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Inaugural National Hot Rod Reunion
The Inaugural National Hot Rod Reunion - Bowling Green, Kentucky.
(See, also, NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion Photos. Sorry, photo album is no longer available.)
The GeorgiaDragRacing.com team headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the inaugural National Hot Rod Reunion June 20-22. Dictator David Dilbeck, photographer Fred Simmons, and our friend Ed Miles joined up with racing legend Hubert Platt, the Georgia Shaker, who rented a van for the event. Did we ever have a blast! Hubert told great stories on the way up, but GeorgiaDragRacing.com can't afford any lawsuits at the moment, so I better keep them to myself.
After a quick stop in Nashville to pick up some fancy boots for Hubert, we arrived in Bowling Green about noon, local time, on Friday. After checking into the hotel, getting our press credentials, checking out the great cars in the parking lot, and meeting Broadway Bob, we headed out to the track. We had no idea what to expect, and were totally blown away by the sights and sounds. Before we even got into the gate, ace photographer Mashie ran into me with news that he had brought photos of Sneaky Pete that we could use on the web site. Now you have to understand that we had discussed these photos in 1999 at the last Super Stock Reunion, so this was a totally unexpected bonus. Thanks Mashie.
I had not been to Beach Bend since 1975, but it hadn't changed much at all. It still has the funky covered stands with stadium seating. Wonderful shade trees were scattered throughout the pit area. There was a big ring of vendors and display cars, and other famous restorations were scattered in the pit area. There was the Georgia Shaker Thunderbolt. Hubert would spend much time having his photo taken with his famous car. Then there was the Dyno Don Nicholson 64 Comet and Phil Bonner's funny Mustang. The Georgia team was in heaven. Of course there were other great cars to see, like Ron Bizio's AA/G Willys pickup from California (originally), the S&S racing team gassers, the famed Freight Train, a Swamp Rat, Jim Oddy's BB/G Austin, the original Grumpy Jenkins Vega, Pete's Patriot AMX, a Dick Harrell Funny, and many, many others.
Unbelievable Gassers and Super Stocks were making runs, and here comes the Hemi Hunter Chevy powered top fueler! We hadn't even made it to the pits yet. We ran around like rats in a maze full of tasty treats, not knowing which way to go next, but not really caring. After putting considerable wear on our shoes, we rushed back to town for the evening events. We were invited to a media reception (that cold brew sure hit the spot! Thanks NHRA!) followed by the evening events: the presentation of awards and the grand finale, the lighting off of the Jade Grenade outside of the conference center. Awards were given out to Bob Glidden (Grand Marshall), Don Garlits (Spotlight Award), and Honorees Jack Chisenhall, Robert Frakes, Dale Funk, Angelo Giampetroni, Raymond Godman, and Ken Hirata. The car show in the parking lot was unbelievable. Everything from a Lamborghini Countach to several Anglias, Willys, and Austins. Like 33 Fords? Pick a color and it was there. Everyone just milled around for hours digging all there was to see.
The next day dawned early. We made it out to the track and continued our odyssey of ecstasy. Hidden over in the pit area we found Tom Hanna's masterpiece, the Howard Cams Rattler, the Kuhl and Olsen fueler, the Jade Grenade (Thanks for the autograph, Mr. Foster), Joe Jacono's Rollin' Stoned funny, Bruce Larson's USA 1 Camaro, Dickie Estevez' Warbucks car (ex Phil Bonner Georgia car) and many, many, many others. There was a nice flea market area with everything from old magazines and diecast toys to hardcore racing parts. I didn't have the time or money to do it justice.
Great News! The Winged Express is here now, and Arnie Beswick has unloaded his current race car and Mark Kuykendall has brought the restored Tameless Tiger 63 Tempest funny car. There are cars going down the track all the time. Ohio George, Chuck Finders, and Big Daddy are signing autographs. Hubert's van won't hold all the souvenirs I'd like to buy. Where do we go next?? There are still what seems like miles of pits with wonderful cars, and a reported 1500 street rods are parked under the trees just outside the pit area. This is too much! I find Ken Kull and his new Willys pickup. What a beauty! He's having an electrical problem, but he hopes to get it fixed. Just seeing this truck is enough! It sure looks like the Red Baron I saw back in 1967.
Around three o'clock, the Nostalgia top fuel cars come out for their first qualifying attempt. Those shaded stands sure feel good after hours of endless walking around the pits and displays. I'm feeling a little pity for Fred and David out on the track taking photos. I decide to try a few shots from the seats for a different perspective. Later I give up and move down to the fence. I'm only a couple of feet back from the professional photographers! The Bach and Gould Ford cammer powered rail hits 6.38 @ 218 to lead early qualifying, but later the Orange Crate comes up to the line. They make an awesome burnout, flexing their muscles, then lay down an early shut-off 6.21 to easily lead qualifying. The Orange Crate team will go on to win the event on Sunday. Arnie Beswick blisters the track to the tune of 7.24 @ 193. He is probably qualified for top fuel at this point! But where's the Winged Express? Its a no show for this round. Man, that's one car I really want to see!
After a couple of hours of down time in the late afternoon (there was a concert going on in another part of the facility, but I didn't even think about going), qualifying finally resumed about 8:00. I ran into Badco, G-Man, and David Burlington from the Standard 1320 group, and we enjoyed the second session of Nitro qualifying together. The dragsters were having trouble hooking up to the slippery track, but ole Arnie Beswick came out to make a run. After an average (for him) burnout, Arnie backed up and laid down a second burnout to rival the old Chi Town Hustler's efforts back in the early 70s. He then put down a mid-seven second run, coming close to the wall according to some observers. The crowd went absolutely nuts! But wait! Here comes the Winged Express in the staging lanes. Mike Boyd wows the crowd with a wild burnout, the proceeds to run a 7.47 at over 200. The flames were over the wing, and this was perhaps the most awesome run of the entire event so far. Willie would have been proud. Thanks Mousie. I've waited forty years for this, and it was worth it.
Just as the crowd begins to regain its composure, its time for Cacklefest. Historic cars are push started down the track and lined up where they continue to idle until they run out of fuel. If you could have seen the grin on Larry Dixon, Sr.'s face as he fired up the Howard Cams Rattler, then you would know what this was all about. It's a moving sight! After the engines shut down, the spectators are allowed down on the track to visit their heros and their cars. This is a moment that no one will ever forget.
Cacklefest was the grand finale for the evening, but there is no escape. We continued to walk around the pits for hours until it finally became possible to leave the track in moderate traffic. No one wanted the day to end, but nearing exhaustion, we headed back to the motel.
Unfortunately, the GeorgiaDragRacing.com team had to leave on Sunday morning. Our minds blown, and knowing that anything that happened on Sunday had to be anticlimactic, we loaded up and headed back to Georgia. We brought back memories that will last us the rest of our lives. This is an event not to be missed! NHRA certainly has a winner here. Everything indicates that this will become an annual event, so this will be a happening. As Steve Evans used to say, BEEE THEREEEEE! Thanks Sam. Thanks Hook.