All the rumbling heard near Buena Vista Street and the 134 Freeway on Sunday was not another road project in town — it was the Nitrofest during the 25th annual Road Kings Car Show and Picnic in the Park.
Every nook and cranny of Johnny Carson Park was packed with 600-plus classic autos and motorcycles. In the northwest corner, custom-made nitro cars from the 1960s and ’70s were roaring their taillights off to the delight of hundreds in attendance.
There were five nitro cars and one boat, said publicity chairman Don Baldaseroni and they mean business. When these cars raced back in the day, they clocked 200 mph in 7.50 seconds over a 1/4 mile stretch, he said. Today’s modern versions reach 330 mph in 3.72 seconds but only go 1,000 feet on the tracks in Pomona and Bakersfield.
Burbank is the only place locally you can see — and hear — these vintage race cars without going to the tracks. Along with the vehicles, there was live music by the Mark Seller’s Band. Other attractions included a 40-vendor midway with car-related items and more, a silent auction and pancake breakfast and barbecue lunch cooked up by the Kiwanis For Fun Club.
The day kicked off with presentation of the colors and flag salute conducted by local Boys Scouts followed by Gino Gaudio singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. Road Kings member Bob Beck introduced Burbank Mayor David Gordon who presented a proclamation to Road Kings President “Fast Eddie” Salvatore.
In his welcome speech, Mayor Gordon marveled at the people coming from across the country to show their cars.
“We have people from Connecticut and Wisconsin who are here to participate,” Gordon said.
Sunday’s event brought people from as far away as New Zealand and England, Baldaseroni said.
“Our shows receive national and international attention from the hotrod magazines,” he said.
In fact, Clark Bones drove his 1954 Chevy along with four of his friends and their cars all the way from Alabama. The Chevy won the Road Kings President’s Award.
Other awards were the Mayor’s Choice, chosen by Mayor David Gordon, and presented to Larry Pearson of Calabasas and his 1934 Ford; Burbank High Auto Shop Students Award went to Steve Gray of Santa Clarita for his 1967 Chevy Camaro; Burbank Fire Award given to Kyle Roberts of the Burbank Cruising Assn., and his 1964 Chevy; and the Burbank Police Award went to Rowland Hall of Burbank for his 1965 GTO.
Fred Ruth, 82, of North Hills was showing his red 1933 Ford Factory Five kit car. It took his son 14 months to build four years ago. He decided on red because it’s his favorite color and also the same color as his wife’s 2008 Corvette. He’s driven the Ford to Pueblo, Colo., and Louisville, Ken.
“It’s got great pick-up,” he said. “The car only weighs 2,200 pounds and the engine came out of a car that weighed 6,000 pounds, so the difference in the power is tremendous.”
Tom Patino, of Burbank, brought his Sienna Metallic Red 1979 Datsun 280ZX to the show. He bought it in ’79 fully loaded for $11,600.
“I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but for 1979 it was very expensive,” he said. “I had the fuel injection and cruise control. Without that and all the specials I think you could have probably bought it for $10,000. I never intended to keep it that long. But it was my everyday car for 12 years and then when I got my other car, I didn’t have the heart to sell it.”
Before he knew it, 15 years then 20 years went by, and all of a sudden it was 25 years later.
“And people were saying ‘hey you’ve got a classic here, I hope your not selling it. I go maybe I won’t sell it and I ended up keeping it and now its 34 years and I’m real glad I did. I don’t drive it much and it only has 111,000 miles on it.”
He didn’t have to drive far to work because he was production manager for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Jim Miles was on site with photos of his famous Magic Muffler Fiat AA/FA Topolino. In August of 1964 Miles was racing the car in Long Beach and the engine exploded at the starting line, he said. A clone of the car, now owned by Bill Corbett, was on display at the Road Kings show.
Mark Lingua was also attending. He built the Bonneville Streamliner in his Burbank backyard that travels over 300 mph with just a 1 liter engine.
When asked what it’s like to drive so fast — Lingua noted how quiet it is.
The Road Kings members judged and gave out 15 Top Picks, and member Noel Salvatore presented his pick to a 1964 Ford Fairlane 500, owned by Art Tabata from Diamond Bar.
“I like this one because of its all-stock look — it’s all original accept for the license plates. It’s in beautiful condition, and it’s got an original factory record player in here,” he said.
It only played vinyl 45’s though, said a car enthusiast passing by.
This is the last Road Kings car show at Johnny Carson Park before the city of Burbank starts its renovation project there. In the meantime, the Road Kings hope to work with the city in bringing the car show back after renovation is completed or move it to another location. Baldaseroni would like to see the show stay in Burbank. It’s one of two shows the group has each year, the other is in October at Santa Anita Park.
Sponsors of the event were Giamela’s Submarine Sandwiches, Cusumano Real Estate Group and Gary Bric’s Ramp.
The shows raise funds for many Burbank charities and also are a destination for folks coming to visit Burbank, Baldaseroni said.
“Events like the car show, Burbank On Parade and others add to the quality of life and bring people into the city,” he said.