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Long Beach, CA - July 22, 2006: Fans who frequented Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach from 1955 to 1972 remember the thunderous roaring, billowing fire and smoke of the top fuel dragsters as they competed side by side. On Saturday, July 22, those familiar sights and sounds once again were heard in the city.

The Bixby Knolls Dragster Expo and Car Show was produced by Doug Kruse and his Professional Dragster Association and sponsored by the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association and the office of Councilwoman Rae Gabelich. It was no surprise that Gabelich would spearhead an event like this as she grew up in the world of drag racing married to the late Gary Gabelich who not only drove fuel dragsters, but set a land speed record of 622.407 MPH in 1970.

Thanks to superb planning and coordination by Bill Pitts, there were eleven of the best cacklecars (restored or recreated dragsters) in SoCal and they all put on a great show. Under sunny and very hot California skies thousands of spectators saw each car fire up three times during the afternoon. When all was said and done the smell of nitro lingered in the air and everyone was wearing a huge smile.

All Photos by: Warren Merriman

 

Orangeline

 

City streets were shut down giving ample room for the cars and their trailers. Prior to the fire-ups everyone was literally parked at the curb giving fans an up close and personal look at the machines.

This is the newly restored Groundshaker Top Fuel dragster which has yet to make its "official" Cacklefest debut but is expected to join the group this October at the California Hot Rod Reunion.

 

 

Ron and Kol Johnson had the "204 Car" of Chris Karamesines on hand. Rod McCarroll checks out the sign.

 

 

Two of the most active cacklecars are John Ewald's Mastercar and BankAmericar. Over the year each car will fired up well over 100 times from Escondido to Reno.

 

 

 

Our course the "Godfather" of cacklecars was on hand in the form of Bill Pitts' "Magicar".

 

The unique "Poison Ivy" fueler always gets a lot of attention.

 

 


Dennis Prater's "Stellings & Hampshire" Red Stamp car and Norm Weekly's "Frantic 4" rest in the morning sun.

 

The NHRA Wally Parks Motorsports Museum brought three cars but only the
Howard Cams Rattler fired up. Here Kenny Saffords "Safford, Gaide and Ratican" Olds,
George Bolthoffs Chrysler powered gas burner and the Rattler are on display.

 

 

Firestone is a huge supporters of events like these and their area served as ground zero for the participants and staff.

 

Two of the key players for this great show were Doug Kruse and Bill Pitts.

 

At noon the cars were brought up to a main intersection where they would rock the normally quiet Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach. First out was the Poison Ivy car owned by Ken Blackmore. Jay Carpenter, who maintains the car and brings it to events, is on the left in the yellow shorts.

 

 

In the car was 15 year old Mitch Mosby who, according crew chief Jay Carpenter, is "One hell of a neat kid. He pays attention and is willing to work on the car when every one else has gone home.

 

With the starter removed the car barks at the SRO crowd.

 

 

 

Spider Razon, John Buttera who has built some of the nicest race cars and hot rods ever seen and drag racing icon, Roland Leong take in the show.

 

In the seat of Bill Pitts' Magicar was its original driver Jeep Hampshire.

 

 

In the beautiful Stellings & Hampshire car was the other Hampshire, Ronnie.

 

 

 

Dennis Prater starts his engine then Ronnie Rapp takes over for tune-up duties. Dennis just got this engine back together and is still working out the new combination.

 

 

 

 

Next out was the Howard Cams Rattler. Dusty McWilliams is standing in the seat, Wayne Phillips from the Wally Parks NHRA Drag racing Museum in the straw hat and Bob Muravez on the right. Muravez aka Floyd Lippincotte Jr. sat for fire-ups.

 

 

 

 

 

Out next was Paul & Pam Schavrien's "Poachers" restoration with Full Throttle News publisher Richard Heath in the seat. Unfortunately they had starter problems and the car failed to fire.

 

 

 

 

Mendy Fry, the only woman to ever drive a front engine Top Fuel dragster into the five second zone at over 250 MPH was in the famed Chizler of Chris Karamesines. Ironically this was the first dragster to run over 200 MPH in 1960.... years before Fry was even born.

 

 

Ron "Big Yohns" Johnson fires the engine then holds his ears while Fry grins.

 

 

Sweet noise.

 

Johnson adjusts the idle on the Hilborn injectors.

 

In spite of being the driver of a very competitive contemporary front engined Top Fuel Dragster, the opportunity was more than savored by Mendy. A special day!

 

The new Groundshaker was next but we have no photos of it running.

 

 

Norm Weekly and Dennis Prater get the Frantic-4 (Weekly-Rivero-Fox-Holding) car ready to fire after putting Ryan Schavrien in the seat.

 

 

Ronnie Rapp was on hand to give his old buddy Weekly moral support.

 

Engine fired, crowd holding their ears.

 

 

 

The only non-hemi in the mix was the Larkin Family small block Chevy fueler. As you will see later, the car has two cowls, one with Tommy's name on it and one with Trevor's name.

Like the Groundshaker, this car has yet to make its "official" Cacklefest debut but will in October.

 

 

 

Next to last to fire was the Ewald Bros. BankAmericar with Alex Mikkelsen overseeing the start up and run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last car to fire was John Ewald in his Mastercar with Mikkelsen once again doing the mechanics.

 

 

 

To kick off the second session of cacklecars the Mayor-elect of Long Beach, Bob Foster and Rae Gabelich addressed the crowd and, among other things, thanked them for coming out in spite of the heat.

 

 

This time two cars would fire at once and leading off was Mayor Foster and Councilwoman Gabelich in the Mastercar and MagiCar respectively.

 


From the Long Beach Press Telegram - Sunday, July 23, 2006.

 

Rae is helped into the car while Foster looks like he's having second thoughts.

 

 

A special part of this was that Rae wore one of Gary's old helmets.

 

 

Ready to rumble.

 

 

 

 

The next two cars were Mendy Fry in the Chizler and the Groundshaker. Both cars preformed flawlessly.

 

 

 

 

Next pair was Guy Gabelich (Rae's son) in the Frantic-4 and Mitch Mosby in Poison Ivy.

 

 

 

Next side-by-side was Caroline Ash in The Poachers and Trevor Larkin the Larkin Family Chevy.

 

 

 

The Larkin car in Trevor trim.

 

 

 

 

The final cacklers of the day were the Stellings & Hampshire car and the BankAmericar. Larry Sutton stands between them with his familiar and now very old cowboy hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doug Kruse would like to give a special thanks to Rod McCarrell and Beth Crossley were the "Staff" and helped clear the pit areas before each fire up, answer the crowds' questions and then stood by at the fire extinguishers, during the cackles in case any car had any trouble whatsoever. Also, Larry Sutton who was the head Starter at Lions Drag Strip until it closed in 1972. Sutton was on hand and did what he does best -- he was the "starter", oversaw the fire ups at the line, made sure there were no problems, just like the old days.

 

Orangeline

 

Check back for more event coverage as they happen.

 

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