YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
Cody Parr re-creates the altered he raced in the 1960s.
> In the mid 1960s, Cody Parr’s blown gas roadster was the NHRA Division 4 (“Land of the Good Guys”) Super Eliminator Champ as well as a record holder in NHRA and AHRA competition. Years later, a trip to the first California Hot Rod Reunion convinced him to build a spot-on tribute of his famed roadster, seen here at the nostalgia race held at Great Bend, Kansas, the site of the original NHRA national drag racing championships.
While most seniors are content to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors, National Street Rod Association Hall of Fame inductee and SEMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Cody Parr of Oklahoma City is doing anything but resting on his laurels.
Parr Automotive figured prominently in the Southwestern automotive scene for some 67 years. In 1947, Cody’s father, Don, founded what was then a general automotive repair and tune-up business operating out of a gas station. Two years later, the elder Parr would build a two-bay concrete-block building at 4933 10th Street in Oklahoma City, where the Parr Automotive legend grew and flourished until its closing in 2016.
In the early 1950s, dirt track racing was the hottest thing going in the Southwest. The younger Parr tried his hand at it, but eating dirt was not his idea of a good time. Cody preferred to leave that to his customers and build the actual race cars himself. Then drag racing came along.
“Drag racing was something I could more easily relate to,” he recalls. “By that time [1955-1956], I had built a Cadillac-powered T-bucket that I initially ran on the street, but the thing was just so darned fast that I turned it into a drag car. Initially it was carbureted, but later I added a chain-driven GMC 6-71 blower mounted to a custom-fabricated intake manifold. That car was featured on the cover of National Dragster smoking the tires at Amarillo Dragway and was also featured in HOT ROD magazine’s coverage of
the 1957 and 1958 NHRA Nationals held in Oklahoma City.”
In the meantime, Parr Automotive had become more specialized, phasing out of the general auto repair business in favor of building race car chassis and engines.
“We also got into building custom cars and started taking on a few hot rod parts lines,” Cody says. “We started with Dean Moon”—parr Automotive and Dean Moon collaborated on a Hilborn fuel pump extension for blown engines—“then Vic Edelbrock Jr. dropped by and we got signed up with them. We also got into manufacturing spoke wheels for dragsters, tubular front axles, and stuff like that. Our business flourished to the extent that we outgrew the original concrete-block building that my father built, and we erected a new structure five times the size. We also opened a wholesale performance parts division with salesmen covering Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas.”
Cody’s altered driving prowess continued to improve, and a new car came along with it.
“I built a lightweight chassis to accept a blown small-block Chevrolet that really ran well and made lots of power,” he says. “In 1965’66 we held both the NHRA and AHRA World Records for blown gas altereds. I was also the NHRA Division Four Super Eliminator champ and held the Junior Gas (Altered) record on the Drag News Standard 1320 list. We even ran the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona a couple of times and attended the AHRA meet at Beeline, Arizona. Back in 1968, Popular Hot Rodding ran a feature on the car, which served as a rolling billboard for the company, which by that time was building dragster chassis and complete race cars.”
By the early 1970s, the street rod movement was starting to gain
momentum, and people were coming into the shop asking for parts. Recognizing a genuine need, Cody parked the altered and focused his attention on this rapidly growing market segment.
“We began advertising in Street Rodder magazine, printed our first catalog, which was ultimately expanded to 300 pages, and put together a tow rig that we took to all the shows. We also opened a CNC machine division to manufacture a line of billet-aluminum products and set up our Cooling Components division to service the street rod industry.”
By the end of the 1990s, Cody’s altered driving days had become a distant memory. That is until he and his late wife, Liz, attended the inaugural California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway in 1998, a place where he and his little blown Chevy had competed back during the halcyon days of the Bakersfield Fuel & Gas Championships.
“I came home all charged up and ready to go racing again,” Cody remembers. “I began building a clone of my blown Chevy altered, albeit with a few Nhra-mandated updates and refinements.” The tribute debuted just a year later at the 1999 CHRR.
One of the biggest reasons for Cody’s roadster revival was to participate in the Cacklefest, which he thoroughly enjoys and has done on a number of occasions. Although it may no longer be the heyday of altered racing, Cody relives those glory days every time he climbs behind the wheel, proving that for some, you only live twice!