The Holley Hot Rod Reunion is, far as I’m concerned anyways, my Genesis when it comes to BangShift. It was the first major photo assignment I had, the first time I worked with Brian and Chad, the first time I shot on a dragstrip, the first time I shot a feature car…naturally, the event means a lot to me mostly because it’s where just about every “first” that involves the work I do occurred. The event itself is awesome to see, with cars I read about as old-school rides in magazines twenty-five years ago pulling up to the line. There are Funny Cars that I’m 95% sure I had a Hot Wheels version of blasting out enough nitro that my eyes water and my sinuses clear. There are legends everywhere…in the years I’ve attended, I’ve watched Don Garlits sign autographs for hours, I’ve seen “Jungle” Pam Hardy bring out one of Jim’s Novas to the Cacklefest, and I’ve watched other names you’ll recognize romp their cars as hard as they did back in the day. Or just romp them, period…I’m sure many of you will recognize Mike Bolina’s 1956 Chevrolet, and just like every other year, the madman in the green Chevy did not disappoint. Still wearing battle scars from years past, he launched that sucker like he hated it, and the crowd loved it.
But that’s only one section of the reason the Reunion means a lot to me. Four years in, I’ve got people yelling my name out as I walk around…that was new this year. Jensen Masters, the builder of the Two-Timer Rambler gasser and the owner of Short Street Rod Shop, was quick to get my attention and to show off the Nova wagon that he brought to the show, along with his friend’s cars, and was always offering up a chair, some shade, a drink and good conversation. Rick Pearce, whose 1970 Mustang Grande was one of my first-ever features, was also on hand, next to the eye-searing ‘Stang that still doesn’t appear to have aged a second since I last saw the car.
I get to work with good people that I’ve met throughout the years. The folks at Holley made sure I was taken care of, whether I needed something to drink, some shade, or some time under an air-conditioner. Broc Porter, Beech Bend’s nervous system in one man, would check up on me when I was out and about. Other media guys, like Dave Kommel (a man who has been shooting drag racing professionally longer than I have been breathing on this planet) were quick to lend a hand and offer up insights and tips, as well as point out that I was sweating like a cornered nun and might want to go cool off from the heat and humidity.
But without question, the highlight for the 2017 Holley Hot Rod Reunion happened on Saturday morning. I won’t lie, I slept in a bit longer than I wanted to and got to the track about a half-hour later than I had planned. After parking Angry Grandpa in a mud pit, I was walking around the tower when an NHRA official told me to haul major ass over to the vendor’s row and make sure that my camera was good. All the funny cars were lined up and one man was barking out directions, with two large ladders in front. I was just hoping to climb a ladder and snap a pic or two, but when the drivers and crew members were next to the cars, that same individual snapped up my camera and popped off one of the coolest photographs out of the entire shoot. That man is Geoff Stunkard, a name I know from damn near everything I ever read as a kid pertaining to cars that rock. Saturday was a daze after that…maybe it was the heat and humidity finally getting to me, but seriously…a name I had only read about, one of the “lucky guys” who did this gig for a living, just used the camera hanging around my neck to shoot the legends. Pinch me, please. This can’t be real.
So closes another Hot Rod Reunion out at Beech Bend. The cackling is over, the cars are gone, and as of writing, I still haven’t processed half of the pictures I shot over the three days. But I’ve met new people, folks who I hope to see again at next years’ event (if not sooner) and have seen new and interesting cars rolling down the strip. Sweating rivers for three days straight might not be worth it to most people, but I’ve never been happier to do it.