster to show in GNRS’s 2020 Drag Racing Then and Now exhibit. Way back in the 1960s Jack hung out at the San Antonio Speed Shop and helped wrench on the Longhorn II. During seasons of dragster engineering evolution Longhorn II saw increases in its wheelbase. When Jack had the chance to restore the old Top Fueler, he got in touch with the original chassis builder Woody Gilmore to restore the AA/FD dragster back to its earliest shorter 144-inch wheelbase configuration. In 2014 the bodywork and candy blue Metaflake paint was done by Gary Howard Customs in Weir, Texas next lettering, and cowl art was done by Nat Quick working out of Sonoma County Street Rodz in Petaluma, California.
TV Tommy Ivo | 1958 First Dragster
It’s not a problem now, but back in the day hot rodders had almost as bad a reputation with the general public (squares) as guys that rode chopped Harley-Davidsons. The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow was filmed in 1959 and only a few minutes into the movie featured Tommy Ivo along with his first dragster built in 1958 powered by a bored and stroked Buick Nailhead — specifically a 1957 364-inch Nailhead punched out to 425-inches. In the movie Tommy’s on-screen buddy mentions the car had garnered over 300 wins and then Tommy goes on to the describe the mechanicals of the car. Owned and restored by Don Prieto aka “The Wavemaker” signage at GNRS indicated the Fuller chassis equipped dragster was a Drag News Standard 1320 B/Gas Dragster Record Holder with a 9.16 E.T. at 154.37 mph.
Powered Buick Showboat | TV Tommy Ivo
The original Showboat a 1966 Buick Riviera powered by four Hilborn injected Buick Nailhead engines was turned into the Wagon Master and no longer exists. In 1997 Tommy Ivo set about to reproduce the Showboat and then abandoned it to sit outside the shop and rust. In 2007 a private museum requested a recreation of the Showboat and Ivo commissioned Bruce Dyda at Dyda Race Engineering to build it. Tommy Ivo has been quoted as saying “he has never seen one person with such an abundance of automotive talent, Bruce Dyda is skilled at everything there is to be done on a race car.” The Dyda created Showboat changed hands to another private museum owner that allowed the car to be on display at the NHRA Museum at the Pomona, Fairplex for one year before taking possession.
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