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Wed, 17 Feb 2010, 11:32 AM

The Golden 50 at the 50th Anniversary Winternationals
By Jim Luikens
Photo copyright 2010 Jim Luikens

POMONA, Calif. -- A tour of the Golden Coral from this last weekend's 50th Anniversary Winternationals.

A replica of the original Winternationals starting line banner marked the entrance to the Golden 50 Corral. It greeted fans as they entered the Fairplex from the various parking lots on the grounds. The Golden 50 was very well received and the area was packed all weekend. In fact, I had to wait until Top Fuel was running in order to even have a remote chance at taking unobstructed photos.

Don Prudhomme's restored Dodge 700 ramp truck and matching Plymouth Barracuda funny car were a huge hit with the fans. Prudhomme emphatically reiterated that he is retired at Saturday Night's Legends' Dinner. However, he is also reportedly searching for the Mongoose's matching ramp truck.

The Freight Train Top Gas Dragster was another fan favorite. This car won the 1963 Winternationals with Floyd Lippencott, Jr. behind the wheel. Floyd, who is actually Bob Muravez, raced under an assumed name because he didn't want his family to know that he was racing. Note the "Cow Catcher" on the front of the dragster.

The Winternationals-winning Hawiian funny car and fuel dragster were displayed as a pair. Original Hawiian owner Roland Leong was on hand to sign autographs all weekend long.

The famous Warren & Coburn Rain for Rent Special was displayed with its matching Mr. Ed trailer. It is not enough to just have a historic race car anymore. The top teams also have a matching tow truck or trailer to round out their display.

Talk about provenance. Shelby's Super Snake was owned by Lou Baney, driven by Don Prudhomme, powered by Ed Pink, and sponsored by Carol Shelby. Note the rare 427 Ford Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) engine.

No Cacklefest would be complete without period correct push vehicles to get things started. In the photo, a 1960 Chevrolet station wagon shares parking space with Ford, Hudson (!), and Chevrolet pick-up trucks.

The globe-trotting Mooneyes dragster was displayed with its Chevrolet C30 ramp truck. In 1964 this dragster joined a contingent of American drag vehicles that traveled to Europe for a drag racing exhibition. Parked between the dragster and the ramp truck is an early Moon-equipped roadster.

Not every vehicle was completed in time for the Golden 50th display. This is the Hustler VI dragster showing its freshly-made aluminum body, which awaits paint.

This Chevrolet Nova funny car, with Clare Sanders driving, won the very first funny car title (1969) ever awarded at the Winternationals. This weekend it was reunited with its original driver. Reportedly, a mini-tour is being contemplated for this car based on the enthusiastic response it received at Pomona.

Pontiac legend Arnie Beswick poses with a young fan. Fans could work their way down a long line of veteran drag racing super stars each day to collect autographs.

Arnie's 1966 GTO was powered by a supercharged Pontiac engine and featured an extreme engine setback. This car was totally built in the Chicago area, unlike other funny cars of the era.

The Dodge Chargers two car team toured the country match racing each other in 1964. This is the car that was originally driven by Jimmy Nix and is now owned by Frank Spittle of North Carolina. The Chargers are considered to be the spiritual ancestors of today's funny cars.

The Marv Elridge LA Challenger was another race car that was displayed with its transporter. Back in the day Elridge was part of the touring Coca Cola Cavalcade of (funny car) Stars.

Last year, the Stone, Woods, and Cook Willys was voted the favorite NHRA race car of all time. This is the SW&C Swindler B, an Oldsmobile-powered BB/GS Willys. The finish and preparation level of all SW&C cars often exceeded the other competitors of the day.

Jr. Thompson drove this Isky-equipped Studebaker and was a well-known participant in the "Gasser Wars." By contrast, Stone, Woods, and Cook used Engle Cams and the rivalry was fodder for weekly ads by the competing cam manufacturers.

Unlike the immaculate SW&C Willys coupe, this rare Willys pick-up, named the Silver Dollar, is a good example of the typical preparation level of a mid-'60s race car.

A decade later this AA/GS Anglia, powered by a big block Chevrolet engine, shows how far the level of race car preparation had advanced in just 10 years. Note that the Kohler's used a Sig Erson cam, a much lesser light in the cam wars, and ran out of the renowned Paul's Automotive in Monrovia, California.

Two of the most legendary roadsters in the history of NHRA drag racing were parked side by side in the Golden 50 Corral. Jim Stevens' World Championship winning Model A roadster pick-up shared the tarmac with Hugh Tucker's high boy roadster out of Ventura Motors.

If anything, the Stockers and Super Stockers were under-represented in the Golden 50 Corral. Tom Foley's 1962 Dodge, The Music Box, ran out of Pate's Tapes & Records in El Monte, California. The faded gold leaf lettering and ancient tow bar helped to set a period-correct tone for this wonderful piece of history

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