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A Strange Drag Racing Phenomenon is taking hold
and it's because of one man's dreams.
By Don Prieto

 

Bill Pitts had no idea what he was about to do when he fulfilled a boyhood dream and purchased the '60s top fuel dragster dubbed the Magicar. The car you see on these pages.

Bill was a fence-hanger of a spectator during the golden age of drag racing---the 1960s. He sat in the stands and roamed the pits at drag strips like Lions, Fontana, Carlsbad, and Bakersfield and imagined. He wished and he photographed and he took it all in. It never happened for him.

It never happened, that is, until thirty years had passed and he finally reached his goal…that of owning a top fuel dragster. He acquired the former Winkle & Trapp AA/FD and set about to bring it back to its former glory. He contacted both Ron Winkle and Kay Trapp and got as much detail about the car as he could. He sought out and bought, back issues of old Hot Rod and Drag Racing magazines that contained feature articles on the car and its performance history. He cataloged the event coverage in drag news---he even saved old programs from his days as a spectator. He wrote letters to the driver, Gerald "Jeep" Hampshire and told him of his desire to have him involved in the debut of the car when it in fact was ready for action. Judging from the correspondence that I have been privileged to see, this man Pitts was clearly on a mission.

Let me quote a bit from the letter that he wrote to Jeep in an effort to persuade him to join him in the project:

Jeep: "I have enclosed a copy of an article that appeared in Drag Racing Magazine in 1965 featuring the "Magicar" just because I figured you might like to see it. My goal is to bring it back to it's original shape as it was when it was sponsored by "Astro Wheels" and then to paint it a beautiful gold color and of course add the names of the participants to the car. Since the car had two principle drivers, namely Jerry Glenn and yourself, I figured it would be fitting to put "Jeep" on one side of the cockpit and "Jerry" on the other side. Winkle& Trapp will go on the tail and of course, chassis by Kent Fuller and Body by Arnie Roberts and Ron Covell.

"As I'm writing this to you, a 392 hemi is burning a hole in the back of my pickup truck. I picked one up for $150 and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it passes the magnaflux test this week.

"When I get this thing together and it's as pretty as it can get, I hope that I can arrange for a push car carrying Kent, Ronnie and Kay and have you sitting in the cockpit of the car as they slowly push you by the grandstands at the Winternationals, announcing your names and the crowd cheers. I'll be the guy up in the stands wearing sunglasses with a big smile on my face just taking it all in. After that I can die and go to heaven."

See what I mean? The guy is immersed.

Continuing, Bill gathered all the parts necessary to bring the dragster back to its former glory and it was tedious and expensive, but his enthusiasm led many who witnessed him in action to donate bits and pieces. You can't help but marvel at the devotion to a project when you watch and listen to him talk about it and his plans for the future.

The car came together with the help of many of the original people involved---including Kent Fuller, the builder of the car, and Winkle and Jeep. They pitched in and gave it their all based solely on Pitt's enthusiastic demeanor. While some thought he was a little wacky, they couldn't deny that he was determined.

The finished product was debuted at the 2nd Annual California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield….a place that has so many fond memories for Bill that he literally gushes when discussing same.

AND it turned out just as he had projected. Only it happened at Bakersfield instead of Pomona. That would have to wait 'till later. The car was in fact pushed down the push road and fired up to the cheers of the crowd just like Bill wanted it too.

What happened later was not in his vision. It turns out that primarily because of Bill Pitts, the Magicar and the whole throw back episode, a new event was spawned… a thing called "Cacklefest". A term coined by Greg Sharp of the NHRA museum.

At this years 14th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, there will be in excess of 100 restored or recreated top fuel dragsters from the Golden Era of Drag Racing that will participate in the phenomenon knows as the Cacklefest. Ex racers and former spectators have dug up or recreated old diggers (some at great expense) and it has taken hold and growing by the minute.

If you yearn to stand around a thundering Chrysler engine that is consuming 100 percent Nitromethane and belching flames three feet tall just to drink in the sights sounds and aromas, the Cacklefest is for you.

If you don't understand what this is all about, there is no way anyone can explain it.
You had to be there…Bill Pitts was...and he's the one that made it happen.

 

 

*Editors Note: This article was written by Prieto for Drag Racer Magazine but was not published when the magazine changed hands and "nostalgia" was no longer part of their format.

 

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