Tag Archives: drag racing

Road Kings Become Park Kings for Charity Show

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.

Road Kings President Rick Kalisz, right, presents TV Tommy Ivo with a special commendation from Rep. Adam Schiff for Ivo's 60th anniversary of racing. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

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.

Anna Octane, with the Stormy Byrd Race Team, sits in the ruby red Revelation, a modified fuel roadster, that roared during the Road Kings car show. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

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

Ian Campbell 's 1950 Oldsmobile 88 has the showroom plexiglass hood and a high compression test engine made by General Motors Research. They had made less than 42 of those engines and they were only used for testing in the refineries but never dropped into an automobile. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

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.

This1948 Ford Deluxe convertible is now owned by Jerry and Nancy Varney of Burbank. It was painted Foose Blue by former owner Sam Foose, father of Chip Foose, the famous automobile designer/builder. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

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.

One of the dragsters displayed at the Road Kings car show was this Lingua Bros. and Father land speed record streamliner. The chassis, body and engine were built/manufactured by the Lingua family in Burbank. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

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.”

Tommy Ivo – More Then Just a King of the Road

Tommy Ivo talks about his life from his childhood acting career and drag racing over the Burbank border as a teenager to 30 years racing and building dragsters for a living. He and the Road Kings are celebrating 60 years of rodding and racing with the 23rd annual Picnic in the Park and Charity Car Show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Johnny Carson Park.


By Joyce Rudolph


Drag-racing icon Tommy Ivo says he’s had all three wishes granted at the wishing well.

Original Road Kings from left, Bob Muravez, Tommy Ivo and Kenny Safford (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

The 76-year-old Burbank resident was a childhood actor, then became famous in the drag racing community and after surviving several injuries has lived to look back on his 60 years since he started racing.

He chatted comfortably while standing on his “home turf” ~ the parking lot of Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake ~ talking about his life and being one of the original members of the Road Kings, Burbank’s car club also celebrating its 60th anniversary at a car show on Sunday.

He is known as TV Tommy because of some 200 TV shows to his credit, including a running part on the 1961-’62 sitcom “Margie” and roles on “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show.”

After his weekday commitment on the set, Ivo would head to the drag strip on the weekends and race cars at 200 miles an hour.

He then built a hot rod and used to park it in the prime spot on the end of the car hop station at Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake, he said.

“They all had to drive around that spot and you could talk to everybody as they were waiting,” Ivo said.

Ivo was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005, joining such prestigious company as Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt and fellow Road Kings member Don Prudhomme.

Wives of Road Kings members and friends are, from left, Lynda McCurry, Carolyn Safford, Nancy Malone, Lynn Prudhomme and Edie DeCristo. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

It has been 30 years since Ivo has sat behind the wheel of a race car, he said. When he first started racing he had a lead sled, a car lowered to the ground with all the chrome taken off.

“But you had to own a hot rod to be in the Road Kings, so I built my very first little Model T Roadster just to get into the club,” he said. “I took it to the drag strip and it never got beat and it set the record everywhere it went in its class of street roadster. It hooked me and I ended up quitting the movies to go to the drag races,” he said.

No one was happier than TV Tommy when the “Margie” series ended its run. He had built a car with four motors on it and when the producer saw it, he stopped Ivo from racing, Ivo said.

Classic cars in a buffet of colors were on display during the Road Kings dinner at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake. The club is celebrating 60 years in Burbank. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

“When the series was over, everybody was walking around with doggie eyes, ‘we lost the show’ and they hear all this commotion in the dressing room and I’m doing a handstand saying oh boy o boy I can go back to drag racing,” Ivo said.

Being a part of the Road Kings, he and his friends “lived American Graffiti.”

Ivo was amused, he said, watching the present manager of Bob’s, Leo Matias, all smiles, chumming around with Road Kings members during a club dinner on June 2.

“Boy the manager of Bob’s back in 1960 wasn’t happy to see us here,” Ivo said. “We’d get in here and it started as a simple thing as someone would be taking the wrapper off the straw and blow it across the table at the other guy and then the food fight was on. When we’d leave, there would be a half-eaten Big Boy sliding down the plate-glass window.”

Bob's Big Boy gets a hug from one of his fans, Scarlett Brown, who was celebrating her 6th birthday eating dinner with her family at the car hop station. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)

Ivo preferred the catsup bottle, he said, because it worked real well as a machine gun. He would stand up on a chair and hit the bottom of the bottle with one hand and aim it at his friends with the other, going around the table.

Then it would come time to race. A couple guys would choose each other off or brag their car was faster than the other’s and they would take off over the flood channel bridge to Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles because there were no houses and police didn’t patrol it regularly, he said.

“A big long line of cars would follow them out to Forest Lawn Drive, just like in the movie ‘American Graffiti,’ and after the race, we’d come back to Bob’s,” he said.

Another famous drag racer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme joined the Road Kings because he was one of Ivo’s crew guys, Ivo said, adding that they had some wild ideas to initiate new members.

Prudhomme lived in Van Nuys, so his friends would hang out at the Van Nuys Bob’s, Ivo said. For his initiation, they dressed him in nothing but a diaper and he had to go from table to table inside Bob’s asking for milk to fill his bottle.

“He was mortified!” Ivo said.

The Road Kings will celebrate their 60th anniversary in town during the 23rd annual Picnic in the Park and Charity Car Show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Johnny Carson Park. For more information, visit www.burbankroadkings.com.

Road Kings gather at Bob's Big Boy for a group shot during a car show and dinner celebrating the club's 60 years in Burbank. (Photo By Joyce Rudolph)