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Billy B's Boat & Hot Rod Show, Needles CA 2009

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by , 10-22-2009 at 04:46 AM (12468 Views)
Needles California... It’s one of the hottest places on the planet in summer and probably was one of the most unlikely for a boat / car show of any magnitude to ever be held. Against all odds after trying for many years, Billy Berkenheger organized and convinced the City of Needles to host this event at their freshly updated and improved Jack Smith Park in late February. Billy is known as Billy-B on the pb forums and is a renowned custom painter of boats, cars, and race vehicles. Billy sold the deal to Laura Zingg (city planner for Needles) & Jeff Williams (the mayor), who both embraced the idea. The rest is history as the inaugural Needles Boat and Car Show is now in the record books.

Billy then promoted the event on our own Performanceboats.com website’s forums and it quickly took on a life of its own. Enthusiastic v-drive and jet owners from as far away as Northern California and Idaho answered the call and a “roll-call” list was formed over several weeks totaling about one hundred boats. At least a couple dozen clean show quality vehicles including some 55 Chevy’s, trucks, old Fords, and roadsters also showed up. Drag boats, circle boats, and jets owned by pro racers and river racers all came together the last Saturday of February in the middle of the desert to show off their stuff, share stories, drink a few beers and run their boats. The alcohol and the boat running rules were laid out by Billy well in advance and simply stated, you drink you don’t run. Everyone was in full compliance. Law enforcement was on hand and I never saw a cop doing anything except standing around enjoying the event.

I arrived on Saturday morning around nine. Everything was perfect with the exception of a moderate to semi-strong desert wind howling through the trees and blowing dust around. Within a couple hours there were hundreds of people in attendance who traveled from Southern California, Phoenix, Havasu, Las Vegas and beyond. A live band and several vendors including food services were ramped up and in full swing by late morning. I spent the first hours talking to boat owners about their boats and shooting a lot of pictures. Around noontime, Chris Davidson, owner of Performance Boats Magazine, showed up from Vegas and began a photo and video shoot down in the inlet cove area by the launch ramp. He had models, a video crew, two photographers, and Jim Wilkes interviewing boat owners. This content will appear on the website and in future issues of Performance Boats Magazine. We took some pictures of the photo shoot and tried to stay out of the way… These guys arrived a little late and were on a mission to get as many of these fine machines shot as possible before dark. I spent a little time watching the shoots and interviews then migrated back over to the show in the parking lot.

There was a wide array of boats primarily consisting of flat and runner bottom v-drive entries, with a handful of jets, and a few daycrusiers. Several of the NKRA K-boats were in attendance along with some actual competition K-boats. The NKRA is the Needles K Racing Association… a loosely organized group of guys with very fast circle race type K boats which run on the river in the Needles area a few times a year. Some also participate in actual KRR racing competition as well. Billy B, the event host, had his immaculate 140+ mph Bezer “Krazy Kolors Express” in attendance. It looks good and runs hard. Unfortunately Billy would end his day Sunday with a broken gearbox. Tony Scarlata had his Revenge K-5, “Shazam” there and made some blistering laps as well. Tony’s Saturday would end however with a blown up engine. Wayne Herbert with the pristine K-50 Biesemeyer, “Ghost of Coldfire” also heated up the river several times. Jack Landers was there with his K-27 Spitfire. There were several other vintage K boats in attendance. Dave Bryant brought his great looking and hard running SS boat out and he and Landers scored photo shoots with the Performance Boat’s crew. All in all there were more blown boats than I recall seeing in any one place ever, outside of an official race event. The lineup was impressive.

Several vintage flats were in attendance too. Pat Minegar’s 1968 Nordskog flat is a striking piece of history sporting a 427 Ford and Billy B custom paint. Acquired, sold, and reacquired by the Minegar family over several decades, multiple times, this boat has some great history which I’ll write about in more detail in a separate piece later. Its bright yellow paint and immaculate rigging by Dave Sammons made it a real standout at Needles.

Rolf Sammons’ 1976 Litchfield runner bottom, “Licensed to Thrill” who was runner up in the ten second class in NJBA in 2004, 2005, and 2006, was there. The boat runs 110 mph with a best ET of 9.90 running a 496 c.i. single carbureted Chevy. Who says old boats aren’t fast? Damn…

Rick and Mike Pelphrey’s 63 Stevens flat… this boat has been in the family since it was new in 1963 when their dad originally put it together. It is unique in that it sports a hand-built reverse flow blown 401 Buick “Nailhead” engine for power.

I’ll stop there in listing all the gorgeous flats because I always forget somebody and the editor will not be happy with me if I try to describe 100+ boats in detail here.

Several blown alcohol jet boats were in attendance as well including Tom Peterson’s immaculate Placecraft. Tom is a former work associate of mine. I had the opportunity to ride in Tom’s boat one time several years ago. I’ve never been in any vehicle that accelerated like this animal does. I’m sure the racers are used to this but it was an experience for me. There were a couple more Placecrafts there that Tom has built for others that he states are faster than his including Mike Porter's PSI supercharged machine.

Several of these boats hit the water on Saturday afternoon as the wind subsided slightly. The deal was, to stay below the waterfront homes on the Arizona side and make your laps or passes in front of Jack Smith Park. Oh, and no side-by-side racing. The park has a great new launch ramp, four lanes wide with 2 docks. It’s a vast improvement over the old setup I experienced having launching there myself many times over the past three decades. I’m sure the City of Needles is very proud of this new facility and rightfully so. The drag guys were fighting the wind and water conditions a bit but the circle boats seemed right at home for the most part ripping up the river.

I wish I’d gotten the opportunity to talk to everyone who showed up but there simply was not enough time. Before I knew it dusk was setting in and some boats and show cars were pulling out. I shot photos of most the boats and vehicles and these photos will appear online in my blog section on the Performanceboats.com website. I’m sure two to three hundred of these photos will make the grade out of the roughly twelve hundred shot by me and my girlfriend and assistant, Mary Beth.

Following the show, most of the participants migrated up to the Elks Lodge for an all you could eat taco dinner Billy had arranged with long time friend Dick Pyle. There was some serious taco consumption going on here along with some happy bartenders. This group can pack the chow away. The stories were flyin and Mike Minegar (Rattle Can Lou on the pb forums) commandeered the mic a few times with his antics. Mike and his brother Pat came clear from Boise Idaho to attend the event. Darnell Taylor also took the mic thanking the VFW Hall for the great dinner and reception of the boating community. The only problem was we were at the Elks Lodge which was quickly pointed out to Darnell as everyone pointed to the large Elk head mounted on the wall directly to his right. It was one of several pretty amusing moments the evening would produce.

Although the show was on Saturday, many stayed over for Sunday to run their boats. This day, unlike Saturday, produced ideal conditions. The wind had moved on, as well as the light cloud cover that we’d had on Saturday. The dragboat and runner bottom guys that were still there got after it on the relatively flat water as well as several of the circle boat drivers. The people that had stayed overnight started thinning out around noon and we headed for home shortly thereafter. I have to give a little plug to the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Needles. We stopped there for lunch on the way out of town and the food was great. In three decades of boating in and around Needles I’d never eaten there. I’ll start making up for it now and will no longer consider Needles a fast food only option when traveling the I-40.

Billy tells me the event was a huge success with the city and expects this to be the first of many to come for the Needles Boat and Car Show. I look forward to next year’s event. My guess is that the word will spread and the attendance will nearly double if the economy permits. That would be a great thing for the city of Needles and performance boating in general, and a testament to Billy and his wife Janice’s perseverance in making this all happen.

Thanks Billy, see ya next year.



Pictures are presently being re-hosted and will be posted here soon (10/22/09)




I have been a boater for the better part
of 40 years and owner of Rex Marine
since 1981. In my blogs I will attempt to
tell a story of each event I cover,
from my perspective and through my
photos. I hope more people will become
involved as spectators or racers as a result
of my coverage. Enjoy

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Updated 03-04-2011 at 05:20 PM by Performance Boats

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