I love going to the Hot Rod Reunion. Famoso Raceway is smelly, dusty, and in the middle of nowhere, but for three days every fall there's nowhere else I'd rather be. And judging by the increased crowds every year, I'm not the only one! In 2010 we celebrated the 19th Hot Rod Reunion, and also marked the 50th anniversary of the famed Winged Express AA/Fuel Altered, which made passes up the quarter in celebration.
Steve Hudson ran this '55...
Steve Hudson ran this '55 Chevy back in the early '70s in Southern California. It changed owners and colors and disappeared into storage for 25 years before Ron Malmsten bought it. It's now restored and back in Hudson's ownership.
In those 19 years, the event has evolved from a small affair recalling the glory days of drag racing to a huge showing of all manner of restored and retro race machinery. At this event we also witnessed 16 Top Fuelers, and almost 40 Funny Cars vying for places in the 16-car field, which incidentally boasted a 5.95-second bump spot! This latter class has exploded in popularity in the past three years alone.
But the Reunion is so much more than nostalgia drag races. The Grove, behind the bleachers is, for an all-too-brief few days, home to vintage Fuelers, Altereds, and Gassers, as well as hot rods and customs. The pits are a show in themselves and a must-attend for old race car fans, while the swap meet area seems to expand annually, and offers up race-orientated parts that never appear at regular swap meets.
Then there's Friday night's party at the host Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield, California. Here you can stand right next to race cars firing up on fuel during the evening and talk firsthand with many of your heroes. Saturday (and this year Sunday too) sees the famous Cackle Fest, when scores of cars are fired up, driven up the return road, and out onto the track. They used to all run together, but there are so many these days that by the time the last car is on the strip, the first is already shut off and cooling. Once all the engines are killed, the bleachers empty onto the track, allowing fans to get as close as they wish to the cars. Just don't burn your legs on the still-warm headers!