You Should See Me In a Crown: The Road Kings of Burbank
September 28, 2018
Racing and rodder royalty is coming to Pomona! That’s right… we’re happy to announce that the Road Kings of Burbank will be featured on the Main Aisle of the Pomona Swap Meet on Sunday, October 14th!
Founded by Ralph Marshall in 1952, the Road Kings was originally a racing club, with a few hot rods thrown in. In the first couple of years, about half of the members raced at drag strips around California, including Pomona, Saugus, Fontana, Santa Ana, Bakersfield, and Inyokern. Their cars were a mix of stock and modified Fords and Chevys, and all of the cars were daily drivers!
From 1952 to 1965, club members raced in just about every class that drag racing had to offer, and a few members made quite the name for themselves…
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme became a champion Top Fuel and Funny Car driver, and eventually became a Top Fuel team owner. Prudhomme’s fierce racing rivalry with Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen is legendary, and was the subject of the 2013 film, Snake and Mongoose. The pair are often credited with helping to bring drag racing into pop culture through their sponsorship by Mattel’s Hot Wheels in the 1970s. The detailed re-creations of Prudhomme and McEwen’s dragsters encouraged children across America to act out their own racing battles.
Thomas “TV Tommy” Ivo made his reputation as an actor, hot rodder, and drag racer. Ivo appeared in numerous films and television shows, including episodes of The Lone Ranger, The Donna Reed Show, and Leave It to Beaver. But, in between acting jobs, Ivo raced… and in the racing community, Ivo is even more famous for his side-by-side Buick engined dragsters, one of which became the first gasser to enter the 8 second class. Ivo was known for his low elapsed times, and at one point was even called the “King of the Dragsters”.
Bob Muravez (a.k.a. Floyd Lippencott Jr.) drove the infamous Freight Train, a twin blown Chevy that became the number one Top Gas dragster in the nation. But, Muravez’s story is more interesting, and sad, because he hid his identity for years! Muravez’s father was against him racing and had promised to disown him if he ever did. Muravez couldn’t stay away from the track, though, so San Gabriel Drag Strip announcer Mel Reck and manager Steve Gibbs came up with the alias “Floyd Lippencott Jr.”, and Muravez made sure that he had his mask and helmet on for any trackside photos. His identity remained a secret for over four years, until one of his father’s friends saw him on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Muravez was celebrating in the Winner’s Circle, having won the 1967 NHRA SpringNationals with the Freight Train. Muravez’s father, unfortunately, was true to his word. He disowned Muravez and never spoke to him again.
Kenny Safford, who sadly passed away in 2014 at the age of 72, was part of a famed Top Fuel race team with Don Gaide (a fellow Road King) and Don Ratican in the 1960s. The trio won big on a small budget… taking wins in 17 of the first 22 Top Fuel races they attended, and with an Oldsmobile powered dragster! Safford once said, “We were winning enough races for the car to support itself, but we were constantly breaking engines because the Olds block wasn’t strong enough. We went through 22 blocks in one year.” Safford would eventually switch over to Funny Car racing, and drove the Mr. Norm’s Dodge Funny Car through most of the ’70s.
Nowadays, the club is more hot rod than race oriented, but they still have a few members who race in the NHRA and in Nostalgia Drags. The Road Kings always welcome new members, but membership is limited to 1978 and older American classics, muscle cars, trucks, and special interest vehicles. Vehicles, and their owners, that are being considered for membership are judged by a panel of three judges at an Executive Board Meeting. Vehicles are judged on their engine, suspension, wheels, exhaust, paint, and interior. This club has a storied history, and they are serious about their cars!
If you would like to meet some truly amazing (and old school!) rodders and racers, make sure you come out to the Pomona Swap Meet on Sunday, October 14th. We can’t wait to see the Road Kings of Burbank!