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The history of the Vagabond begins in 1962 with two Sacramento area truck-drivers who decided they wanted to go drag racing. They each took out a “home improvement” loan then called Kent Fuller to order a chassis.

History

 


The Vagabond - 1963

The Kent Fuller chassis - Arnie Roberts body “masterpiece” was built for Jim VanRonk and Roy Bumgarner. It originally measured 121 inches in length, had a half-body, and was powered by a ‘57 Chrysler 392 Blown Hemi on Nitro.

 

"This is the "Vagabond" in it's forth paint scheme. The next color was red and is the first time it said Vagabond on the nose . The two guys in the picture (below) are standing - Shorty (Larry) Leventon (driver) and kneeling Roy Bumgarner in 1964.

 

The Vagabond was driven by Larry “Shorty” Leventon from 1963 until September 1964 when Gary “Wildman” Ormsby took over the “reins”. Ormsby would go on to be a drag racing "great" after this, his first ride.

 

Ormsby in The Vagabond at Long Beach in 1964.

 

 

 

Ormsby was driving when the Vagabond became the first car to go 200 MPH at Sacramento (Excelsior) Dragstrip -- 201.34 mph on June 9, 1965. On September of 1965 the car carded a 7.42 ET / 202.12 mph at Half Moon Bay. During this time the nose was added along with the enclosure over the driver. It raced like this for only about 6 months then the car was “stretched” to 142 inches and the nose was replaced with a longer and sleeker style.

The Vagabond regularly raced at Fremont, Half Moon Bay, Kingdon (Lodi), Excelsior (Sacramento), Vaca Valley, as well as Bakersfield, Lions, Fontana and San Fernando -- there may be more, but like many other cars, the principles are still learning about its history. Gary drove until 1966 or 67, then Kenny Machost took over the controls. Kenny drove until the car was either sold or traded to B & N Automotive in Sacramento around 1969. Kenny has told the Anderson's he remembers running in the mid to high 6’s during his stint at driving the Vagabond.

The Engine: When the car was sold/traded to B & N in 1969/70, Roy Bumgarner kept the engine -- nicknamed “Charlie” (Jim VanRonk, the other co-owner, was killed in 1967 in a truck-driving accident). Roy used the Hemi in 3 different cars to set 2 records at Bonneville. "Charlie" was in another fuel car when it crashed severely injuring Howard Johnson. The car was totaled but Bumgarner was able to salvage the block & heads. A few years later his nephew, John Weaver (of "Dream Weaver" Alcohol Funny Car fame) decided to go sand-drag racing, and borrowed the Hemi. John used it in his alcohol sand-drag funny car, then would pull it out and put it in his asphalt alcohol funny car. This went on for a while until he decided switching the Hemi back and forth every week or so was “going to kill him”. Charlie was also used in John’s mom Mardels funny car and a tractor-pulling vehicle. In fact, in June of 1995 it was run in a tractor-pulling vehicle at the L.A. Coliseum. This very same hemi has been "freshened up" and is in the car today. To any ones mind a cast iron 392 hemi has never gone through what "Charlie" has and lived to tell about it.

The Car: The chassis was sold around 1969 or 70 by B & N Automotive to Glen Wild, who installed a 426 Hemi in it, but never raced it. It was also used in Glen’s auto shop class at UOP-Stockton as a paint project. It had quite a few paint schemes over the years. Glen then sold it to a guy named Harold Van Ryn of Modesto. He installed a small block Chevy with a tunnel ram in it but he never raced it. Incidentally, the Anderson met Harold at the drags in Sacramento while they were still searching for the car (he saw one of our flyers). He told us about owning the Vagabond in the mid 70’s, he even sent Anderson a couple of pictures of when he owned it and told told them about selling it to some people up in Oregon or Idaho. It turned out the car was in the hands of a father and son who ran it for about a year. Then, the Shumways (Kevin, Kat, Joe, Becky and Kevin’s Dad) bought it in 1980. They installed a big block Chevy and proceeded to race in a bracket class for 15 years.

 

Orangeline

 

 

The search began around 1992 or 1993. Larry Anderson had heard about the fuel dragster that his daughters grandfather had raced back in the 60’s (Rachelle and Jessica are the granddaughters of original co-owner Jim Van Ronk), and decided to see if he could locate it. He called around with no luck, placed an ad in the National Dragster “Bits from the Pits”, and even was able to talk to Roy Bumgarner, one of the original co-owners, but Roy hadn't seen or heard anything about “the old girl” since he had sold/traded it in 1969. He did, however, tell Larry that if we ever found it, he still had the last original Hemi that ran in it and we could have the motor to put back in it. They made up flyers and handed them out at every nostalgia drags they went to.

Finally, through the kindness of Randy Fish (formerly of Street Rodder) who ran an article about the Anderson's search in his “Quarter-Mile Update”, they were able to locate the actual, real, honest-to-goodness Vagabond! Street Rodder subscriber Duane Neary of Nampa, Idaho saw the article and remembered seeing a dragster that looked like ours in a friends garage. Actually, he thought it looked like the Stellings & Hampshire dragster (the two cars were very similar), and when he saw the article he called Anderson and told him about this dragster. They sent him pictures and he went over to his friends and sure enough it was the car. When he called them with the news we were flabbergasted to say the least.

He gave them Shumway's phone number, and they called and told them about their search and the reasons they were looking for the car. Shumway was reluctant to consider selling at first, they had owned the car for 15 years and had a lot of sentimental attachment to it, but they also knew they were going to have to do a major upgrade if they wanted to race it the following year. The chassis had never been “stickered” (it had never been teched), and would need to have a lot of work done to bring it up to todays standards. They sent the Anderson's pictures to compare while they contemplated selling it. When they got the pictures, one look at the shot of the nose, the hand-brake, and the rear part of the body they had no doubt that they'd found the Vagabond. Unbelievably, the car had survived the last 25 years in top-notch shape!

Anderson called them and told them it was, in fact, their car and they told us that after a lot of soul-searching, they had decided to sell it. The Anderson's scrambled to come up with the money, borrowed a pick-up and car trailer, and headed to Meridian, Idaho. 36 hours later Anderson pulled into their driveway with the dragster. Larry then called Roy, the remaining co-owner, and asked if the offer he made about the engine was still good, he said yes it was, then Larry told him that they had found and purchased the car. He said, “How the hell did you do that?” He was totally blown away! But, his offer was still good, so Anderson borrowed the pick-up again and headed for Hanford (CA) to the Weavers shop to retrieve the Hemi (aka Charlie). When they got home and unloaded the Hemi it was quite a reunion. The car and motor had been separated; each had very interesting “lives”, and were now back together.

The restoration began the day after they got home from Idaho. The car was in really good shape. The body was original with the only changes being the cowl and side panels. The rear-end was original as well as the hand brake, the seat, the steering box and the upholstery. The front axle, wish-bones, torsion spring, fuel tank were all original. The front wheels were the originals that were hand made by Kent Fuller in 1962. And, Anderson believes, the front tires are the original 1966 Avon Speedmaster MkII’s.

After removing the body they realized the chassis had been altered and stretched plus someone had added another hoop to the rollbar to make it legal to race. That was the first thing to go. They had stretched it to 156 inches from in front of the motor back and moved the rear-end back about 3 inches to make room for a power-glide transmission. Someone had cut the chassis and widened a small area on the side probably for a starter. They called Kent Fuller who built the car in 1962 and he agreed to restore the chassis back to the 1965 configuration. At the same time, they had located the original body builder, Arnie Roberts and asked if he would be interested in re-doing the cowl and side panels that had been changed. He told Anderson he was “happily retired and living on the beach in Hawaii”... but he did send them pictures and wished them luck with the restoration.

 


The legendary Kent Fuller in his element.

 

They took the chassis to Kent Fuller's shop where he “center sectioned” it, as well as, shortening it by 14 inches including moving the rear-end back to where it belonged. He also hand fabricated new side panels, cowl, and repaired the nose.

 

 

 

After Fuller did his thing the Anderson's re-installed the engine and began the search for period correct parts. Among other things they went looking for a barrel-valve, shower-head nozzles, shut-off valve, clutch-can and a Schiefer Mag. Ron “Pro” Welty found a barrel-valve and the shower-head nozzles (which came from Gerry Steiner) and he turned Anderson on to the Schiefer mag he'd found at the CHRR swap-meet. The fuel shut-off valve came from George Wulf (Wulf & VanDyke). The clutch-can came from Rod Hynes. They had to use new fuel lines and fittings but were able to put the fuel system back to almost period correct.

 

In the course of the restoration many of the parts the Anderson's acquired came from interesting places. The Goodyear “Blue Streaks” on American Mags (above) were found at a swap-meet just 20 miles from where they live. The “Airheart” disc brakes came from a long time racer Bob Foster from Sacramento who happened to see their “parts wanted” flyer one year and happened to have a set “just laying around”.

 

Orangeline

 

Since its debut at the 1997 CHRR every year, as finances allowed, the Anderson's added more "restoration" to the car. In 1998 they were able to get some of the chrome work done, and in 1999 they had the front spindles re-chromed and the wheels re-laced and polished.

 

In 2000 it was off to Don Honstein's shop in Sacramento for period correct black lacquer/red metal-flake paint. Don did the original black/red paint job in 1965 and when the Andersons met him one year at the Kingdon Reunion they asked if he would be interested in painting the car. He said yes, but on one condition -- that it would be painted back to the scheme he did in 1965. Which was exactly what the Anderson's wanted.

 

Don was really excited about doing the metal-flake, he even was able to locate, as he put it, “all the right stuff” for doing metal-flake like it was done back then (1965).

 

 

Orangeline

 

After they got the car back from Don's shop, it was ready for the lettering, which was done by Bob Thompson. They had met Bob at CHRR in 1994, their first Reunion. He had a picture of our car that he had taken at Fontana in 1965. He told them that his profession was lettering and striping, but that his specialty is recreating original lettering on race cars and that he would love to recreate the lettering on the Vagabond. So, they called Bob to and let him know the car was ready for lettering. Thompson drove up from So. Cal. and spent 3 days painstakingly duplicating the original lettering from pictures. He nailed it.

 

Orangeline

 

In September of 2000 they fired the "Charlie" for the first time in 5 years and gave it its first shot of Nitro since 1969 (The engine had been ran all this time on Alcohol). Also they had been invited to participate in something new at the 2000 CHRR - something called a "Cacklefest".

 

They weren't able to push start The Vagabond due to the fact the car wasn't “hooked-up” – no drive shaft between engine and rear-end. So they were staged on the starting line during the Twilight Memorial Service, and then did a static (blower-start). They were the first to fire up (and almost the last to shut off).

 

The other 8 cars were push-started and lined up down the track from them. In retrospect, Anderson relates that being one of the original nine cars in the inaugural Cacklefest was one of the greatest experience ever.

 

Orangeline

 

In 2001 they decided it was time to pull the engine and check it out, freshen it up, and install the drive shaft, so they too could push start in the Cacklefest. Anderson found they would need to replace the bearings, rings, valves, springs, lifters, several rocker arms and the crank. This is where they, like many other folks that have restored old cars, got a little help from their friends. Jim Hill of Crane Cams supplied the valve springs; “Digger” Dan Horan donated the lifters; Bob Foster kinked in new rocker arms and Philip Lofton gave them crankshaft. They got everything lubed, installed, and torqued, and then put it back in the chassis only this time they installed the drive line and clutch.

After a couple fire-ups and a fuel distribution problem fix, they were ready to learn how to push start. They were able to take the car down to Sacramento Raceway on a Friday during one of their test & tunes. Anderson warmed up (on Alcohol) suited up and pushed her out. They pushed down the chase road (which was originally the fire-up road), got up to 30 mph, honked the horn, let out the clutch, brought up the oil pressure, turned on the fuel, a light touch on the throttle, clicked on the mag, and the Hemi fired. It took off like it was shot out of a cannon. There was no doubt that the Vagabond was running and under power for the first time in 32 years. They were good to go for the 2001 CHRR.

 

Terri Anderson in the car for the 2002 Cacklefest.

 

 

 

Since that inaugural Cacklefest the Anderson's and The Vagabond have been honored to participate in the annual event every single year and were thrilled to be a part of the one and only “Ring of Fire” event. Terri Van Ronk Anderson, Larry’s ex-wife, was the "driver" of the car from 2000-2003. In 2004 the torch was passed to Rachelle Anderson Richerson, age 22 and Jessica Anderson, age 21 as the drivers and co-owners of the Vagabond, third generation of “Vagabonds”.

 

At the 2004 Cacklefest it was Rachelle Anderson in the car.

 

 

 

The 2005 Cacklefest found Jessica Anderson in the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

Another claim to fame for the Anderson family is their annual participation in the traditional "Mini Cacklefest" held after the CHRR on Sunday evening at the Bakersfield In N Out Burger where the manager welcomes the attention. It's the last nitro fix before everyone goes home. For the last five years Bill Pitts' "Magicar" and the Vagabond have fired up in the parking lot packed with racers, fans and locals who can't quite grasp what they are seeing - let alone hearing. What better way to end the best weekend of the year than a double-double animal style and 4 gallons of nitro!

 

 

 

If you plan on attending a California Hot Rod Reunion be sure to drop by the Anderson pit on Memory Lane to check out this beauty up close and personal. Also stay tuned in 2009 for a second "pedigree" cacklecar from the Anderson stable - seems it belonged to one Jimmy Nix.

 

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