CALIFORNIA GOLD

THE US NOSTALGIA DRAG RACING SEASON KICKS OFF WITH THE GOOD VIBRATIONS MARCH MEET IN BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA

STORY & PHOTOS POVI PULLINEN

THE US NOSTALGIA DRAG RACING SEASON KICKS OFF WITH THE GOOD VIBRATIONS MARCH MEET IN BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA

EACH March, the crowded bleachers at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California mark the unofficial start of the racing season for Americaís west coast. Now in its 59th running, the Good Vibrations March Meet attracts hundreds of vintage and nostalgia speed freaks Ė both racers and fans Ė and this yearís event saw overflowing staging lanes and bustling pits.

The competition is split up into classes ranging from Hot Rod, for machines over 30 years old running around the 11sec mark, all the way up to Nostalgia Top Fuel and Nostalgia Funny Car, both gunning for quickest ETs in the mid-fives.

Cars are pre-í73 in almost all classes, and this allows for a great diversity in the racing field. Nose-high gassers face up against ground-hugging coupes; open-wheeled dragsters battle it out with floppy-bodied muscle cars; and the competition is always tight. Throw in some wheelstanding entertainment, a few tins of beer, and youíve got yourself a great weekend!

After a few days of testing and qualifying, Saturday marked the start of the bracketed elimination racing. With ideal track and weather conditions, the strip was quicker than expected and a lot of racers began to break out of their indexes. Nearly half the D/ and C/Gas brackets ran too quick, but those that remained battled fiercely until the end. Crowds cheered for Ed Careyís í71 Camaro and Chris Reaís í64 Chevy II as they entered the winner's circle, with less than 0.03sec deciding the winners in both classes.

Sunday was rained out, and although it was postponed to Monday the competition remained hard and fast. A full field in A/Gas was one of the more entertaining battles of the event,

NOSE-HIGH GASSERS FACE UP AGAINST GROUND-HUGGING COUPES;

Sign of the times

ONE of the coolest things about nostalgia drag racing at events like the March Meet is the chance to see amazing artwork fl y past you down the strip. Bright colours, crazy paint effects and fl ashy lettering have been intertwined with motorsport since its earliest days, but really boomed in the 60s and 70s when airbrushing and custom graphics were in full swing.

At March Meet the cars sported everything from scrawled chalk letters, recalling pre-war stock cars, to full-body modern vinyl wraps. The sweet spot in the middle is the kind of hand-lettered signage most commonly found on gassers and Fuel Altereds. While sponsor and manufacturer stickers still adorn many of these cars, the fi rst thing you notice Ė and what defi nes each ride Ė is the beautifully lettered car names.

The Rat Trap altered, driven by Ron Hope, may have undergone countless changes since its early days in the 1960s, but the handlettering, pinstripe touches, gold leaf work and bold orange and blue graphics cement it perfectly in its era. As soon as you see the car in the staging lanes, you know youíre soon in for a spectacle.

Itís the same with many other survivor and period cars at nostalgia meets, and the popularity of hand-painted signage shows a desire to recreate a time long gone. The recent revival in traditional techniques and styling will hopefully keep this beautiful art alive.

OPEN-WHEELED DRAGSTERS BATTLE FLOPPY-BODIED MUSCLE CARS

packed with as many wheelstands as close finishes. Mike Mossi in his bright blue í69 Chevy took home the gong over Steve Galileo in a í63 Corvette, who unfortunately ran a hair under the 7.60 index.

The old AA/Fuel Altered class had only reappeared at Famoso in 2014 after the ĎAwful Awfulsí went through a revival, but with their flashy names and paintwork, nitro-breathing mills and oftenflamboyant drivers, their appearance is always a high point at the March Meet. After qualifying last in the eight-car field, Bryan Hall drove the pants off The Tramp to take out the win with a stonking 6.06@214mph.

As the sun began to set and the beer taps began to dry up, the nitro-fed Nostalgia Top Fuel and Funny Car classes boomed into chest-shaking, eye-watering life. Mendy Fry was a comeback kid in the Top Fuel competition, qualifying last but powering through to victory in her High Speed Motorsports dragster and setting the lowest ET with a 5.597@246mph. Ryan Hodgson in the Pacemaker í69 Camaro escaped elimination in the semis by 0.006sec to take home the Funny Car trophy in the final against Kris Krabil in the Dayton Superior í69 Camaro.

Jam-packed brackets in some of the quickest nostalgia classes in the country and heated competition across the spectrum definitely set the tone for this yearís racing on the west coast. If itís any indication of the health of the nostalgia scene, next yearís 60th anniversary March Meet will be insane. Get out there. s

A FULL FIELD IN A/GAS WAS ONE OF THE MORE ENTERTAINING

Whole lotta luv

SHOULDERING up to angry openwheel hot rods and floppy-bodied Camaros, Scott Biselís Chevy LUV truck stood out from the pack. We caught up with Arizona-based Scott to learn more about it.

Awesome truck! Whatís the story behind it?

Itís a 1972 Chevy LUV truck that Iíve owned for seven or eight years now. It came from up north and had a set-up that ran 10.30s, but Iíve made it a lot quicker. Iíve done all the work myself, which I love doing. Iíve been at it since I was a kid and Iíve built a bunch of cars, including a í64 Chevelle that runs 8.6s, a Camaro, and a full-drag Anglia.

Whatís it running?

Itís got a 400-cube small-block Chevy in it with a 6/71 blower, and runs alcohol, injected. Itís got a two-speed Powerglide, nine-inch Ford diff and 3:89 gears in the back. It weighs 2550lb, and I donít know the numbers but Iíd say somewhere in the 1200-1300hp range, considering the engine and the times Iím running.

It looked quick out on the track!

Yeah, this year Iím running in A/Gas (7.60 index) after going in B/Gas last year (8.60 index). I did a 7.71@174mph today, so Iím still in for the eliminations tomorrow.

Is that Arizona licence plate real?

Yep, itís definitely street-registered.

I love driving it around Lake Havasu, where I live, and people love it. When I moved there I didnít realise it was like hot rod paradise; there are car guys everywhere! Iíve stopped doing that as much lately though, because the mileage is insane. It can burn about a gallon of alcohol a minute, just idling!

Thankfully, alcohol is cheap.

Itís not every day you see an LUV run sevens.

I know. I think itís funny because I donít look like I belong in A/Gas [laughs], but Iím still in it. Itís just a great car and a lot of fun to race. I like building cars just as much as I love racing them. If I lose on the day? No big deal Ė itís all about the fun.

BATTLES, WITH AS MANY WHEELSTANDS AS CLOSE FINISHES

Muscle Bound

BAKERSFIELD local David Mallory was at March Meet to shake down his 1969 Camaro.

This looks like a very fresh build. Whatís the story behind it?

Well, itís the first time itís been out racing in over 10 years. The car originally came from Texas and ended up with a guy in Isabella, not far from here. Apparently it has a lot of race history in Texas, and you can see the original red flake paintjob the guy never finished sanding off. It was a full project but he never finished it before he passed away and I picked it up a few years ago. Iíve been working long days every day for the last month to get it here.

What state was it in when you got it?

It was pretty much as you see here, but all in a million pieces. I had to put everything back together, but even though I had all the pieces ready to go, it didnít mean everything worked out well. Itís been hard to get it done. Just a few weeks back, I was cutting a piece of bodywork and the disc blade shattered and tore up my face [points to cheek and scar from mouth to ear]. Had it gone any further back, I mightíve been a lot worse! Maybe God doesnít want me to run the car.

Whatís with the shipping invoice on the front clip?

[Laughs] Well, if I didnít like it, it would be easy to send it back! That was one of the pieces I had to buy to get it done.

The whole car is fibreglass and we put it on the scales and it weighs 2150lb Ė nice and light. Though I donít think I can return the front now [points to exhaust cut-outs].

How did it run today?

All right. Iím happy that itís all together and fired up and we made a single pass in C/Gas. We got knocked out because I ran an 11.13. I didnít realise I had the linkage set up backwards and I only had quarter-throttle! I think we can definitely run in B/Gas at 8.6 index, but the real aim is about 8.3s.

Whatís the set-up?

Itís a full tube frame and íglass body, and I built the headers and interior bits. The engine is a 496-cube Chevy, and itís got a Powerglide two-speed. I also finished up this bike here, and thatís been a lot of fun. Itís a 1974 Rokon Trailbreaker. Itís two-wheel chain drive. Theyíre awesome machines Ė that front diff actually works to let the wheel spin at a different speed to the rear, and still have full steering. And those wheels are hollow. You can fill them both up with around four gallons of water or fuel. Or whiskey! [laughs]