Honorees Named for 15th Annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion

August 1, 2006

Leong Named Grand Marshal for Oct. 6-8 Event

 Roland Leong - Michael F. Hollander photo
 Grand Marshal Roland Leong, owner of "The Hawaiian."  Photos by Michael F. Hollander for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – One of the best known car owners in drag racing, four drivers who became behind the scenes legends and a top painter have been selected as Honorees for the 15th NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California.  The three-day event will be held in Bakersfield, October 6-8, 2006.

This year’s Honorees are “Junior” Conway, Fred Crow, Bill Crossley, Don Enriquez and Don Hampton.  The Grand Marshal is car owner and builder Roland Leong.

“Our Honorees are just part of what makes the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion unique,” said Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, which produces and benefits from the annual event.  “As part of our ‘living museum’ focus, we’re bringing together these legends in the sport with fans who may not have seen them for many years.  When we started, we thought it would be a one-time deal, but here we are, 15 years later.”

HERSHEL “JUNIOR” CONWAY: He’s been called the “Picasso
 Junior Conway
 Dave McClelland points out someone in the crowd to Junior Conway.
of the Parking Lot” and the “Raphael of the Road” by none other than Sports Illustrated. As the youngest member of the staff at the legendary Barris Kustom shop in Lynwood, Calif. in the mid-1950s, he was tagged by George Barris with the nickname “Junior” and it stuck. He worked on many of the era’s most famous custom cars and his own customized ’50 Ford was featured on numerous magazine covers. Striking it big on his own, he has operated Junior’s House of Color for more than 40 years. He’s painted such legendary race cars as two Corvettes for the late “Big John” Mazmanian, dragsters for Adams and Rasmussen, Dean Lowe’s street roadster, and the Stone, Woods and Cook Mustang. When the custom car craze began to fade in the late ’60s, Junior transferred his know-how and craftsmanship to paintwork on Porsches, Ferraris and other high-end models for customers such as Steve McQueen, Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. Occasionally he’s given the opportunity to return to his roots and in 1994 he painted Joe MacPherson’s Chrisman-built “Infinity Flyer” named America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the Grand National Roadster Show.  To Junior, perfection is more than a word:  it’s a way of life. 

FRED CROW: Like so many others in the racing business, Fred Crow started out as a racer himself. He drove a Junior Fuel dragster in the early ’60s when you could have a lot of fun for $25 worth of nitro on a Saturday night.  And on that infamous day in 1965 when the Winternationals ran in their entirety in just one day due to weather, Fred was one of the 70 class winners taking the A/Gas category in the J&S Speed Center Anglia. But he may be best known for his behind-the-scenes work in driver safety.  For more than two decades he was the general manager of Simpson Race Products and more recently founded Crow Enterprizes, specializing in driver-restraint systems.

BILL CROSSLEY: As a member of the legendary Smokers of Bakersfield car club, Bill Crossley began his drag racing career at the wheel of the Aubrey and Hylton flathead-powered dragster in 1956. Before long he stepped into Ernie Hashim’s Chrysler-powered Hashim, Hylton and Crossley entry. In 1957, Hashim (the inaugural CHRR Grand Marshal) added a little streamlined body work.  With a change of gearing and a pair of Indy tires, Crossley joined the prestigious Bonneville 200-mph Club at 205.488 mph two-way average in Hashim’s disguised dragster. In 1958 and ’59 the drag racing team was among the country’s best with consistent times over 170 mph. In 1963, Crossley retired from the driver’s seat turning the controls over to fellow Smoker and Famoso Raceway operator, the late Jack Williams. The team was nearly unbeatable, winning the ’64 Winternationals, the Hot Rod Magazine Championships at Riverside and a close runner-up to Don Garlits at the U.S. Nationals. They earned enough points for Williams to become NHRA’s first Top Fuel season champion. Throughout the ’60s Crossley continued to field Top Fuel cars with drivers such as NHRA’s official starter Rick Stewart, Dave Beebe, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, Wayne King and John Edmunds.

 Dave McClelland interviews Don Enriquez
 Legendary NHRA Track Announcer Dave McClelland interviews Don Enriquez.
: In 1967, a fellow employee at Stu Hilborn’s Fuel Injection Engineering approached Gene Adams about driving his Jr. Fuel dragster. His name was Don Enriquez. He had never driven a dragster before and told Adams if it didn’t work out, he would just walk away. He listened to Adams’ coaching and on his first full pass he ran 7.70 @ 188 mph. Fast forward 39 years later and Enriquez is still driving dragsters and still a fuel-injection expert at Hilborn’s where he’s been employed for 46  years! Adams and Enriquez were a partnership for nearly 20 years. They dominated the original Jr. Fuel class with Adams’ DeSoto. In July ’68, Don drove the first unblown car over 200 mph and in ’71 was the first in the 6s. He’s driven twin-injected Chryslers in Top Fuel, scored victories in Pro Comp in rear-engine dragsters and in the last decade been a major force in the nostalgia Junior Fuel ranks.  Most recently, he scored a runner-up finish at the 2005 California Hot Rod Reunion.

DON HAMPTON:  Don Hampton began his drag racing career with
 Don Hampton
 Don Hampton explains things to Dave McClelland (L).
a four-banger dragster in 1951 at the legendary Santa Ana Drags. His driving career included stints in Kenny Lindley’s beautiful Miss Fire dragster, which he drove at the ’59 NHRA Nationals in Detroit. He drove Eldon Dye’s Bantam-bodied competition coupe and then one of the most unique vehicles in drag racing history, the twin-engine Dye and Hampton “Too Bad” Fiat competition coupe. In later years he modified the chassis into what may have been history’s only twin-engine Funny Car, the “American Band Stand” Corvette. He even drove a very fast – and very noisy – rotary engine Mazda at Bonneville.   Hampton drove many different cars, including fuel and gas dragsters.  He won the 1970 NHRA Winternationals in top gas, beating Bob Muravez in the process.  Like many retired racers, he has become notable for his work behind the scenes. He has been in the supercharger business for nearly five decades and at last count was working seven days a week trying to keep up with a backlog of 75 blowers.

ROLAND LEONG – GRAND MARSHAL: In 1962, Roland Leong, his mother Teddy and a life-long friend Danny Ongais made the trip to the Winternationals and the mainland with the Dragmaster Hawaii. Roland started as a driver and quickly discovered it wasn’t as easy as it looked. In 1965, at just 21 years old, he built his first Fuel Dragster appropriately named “The Hawaiian.”  With a young Don “The Snake” Prudhomme at the wheel they won the NHRA Winternationals and then followed up with a win at the U.S. Nationals, becoming the first to win both NHRA major events the same year. When Prudhomme left, Roland hired Mike Snively and repeated the feat in 1966. In 1969, Roland switched from dragsters to Funny Cars and his long list of drivers is legendary, including Mike Sorokin, Larry Reyes, Bobby Rowe, Pat Foster, Butch Maas, Larry Arnold, Norm Wilcox, Ron Colson, Mike Dunn, Gordie Bonin, Rick Johnson, Leroy Chadderton, Jim White and Johnny West.

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