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Ford Racing Celebration at Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

Thanks to Bill Groak  for sending in this great little snapshot of a memorable get together…...

Moderator Dave McClelland holds up an old Hot Rod book from the '50's

featuring Alex  Xydias So Cal Speed Shop Cars !

POMONA, Calif. (Dec. 17, 2003) -

What happens when six pioneers in motorsports get together to swap race stories? Well, when it includes legends such as Art Chrisman, Alex Xydias, Bobby Meeks, Jim Dilamarter, Bill Stroppe Jr. and Wally Parks, you get lots of insight, plenty of history, a taste of irrelevance and a whole lot of fun. And that was the perfect receipt for the approximately 250 who turned out for the recent "Brunch with Art & Alex and Friends" event at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif.   

Brought together as part of the Museum's latest exhibit, "100 Years of Ford Racing Heritage," the all-star lineup was in top form, each offering glib, personal views of Ford motorsports and their own legendary exploits. Moderator Dave McClelland kept the program flowing, making sure the panel discussion format was crisp and light, loaded with laughs and lore.

Soon-to-be 91-year-old Wally Parks, the founder of the NHRA, started the fun:  "I wasn't around when Ford started 100 years ago…but I wasn't far behind." From there, each panelist introduced themselves. William "Willie" Stroppe Jr., president of Stroppe & Sons and son of fabled Ford Racing sage Bill Stroppe, candidly told the crowd, "My dad was a hard act to follow."

 

Famed flathead Ford engine builder Bobby Meeks

signs an autograph after the event !

 

The all legendary lineup at the Brunch with Art & Alex and Friends.  Event included Wally Parks, Bobby Meeks, Bill Stroppe Jr, Jim Dilamarter, Alex Xydias and Art Chrisman !

"I'm honored to be here with people like myself," Alex Xydias, Founder of So-Cal Speed Shop and a land speed pioneer, chimed in. "I was going to take credit for building all my engines…but Bobby Meeks is here. Damn!"

Xydias kept the crowd laughing, by adding, "The scariest job in racing was riding shotgun with Bill Stroppe."

Meeks, the famed Ford flathead engine builder who began working with Vic Edelbrock Sr. back in the late 1930s, told many good yarns.  "I took care of Vic Edelbrock Jr. when he was growing up. I taught him to behave…and don't tell anybody nuthin!"

Meeks offered special insight into the experimentation of nitro methane as a fuel additive. "What made me use nitro methane? Everyone else was afraid of it…and that was good. I started experimenting with and thought, 'Boy, this stuff is pretty good!' I kept adding more and more and we'd go faster and faster. And folks kept asking, 'What are those guys doin'?'"

Egged on by Vic Edelbrock Jr., who was in the audience with his wife Nancy, Meeks told the story of how he and his crew had kept his "secret ingredient" quiet at Bonneville back in the '40's. "We were running the flathead with nitro in Bonneville and the valves would get real hot. At night we'd have to sneak behind the hotel room, use the light from the bathroom and replace the valves. Everyone thought we were just sleepin'."

The use of nitro - and how it was kept hidden - was the liveliest of debates during the brunch. "We were cheaters before they (drag racers using then illegal nitro methane) were," said Parks. "We were hot rodders. We knew how to cheat."

"Yeah, I blew up a lot of engines using nitro…but we went fast," said racing icon Art Crisman.

Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing Team Crew Chief Jim Dilamarter surprised everyone when he told the crowd, "We qualified a lot with nitro!"

"That revelation was worth the price of admission today," said McClelland.


Vic Edelbrock Jr., whose Dad hired Bobby Meeks in the late 1930's was in the audience at the

"Brunch with Art and Alex and Friends" !

"After one run on the dyno using a can of nitro, I called Commercial Solvents and ordered a barrel of the stuff," said Meeks.
After an hour of non-stop stories, the panelist fielded questions from the audience. One was about "speed secrets" and if they were shared. "Never share one speed secret with one living being," was the advice from Xydias.

Dilamarter was asked about the ongoing CART/IRL feud. "The open-wheel racing wars have created a disaster. I'm sorry to see the situation. It was foolish of CART to take on Tony George and the IRL because the Indianapolis 500 is the mecca of open-wheel racing. This allowed NASCAR to surge ahead in the TV ratings, sponsorship and taking young drivers."
On the NHRA front, Parks gave a brief overview, saying "Drag racing is the number one form of motorsports for participation and continues to grow." He added, "I read that one dragster puts out more horsepower than the first four rows of cars at a NASCAR race."

The brunch highlighted the new Ford Racing exhibit, which runs until Feb 6, 2004. It features "999," on special loan from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., one of Ford's earliest successful racing cars, along with a John Force NHRA Funny Car, Bobby Unser's Pikes Peak-winning Ford Torino, an original Ford GT40, the So-Cal Speed Shop's "belly tank," Parnelli Jones' "Big Oly" Ford Bronco, "The Assassin" front-engined top fuel dragster and much more.

Named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.

 

 

Looks like a great event and fun get together.  We thank the NHRA !

The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors 60 and older, $3 for juniors 6 through 15, and free for children under the age of 5. The Museum is also available for private parties, meetings, corporate events, weddings and special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit www.nhra.com/museum.

 

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