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
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
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
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
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.
Ron "Big Yohns"
Johnson fires the engine then holds his ears while Fry grins.
Johnson adjusts the idle
on the Hilborn injectors.
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.
The new Groundshaker
was next but we have no photos of it running.
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
Ronnie Rapp was on hand
to give his old buddy Weekly moral support.
Engine fired, crowd holding
Norm Weekly and Dennis
Prater get the Frantic-4 (Weekly-Rivero-Fox-Holding) car ready
to fire after putting Ryan Schavrien in the seat.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
The Larkin car in Trevor
The next two cars were
Mendy Fry in the Chizler and the Groundshaker. Both cars preformed
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.
Check back for more
event coverage as they happen.