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California Hot Rod Reunion just days away

With just a week to go before the running of the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, California (Oct 6-8 ) Tony Thacker, executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum explains more about the annual event and what's in store for fans this year.

As a teen growing up in England, Tony Thacker dreamed of hot rods and drag racing, and one of his biggest heroes was Wally Parks. Some things never change: hot rods, drag racing and Wally Parks are still on his mind, but that dream became reality when Tony became an integral part of the NHRA Motorsports Museum.  Thacker, 56, a true hot rodder himself and former editor of Custom Car magazine, has attended the 3-day nostalgia-laden event several times, but this will be his first for the Museum, which produces the event as a fundraiser. Here are some of his thoughts on the upcoming Reunion.   

Q. What is the "Living Museum" concept and how does it apply to the Hot Rod Reunion?

TT:  Cars, especially race cars, are the vehicle (pun intended) for one of man's ultimate sensory experiences. It's all about the noise, the smell, the speed and, of course, the people. Consequently, our "Living Museum" concept means taking the cars out of the static museum environment, putting them in front of the people and firing them up. In some instances, they race them as well.

Q. You've attended the Reunion many times. What are your personal thoughts about it? What makes the Reunion so special? What differentiates it from other races or car shows?

TT:  I loved drag racing when then engine was up front, the front wheels were off the ground and, the tires smoked the full quarter. To re-live that experience, to see cars that we only ever read about and to meet so many new and old heroes is a dream come true for all attendees, me especially.

Q. How does the Reunion impact Bakersfield and nearby communities?

TT:  The Reunion brings in thousands of people from all over the world: Australia, Asia, Europe and Japan, as well as all over the U.S., and they pump millions of dollars into the local economy, buying rooms, gas, food and whatever else they need to have a good time. The impact is enormous.

Q. In what ways does the Museum benefit from the Reunion?

TT: All of the proceeds from both Reunions [the Museum also holds the annual Holley NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green] go directly to supporting the Museum and its "Living Museum" concept. We keep and display old race cars and we take them to events for people to enjoy. The money goes directly back to the hobby.

Q. This is the 15th Reunion: it was supposed to be a one-time event. How do you keep it fresh? What's in the future for the Reunion? Any changes?

TT: The Reunion is self-perpetuating. Every year we hear of more old race cars being found and restored, even recreated and that's okay. This year is no exception.  Also, this year, Race Director Steve Gibbs and Event Director Greg Sharp have added a "Chicago-style" Nostalgia Funny Car elimination to Sunday's schedule. Maybe as many as 16 vintage Funny Cars will go three rounds, now that will get people out of their seats.

Possibility of 16 nostalgia funny cars on Sunday

As for the future-future, lots of exciting things can happen. For example, 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the 392 Hemi and the 75th anniversary of the '32 Ford and the flathead V8 so there's potential for some great excitement. Stay tuned.

What is the CHRR?      
The 15th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, Oct. 6-8 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm.  Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museum's "living history" philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture. 

Since its inception in 1992, the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion has offered hot rodders and racers the opportunity to reunite with old friends and reminisce about "the good old days."  The Reunion includes competition on the racetrack, a car show, a chance for fans to meet the legends and stars of the sport and the highly popular "Cacklefest," which involves historic front-engine dragsters being push-started, then all gathered together on the drag strip with engines running or 'cackling."

Tickets for the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, are available by calling 800/884-6472.  A full-event credential is $55 for adults and kids under 16 get in free with a paid adult.  Credentials include a "goody bag" that features the highly collectible Reunion Annual and a dash plaque.  AAA members receive a $5 discount on a full-event credential or $2 off on Saturday or Sunday daily tickets when they show their membership card. Daily ticket prices are: Friday, $15; Saturday, $20; and Sunday, $20.  Camping passes are available with credential purchase at $50 and swap meet spaces are just $40 for a 20' x 20' space.  Daily tickets may be purchased at the gate of Auto Club Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield on Highway 99.  For additional Reunion information, call 909/622-8562 or visit

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