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2013 Grand National Roadster Show

2013 Grand National Roadster Show


January 2013.

Every year at the Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS), there is a theme and a special presentation.  John and Annika Buck, the show owners and promoters, provided an entire building for land speed race cars and other vehicles for display to the public.  Over 50 vehicles and a drag boat filled Building 9 at the 2013 Grand National Roadster Show this year.  The first car was the BUG, a replica drag car from the early 1950’s that ran at the Santa Ana Airport drag races.  The BUG was co-owned by Dick Kraft and Marvin Webb and the original car is now in the International Drag Racing Museum in Ocala, Florida and is owned by Don Garlits.  A replica of the BUG was donated to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum by Ron Roseberry and this was the car on display at the GNRS.  Kraft and Webb had run at the dry lakes and transitioned over to the early drag race tracks, the first permanent one with rules and admission was at Santa Ana at the old airport.  C. J. Hart, Creighton Hunter and Frank Stillwell got permission from the County to operate the drag strip and devise a set of rules that are basically still in force today in drag racing.  Kraft and Webb dominated their class and were early drag racing innovators.  They stripped the car down to a frame, engine, wheels and transmission.  They even removed the radiator and ran the water from the engine through pipes fronting the engine.  Every ounce of weight that could be removed and still get by Hart’s rudimentary rules came off the BUG.  Other racers had gone to great lengths to remove weight from race cars, but Kraft and Webb took it to the ultimate.

Rich Guasco displayed a trophy that he won for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the 1962 GNRS when it was located up in Oakland, California.  For many years, the GNRS was referred to as the Oakland Show.  The show is now located on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, California.  Don Edwards brought his 23 foot long wooden drag boat, GOLDEN KOMOTION that is a replica of his 21 foot wood boat that won four championships in the blown gas hydro class during the 1960’s in the old National Drag Boat Association (NDBA).  He sold the original GOLDEN KOMOTION in 1968, which set a record at 167 mph in the Top Eliminations at Oroville, during the John Lawson Memorial race.  He found a similar, but longer Rich Hallett wood drag boat in 2004 in a barn find in Fremont, California and restored the boat using the same 392 Chrysler Hemi.  Ken’s Racing Engines in Bass Lake, California did the restoration on the motor.  Don wrote a book on his experiences called DRAG BOATS OF THE 1960’s with his good friend Barry McCown, who was also a drag boat racing champion.  Boat racing historian Bob Silva also contributed to the book and a foreword was written by Larry Schwabenland, a good friend of Don’s and another boat racing champion. 

A more recent race car on display was Robert Hight’s Funny Car.  Hight is John Force’s son-in-law and drives one of the drag cars for John Force Racing.  The AMERICAN EAGLE land speed racing streamliner was on display.  The car is owned and driven by Skip Hedrich, the brother of Holly Hedrich.  Wilhelmina is Skip’s wife and huge supporter on the race team.  AMERICAN EAGLE has gone 348 mph at Bonneville and the beautiful paint job and graphics on the car make this a crowd pleaser wherever it is shown.  Skip owns the B-record class record at Bonneville with a 344 mph two-way average.  He told me that he uses Bob Stroud parachutes and received valuable advice on the chutes from Don Vesco.  The SPEED DEMON streamliner owned and driven by George Poteet and built by Ron Main is an impressive car.  It has won multiple Hot Rod magazine trophies given out at Bonneville for the fastest speed of the meet at each Speed Week in August on the Salt Flats.  In 2009, Poteet and Main won the Hot Rod magazine trophy with a speed of 394.346 mph and it has gone 436.067 mph through the 2012 season.  They are trying to be the first piston-powered, wheel-driven car to break the 500 mph barrier.  SPEED DEMON runs on alcohol in the blown class and the engine was built by Kenny Duttweiler.

On display was a NASCAR stock car that was the 1949 inaugural champion.  A 1957 Corvette vintage road course (sports car racing) vehicle was next to the stock car.  QUICK & EASY, a 1927 T roadster was next and it ran in the V4F/GMR class.  Don Ferguson III brought his Ferguson Racing streamliner to the show.  He is called simply D-Three to designate him from his father, Don Ferguson Junior and his grandfather, Don Ferguson.  The family has been racing cars for three generations.  They also own the Karl & Veda Orr sprint car which Bob Sweikert and others drove on oval race tracks in the 1940’s and ‘50’s.  Karl and Veda Orr are revered figures in land speed and oval track racing.  Karl owned a famous speed shop and was active in dry lakes racing in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.  Even after WWII started and the government shut down auto racing to conserve metal, rubber and gasoline for the war effort, Karl found a way to go racing on the dry lakes.  Veda Orr was the first woman to be allowed to race in the SCTA and that was due to Karl’s strength of will and the fact that Veda was loved by everyone.  During the war, she gathered all the information she could and created a newsletter which she mailed out to hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen at her own expense.  Though women weren’t allowed to join the SCTA or race in their Association, they made an exception for her.

The Mooneyes Company brought the MOONLINER streamliner that was built in 1959 by Jocko Johnson for original owner Dean Moon, of the Moon discs fame.  Jeff Kugel showed off the HOLMES/KUGEL/McGINNIS dry lakes roadster.  His father, Jerry Kugel, is a Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame honoree and a long time land speed racer who also builds some great custom roadsters for shows and general use on the streets.  Don Ferguson Junior exhibited a hand-formed aluminum bodied streamliner.  Jerilyn Kugel brought her dry lakes roadster built by her family that runs in the C/BGMR class at the lakes.  Fabian Valdez brought the famous BEAN BANDITS Bonneville streamliner that was built by the Bean Bandits club of San Diego and driven by Joaquin Arnett.  Glen Dennee brought NEBULOUS THEORUM VI and POISONED ARROW lakester cars to the exhibit.  The Chevy HHR land speed car that was rebuilt by So-Cal Speed Shop after the car previously crashed is owned by Bruce Canepa and runs in the G/BFCC class. 

Jerry Kugel showed his KUGEL & LEFEVERS 1992 Pontiac Trans-Am which went 300.788 mph two-way record and 307.468 mph top speed in 1999, in C/GALT class, at Bonneville to take away my brother’s record by over 85 mph.  That is the fastest time for any passenger car ever run.  That has to be the most bone-crunching, total oblivion of a previous record in any class.  My brother, David Parks, had taken Andy Granatelli’s Bonneville record in the same class a few years earlier.  It was said that Mr. STP had set the record with a tool case, two passengers and a dog in the car with him.  That story has not been confirmed, but we use it to vex David whenever we can.  On display were a wide range of Anglia’s, Willys’, dragsters and gas altered race cars including the JOE MONDELLO and PURE HELL.  The Gas Altered class was the most loved among drag racing fans of the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s, but they were as unstable as they were exciting.  The Funny Cars eventually displaced the wild and wooly Gas Altered vehicles, but they show up in independent drag races and nostalgia leagues all over the country and they to this day and still take one’s breath away.

The next streamliner was Tommy Thompson’s ’52 Olds powered GOLDENROD now owned by Tom McIntyre.  Bruce Meyer owns the PIERSON BROTHERS 2-D coupe, a well-known and famous dry lakes car.  Bruce started collecting race cars before it became fashionable and displays many of them at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California, where he is a board member.  The MORRIS BROTHERS So-Cal Speed Shop sponsored dry lakes and early drag strip roadster was on display.  Alex Xydias, a close friend of Wally Parks, founded So-Cal Speed Shop and sponsored many cars with that distinctive white and red curved paint job.  Pete Chapouris bought the rights to the old name of So-Cal and reopened the speed shop, which is now successful with stores in several states.  After Alex closed the original store he went to work as an editor and representative of the major car makers.  He is still active in hot rodding to this day and has a video on early hot rodding. 

Barney Navarro’s 1951 Ford flathead engine powered his dry lakes roadster.  Another roadster was the ROTH & RONNOW 1927 T.  Fabian Valdez brought a second car to the show, a lengthened modified dry lakes roadster that he extended.  The bare aluminum, devoid of paint, has its own beautiful and rugged charm and reminded me of the cars that raced on the dry lakes in the 1940’s.  The LEEVER/ESSER/RUTER 1929 Ford Bonneville roadster went 169.17 mph in 1956 at the Salt Flats.  The KING & HANSEN Belly Tank dry lakes car was next to the WARTH/HILBORN replica car that Jim Lattin built in 2004 to honor some of the truly great old names of land speed racing.  I was at Lattin’s place when the car was unveiled and Stu Hilborn sat in the driver’s seat.  Lattin’s private museum has a large selection of car and motorcycles.  Jim Lattin has a drive that isn’t matched by anyone when it comes to collecting, saving and restoring old race cars and bikes.  The original WARTH/HILBORN racer ran at the dry lakes from 1939 to 1948, at Bonneville and was last seen at Great Bend, Kansas in 1955. 

Bruce Meyer displayed his restored So-Cal Speed Shop Belly Tank Lakester.  Bruce is also a member of the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame.  Doug Robinson exhibited his 5-window Deuce dry lakes coupe that is the world’s fastest, now driven by Alan Fogliadini.  The coupe is in the XXF/VGALT class.  I saw more oval track race cars, quarter midgets, sprint cars, midgets and track roadsters.  A very special car was the 1939 Ford flathead powered lakester, THE METEOR, built by Alfred Churchill.  Such old cars are hard to find as most of them have been scrapped or salvaged for parts long ago.  Tony Baron’s ’27 Ford roadster went 153.5 mph in 1980 at Bonneville.  For Ardun engine fans, there was the MUNZ/BUSBY ’32 roadster that runs in the XXF/BSTR class.  I met Bob and Lynn McCoy at the show.  Bob is not only a retired oval track racer, but he was also a rodeo bronco rider and a fantastic artist.  Lynn wrote a book on her husband’s life called CIRCLE OF IMPACT; the true life events of a brave action figure.  Parnelli Jones wrote the foreword to the book.  Bob said that the book has already sold 1500 copies out of a 2000 issuing and if the sales keep up he may order a 2nd printing.  Don’t miss the next GNRS and the treasures that you will find in John Buck’s Building 9.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]