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Wed, 03 Dec 2014, 15:47 PM

Deja Vu, All Over Again
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2014 Steve Reyes

Well, I did it. 2014 was the first time I ventured to all three of NHRA's Hot Rod Reunions. I first went to Beech Bend, Kentucky in June, then Epping, New Hampshire in September, and finally Bakersfield, California in October. You may be wondering, out of all of them, which one is the best of the bunch. If you enjoy that old race track feeling and hundreds of classic street rods, then Beech Bend is the place for you. Epping, New Hampshire, a new event in the line-up, is still growing and has that small but mighty feel to it. The California event is the Granddaddy of all the reunions as it hosts a ton of race cars and over 50 cackle cars at the Saturday night Cacklefest. If drag racing star gazing is your pleasure then Bakersfield is the place for you. Wandering around the event, I bumped into Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Ed McCullough, Alison Lee, Carl Olson, Tom Hoover, Mike Kuhl, Berry Brothers & Hughes, Bill Tidwell, Mike Dunn, Sid Waterman, Ronnie Hampshire, Nelson Carter, Kenny Hirata, Phil Hobbs, Cecil Yother, Dale Emery, Waterbed Fred Miller, "Rocketman" John Paxson, Glen Way, Roland Leong, Gary Cochran, Jerry Clayton, John "Tarzan" Austin, Kenny Logan, TV Tommy Ivo and many more. What a trip down memory lane!

The retro funny car class attended in force at Bakersfield with over thirty cars attempting to make the sixteen car field. When the smoke, nitro fumes, and flying funny car bodies subsided, Dan Horan, Jr. outran Texan John Hale for the funny car gold. Horan, Jr. also captured the overall crown in the Nostalgia Funny Car Championship. Top Fuel was a bit anti-climatic because the Bartone Brothers with Tony Bartone at the controls wrapped up the Top Fuel title in Epping, New Hampshire. Still, the Bartone's made the tow to Bakersfield, California, to prove that they are the team to beat in Nostalgia Top Fuel racing in 2014. Bartone marched through the field at Bakersfield and won Top Fuel Eliminator. For me the show within the show at CHRR was the AA/FA's. Pure Hell, the Winged Express, Pure Heaven, The Rat Trap, Randy Bradford and towing from New England was the Mr. Boston AA/FA Fiat with California's Howard Haight at the controls. These guys put on one heck of a show with smoky burnouts and side by side racing.

For twenty-three years Bakersfield has hosted the CHRR and it gets bigger and better every year. It is sort of ironic that the reunion has lasted longer than Lions Drag Strip, Irwindale and OCIR. Anyway, if you have a chance to find yourself in California in October, come out to Bakersfield, California. It is drag racing deja vu in a great way.

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From the right coast to the left coast, the 134 AA/Fuel Coupe of Ted Brine made the
trip from the Northeast to race at the 23rd Annual California Hot Rod Reunion.

If you enjoyed AFX doorslammers, then you would like the racing at Bakersfield.
These guys put on a great side by side show on Saturday and Sunday.

The Anaconda AA/FD is still one of my favorite cackle cars.
This car is a great replica of Marvin Schwartz's Top Fuel car of the late 1960's.

Tony Bartone flashed the thumbs up as the Neal and White Top Fuel car red lighted
and gave Bartone the Top Fuel Eliminator victory. Bartone had already won the overall
Nostalgia Top Fuel title at Epping, New Hampshire. The Bartone Brothers win at CHRR was
just a great way to end a great year in Top Fuel for the Jersey Boys.

Making its CHRR debut was the Magic Muffler Fiat Fuel Altered.
Bill Corbett did a masterful job of restoring the Fiat for the Cacklefest.
The car was formerly owned by Jim Miles.

This year the Cacklefest brought 55 cars to make some noise at
the 23rd California Hot Rod Reunion.

Lookin' good was the restored Cook and Bedwell Isky U-Fab Special.
At one time this car was the fastest in all of drag acing at 166 m.p.h. in 1957.

Herm Peterson explained about all things Top Fuel and Cacklefest to
Channel 23 reporter on Saturday morning. It was a live feed and Channel 23
viewers were able to see and hear a Top Fuel cackle first hand.

The funny car class saw a final between two of the best in the class.
Dan Horan, Jr. took on last year's funny car winner John Hale.
Horan, Jr. not only won this race but also won the overall Nostalgia
Funny Car Championship dethroning Jason Rupert.

We saw all kinds of cars in the Cacklefest.
The first three to light up and cackle were Roger Garten in the Tocco and Harper AA/FA,
The Mr. C AA/MFR and the very cool Bobby Langley Scorpion AA/FD.

The AA/FA's put on one heck of a show on Saturday and Sunday.
Here the New England based Mr. Boston Fiat with Howard Haight
driving put Mike Boyd driving the Winged Express on the trailer.
To the crowds delight the Fiat carried the front wheels about 400 feet.
Haight never lifted on the throttle as the wheels returned to earth and the Fiat headed for the finish-line.

The Outer Limits Mopar A/FXer lived up to its name and headed for the
outer limits of the Bakersfield sky. AFXer's were fun to watch.

This was just like at Epping, New Hampshire's reunion, Pure Hell squared off with the Rat Trap
with the same results. Ryan Hope in Pure Hell beat his dad Ron Hope in the Rat Trap.

This was one great restored race car.
Jack Gillett restored this sidewinder to its glory days of racing.
Gillett made the components of the sidewinder by hand.
The late Jack Chrisman must be looking down with a big smile and liking his former ride.

The semi-final in Top Fuel saw upstart Steve Harwood give Tony Bartone a very close race.
However, Bartone prevailed and went on to defeat the red-lighting Neal & White in the final.

You gotta love them Top Fuel "tails".

Tommy Ivo's Barnstormer was looking good in its original home.
I spoke to John "Tarzan" Austin, Ivo's former crew chief about the trailer.
He and Ivo built the trailer in front of Ivo's mom's house from the ground up.
One interesting fact about the trailer is that the windows are regular glass, not plexiglass.
Austin said Ivo was too cheap to use plexiglass.
With all the touring, the trailer never broke any of the glass.

It was great to see and talk to Don Prieto.
Don is one of the cornerstone's in Southern California Top Fuel racing.
He not only owns and drives his car but is also a published writer.
He escaped a hospital stay to come and cackle his Hustler VI Top Fuel car.

Maybe Garlits wasn't there in person but his old Swamp Rat 3 was there.
Next to the Garlits AA/FD is the Medor's family owned Speed Sport Roadster.
Behind them is the almost finished Beebe Brothers and Sixt AA/FD.

The Del Rio Brothers A/SR was and is still one of the best looking race cars
ever to speed down the quarter-mile. The NorCal based car had artist/painter
Eric Reyes (no relation to me) at the controls of the beautifully restored roadster.

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