13th NHRA California
Hot Rod Reunion
Bakersfield, CA
October 1-3, 2004
Sent by Michael Hollander
(2 Pages)

Old Friends Congregrate for Roddin’ and Racin’ at the 13th NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion Honorees feted at Friday’s Reception

     There aren't many events where almost everyone asks each other for autographs and to have pictures taken. But then again, there aren't many events like the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, where old friends gather for a warm weekend of reminiscing and fun, all wrapped around the golden age of drag racing and hot rodding.
     The Reunion, now in its 13th year, offers racers, mechanics, fans and everyone whose been involved with the sport on any level during its 50-plus history, a chance to relive their magic moments with thousands of others at Famoso Raceway, just north of Bakersfield.
     While there's nostalgic drag racing and hot rods aplenty at the track, day 1 of the 3-day Reunion, which is presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California and produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, is geared toward the evening's Honoree Reception and party.
     Held at the DoubleTree Hotel, hundreds gather to inside for the awards program then scurry outside as oldtime dragsters are ‘fired-up’ in the driveway to the and the real party begins. Or as master of ceremonies Dave McClelland put it, ‘The parking lot will reek of nitro’.
     The evening's festivities belonged to Grand Marshal Paula Murphy and Honorees ‘Wild’ Bill Alexander, The Frantic Four team of Norman Weekly, Ron Rivero, Dennis Holding and Jim Fox, Tom Medley, Joe Mondello and ‘Famous’ Amos Satterlee, all who played a significant part in the early days of hot rodding. Also honored were the Dust Devils car club who received the Justice Bros. T.V. Tommy Ivo Reunion Spotlight Award; Creighton Hunter, winner of the Golden Age Recipient award; and a much-surprised Art Chrisman who was given the Preservation Award.
     ‘It's so wonderful to have these hot-rod heroes with us for our 'lucky 13th' California Hot Rod Reunion,’ said Greg Sharp, CHRR event director and curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum Curator, producers of the Reunion. ‘Each of them has demonstrated tremendous passion for the sport over several decades of their lives, and their contributions to the heritage of hot rodding have proven to be immeasurable.’
     Paula Murphy: Holds so many ‘firsts’ and ‘fastests’ that it's hard to know where to begin to chronicle her  accomplishments.  She was the first woman licensed drive a fuel funny car, the first woman to drive a race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, she set land speed records at Bonneville and was the first woman to drive a rocket dragster.  She's driven almost every type of racing vehicle known including a 10,000 horsepower jet car and the legendary supercharged Novi, sports cars, stock cars, funny cars and grand prix cars in Monaco.  Murphy might even be responsible for Shirley Muldowney's ‘graduation’ to Funny Cars.  The two had dinner and Murphy suggested that Muldowney move up to Funny Car so that they could have match races and attract more attention for their sponsors.  Muldowney got a ride in Connie Kalitta's car and the rest is history.  Her career in racing was capped by a promotional trip driving around the world in 1976 with champ car racer Johnny Parsons Sr.  The two completed the journey and ended up calling it ‘Around the World in 80 Delays’ because of the many problems they had.
     Bill Alexander: Driver of the legendary ‘Ernie's Camera Shudder Bug’, a Pontiac-powered front-engine Top Fuel dragster with an extremely short wheelbase, ‘Wild Bill’ Alexander crashed the original Shudder Bug in 1964 at the San Fernando dragstrip, but salvaged the engine and races with it in a car rebuilt by his son, Rod.  In 1962, Alexander beat the Greer-Black-Prudhomme fueler at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, Calif.  In 1964, driving for Jim Brisette, he was one of the first to exceed 200 mph with a 202.24 at San Fernando.  He had the second best E.T. of 1964 with a 7.50. In 1965, he was the runner-up to Prudhomme at the Winternationals.  He was low qualifier at the Bakersfield March Meet in 1967 with a 7.19 E.T.  He drove at least ten different dragsters during his career. Alexander was one of the first members of the Nitronic Research AA/FD 5 Second Club, awarded to those whose times are in the 5-second range in front-engine dragsters.
     The 'Frantic Four' Team:  With a driver nicknamed ‘Stormin' Norman’ and a bright-red front-engine Top Fuel dragster, the only thing to wonder about is why they called it the 'Frantic Four.'  But ‘Stormin' Norman' Weekly, Ron Rivero, Dennis Holding and Jim Fox will each have a story to tell at the Reunion.  The genesis of some teams may be lost to history, but the Frantic Four can date their existence from Jan 21, 1963, when the four Southern Californians got together.  The name was derived from the team's amazing performance levels from a small-displacement Chrysler engine.  They set track records from all along the West Coast in 1963.  They had top speed at the 1964 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and beat legends such as Don ‘Big Daddy’ Garlits, Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme and Chris ‘The Greek’ Karamesines.  In 1966, they were among the fastest in drag racing with a speed of 221.66 mph.

Dave with Paula Murphy!

Dave with Bill Alexander!

Dave with Paula Murphy!

Dave with Bill Alexander!

The Frantic Four Team!

The Reunion People!

The Frantic Four Team!

The Reunion People!

     Tom Medley:  Arguably the first hot rod cartoonist, Medley's contributions to the sport are visual and began in the very first issue of Hot Rod magazine, when it was edited by NHRA founder Wally Parks.  He began with the magazine when publisher Robert E. Petersen saw his work posted on the wall at Blair's Speed Shop in Pasadena and invited him to join his soon-to-be-released monthly.  The most important of the cartoon characters he created was 'Stroker' McGurk.  But cartooning wasn't his only talent.  An outstanding photographer, he also sold advertising for years.  He photographed the Indy 500 and Bonneville land speed record trials.  Medley's work at Hot Rod continued through the 1960s, when he turned his attention to the printed word and was appointed publisher of  Rod & Custom magazine.  During his tenure there, he was responsible for the resurgence of street rodding and was instrumental in creating the first Street Rod Nationals in 1970.  Later, he wrote a series of books called ‘Tex Smith's Hot Rod History,’ only fitting, since he was there at the beginning to document it.  Medley is still a popular figure, appearing at numerous annual hot rodding events. 
     Joe Mondello: In 1951, Joe was racing at airports and drag strips throughout Southern California. In the early 1950s, before Joe was 17 years old, he had already ported and relieved more than 50 Ford flat head blocks for the finest engine builders of that era.
     The famed Mondello-Matsubara Blown Fuel Altered won two National Events in the 1960's. In the 60's & 70's, this was the fastest wedge-head Chevrolet, running a 7.24 E.T. @ 213 mph at the 1969 Indy U.S. Nationals. The first 7,6 and 5 second Top Fuel runs and the first 200 mph runs in Top Gas, Top Fuel, Injected Fuel, Fuel Altered were all accomplished using Mondello cylinder heads and Don Garlits set most of these records, making Mondello's the most notable, historically recognized heads.
     Mondello's first car was a '40 Ford coupe with a 303 c.i.d. flat head Ford, four Stromberg carburetors, Edelbrock heads and manifold and an Engle camshaft. In the 1960s, he worked part time for Carroll Shelby, building the performance heads and engines that swept the top four positions in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Traco Engineering, known at the time for extremely fast Indy cars and various sprint cars, used Mondello heads exclusively. In those days, the shop's clientele read like a ‘Who's Who’ of drag racing greats.
     Mondello developed cryogenic techniques to improve performance.  Today, Chevrolet performance cylinder heads still utilize the combustion chamber that Joe designed in the early 1960s known as the Posi-Flow chamber.
     He began doing research and development work for Oldsmobile in 1968 and his ongoing commitment and dedication has merited him the name of ‘Dr. Oldsmobile’.  He has given 44 years of technology and ‘hands on’ experience to the sport of drag racing.  

Wally and Art Chrisman!

Oldschool!

Wally and Art Chrisman!

Oldschool!

Swap Meet!

More of the Swap Meet!

Swap Meet!

More of the Swap Meet!

     Amos Satterlee:  ‘Famous Amos’ Satterlee has been setting records for a long time. He's just not in the car - or boat - when the records are set.  Like many, he started as a driver, but soon found out that his talents were in engine building and tuning.  The La Habra, California-based Satterlee's engines are world famous.  ‘My engines and tuning have 16 world championships,’ Satterlee said.   
     With Art Chrisman and Frank Cannon, he built  Hustler 5 - which, according to Satterlee, ran the unofficial first 200 mph Top Fuel dragster on Chrondek clocks in July, 1964, a feat generally attributed to Don Garlits.  ‘We did it before he did.  Garlits' claims it.  I hate to embarrass the old man, but facts are facts.  Frank Cannon deserves the recognition.  Art Chrisman knows about it.  He was part of the deal then,’ he said. ‘I run a Top Fuel sand dragster now. We hold all the records in sand drags.’ 
Satterlee is proud of his accomplishments in NHRA Funny Car competition as well.  ‘We won a whole bunch of races with Craig Epperly in a Funny Car.  We worked with Mickey Thompson and Danny Ongais and won almost everything. We won Indy that year.  It is a very big race.  Back in those days, it was a very big race.’
     He was known as the ‘guru’ of  Ford fuel altereds as far back as 1976, when he tuned John Aleman's SOHC 23T.  He's been married to Armida, who most of the old-timers call ‘Billy’, for 55 years.  ‘She's a good woman, put up with me and racing all these years.’  He has two sons, three daughters, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He's still an engine tuner, both in cars and drag boats and currently wrenches on a 1995 Oldsmobile Funny Car and on a Top Fuel Hydro boat for Speed Sports.
     Dust Devils:  Winners of the Justice Bros. T.V. Tommy Ivo Reunion Spotlight Award, the Dust Devils are one of the oldest hot rodding clubs in California.  Founded in 1953, the club's purpose was to create an entity that could contract with Kern County to create racing at Inyokern Airport.  Inyokern, the world's oldest continuously used drag strip, is a monument to drag racing.  The club is celebrating the 50th anniversary of racing at the track.  They were very active in providing personnel for early NHRA Winternationals races in Pomona.  Among the members of the club is Bernie Partridge, long time division director and now a retired NHRA vice president.  In 1963, the Dust Devils operated the Hot Rod Magazine drag races in Riverside and purchased the first ‘Christmas Tree’ light system in California.  They made money renting the system and their services to other drag strips throughout the state.  The late Roberta Leighton, a member of the club, was the first woman to receive an NHRA competition license.  She won the 1962 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, becoming the first woman to earn a national title.
     The weather cooperated as drag racers took to the track, making 196 runs during Friday qualifications for this weekend's 13th Annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California.  The 3-day event benefits the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
     Stepping up to the plate early was Bill Dunlap of Capitola, Calif. in his 2004 Uyehara, with a quick 5.819 second time and a speed of 248.34 miles per hour for the top time of the day.  Top Fuel will have its first night elimination session during Saturday's activities at Famoso Raceway.
     Scott Mayson brought his 02 Neil and Parks dragster all the way from Syracuse, NY and qualified fifth fastest at 5.989 seconds and 244.49 miles per hour.
     Although the type of racing is called nostalgia drag racing, it's more like nostalgia-style drag racing, with teams building and re-building new vehicles in the style of those raced in the early days of the sport, the 1950's and 1960's.

The following is some pics of Saturday’s event.

The Honorees!

Autoclub!

The Honorees!

Autoclub!

Grove!

Wheels up!

Grove!

Wheels up!

Crowd at the Cackle!

Crowd at the Cackle!

Crowd at the Cackle!

Crowd at the Cackle!

Addict!

Art!

Addict!

Art!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

Cackle!

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