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Hot Rod Horror Film Debuts

By Kathleen M. Mangan; photography by Tim Suddard

The top-billed screening at this year’s Southern Yosemite Automotive Film Festival held in March in Oakhurst, California, was like a combination of the Hollywood film premieres of two classic movies: “American Graffiti” (think loads of classic cruisers) and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (think campy mayhem). There is no other way to describe the world premiere of “Hot Rod Horror,” which was enthusiastically reviewed by a large audience. The independent film’s stars and director were on hand to gauge audience reaction—which included gasps and small shrieks—and were smiling by the end of the screening.

Shrieks aren’t common at a film festival focused on cars and racing, but “Hot Rod Horror” features a psychopathic killer in car-filled scenes filmed in a junkyard and on California streets. Festival attendees got a chance to meet the actor who portrayed the psychopath and look at the rat rod he built in the film, a combination of a 1932 Ford coupe and a pick-up cab. The gleaming Cadillac convertible from the movie was also on display.

The common reactions heard in other film screenings were “wow” as cars and racers performed stunts and showed racing finesse in films like “The Speed Merchants,” “The Racing Scene,” “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Winning” starring Paul Newman, and the 1974 “Champions Forever: The Formula One Drivers.” Bruce Kessler, producer of the 1963 film “The Sound of Speed,” discussed the making of this masterwork, which featured Lance Reventlow in a Scarab and won the Cannes Film Festival.

Legendary racers were on hand to discuss their top-speed experiences and sign autographs, including Jerry Grant, the first to exceed a 200 mph lap in an Indy Car; Tony Adamowicz, winner of the 1969 Formula 5000 championship; Doug Hooper, Corvette Hall of Famer; Davey Jordan and Scooter Patrick, endurance racers; and Howden Ganley, a Formula 1 driver.

There were plenty of oohs and aahs expressed around the hundred pristine and rare vehicles featured in the multi-marque Spring in the Sierra car show. Highlights ranged from a Model T Speedster to a real 427 Cobra. Participating car clubs included the Valley British Auto Club along with the local Corvette and Porsche clubs.

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Longtime racer Dave Wolin organized this three-day classic sports car event. It also featured rare racing footage, an area for vendors to sell car-related products and services, automotive authors and artists, a poker run, displays, mini races for kids, and a special lunch at Riverside Raceway.

At the awards banquet, the Southern Yosemite Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Bruce Kessler, producer of the “Sound of Speed.” The Autobooks/Aerobooks Automotive Film Excellence Award was presented to Arlene Sidaris on behalf of the late Andy Sidaris, who directed the “The Racing Scene.” The Lee Iacocca Award was given to Kathy McCorry, executive director of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce. The evening was topped off by Polish racing driver Tony Adamowicz’s tales of the crazy nonstop trip across the country in a van during the first Cannonball Run.

Event sponsors included Moss Motors, Classic Motorsports, Kumho Tires and Optima Batteries. The Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Community Service and Support Group Inc. were the organizers.

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