June 5, 1936 - December 9, 2006
Story by Richard Parks & Photos by Roger Rohrdanz
Ron Roseberry pased away Dec. 9, 2006. Richard Parks and Roger Rohrdanz did a story on him in September and we thought our readers would like to read it.
Ron Roseberry is a native Californian and long time hot rodder. His father, Lester Roseberry, came to California from Joplin, Missouri, and met Josephine Miller in the 1930’s. Ron was born in the city of Orange, California on June 5, 1936, during the height of the Great Depression. He grew up in the Anaheim area of Orange County, when it was a rural, farming area just south of Los Angeles. Ron attended George Washington Elementary School, then transferred to Fremont Junior High and graduated from Anaheim Union High School. He mastered the many shop classes at school and was a charter member of the Krafters Car Club, which was named after legendary car racer, Dick Kraft. Kraft was an original member of the SCTA, and raced at the dry lakes in the Southern California deserts. Kraft was one of the first drag racers in the 1950’s and was a local hero to the kids in the Anaheim area. Ron was elected the president of the Krafters Car Club, and held meetings in his parent’s home, and worked on the club’s cars in his garage. The Club, formed in 1955, had a club car, a ’34 Ford Flathead Coupe, which they raced successfully at the Santa Ana dragstrip, Lions dragstrip in Long Beach, and Fontana. Ron, and his brother Dick, were the drivers and they raced in the D-Gas Coupe class. Other Krafters Car Club members were Dick Roseberry, Danny Youngkite, Dick Smith, Jack Robb, Bob Boney, Jack Talbert, Bob Lakatos, Ray Spence, Bob Pennington, Bob Barker, Al Collins, Walt and Tom Wilkenson. Ron also owned a ’49 Chevy Coupe with a 6-cylinder overhead engine that he raced very successfully at the dragstrips.
Ron wasn’t one to move at any speed other than full throttle. In 1954, right out of high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Pat McGuire and they had 3 children, Sandra, Katherine, and a young son who passed away soon after birth. He worked for a contractor, then went to work as a meatcutter for the markets. In 1963, Ron made a career change and went to work for Moratta Valve Company, building valves for the USS Nautilus Submarine. Ron and Dick bought a dragster in 1958 and moved into the Gas Flathead Dragster category. They worked on the car, modifying it with some original ideas and in 1963 achieved success Ron was owner/driver of this flathead dragster in the early ‘60’s.
The engine was a 325 C.I. Ford Flathead 59-A block, and was sponsored by Harry Weber. The brothers won the NHRA Winternationals Championship at Pomona in the G-Gas Dragster Flathead category, with Ron driving and his brother acting as crew chief. They backed that success up later in the year at Bakersfield, California, when they won the U.S. Fuel and Gas Championship in the same class. Ron has driven a number of drag cars over the years, ending his racing career in the Fuel Funny Car class in the late ‘60’s.
Roseberry started his own speed shop business in 1965, and later invited a friend of his, Mike Von Fritch to join him as his partner. Fritch was an outstanding welder, and Ron liked his name, so the new business was renamed Von-Fritch Automotive Engineering with Ron as the majority owner. The business was located next door to Hayden Profit’s, who was also to become a champion Pro-Stocker, and down the street from Ray Alley and the Berardini Brother’s. Roseberry and Von Fritch made and developed motors, heads, valves and other speed equipment and Ron actively dragraced until 1969. In that year, Ron moved north to Santa Maria, California, to work for Arrow Marine. He worked under the direction of Earl Mansell, a legend in landspeed, oval track, motorcycles and boat racing. Earl had raced at the old Legion Ascot sprint car racetrack in East Los Angeles, California. When Mansell was seriously injured in a car accident, Ron took over the engine building division at Arrow Marine and worked for them for four years. In 1973, Ron left Arrow Marine and started up his own business, Marine Service Unlimited, using his contacts with Bob Leach at Eliminator Boats to become a dealer in the Santa Maria area. He also sold Sanger boats for a while, and ported and polished heads for hot rod ski boats. He specialized in big block Chevy engines. Ron went into Jet Boat racing while living in Santa Maria.
In 1983, Ron returned to Orange County and helped his brother and Richard Campos build their hot rods. In 1990, Ron began work on a special project to honor his friend, Dick Kraft, by building an exact replica of the Bug. Kraft had spectacular success with the original Bug in the early ‘50’s at the Santa Ana Dragstrip in Southern California. The original car was in pieces and Kraft and his wife Margarita reassembled the car and sold it to Don Garlits in 1986. The original Bug is now on display at the International Drag Racing Museum, located in Ocala, Florida. Ron, with the help of his son Allen, painstakingly followed the old way of building racecars by hand, looking at old photos and when in doubt, asking Kraft for suggestions. Dick Kraft oversaw the entire process in the restoration of the replica car that Roseberry was building. Steve Gibbs found a replica gas tank and other hot rodding enthusiasts and friends located parts that were exact duplicates of the original car. Ron recreated the Bug down to the very last detail and donated the replica car to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. Today, the hot rodding and drag racing community can take pride in knowing that we have two Bugs, the original restored car on the East Coast, and the replica car on the West Coast. Ron and Dick Roseberry were part of a generation when drag racing was a participant sport, when innovation, racing and fun were what mattered most.