In 1954, Wally Parks—who at the time was in charge of both the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and Hot Rod—dispatched a small crew of men to cross the country. Their goal: Promote the relatively new sport of organized drag racing—the safe, NHRA way—by working with local car clubs to put on races. They towed a small travel trailer full of everything they’d need for the event, from timing equipment and a P.A. system to trophies.
It’s May 1960, and “TV” Tommy Ivo is about to leave his Burbank home for a months-long national match-race tour, taking with him his new twin-engine dragster and, as crew, a teenaged fellow Road Kings car club member named Don Prudhomme.
The entry list for the 1966 running of the Motor Trend 500 NASCAR race at Riverside International Raceway read like a who’s who of iconic stock-car stars, as well as talented wheelmen from other racing disciplines: Richard Petty, A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Mario Andretti, David Pearson, Tiny Lund, Bobby Allison, Dick Guldstrand and many, many more.
The happy guy standing on his dragster’s slick is Ed Garlits, younger brother of Don. You may have heard of Don. He’s the “Don” of Don’s Speed Shop that’s lettered on the dragster’s nose. He’s also known by many as “Big Daddy.”
The 1967 NASCAR season was dominated by Richard Petty and his Hemi-powered Plymouth Satellite—a potent combination that won 27 races and notched 35 top-five finishes in 48 starts that year. NASCAR’s 1966 champion, David Pearson, found himself struggling in 1967. He ran just a partial season and left Cotton Owens’ Dodge team after 10 races to drive Fords for Holman Moody.
Gaspar “Gas” Ronda, best known for drag racing a series of Mustangs during the early evolution of the Funny Car, passed away at the age of 91 in October. He didn’t start drag racing in Fords; in the 1950s, while living in Northern California and working as a dance instructor, he raced Hudsons, Buicks and Corvettes. (Yes, dance instructor. Ronda had polio as a child, and he discovered dance as a way to strengthen his legs.)
It’s August 1958, and Hot Rod Technical Editor Ray Brock (center) is being shown the finer points of supercharger design by Paxton Chief Engineer John Thompson (left) and Andy Granatelli. Brock’s visit and comprehensive research led to an in-depth story with the “…Can Be Practical” headline in the magazine’s October 1958 issue.
Organizers of the first High Performance and Custom Trade Show, which was held 50 years ago at Dodger Stadium, recognized early on that the Show needed to move out of the ballpark’s halls and into a proper convention facility for it to have any growth potential. The second show—already being referred to as the SEMA Show—did just that, relocating in 1968 to the Anaheim Convention Center.
There are two icons of hot rodding in this photo from Rod & Custom’s December 1960 article about organizing tools. One is the magazine’s associate editor, Neal East. The other is the distinctive ’32 Ford that is best known as the Doane Spencer roadster.
Auto racing is a dangerous sport. Always has been. The challenge of mitigating the potential for injury—or worse—has resulted in technological advances in every aspect of racing, from the driver’s personal gear to vehicle structure and even the construction of the race venue.