I’ve always referred to it as: “My hot rod motor”… To call it “junk” or a “junkyard anything” would be inaccurate. From the beginning, it was built with decent parts… it just wasn’t “race stuff.”
The iron block may be the first V-8 I ever owned. Something my volunteer builder procured when he was assembling the engine for my first Modified around ’94. Or it could be from the complete engine I bought off the bulletin board at Knecht’s in Cottage Grove, OR. “Hear it run on the dyno!” the index card proclaimed. It was built as a backup by some IMCA racer’s dad. I guess they didn’t need it. I’m quite certain the rotating assembly came from that IMCA motor. The iron “202” cylinder heads were a sponsorship from Roger’s Automotive in Auburn, CA. The Vertex mag was purchased directly from the manufacturer when I worked for Competition Specialties.
I managed to land an engine sponsor my second year in a Sprint Car and the hot rod motor was relegated to a spare. I’m happy to say that my race engine (built by Rick Guest aka R&G Machine that advertises in this paper) never missed a beat so the spare sat idle for the next five years or so. It wasn’t until my buddy stuck it in my Super did it breath life again. I ran the car a couple times in Banks, OR (there were non-engine related issues) and again it was mothballed.
In 2007 my neighbor and fellow Sunset competitor Tommy Moreno was making a run at Rookie of the Year with a talented Stock Car graduate piloting his Sprint Car. Pat Canfield had won a Feature about mid-season and was well ahead in rookie points when the team barfed their only engine with two races remaining on the schedule. I volunteered the use of my hot rod motor and Moreno and Canfield didn’t hesitate. They extracted the engine from my Super and plugged it into their Sprinter. The following weekend at Sunset, Canfield peddled to third or fourth in the Main Event and within a week or two had a similar finish over at Madras. The team was able to clinch top rookie honors and wound up with a top five in the overall point standings as well. Afterwards Moreno cleaned, wrapped and returned the engine to me. It sat on the end of my workbench for another eight years.
In 2015 Bernie and Jimmy Voytek prepped my Super for competition with West Coast Vintage Racers and reinstalled my hot rod motor. Unfortunately the club had moved away from dirt track racing by the time I was ready to participate. The Voyteks convinced me to give asphalt racing a try so I towed the Super to Roseville, CA for the West Capital Alumni Assn. races on Halloween of ’17. We had a blast that weekend but battled overheating problems each time I took to the oval. Bernie suggested I might have a cracked cylinder head and sure enough that turned out to be the case.
I ended up buying another vintage race car for the full on racing engine that came with it. Bernie located another set of iron cylinder heads, similar to what I had, and installed them on my hot rod motor. I brought the engine home and slid it under my workbench. This time it wouldn’t sit idle for long…
The 2019 edition of the Wingless Sprint Series was winding down when I received a call from a friend whom I know from the NW Old Time racers group. A biker friend of hers, “Rhino” was crew chief on a Sprint Car and they had blown their only engine with two events remaining. Turns out I know Rhino and his brother-in-law Lance Hallmark. I explained to Hallmark exactly what I had and told him he was welcome to use it. One of the races remaining was the HPP Wingless National – A two day show at Cottage Grove with an inflated purse. It was imperative that the team participate in that as well as the season finale at Willamette, if they hoped to maintain their ranking in the points. Hallmark picked up the engine the night after we spoke. He plugged it into his Sprint Car the next evening and Friday night called me from the racetrack in a panic. He had adjusted the valves and the engine would not fire. He had already missed warmups, qualifying and his heat race- all that remained was the Feature. In frustration, Rhino had already thrown in the towel and taken a seat in the grandstands. Fortunately I was able to get ahold of Bernie and put him in direct contact with Hallmark. With the valves reset to Voytek’s specs, the hot rod motor sputtered to life and Hallmark joined the starting field in the 22nd and final starting position. In short order, Hallmark familiarized himself with the limitations of his new power plant and began to move forward. By the conclusion of the race he had broken into the top ten.
I decided to attend on Saturday night when the big money was being offered. Hallmark had continued to make adjustments in gearing and engine cooling throughout the day, to improve the marriage between his car and my engine. He gave us a thrill before dusk by winning one of the three preliminary heats. Based on that win and Friday night’s finish, he was slotted seventh for the fifty lap Feature. Race sponsor Mark Herz grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag but within four cantos, Hallmark seized the point. He had clearly adjusted his driving to maximize his car’s potential- limiting his slides through the turns to maintain forward momentum. Before long he had opened up an insurmountable lead and no one was closing. Then disaster, a back-marker got upside down in turn two bringing out the red flag. We figured our Cinderella Story had ended as only a couple of lapped cars separated Hallmark from some hotdogs up from California that had threaded their way through the field. But when racing resumed, Hallmark again began to pull away and it was easy to see why. He wasn’t scrubbing off speed in the corners or breaking the tires loose on the straightaways. By contrast the second and third place entries were at opposite lock coming off the turns and fishtailing on the straights. When the checkered flag fell, Hallmark was again leading by a large margin.
Modest in victory, Hallmark called my engine a “Torque Monster” and revealed had he’d never turned more than 5,900 rpm! He and his crew invited me to join them on the front straightaway but I declined. Hallmark deserves all the credit for his win. Bernie Voytek just smiled like the Cheshire Cat. He estimates that my engine has a lowly 11 ½ to 1 compression ratio and makes between 400 and 420 horsepower! If more people had known our secret, I’m sure the celebration in the pits would have been larger.
Race engine builder Brian Crockett was attempting to assist Hallmark when he discovered that the motor had a hydraulic lifter cam. After he congratulated Hallmark he remarked: “You guys just set race engine technology back thirty years!”
But then again, it isn’t a race engine… it’s a hot rod motor.
When was the last time that a ‘racing’ movie was nominated for an Academy Award? Let me help you out, it was 1966. Grand Prix was a huge Formula 1 themed cinematic epic. Filled with (a pretty cheesy) romance, groundbreaking filming techniques, and eye-popping racing sequences, the academy recognized it with a nomination and subsequent award in the following categories: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Effects.
It’s been 54 years. A handful of motorsports movies have come out. Driven certainly was not going to be winning any awards. We got closer with Rush back in 2013 with a couple of Golden Globe nominations, but let’s be honest, that wasn’t stacking up against the chops of other big blockbusters that year.
Starring Matt Damon as iconic builder Carol Shelby and Christian Bale as a prickly racer Ken Block, this is an incredible true story of speed, revenge, and good ol’ American angst. It is funny, emotional, and above all- passionate. Sitting and watching it on the big screen- as everyone should- you find yourself tensing up and rolling with the curves of Le Mans. Similar to Grand Prix, this tale is beautifully filmed- though director, James Mangold had the aid of 21st-century special effects.
As far as accuracy, some notes might be elevated for the Hollywood glamour. Did Caroll Shelby take Henry Ford ii aka ‘the duce’ for a joy ride in one of the prototypes, rendering the heir to the Ford fortune into a blubbering, crying mess? Maybe not. Did Block and Shelby have a first fight in the front lawn of Block’s Southern California home? Does anyone know? Most importantly, did Caroll Shelby not use car doors? No seriously, the entire movie he hoists himself of the driver’s seat of the vintage Cobras that are sprinkled throughout the movie. He doesn’t once use a door to handle time.
Without ruining it for those who have not watched yet, some best scenes include Block’s in-car commentary, Matt Damon’s description of driving Le Mans when Ford representative comes to visit and the final scene with the wrench.
In light of Ford Vs Ferrari’s recent nominations, local theatres will likely put it back on the big screen- it is wholeheartedly worth the price of admission to see it in full larger-than-life form. The academy awards are Sunday, February 9th on 5p on ABC We might just see it bring home some hardware.
Okay gals and GearHeads, are you relaxing during the slow part of the season? Well there has been no let up in the news of the automotive world, such as the C8 Corvette. So let’s call this the year of the C8 and without further adieu, dive into the inner workings of the C8 as promised last column.
Tadge Juechter, Chief Engineer over at Chevrolet had a recent convo with the guys over at Autoline. Here is a few key takeaway points he shared; this goes back to about 2005 when they were working on the C6 ZO6 Corvette. The weight of the supercharger resulted in 52% front weight, when they started musing about what a mid-engine car would be like. They began their studies which ultimately resulted in a 60/40 weight split rear to front.
They had to start with a clean sheet of paper to design this new car from the ground up, starting with the transaxle. They went out and bought a Ferrari and tore it all down to look at everything. They had to design a suspension system that would result in neutral steering along with comfort as well as performance handling.
They had to make some compromises such as the center of gravity (CG) which is higher than the earlier Vettes. This came from replacing the transverse leaf springs with coilovers. All of this along with the transaxle resulted in a heavier car. They had to go with an automatic transmission because they just could not find anything else out in the world that would do the job for a manual gearbox. But they did provide this unique dual pedal neutral which will allow the car to coast when you push in the pedal.
Moving into the cabin, they faced a number of challenges. They designed extra tilt extensions so a 7-foot guy could get in there. They built in roomy storage compartments front and rear along with custom luggage.
And we will now introduce the word of the day: squircles … Yes, Elmer you heard that right. This has to do with the design of the squared steering wheel. It gives the 7-foot guy the legroom along with the ability for the short guy to view the heads up display (HUD) over the steering wheel.
They had a number of acoustics challenges to overcome. With the engine in the rear, there was a lot of noise emanating from all of those belts and pulleys up front. Of course, all GearHeads want to hear the roar of that power plant back there. This resulted in innovative approaches to sound architecture, starting with a back window twice as thick incorporated into a reinforced structure that would act as a sound barrier. What is even cooler is that the rear window can be lowered independently to provide that flow through ventilation.
Next came some really innovative design work incorporating air ducting to maximize the acoustics of the intake and exhaust notes. Then of course, everybody knows that GearHeads like to rock out in their rides. Placement of the Bose speakers presented quite the challenge. They managed to come up with the loudest system yet. So pick your poison drivers and riders.
Construction of the entire car resulted in many different composite materials in and out. Then not to forget European sales and of course, the Aussies. But no problem, they simply had to tool mirror image parts to create the right hand drive.
Now let’s take a look at some of the funky stuff. There is the GPS hydraulics. Wherever you encounter such things as steep driveways where you might scrape your front splitter, you can program your hydraulic suspension to raise up the front of the car for clearance at the touch of a button. Your GPS will remember 1000 different locations.
Then it appears that the Chevy engineers took a page out of the Tesla build book by developing their over-the-air software updates. A 24-hour hotline is monitored by the engineers. When any car develops a unique problem they will receive the readout and develop a fix within a 24-hour window.
So there you go guyz and galz. A few key takeaways from the borning of the C8 Corvette. As this world-beating sports car continues to win Car of the Year awards, their debut on the racetrack is approaching. We will see it at the 24 hours of LeMans. I am quite sure there will be a crowd.
As 2019 came to a close, we recognize the passing of more Motorsports pioneers such as, Junior Johnson, Bill Simpson and Bruce Crower. We are all marching to the same place.
There is a ton of new news coming down from the electrical vehicle (EV) front. But we wanted to give an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle front and center this time around. Oh, and is an electrficationable future in line for the C8? I’m afraid so.
I would like to leave you with a few tidbits from the legislative front. The RPM bill has been reintroduced for 2020. If you want to help us all out, you can go on back over to the SEMA site And send word to your congressmen. They have another template there , that you can easily fill out and send. Also this marks 5 years since the United States Motorsports Association (USMA) was formed to help with these issues.
Then we have US Representative Debbie Dingell who is introducing the Electrify Forward Act, designed to use billions of tax dollars to move electrification forward in the Auto industry. Just thought I would dangle that in front of y’all.
Chuck Fasst #GearHeadsWorld
There was a TV show in the 60’s or maybe it was the 70’s, called All in the Family. That phrase applies to other circumstances… like the old car hobby. My family has been at least interested in cars for my whole life. My Dad was a car guy when he was younger. He had a number of, what are considered today as, “Blue Chip” cars, only he owned them back when they were just old used cars, oh and they were cheap to buy too. I also have a couple brothers who have owned many cool cars over the years and like me they wish they still had them.
My brother Randy owned a 66 Chevy Nova, which he “resto-moded” back before that was a thing. A 65 Malibu SS with a 4 speed, a 67 Chevelle, a couple 57 Chevys, cars trucks etc. and likely more than I can recall now. He became a damn good mechanic when he grew up and has bought repaired and ultimately sold on, quite a few other great cars like his totally redone 64 Impala SS Convertible, his 72 ½ ton 4 X 4 pickup, which was a total restoration and it turned out absolutely beautiful.
We have worked on car together, in fact we started out working on my 66 Biscayne together. I ultimately finished that one and he started on his latest, a 1965 Corvair. He jumped into that one after we moved the Biscayne to my shop and the Corvair has been in the dreaded “Limbo” for a time now.
A few years back he got roped into cleaning up a friend’s moth balled 70 (I think) Corvette. It had been sitting for a long while and needed a bunch of mechanical attention. But he got it back on the road and it was a great looking car.
The Corvair is really pretty nice and is said to have been owned by Jack Ramsey, of Portland Blazers. The car had its fair share of bumps and bruises, like they all do but not a lot of bad. It ran and drove well and looked pretty got from 20 feet.
At last look it is getting near a good coat of primer and then the block sanding fun can begin so, it’s pretty close. I’m hoping that this little article will spur him into action to get back to it. It could be a fun summertime driver… aren’t they all?
Watching last weekend’s broadcast of the U.S. Grand Prix (Formula One race) from Austin TX; I had a difficult time figuring out who was driving which car. Not because each team fields two virtually identical entries, but because the car numbers have become less prominent than they were in year’s past. I picked out the numbers on the winning Mercedes mostly because its flanks aren’t cluttered with corporate logos (unlike the Ferraris) but the third place Red Bull? Forget it!
In the modern age of transponders and computerized scoring, the legibility of car numbers isn’t as critical as it once was. I certainly hope they aren’t considering eliminating them altogether. Growing up, a numeral emblazoned on the side of most any vehicle is what made it immediately identifiable as “a racer”.
NASCAR Cup racing is a series in which the car numbers still play an important role. I think because the Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas are all the same shape and color schemes change frequently, car numbers are critical for identification purposes. You can easily follow a particular team’s progress throughout the race if you can pick out the number. Take for example the Petty Enterprises forty three. If you’re a Petty fan, that number carries a ton of history for you. You’re rooting for Bubba Wallace today but you’re also honoring the owner, Richard Petty’s legacy. It’s hard to imagine a Cup race without a forty three in the field. Richard chose that number because his father Lee was still in competition when Richard started and he ran forty two. When Richard’s son Kyle turned pro, he logically ran forty four. No one can tell me these numbers aren’t meaningful to thousands of Petty fans.
Consider the Childress three… I doubt that any car number in American racing history conjures up deeper emotions. Even though Dale Earnhardt is gone, I think it gives fans comfort to see a number three out there circulating.
Sometimes car numbers have emotional attachments from the get go. Accomplished northwestern driver Monte Shelton chose fifty seven because that was the year his son Neil was born.
Sometimes numbers are earned. I can’t think of any driver more deserving of number one than San Franciscan Nick Rescino. During his career the short track legend won six season championships, some on pavement and some on dirt. Interestingly, he reportedly sold his right to that number one season to a fellow competitor. Joey Santos exchanged his three for Rescino’s one. The cost was $100.00 and a new tire!
And sometimes the choice of car number is sort of an evolution. “We don’t really have a car number,” said the late Merle Brennan looking to his wife to help with an explanation. Like Shelton, Brennan was a successful club racer that held his own when he ventured into a national event. He ran seventeen on his Genie Chevrolet when he raced in the Can Am in the late sixties. Built his own sports racer from a wrecked formula car and numbered it fourteen. When the Can Am was revived in 1977, he procured a McLaren M8F and raced it as nineteen. For whatever reason, Brennan clearly preferred a number in the teens.
My choice of number was an evolution as well. I numbered the first car I raced thirteen because though I wasn’t superstitious, I knew I was in for the biggest challenge of my life. Along came a professional mechanic offering help but only if I would change my number. “With all the things that can go wrong,” he explained, “you don’t need that working against you!” I wasn’t attached to the number and needed his help so I switched to four. The number four had no significance to me- it was simply the lowest number that was available. A few years later I wanted to update with a newer, lighter car and sold the four. The new owner assumed the number was part of the deal and balked when I suggested he change it. Not wanting the transaction to fall apart in the eleventh hour, I conceded and selected six instead. Again, the number had no significance to me other than I liked the single digit and it was available. My new number six was an awesome car and with it I won my first feature. I raced that car pretty successfully for a few seasons, sold it and eventually bought it back. It was always number six for me and after I sold it the second time, it won in the next owner’s hands. It was a great car!
As I mentioned, I’m not superstitious but I do believe in luck. My fortunes changed with the purchase of my original six car so every car I raced going forward was also numbered six.
We woke up the morning of Monday, November 4, 2019, to find that the whole kit and caboodle has been sold. No seriously, for an IndyCar fan, it felt like it. A year and a day since the passing of Mari Hulman George, the only daughter of the late Tony Hulman, it was announced that IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions will be turned over than none other than Roger ‘The Capitan’ Penske come January 1, 2020.
“I think once the momentum continues to swell here, I think it’s going to raise all boats, so hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity to continue to be involved and work right alongside Roger and his group and all of the teams and fans and media that come here to enjoy it” — Tony George, son of Mari Hulman George and Chairman of Hulman & Company.
This is a huge deal. Like has-only-happened-4-times- in-100-years kind of big. When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909, four local businessmen became the founding fathers of The Racing Capital of the World. Arthur Newby, James Allison, Carl Fisher, and Frank Wheeler oversaw the construction and effectively owned the track until WWII Flying Ace Eddie Rickenbacker and associates bought it in 1927 for $750,000. Rickenbacker ushered in a new era of safety innovations and was the face of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through the Great Depression and World War II. In 1945, supplies were short due to the war efforts and the track had fallen into a state of disrepair. Terre Haute, IN native and Anthony ‘Tony’ Hulman bought the track at the suggestion of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilbur Shaw. Shaw was named President and the Hulman family has proudly owned the track and the subsidiary racing series and Production Company for decades. Enter Roger Penske.
“We’re very excited to be in a place where our process took us to a point where we as a family all agreed we needed to have a conversation with Roger Penske. I approached him at the final race of the season, not wanting to distract from the task at hand, which was bringing home another championship… I just simply said, I’d like to meet with him and talk about stewardship” — Tony George.
Roger Penske is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or IndyCar. You could easily say that he has been an integral part of both for the better part of his life. Once a racer himself, Roger became fascinated with motorsports early on. The Penske Racing team debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 and he entered his first car at Indy in 1969. The rest is history. Fielding cars with iconic drivers and chassis, Penske Racing racked up a record-breaking 14 Indy500 wins alone- including this year’s Champion, Simon Pagenaud. Just looking at 2019, Roger and Team Penske had a big season. Induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Fifth IndyCar Championship title and IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship- all of which are significant on their own yet somehow only ended up being footnotes to one of the largest purchases in American Motorsports history.
“I think to everyone that’s here today and around the world listening to this iconic event, I really have to wind back to 1951 when my dad brought me here when I was 14 years old, and I guess at that point the bug of motor racing got in my blood I’d have to say… So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.” – Roger Penske
This is fantastic news- and news that affects the entire industry as a whole. If anyone cares about IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, it is Roger Penske. Someone who is not afraid to pour dollars, manpower, and experience into a project, Roger himself is already talking about big plans. Night racing, more series, and upgraded safety and technology will take a venue that is already legendary and make it better. Bigger business and more partners can help bring in another engine manufacturer or international races into the series. Make no mistake, by no means, will the traditions we know and love be cast away or forgotten, but encouraged on a larger stage.
“Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we. We’ve got to try some of this. I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases.” — Roger Penske
It’s hard to say what ideas will be implemented first or on what scale. Suffice to say, that 2019 is already shaping up to be an incredibly interesting racing season. Thank you, Hulman George family for the decades of service and let’s welcome our new Capitan, Roger Penske.
Well GearHeads, looks like we have entered into the offseason. Indoor car shows will be coming up around the corner. The NWDRA Swapmeet is coming Jan. 26. This writer recently attended the PDX Practice Tree. Everybody was way chill. It seems like this group gots it together. Their next event is coming up December 7.
Hey, we gots more news on the electrical car front. Dyson invested over $3 billion on their EV that looks like their vacuum cleaner. Then they threw in the towel. So that is one car that will not suck.
Now, did you guys hear this about Uber? they are out there on the highway testing their automated vehicles. It seems that one of their AVs struck and killed a ped who was j walking with their bicycle. It seems that their AI was not designed to recognize a ped who was far from a crosswalk! Really? One would think that their pinheads woulda thunk that one out a little further?
There was a driver behind the wheel of the AV. But they were streaming “ The Voice” on their cell phone. Hooboy! Oh and both Uber and Lyft have admitted that their cars are making traffic worse!
Now, how about a little bit about flying cars? We are talking Urban air mobility VTOLs. Looks like Porsche and Boeing have teamed up to build one. So we are talking about vertical takeoff and landing.
It seems that Harley has halted production and delivery of their “Livewire” EV bike. Wonder what’s going on there?
So, in the last column we talked about the UAW GM strike. It ended up going on for a long time, 40 days. It definitely crimped GM’s style. Production of the C8 Corvette has definitely been slowed. They had not even finished filling orders for the C7! So we have been talking about these C8s a little bit, in this column. We have another little tidbit to throw at you, down below.
Alrighty then, now let’s talk about racing and horsepower … stuff like that. Here is a wild one: Roger Penske steps up and buys IMS Racing with his Penske Entertainment Group. This means they will be running the Indianapolis Motor Speedway along with the IndyCar racing series!
Hey MOPAR guys! It looks like Dodge is offering you a sweet discount on their new performance rides. they are offering ten bucks per horsepower discount. That means you can save almost $8 grand on their baddest boy!
So let’s finish off this little diatribe with a tidbit from Motor Trend. They managed to get a C8 Corvette onto the dyno. You know, the ones that are rated at 495 horsepower? Well, there’s cranked out 660 horsepower at the crank!
I have been to many races in my lifetime, but very few as just a spectator sitting in the grandstands. I have always been involved at a race, such as part of a pit crew, taking photographs, or gathering info to write a story.
The first 10 years of my life I was raised in Santa Clara, Calif. My family has always gone to circle track races. On Friday nights we would go to the Alviso Speedway, a ¼ mile dirt track. Then on Saturday night, we would go to San Jose speedway, ⅓ mile high banked paved oval. My uncle was part of a pit crew for one of the hardtops that raced at both tracks. This was back in the late ’50s through the early ’60s.
So I guess you could say that racing was in my blood. Back then I was a spectator, sat in the bleachers with my family and cheered for our favorite drivers. Even back then I would go into the pits with the family after all the racing was over for the night. I got to look at the cars up close and personal and even got to sit in a few.
In ‘62 the family moved to the City of Rogue River in southern Oregon. My love of racing never died, but at that time it was put on hold. From then until my high school days I would take a week or so in the summer and go back to San Jose to see my uncle and go to the races at San Jose Speedway.
It was then my hands-on involvement started. Throughout the week my uncle would take me with him to the shop where we worked on a couple of hardtop race cars. As a little guy, my job was not much. Wash parts, thread on bolts by hand, holding things in place. Then we would go to the races. My uncle would be in the pits and I would be back in the stand with the family as a “spectator”.
Back in Oregon I worked pumping gas at a local service station that sponsored a stock car that raced at the Posse Grounds Race Track, a ¼ mile dirt track in Medford. I am back getting my hands dirty and loving every minute. The team would race in Roseburg and Medford. I was in the pits not in the stands.
As time marches on I grew up, got married and raised a family. In time I moved to Albany Ore. Now selling auto parts, I met Brian Drager, now one of my very good friends. He is a driver and a race car builder. I helped at his shop and in the pits as I could. It was a great time in my life.
Then came a change. I had developed a love for photography. I was not in the stands, I was in the infield of the tracks. I took photos all over the west coast for Racing Wheels Newspaper, Open Wheels Magazine, and now Roddin’ and Racin’ NW Newspaper. I got to be in the infield, in the pits, and even in the flagman’s stand to take photos. Most recently I was able to travel to Indy.
I still enjoy watching the races from the stands. About five years ago I was asked to come along to the races at Willamette Speedway by some close friends that knew very little about short track racing. They kept asking when was “the big one”? You know the multicar pileup that always seems to happen in Nascar. Later that evening 3 cars spun out and I told them that was the big one! As I sat in the stand I enjoyed answering the questions from the rookies.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to Willamette Speedway with another one of my friends, Steve Veltman. My, how things have changed. It is a beautiful racing facility. I also found out that a couple of friends of mine worked there. The flagman Jeff Morrison has been a friend for many years. He does a great job of keeping the races going on the track. Another friend is Joel Imamura, the announcer. I understand this was his first year announcing. He did a great job keeping everyone up to date as what was going on at the track. While I was at the race I decided to write a story about it. I was without my camera so I took photos with my phone, not great, but, better than nothing.
I have been very fortunate in my racing life. Helping build cars, being on pit crews, photographing and writing. The last race for the season I was a spectator and I loved it.
Word arrived by telegram to our home, and Ma burst into the living room shaking the letter and screamed, “EB IS COMING HOME! HE WILL BE HERE FOR CHRISTMAS!!”
I was drawing in the workbook I carried with me everywhere I went, and my little sister Stella was playing with her doll. Outside the wind gusted, and we could feel the icy wind reach to us through the walls. Pa was at work down at the rail yards. He was a mechanic and helped keep the locomotives running on time. My older brother Ebenezer had enlisted shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He was an all star athlete in high school and the president of a car club; he was one of those guys that others wanted to be like. Eb was five years older than me.
When he left to serve, he told me to take the reins and take care of Ma, Pa, and Stella. Gape mouthed, I looked at him; this was a whole new world for me. Eb dropped his head, shook it slowly from side to side with a hint of that grin that melted all of the girls in school. “Come on, Zeke, you make it sound like I’ll never come home.”
Again, the whole world shifted for me. The thought of Ebenezer never coming home grounded me. I nervously laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I know. Just me being a clown, you know?”
We both paused. In my mind, I saw the photos of the carnage at Pearl Harbor.
Smoke. Fire. Lives lost.
Eb broke the silence. “Okay, so while I am away…“ and he left me instructions on maintenance for the furnace that he tended to because Pa had a bad back and stooping in the crawl space was hard on him. He reminded me of Ma’s medication and to keep watch on Stella and to be stern on her studies and piano practice. But he also asked me to start his roadster up every week so the engine would not go south while he was away. In those four long years, I took on the tasks of being more than a son in our household.
Monday December 24th
My bedroom was on the ground floor of our Queen Anne styled home; my folks and Stella each had their rooms upstairs. Eb’s room was just down from mine. As I had done since my brother had left, I slept lightly; listening to the furnace to make sure it was still performing its duties, listening for sounds that would indicate a prowler or something amiss.
When there was a light tap on my window, I sat straight up and looked at the window, cocking my head to the side when it happened again. I leapt out of my bed and grabbed my Louisville slugger. Fear ran its icy finger down my spine as I crossed the room to open the curtains and see what, or who, was the source of the tapping noise.
It was snowing, and standing there in his dress uniform was my brother Eb. He saw me getting ready to shout but moved his finger over his lips in a hush gesture. I nodded, and he motioned for me to get dressed and be quiet. I grabbed a sweater, my dungarees and wool socks, boots, jacket, hat, and gloves. Quietly, I opened my door, then made my way across the dark living room before going outside.
Eb had placed his duffle bag on the front porch and was waiting near the garage. “You’ve grown, little brother!” he whispered. I nodded, and he quietly chuckled.
“Why are we not waking the folks?” I asked in a whisper.
Ebenezer motioned at our home. “Welp, I had every intention of doing just that, but then I saw the dark living room and no Christmas tree. What’s going on? Ma has always had a tree.”
“We haven’t had a tree since you’ve been gone, Ebenezer. Ma and Pa just scuttled the idea, and Stella and I made do.”
My reply hit my brother hard. He nodded, then pressed a gloved hand to his eyes. He pursed his lips, sniffed, and I had to look away.
“Well, let’s change that,” he said.
With that, as quietly as we could, we pushed his roadster out of the garage and onto the street. Carefully, we placed the chains on the back tires, loaded up an ax and some twine, and then we were off.
It was around 2 AM as we made our way toward the outskirts of town. The roadster’s mill cackled softly and resonated off the buildings as we drove. There were wreaths and lights hanging from the lamp posts. We came up to a stop sign, and I leapt out and raced to a lamp post that was at the intersection. Quickly, I removed the wreath and attached it to the roadster’s grille. Eb laughed, and we were on our way again.
Snow began to fall creating a wonderland, and the tire chains had a rhythmic bell-like ringing. As if on cue, Eb began to sing Jingle Bells. I joined in, and it was all I could have wished for. Eb loudly sang “Oh what fun it is to ride in a hopped up 32 Ford!”
We were about four miles out of town when Eb pulled off. We got out and eyed a few trees before we found one that was just right. We cut it down, strapped it to the back of the ’32, and headed back home. “Brother, that wreath looks mighty keen on my car.” Eb said. I just beamed.
About a quarter mile from home, Eb killed the engine, and the little Ford rolled softly to a stop in front of our home. We carefully removed the tree from the roadster and carried it inside. Eb steadied the evergreen, and I swiftly ran back to the garage and found the tree stand and some decorations. The clock was showing 5 a.m. when we felt our work was done. I sat down on the sofa looking at the beautiful sight. I had forgotten how wonderful a Christmas tree was in our home. Eb stepped back and began to sing.
“Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.”
His voice boomed and filled the house. Upstairs, I heard footsteps, rustling, and doors banged open.
Ma raced down the stairs followed by Pa. Stella was soon close behind. Ma turned to Pa, his hand on her back. She clasped her hands together in glee. Stella squeezed between our parents and rushed Ebenezer. He lifted her up and hugged her. My folks slowly made their way to Eb, and we all hugged each other. Again, as a family.
That was Christmas 1945.
To this day, it resonates as one of the greatest Christmases, and I share it every year to my grandchildren.
As a bonus, their Great Uncle Eb takes them for a ride in that great old ’32 Ford .
-Written by Mark “Spooky” Karol-Chik 11/9/2019
Inspired by the incredible art work done by Tom Fritz visit his work at https://www.fritzart.com
The name Don Garlits is synonymous with drag racing. As I was growing up, ABC TV’s Wild World of Sports was the show to watch to get a glimpse of the man who would become the legend. Mr. Garlits has hand-built 34 cars that have taken him to 144 national event wins. He started his racing career in 1950 and scored his first victory in 1955.
Located in Ocala, Florida The Garlits Racing Museums in are a two-part complex; his Drag Racing Museum and his Antique Cars Museum. The facility is open every day of the year, excepting Thanksgiving and Christmas. Opened in 1976, it chronicles the history of the sport of drag racing. The museums currently boast that they have close to 300 cars on display in the two buildings. When I visited a few years ago, they had 90-some racing cars in the main Drag Racing building, and there were another 50 vehicles in the separate Antique Car building. You would expect to see manufacture representations such as Chrysler, Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford, Cadillac and Mercury. I was pleased to also find Hudson, Studebaker, DeSoto, Metz, Brush and even Moon marques in the Antique Car building.
I first entered the Drag Racing Museum. You are greeted by a perched display of Bill Golden’s Dodge. Better known as Maverick’s Little Red Wagon, this vehicle has been honored as the most famous race vehicle by Hot Rod Magazine and Peterson’s History of Drag Racing. Bill Maverick is credited with the moniker; “King of the Wheelstanders”.
I built the model. How many of our readers built the model too?
There are so many more cars to tell you about. I did not know which way to turn to take them all in. Multiple renditions of “Big Daddy’s” cars are on display. However you will not find Swamp Rat XXX here. You will need to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History to see that one.
The original Swamp Rat I, built in Don Garlits’ Tampa, Florida home garage ran from 1956 to 1961. Don set his first world record with this car; 176.40 MPH / 8.79 ET on November 10, 1957.
Compare those numbers to today’s elapsed times and you will shake your head too.
Just for the record, Big Daddy took Swamp Rat 34 out of the museum and in 2002 entered the car in the NHRA Nationals and scored his career best of 318.54 MPH with a 4.76 second E.T.
Restored after its spectacular April 1965 crash, the Wynnsjammer Swamp Rat VI set the NHRA Winternationals record at 206.42 at Pomona, CA in February of 1965.
Ed Roth’s Yellow Fang has a neat display at the museum. Roth has been chided by many as more of a show-and-not-go kinda guy.
The Yellow Fang was actually built and conceived by George Schreiber, who started thinking about building a ‘streamliner’ in 1963. Schreiber mocked up a model of the car with coat hangers and welding rod. He showed it to Roth (whom he was working with at the time) and Roth said “make it a little longer here” and the design took off. The idea of ‘Yellow Fang’ came from the Soupy Sales TV show that featured White Fang and Black Tooth. The car was heavy but did run a 7.83 at 207mph. It just didn’t run super well like all the Swamp Rats did. Garlits first looked at the Yellow Fang car when it was offered for sale at the closing of Jimmy Brucker’s Cars of The Stars Museum. Outbid by Domino’s Pizza owner Tom Monaghan (who had a brief interest in cars) the car went to North Carolina’s The Rear Window, where Garlits finally acquired the car. Yellow Fang is on display in its late-1960’s incarnation.
Connie Kalitta’s Bounty Hunter, Shirley Muldowney’s 1980 Attebury, a rear-engined Plymouth .
Don Prudhomme’s Snake I
Prudhomme’s 1971 Wedge Dragster and Wynn’s Winder Top Fueler 1969 are on display at the museum.
Other vehicles accredited to Chris Karamesines, Pete Robinson compete for floor space, along with another great display of Tom (The Mongoose) McEwen’s 1982 Corvette.
Barbara Hamilton’s 1937 Willys Coupe. Barbara was the first woman licensed by the NHRA to drive a supercharged car. She campaigned this vehicle from 1964 to 1971. She built, wrenched, owned and drove this very car.
The first all-fiberglass funnycar, Bruce Larson’s 1966 Chevelle first appeared in Atco, NJ in 1965.
But my absolute favorite surprise at the museum was when I got to lay eyes on Ohio George Montgomery’s Ford. His 1934 Coupe was found by the museum in a small garage in Lafayette, Indiana in 1994. Purchased from George in 1963, the car sat unmolested for 41 years. After ten years of negotiations it is finally on display in Ocala, Florida for the delight of drag racing fans. The museum had only to paint the hood and fenders their “Pastoral” Blue Lacquer.
TV Tommy Ivo’s dual engine dragster was on display.