On August 16, 1953, the Strippers Hot Rod Club of Denver staged their first annual Hot Rod Hill Climb in Georgetown, Colorado. The first event of this type ever promoted in the Rocky Mountains, over 30 cars from eight Colorado Timing Associations arrived to rev up what is now Guanella Pass Road. Jim Babcock of the Dolphins club clutched the fastest time with his modified Ford T-V8 Roadster, in less than three minutes at 2:45:50.
In 1953, Larry Bell was nine years old. He remembers the smell of pancakes on the griddle wafting in the earl morning, the town scattered with stripped down and hopped up 1930s American cars. Man and machine geared up to break the Rocky Mountain stillness. They were about to pillage an old dirt wagon trail etched into the side of Leavenworth Mountain.
Larry was in Georgetown, Colorado with his dad and Bill O’Connor for the first annual Hot Rod Hill Climb. Bill’s 1932 Ford Roadster sported the Bell family business colors—orange with a wild scallop painted in cream. On the door, masking tape marked T75, the “T” standing for the Denver Timing Association (DTA) established in 1948. In the mid 60s, Harold Griboski purchased the Roadster. Seeing it leave the garage with Harold, Larry’s heart ached with nostalgia for a bygone era.
At the 2013 Hot Rod Hill Climb Larry was reunited with the Bell Roadster at the pancake breakfast.
#T33 Cal Kennedy
Cal bonded with fellow telephone company colleague Don Scroggs over the Chevy bowtie. Together, they went through the early 50s racing a six cylinder Chevy, including in the Hill Climb for both years. Starting as a 1936 Chevy pickup, it got a Chevy Roadster body in 1934, and a Wayne 12-port motor in 1954. In 2013, Cal drove his smooth black 1934 Chevrolet Roadster on 15” red wire wheels.
#T6 Vern Holmes
Vern participated in the 1954 Hill Climb as the roadblock and control at the top of the climb. Purchased from a barn (last driven in 1956) and made road-worthy in 2002, Vern now drives a 1932 Ford 3-window Survivor equipped with a 1951 8ba Flathead Ford motor. Vern is a member of the DTA, Denver Roadsters, and High Country Early Ford V8 Club.
#S31 Don Joy
Don has owned and built cars of all styles as both a hobby and job. Having participated in hill climbs, drags, and spots car track races, Don rode a Ford Victoria with a built ’73 Dodge 360 engine with 727 auto trans, 8” Ford rear end, and Heidts IFS with disc brakes and coil over shocks, front and rear. Don did all the work himself, except the machine work, upholstery, and painting. He’s owned the car 62 years and is a member of the High Country Early Ford V8 Club.
#S ?? Bob “Pete” Garramone
Pete was one of the founding members of the Stippers Car Club. Pete brought his camera to Georgetown and documented the event both years. He went on to take photos at many of the local drag strips during the 50’s and 60’s. Some of his work was documented in TRJ #27. Pete owns a 1967 Comet with a factory FE motor. It was an honor to have Pete and his wife Norma at the 2013 Hot Rod Hill Climb.
#N8 Jim Nielsen
Jim sells old Ford parts to youngsters (and oldies, too). Jim drove the Netherly Coupe with Ken Rexrodes to the fastest time in 1953, great teamwork in a hopped up flatty. In 1954, he drove a sedan currently owned by friends in California. In 2013, Jim drove his 1932 Ford Roadster, purchased off a used car lot in 1954 for $495.
#T75 The Bell Roadster owned by Steve Schwalb
A drag racer from 1986-2008, Steve drove the Bell Plumbing vehicle purchased by Harold Griboski in the late ‘60s—the 1932 Ford Roadster with a 1963 327 Chevy engine. Sitting uncompleted for years, the card was finally completed in Harold Griboski’s original vision. Steve is a Denver Roadster.
#98D Dave Scroggs, Arvada, CO
Dave Scroggs carries on his father’s—Don Scroggs—passion as a former go-kart, minisprint and midget racer, working at the Bandimere Speedway in the Race Operations Department. Dave commemorates his father’s title as a former Hill Climb class winner in a 1932 Ford 30window Coupe with a 292 Chevy engine.
2013 60th Anniversary Georgetown
Like the original Hot Rod Hill Climb, the 2013 60th Anniversary event was also the first event of its kind to be promoted in the Rocky Mountains. Thanks to the over 50 pre-1954 50s period Hot Rods from all over the nation that arrived for the climb and hundreds of attendees, our event truly was a celebration of Colorado’s Hot Rod pioneers.
These men and women worked with Wally Parks and brought the Drag Safari to Denver’s Lowery Air Force Base in 1955 and 1956. They were crew and drivers for Bill Kenz and Roy Leslie’s 777 streamliner.
To mark the occasion, the first wave of cars and drivers to the top was be led by Legends, those present in 1953 and 1954. The Colorado hot rodding culture we enjoy today is thanks to the fervent passion held by these trailblazers.
[Images of Legends driving their cars up Guanella Pass with captions.]
Download the 2013 Program for more information.
2014 60th Anniversary Georgetown
We continue to be honored by the support and opportunity to recreate and relive this moment in time, shared now with a whole new generation of Hot Rod lovers. This, my friends, is living history. Hold on for the ride!