Legendary quarter-mile showman “TV Tommy” Ivo has been named grand marshal of the 21st annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion in October. Ivo is one of NHRA’s top 50 drivers, won Top Gas at the first Bakersfield March Meet in 1959, was the first to run under nine seconds, the first driver to run more than 170 mph, and the first to drive more than 180 mph on gas.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of his first drag race in a 66-mph ’52 Buick at Saugus Drag Strip, and, it’s the 30th anniversary of his last race on his farewell tour in his Showboat four- engine Buick station wagon. In between, there were 36 different cars in 12 different classes. In 1960, he was first to crisscross the country with a nationwide season-long tour.
Appearance money, partly earned because of his acting career, made him the first touring professional and earned him the nickname “TV Tommy.” After moving to the fuel ranks, he was first in the seven-second bracket and first to exceed 190 mph. He won the 1964 British Drag Festival, and he and Don Garlits match raced as many as 72 times in a single season. He built, tuned, drove, and maintained his own equipment. In 1972, he became the first member of the Cragar Five-Second Club and survived a horrific 240-mph crash in Pomona without a scratch.
Ivo also dabbled in Funny Cars and jet dragsters for a while. After 30 years of drag racing, he retired, leaving behind a legacy of professionalism and showmanship that paved the way for the corporate sponsorships of today and making him the perfect California Hot Rod Reunion grand marshal.
Ivo will be joined by honorees the Brissette Brothers, Bob and Jim; the Mallicoat Twins, Gary and Jerry; Jim Nicoll; Marv Ripes; and Ed Sigmon.