Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum Twilight Cruise
Pomona, CA

Story by Richard Parks and photographs by Roger Rohrdanz

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  The first Prolong Twilight Cruise for this year, co-sponsored by Budweiser, was held on April 2, 2008. This well-known event is supported by the Cal Rods Car Club on the first Wednesday of the month, April through December. The site for the cruise, which starts around 4pm, is in the parking lot of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, sponsored by the Auto Club of Southern California. The Auto Club has been a generous sponsor of the museum, drag and other racing activities for nearly a century. Before the cruise began, a media day was arranged by the Museum for around 200 sports writers and photographers to see the unveiling of the new HOT ROD Magazine and Speed Parts Exhibit, scheduled to run through the spring and early summer. Some of the special guests were TV Tom Ivo, Dave and Louise McClelland, Pete Chapouris, Ed Justice Jr, Margie Petersen, Gigi Carlson, Doug Stokes and Thom Taylor. John Fell brought the ‘HOT ROD Special’ race boat, Cream Puff, which he restored. Greg Sharp welcomed 


The event sign shows the addition of Budweiser as a sponsor

us to the exhibits and the museum. Some of the writers and photographers were Lee Kelly, Bob D’Olivo, Dave Dillahunty, Cam Benty, Pat Ganahl, Roger Rohrdanz, James Drew, Dave Wallace Jr and Bob McMillian. The media presentation began to break up and it was time to go outside and see the Prolong Twilight Cruise sponsored by Prolong Car Care Products and Budweiser.

  The weatherman had predicted cold and rain and this depressed the turnout. The weatherman was wrong. The weather was clear, sunny and beautiful and those that missed the first Twilight Cruise of the year missed a great opportunity to show off their cars in perfect weather. John Duran, a member of the Cal Rods car club that volunteers their services to help run the event, let us borrow his golf cart to get around the spacious parking lot. John is one of those helpful hot rodders that make things so much easier by his careful attention to detail and dedicated service. Vic Cunnyngham, a senior member of the Cal Rods, offered to be the driver and introduce us to some of the Cal Rods members and other car show attendees. First he had to show us his ’57 T-Bird convertible with a hard top. He alternates the hard top with a soft top as well or just goes ‘bare.’ The car was originally owned by Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy and was also driven by their sons, teen idols Shawn and David Cassidy. They sold the car to Kent McCord, another TV actor, who sold the car to Vic. George Lidyard waved hello as we drove by. Lidyard is another member of the large Cal Rods car club and they are taking new members into their club. 

  Vic stopped the cart and introduced us to Charlie Tachdjian, also a member of the Cal Rods car club and a former car dealer. Charlie sold his eleven car dealerships in 1998. “I started in 1967 with the Datsun dealership in Glendale and expanded to Oldsmobile, AMC Jeep, Mazda, Dodge and Porsche/Audi over the years,” he told me. I asked him why Mazda has this obnoxious ZoomZoom ad on TV. Charlie who sat on the Advertising Board for the car company told me that it is a catchy ad that stays in the minds of the public. All I could think of was strangling the actor who kept zoomzooming his way into my mind.  “It’s a merciless business to be in,” Tachdjian said. “The car companies make you pay up front, in cash and they keep sending you cars in an up or down market. Lots of dealerships go broke and I would buy them and restore them, then sell them to people who think they knew how to sell cars. I had 500 employees at one time, but my body was telling me that it was time to get out,” he told us. But Charlie couldn’t keep away and within the month he will open a brand new dealership at Towne and Arrow Hwy in Pomona, dedicated to selling American classic cars and called just that, American Classic Cars. “My daughters, Marilyn and Carol are going to be my partners and we’re going to have fun doing this. We’re going to host our own car shows and have a free barbecue for those who come,” he finished. 

  Big John Morehead, another Cal Rod car club member came over to say hello. The Cal Rods are about the friendliest and most active car club in the area. Museum Director, Tony Thacker, was out passing out the brand new Museum Newsletter and stopped to talk with Vic. Vic suggested a ‘gas-light’ car show where all the cars would be equipped with kerosene headlights. Guess how old your car would have to be to gain entrance? The newsletter was really interesting and the graphics were great. It’s also free and you can sign up to receive the newsletter by calling 909-622-2133 and giving them your address. It comes out quarterly and is a handy guide for all the events hosted by the museum. Steve McElroy, a real hot rodder and friend strolled by. He’s also an old E-boat racing champ and was on the board of directors for the Boat Racers Reunion, which Don Edwards and I founded back in 2000. Bob Garner was with Steve. Garner was a member of the NDBA, or National Drag Boat Association and he has raced against some of the best and is now on the board of the Boat Racers Reunion. Captain Ed Ballinger and his brother-in-law, Fred Fowlkes said hello. Ballinger raced jet cars in the ‘60’s and helped Craig Breedlove on his land speed jet cars. He asked about the book review that I did on Ky Michaelson’s book, “Rocketman,” and I told him it has been finished and sent to www.hotrodhotline.com. There have been very few people who have led as exciting a life as Capt’ Ed and Ky ‘the Rocketman’ Michaelson.  Ed told me that there is a new land speed team forming to compete with the North American Eagle team and the Fossett group. 

  Bob Muravez was on hand to see the Twilight Cruise. Bob is sometimes known by his alter-ego name of Floyd J. Lippincott Jr. Muravez loved to go drag racing, but his parents were deathly afraid that he would get hurt and told him that he couldn’t go drag racing. Bob went anyway and found a nice sounding name, Floyd J. Lippincott Jr, to use as his racing name. He won a lot of races and people from coast to coast wondered just who this Lippincott fellow really was. Bobbie Colgrove greeted us with her big and warm smile. She is a lady journalist who was one of the first to break into the all-boy network at the Indy 500 and other racing leagues. She is a member of many writers and photographer’s associations, including AARWBA. Blake Bowser was on hand to represent the Auto Club Famoso Raceway, near Bakersfield, California. He and his father John operate the well-known drag strip and put on the famous March Meet, once called the Smoker’s meet after the famous car club. The Smoker’s put on a drag race in order to raise money to go back and see the Indy 500. They spent their money on an open wheel race! Art Chrisman and Carl Von Hosgaardan were in attendance at the cruise. Art is part of the famous Chrisman family of land speed and drag racing fame. The early days of drag racing owes much to the Chrisman’s. 

  Someone who was missing from the cruise was Eric Rickman. Eric was a pioneer in drag racing and was an outstanding early day photographer for HOT ROD Magazine and other publications. He was also an original member of the NHRA Safety Safari and one of the most knowledgeable and likable hot rodders you will ever meet. Unfortunately, he was in a horrible car accident and is home recovering from his injuries. Cunnyngham told us that the Cal Rods are going to restore St James Davis’ 1932 Ford coupe powered by a Hemi and dual headers. Street Rodder Magazine is going to do a story on the car after it is restored. Davis painted John Mazmanian’s cars and was also a NASCAR driver.  Davis was active in saving wild animals and a few years ago he was severely injured by several chimpanzees when they escaped from their enclosure. The Cal Rods car club restored my father’s hot rod and has helped many organizations in raising money over the years. Our thanks go to this fine club for their enthusiasm for the hot rodding movement.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]


Vic Cunnyngham (driving) offered to be the driver and introduce Richard Parks to some of the Cal Rods members and other car show attendees.


The Twilight Cruise always has great security, thanks to these guys.


The featured manufacturer tonight was Chrysler/Plymouth. They get a special place along the fence. 




From Oak Hills, CA this unique, 392 Hemi powered, ’56 Plymouth Fury is owned by Bob Garman.


One of “The Picks” tonight was this small block powered, 4 speed, classic ’32 Ford 3 window owned by Terry Stoker of Ontario, CA.


Parked along the grass parkway was this very red, rare ’36 Willys model 77 Coupe owned by Bob Sharp of Monrovia, CA.


A clean ’39 Chevy 2 door Master 85 coupe sits in front of the Museum. Owned by Bill Poteet from Glendale, CA.


Another early arrival from Alhambra, CA. Vic Lucchesi parks his sharp 468 cu in Chevy powered ’55 Chevy in front of the Museum.


“Thumper” McDowell’s interesting 340 Plymouth powered ’32 Ford Roadster from Pomona, CA,


Talk about different, Carlos brought his ’23 Ford “C” Cab, with 327 Chevy powered and original Hildebrant spoke wheels.


Art Chrisman brought his pristine ’57 Ford Ranchero he’s owned since 1968. Oh yah, it’s got a little 428 Ford Cobra Jet motor in it.


A pair of ’40 Chevy Coupes. On the left is “Born Fat”, LT1 Chevy powered, owned by Mike Fillmore of Upland, CA. The red one is small block Chevy powered and belongs to Howard Canter of Glendora, CA.


“TV” Tommy Ivo is admiring this stunning ’55 Chevy belonging to Charlie Tachdjian of La Verne, CA.

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