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.
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 6s during his stint at driving
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 Johns 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 Glens 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 70s, 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 Kevins Dad)
bought it in 1980. They installed a big block Chevy and proceeded
to race in a bracket class for 15 years.
The search began around 1992
or 1993. Larry Anderson had heard about the fuel dragster that
his daughters grandfather had raced back in the 60s (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
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 MkIIs.
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.
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).
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.
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".
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.
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.
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, Larrys 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.
2004 Cacklefest it was Rachelle Anderson in the car.
Cacklefest found Jessica Anderson in the seat.
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
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.