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Colorful 2014 Grand National Roadster Show Stories Part 2

Colorful 2014 Grand National Roadster Show Stories Part 2

Story by Richard Parks
Photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

     The Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) was held on January 24-26, 2014 at the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California.  Seven buildings and a great amount of outdoor space was utilized to bring us one of the premier hot rodding and roadster shows in the country.  Robin Millar, daughter of the late hot rod cartoonist Pete Millar, brought an exhibit of her father’s work.  Pete was a favorite among young drag racers and hot rodders growing up in the ‘60’s for his acid-tongued commentary and his exceptional artwork.  His satire and witty cartoon books are still in vogue, though the people he caricatured are mostly gone now.  Millar saw how marketing had changed in the speed equipment industry and created an icon called “The Camfather.”  He peopled his world after real people and saw the humor in a sometimes cantankerous and combative era among the early drag racers.  Today we can laugh about his characters and the battles they fought among one another in his series.  Millar and Tom Medley were two of the best cartoon artists.  Robin and her mother, Ora Mae Millar, continue to find and reprint Pete’s work and make it available to his fans.

     John Weatherwax and Mike Greeley exhibited their LSR C/Gas Roadster, the #114 car.  John owns Cutting Edge Metal Specialties in Costa Mesa, California and has gone 221 MPH on a 231 record, which he is set upon breaking.  He is one of the Jack’s Garage regulars.  Jack Underwood, of course, is the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame LSR historian and opens his garage to all car guys every single day from 7-9 AM.  John asked Jack if he could use Jack’s old number 114; a number that has a long history behind it.  You never know who you will meet at the GNRS.  Phill Whetstone introduced himself; he is one of the premier pinstripers and past host of the “Brush Off Party.”  I had heard about this party, one in which it is hard to get an invitation to.  “Not so,” said Phill.  “I took over the Brush Off Party from Kim Dedic and ran it for ten years.  Kim started the Party around Christmas one year with Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and it was sort of a Rat Fink Party.  I sent out invitations and cut off the guest list because the place we were meeting was not very large.  We brought our pinstriping work and exchanged it as a sort of Christmas gift exchange.  Once a man from back East hurriedly made something and was embarrassed that other works of art were more elaborate.  I got his work and was happy with it and he came up and thanked me, since I was the host.  Next year he brought me a work of his that was outstanding.  Ron Foreman in Upland has taken over the Brush Off Party and keeps it going,” commented Phill.

     Another honored gent is Jack Stewart and he is a long-standing member of the L. A. Roadster Club and good friend.  He has quite a few books left from the 50th Anniversary of the NHRA if anyone would like a copy.  He and the late Dick Wells collaborated on the book, L. A. ROADSTERS, and bought up Art Bagnall’s remaining books on Roy Richter and Bell Auto Parts.  All three books have been reviewed in the book review section of  Jack has lots of stories to tell about his early hot rodding days, including friends George Barris and Neal East.  Three artists of note at the GNRS are; Tom Fritz, Doug Horne and Kent Reppert II.  Tom Fritz is one of the great hot rod and racing artists.  His works catch the spirit of the times and his work hangs in the homes of many hot rodders.  Doug and Kent represent a brooding, dark and very real aspect of early rebels in our sport.  Sort of edgy and yet also appealing to those who don’t really want to kowtow to silly rules.  Kent’s alter ego is a zoo full of animals that only Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s Rat Fink could understand.  It is a world that would horrify Walt Disney, with Rat, Wolf, Jackalope, Deer, Booze Dog and a host of other scruffy animals always on the make and always failing.  How could we not see the connection between Reppert’s world and the world of the early rebellious hot rodder.  As dingy as his characters are they seem lovable losers and loath to conform to any of society’s rules.  Reppert’s art seems to grow on me and though he is edgy, I think he will find a steady market in the Alternative and Traditional hot rodding community.

     The North American Eagle LSR car was on display outside of the Suede Palace.  This huge car is going to attempt to set the unlimited land speed record at a lake in Oregon in June, driven by Jessi Combs.  She starred in several TV shows as a metalworker and fabricator and landed the co-driving spot on the big LSR car.  Ed Shadle will take over and drive the car in August or September in Nevada.  Along with Ed and Jessie I spoke to Steve Green and Keith Zanghi who told me that there are over 40 volunteers working on this LSR project, in and around the Seattle, Washington area.  Inside building nine I met one of the sponsors, Jerry Kugel Components.  Jerry has been building outstanding roadsters and race cars for more than fifty years and he also broke both of my brother’s Bonneville records by exactly 81 MPH.  But not before my brother, David Parks, got into the 200 MPH club at El Mirage, Bonneville and Muroc. 

     A very special supporter of the Century of Speed exhibit is the Museum of American Speed, founded by Bill Smith, located in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This will become a huge repository of automotive racing history with 135,000 square feet of space, over four times larger than the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum and equal to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  Bill Smith started a speed shop in the Midwest that was pivotal in that area.  He also hired young men like Tex Smith and Dick Wells, who would go on to successful careers in journalism.  Bill has been a tireless supporter of racers and racing groups and now his crowning achievement is the Museum of American Speed at 599 Oak Creek Drive, Lincoln, Nebraska.  I spoke to Jarrid Roulet, the exhibit designer and John MacKichan, head of museum operations.  “We have programs set up to tape verbal biographies,” MacKichan told me.  The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is undergoing a modernization plan that will change the inside and outside of their facility into a modernist vision of the future.

     Nick Arias Jr and Fred Blanchard represented Arias Engineering and with them were Tom Curnow, Sonny Diaz and “The Real” Bill Schultz.  Bill’s car graced the cover of the January 1958 issue of HOT ROD magazine.  Tom Bryant stopped to say hello.  Tom has been in land speed racing most of his life.  Bryant, Arias and Blanchard have appeared in stories and bios that I wrote for  Mike Manghelli, Joanne Carlson, Mike and Penny Cook, Lee Thyer, Jim Travis, Mike Kilgore, Jim Miller, Burly Burlile, Mikey Spacek, Dan Warner, Brad Bosworth, ‘Turbo’ Bob Young, Scott and Sandee Andrews and Werner Schwartz were others that I met at the GNRS.  Tom Thibodeau and Jay Frame helped all the LSR people get their cars in place during the set up days.  Manghelli is a past president of the SCTA and is very active as a leader in the group.  Scott Andrews is the current president of the SCTA and Schwartz is the secretary.  Sandee helped set up the SCTA/BNI booth, with carpets, chairs and two sofas.  She arranged for food and drinks to make visitors feel welcome.  There was also a screen to play videos by Mark Brazeau and other videographers and photographers.  Sandee turned a simple booth into a home away from home and it was appreciated by all, especially when their feet began to hurt from all the walking on concrete.  Carlson has worked in the SCTA office for years and is always so helpful whenever there are questions raised.  Spacek is a regular of Jack’s Garage, the famous hangout not far from the Donut Derelicts.  Mike Cook is a past president of the SCTA and member of the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame.  Mike owns and operates Cook’s Shootout, an invitational only race at Bonneville.  Warner is a SCTA official and writes reports on El Mirage and Bonneville which we post at

     Tom Long came all the way from Georgia to donate one of his very special die cast models to the Save The Salt program.  Burly Burlile came from Mendon, Utah with his friends in the VW Challenge group.  Burly is one of the best historians on the history of VW land speed racing.  He is constantly seeking new knowledge on every record set by the little cars.  It isn’t easy establishing the little cars, but Burly is committed to seeing that they get their day in the sun.  The VW Challenge group will go nearly anywhere, anytime to pursue records in their established categories.  You’ll see VW racing cars at the Maine, Ohio, Texas, Mojave Mile, El Mirage and Bonneville courses.  They even keep in touch with similar groups in Australia.  The cars may be small but they exult in getting every hundredth of a mile more out of each run and they have proven that running the smaller cars and motors can be just as satisfying as any other class.  Jim Miller introduced me to Steve Memishian and his daughter, Pascal Memishian, who came all the way from New York to see the show.  Steve created his own business and thrived, but at heart he was always a hot rodder and some time back he founded the non-profit American Hot Rod Foundation, with Jim Miller as his archivist and historian.  Information on this group can be seen on their website at  Jim Miller comes from three generations of a racing family.  His grandfather was a riding mechanic in the Indy 500 during the ‘teens (1910’s), his father raced at Muroc in the earliest days and Jim owns a red hat and has been inducted into the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame as a Historian.  He is also the co-founder and current president of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].  

American Hot Rod Foundation booth (L-R) front row, Meoan McDermott, Pascal Memishian, Casandra Nuss. Back row, Richard Parks, Jim Miller.