Welcome to Part 2 of our look at the “X-ray” art of Tom West. In Part 1 last Friday, West told about his introduction to the art form with which he has become synonymous and showed off five of his earliest efforts. Today, he’s back with an additional half-dozen and has offered to share even more if you’re interested. I know I am!
Anyway, without further ado, go West, young man! (As last time, clicking on any image below will spawn a larger version for you to ogle.)
"I think this was the first car that I drew where I got the first shot at doing the article with it, for the October 1971 issue of Drag Racing USA
, and it was one of my all-time favorites from that point on. I started with a complete photo shoot of the Damn Yankee as it was still being completed by Pat Foster at Woody Gilmore's shop. We could not take it out for some reason, so I shot it from up high just to be able to get back from it a bit ... and it turned out to be one of my favorite angles for a cutaway. As I was still working on that, the car was being prepped for its first time out at OCIR, which was to be on a Friday. I made arrangements with everyone at the GM plant in Van Nuys [Calif.] where I worked to have that day off, but my immediate boss decided that he was going to mess with me and canceled it on Thursday afternoon with a long list of stuff that needed to be done the next day. I got him to agree that I would finish the list and was then heading out, which I did. Still got there in time to see the first burnout and squirt with the car, although the brake calipers shifted, rubbed the inside of the wheels, and broke the brake plates, so not exactly running it down the track the way they wanted.
"We brought it back up and towed it down the track with the chute deployed for the photo series as I messed around shooting from the back of the pickup. Generated some pretty cool photos, as did the stills of the car down there in the pit area at the end of the OCIR track.
"Done, right? Not really, as I came to work Monday morning to find that my schmuck boss had tried to fire me on Friday for insubordination by leaving without checking with him ... as he hid by running in and out of the executive lunchroom for two hours, which would have been grounds for having him fired. He was given a few reasons why filling out my pink-slip paperwork was also going to require him filling out his own; I guess he really went wild. His approach was to now become buddy-buddy with me, telling me that all the stuff I was doing that was supposed to be so good didn't mean anything, as if I wasn't there, they would still get it done. That was really when I decided that I could not work for General Motors.
"So, this drawing is really a symbol for me personally starting to look elsewhere to figure out what I was going to do with my life ... and it was also my favorite illustration for many years."
"I had always done fuel altereds or Funny Cars or other drag cars where the body could be removed for my illustrations, with the last piece of my 'early phase' being the Don Schumacher Stardust car that I did for Marty Shorr at Cars
magazine in early 1973. I moved east to go into the model-kit business in March of 1973, living on Long Island for five years, then moving to Michigan to go with MPC as their marketing product manager. While I was there, I reconnected with Steve Reyes, who had become staff photo editor for the Argus group, and he got me over to the Popular Hot Rodding
Championships, where we talked about getting me an illustration project.
"That project turned out to be the Pro Stock terror of Richard Maskin and Andy Mannarino, the M&M Boys Firebird. This was for the December 1978 issue of PHR, and I had not done one of these things since early 1973 ... and you could not take the body off of this thing. Realizing that was a bit scary, as I am very literal and try to get everything that I can for my drawings in a set of base photos. Being very literal, I have to know exactly what something looks like to be able to draw it, so it felt like a real stretch for me to even do this piece. Felt like I was walking through a dark room sort of feeling my way along to get all of those 'hidden' details that could not be seen from my camera perspective, but I think it came out fairly well. I also felt like I had actually improved during my hiatus from the X-ray drawings, but I also had figured out that I could make photo prints to use for my base, and I could make them large enough that I had abandoned my earlier grid system of laying out the drawing, so while the process was much harder because of the hidden parts, the stuff that I could see in my photos made things much easier than before.
"Overall, a pretty decent piece by the time it was done ... personal opinion."
"After completing the M&M Firebird Pro Stock while I lived in Michigan, family and work commitments kept me away from the board until I moved back to California in 1984 as director of marketing at Revell. After some corporate things happened, the company was sold to an investor group and was being merged into Monogram in Chicago, but I was helping to get everything going to complete our product line to turn over to them at the end of 1986. As part of that process, I made the trip to Ocala [Fla.] to do the research package on the Swamp Rat XXX, which was about to win its third straight Top Fuel title. This was a full-day shoot, and I worked in my photos that I needed for the illustration that you see here.
"Because I was leaving Revell (I chose not to move back to the Midwest), I was still doing some follow-up work for the line, which included a trip to Gainesville to shoot the new graphics, which were to appear on the model kit. I was working a bit on the drawing, but not pushing, until I met Dr. Bob Post, who was setting up the arrangements to get the car into the Smithsonian Institution. He said it would really be great to be able to include the cutaway in the display material that went with the car, so I hustled to complete it, and the print was displayed in the very front of the first display, and the layout of the permanent display panels was built around a backlit negative of the car that I had provided.
"It was interesting that Bob called after I had sent the piece back there to ask me to reverse the type on the Swamp Rat, as the artist who was laying it out had liked the drawing reversed and arranged the entire layout with it backwards. I told him that I could do what he asked, but that when you look at the car, it will be wrong from front to back, with the front-axle offset going the wrong way, the interior controls being completely backward, the engine being wrong, and all of that. I told him I didn't have the time to make all those corrections, and I did not think that he wanted to display something like this with the short fix that he had requested. He called me back later that afternoon and said that they had completely redesigned that big backing panel to fit with the drawing as it was. It gave me a great deal of respect for Post and for the authenticity that they try to bring to the displays in the Smithsonian.
"This was now the second illustration that I had done since 1973, and it was going in one of the most prestigious museums in the world. I am still very proud to be able to say that one of my pieces was displayed in the Smithsonian for 15 years, or whatever it was."
"Here’s one of my favorite cars of all time ...
"I think that a large number of drag racing fans would claim the 1969 Chi-Town Hustler as one of their favorite cars in the history of the sport. It was known for doing the 'Chi-Town' burnouts that really made the whole Funny Car class come alive to take over the sport. I decided that I should do a cutaway on the car, and [Austin] Coil and the guys agreed to let me do my photos after a race one night at OCIR. We took the car back to the infamous Marco Polo motel and took the body off and all of that stuff while I shot from a second-floor balcony ... in complete dark. We could not put any light on it because it was like 3 in the morning. I set up my camera, which was an old Mamiya C3, which means nothing except that it was like focusing in a cave normally. In the dark, it was just a complete guess.
"I processed the film the next day, only to find that all of my base photos for the illustration were completely out of focus, so I was going to have to rely on the closer detail photos to make this thing correct.
"Selling a piece on this car at the end of 1969 was absolutely impossible, of course, since every drag racing publication had run images of the Chi-Town constantly since it first hit the track, so I just parked the photos, figuring that I would do that piece sometime down the road.
"That time finally came 24 years later when I actually got all of those fuzzy base photos and detail pics out and did this piece. It got published in PHR as part of that retrospective on "The Man with the X-Ray Vision."
"I can only imagine the reaction now if you asked one of the top teams in the sport if you could photograph their car like this after a race ..."
"No introduction needed for the Greer-Black-Prudhomme car, as this is one of the more notable cars in the sport. I wanted to be prepared to do a model-kit or diecast version but also figured that an illustration would be neat, so I convinced Steve Davis to let me shoot it for the cutaway. I just added a bunch of dimensions and other images specific to developing a replica of the car.
"I ended up doing the illustration and made a run of prints of it as part of the fundraiser at the California Hot Rod Reunion, so there seem to be a lot of guys who tell me that they have this piece up in their offices.
"The follow-up to this was the Tommy Ivo twin-Buick dragster, which ended up being part of the Standard 1320 auction to support Eric Fuller's kids after his untimely death. The effort put in by this ragtag group of online drag racing fans and the amazing results might have been one of the finest hours for any Internet group that I am aware of, and I am very proud that I could be involved. I even brought Ivo and [Kent] Fuller back together, as Ivo jumped at the chance to support this thing by sitting at the table with me to sign any of the prints that guys were buying. Fuller came over too, saying that he would sign if the tears did not prevent him from seeing what he was doing.
"Before you think this was a big ego trip for me, I was brought back to reality the next day when some guy came up cradling one of the prints. He said that he had these autographs and knew Ivo's and knew that Fuller built the car, but what was this other one? I said, 'That is my signature; I did the drawing.' He sort of apologized with a disappointed look and walked off. There is always something that makes you realize that you are dealing with a small 'client' base for all of this stuff that we are doing in drag racing.
"The third illustration in this series was a piece on the Magicar of Bill Pitts. I incorporated details from the different versions of the car, the first true Cackle car."
"This is one of the more modern pieces I have done. I had been wanting to illustrate a new-technology Funny Car for quite some time and never came up with an angle. When John Force had his massive crash and came back with the revised safety chassis, I knew that would have to be the one to do. Considering his significance in the history of the sport, I had never illustrated one of his cars, so this one seemed to be a fitting tribute to the fact that John was risking his competitive status to act as the test driver for this new design.
"I talked with him and was invited down to his shop after the Winternationals in 2008, where they pretty much took the car apart for me ... well, close to it. I got all the panels opened that I wanted and even got a look inside the super-secret timer box.
"For me, one of the most satisfying moments with one of these illustrations, or with a diecast car, is when you take it back to the team and get a reaction of, 'Damn, you even got XYZ in this thing.' I had a few of these on this illustration, which is by far the most detailed drag racing piece I have ever done. Having done some of the earlier cars, this was a revelation to me to see how much of the electronic technology was being applied for something that just had to work for about four seconds at a time.
"It’s all part of why I love the most brutal motorsport in the world."
OK, gang, that’s the Best of West so far. Like I said, he has more to share. Next week, we’ll kind of stay on the same track with more “X-ray” photographs sent by the Insider Nation as shown in magazines and other literature throughout the years. Keep the feedback and contributions coming, guys!
In the same vein as last week’s series of cutaway (or, more pointedly, see-through) photos I’m thrilled to be able to present an amazing body of artistic automotive work by Tom West, who many of you may know for his collection of drag racing photos (and whom Steve Reyes credited as his lighting director in the thread before this one), but those of us in the biz know him better for his exacting cutaway drawings of famous drag racing cars.
I reached out to Tom and asked if he’d like to show off some of his roughly 80 great drawings with the Insider nation, and he responded with a reaction time (and series of drawings and descriptions) that any drag racer would envy and a recap of his amazing journey.
“This goes back to my first one that was published in Popular Hot Rodding magazine in 1968,” wrote West. “The first original TWest illustration was the beautiful Herrera and Sons Austin Sedan that ran in A/GS in the late 1960s. I had ‘taught’ myself how to do these things by copying a few drawings out of the magazines when I was in high school in 1966, just to see how it felt to make the lines happen on the page, starting with the one that actually inspired me to do this stuff, the Steve Swaja pieces, which I still really love. I started with his Scrimaliner illustration, then did a couple of William Moore pieces, then a Clarence LaTourette illustration on the Summers Brothers Goldenrod. I completed my training with the best cutaway artist of the time, James Allington and his Ferrari 250LM.
“I decided that the best way to do this was to get out and take pictures, so I borrowed a camera, and Steve Gibbs actually let me out on the starting line. I found that I could actually take photos a bit and met guys who allowed me to shoot detailed photos of their car. I had no real reason to actually draw one until I talked with writer-photog Jess Money, who was going to do the new Herrera Super Gasser for Popular Hot Rodding. I went with him when he shot the article and got photos of the car for this illustration. Interestingly, I sort of forgot all of the technique that I had picked up from those copy drawings and did this more like a drafting drawing with single-weight lines, which is the way it was originally published. I made some prints and used pens to go back and create some more line depth, so it fits better into my later work ... and just looks better."
(More maximum enjoyment, click on any image below to view in a larger format.)
“I am asked what kind of art training that I have to do these things, and there is not much to tell, as those copy illustrations were done during the second half of my senior year of high school was pretty much it. Everything else was just typical mechanical drawing stuff, and I used to get marked down because I used to get too heavy with the line work ... something that seems to set apart what I do with these illustrations, which, with a couple of exceptions, are done in pencil," West added. "For those who care about such things, the Herrera Gasser was drawn about three feet long with drafting pencil on vellum.
“After doing eight illustrations based on my original style, Don Green, the great staff photographer at Car Craft, got me a meeting with John Raffa and Terry Cook about doing cutaways for CCM. Considering that the earlier series started by Steve Swaja and done later by William A. Moore was one of my favorite magazine features ever, I was floating when I went in there for that meeting. They seemed to be happy with what they saw, but I told them I thought I could do better if I saw one of Swaja's pieces just to be able to study it. They gave me two of his originals, which I still treasure to this day.
“After taking them home and going over them, I almost decided to stop doing the illustrations because I had drifted so far away from what I originally intended with my 'engineering drawing' line style ... it was quite far from the amazing line work on those two Swaja pieces.
“I guess I used them for inspiration and studied a few other things before I started this piece that you see here, switching over from the drafting vellum to mylar drafting film, the medium that I still use today. I incorporated some of the Swaja techniques, as much as I could, and the result looked like it had been drawn by someone totally different from my first pieces."
“This drawing of the Frantic Ford Mustang of Jim Fox and Ronnie Rivero was to have been my first piece in Car Craft
, so I jumped right on it after our meeting at the Petersen building on Sunset Boulevard. Shot the photos and got it up there, where everyone sort of sheepishly finally told me that they had not bothered to contact the boys, and the car had already departed for its permanent home on the East Coast ... so no article.
“The piece was good enough that I finally screwed up my courage to introduce myself to Swaja, as I had always been in such awe that I would not do it. I asked him to comment on the drawing, and he pointed out an area that might have been the worst single area of an illustration that I have ever drawn (it is removed on the copy you see here), but he then suggested that I make it easier and work in pencil instead of ink ... I ended up taking the time to describe how I got my pencil lines to look like ink. That was almost worth doing a piece for nothing just to have him ask me my technique on something.
“Still have ultimate respect for Steve Swaja for his artistic and design skills to this day," said West.
“After the false start with the Frantic Ford illustration, we talked about a serious effort for my premier piece that would go in Car Craft
— really — for sure this time. They were going to do a feature on the new Don Kirby piece with Gary Gabelich as the driver to be run under the Beach City Chevrolet banner. Most of us remember that beautiful Corvette roadster — probably all three of them — but the big fuss was around that '69 car, which had many of the mixed features from earlier and later as the technology transitioned through that year. I ended up shooting the research pics out behind Kirby's shop, doing a front angle, as you see here, plus a rear angle that ended up being illustrated for the dealership program.
“Part of the discussion with Raffa and Cook was about Cook wanting to do something different with the cutaway ... like, how's this? Draw Gabelich in his suit standing behind the car, and do a skeleton inside the suit ... Cool, huh? I was not exactly into medical illustration, so I asked if just having the cutaway for the first time in over 18 months might not be sufficient to start. After a couple of pieces, maybe we could start the driver vivisection series.
“I had finished the first drawing for the magazine and was waiting for it to come out and finished the second. I went over to Irwindale [Dragstrip] with the drawing in my car. Kirby said to bring it down to the dealer in the morning (Sunday), as they were all going to be there to talk about various marketing issues. So, we get back to the racing, and I am feeling like crap ... leaving the race early probably for the only time ever. Gabelich would be in the finals, so it was going to be a good day," said West.
“I awoke on Sunday to see a picture of this distorted Corvette-shaped thing burning, finding out that the car was destroyed in the final. I drove down to Beach City, Calif., with my heart in my throat, afraid that they might back out on our $150 deal for the illustration.
“I got there to see the chassis, with a steel engine block and a few other pieces in the chassis, tufts of scorched fiberglass stuck to the frame in various places, but everything else completely gone. Everyone was sitting in a conference room dazed, but they agreed on the spot that the car would be rebuilt and took the illustration.
“I had mixed feelings when the piece came out in that December, 1969 issue, as one of the largest images was that shot of the car on fire. My finely detailed piece was printed in red, which was supposed to be more of a maroon, but turned out to be more of a pinkish red, so most of the details were lost as it was reversed out of the red. I was about to tell them that if they were going to do that, I didn't even want to do any more work for them, but they apologized and said it would not happen again before I even asked.
“At least I hadn't drawn Gabelich as a skeleton, which he could easily have become."
“One of those projects that I did that never got published at the time was to become part of one of the beloved legends of the sport ‘Jungle Jim’ Liberman. Originally to be part of a Big 3 Review with a Mopar and a Ford, the project got dropped after I had done the illustration of the ‘Jungle Jim’ '69 Nova Funny Car. This was actually the Clare Sanders car and ended up being shot just off the freeway at Detroit Dragway, the only time I went there during the time I was commuting to Michigan every six weeks for school during the time. The boys made me feel welcome, and we did the thing during the afternoon of the race, as nobody seemed overly pressured to do anything much to get ready for the evening booked-in program.
“Just so you remember, ‘Jungle’ was about the top of the sport in 1969, running the Chevy-powered car, putting on the big show and having his two-car pro team, the first to really pull that off. The Sanders car was the winner of the Winternationals earlier that year, just to show how strong these guys were," said West.
“I was really honored to be able to do this thing at the time and wish it would have been published, but that was not to happen until 1999, when Popular Hot Rodding featured a review of my work in an article (cover mention, too) called Man with the X-ray Eyes, which I thought was pretty cool.
“The fun part sometimes comes later, as I supplied my reference photos from the shoot of the car in Michigan for the recent restoration of the car. I always love to help out with things like that when possible, and to have a Jungle car authenticated with my 40-plus-year-old images is pretty neat."
“This is just an amazing piece that I did for Car Craft
, and I like because of the complexity," said West.
“If you wanted to ever see an impressive car, this Allison-powered Mustang Funny Car of Tex Collins would be it. Known as the Hollywood Badman for a couple of reasons (I will not go into here), Collins had a series of Allison-engined cars, but Car Craft featured this one. It was a beautifully-done car, and a complete brute when it did the burnouts. One impression of it was looking up into the starting line stands at Lions after those 12 left-bank headers had vibrated the thing as it slowly churned by melting the tires and seeing everyone with that wide-eyes look like someone just goosed them ... never saw such a group reaction to anything at the drags like that.
“I shot this car at Collins shop/film studio in the San Fernando Valley, where I gather he was doing some early adult film projects, using his Rolls-Royce as a recruiting device driving around the valley. I, of course, did not know this at the time, so finished the shoot on the Hollywood Badman, and headed down Interstate 5 to get to Mickey Thompson's shop to do a shoot for an illustration of the monocoque Mustang, the first time I had tried to detail two cars on the same day. Unfortunately, I got caught in a horrific traffic jam as a water main broke in Griffith Park, depositing a goodly amount of one of the hillsides across the freeway about a mile in front of me. I finally got off the freeway to call Thompson and made it down there with them waiting for me on that Saturday afternoon.
“Drawing this particular car, which appeared in the March, 1971 issue of Car Craft, was still done using me early enlargement technique. Most professionals had a ‘Lucie’ or some other enlarger device that could be used to trace the overall details, but I didn't. I used to print the photos out as 8x10, then draw a 1/8-inch grid on the different layers of the detail photos, and then create a 2 or 3 inch grid upon which I drew the piece, thus ending up with the size that I wanted. Unfortunately, you had to really be careful to make sure which series of grids you used on the page, as I draw with sort of a deli slicer method ... the first things you draw are the nearest to the viewer, and you just step back into the car with these layers. In the case of the Mustang, those headers from the Allison were done right after the body, and I picked them up 10 grid spaces out of position, which would have moved the engine forward probably two feet in the car. They were really looking good before I realized that there were sitting in completely the wrong place in the car, and had to be removed and redrawn, a fairly time consuming task with something like that. Definitely taught me to pay better attention, and to figure out another way to do this stuff."
OK gang, that's the first installment of these wonderful illustrations. I hope you took the time to click on the individual images to look at them in finer detail. They provide a wonderful and rarely seen view of the mechanical marvels that we've watched for so many years. I'll have part 2 next week and beyond that still more see-through photos as submitted by the readers here.
A quick housekeeping note: The response to both the Reyes staged photos and these see-through pics has been gratifyingly spectacular, and it's apparent that many of you feel as I do about these early treasures and the need to share them with newer fans, but for me, it's equally as important to give the credit due. I did not have a lot of information on the creators of the see-through photos, but fortunately for me, veteran motorsports talent Rick Voegelin does, and he helped fill in some of the blanks from last week's column. I've gone back and added his comments to give due credit.
"Unfortunately in the Internet age, it's all too common for images to be appropriated without credit to their creators," he wrote. " As a self-appointed historian of drag racing journalism in general and Car Craft Magazine in particular, I thought I would try to set the record straight.
"What's amazing is that all of these artworks were done more than 40 years ago by hand, either in a camera, in a darkroom, or on a drawing board — no computers, no Photoshop, no digital-illustration aids. They were works of imagination that helped us to see what was invisible."
Continuing our theme of trick photo shoots, I found a collection of great photos online somewhere (exactly where escapes my already-in-Englishtown brain) that are best described as see-throughs. Also called cutaways and double exposures by those in the biz, they were very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s and are still used today. What they portray is an X-ray-type effect showing what’s under the body (usually of a Funny Car) while still giving a hint of what the body is. Today, I could probably whip up one of these in about a minute with Photoshop, but “back then,” it took a lot more skill, planning, and patience.
Steve Reyes explained his procedure: “This process is a double exposure on one piece of film. I used my Hasselblad 500cm, which had a removable back/film holder. You pose the car with camera on tripod. Next you have the car put up on jack stands; this prevents the car from sinking when the body is placed on the chassis. If the car sinks just the slightest, the photo will be ruined. Then you shoot it either with the body on or off. You take one exposure and pull the back off the camera, wind the film back, and place the back on the camera and shoot your second exposure on the same piece of film. When exposing the film, I opened up the lens about a half a stop so the exposure would balance out and not be underexposed.”
It’s a very cool way to illustrate how chassis, suspensions, engines, and cockpits were arranged and how things have changed throughout the years. I’ll present them in a rough approximate chronological order. (I don’t have photo credits for some of these, so if you know who (or if you) took it, please let me know, and I will add proper credit.)
From 1966 comes this interesting portrayal of Jack Chrisman’s Kendall GT-1 Mercury Comet roadster. It looks as if the body (or at least the lettering) is a drawing that was superimposed on a photo of the chassis doing a burnout. Something just doesn’t look “real,” but it does look cool. You can see the Moon-style fuel tank mounted in front of the 427 SOHC engine and the front suspension. Update: According to Rick Voegelin, this image originally appeared on the cover of the July 1966 Car Craft. It is a compilation of photography and illustration. Petersen Publishing's Pat Brollier shot the underlying chassis photo, and artist William A. Moore did the body illustration overlay.
Chester Kirk shot this photo of Doug Nash’s unique and unforgettable Bronco Buster small-block 289-powered Ford Bronco that ran in 1966-67. It was built with light weight in mind and reportedly tipped the scales at less than 1,400 pounds thanks to an aluminum frame that later was banned for safety reasons at about the same time that NHRA outlawed the use of truck and Jeep bodies. This photo was the centerspread for the February 1967 issue of Drag Strip
, and also used as an inset on the cover.
Dragster ace Maynard Rupp made a couple of attempts at the Funny Car wars in the mid-1960s, first with the rear-engine Chevoom and later this machine, the STP-sponsored Cougar Country Mercury Cougar in 1967.
He sold the car to Gerry Schwartz, who named it Ratty Cat and perished in it during a nasty midtrack collision with Pat Foster at the 1969 Springnationals in Dallas.
As per the contract, Rupp and partner Roy Steffey returned the car to STP at the end of the season. Again, according to Voegelin, this was the cover car on the August 1967 Car Craft
. The photo was credited to Ford Photographic and was supported by a six-page article (two color pages plus color centerspread) and a cutaway illustration by William A. Moore.
This is Nelson Carter's Imperial Kustoms 1968 Dodge Charger, aka The Super Chief (a name chosen by fans that celebrates Carter’s Native American heritage). The pretty Dodge was painted an eye-catching green and gold by Ron Perau at his Imperial Kustoms paint emporium, and Perau was actually the first driver before being replaced by Steve Bovan and later Dave Beebe. "This image was on the cover of the June 1968 issue of Car Craft
(beginning to see a pattern here?)," writes Voegelin. "The cover shot is the naked chassis (cover blurb: Nelson Carter – Ron Perau – Keith Black $25,000 Funny Car), and the composite ghost illustration with transparent body appears in the accompanying feature, "Match Race Masterpiece." Car Craft
Photo Editor Bob Swaim gets the credit for this one.
“Big John” Mazmanian had a number of Plymouth Barracuda-bodied floppers in the late 1960s – almost always driven by his nephew, Rich Siroonian – and it’s a little difficult to tell which one this is, but judging by its weed-burner headers, I’d say this was the 1968 model. Note also the larger fuel tank mounted up front by the axles – better than lead ballast! What I really like about these last three photos is that you can see the Logghe-style square roll cages that were prevalent in the day but scary compared to today’s form-fitting and heavily padded cockpits and the pre-butterfly round steering wheels. Mazmanian's car was the cover car and the subject of a Car Craft
Cut-A-Way in the January 1969 issue. The "Switcheroonian" feature chronicled Mazmanian's change from the Gas Supercharged to nitro Funny Car ranks. Car Craft
Photo Editor Bob Swaim was behind the camera for this one as well.
Another 1968 car is the Dodge Dart of “the All-American Boy,” Charlie Allen, who, of course, went on to fame as a track owner at Orange County Int’l Raceway and Firebird Int’l Raceway. This was Allen’s first flip-top machine after campaigning a series of A/FXers beginning in 1965. Looks like this one was shot on the starting line in Pomona.
There’s a lot to like about this photo of what I’m pretty sure is Mickey Thompson’s 1971 Mustang. You can clearly see the 429 Ford powerplant they were using and the fire bottles mounted on the sides of the rounded roll cage. I blew up the original photo as large as I could, and the helmet appears to read “Dale,” which might make it Dale Pulde, who – to the best of my knowledge – never drove this car as he had his hands full with Thompson’s titanium-frame (and somewhat combustible) Pinto. Dick Bourgeois, Mike Van Sant, and (most famously) Henry Harrison were the drivers, but the versatile Pulde might have been enlisted as a stunt model for this shoot.
How about another Boss 429-powered ’71 Mustang? This is Tommy Grove’s machine, although it’s very clear that this is an illustration rather than a photo. Note that Grove’s roll cage, though of the modern variety, still has some squared corners and how he’s still running the smaller-style fuel tank. More Voegelin: "This one was done by Shusei Nagaoka of Design Maru for the centerspread in June 1971 Car Craft
to illustrate a Logghe Stamping chassis. He also did thumbnail cutaways of Pete Everett's Demon (Don Long chassis), Kelly Chadwick's Camaro (Don Hardy chassis), Don Prudhomme's Barracuda (John Buttera chassis), and Tom Hoover's Charger (Race Car Engineering chassis). These were the first color cutaway Funny Car illustrations to appear in Car Craft
. Nagaoka also drew black-and-white cutaways of the new generation of Pro Stocks in April 1972: Bill Jenkins' Vega, Wally Booth's Gremlin, Don Nicholson's Pinto, and Sox & Martin's Duster."
Obviously another illustration, but a pretty cool one (I believe it’s a Kenny Youngblood work of art) for a car that wasn’t around that long. The story has been told here many times, but I’ll tell it again: When Intercontinental Bakeries decided to sponsor a Funny Car in the early 1970s through its Wonder Bread brand, it wanted drivers Kelly Brown and Glenn Way to use Vega wagons to simulate bread-delivery wagons, but the cars (like most Vega wagons) handled horribly. I don’t know the whole story, but the Wonder deal of course ended up with Don Schumacher and led to the fabulous and aero-trick Wonder Wagon Vega coupes of 1973 and 1974.
Nice aerial view here of the Braskett & Burgin Vega Funny Car shot by Jere Alhadeff that ended up on the cover of the April 1972 issue of Drag Racing USA
. It was in this car that Burgin set the national record at 6.72 at Lions Drag Strip’s Grand Premiere in January 1972. With but a few exceptions (including those single-wall headers), the layout then has a real semblance to a modern-day Funny Car.
Another Youngblood illustration, this time of Tom McEwen’s 1974 English Leather/Navy Duster, recognizable by its side-window louvers and the front-fender bubbles that were becoming all the rage.
Reyes himself shot this one of Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King Dodge Omni in 1981. Not a lot of people remember this car because it followed the Bud King Arrow that began the famous lineage and was followed by a Mercury LN-7 that won the Shootout specialty race and the U.S. Nationals and set the national speed record at 256.41 mph all on the same weekend.
OK, that's all I have right now -- although I know there are a ton more to be discovered -- so put away your X-ray glasses (you know, the ones you bought out of the back of those comic books in the 1960s) for a while. I have a related follow-up next week where you can pretend to use them again, but in a much different way. Until then, I'll see you (but not through you) later.
2013 Nitro Alumni Auction: The NHRA Motorsports Museum California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California, long established as the premier nostalgia drag racing and social event, will again play host to the Nitro Alumni silent auction, benefiting the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. The Nitro Alumni is a group of independent enthusiast donors whose efforts are focused on the preservation of their mutual hot rod heritage through their support of the museum. More than 100 items were donated for the 2012 silent auction, and bidders generated more than $26,000 for the museum.
The Nitro Alumni is seeking items for the Oct. 19 auction, which can range from historic artifacts to contemporary racing equipment and other appropriate merchandise. Among the many significant items already pledged for this year's auction are a handcrafted butterfly steering wheel signed, numbered, and donated by legendary chassis builder Kent Fuller; a unique sculpture of "the Surfers" by Eddie Buck; a complete Vintage Air SureFit street rod air-conditioning system donated by Jack Chisenhall; a vintage-style polished Hilborn injector scoop donated by Fuel Injection Engineering; a full-size replica 15X World Champ helmet signed by John Force; and several classic race trophies donated by Jess VanDeventer.
Interested donors of auction items can contact Steve Gibbs, email@example.com; Cindy Gibbs, firstname.lastname@example.org; or John Ewald, email@example.com. The value of donated items may be eligible for tax deduction, within the IRS guidelines. A wide range of items are being sought after, including vintage racing apparel, framed artwork, new and used racing parts, jewelry, classic trophies, and all other forms of racing memorabilia. All accepted items will be listed and illustrated on a special auction website, and donors will be recognized.
Auction items will be displayed at the Nitro Alumni tent at the California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. Bidding will start Friday, Oct. 18, and will be open for written bids until 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. Net monetary proceeds from auction sales will be presented as a donation to the NHRA Motorsports Museum.
For more information, contact Steve Gibbs by email or phone, 951-317-8274.
Welcome to Part 2 of Location, Location, Location, a fun look at the stories behind some of the most memorable magazine photo shoots from the early 1970s, as told and illustrated by Steve Reyes. In our first installment, Reyes talked about the challenges of setting up the actual location for the shoots; today, he shares a little more about the other challenges of shooting and getting the images published.
Dave Hough and the Nanook fuel altered were two of Reyes’ favorite subjects and featured in two of his more memorable shoots, both of which ended up on covers. “Dave Hough was wonderful to work with,” he recalled. “If I would have told him, ‘Hough, we’re having a shoot with the devil in hell,’ he would ask me what time he needed to be there. I had already shot the earlier Nanook among the cactus at the Saguaro National Park out near Tucson [Ariz.], and he had gotten some real nice exposure in a couple of magazines for that, so he was always ready to go.
“So I got the idea to take the car to the snow; the whole Eskimo-Nanook thing in the snow, right? So we trailer the car way up into the San Bernardino Mountains up near Big Bear Lake and stopped when we found the first snow. We unloaded the car and pushed it into the snow, then built snow around it, then had to smooth out the footprints to make it look nice. I had him sit on the ice, and even though he was wearing a firesuit, he about froze his butt off; I don’t think he was wearing much under the suit. That one ended up on the cover of Drag Racing USA [April 1973].
“The other shoot I did for him ended up way different than I planned. I wanted to shoot a photo of the car going down the street in Redondo Beach [Calif.] with the parachute out. You have to picture this: On either side of the street, we have people lined up watching us – the mayor of Redondo Beach is there. We’ve arranged so that two traffic lights are going to be red to cross traffic. He’s supposed to drive down to where I am with the chute out and stop, right?
"Well, apparently, Hough thinks it’s the final round of the Nationals, and he has to set low e.t. and top speed. He just hammers it, and he’s boiling the tires and sideways. The chute comes out but because his wife, Lynn, forgot to put the bolt in that connects the chute to the car, it just falls to the ground.
“So Hough’s sideways, and I’m diving out of the way between parked cars, but the people on the sidewalks are loving it. He flies through both intersections and is barreling down to the third intersection, and it is NOT red for the cross traffic. He goes through the intersection and disappears – four wheels off the ground – over this hill, and I know that just over that hill is the Pacific Coast Highway, and then – unless you can make a pretty radical right turn --- the ocean. I figure, ‘Well, Hough’s in the Pacific; he’s done,’ so we jump in the car and chase him down, and, sure enough, he had made the turn.
"We find him stopped in a turnout about a quarter-mile down the road. ‘Well, did you get the photo?’ he asks me. We did not get a photo, and we weren’t going to try it again, so we parked the car at the curb and got a Redondo Beach cop to act like he was giving him a ticket. It ended up on the [September 1973] cover of Popular Hot Rodding, but I never put another fuel altered on the street after that!”
Reyes shot this photo of Billy Holt’s wild and short-lived rear-engine Vega Funny Car, the Wayne Mahaffey-driven Alabamian, outside the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park near Atlanta. Holt had told him the new car was coming, and knowing that the car would be worth shooting, Reyes gambled that he’d be able to sell the feature and booked himself a round-trip flight to Atlanta and met the boys there. Recalled Reyes, “Billy had suggested I call the Six Flags PR people because he knew they were trying to promote the place. It was raining, so the place was closed, but they let us shoot there anyway. Again, really nice people. I shoot the deal, fly back home, get the film processed, and get it to Doherty, and the next thing I know, the car is destroyed in an accident after like three runs. Even though the car didn’t exist anymore, Doherty still decided to run the photos, which was nice of him. I also was able to sell some photos to Billy and to Wayne, but with the airfare, I probably only broke even.”
Shooting Harry Lehman’s American Way streamliner in front of two destroyers at a U.S. naval base in Virginia was not an easy task. “The War Department or someone had to OK the photos before I could run them,” said Reyes. “They were very nice – they trusted me to send them the photos, and I trusted them to get them back to me – but they wanted to make sure that there was nothing in the photos they didn’t want to be seen. I remember I had one photo where there was black diesel smoke coming from one of them, and they told me, ‘You do not run that photo.’ Harry had some sort of tie-in with the Navy – you can see the decals on the car – and he got me the names of the people I had to call to make it happen. It took a bunch of phone calls up the chain of command to get it done.”
Reyes’ 1984 photo shoot with Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King Tempo and the Clydesdale horses and Bud beer wagon on the beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was another memorable occasion.
“It was the first time that a Budweiser-sponsored race vehicle was going to be photographed with the horses and the wagon, so it was an important deal,” he recalled. “I think the horses were there for some spring-break deal, and there were some Bud executives there. Anyway, Kenny asked me to come to Myrtle Beach – I was just driving around the country from race to race and had some open time, so why not? – and I go to his hotel room, and he’s sitting there with the mayor of Myrtle Beach, and I remember Bernstein was telling him that I was shooting for all of these wonderful magazines.
“So, the mayor arranges for the city workers to take down all of the K-rails on this street bordering the beach, and they bulldoze an area so that we can get the race car and the beer wagon on the beach because there normally was no access for vehicles. They’ve got all of these security guards – remember, this was spring break, and people were on the beach – keeping people out of the shot. I think we spent three hours positioning the car and the horses, but it was a lot of fun. Kenny was happy, the Bud people were happy, the mayor was happy, and I was especially happy because I was the first one to shoot it and because I felt like Mr. High-Fashion Photographer with all of these ‘assistants’ keeping people back for me. Usually it was just yelling at people to get out of my shot. It was a first-class deal; that was the way that Kenny always did things.”
Reyes shot these photos of Funny Car racer Malcolm Durham – nicknamed “the D.C. Lip” for his continual banter. Reyes and pal Jeff Tinsley thought that Washington, D.C., was the natural place to shoot Durham’s Strip Blazer Camaro.
“The deal with Durham was my idea with Tinsley’s help,” Reyes recalled. “Tinsley lived in Silver Springs, Md., just a stone’s throw from D.C. We spoke to Durham at an IHRA race at Rockingham, N.C., and got him lined up for the shoot in D.C. the following week. Just prior to the race weekend, Jeff called someone he knew in the D.C. Parks Department to start the ball rolling. The whole thing almost was scrubbed at Rockingham when Durham had a chute failure and spun his car out in the shutdown area. His car only had minor damage, so it was full steam ahead for the photo shoot. The Monday after Rockingham, Tinsley was on the phone almost all day obtaining the 13 permits we needed to do the shoot. Tinsley and I also added one more photographer to the fun: Bob McClurg (left). The Parks Department was very nice to us and Durham and supplied park police to keep people away from the Funny Car and out of our way. It was about a three-hour shoot, and we got our pix, and Durham was very happy. He and his Funny Car were splashed in Drag Racing USA magazine, Super Stock magazine, and Cars magazine. (P.S.: The other driver in the photo with Durham is Lee Jones, who drove Durham’s other team Funny Car.)”
Reyes put Robert Contorelli’s wild rear-engine Mustang Funny Car on the starting line at fabled Lions Drag Strip for this photo. “Robert was a nice guy, a real Southern California flower-child kind of guy, but I think he ran out of money just building this car and didn’t run it much,” said Reyes.
“It was an SPE chassis, but I think he pretty much built everything himself. It came out real nice, so I asked [Lions manager] C.J. Hart if I could shoot the car on the starting line with fireworks and stuff, and he said it was OK – in typical C.J. fashion, he said, ‘Just don’t burn the place down’ – so we stuck Roman candles down the header pipes and put a 55-gallon drum behind the car and tossed in one of those cone fireworks.
“I shot a lot of time exposures, and one of them ended up on the cover of Drag Racing USA (right). I had shot for so many years at Lions that I had a real good handle on the light there. Doherty really liked the shot because we had the windshield hatch open, and he thought Contorelli looked like Punxsutawney Phil coming out of his hole.”
Shooting for magazines can be a grind, but it also has its perks. Popular Hot Rodding
sent Reyes and the late Pete Pesterre to Hawaii in 1980 to shoot the street-car scene there, but, of course, Reyes also had to get his drag racing fix. Ron Uemura, a 50th-state speed-shop legend, had what at the time was the island’s only Funny Car (and an attractive female companion), so Reyes dragged them all down to the Oahu seaside for this photo. “Ron had a nice spot picked out for us, and we shot this one a lot of different ways with different costumes,” he remembered. “Ron was another guy who was really into a nice presentation and wanted it to look really good, so we had a good time. I think this ended up as a center spread in Popular Hot Rodding
Reyes accompanied Argus Publishing executive George Elliott to El Centro, Calif., the winter base for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, where Elliott had scored himself a ride with the premier exhibition flying team. Longtime SoCal racer George “the Bushmaster” Schreiber brought his StarJet jet dragster to the airfield to also try to wangle his way into a joyride, and Reyes seized on the unique opportunity to create this memorable photo. “We got them to tow one of the jets out for us and put Schreiber’s jet alongside it; it’s not really that close to it; I used a telephoto lens to make it look that way. I had to check the wind to make sure we weren’t going to set their precious jet on fire and told Schreiber, ‘OK, George … fire show!’ The Blue Angels guys thought it was pretty cool, and Schreiber eventually got his ride-along.”
Things didn’t always go so well for Reyes, though. In 1971, he was excited to shoot "Wild Willie” Borsch’s new Winged Express fuel altered with the new Goodyear blimp in Carson, Calif., at one of its bases not far from Lions Drag Strip, but the blimp was grounded in San Diego because of high winds. “I still shot the AA/FA by the airship pad but sans blimp. And that really sucked,” he noted.
Perhaps one of Reyes’ greatest disappointments arose from this episode. Reyes arranged to do a picturesque photo shoot with the late Dennis Geisler and his and Frank Graf’s fuel altered on a jetty on the Pacific Coast Highway.
“I had found the place by accident and thought it would be a great location, but it was really hard to get that car out there, but I thought it would be worth it because of the pretty background,” Reyes said. “For some reason, no one bought the feature. I still don’t understand it. At the time, it was one of the best-running fuel altereds in the country, and it looked good, too, and the photos were great, but everyone passed. To this day, every time I see Frank, I apologize to him. All they got out of it was some prints from me. It left a real bitter taste in my mouth, and this was probably one of the last times I busted my ass like that for a photo shoot.”
OK, that’s it for Part 2. I’ll have some other location-based stuff to share next week to (maybe) wrap up what has been a really fun subject.
See ya there!