Randy Liberman believes the California Hot Rod Reunion is a must-attend event for any drag racing enthusiast. He’s assessment is not really not any different than any of the thousands of gearhead attendees who recently made the trek to Bakersfield, Ca, for the three-day experience of racing from back in the day.
But the reality is -- he’s very different and has different motives.
Each time Liberman heads to Bakersfield, it’s largely to hear the stories about his dad, the legendary Funny Car driver and showman “Jungle” Jim Liberman.
“I always have fun at a race track but these are really fun,” said Liberman, whose 2010 CHRR was his third time attending the event. “Just being at the track, what better experience could you hope for? Then once people realize who I am, I get to hear about my father.”
Liberman admits he grew up without his father and to meet him for the first time you’d swear he’s a chip off the old block.
“From the shoulders up, I look like him,” he admits and pauses.
“My parents divorced when I was young and dad died when I was young,” he continued. “The only way I get to learn about my father is through everyone else. That’s an awesome experience for me.”
The stories give Liberman a sense of peace in the absence of a close relationship with his father. Jim Liberman died on September 9, 1977 from injuries sustained in a non-racing, automobile accident.
“I struggle to find the right word, and just describe the feeling as ‘happy,” Liberman says of how the different stories make him feel. “My father touched so many people in his life in so many ways. From giving a kid a chance to work on his crew to just going to watch him race, if he was at the track, you went home with a story.”
Liberman believes his dad would be honored by the Jungle Jim tribute cars on the nostalgia scene, especially the one restored by Dave Bany and his team.
“They did it right and got the right people in here,” said Liberman. “Dad was all about the fans. His thing was you always had to make the fans happy. If there’s no fans, there’s no racing.”
He believes if his father would have a complaint about today's cars, it would be that the cars are too clean. Liberman smiles and chuckles a bit when making this proclamation.
“He never had a clean car,” Liberman admits.
Liberman says he gets the hankering to drive one of the Jungle Jim cars and has even been to Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
“I was trying to put a car together in 1997 but things fell apart,” Liberman lamented. “I’d do anything to get behind the wheel, I just need to get hooked up with the right people.”
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