Stepping Back in Time

The 2010 Memphis Rodders Reunion is in the history books, and speaking of history, anyone who might wonder what this old car club meant to it's membership got a real lesson on Thursday November 18th. Lots of good stories were swapped, and we had a special guest panel of former club members to guide us through a history of the club from it's earliest days. The above photo shows original Memphis Rodders members Raymond Godman, and Marshall Robilio fondly reminiscing about yesteryear during a question and answer session about the club.

We made an effort this year to focus on a display of hot rods that would reflect upon the history of the club itself, either by an association with the era, or as actual surviving hot rods with a direct connection to the Memphis Rodders. Case in point... there is no mistaking George Poteet's seriously chopped 32 Ford 5-window coupe as anything but a hot rod, as the shoe polish competition numbers on the doors, and the endless louvers should confirm.

Also present was David Kelley's full fendered 32 coupe. David has spent the last several years transforming the late Jimmy Fulgham's hot rod back to it's 1950's persona, and the results are stunning. The new chassis, and fresh white/green tuck & roll upholstery really set this one apart, and take many back to the days when this car competed at the Halls TN drags, and at Lakeland drag strip.

How could we address the history of the Memphis Rodders without acknowledging Ray Godman, and his series of Tennessee Bo-Weevil race cars? Raymond was an NHRA regional advisor when that organization was just begining to lend a guiding hand to the fledgling sport of drag racing, and the Memphis Rodders were one of the NHRA charter clubs that helped make drag racing a legitimate activity. Ray brought one of his most successful Bo-Weevils for display, the 1962 Indy Nationals Middle Eliminator winning 27 Ford roadster that was feared across the nation.

It was a true pleasure to see Arnold Bonner's 1940 Chevy coupe again. Fred Gillham brought it to the reunion this year in it's latter 1970's guise. It was also a joy to see Arnold beaming behing the wheel of his old race car. Arnold raced all over the Memphis area for many years and always with this car. In fact, Arnold may be the only guy around who can lay claim to having raced at Lakeland drag strip on the day it opened in 1960, and also when it closed 19 years later.

Generating a lot of interest among the reunion attendees was the channeled 32 roadster belonging to Tim Payne of Calhoun Georgia. Tim is the current caretaker of this historical car that has deep roots with the Memphis Rodders, as well as with Tim's own family. This is Marshall Robillio's former roadster that morphed from a street driven hot rod to the first of his many "Harass" competition cars. Eventually Marshall sold this car to Howard Hughes (who was also in attendence with his new 1940 Willys race car), and before long the car was sold to Tim's father. It was then drag raced for several years as a competition street roadster. Tim has returned it to the highways, with traditional mechanical touches, and a truly authentic vintage patina that shows it's pedigree as a real hot rod through the ages.

While reunion attendees once again enthusiastically supported the event, special recognition must be given to the Memphis Street Rods who donated $5,000 to the cause of supporting the Shriner's Burn Transportation Fund. The Memphis Classic Chevy Club also continued their support of this worthy cause with a $2,000 contribution. This year marked three continuous years of support from each of these local area car clubs, and their efforts have enhanced the total contributions during that time by over $19,000. The proceeds from year's reunion was $12,000, and will be presented to the Shriner's within a matter of days. Stay tuned to this web site for coverage of the check presentation, as that represents the real results of the good will that is generated each year at the Memphis Rodders Reunion.

A special thanks to our panel members who guided us through this journey into the Memphis Rodders unique history. These guys helped out a bunch by participating in the recording of interviews for the multi-media presentation, and also by fielding questions from the reunion audience. They are: (top row from left... ) Bruce Hale, Eddie Wilbanks, Jake Moran, and Larry Nolan... (bottom row from left...) Marshall Robilio, Arnold Bonner, and Raymond Godman.

Check the photo gallery section for more images of this year's reunion, and clear your 2011 calendars now for Thursday November 17th for the next edition of the Memphis Rodders Reunion.