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Honorees Named for 16th Annual CHRR
Chassis builders, a promoter and some of the most famous names in drag racing have been selected as Honorees for the 16th Annual Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley, Oct. 12-14, 2007 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway just outside Bakersfield, California.
This year's Honorees are John Buttera, Childs & Albert, Gary "Red" Greth, Mike Jones and Kuhl & Olson. The Grand Marshal is top driver Ed "The Ace" McCulloch.
"As always, we've selected a unique group of individuals as Honorees for this year's event," said Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Auto Club of So. Calif., which produces and benefits from the annual event. "We're pleased to bring fans together with these legends in the sport. When we started the Reunion, we thought it would be a one-time deal, but here we are, 16 years later, with more to see and do than ever before."
Ed "The Ace" McCulloch: Grand Marshal: McCulloch who moved to Oregon from central California at a young age earned his "Ace" nickname early in his career when he outran the self-proclaimed "King of the Northwest," Jerry Ruth. In the 1960s he drove a series of dragsters, the most notable of which was the full-bodied, Fuller-chassied Albrich-McCulloch-Floyd Northwind which took over the number one spot on the Drag News "Mr. Eliminator" list from Pete Robinson in 1965. The then-new Funny Cars were becoming popular in the late '60s and McCulloch relished the constant match racing
that was available to them. He won the first time he ever raced at the U.S. Nationals in 1971. In the early '70s, Ed's Revellution Duster won five of seven finals. In 1980 he won his third Indy in the Super Shops Funny Car.
Joining Larry Minor's team in 1983 he appeared in at least one national event final round every year until his retirement from behind the wheel in 1993. His last of six Indy wins came in Top Fuel at the '92 U.S. Nationals making him one of the elite few to win Indy in both dragsters and Funny Cars. His 22nd and last NHRA national event win came in Top Fuel in 1993 at Houston. He was named to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2000 and was voted No. 19 on NHRA's All Time Top 50 list in 2001. Since his retirement from the cockpit he has tuned for the Kalitta and Prudhomme teams and currently serves as crew chief for the Ron Capps-driven Don Schumacher-owned Brut Funny Car.
John Buttera began his career in his native Kenosha, Wisc. when he teamed with Dennis Rollain to form R & B Chassis and race a very light un-blown fuel dragster. In the late '60s a casual meeting with Mickey Thompson in the staging lanes of the U.S. Nationals led to a move to Southern California changing his life forever. Dragsters, Funny Cars, street rods, motorcycles and even Indy cars have all felt the touch of Buttera's innovation. First working for Thompson on his Ford-powered Land Speed Record streamliner, he built Thompson's "blue Mustang" funny car that Danny Ongais used to dominate the 1969 season. He then opened his own chassis shop in Cerritos where he built a radical streamlined dragster for Barry Setzer. His talents soon led such customers for both dragsters and Funny Cars to his door as, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, Don Schumacher, and Shirley Muldowney. Known for his exceptional craftsmanship, he has been involved in all areas of hot rodding. He brought the high-tech, billet era to street rodding, and was first to manufacture his own wheels and independent suspensions from machined aluminum. He has done extensive development work for Harley-Davidson motorcyles and even entered a stock block-powered car in the Indy 500 for which he received the 1987 Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award.
Rocky Childs and Jim Albert began racing in the early '60s with an immaculate C/GS '37 Chevy coupe. Over the years the team raced a number of dragsters. But the best remembered is the 1965-'67 version of the Addict. The Addict was used as a test bed for their manufacturing business. The lessons learned from building the Addict made the names Childs and Albert synonymous with top quality connecting rods, pistons, crankshafts and bearings. Their drivers included past-CHRR Honoree Pat Foster (who built the chassis with Childs and Ronnie Scrima), Walt Stevens and Tom Toler. The Addict was a regular winner at San Fernando, and held the 1966-67 track record at 7.89. Their next car was runner-up to past-CHRR Grand Marshal James Warren at the '68 Winternationals with Dwight Salisbury at the wheel, and they raced into the mid-'70s with a rear-engine fuel dragster before retiring to concentrate on business. The popularity of the Auto Club NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion prompted Childs to track down their favorite Addict in 2001 and beautifully restore it. The car has become a favorite in the Reunion's Cacklefests.
Gary "Red" Greth has enjoyed a hot rodding career that has lasted more than half a century. As a teenaged member of the "Lords" car club, he built flathead powered coupes, roadsters and even a dragster. In 1955, Greth and childhood friends Lyle Fisher and the late Don Maynard used a $15 '27 Model T roadster body to build one of the most memorable non-dragster fuel cars in drag racing history. He was one of the team of hot rodders that stormed out of Tucson in the 1950s and took the name of Joe Bush's Speed Sport Automotive. With a homemade fiberglass nose and engine canopy, their 102-
inch wheelbase roadster was powered by a 354 c.i.d. Chrysler burning 100 percent nitro through six carburetors. In 1957 it became the fastest car in drag racing with a speed of 169.11 mph. The unique roar from the full length exhaust headers echoing off the steel body earned the orange roadster the nickname "Ol' Noisy." A supercharged version of the roadster raced well into the 1960s even qualifying for Top Fuel at the 1963 AHRA Winter Nationals. Maynard lost his life in a 1960 highway accident soon after tuning Chris Karamesines to his legendary 204 mph time slip. But Fisher and Greth continued to field a series of roadsters, dragsters, and even a turbine car that made the "Speed Sport" name a legend in drag racing.
Mike Jones began his career as a racer driving for the legendary Bill Thomas Race Cars Chevrolet team in the early '60s. But he's perhaps best known as founding vice president and general manager of Southern California's Orange County International Raceway (OCIR) from 1967 to 1973. Generally credited as the first of drag racing's super tracks, "the County" featured a modern three-story administrative tower, permanent rest rooms and the first drag racing's electronic scoreboards to display elapsed times and speeds. A creative promoter, Jones came up with such innovative events as the Manufacturer's Funny Car Championships held in November of each year. It was Jones' idea to line up the Funny Cars and drivers along the guardrails prior to eliminations and fire them all at once. That race remains one of the most popular in the memories of veteran Southern California race fans to this day. As development of Orange County increased, the strip became more difficult to operate and Jones left OCIR. He was offered a position with Champion Spark Plugs, one of the strip's sponsors, but rather than relocate to Ohio, he took over his father's interior-design business. Jones was instrumental in the design phase of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Recently active in another form of racing, he has constructed and raced his own award-winning aircraft.
Mike Kuhl and Carl Olson both began their drag racing careers in the early '60s although at the time they were separated by thousands of miles. Kuhl first achieved drag racing notoriety with a blown gasser. Running out of his native St. Louis, his Buick-powered '38 Willys coupe ran impressive 11.70s at more than 132 mph in 1960. Moving to southern California in the late '60s Kuhl opened a very successful engine business specializing in superchargers. Olson began his career driving un-blown dragsters in Northern California while serving in the Coast Guard. The pair enjoyed their greatest success in drag racing after teaming up in the early '70s to race a front-engine Woody Gilmore dragster. A series of great-looking and great performing Top Fuel dragsters soon followed. Among their most memorable seasons was 1972 with wins at the NHRA Winternationals, a runner-up finish to Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen at the March Meet and the Top Fuel win at
The Last Drag Race at the legendary Lions Drag Strip. They came back to win the March Meet in 1974. Kuhl continued to run his business until his recent retirement and Olson became an industry executive with positions at SEMA, as a long-time vice president of NHRA and currently with SFI.
The 16th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley, is part of the museum's Hot Rod Heritage Series 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.
Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honours some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods, classics, customs and muscle cars of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.
Daily general admission tickets/pit passes will be available at Auto Club Famoso Raceway gate, (www.famosoraceway.com). Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:
Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks.
Hundreds of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, rat rods, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars.
Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield, Fri., Oct. 12, from 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes. Grand Marshal for the event will be legendary drag racing champion Ed "The Ace" McCulloch.
Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."
The Swap meet and Reunion Midway are filled with vendors and manufacturers making it easier than ever to find that hot rod part or special souvenir.
A full activities schedule, entry forms, tickets and more information are available through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at http://museum.nhra.com.
Story: Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
Photos: Andy Kirk