Ron Johnson

Nat'l Hot Rod Reunion legends to attend

The Legends Are Coming: Ivo, Garlits Set for Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion It's "TV Tommy" Ivo and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits at National Trail Raceway June 15-17 COLUMBUS, Ohio -- (May 9, 2007) -- In the golden years of drag racing two of...

The Legends Are Coming: Ivo, Garlits Set for Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion

It's "TV Tommy" Ivo and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits at National Trail Raceway June 15-17

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- (May 9, 2007) -- In the golden years of drag racing two of the most notable names were "TV Tommy" Ivo and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. Those two legends in the sport will join together at the Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by SoffSeal -- and they're bringing their cars to the three-day fanfest, June 15-17 at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio.

"Garlits and Ivo match raced hundreds of times in the 1960s and '70s," said Tony Thacker, executive director of the Parks Museum, "often racing at one track, then towing 500 miles overnight to get to the next. "We're very pleased that they've chosen to come and bring their cars to the event so that their fans old and new can see them 'up close and personal.'"

Garlits, who has participated in each of the past four National Hot Rod Reunions, will bring one of his famous Swamp Rat front engine dragsters to the event, which is produced by and benefits the non-profit Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Auto. Club of So. Calif. He was the No. 1 driver in the NHRA's list of the top 50 drag racers of all time. Garlits was the first to exceed 200, 240, 250, 260 and 270 mph in the quarter mile. He was also the first to win three NHRA U.S. Nationals titles and three world championships. His event victory total is a staggering 144. Garlits built at least 30 cars with the "Swamp Rat" name and he's brought different versions to the Reunion.

Ivo will have three cars on hand, including an orange striped 1970s-era dragster, fully restored to original condition, as well as the fabled glass-sided trailer Ivo used for towing it. The Dodge-powered full-bodied AA/Fuel dragster was Ivo's last front engine dragster. The car was honored with replication as an AMT model and kids throughout the country built them. Guy Boucher of Guy Boucher Racing in Maine, (, who did the exacting restoration, currently owns the rig and will have it on display. Boucher initially bought the car in the early '70s and fitted it with a Donovan 417 engine. It was the car in which he received his Top Fuel license. He raced the car for two years and then sold the rolling chassis and glass-enclosed "showcase" trailer. The car and trailer remained in storage for 30 years, and was never raced during that time. It came up for sale again in 2002 and Boucher bought it back and began the restoration work. Meanwhile, Ron Johnson, founder of has undertaken the task of replicating Ivo's first Top Fuel dragster. Known as the Barnstormer (from a story in a 1964 issue of Hot Rod Magazine) the car was known as much for its beauty as its performance. The aluminum body work is presently being finished by Northern California artisan Jack Hagemann, Jr. and the car will debut in Columbus.

Ivo also received dubious national notoriety when an incredible Paul Sadler photo sequence of his horrific top end crash at the 1974 Winternationals was published as a center-spread and cover image in Hot Rod Magazine. The remains of that car were found and have been beautifully restored by 1989 NHRA Funny Car Champion Bruce Larson, and it too will debut in Columbus. Ivo is the first to have built a four-engine Buick-powered dragster equipped with four-wheel drive. That car was known as the "Showboat." Ivo was also the first to break the barriers of 170 mph, 180 mph and, in Top Fuel, 190 mph. He was also the first to record a seven-second run and in 1972, the first to record a five-second run.

The 5th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by SoffSeal, is part of the museum's Hot Rod Heritage Series which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.

Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods, classics, customs and muscle cars of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.

The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:

* A ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a cruise from the Columbus Airport Marriott to Jeg's High Performance in Delaware, Ohio, Thursday, June 14, starting 4 p.m.

* Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks.

* SoffSeal Street rod "show and shine" with thousands of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars.

* National Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Columbus Airport Marriott, Fri., June 15 from 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes. Grand Marshal for the event will be Jeg Coughlin. This year's honorees are John Abbott, Don Cain, Ted Harbit, Fred Hurst, and the team of Gary Rupp and Pat Dakin. The Justice Bros. Reunion Spotlight highlights Frank Hawley.

* Heacock Classic Insurance Pit Pass Barbeque on Saturday afternoon, June 16.

* Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front- engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."

* The Swap meet and Reunion Midway are filled with manufacturer exhibits and demonstrations


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Bruce Larson , Don Garlits , Tony Thacker , Frank Hawley , Pat Dakin , Ron Johnson