Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Bud and Lynne Rasmus
Photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum held their monthly cruise on July 6, 2011 and Roger told me that I must go. It appears that we haven’t gone to one of their Twilight cruises in almost three years and so I was told that we should show more loyalty to a fine museum. The week of the cruise Roger informed me that something had come up and I would have to do the show myself. I invited my wife, Epi, and her cousin Elena Fano from Texas, who was visiting, to join me for a wonderful time at the museum. Off we went and the traffic was light, the day was sunny and warm and the drive peaceful. There weren’t many cars at the cruise when we got there, but there was a surprise; a row of some thirty vintage top fuelers and some fuel altereds and other race cars. The AA/FD slingshots were the most impressive. Of course the Winged Express, a fuel altered is a fan favorite. Just walking up and down the neat row was a thrill and for those who stayed late, there was the smell of nitro and the roar of a few engines when they were lit up. But this was Noon and the temperature was 96 degrees and so we decided to go into the museum and cool off. I registered my two guests through two of my nine lifetime passes and then we explored this wonderful place just full of history. I met Bud and Lynne Rasmus, old friends and die-hard drag racing fans and supporters and they graciously offered to be the photographer, on this occasion.
I ran into John Ewald, who had brought one of his vintage nostalgia dragsters. John is an old friend and email buddy and he keeps me clued in to the news of the day. I also ran into David May, another fan of drag racing who tirelessly hands out flyers and posters informing the fans of coming events. He told me that there is going to be some exciting news in Southern California drag racing, but that he can’t tell me about it quite yet, until it is official. John Duran stopped by to say hello. John volunteers for the Cruise and the various car shows and he knows what is going on. I very much appreciate all the help that he gives to Roger and me because it makes it so much easier to cover all the news. I ran into another friend who works at the museum and he inquired about the stock car Suddenly and Wally’s Roadster. As these cars are not in my possession or ownership, I could only refer the staff member to the owners of the cars so that the museum can contract with the owners to display the vehicles. About that time the two ladies came out and asked to go home. Something unpleasant had happened and so we cut short the visit and left the museum. I had to come back on Sunday to lead a tour and so this report covers two events in one. On the way home I was stopped for an infraction. Going to the museum was an expensive and vexing outing that day.
Still, the row of fabulous dragsters was a sight to behold. Those who came later that evening were in for a real treat. A special thank you is due to the sponsors of the event; Prolong oil additives and the Auto Club of Southern California. Out in the parking lot was the orange ’50 Ford coupe belonging to Steve and Gloria Gibbs. This car is seen at car shows all over the Southern California area and it is a real show stopper. The following slingshots were in a row; the AA/FD of John Ewald; Baney & Rossi ’64 Yeakel Plymouth Special; the Old Master, driven by Mike Snively; Walt Zaveruka’s Samurai; the Warren/Coburn/Miller Ridge Route Terrors; Hustler I owned by the Chrisman Brothers; Tom ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen dragster; the Mike Kuhl & Carl Olson dragster; the Watch Dog, driven by Steve Carbone, John Mulligan, Tommy Allen and Tom McEwen; Wynn’s 11 driven by Don Garlits; an untitled and unpainted slingshot; Magicar driven by the Winkel & Trapp team; Santa Fe Thunder Chief; Mighty Mouse by Gruzen Racing; Addict, driven by Childs/Albert/Toler; the McCloud Brothers & Dave Mad Dog McKenzie dragster; ’63 Fat Man, driven by Doug Robinson and Pete Morrisroe; Hustler VI by the Chrisman Brothers; Tommy Ivo AA/FD; California Dreamin’ by Hans Jakob; the Tocco/Harper/Garten ’69 AA Fuel Altered; and the Marcellus & Borsch Winged Express Fuel Altered. In addition there was the Conroy Brothers Junior Dragster driven by Damon Bustamante and the 1960’s Mr Ed custom dragster trailer.
Sunday I returned to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum to give a private tour to the Albert Forteville family. Albert and Dorothy Forteville are related to my mother’s first cousin and I had promised them a tour for a long time. I eluded the CHP and we arrived at the museum just after noon. I greeted Ed at the front desk and signed in my guests; those nine lifetime membership plaques sure come in handy. We toured the facility and it was amazing that we only spent two hours inside as the memories flowed back. We often forget that our racing heritage began in the early 1930’s and continues strong to this very day. After the tour was over and the Forteville family had taken their photographs I suggested that we go over to the train museum and check it out. We got there just in time and the docents held up the closing time until we had seen all the trains on display. The train museum is hidden deep inside the Los Angeles County Fairplex. They try their best to advertise, but many people simply don’t know about this well-kept facility. If you tell the guard at Gate 1 on the Fairplex grounds, he will direct you to the museum. Parking at the museum is free and there is no fee to see the trains, but a donation helps to keep them going and to buy supplies. What you will see are two rows of locomotives, a caboose, sleeper car and the enclosed horse car that transported the horse in the movie called Seabiscuit. One of their locomotives or engines is the biggest model ever made. They had to drive the trains on special tracks from a siding about a mile away. The docents are very knowledgeable and very friendly and are glad to answer all your questions. So when you visit the Motorsports museum, plan to also see the Train museum as well. An added bonus was escaping the CHP on my way home.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].