Road Kings celebrate their 60th anniversary with the rumbling of dragsters at Johnny Carson Park on Sunday. The 23rd annual Picnic in the Park and Charity Car Show raised funds for Burbank High School auto shop program, Police and Fire Museum and Burbank Historical Society. Original Road Kings members TV Tommy Ivo and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme attend and reminisce during the dragster Cacklefest.
By Joyce Rudolph
It was a classic case of fun when the Road Kings and friends flooded Johnny Carson Park with more than 600 hot rods in all shapes, sizes, colors and speeds at the 23rd annual Picnic in the Park and Charity Car Show on Sunday.
All proceeds went to Burbank charities like the Burbank High School auto shop program, Police and Fire Museum and the Burbank Historical Society.
The morning began quietly with a Boy Scout flag presentation followed by an exuberant rendition of the national anthem by Gino Gaudio. Commendations congratulating the car club on its 60th anniversary were presented to Road Kings President Rick Kalisz. Mayor Dave Golonski presented the Burbank honor and other commendations were sent from the offices of Rep. Adam Schiff, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Sen. Carolyn Liu and county Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
Drag-racing legend TV Tommy Ivo, one of the original Road Kings members, was there to receive a special commendation from Schiff. And later, another racing icon and Road Kings member, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, came by.
Then the rumbling began. Several dragsters were started up one by one for the Cacklefest ~ testing the eardrums of some and thrilling the others.
Anna Octane, with the Stormy Byrd Race Team, sat in the fire-engine red Revelation, a modified fuel roadster, that shrieked and sputtered. An interesting history surrounds the ruby gem. Octane provided a flier explaining how after breaking several records in the 1960s it was retired in 1969 and discovered by Tim Byrd in 1985 in a Calabasas garage. Tim and Bob Byrd breathed new life into it and today it runs the 7.60 Nostalgia Eliminator Class and match races.
Classic cars were spread throughout the rest of the park, including Ian Campbell ‘s 1950 Oldsmobile 88. He bought it on eBay.
“What’s interesting about this car is it has the showroom hood on it,” Campbell said. “If you look through the plexiglass hood you’ll find on the engine valve cover it says high compression test
engine General Motors Research. They had made less than 42 of those engines that were never put in an automobile.”
They had used the engine in the refineries because they made them up to 12 to 1 compression, Campbell said, and they found out back then if you had a higher compression engine you could get better gas mileage and you would have more horse power. Congress went to the refineries and wanted them to upgrade to higher octane but it was going to cost them about $2 billion and they didn’t want to do it, Campbell said.
“They could have saved a whole lotta gas back then. Even today you can save a whole lotta gas if you come up with higher octane gasoline. You’d get better mileage and more horsepower and they still won’t do it,” he said.
Campbell also has the original information pamphlet for the vehicle and other paperwork, including a blank factory order form that the dealers used to order the showroom hood. He bought it from a man in Riverside who specialized in 1950 Olds parts and memorabilia.
A few rows over was a turquoise 1948 Ford Deluxe convertible owed by Jerry and Nancy Varney of Burbank.
Twenty-three years ago the car was owned by Sam Foose, auto designer Chip Foose’s father. Jerry Varney was tipped off to the fact when he found a small paint can in the trunk and the color on the side read Foose Blue.
Nancy called Chip Foose’s office and asked if the car was possibly once owned by the family and after several phone calls and exchanging emailed photos, Foose confirmed it belonged to his father.
“That’s the paint job that Sam painted the car 30 years ago,” Jerry Varney said.
Recently, Sam Foose signed his autograph on the inside of the glove compartment door.
“In January I emailed Sam and told him we were going to be in the National Roadsters Show at the Pomona Fairgrounds and Sam showed up and he said ‘yes that’s it, that’s the car’ and that’s the day I asked him to autograph it, which he was more than happy to autograph.”
The car was pretty tired by the time Jerry Varney bought it. It took about eight or nine months to refresh the whole car. He reupholstered the interior and the trunk himself, he said.
“I took a class in upholstering and bought a sewing machine,” he said. “We got it done in time to take up to the Hot August Nights in Reno last year and ever since then we are enjoying the car.”