From the time they adopted their charter in 1952, the Road Kings of Burbank have lived up to their mission of promoting and fostering automotive interests, assisting in the funding of local community and charitable organizations and supporting automotive education in local high schools.
The Road Kings have always been ready to gear up and roll in to help people and organizations in any way they can, but this year of the pandemic has proved to be a bumpy ride for the group, which has been unable to do its two annual car show fundraisers and other events that have raised more than $375,000 in the past decade alone.
“Everything we do as far as our fundraisers just stopped,” said longtime Road Kings member Don Baldaseroni. “Because of that, we had to look into new ways in which we could be supportive of our community.”
Along with regularly supporting local restaurants such as Story Tavern, the Tallyrand and Bob’s Big Boy, which have sponsored their events over the years, members of the car club have been on a constant search for ways they can continue their commitment to service.
“Tina Van Curen, who is the owner of Autobooks-Aerobooks bookstore, has always been supportive of our events,” said Baldaseroni. “So when one of our members, Don Siglar, noticed how shabby the outdoor signage on her shop had gotten, he mentioned it to me and we decided we were going to help her to get that sign cleaned up and looking good again.”
Established in Burbank a year before the Road Kings were chartered, Autobooks-Aerobooks, billed as “the world’s fastest bookstore,” quickly became renowned as a worldwide resource for car collectors and racing enthusiasts. Now owned by Van Curen, who became a race fan and track-side regular at Riverside International Raceway while attending UC Riverside, she went on to serve as the president of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club in Southern California.
Enlisting another Road Kings member, Gary Arellano, a retired painter, and club President Bruce Borst, Baldaseroni contacted Van Curen and asked if she would be open to letting the group refresh the signage for her.
“When we offered to refurbish the sign, Tina was thrilled,” said Baldaseroni. “But when we pulled down the old letters we discovered they were so badly worn they couldn’t be restored.”
Not to be deterred, the Road Kings found someone to make new letters, gave them a fresh coat of paint, and got the new signage installed just in time for two big November events: the filming of a segment of “Jay Leno’s Garage” and a book signing appearance by legendary Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
Best known for his yellow 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, Prudhomme garnered national attention when Mattel released a Hot Wheels toy version of his car. A high school dropout who went from being a car painter to a superstar on the drag racing circuit and a successful businessman, Prudhomme has chronicled his life and career in his just-released book,“Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme: My Life Beyond the 1320.”
Last week’s book signing, which included a masked and socially distanced “mini car show” put on by the Road Kings, gave local car enthusiasts and race fans the opportunity to have a brief conversation with the legendary racer, get a signed copy of his book and meet his writing collaborator, Elana Scherr, who has written for numerous automotive magazines and websites covering car culture, technology, motor sports and new car reviews.
Fans also had the opportunity to meet a special guest, Burbank resident Bob Muravez. One of the biggest names in drag racing, Muravez won more than 600 sanctioned races in the 1960s and 1970s as Floyd Lippencott Jr., a pseudonym he adopted to hide his dangerous career from his disapproving father.
Thrilled with both the turnout of last week’s event and the new signage on her West Magnolia Boulevard shop, Van Curen said she was extremely grateful that the Road Kings did such a beautiful job of upgrading the front of her building.
“They were so generous in offering to do this for me at no cost and so I didn’t want to ask them to hurry,” Van Curen said with a laugh. “But I did mention that Jay Leno was coming to film a segment of his show and that we were then going to be doing this event with Don Prudhomme. When they heard that, they got right on it and finished putting it up two days before Jay and his production crew showed up.”
Baldaseroni said he and his fellow Road Kings were just as thrilled to be able to do something to show their appreciation for her long-standing support.
“I believe this is a good example of community support and teamwork,” said Baldaseroni. “That is what we’re all about. So if anyone has a thought or idea on how we can do an act of kindness for someone in our community, I would love to hear from them.”
If you have an idea for the Road Kings, contact Don Baldaseroni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Laurell may be reached at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.