2005 National Hot Rod Reunion:
Georgians in the spotlight at Bowling Green
2005 National Hot Rod Reunion:
Georgians in the spotlight at Bowling Green
by David Dilbeck, Editor
Having had a great time at the first two Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunions (presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes), I didn't need further motivation for heading to Bowling Green for this year's event, but when Hubert Platt informed me several months ago that he had been selected as one of the honorees, that just added to my anticipation and excitement.
Then I received more good news when Tony Bobo told me that his dad, Lamar Bunky Bobo, and the Bobo family were going to be finished with the restoration of the Hemi Hurricane Willys gasser in time to take it to the event. GeorgiaDragRacing.com had been following the restoration of the Bobo's Willys gasser, but I had never met Bunky and Tony and this would be my chance to finally meet them and see the Hemi Hurricane. (See Hemi Hurricane Restoration.)
To top off the Georgia related news, Randy Payne (Mr. Big Stuff) let me know that he and his wife, Judy, would also be in attendance for the unveiling of the first Platt & Payne 2005 Mustang.
After having surgery late last year and having ongoing health problems, I wasn't planning to attend the 2005 NHRR, but, because of all the Georgia-related activities, I decided I had to make the trip. Even though I shouldn't have gone, I'm sure glad I did! Without the assistance of my friends Fred Simmons, Marvin T. Smith, Mr. Ed Miles, and Bob Beasley, the trip would have been impossible for me. Thanks, guys!
We arrived in Bowling Green mid-day Friday, checked into our motel and headed for the track. It's always amazing to see the seemingly-never-ending display of drag cars, hot rods and customs! We stopped by and picked up our media credentials effortlessly from Michael Hollander, then entered the track to see which great cars were on display this year!
The Winged Express, Don Garlits' Swamp Rat 1-B, Dave Hales and Fred Bear's Willys, Barb Hamilton's Willys, Rocky Pirrone's Willys - the cars and drag racers that were on hand were fantastic again this year. There were just too many to even try to list them.
Dan Storey had the Hubert Platt long nose Mustang on display along with his Tennessee Thunder Fords and Hubert had set up an area there to sign autographs. We chatted a little while with them and then I was off in search of the Bobos and the Hemi Hurricane.
It didn't take long to find them and get a look at the Willys. The car is beautifully restored and it was great to finally meet Bunky and Tony. Great job on the restoration, guys!
I'm not the only one who thought so, as the car won the Soffseal Show & Shine Best of the Best award for the Memory Lane cars!
We had to make the most of our time at the track Friday afternoon, so off I went to take more photos. As I walked around I saw the RSC Collectibles booth and had stop and say hello to the Stinsons. They're very nice people and they produce some great early Pro Stock 1:24 scale diecast cars - Wally Booth's Camaro will be the next one released.
(See Grumpy's Toy IV - 1968 Pro Stock Camaro - by RSC for a review of one of their Pro Stock diecast cars.)
After a little more time looking over the great full-size cars on display, I headed for the starting line to catch some action on the strip.
Of course watching all of the nostalgia and Top Fuel cars was great, but Funny Cars have always been one of my favorite classes.
Lou Sgro, Joe Jacono (in Bob Rosetty's Rollin' Stoned 'Cuda) and Rick Lawrence in the Minnesota Maniac 'Cuda were busy with their alky floppers, smoking in the place with half track burnouts. Lou was also bringing back long ago memories with his dry hops! These cars have the performance to match their outstanding appearance.
Since the GeorgiaDragRacing.com gang needed to be back at the motel for the media reception at 6 PM, we had to leave the track much sooner than we wanted to.
The media reception was great fun with food, drink and more drag racing celebrities than we had time to talk to. I had a chance to talk to Hubert Platt, Randy Payne, Dave Hales, Broadway Bob, Ohio George Montgomery and Malcolm Durham while we were there and I'd like to thank Randy and Judy Payne for giving me a very limited quantity 2005 Platt and Payne Mustang cap, too!
Too many legends and not enough time!
I also had a chance to talk to NHRR media rep Bill Groak (and thank him for all of his assistance over the years) before heading over to the ceremony for the honorees.
Drag racing legends, race cars, hot rods, customs, rat rods, a fueler to fire up - there was something on display outside the Holiday Inn for just about any car or drag racing fan. Inside, Sam Jackson and Steve Gibbs spoke to the gathered crowd and Dave McClelland was once again the MC.
Thanks to Nancy Wilson (organizer of the annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame & Reunion in Henderson, NC - October 14-16, 2005, the GeorgiaDragRacing.com gang had great seats at her table. Racers Billy West and FE Bob Fermier (Fermier Bros) also were seated with us. Scott Mason, who recently purchased one of Bill Mullins' twin Chrysler Top Gas dragsters (for restoration), joined us, too.
During the ceremony, Ronnie Sox accepted the National Hot Rod Association Wally Parks Museum Board of Directors Award for Sox & Martin from Dick Wells. It was great to see Ronnie, especially after his recent health battles and he was given a standing ovation!
Ken Hertlinde presented the S&S Racing Team the Don Garlits Trophy for the Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight Award. Porky Zartman was the spokesman for the attending members (Malcolm Durham, Porky Zartman, Gene Altizer, Fred Bear and Dave Hales -- K.S. Pittman was unable to attend due to his health and Charlie Hill is deceased). Zartman thanked, along with others, the NHRA for bringing the NHRR to the east coast.
When Super Stock, Funny Car and Pro Stock pioneer Hubert Platt (the Georgia Shaker) was presented with his NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award, Platt made his acceptance speech with his usual flair that left the crowd laughing. You never know what you'll get when you talk to Hubert or give him a microphone. Once a showman, always a showman!
Corky Coker, the Dead End Kids (Maurice "Spider" Razon, Red Lang and Joe Anahory -- Rest in Peace, Joe), Sy Sidebotham and Arlen Vanke were also presented "Wallys" for their lifetime achievements in drag racing. Grand Marshal "Gentleman Joe" Schubeck then took the stage for his award and acceptance speech.
Near the end of the ceremony, Dave McClelland auctioned off two items to help the NHRA museum with funding. First, Hubert Platt had donated a framed photo collage of his cars (created by Fred Simmons with great effort and care) and it sold for $525. Next, an event banner from the reunion sold for $400.
Georgia's Tom Long, president of GMP, has been a sponsor of the NHRR all three years. Again, GMP sponsored the oldies concert with Gary Lewis & the Playboys performing this year.
As a bonus during the awards ceremony, Tom announced that the GMP Greer-Black-Prudhomme diecast cars displayed on each table would be awarded to the person that had an orange dot sticker on their chair. I was the very surprised winner at our table! Thanks, Tom!
(Check out the review of this great dragster diecast on GeorgiaDragRacing.com.)
As the ceremony came to a close, most people headed outside for the fire-up of the fueler, but I stayed inside to get a few autographs. Gentleman Joe Schubeck, Akron Arlen Vanke and Kenny Safford signed several items for me (and for a few friends that weren't able to attend). I was particularly happy that I finally had Kenny Safford sign a photo of him driving the '69 Mr. Norm's Super Charger (one of my favorite funny cars). I also had a chance to visit with David Burlington and view his exceptional photos from the CHRR before heading back to my room to rest up for the long day Saturday.
Well, Saturday didn't really start out as planned. We decided to leave for the track mid-morning (as we usually do) and boy was that a mistake. I think half of Kentucky decided to go to Beech Bend Park when we did. A noticeably-absent police force caused our normal half-hour (with traffic) ride to the track to turn into a two hour ordeal. This was only about a 10 mile trip.
After arriving at the track, Michael Hollander saved us once again by issuing another media credential to Fred. We had discovered that Fred didn't have the bag with his credential about half way to the track and we weren't about to turn around and return to the motel with all of that traffic. Thanks, Michael!
We arrived just in time to see Hubert Platt towing in the new Platt & Payne 2005 Ford Mustang with his Georgia Shaker golf cart.
Wow, the car was far more radical than I thought it would be! With a great look and far too much power for most people, one of the limited edition dual turbocharged cars can be yours for $150,000 (at least that is what I was told)!
Be sure to check out the photos of the Platt & Payne Mustang.
At 4:00 PM, Hubert Platt and Randy Payne signed the dash of the first Platt & Payne Mustang. Along with all of the GeorgiaDragRacing.com photographers taking photos, Geoff Stunkard (who writes/edits and shoots photos for several different magazines) was on hand capturing the occasion for future articles.
While visiting with Hubert, Randy and Dan, I met Rick Kirk and ran into Eddie Vidrine (former NHRA Division 2 Advisor). I also got a chance to meet Butch Payne (Randy's son and current NHRA Stock racer) after several phone conversations.
I spent a lot more time roaming the pits Saturday than I usually do and I had to say hello to Joe Jacono (so that he could harass me about my camera as he usually does!). Joe has been driving his former Rollin' Stoned 'Cuda funny car that was restored and is owned by Bob Rosetty. Its great to see Joe back in the seat! I also went by and talked to Lou Sgro. Lou has his Black Magic tribute funny thundering, running a 6.67 on Saturday. That, folks, was on alcohol!
I dropped by and said hello to Greg Sullivan (owner of the Pandemonium VI Barracuda) and I finally had a chance to meet artist Tim Fredericks. Tim has some very nice drag racing art and I'm happy to say that I have a couple of his Hubert Platt prints (courtesy Hubert Platt -- Thanks, Hubert!).
Later, Marv Smith and I teamed up and walked around the pits checking out one great car (or motorcycle) after another.
We headed down to the far end of the pits so that I could meet Mark Adams. Mark lives in Valdosta, GA as does Marv, and Mark has a beautiful 1932 Vicky named Outlaws and Legends. Mark is still sorting the car out, but this car is his tribute to the wild fuel altereds and their drivers.
We then went by Ronnie Sox's camp and talked to him a few minutes. Ronnie was one of my childhood drag racing heroes and it is always great to see him. We also chatted with pal Bob Gibson (at the American Racing Wheels display) about the 50th Anniversary race at Southeastern Dragway (July 9, 2005 - Dallas, GA) just before heading back to the starting line.
Back to the track we went for the featured Top Fuel racing under the lights and the Cacklefest! This year, the participating cars were featured in a parade down the track before they fired them up!
After the cackle cars made their way to the top end of the track, it was time for Mike Boyd to make a pass in the famous Winged Express Fuel Altered. Seeing this car for the first time at the 2003 NHRR was great and I was excited to see the car make another pass this year! Mike made a long smoky burnout as flames shot above the car, then backed the beast up and prepared to stage. The car was filling the night with flames as Mike staged the car -- then in an explosion of thunderous sound, the Winged Express left the line with the wheels in the air! Mike was all over the track and in and out of the throttle several times on his crowd pleasing pass! What a great show Mike and Mousie (and Willie, too!) put on for the fans!
The Cacklefest was next and this year several cars were driven out and parked with their engines running. Ronnie Sox led the way in the Sox & Martin '68 SS/B Hemi Barracuda, followed by several gassers, the Frieght Train drag bike, Pat Foster in the McEwen 'Vette and Preston Davis in the Tennessee BoWeevil funny cars. The dragsters were next and they were push started from the top end of the track just like in the old days. Many great cars were represented and Don Garlits brought up the rear.
What an amazing display of beautiful cars and sound, cackling from the nitromethane and belching fire out the headers! I was fortunate enough to have credentials with starting line access and it's always a blast to see, hear and smell the cars come down the track only a few feet away.
As the last cars were shut off (or ran out of fuel) the cheers of the fans filled the night! The spectators are then allowed to come down on the track and see the cars, drivers, and owners up close. It is simply amazing how fast that track was filled with spectators! I've been to all three National Hot Rod Reunions at Bowling Green and every year it gets better!
The GeorgiaDragRacing.com gang had to leave Sunday morning and we weren't able to get out to the track and see the competition or Bunky and Tony Bobo accepting their Soffseal Show & Shine Best of the Best award, but we had an absolute blast again this year!
I'd like to thank all the drag racers, sponsors, the NHRA, Bob and Eileen Daniels, Steve Gibbs, Sam Jackson and all of the other fine people that participate, organize, and staff the National Hot Rod Reunion -- you're the best!!!!
I'd like to especially thank Michael Hollander and Bill Groak for issuing the GeorgiaDragRacing.com team media credentials.
See you at the NHRR in Bowling Green next year!
Marvin T. Smith and I are currently writing a book (Atlanta Drag Racing: The
Golden Years) about Atlanta area drag racing that we hope to have completed
in 2005. We intend to honor many of the local drag racers from the Atlanta
area and also provide an overview of the history of organized drag racing in
Atlanta. With full time jobs and families, Marv and I are pedaling as fast
as we can! Keep checking GeorgiaDragRacing.com for news about our book.