The Wally Parks/NHRA Motor-sports Museum's most prestigious event is the California Hot Rod Reunion, sponsored by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Held in October at Kern County's historic Old Famoso/Bakersfield Raceway, the event annually draws the finest vintage drag race machines and vintage racing talent from all across the nation.
Recently referred to by the media as a "one-of-a-kind American car lover's dream," seasoned CHRR insiders irreverently refer to the California Hot Rod Reunion as the annual Gathering of the Geezers!
Regardless of what this annual tribute to drag racing's glorious bygone days is called, the California Hot Rod Reunion is drag racing history in motion, with nostalgic drag racing action trackside and famous racecars and drag racing personalities pitside!
This year saw the 14th edition of the event. It began the morning of September 30, 2005, when CHRR-XIV quietly rolled into the sleepy truck-stop town of Bakersfield. However, as the pits began to fill early Friday morning, the event generated momentum. By Saturday, the sleepy attitude that usually typifies Old Famoso in October quickly evolved into a full-blown and frenzied hot rod happening!
Highlights from the Hot Rod Reunion included three days of the best in NHRA-sanctioned nostalgia drag racing, including Nostalgia Top Fuel, Nostalgia Junior Fuel, and Blown Nostalgia Gassers, with the finals culminating Sunday afternoon, October 2. Also, Famed drag racer/tuner/innovator "AA" Dale Armstrong was selected as CHRR XIV's Grand Marshall, along with honorees Leon "Pure Heaven" Fitzgerald, Chrysler star "Dandy Dick" Landy, NHRA's first female national event winner Shirley "Dragon Lady" Shahan, Safety Equipment pioneer Bill Simpson, chassis-builder Dave Uyehara, and former San Fernando Drag Strip publicist Dave Wallace Sr.
A racer's night held Friday, September 30, at Bakersfield's nearby Doubletree was the place where CHRR's honorees were officially introduced. The social bench racing, which usually includes igniting two Top Fuelers under the hotel's front foyer, lasted into the wee a.m. hours.
Saturday evening's highly touted Cacklefest had a total of 46 nitro burners lighting 'em up in front of a full-capacity crowd.
CHRR IV was also the site of the Leslie Lovett Memorial Photo Contest, where veteran drag racing photographers exhibit their photographic masterpieces from drag racing's illustrious bygone era. And, of course, there was plenty of drag racing throughout the entire weekend.
But you can't race if you can't get to the track, and no CHRR event would be complete without a huge sampling of vintage race-car haulers and street rod trucks. Here's a sample of the vintage trucks that worked and played during the weekend that saw hot rod history return to Old Famoso.
The Wally Parks/NHRA Motor-sports...
The Wally Parks/NHRA Motor-sports Museum's Safety Safari trailer and a '54 Dodge station wagon tow vehicle served as the centerpiece for an area known as Reunion Central. This huge tent area was the meeting place for the barbecue, photo contest, goody bag pickup, and Sunday morning church service.
A black primer '34 Ford roadster...
A black primer '34 Ford roadster pickup greeted us outside the reunion tent area. The truck featured a full-house '48 Merc flathead, '48 Mercury pie-pan wheels, hubcaps, and "Woodlights."
The black satin, Halibrand-equipped...
The black satin, Halibrand-equipped '32 Ford pickup and '29 A roadster pickup/race car combination was another of the attractions we found in the pits at Old Famoso on Saturday.
This two-tone gray and maroon...
This two-tone gray and maroon '38 Ford COE featured a late-model Ford truck chassis, Ford F-1 rear fenders, and custom truck bed. It was a real looker.