The 24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion Presented by Automobile Club of Southern California at Auto Club Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield California is in the history books for another year. Getting your nostalgia fix for old time drag racing is sure to be satisfied at this event.
In addition to the drag racing there is a car show/cruise-in in the “Grove” right behind the grandstands that covers about a ¼ mile with historic drag machines and new hot rods alike. Beyond that adjacent to the track there is a swap meet where you can find amazing hot rod stuff. I’ve never seen so many “Blowers” for sale, in my life, some very vintage and some not so old. There’s a vendor row between the pits and the Grove, where you can find tons of stuff. I bought a hot rod t-shirt for my newest grandson. Naturally, it was too big, but he’ll grow into it.
This event is quite a spectator event. The stands at Famoso run almost from the starting line to the finish line and they were nearly full most of the time. There were a few mishaps. A couple wrecks, some broken parts and a lot of old time front engine dragsters. Saturday night at dusk, these old race cars put on quite a show. Most of them are push start cars and the owners did just that, pushed them one at a time down the return road in front of the packed stands and lit up about 75 of ‘em. They then drove them around the Jersey barrier behind the water box and out onto the track. They idled them down the track and starting near the finish line, they parked them diagonally one by one where they sat and “Cackled” until they ran out of fuel. The line ran almost all the way back up the track to the “tree.”
By this time it was completely dark and the flames were popping out of the zoomies as they cackled until their fuel was gone. If you’ve never seen or heard a “Cackle Fest,” It’s pretty cool.
While wandering through the swap meet we stumbled onto a vendor booth operated by none other than Mr. Gene Winfield. He very graciously offered to pose for a picture and he even held up his copy of Roddin’ & Racin’ Northwest. Man, I’d love to know all the hot rod history he has experienced. A little farther down the aisle a golf cart pulled up to my buddy Jim who was wearing a vintage Ed Iskederian t-shirt and the passenger was none other than the man himself, Mr. Ed Iskenderian. He asked Jim if his shirt was an original (old) shirt, which it wasn’t, but a new reproduction of an old one. He also asked if we used any of his cams, which we do and have and he offered his hand to this nobody and introduced himself. I was impressed with his gracious friendliness. He has been working at this hot rod stuff for a while too.
Back at the beginning of this article I mentioned there was drag racing going on, tons of it. Nitro burning rails, Funny cars, Altereds, lots of the old stuff you might remember seeing back in the sixties, gassers etc. and newer stuff as well. In the front of the pit area nearest the staging lanes there we vintage race cars, push cars/trucks, old gassers galore. It was a pretty cool weekend and it was the 24th annual, which suggests the likelihood of a 25th annual. It’s worth the trip if you like hot rods and race cars, but take your sunblock and hat because it was pretty sunny and you will definitely get burnt if you’re not protected. Look for next years’ event again in mid to late October.