Maybe the craziest drag racers of all time were those who willingly chose to pilot Fuel Altereds, which were basically bare-bones, short-wheelbase hot rods equipped with Top Fuel Dragster engines. None was more iconic than the Marcellus and Borsch Winged Express, seen here in the pits at the Reunion.
Anybody who didn't notice this amazing 1937 Ford coupe on the vendors midway just wasn't paying attention. Built by Ryan Reed of "Reed's Rides," the car's flawless olive paint, perfect stance and gorgeous interior made it a standout.
The first car to make a pass down the drag strip at Great Bend at the first NHRA Nationals in 1955, Art Chrisman's gorgeous flathead-powered roadster looks as good today as it did way back then. It made another pass at the NHRA's 40 anniversary celebration at Great Bend, with Chrisman at the wheel.
A couple of interesting new friends, Ramon van de Weurf, with the video camera, and John Kramer, came all the way from Holland to take part in the 20th annual California Hot Rod Reunion. Ramon owns and drives a 1971 Dodge nostalgia funny car called `Wild'r at Heart,' with John serving as part of the crew. We kept running into each other after the opening night's festivities.
Ed Iskenderian, the legendary camshaft manufacturer, brought his original 1924 Ford roadster to the reunion from its current home in the NHRA Motorsports Museum. The classic roadster is still powered by a flathead V-8 with an overhead valve conversion, complete with hand-engraved valve covers.
An old-time drag race wouldn't be complete without a pass or two by a wheelstander like Kerry Watson's rear-engined pickup, which carried both the Stars and Stripes and the Canadian Maple Leaf all the way down the quarter mile with its front wheels hiked up in the air.
One of the wildest Funny Cars on display at the Reunion was this full-sized 1966 Buick Wildcat, campaigned by the Brooklyn Speed & Machine Shop under the sponsorship of a group of East Coast Buick dealers. Powered by a supercharged Buick 430 cubic inch V-8, the `Ingenue' nonetheless managed a best-ever pass of 7.79 seconds at 191 mph back in the day.
Wildcat powered by a 430 cubic inch
Steve Gibbs, the grand marshall of this year's California Hot Rod Reunion, was honored by having his name and nickname emblazoned on the cowl of one of the fuel dragsters that took part in the 20th annual event. He and fellow NHRA official Bernie Partridge were the founders of the Reunion.
Art Arfon's `Green Monster' used a powerful World War II Allison aircraft engine for power during both its drag racing and dry lakes land speed record days. It was one of the earliest rear-engined dragsters ever built.
If there's one name that's synonymous with drag racing, it's Don Garlits, creator of the famed series of `Swamp Rat' dragsters. The car pictured here was `Swamp Rat III,' a short-wheelbase version, but already packing potent supercharged Hemi power in 1961.
Hot rodders are an innovative bunch, as illustrated by this unusual supercharger setup on a mid-1930s Ford Tudor. The twin carburetors were adapted from a World War II vintage tank engine, with custom tubes curving up through the hood and back down to feed the supercharger.
Don `the Snake' Prudhomme and Tom `the Mongoose' McEwen helped bring drag racing into everyday life with their match-race Funny Cars sponsored by Mattel's Hot Wheels. Those drag cars are now hauled to nostalgia racing events on fully restored, period-correct transporters.
This bright red 1967 Plymouth GTX looked ready to resume the A/FX match race wars, with its Hilborn injectors jutting up through the hood, its bumper-mounted fuel tank and a set of fender well headers blasting toward the pavement.
Another blast from the past was the super-clean Moon Eyes dragster in traditional yellow livery. It was one of the most successful cars using a front-mounted supercharger and still looks like a million bucks.
One of the 2011 Hot Rod Reunion honorees at the opening reception was John Peters, who created the twin-engined `Freight Train' as a way to dominate the Top Gas Dragster class. There actually were several versions of the car over the years, but this is the one most drag racers recognize from its glory days.
This is how they built them back in the early '60s. The Schrank Brothers B/FD was a record holder in 1961 with a pass of 8.65 seconds at 183.28 mph. Note the 10-spoke front wheels, the oval fuel tank and the double-loop roll bars protecting the driver.
Who should we run into at Famoso Dragway but two of our longtime Wichita custom car folks, Joanne and Don Beason? They were making a real vacation of it, planning to take in the NHRA races at Las Vegas the following weekend. That's Don on the right, as always clad in Corn Husker red.
Any doubts about where the term `funny car' originated are quickly erased when you look at the front and rear wheel placement on this version of the old Doug Thorley Chevy II car. Both the rear axle and the front suspension were shoved forward to provide maximum rear weight transfer at launch. These cars just looked kind of `funny,' but the arrangement worked.