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Ron Lewis photo

 

Nitro Night as reported by organizer, Bill Pitts.  Escondido is a town that is part of San Diego County. It is located in what people call the "North County" area. It's not along the coast. It's about 35 miles east of the pacific coast line. So the temperature is usually about 10 to 15 degrees warmer there than along the coast. On Friday, things were a bit hot in Escondido, but no where near the oppressive heat and humidity we had to deal with in Long Beach, one month earlier. They say that day for the Long Beach "Bixby Knolls Hot Rod and Dragster Expo" was the hottest day on record for that location. But one month later, in Escondido, things felt much better.

One of the things you have to deal with, when it comes to these once a year street events is mixups when it comes to what's supposed to happen and when. The biggest mix up for Escondido was the time that the street of Broadway was supposed to shut down. We were under the impression that it would be 2:00 p.m., but when we arrived on that day, the street closure warning signs said 4:00 p.m. So that made things a little tense as we had teams arrive on time, only to be told that they had to stage on nearby side street until we could truly have full access to two blocks of Broadway. But once we were able to do so, we began allowing cars to unload and set up one block south of where we were the previous year. Last year we had only one block of Broadway for our pit area and arena (the place where the cars were fired up). But this year -- thankfully -- we were able to acquire a full two blocks to utilize. One block for the pit area and one block for the arena. That in itself was very important for the success of the event. We were able to double the size of the arena which gave the fans twice as much room to stand.

At about 5:30 the first car ready to fire was "Poison Ivy". After they fired everybody else developed a method for getting ready to fire. All had to cross the street when the signal changed and it was quite a sight for the people coming to a stop at the light on Second Avenue to see these fuel dragsters moving back and forth across the street!

Attendance for this particular cruise night was by far the biggest of the year for Escondido's weekly Cruisin' Grand Friday. A lot of the local merchants had to hustle to keep the food coming as thousands waded in to their stores for food, etc. I dunno we'll see what the future holds but I for one, believe in this kind of event and know that it will continue to evolve into something that will eventually go "on the road" to cities and towns all over our great nation. Where people of all ages can see a part of what golden age drag racing was all about. More needs to be done to provide a safer environment for this type of activity, but I believe it will be done. And to have made this one work so well makes me feel more confident than ever. However, if it hadn't been for the hard work of many volunteers as well as Steve Waldron, the organizer of Cruisin' Grand, that event wouldn't have been possible at all.

It's all about "the show" that captivated so many of us years ago.

There was a little girl, the daughter of one of our fire medics that came to the event and wore a poodle skirt (her mommy wore one too) and we had them carry Easter Baskets full of ear plugs to pass out to the spectators for free. After the event she came up and tugged on my arm and said, "That was great! Can I do it again next year?". I said we'll see. I know that all good things must come to an end. Let's hope it won't be for a while though.

Thanks, Bill Pitts

Photos by: Ron Lewis, Jim Maxwell and Pete Gemar - Header photo by Ron Lewis

 

 

Orangeline

 

The "Chizler" (aka 204 car). What a miracle!! This car which sat "static" in two museums for the last 40 years and could have stayed dormant forever had it not been for the "Why Not" approach of Ron Johnson. Well, let's just say that all who are connected with the end result of a living and breathing piece of history should be proud of themselves. At the event Bill Pitts used the adage of -- "if you were a vintage airplane enthusiast, imagine standing on Broadway and seeing the "Spirit of Saint Louis" taxi before you and the crowd". That's how special it is.

 

Event promoter, Bill Pitts had his Astro dragster neatly parked between the lines. His "Magicar". carried her original driver Jeep Hampshire to another great cackle. Jeep and Ronnie (Hampshire) continue to come down to these events from Northern California.

 

The "BankAmericar" and "Mastercar" of John Ewald really provided a great show for the fans and worked just as hard as ever to burn down the house. Great job by John, "Big Bob" Danly, and Mario Garcia.

 

 

"Poison Ivy", Ken Blackmore's fueler, is ably handled by Jay Carpenter. The car is always ready to perform when it arrives at any event. Everyone is always happy to see this work of art perform before the crowd. Many thanks to Jay and the rest of the "Poison Ivy" team for working with us at this event.

 

The "Shubert & Herbert" fueler (to the left of Poison Ivy) of "Big Yohns" (Ron Johnson) who has become a real showman in the cackle arena. His two car team brought variety and miracles to Broadway. Aside from the Chizler, "Shoobie" is the little small block "Giant Killer" "repop" that does such a great job of providing a fine example of the variety that existed in the top fuel ranks during the mid-60's. Running a light load of nitro, everyone with any knowledge of these cars had to once again marvel at the uniqueness of this little small block.

 

"Kuhl & Olson", Mike and Carl. Though they had nothing to prove by showing up at this "little" event, they came down and put on their usual outstanding show. Their first fire up was in honor of Steve Davis' birthday. Steve is now minus the Greer, Black and Prudhomme car to cackle with, so K&O provided him with a seat time nitro fix. The finale fire up saw "The Driver" Carl Olson back in the seat.

 

The Ewald Bros. BankAmericar and John Ewald's Mastercar.

 

"Lil' Tommy Larkin" is recuperation from surgery and definitely would have come out to help with the family car had he not been on the mend. Tommy loves this cackle stuff and loves to watch his son Trevor, pop and snort in this nice little "repop" of one of Tom's top gas cars, now running with a healthy dose of "POP". Trevor brought the car down to Rick MacDonald's shop "Pro Air", in Escondido, for a pre-event fire up. Trevor's crew chief was busy with another car, but Rick made sure that everything was fine with this small block that really pounds.

 

"The Frantic Four" and the Stellings & Hampshire "Red Stamp Special" is a two car team headed up by Norm Weekly and Dennis Prater. Both of these guys work their tails off to be a part of these types of shows and it isn't easy for them or those who help them out. Fortunately Hal Sanguinetti volunteered to help Norm and Dennis, additional helpers were Ronnie Rapp, Bob Bradley and Dennis' brother, Mike. Both cars fired and ran well for the crowd. Including the MIRACLE TEAM PUSH of the S & H car when it was decided that none of the push cars could push it without the possibility of damaging the tail section. Dennis will be working on an extended push bar for future appearances. But the sight of those boys working their guts out to move their driver Ronnie Hampshire to the line against brother Jeep was the highlight of the event for many.

 

Stellings & Hampshire, Trevor Larkin, Poison Ivy and Shubert & Herbert ready for action.

 

 

Kuhl & Olson, Mastercar and the BankAmericar

 

 

 

The "Paradise Alley" is owned by Bob Deburne and is a polished beauty just like "Poison Ivy", the other car he restored. Bob, Dana, and their Son Robbie really appreciated the invitation to bring the car out to this event. Chuck Bayuk, ran the car for the fans and it was a fine addition to the lineup of cars they had. My thanks to the Deburne family for going to the trouble of getting the car ready to perform on Broadway.

 

"L.A. Challenger" -- This perfectly restored late 60's fuel funny car was once owned and operated by Marv Eldridge. It has been lovingly restored by a gentleman by the name of John Robertson. John called Pitts and asked if he could come down and be a part of the show. Talk about timing! They had decided that the name of the event should be more inclusive of other cars that ran in the nitro classes, so they went from the "Big Rail Review" to "Nitro Night. And John's "L.A. Challenger" just fit in so well. This car is perfect for cackle events.

Also on hand was "Randy Walls" who brought his nitro burning "Nova" funny car that is a current runner on the nostalgia funny car circuit. The car "looks so much" like a period correct funny car that they invited Randy to join in to balance the Eldridge car. He lives out in East San Diego County and is one of the original 1960's funny car owners/drivers. Randy's a really nice guy who puts on a great show for the fans and looked to be very happy to show his piece to a very appreciative crowd.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

This local boy was one of many kids (and adults) who had their picture taken in the seat of one of the cars.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

Mendy Fry, the only woman licensed to drive a front engine Top Fuel dragster, poses by The ChiZler. Fry was in the seat for both the cars fire-ups later in the day.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

 


Ron Lewis photo

Kol Johnson and Jack White push Mendy from the staging area to Broadway for her first fire-up.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


Ron Lewis photo

Bob Danly and Mario Garcia push the Mastercar through and intersection to Broadway.

 


Ron Lewis photo

"The Poachers" Paul, Pam, Ryan, and the rest of the Schavrien family at Second Ave and Broadway. Talk about an odd site to see on a cities main street.

 


Ron Lewis photo

Bob Danly works the throttle on the Mastercar and SRO fans watch in awe.

 


Ron Lewis photo

For a Birthday present, Mike Kuhl and Carl Olson gave Steve Davis a seat in the Kuhl & Olson car.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

 


Ron Lewis photo

Bill Pitts' "MagiCar" fired on Broadway.

 


Ron Lewis photo

John Ewald in the BankAmericar for its first fire up. All the cars had their drive lines disconnected for this event or they couldn't participate. They used the push cars to simulate a push start but all cars were actually started with blower starters. Then they nudged them along with the push cars. Dragster shuffle board, if you will.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

What really helped the event was the showing of prepared music montages and historic footage from the old days. Photographs like Bob Plumer, Tom West, John Ewald, and Ron Lewis volunteered some of their photos to create these montages that helped to show what happened AFTER the green light came on. But if the crowd size for this year is any indication, they will need about four big screens instead of just one, for next year's event.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 

"The Poachers" put on a great show with their classic old Southern California front motor car. Paul and Mike Kuhl have this beast running like a watch. They took a couple of days before the event to prepare the car take her over to Kuhl's for a pre-event fire up. This team also supplied one of the push cars for the event. They used a total of five push vehicles in all.

 


Ron Lewis photo

Trevor Larkin and Paradise Alley start for the night session.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

Larkin wows the crowd with his small block Chevy fueler.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

John Ewald in his Mastercar lights up the night sky of Escondido.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


Ron Lewis photo

Ron Johnson and the ChiZler pair up with the Frantic 4 car.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

Mendy Fry is ready.

 


Ron Lewis photo

The ChiZler barks long flames from its "weedburner" headers.

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

 

Kuhl & Olson and the BankAmericar do their thing for the dragster fire-up of the night.

 

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


Ron Lewis photo

By all accounts both cars ran for five minutes plus - what a show!

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


"Media Specialties, Carlsbad, CA"

 


Ron Lewis photo

Normally funny cars are not a part of these kinds of functions but an exception was made for John Robertson and Randy Walls who closed the show with the first side-by-side city street cackle by the funnies ever.

 


Ron Lewis photo

 


Ron Lewis photo

 

Orangeline

 

Check back for more event coverage as they happen.

 

 

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