“Hot Licks” is back in Oregon, with original owner where she belongs

In 1978, Bobby Byars, who was raised in Wasco and now resides outside of Fossil, purchased the 1948 Anglia, which was an English model of Ford, from a couple of guys in Portland.

“They found it sitting in a field,” Byars says of the car. “It was basically rusting away.”

The car was advertised in the Oregonian classified section and Byars went to take a look.

“I was looking for a van to buy and saw the ad. I was drawn to it as soon as I saw the car.”

Byars worked on the car and souped it up. Working odd jobs, Byars spent his earnings to improve the car. He dropped the engine from his 1966 Corvette into the Anglia and pushed the English model Ford to 600 horsepower. Byars removed the back seats to make room for the engine and firewall.

Soon Bobby had it ready to race at the drag events in Woodburn.
It was 1979 and arriving in Woodburn to race the first time, Byars was told that he couldn’t compete because he didn’t have a helmet or fireproof suit. “I had a motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket and they said that was good enough,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t know anything about this fireproof stuff.”

Initially, Bobby says that people at the track were skeptical about the car. It did not fit the mold of a racecar. Those skeptics went quiet after watching Hot Licks race. The vehicle soon became a crowd favorite.

Later in 1979, Bobby and Hot Licks were pitted against a dragster that was winning every race. Byars said that he beat the dragster and that the crowd went nuts. Soon, Hot Licks was the car to beat and had a cult following. “I beat everybody,” Byars says as he flips through newspaper clips in a scrapbook.

Bobby became a fixture at the Woodburn drag strip and Hot Licks was the top gas racer for several years. Bobby joined the Woodburn Thrifty Auto Drag Team.

Soon, Byars began to look for even faster cars. He gravitated towards so-called “funny cars” that have fiberglass bodies and run on alcohol. He decided to sell Hot Licks and to upgrade to a funny car in 1984. Byars took Hot Licks to San Francisco and sold her to a friend of a friend.
After doing so, he began to regret it. So began a 36 year quest to find Hot Licks and to bring her home.

Occasionally, he would hear rumors. There were only 800 models of the Anglia manufactured and so it was very unique. Also, the name “Hot Licks” that was painted on the side of the vehicle in gold leaf paint endured and people knew of the car. Still, he didn’t know where it had ended up.

Beginning in the mid-90s, Byars says that he began an earnest search for Hot Licks with a dream of owning it again. He heard that it was in Arizona. With help from his daughter, he found the owner but was unable to pay the asking amount. Byars told the owner that if he was ever thinking of selling it, to give him a call. The owner never did so and sold the car.

Byars again lost track of the car and again searched for Hot Licks by scouring internet classifieds and racing websites.

Finally, Bobby tracked the car down. It was in Pennsylvania. The new owner had done additional upgrades to the car, including a new frame. But again, the car was sold before Bobby could get to it. Byars learned that the new owner was in Boca Raton, Florida and that he too had made additional upgrades to the vehicle. The car was then sold again in 2005 but Bobby couldn’t find it for several years.

One day, Bobby was poking around the internet “just having fun and looking at old cars.” Bobby says that he had saved some money up and was thinking of buying a hotrod. “And then, there was Hot Licks, for sale in New York.”

Bobby made contact with the owner, a man named Doug who lives in upstate New York. “He had been looking for me after he did research on Hot Licks,” Bobby said, clearly touched by this gesture. “He had spelled my name wrong – with an “E” in Byars. He found an obituary and thought I was dead.”

Doug and Bobby began talking on the phone and earlier this year, Bobby went to New York to get Hot Licks. Doug was happy that the car was back with its original owner after 36 years. The car was shipped to Bobby and arrived just before Thanksgiving.

Byars says that the car has been significantly upgraded since he first purchased it. “Each owner did something to improve it,” he says.
The car still has the 454 Chevy engine but also has a 671 blower. With 800 horsepower, it may struggle to idle in a parade.

When asked if he will hotrod it again, Bobby says that he is looking forward to having the car in car shows, but with a coy smile he adds “it does like to go.”

Byars, who says he has “always been a hotrodder,” was raised in the culture of fast cars. “My dad had a ’62 Ferrari,” he says with a wide smile. “He took me everywhere and did road races. I got to see Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and all of those guys.”

1962 is an important year for Byars, and not just for the nostalgia of his father’s Ferrari. It was also in 1962 that he met Theresa. “She was my first crush,” Byars says. But soon after meeting, Theresa moved with her family to Montana.

Theresa later returned to Wasco and finished high school there. Bobby and Theresa would see each other at class reunions and soon, Bobby’s sister began tugging on Theresa’s sleeve. The couple was married three years ago.

The couple plans to spend their retirement travelling around to see their grandkids and great-grandkids, and to take them to car shows with Hot Licks.

“It was a miracle that we got together. It’s been one miracle after another,” Byars says.

The Times-Journal is a weekly newspaper that has been in publication since 1886. To learn more, visit us online at timesjournal1886.com or email us at timesjournal1886@gmail.com

Stephen Allen, Editor of The Times-Journal in Condon, Oregon

3–1 SUPERMODIFIED: Three tires on the right, one on the left

Supermodifieds have always been the most unique short track cars around. They are front engine, rear engine, side engine, with 2 wd or 4 wd. You name it, and it has been tried. The car built by Ken Reece was completely different. Ken is a great welder, builder and fabricator. He is also a dreamer. Ken has always had a love for circle track racing, go-carts, midgets, sprints, supers and Indy cars.

Ken wanted to build a car that would run on the outside groove of a pavement oval. With all the other supers hugging the bottom groove his car could go right around them on the outside, like a sprint car riding the rim.

In 1979 Ken started building his car. Three wheels on the outside, the front and back tires for steering and the center one for power. The opposite side was where the tire on the inside was also for power. The engine was a 494 cubic inch ZL-1 aluminum Chevy out of an old McLaren Can Am car. With fuel injection the engine produced 850 hp. The power train from the engine is direct drive to a quick change rear end sending power to the two center tires.

The frame was hand built out of aluminum and aircraft tubing. Ken built the frame without any blueprints or drawings. The car was built to be the lightest weight possible. The total weight of the car was a little over 1,300 pounds.

The brake system was disc brakes with drilled rotors with aluminum hubs. The cooling system was a triangular shaped radiator that was almost horizontal. Fresh air for the radiator came through fins in the nose of the car.

Steering was from the front and rear tires. They would turn in opposite directions when you turned the steering wheel. For example, with power steering when you turned left, the front wheel would turn left and the rear wheel would turn right.

Traction was provided by Goodyear racing tires that are 20 inches wide. To top it all off, the body was hand made out of .020 inch thickness aluminum. Hand formed with a fin coming off the rear of the car. The car had no spoilers or wings.

Now came the necessary testing. Ken asked his good friend, Tim Richmond, to give it a go. Tim was an excellent driver both in NASCAR and Indy cars. First testing was at Honda TRC testing facilities. Here there is a track that is a half mile circle with no straights. The car was so fast that the G forces loosened the strap on Tim’s helmet. The car ran very smoothly. Another part of the testing facilities is a 7 and half mile oval. After changing the gears in the quick change Tim hit the big track. After 4 laps and not going over 7,000 rpm the car was clocked at over 200 mph. Back in 1979 that was rare, only a couple of Indy and NASCAR cars that went that fast.

The next stop was Sandusky Speedway, a half mile high banked oval. With very few adjustments Tim took the car out and broke the track record. It is still an unofficial record even to this day. Ken and Tim were ready to tackle Oswego Speedway, but word got out about how fast Ken’s car was and before the start of the racing season the governing body changed the rules to be a little more specific: no rear engine cars, and “the supermodified must have four wheels- left front, right front, left rear, right rear”.

There are men that are geniuses who build cars that are better than others. Then they race and are so much faster than their competitors and for some reason they get banned. Ken dismantled his 3-1 car using what parts he could for a sprint car and crushed the original car. I wish Ken could have raced his creation, but, to be banned before it is even raced is just not right.

Laguna Seca

Sporty car racing began on the Monterey Peninsula in 1950. The Pebble Beach road races ran on the Del Monte Forest Course for five years. The event was enormously popular and by 1955, the crowd of spectators had grown too large for the picturesque venue. A group of local businessmen calling themselves “SCRAMP” (Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula) negotiated a lease with the Department of Defense to use a portion of Ford Ord’s vast property. A nine turn, 1.9 mile permanent course was constructed and operational by 1957. Only amateur races were held initially but when the venue turned professional, luring the biggest names in the sport, enthusiasts showed up in droves.

San Josean Gene Burgess was a sporty car guy and in 1965 he grabbed his eldest son, “Duff” and endeavored to spend a day at the races. Their outing was so successful that the following October, Gene chauffeured all three of his sons and their friends (ranging in age from nine to thirteen) to the inaugural Canadian American Challenge Cup races at Laguna Seca Raceway. I was lucky enough to be included and the experience changed my life.

I don’t remember too many specifics from 1966. We watched the action from a hillside in the infield and were a pretty good distance from the track. I do remember watching the two white, high-winged Chaparrals pace the field (It was the only time that ever happened). I remember a lime green car owned by Dan Blocker of Hoss Cartwright fame. I remember a yellow car sponsored by Ronald Reagan for Governor! I remember a woman on horseback dressed like Lady Godiva (promoting…something) working the crowd. I remember taking a bath when I got home because I was filthy! As I lay in the bathtub, my ears were still ringing! And I was in love with auto racing.

Due to popular demand, Gene escorted us again in 1967 but this time we attended on Saturday rather than Sunday (race day). My buddy Drew thinks we drove down in the family wagon- a powder blue early sixties Plymouth Valiant. I remember that we parked inside turn two which was the fastest part of the course and only a flimsy green cyclone fence obscured our view of the action. I remember the early morning practice session when Jim Hall crested the hill in his Chaparral. My brother Scott (Duff’s guest) called it out and in unison we all turned to look. It was so iconic, elegant, beautiful and my brother’s favorite. I fell in love with the new entry of New Zealander Bruce McLaren, a more aerodynamic, wedge-shaped racer painted a brilliant yellow orange. McLaren’s car was quick too; he qualified fastest and won his first Can-Am the next day- leading Hall by a country mile.

I968 was last year Gene provided transport for the crew- it had been an amazing run for which I will forever be grateful. We again attended on Saturday which was the smart choice as it rained from flag to flag on Sunday. ’68 was the year Canadian John Cannon won in an upset (I told that story in the Dec. ’20 issue of R&RNW entitled: One for the Little Guys). I was oblivious to Cannon’s effort watching the practice and qualifying sessions that year however as by now, I was a devoted Bruce McLaren fan. He didn’t disappoint either putting his latest creation on the pole. I distinctly remember watching the final session from the famous “Corkscrew” that year as forty big bore machines jousted to improve their starting berth or simply earn a spot in the field. The racing was frenetic, wheels slipping off course kicking up plumes of dust, and the engines twisted into submission. When the checkered flag fell, we panted our approval. Heady stuff!

A new kid named “Mike” moved onto my street about this time and he too was a race fan. His father was a member of the Mustang club and they attended the pony car races (Trans-Am series) at Laguna as well as Sears Point. I received an invite to my first race at Sears Point in September of 1969 but they declined to include me in their plans to attend the Can-Am at Laguna three weekends later. Naturally I was devastated but Mike was thoughtful enough to buy me the official program. 1969 was a year of total domination by Team McLaren. They won all eleven races that year and Laguna was no exception.

I vowed not to miss another Monterey Grand Prix and began working on my own father in 1970. As he had no interest in racing, it was an uphill battle. I’m sure guilt played a big role in my strategy and I think my mom actually helped my cause in the end. Ultimately my dad agreed to take Drew and I down. I think we took his Olds 442 and parked inside turn two- not a bad spot if you’re stuck in one place. Not only did my dad refuse to walk around but he sat in the car all day! He read the program, dozed, whatever, we didn’t care. We were happy just to be there. Dad read an article in the program about Jim Hall’s “sucker car” and predicted it would win. It probably would have but it blew its engine in the final warm up session and spun off course right in front of us. My hero Bruce McLaren had died testing their new car in the off season and that left the team in the capable hands of fellow kiwi Denny Hulme. He won the race that day but was chased all afternoon by Brit Jackie Oliver in the Ti22- a lightweight new entry built largely of titanium.

In 1971 my brother Scotty and I endeavored to make the trip. We stuffed my Kawasaki mini bike in the trunk and headed south. What transpired that day has become my favorite childhood memory of my late brother and me. We stopped to have breakfast at a restaurant on the peninsula and just happened to choose the same spot as the Ti22 Team. Their racer was on an open trailer out front and I couldn’t get over how small it was- like the coolest toy ever! When we arrived at the track we unloaded the mini bike and away we went. We went everywhere that day, exploring each vantage point and nobody said “Boo!” to us. That year Peter Revson began driving for McLaren and crossed the finish line trailing smoke. Jackie Stewart gave chase in the factory Lola.

1972 was the year Roger Penske’s Porsche 917 team came to the fore. They were the first cars to topple the McLaren dynasty and I wasn’t happy about it. Painted in the L&M cigarette livery, I didn’t like those cars and didn’t push to attend that year (I regret it now). As predicted, the Porsches finished first and second while both Team McLaren cars failed to go the distance. Somehow I still acquired a program.

By 1973 I was a sophomore in high school and finally could drive myself to Laguna Seca! So Drew and I piled into my 1961 Beetle with two other pals and we were off to the races. Making the journey was a rite of passage, really. For the first time there was no factory McLaren team to root for. Penske returned with a new Porsche 917, “the 30T” and painted in Sunoco colors, it was the most beautiful racecar I’d ever seen. Beautiful and dominate, with Mark Donohue behind the wheel, nobody could run with him. We had a great day- Little did we know we were watching the end of an era. The Can-Am series fell apart the following season and didn’t return to Laguna Seca.

Again I thank Gene Burgess for the indoctrination and my late father and brother for enabling me. The original Can-Am series has become legend and over the years I have met few that can claim to have seen it with their own eyes.