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US Drag teams honoured at forthcoming CHRR
Ivo sets to work on the motor at a UK drag strip
Forty-three years ago, a U.S. team of drag racers travelled across the Atlantic to show the British what Americans could do in the quarter mile. Now those racers will be honored with the Justice Brothers Spotlight Award at the Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley, Oct. 12-14, at Auto Club Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield.
In late September of 1964, the team, led by Dante Duce, included NHRA president Wally Parks, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, "T.V. Tommy" Ivo , Tony Nancy, George Montgomery, K.S. Pitman, Ronnie Sox, Dave Strickler, Bill Jenkins, Bob Keith and Doug Church. They traveled to Great Britain to participate in a series of six "British Drag Festival" events at drag strips set up at airports and Royal Air Force bases.
Garlits boils the hides at RAF Woodvale
Garlits, who had just cracked the 200 mph in the U.S., set top speed of the series at 197 mph-a new record for England. It wasn't all plain sailing though. Nancy used up four motors and lost a complete car when Duce put it into the guard rail and broke the car clean in two. Ivo brought to the event a top fuel dragster that had appeared in the movie Bikini Beach with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Ivo's was the first to break the 190 mph mark and Hot Rod magazine nicknamed the car the "Barnstormer."
Dante Duce made a big impact (literally!) in Tony Nancy's dragster
After six races in the island nation, Ivo defeated Garlits for overall honors and was named International Drag Racer of the Year by the NHRA and the British Hot Rod Association. The rivalry between the two top racers continues to this day.
Ivo's Barnstormer has been re-created by Ron Johnson, owner of Cacklefest.com, and will appear with Ivo at this year's Reunion. Garlits will also appear with four of his cars including the original car that went to England.
In 1965, Bob Keith was team leader and his group included Tony Nancy from the '64 team and Danny Ongais, Gary Casady, Chuck Griffith, Nick Colbert, Buddy Cortines, Boris Murray and Merek Chertcow. There were only two races this time, at RAF Woodvale in the north, and at Blackbushe airport west of London.
Nancy's streamliner in action at RAF Woodvale
The second race was hard hit by torrential rain and so the U.S. cars could only do demonstration runs. The rain also kept enough spectators away to make it a financial disaster, however, that did not stop American racers from returning the following year and for many years to come as drag racing continued to grow in Europe.
In addition to Garlits and Ivo, Dante Duce, Bob Keith Chuck Griffiths and Doug Church's mechanic Phil Tenwick will be in attendance at the Reunion.
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.
Ivo giving it plenty off the line
www.famosoraceway.com). Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Auto Club discount is also available at the gate: $2 off Friday and Saturday and, $1 off Sunday.
Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors 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, (
The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:. NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some of 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. The Justice Bros. Spotlight Award will fall on the U.S. Drag Teams that in 1964 and '65 introduced drag racing to the U.K. The teams included Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo.
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, legendary drag racing champion Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, and the other Honorees . The reception offers a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes.
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 Manufacturer's Midway are filled with vendors and manufacturers making it easier than ever to find that hot rod part or special souvenir.
Proceeds of the Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley directly benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif. The museum houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.
The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. Auto Club members receive discounts on admission and at the gift shop: show your card and save.
Story: Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
Photos: Tommy Ivo