The first Prolong Twilight Cruise for 2008, sponsored by Prolong and Budweiser, was held on April 2nd. This event is held on the first Wednesday of the month, April through December at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, sponsored by the Auto Club of Southern California. Roger Rohrdanz and I were invited to attend a special opening exhibit honoring HOT ROD Magazine’s 60th Anniversary, prior to the opening of the first Twilight Cruise of 2008. The HOT ROD Magazine exhibit had a display of every cover of the famed magazine, from the late ‘40’s to the present day. There were also photographic displays, memorabilia and the Hot Rod Speed Parts Hall of Fame. This exhibit is expected to run from April through the summer. On hand were some of the past and present editors, writers and photographers for the magazine. Also in attendance were media, writers and photographers representing a large section of the racing publications across America. Bill Groak organized the media day, replete with gourmet foods, which was largely foreign to most hot rodders. Groak is always super friendly and helpful towards those in the media and makes sure that we always have material to help us complete our assignments. His enthusiasm for his job and the Museum is apparent from the moment that you meet him. Often public relation representatives spin the issues, but with Groak there is a sincere love for car racing and hot rodding.
Some of the celebrity guests included TV Tom Ivo, Dave and Louise McClelland, Pete Chapouris, Ed Justice Jr, Margie Petersen, Michael Ahern, Gigi Carlson, Doug Stokes, Thom Taylor, John Fell, Ken Horkavy, Chuck Spiker, Kenny Reed and Kevin M. Howard. Thom Taylor brought a Ford Model-T, circa pre-WWI, to display at the museum. John Fell brought the Cream Puff racing boat, sponsored by HOT ROD Magazine in the 1950’s and driven by the legendary Ed Olson. TV Tom Ivo was a child actor who went on to star in Hollywood teen movies about drag racing, then actually became a famous drag racer himself. Dave McClelland is the silky voice of many TV racing shows and a great track announcer. Margie Petersen is the widow of the founder of HOT ROD Magazine, Robert Petersen. She and her late husband generously support a wide variety of charities and have endowed the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. PAM, as it is sometimes called, is one of the largest automotive museums in the nation and a tribute to one of hot rodding’s true pioneer family. Gigi Carlson was Petersen’s long-time secretary and is now co-coordinating events for the trust and museum. Pete Chapouris is the owner of So-Cal, and designs, builds and restores vintage cars and marketing for the So-Cal Speed Shops, which was made famous by Alex Xydias. Ed Justice Jr is the President and CEO of Justice Brothers Car Care Products and has his own racing radio show. Doug Stokes is now working for Gale Banks Engineering and he gave me a golf tee, which said ‘Shav Glick 1920-2007.’ Stokes is a past president of the Karting Association and one of the most popular PR and media personalities around. Glick was a long-time sports writer and editor for the Los Angeles Times and possibly the greatest sportswriter on the west coast.
The Museum was represented by Tony Thacker, Greg Sharp, Rose Dickinson, Wayne Philips, Sheri Watson and staff and volunteers. Thacker welcomed the crowd and mentioned that this is the 10th anniversary of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. “I got started in this business back in England, sitting on a curb and reading HOT ROD Magazine,” he told the crowd. “I believe it was the colored pictures in the magazine that interested me. England is so gray, the skies, the food, and the landscape, but HOT ROD Magazine was colorful and it changed my life,” he said. Thacker thanked all the guests and especially Margie Petersen and John Fell for bringing the HOT ROD Special, the race boat Cream Puff, which he restored. Greg Sharp spoke and said, “We’re all here due to those that started this sport, including HOT ROD Magazine. HOT ROD seemed like a poor name to give to the magazine in those days, because of the image that hot rodding had with the public. Barbara Parks once told us that it wasn’t a bad name, it was the WORST name,” Sharp said. But the name stuck and with age has only gained the respect of the community and fans everywhere. Greg is one of those true fans of hot rodding. He is a retired policeman who has a huge collection and a memory of land speed, drag racing, hot rodding and the car culture. He is a quiet and reserved gentleman who is teased for his even disposition and police background, though he becomes animated and loquacious when cars are being discussed.
Some of the names who attended included; Lee Kelly, Bob D’Olivo, Dave Dillahunty, Cam Benty, Ed Zinke, Aaron Kahan, Mark Trunnell, Joe Panzarello, Don Lindsfors, Harry Hibler, Rick Licata, Bob Robe, Pat Ganahl, Steve Strope, Brian Cox and Max Herman. I spoke to Ganahl and he explained how he interviewed his subjects, transcribed his tapes and wrote his articles. Some of the noted photographers present were; Roger Rohrdanz, James Drew, Dave Wallace Jr and Bob McMillian. Dave Wallace Jr is always recognizable for his long beard and enthusiasm for the perfect photograph. Bob McMillian talked to me about interviews that he has set up to record the history of early day racers and hot rodders. I asked him if he would do a few for our new on-line newsletter for The Society of Land Speed Racing Historians and he agreed. Over 200 media people were there, but the small print on their name tags made it difficult to make out all their names. Also present were; Scott Timberlake, Nick Roman, Bill Condit, Mark Dewey, Mike Ritchie, Jake Jacobs, Jerry Pitt, Kevin Lee, Mark Dwyer, Philippe Dahn, Greg Smith, Jeff Smith, Ed Taylor, Rob and Steve Kinnan, Jason Lewis, Brian Brennan, Nick Licata, Dick and Doug Flint, Michael Stanford, Jimmy Wolf, Drew Hardin and Judy Kelly. It’s fun to see some of the writers and photographers who we know only by the name on their articles.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.