Time travel. On a scientific level we haven’t managed to accomplish the feat, but leave it to hot rodders to figure out how to do it with virtually no high-tech equipment. It’s as simple as getting in your street rod, vintage drag car, or custom and high tailing it to the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion. Right now there are two of these events a year, one in Bakersfield, California, and the other in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Both events are permanently placed on many hot rodders’ “must attend” list, and for good reason.

Street rodding and drag racing began to go their own ways in the late ’60s and ’70s. Prior to that amicable split hot rodding was directly connected to drag racing. It didn’t matter if you had a street car, a drag car, or the more common double-duty car, if you liked hot rods, you liked drag racing. It was that simple.

Like many old friends do, drag racing and street rodding continued to drift apart over the next 20 years. Sometime in the ’80s nostalgia drag racing began to take hold and street rodders took note. Some street rods were even making the occasional quarter-mile pass and the stands were beginning to fill whenever the vintage drag cars came to the line. Goodguys Rod & Custom events were instrumental in getting this movement in motion, but it really didn’t hit its peak until the National Hot Rod Association had their first Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. The response was amazing and we must believe even NHRA was pleasantly surprised. The support for vintage ’50s-70s drag racing and great hot rods was a perfect match, and much like those old friends who had drifted apart, it took a great reunion to re-establish old ties again. The Hot Rod Reunion quickly became an annual event.

While it seems like just yesterday that we were at the first Bakersfield event, it was actually 21 years ago. It’s equally difficult to believe that we were walking the pits, sitting in the great vintage spectator seats, and checking 1,500 hot rods at Bowling Green for the tenth time. Yes, 10 great reunions and we’d put this one high on the list of the best of 10.

From the swap meet to the great action on the dragstrip, it was non-stop fun. This year the weather was much more cooperative than last year, albeit a bit on the hot side. The swap meet held the usual array of real hot rod parts, the pits were filled with everything from vintage front engine rails to Gassers, Funny Cars, and FX cars. In short it was just what we expected, the perfect trip back in time to the golden age of drag racing and hot rodding. This year the Grand Marshall was longtime Top Fuel and Funny Car driver Tom Hoover, while the 2012 Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight shined on the Middletown, Ohio, Pacemakers Car Club. Also at the banquet were the 2012 Honorees, Jack Ditmars, Jack Moss, Bennie Osborn, Jere Stahl, and Bill Stebbins. The nighttime cackle fest was the crowning moment in a great weekend, with the air filled with equal parts nitromethane and noise.

We’ll be back for the 11th Annual AAA, Holley NHRA Reunion again next year, and here’s some exciting news: NHRA has announced a first-ever Hot Rod Reunion to be held in New Hampshire in September 2013. So if you’re into time travel we’d suggest you mark your calendar for the Hot Rod Reunion next year; it’s time well spent.