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July 28, 2013

Local car club celebrates 60 years with reunion

DUNCAN — Many civic and hobby clubs are having a hard time these days keeping members and therefore, keeping their clubs going.

This is not the case for the Hi-Lifters Car Club. Its members celebrated the club’s 60th anniversary Saturday at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center. Hi-Lifters began in 1953, has about 78 members and is the second oldest active car club in the U.S.

“Sixty years and still shifting gears,” said committee member Dick Fennel with a smile. “There’s a small group of us who meet regularly but this is our annual big get together.”

Members and those who have been invited to the event come together each year to talk about their vehicles, swap lies and reminisce about the old days.

“I joined when I was 15 in ‘57 and we used to drag the strip southwest of Duncan,” said Fennel. “That’s what we did back then was work on cars. We had to build them, we couldn’t just buy them.”

Fennel and the other committee members anticipated about 150 people to show up to the event Saturday for a meal and socializing. Two of those to be in attendance were Melvin Heath, 1956 National Top Fuel Champion, and Don Thomas, 1964 Division #4 Stock Champion.

“The first nationals was in 1955,” said Fennel.

“Melvin is a farmer from Rush Springs and he went to the second one in 1956 and he won the Top Eliminator.”

This award deemed Heath to be the number one drag racer in the U.S. He has since been inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame, along with his car.

A couple of those who were invited by a member was Billy and Sandra Self of Ringling. They pulled up in a 1924 Dodge fitted with a 1955 Hemi engine. Billy said it was built in Duncan and they participate in the Chisholm Trail Car Show each year.

“It does pretty well in the car shows,” he said.

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