Bill Pitts had no idea what he
was about to do when he fulfilled a boyhood dream and purchased
the '60s top fuel dragster dubbed the Magicar. The car you see
on these pages.
Bill was a fence-hanger of a
spectator during the golden age of drag racing---the 1960s. He
sat in the stands and roamed the pits at drag strips like Lions,
Fontana, Carlsbad, and Bakersfield and imagined. He wished and
he photographed and he took it all in. It never happened for
It never happened, that is, until
thirty years had passed and he finally reached his goal
of owning a top fuel dragster. He acquired the former Winkle
& Trapp AA/FD and set about to bring it back to its former
glory. He contacted both Ron Winkle and Kay Trapp and got as
much detail about the car as he could. He sought out and bought,
back issues of old Hot Rod and Drag Racing magazines that contained
feature articles on the car and its performance history. He catalogued
the event coverage in drag news---he even saved old programs
from his days as a spectator. He wrote letters to the driver,
Gerald "Jeep" Hampshire and told him of his desire
to have him involved in the debut of the car when it in fact
was ready for action. Judging from the correspondence that I
have been privileged to see, this man Pitts was clearly on a
Let me quote a bit from the letter
that he wrote to Jeep in an effort to persuade him to join him
in the project:
"I have enclosed a copy of an article that appeared in Drag
Racing Magazine in 1965 featuring the "Magicar" just
because I figured you might like to see it. My goal is to bring
it back to it's original shape as it was when it was sponsored
by "Astro Wheels" and then to paint it a beautiful
gold color and of course add the names of the participants to
the car. Since the car had two principle drivers, namely Jerry
Glenn and yourself, I figured it would be fitting to put "Jeep"
on one side of the cockpit and "Jerry" on the other
side. Winkle& Trapp will go on the tail and of course, chassis
by Kent Fuller and Body by Arnie Roberts and Ron Covell.
"As I'm writing this to
you, a 392 hemi is burning a hole in the back of my pickup truck.
I picked one up for $150 and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that
it passes the magnaflux test this week.
"When I get this thing together
and it's as pretty as it can get, I hope that I can arrange for
a push car carrying Kent, Ronnie and Kay and have you sitting
in the cockpit of the car as they slowly push you by the grandstands
at the Winternationals, announcing your names and the crowd cheers.
I'll be the guy up in the stands wearing sunglasses with a big
smile on my face just taking it all in. After that I can die
and go to heaven."
See what I mean? The guy is immersed.
Continuing, Bill gathered all
the parts necessary to bring the dragster back to its former
glory and it was tedious and expensive, but his enthusiasm led
many who witnessed him in action to donate bits and pieces. You
can't help but marvel at the devotion to a project when you watch
and listen to him talk about it and his plans for the future.
The car came together with the
help of many of the original people involved---including Kent
Fuller, the builder of the car, and Winkle and Jeep. They pitched
in and gave it their all based solely on Pitt's enthusiastic
demeanor. While some thought he was a little wacky, they couldn't
deny that he was determined.
The finished product was debuted
at the 2nd Annual California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield
place that has so many fond memories for Bill that he literally
gushes when discussing same.
AND it turned out just as he
had projected. Only it happened at Bakersfield instead of Pomona.
That would have to wait 'till later. The car was in fact pushed
down the push road and fired up to the cheers of the crowd just
like Bill wanted it too.
What happened later was not in
his vision. It turns out that primarily because of Bill Pitts,
the Magicar and the whole throw back episode, a new event was
a thing called "Cackle Fest". A term
coined by Greg Sharp of the NHRA museum.
At this years 14th annual California
Hot Rod Reunion, there will be in excess of 100 restored or recreated
top fuel dragsters from the Golden Era of Drag Racing that will
participate in the phenomenon knows as the Cackle Fest. Ex racers
and former spectators have dug up or recreated old diggers (some
at great expense) and it has taken hold and growing by the minute.
If you yearn to stand around
a thundering Chrysler engine that is consuming 100 percent Nitromethane
and belching flames three feet tall just to drink in the sights
sounds and aromas, the cackle fest is for you.
If you don't understand what
this is all about, there is no way anyone can explain it.
You had to be there
Bill Pitts was...and he's the one that
made it happen.