Features

Posted by: Phil Burgess


During a six-month span in 1960, there was no hotter drag racing pilot than Leonard Harris, whose career ended with his tragic death in October, just six weeks after his Nationals triumph.


Gene Adams took to drag racing naturally, and he could make an Oldsmobile engine sing. He set the B/Gas national speed record at the 1957 Nationals in this fastback '50 Olds.

A shooting star blazes its way across the sky in a spectacular but short-lived burst of glory, and that's an apt metaphor for the all-too-short drag racing career of Leonard Harris. He may well be the best driver you've never really heard of.

In a short six-month span, Harris, a filling-station owner from Playa del Rey, on the shores of the Pacific west of Los Angeles, went from a relatively unknown racer to being an NHRA Nationals champ and earning a still-standing regard as one of the best race car drivers in the sport's history.

In researching this article and interviewing the many principals, I was amazed at their genuine admiration for a man whose time on the NHRA stage was so brief but, like that shooting star, so intense.

From the time he partnered with engine wiz Gene Adams and chassis builder Ronnie Scrima in April 1960 until his tragic death at Lions Drag Strip, just six months had been stripped from the calendar, but they'd all fallen directly into the history books.

At the wheel of the team's famed Albertson Olds dragster, the group was all but unbeatable, a testament in part to the power that Adams brewed but also to Harris' skillful application of that power.

There was never any question that the old master Adams, initially an aircraft mechanic by trade who started out by hot rodding his dad's '50 Olds 88 at the Santa Ana Drags in 1952, could make power. His trademark Oldsmobile engines were widely acknowledged as the best in the business, and after just a handful of years in the sport, he'd enjoyed success with Olds entries that dominated the coupe and sedan classes at SoCal tracks such as Santa Ana and Saugus – and even set a B/Gas national record of 111.24 at the 1957 Nationals in Oklahoma City -- in the years before meeting Harris and certainly in the years after Harris' passing, but there's also little doubt that Harris brought his own magic to the combination.

The partnership that developed between Harris, Adams, and Scrima was a combination of coincidence and a harmonic convergence of hot rodding forces in Culver City, home to the burgeoning hot rod industry with shops such as Isky and Edelbrock and a dedicated and savvy group of hot rodders that included the likes of future Freight Train engineers John Peters and Nye Frank, Mike Sorokin, "Jazzy Jim" Nelson, Craig Breedlove, Hank Bender, Ron Hier, Bill Adair, Walt Stevens, Frank "Root Beer" Hedges, Mickey Brown, Ed Weddle, and more.

While Adams was serving a two-year stint in the Army in the late 1950s, Scrima partnered with Mort Smith – with whom he worked at Engle Cams --- and Adams' brother, Gary, using one of Adams' Olds engines in a dragster, initially one that Scrima had built but more notably in one of Scotty Fenn's iconic TE-440 chassis. Scrima had worked with Adams before, most notably on a trip to the 1957 Nationals, and although Adams was a door-car guy, he'd visit with the gang at the drags while he was on leave and eventually also became interested in the "rail jobs."

"Ronnie was a dragster guy, and he was interested in the Olds engine, so when I got drafted, I told him he could use my engine Olds in his dragster," recalled Adams. "I’d come home on leave and go out with them, and that thing was so much faster and easy to work on that I got converted."

As was sometimes the case in those early years, the going wasn't always easy and the cost not always cheap. Brown substituted for Smith on a fateful Sept. 12 night in 1959 at Lions and was killed in the car when it overturned.

 
Harris, Adams, and Ronnie Scrima formed a team in April and got parts sponsorship from Culver City-based Albertson Olds. (Above) Harris stood between Lou Albertson and sales manager Phil McNab. Adams and Scrima are kneeling. (Below) While Scrima was preparing the team's new dragster, Adams and Harris got acquainted when Adams dropped his powerful blown Olds engine into Harris' new Fiat.

 
When Adams got out of the Army in January 1960, he returned to his old haunts, which in Culver City meant the famed Albertson Olds dealership, just down Sepulveda Boulevard from Adams' West L.A. home.

"Everybody had Oldsmobiles, and Albertson was the place everyone went to get their parts; that's where I met Leonard one day while getting parts for my engines," said Adams. "A lot of people hung out there. Don Farr was the parts manager and really a neat guy and interested in racing. He helped us all out and knew exactly what to give everyone. He knew everything."

And he also knew Harris, who owned a Seaside service station in Playa del Rey and was a well-known street racer with his yellow '56 Olds. After one too many tickets, Harris and buddy "Stump" Davis decided that maybe the drags could better serve as their outlet. Harris bought a Fiat-bodied competition coupe and planned to build a blown Olds engine to slide between the framerails.

Adams and Scrima had purchased a K-88 chassis from Fenn, and while Scrima was modifying its design – much to the displeasure of Fenn – Adams, at Farr's suggestion, agreed to drop his 407-cid Olds engine into Harris' Fiat. The car, dubbed Lil Red Rocket, ran well, in the high-nine-second range, and Harris' skills behind the wheel impressed Adams.

"Leonard did such a good job of driving the Fiat that we decided to go with Leonard for our dragster," recalled Adams. "Poor Mort got left out."

As a student of the Venice High School class of 1950, Harris, a slight 5 feet, 6 inches, had been a two-time national champion gymnast on the rings. Classmate Hank Bender, who was a few years behind Harris and had his own Chevy-powered car with driver Ron Hier, initially was surprised by Harris' aptitude behind the wheel, something he hadn’t shown 10 years earlier in high school.

"At school, Leonard wasn't really known as a drag racer or a car guy," he recalled. "He was an all-city gymnast, and everyone in the school knew who he was because of that. My first recollection of him driving was at Long Beach one time when they brought out the Albertson Olds car and they announced that Leonard Harris was going to drive this car. I didn’t think it was the same guy. He just kind of exploded on the scene."

The skill, strength, and concentration it took to reach that elite level of gymnastics obviously paid off behind the wheel.

"He had tremendous concentration and a lot of muscle coordination," recalled Adams. "He had both of those things working for him, which is really great for a driver. He was something else; he was one of a kind."

 
It didn't take the Albertson Olds team long to begin making waves. After a pair of Top Eliminator wins at Lions, the team set the NHRA record May 15 at Inyokern Dragstrip in Southern California's high desert.

 
The 28-year-old Harris made his unofficial debut in the team's dragster – now sponsored by Albertson Olds, which gave the teams parts, including heads, blocks, and cranks -- at Lions April 23, 1960, with a few test passes (the team arrived too late to qualify for the day's racing), and the next day at San Fernando Raceway, the Albertson Olds broke Tommy Ivo's track record with a 9.30, set top speed of the meet at 163.33 mph, and won the event, then did the same thing a week later at Lions.

Two weeks later, after anoither Lions win, Harris set the national record on May 15 at the NHRA Record Meet at Inyokern in California's high desert but wounded Adams' engine in the process. Adams, who that year had begun working at Hilborn, immediately built a bigger and more powerful engine, using a '59 block with an early four-port Hilborn injector and a 6-71 blower, and the next weekend returned to Lions (May 21), where the team began an incredible string of 12 straight Top Eliminator wins that ran through Aug. 20.

Recalled Adams, "At that point in time, Long Beach was pretty slick when the dew would come in, and if you had a lot of power, you really had to ease into it before you could get after it, kind of like needing a clutch-management system, except the driver had to do it. Later when they learned how to keep it real clean, it ended up as one of the best tracks in the world, but from '59 to about '62 or '63, it was pretty slick. We had a pretty light car for the time and a big-cubic-inch Olds; I had been running Oldsmobile for years, so I knew my way around them pretty good, and Engle was a tremendous amount of help."

Former Top Fuel driver Carl Olson, who counts Harris among his first hot rodding heroes, said, “I've watched a lot of drivers pass down the quarter-mile in my life, but none that ever impressed me more than Leonard Harris. Even before the advent of such technology as reaction timers or, for that matter, even the Christmas Tree starting system, Harris was always the first to leave. I never saw him make a mistake on a run."

Tom Jobe, who in a few years would become part of the successful triumvirate that formed the popular Surfers Top Fuel team, recalled, "I was younger than the Leonard Harris/Gene Adams group, so I was hanging on the fence at Long Beach watching when the Albertson Olds car was winning every week. In hindsight, I think Leonard Harris' exceptional strength and physical coordination made him the earliest successful 'clutch-management system.' They did not smoke the tires very hard, and that beautiful car would really accelerate! Long Beach would get very slippery when the evening dew would mix with the refinery emissions, and the Albertson Olds car handled that better than any competitor out there, week after week."

"You could see the way he walked and carried himself that he was a great athlete," recalled Ron Miller, race coordinator for the nostalgia-themed Standard 1320 group. "He was one of those universally well-liked and respected drivers who could drive anything."

 
(Above) Harris' distinct driving style is evident here, steering wheel held at 12 o'clock and head dipped to his left to see around the blower. The tuning savvy of Adams (below inset) made the Albertson Olds nearly unbeatable in the early 1960s (shown here with Tom McEwen driving).

 
Harris' cousin, Lou Senter, who founded Ansen Automotive in 1948 in Los Angeles and produced an extensive line of speed equipment that included pop-up pistons, competition shifters, and the first NHRA-accepted bellhousings, also was high on Harris' adaptability and even had planned to build a dragster, powered by a Packard engine, for his cousin. Senter, who also owned sprint cars and once fielded three entries in the Indy 500, thought that Harris also would have made a fine champ-car driver.

"His coordination was so perfect, you couldn’t ask for more," opined Senter. "He would have made a good oval-track driver. He probably was one of the best drivers out there. He had a very good name; everyone told me he was the best there was. He used to come down to Ansen and tell me that he would never watch the flagman; he would watch the lights only. He was always first off the line. He was a very sharp mechanic, too, a very athletic guy, and well-liked. I don’t think there was a mean streak in him. He had a personality that you had to like."

Remembered Greg Sharp, drag racing historian and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by Auto Club of Southern California curator, "A straightforward driver, Harris would enter the staging area with the engine just above idle; he never winged the throttle or abused the motor. He would stage, bring up the motor, then leave. He seemed to have a sixth sense about who he had to leave on, who he could drive around, and he did only what was necessary to win."

In addition to its Lions skein — during which the team also ran its first eight, an 8.98 July 9 — the team scored Top Eliminator wins at Pomona and Riverside and lost just three times away from Lions. As summer began to wane and all eyes turned toward Detroit and that year's Nationals, there seemed little question that the team should venture east to try to continue its hot hand.

"Everyone wanted us to go back there," said Adams. "Engle was our cam guy, and because we were doing so well, Albertson wanted us to go, too. They gave us some tow money, so we went."

Although the fields at Lions were incredibly tough, all of the sport's top names from across the country were in Detroit, but fate dealt the Albertson Olds team an inside straight. The track had recently been repaved and was as slick as any track anyone could remember.

"Detroit was worse than Long Beach," said Adams. "I don't know what they did, but it was not good at all. No one ran good. We ran 9.25, and we were running 9.0s at Long Beach. A lotta guys just smoked the tires."

The Albertson Olds team won the A/Dragster class, topping 35 other entries with a 9.65 best, and later ran 9.49 and was selected to run for Top Eliminator against Dode Martin and his and Jim Nelson's twin-Chevy-powered Two-Thing AA/D, which had run 9.49, and James "Red" Dyer, whose '56 Chrysler-powered '27-T Tennessee Bo-Weevil A/Modified Roadster had run 9.89.

 
The Albertson Olds team in the limelight of the Top Eliminator winner's circle at the 1960 Nationals in Detroit. Flanked by a champion Spark Plug rep, left, and starter Joe Gutierrez are, from left, Scrima, Harris, Adams, and two of Harris' lifelong pals, Vern Tomlinson and "Stump" Davis.

Harris beat Martin in a close battle, then took on Dyer for national bragging rights and a new '60 Ford station wagon that was part of the winner's bounty and finished it off with a sterling 9.25, which also was low e.t. of the meet.

"We figured we had as good a chance as anyone, but there were a lot of twin-engine cars that were hard to beat," said Adams. "We were able to beat them most of the time because Leonard was a great driver. It was big, big deal to win it. Everybody was there; there was an unbelievable number of cars there. Anybody who had a blown gas dragster – dual engine or single – was there: Connie Kalitta, the Dragmaster Two-Thing, Jack Chrisman with the Howard Cams Twin Bear, Big Wheel from Minnesota…"

Before heading home, the team -- which also included Harris' good friends, Davis and Vern Tomlinson -- headed to Minnesota Dragways for a match race with the Bruce "Stormin'" Norman-driven Big Wheel dragster, caravanning with fellow Olds racer Don Ratican and the Ratican-Jackson-Stearns team, towing the Ford station wagon at the Nationals with the eight trophies won between the two cars laid out in the back of the wagon.

Ratican remembers the odd sight he encountered exiting his motel room one day. There was Harris, hanging onto the roof overhang, legs sticking out horizontal to the ground in a show of his former gymnastic skills.

"Leonard was a tremendous driver," recalled Ratican. "He jumped in my Fiat one time and drove it as quick and fast as Ronnie [Stearns] ever did. He could drive anything."

 
Before heading home to Lions to continue its winning streak, the Albertson Olds team beat the Big Wheel on its home Minnesota turf. From left are Davis, Adams, Tomlinson, Scrima, and Harris.

Harris and Adams again took advantage of tricky traction and defeated the previously unbeaten Big Wheel on its home turf. The team returned from its trek to the Midwest and promptly ran up another six wins at Lions, beginning Sept. 24, to extend its streak to 18 straight wins at "the Beach" and began looking forward to a big match race Oct. 22 at Lions against Chrisman and the twin-engine Howard Cams dragster. Hyped as The Match Race of the Century, the match also was for a spot on the prestigious Drag News Mr. Eliminator list and was so important to the team that Adams planned to forgo the traditional eliminations altogether to concentrate on the match.

The match race, however, never happened and set into motion the tragic chain of events that would lead to Harris' death.

"By the time we got there, the Howard's car was already on the trailer," recalled Adams. "They had broke one of the engines. So we went ahead and made a pass to run eliminations. We were cooling it off and water came out of one of the plug holes, so we decided we were done, too. When you broke something is those days, you didn't try to fix it because you raced every week. We put it on the trailer and later found out it had a cracked cylinder wall.

"We went up in the stands and started watching, and Leonard got an offer to help these guys out who were having a handling problem. He made a pass and then came over and told us it was pulling to the left in the lights but decided to give it another try."

There seems to be some confusion about the name of the entry as time has blurred many memories, but the car into which Harris hopped was either the Firestone Realty or Firestone Auto Wrecking entry, and its regular driver may have been former Adams-Scrima shoe Smith, and a solid handler named Norm Taylor may have also tried unsuccessfully to tame the beast earlier in the day. Again, memories are fuzzy.

Dan "Buzz" Broussard, a longtime pal of Davis, wasn't at Lions the night that Harris was killed, and although he did have an inkling that the car itself was ill-fated, he had no idea it would claim Harris' life.

"There was a muffler shop down the street from Keith Black's shop in South Gate," he recalled. "I happened to be at Keith's and stopped by [the muffler shop] as they were just assembling the chassis to go to Lions  It was a menagerie of people trying to put this car together, and I didn't want to be part of it. It really was a disaster. I think the car absolutely was rushed together. I don’t specifically know what went wrong, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. They were fumbling with the front end and other things, and I just didn’t want to be around it. I didn't go down there [to Lions]."

 
Broussard, whose own car was runner-up at the 1963 March Meet with McEwen at the wheel, remembers Harris as "a terrific guy, calm, not hyper, mild-mannered; he could adapt to anything." That may have been Harris' undoing; he lost his life on the next pass in the car, in the first round of eliminations.

Some say that the front axle broke, others that a steering arm came off; though the cause of the crash will never be known, it was clear that somehow the car got away from Harris, and as a stunned Lions crowd watched in disbelief, it made a left turn into the catch fence alongside the track and got upside down. Harris succumbed to injuries suffered in the accident.

"Everything was all crunched up, and you couldn't tell what happened," recalled Adams. "It was just the perfect storm for the accident."

"I guess I could say, in all honesty, that the only mistake I ever saw Leonard Harris make at a dragstrip was getting into that car that night to do a fellow racer a favor," said a reflective Olson. “I'll never forget that fateful night. I was at the finish line sitting on top of a small concession stand located there, which was not in use at the time. On this run, Harris was matched up against the Quincy Automotive twin Chevy, which was well ahead at the finish line. As a result, I was concentrating on the Quincy car when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of sparks. What followed was one of the most violent crashes I've ever observed. I just knew that it had been an unsurvivable incident and that my hero was gone. I drove home that night with a very heavy heart. His passing wasn't confirmed until the next day, but it certainly came as no surprise.”

The stunning accident cut the heart and a bit of the spirit right out of the team.

"It shook up Scrima so bad he didn’t want to race anymore," said Adams. "Albertson didn't want anything to do with it either. They figured that if something like that would happen to our car, they might be in a position to be sued. We raced Tom McEwen every week, so he said he would buy Ronnie out."

 
Tom McEwen succeeded Harris in Adams' dragster, and they continued together for a few years with successful entries such as the Shark car.

Adams and McEwen continued with the now-Albertson-less Olds car for about four months before trading it in for their high-back car and later the Kent Fuller-built Shark car.

"We did real well, but nothing like we did with Leonard," recalled Adams. "Things were changing rapidly, technically getting better all the time; people were building lighter cars and making more power, so you couldn’t stay with the same thing for very long, We could see that our car was heavy and wasn't going to work.

"The '60s were an amazing time," he added wistfully. "Every week at Long Beach, you never knew what you were going to see. Guys would have three engines, aircraft engines, engines sitting sideways, a Chevy in front of a Chrysler, two F85s. It was funny. I was pretty conventional, pretty much stayed with a single-engine car."

Adams, of course, went on to have a successful run with a number of drivers, including Don Enriquez, Jimmy Scott, John Mulligan, Steve Carbone (briefly, after Mulligan broke his jaw in an auto accident), Mike Snively, Billy Scott, Ed Vickroy, and Chess Bushey, and, today, Kin Bates' A/Fuel car in NHRA's Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series.

Still, it's Harris and that amazing summer and early fall of 1960 for which many people most remember Adams, for his amazing yet short partnership with one of drag racing history's best drivers whose life and career were cut tragically short. In 30 races together, they won 22 times at six dragstrips.

Recalled McEwen, "That Albertson Olds car was a stout piece -- one of the only single-engined cars that could beat the duals -- and Leonard was like a computer when he drove it. I remember that Gene would get mad at me because I couldn’t drive it as good as Leonard. He was unbelievably talented. He would have been one of the all-time greats, no doubt about it."

Fun with fotos!Thursday, December 11, 2008
Posted by: Phil Burgess
In a year, a lot of stuff moves in and out of my e-mail box: photos, stories, Web site links, and I collect it all and store it like an animal preparing for hibernation, my own little collection of nuts and berries to get me through the winter. There's an amazing thread of photos on the H.A.M.B. forum that's nearly 400 pages and filled with great old shots like these; I only made it about a fourth of the way through before my finger (and my brain) went numb.

Below is a series of images that I found cool, interesting, or just weird (author estimate only; your taste may differ), along with my notes and thoughts.

 
Back in the day, anything was possible. How about an Offy with a side-mounted blower on Ed Donovan's dragster?

 
Nothing says drag racing like way too big of an engine stuffed into too little car; reminds me of the models I used to imagineer as a kid.

 
Rear slicks churning, front tires grabbing air, and, an acrobatic flagman.

 
Uhhh, dude? I don't think you asked for a big enough head start.

 
A wheelstander with everything but the kitchen sink.

 
Who said snakes can't fly? Prudhomme gets air in the lights in Seattle.

 
Hard to believe that today's Top Fuelers evolved from this; from its whitewall tires to its Rat Fink-like shifter placement, I really dig this car.

 
(Above) So you still think that Don Garlits invented the rear-engine dragster, do ya? (Below) Donnie and Gene Bowman's flathead-powered Vineland Villain wasn't pretty, but it sure looked crude. Back then, functionality trumped almost everything.

 

 
I love this shot, taken in the pits at Lions. No, not the neat old flip-top panel wagon -- the lady, dressed in skirt and heels. Priceless.

 
Again, it's the people who make this shot. The clown, second from left, doing his "Take the picture already" pose and the other guy still slipping on (or off?) his coat, who's clearly not ready for the shot. And that dragster? Not much traction in those rear meats.

 
Kinda funny, too, but for a different reason is Surfers pilot Mike Sorokin almost having his helmet sucked off at speed (center).

 
And speaking of in-car cameras, I just love this shot from Jess Sturgeon's car.

 
This is a great shot, too, taken from the cockpit of one of Scotty Fenn's legendary Chassis Research chassis that revolutionized the sport. I took some Photoshop liberties with the original to blur the background as the El Camino tow vehicle was a distraction. Love that steering wheel and big ol' brake handle. (Below) This is Fenn's workshop. That's Fenn at far left overseeing work on some of his K-88 and TE-448 chassis.

 

 
Another vintage chassis on this cool twin. Always amazing to me to see how primitive the early driver-protection devices were.

 
Okay, if you don't like this photo, you can hardly consider yourself a drag fan. Classic Lions stuff.

 
Here's how those early dragsters got their nickname; the driver sat behind the rear tires like a rock in a slingshot.

 
A couple of engines, four tires, a little extra tubing, a welder, and there's little that early drag racers couldn't -- and didn't -- try.

 
I looooooooove this shot. The photographer did such a great job of exposing it and allowing you to see every detail, nut, and bolt on the blower. Arthur Trim tells me that this is Connie Kalitta's Logghe-chassised Ford-powered digger, photographed on a chassis dyno in one of Ford's labs/

 
Indy is a place where magical things happen. Look closely, and you can see that "Big John's" battle-scarred 'Cuda has all four tires off the ground.

 
Not all new ideas were good ones; Exhibit A is Noel Black's two-engine, four-wheel-drive Top Fueler from 1967.

 
Call me an astute observer, but I reckon that "Big Jim" Dunn was pretty much done for this run at Lions in the rainbow-hued Dunn & Reath digger.

 
Who says you need four wheels?

 
"I'll take Scary Fast Tricycles for $500, Alex."

 

In the same vein, who says you even need four wheels or three wheels? The famed Leffler-Coburn Iron Mistress coupe had six! In a true example of the sum of the parts not being equal to the whole, Neil Leffler and Bill Coburn each took the fuel-burning Hemis from their competition coupes and paired them for this interesting experiment. It wasn't real fast, but it was spectacular.

 

We've seen lead weights and tubes filled with lead shot as front-end ballast, but a rock? I kid you not. Clearly, the Red Mountain Boys knew how to rock.

 

 
I think we've all seen the classic photo above of Don Garlits' career-changing transmission explosion at Lions, but at left is Jon Asher's less-seldom-seen but equally-breathtaking downtrack angle. I'm not sure who circled the fan in the stands or why, but that's how this image was posted.

 

 I've never seen this car before, but it can't be any mistake that the names on its side are Capp and Fedderly, as in future Top Fuel partners (and Indy winners) Terry Capp and Bernie Fedderly. Both are still at it years later, Capp in nostalgia racing and Fedderly as Auston Coil's alter ego on the John Force team.

 

The first rule of running against a jet dragster: Always leave first.

 

Herman Munster, far lane, and Grandpa dueled at Lions in a ghoulish go that was featured on the popular television show.

 

The driver's reaction in this photo is classic after his blown Fiat puked all over the Lions starting line.

Okay, race fans, hope you enjoyed this little diversion. If you know any details about any of the photos, be sure to drop me a line, and I'll follow up in a future column.

More historic horsepower hauntsMonday, December 08, 2008
Posted by: Phil Burgess

By popular demand – and to begin to wade my way through the scores of requests – we're back again for another round of ghost-track hunting. As always, the vast majority of the coordinates I'll be giving you are supplied by our friends at the TerraTracks Global Authority, which has been hunting ghost tracks for years, traveling to and carefully cataloging them from starting line to the end of the race surface. We'll be using the Google Earth program to see them, so if you need a refresher course or it's your first time here, visit this previous column to get up to speed.

All right – and away we go … 

 
Ken McKenzie, who left his native New England area to move to California's Silicon Valley ("to work for a then very new Intel") and made Fremont his new home, still can’t forget about his old stomping grounds. He lived in New Hampshire, and the closest track was the old Sanford drags, which the New England Hot Rod Council helped open in July 1955 and which closed about a decade later, according to what I could dig up (which ain't much).

"It was a Air Force base with huge, long runways," he wrote. "All the top guys ran there (Garlits, Malone, Connie, etc.), and very few of the guys ever used their chutes because the runoff area was so long. Several weekends we had half-mile drags; that was fun. New England Dragway (Epping, N.H.) opened, and Sanford vanished. Wonder what it's like today?"

Well, Ken, racing still goes on at the Sanford airport, but it's far from half-mile and far from asphalt. The North East Off Road Vehicle Competition Association recently began to run there again, holding its first race Oct. 19, and the sanctioning body name should tell you what you need to know. Racing now takes place on a 300-foot-long sand track with quads and 4x4s.

Below you can see the current airport. The old drags ran on the main runway, with the starting point delineated below (43.387832, -70.717131), but I'm not sure where they're holding the sand drags. The Tommy Ivo picture above and other pics you can find here were taken by Roy Wells and are from the collection of Bruce Wheeler.

 
Sticking with East Coast requests, Rob Keister asked about Vineland Speedway in the Garden State of New Jersey. Vineland Speedway was off Delsea Drive (Route 47) in Vineland, N.J. The 55-acre facility opened April 3, 1955, with just a half-mile dirt oval that operated only through October 1957 but became a multiuse facility that included a quarter-mile dragstrip and a 1 ½-mile road course for sports cars and motorcycles that were added in 1958. Drag racing began May 10, 1958, for a four-week trial with an eighth-mile strip on the home stretch and was so financially successful that a full quarter-mile dragstrip was constructed a few months later and was visited by memorable racers including Malcolm Durham and the Tasca Thunderbolts. You can find some good historic photos here.

Everything went swell for several years, but attendance for the oval course began to flag, and the facility closed in 1966. Eventually, as seems to be the case with most ghost tracks, the track was done in by a lease. Depending on who is telling the story, either a) an unnamed Millville, N.J., company on whose land the road course and dragstrip were built refused to renew the lease or b) when the ground was sold for the building of Cumberland County College, it was on the agreement that the adjoining speedway property could not continue as a racing facility. To the right is a current-day shot of the starting line, and as you can see in this Google Earth image below, Cumberland County College sits on the western edge of Vineland Speedway’s old dragstrip/road course. To get there, FlyTo: 39 26.2312, -75 3.00582.

 

"Montgomery Dragstrip was my first encounter with drag racing. I was about 13 years old, and it was '59 I think, maybe '58," wrote Guy Wills. "I think it was an old airport with a traffic light for the lights and a flag starter. I have tried to get info on this track but can get none. It was in or near Montgomery, N.Y. How about finding that ghost, Phil?"

There's not much info about this one either, Guy, but it does appear that Montgomery Dragstrip opened in 1959 on what is now the site of Orange County Airport, with the action taking place on what is now Runway 26, running is a general southwest direction. The starting line is noted by the coordinates 41.510061, -74.256538, the finish line by my red stripe at 41.508599, -74.260957.

 

 
 
"A long time ago, longer now than it seems, I spent my formative years weekending at Connecticut Dragway near Colchester, Conn.," wrote Dave Burnett. "I only have the one picture below of the old track, plus the one at right of 'Jungle Jim' that I found somewhere online back when, but I still have my Super 8 movies. Thanks to them, I graduated high school. Having sloughed off a half-credit course in practical writing (due to straight A’s in English my entire school history), I’d mistakenly surmised that merely showing up to ace the tests would get me the last half-credit I needed to graduate. I hadn’t taken into account the philosophy of the teacher who required actual attendance on a daily basis. She flunked me, leaving me out of my graduation ceremony and still minus that half-credit. The only answer was summer school and a course in film editing and production. The Super 8 movies I’d taken at the dragstrip my entire high school life sprung to my aid, quickly becoming the three-minute-long final project entitled Sunday Drivers. I aced the course and acquired my high school diploma.

"The old dragstrip hasn’t roared to life in quite a few years; as I understand it, it’s the Consumer Reports auto test track now."

Dave also turned me on to this interactive page that shows Connecticut Dragway in its new form as the Consumer Reports multiuse test track, which includes on its 327-acre lot not only a dragstrip but a handling course, avoidance-maneuver course, a skid pad, a hydroplane test area, a "ride evaluator" section, an area for brake testing, and even an off-road course for testing 4x4s. They'll test about 55 cars each year there and put each through a battery of more than 45 tests.

Dave, a quick Google images search will bring you more Connecticut photos than you ever dreamed possible, as on this page. The track closed to the public at the end of the 1985 season, but you can find it here: 41.521443, -72.359540.

 

Suffolk Raceway was an NHRA mainstay for years and host to the popular Little Guy Nationals; the track closed in 1991 after more than 20 years of having events on an unused runway at Suffolk Municipal Airport. The track operator was denied a lease extension and forced to shut down despite protests by racing fans to city council. According to city officials, the appeals were denied because if the extension had been granted, the Federal Aviation Administration and Virginia Department of Aviation would have withheld the airport's grants and funds needed for improvements. The FAA also could have tried to reclaim ownership of the land.

This past May 24, a Suffolk Raceway Reunion was held and well-attended, including by special guest Don Garlits, who ran at Suffolk many times. You can find vintage shots from Suffolk here and photos from the reunion here.

Below you can get an old-time look at the track and the current airport. The starting line was in the lower left at 36.675846, -76.602696, the finish line at 36.678953, -76.600480 (about where the two runways intersect), and the end of the asphalt at 36.686622, -76.594975.

   

 
 
 
Internationally famous television personality and drag racing announcer Dave McClelland has a lot of ghost tracks on his résumé and dropped me an e-mail about two of them in the Shreveport, La., area.

"The photos of the public street are pictures of the original Old Gator Drag Strip, named Stage Coach Road. This was a street that was blocked off, and the spectators just lined the curbs to watch street-type cars make runs for close to a quarter-mile. The starting line was not far off Highway 171 (Mansfield Road), and the track ran toward the railroad tracks intersecting the street, just out of the picture frame to the right. The goal was to get slowed enough to turn before crossing the tracks ... an event that provided some interesting moments for drivers and spectators alike. While the road continued on, the track was elevated higher than the street, so it was a thrill ride cresting the tracks.

"Needless to say, there was no development close to the roadway when this activity was going on in the very late '50s and early '60s. It was quickly realized that something better needed to be built.

"That became the constructed track that has been renamed Drag Strip Lane (32.364653, -93.822355). The racing surface ran from the southwest to the northeast. The property was closed when I was there, so the photos, taken at the intersection of Stage Coach and Drag Strip Lane, are looking back toward the starting line, which was just about a quarter-mile away. Currently, several commercial firms are utilizing the property.

"The track suffered construction problems caused by an underground stream that ran across the track a few hundred feet off the line. When the rollers hit it to pack the asphalt, the surface would sink, creating a launching ramp! They went back in, dug out all of the affected area, filled with dirt from outside, and repaved. Same problem occurred, but not quite as severe.

"Couple that problem with another major one, and the second Old Gator has the distinction of having the only divisional race decided by single runs, at least that I know of. It was one of the earliest events at the track, in either '63 or '64. In an effort to save money during construction, the pits were not paved but were constructed of oiled dirt.

"Wonderful idea for wintertime, but hot weather and oiled dirt don't go together. The cars would track it onto the track, making it slick as glass. Couple that with the major dip in the track, and Division 4 Director Dale Ham and the track staff, including yours truly, decided that the Top Fuel cars would make single runs, using both lanes if necessary without disqualification ... just don't hit anything! That's the way it went -- all single-run qualifying, no side-by-side action. Jerry Baltes had low e.t. and was the winner. He and I get a big laugh out of the story every time we run into each other.

"Attempts were made to repair the problems but never worked out well, and the track closed within a couple of years. It was a shame because the track was laid out well and had a good bit of room."

 

Venturing west, John Waters dropped me a line to report that on the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, you can see what's left of the site of the 1957 and 1958 U.S. Nationals, and sure enough, there it is, on what is now named Black Gold Drive.

As drag racing history buffs well know, the Nationals was pretty transient in its early years, beginning in 1955 in Great Bend, Kan., then moving to Kansas City, Mo., in 1956, Oklahoma City in 1957-58 and Detroit in 1959-60 before finding a permanent home in Indy in 1961.

NHRA initially hadn't planned to move the event from Kansas City, where NHRA thought it had found a nice central home with a bigger facility than what Great Bend could offer, but the move to Missouri came in part because of hard feelings after NHRA was stuck with an unexpected $10,000 cost to repave the strip, an expense that actually contributed to keeping the Safety Safari on the sidelines in 1957.

Sponsored by NHRA in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Jaycees and the Oklahoma City Timing Association, the 1957 Nationals was a gas-only affair (during the so-called "nitro ban"), but it treated racers well. The venue boasted ample paved pits, separate participant and spectator parking, a cafeteria, dormitories ($25 for four days!), seating accommodations for thousands, and a wide and smooth dragstrip with a paved return road. Also, it was just 260 miles south of the exact geographical center of the United States. The event also tied in nicely with Oklahoma's celebration of 50 years of statehood.

According to Waters, "The starting line (35.467818, -97.566537) was moved to the east end (right side of screen) because a dragster ran into the very busy street (May Avenue) and into the business parking lot across the street." Again, my added red stripe marks the finish line (35.469077, -97.570702), and the end of the asphalt can be found at 35.470934, -97.577344.

 
 
In the previous ghost-track installment, we covered Arizona's Beeline Dragway and now its southeasterly cousin, Tucson Dragway, which holds a little spot in my heart because it's the only ghost track outside of California that I've been to. In the early 1980s, I shared an apartment with my first live-in girlfriend, whose parents lived in Tucson. When I visited there in late 1983, the place was a shambles yet apparently still open, according to what I've been able to dig up.

According to a couple of Web sites, the track was officially closed after the AHRA Winternationals in February 1985 because it reportedly was surreptitiously being used an airstrip for the delivery of illegal drugs. "The authorities found out the week before the Winternationals were scheduled. They attempted to cancel the race, but the local businesses were able to convince the authorities that the loss of revenue would be too great so the races went on. Once the Winternationals were over, Tucson Dragway was closed for good," reports one site.

The photo at above right shows the track in its heyday (that's Bob Perry's Fugitive Corvette wheelstander), and below that is a photo of how the track looked on its final day, Feb. 17, 1985, looking north toward the Catalina Mountains. You can see more pics from the track here: http://arizonaracinghistory.com/tucsondrags.

Below left is the Google Earth image of the track, which is off South Houghton road between East Poorman Road and East Valencia Road. The starting line is closest to Poorman Road at 32.132561, -110.765211, the finish line at 32.128946, -110.765209, and the end of the asphalt at  32.122369, -110.765174. Below right is a current-day shot of the track, supplied by TDI reader Kent Ewer. Below those two shots are a trio of pics that I took during Christmas 1983 that show the neglect that ultimately led to its closing. We had to hop a fence to get in, but because the Christmas Tree is still hanging above the starting line, I can’t help but think the place was still open, though that right-lane guardrail was in serious need of repair.

And finally, completing our westward trek, we arrive in the Golden State, where Bob Huber and Mark Hayman wanted to talk about the famed old Goleta, Calif., track where many historians, beginning with Bob Post in his authoritative book High Performance, have said that organized drag racing actually was born in April 1949 in a high-stakes match on a half-mile of road leading into the local airport between West Coast heroes Tom Cobbs and Fran Hernandez (won by Hernandez's Merc-powered '32 Ford three-window by a car length).

What made this race at Goleta especially noteworthy is that the Santa Barbara Acceleration Association sought and received approval for the race from the California Highway Patrol. It would be a year before C.J. Hart would open his Santa Ana Drags, considered to be the first commercial dragstrip, but the Goleta track hosted "The Day Drag Racing Began," as it has been called.

 
Researching this, I stumbled across an interesting claim by Greg Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Rods, who says that not only was he there that day, but he also had the first tube-chassis "dragster" to make an appearance at an organized drag race. Powered by a four-cylinder Ford with a four-port Riley head, it was driven by Jim Kavenaugh, who described it as a set of tube "rails" with "an engine, a piece of aluminum for a firewall, a seat, a roll bar, and four wheels." At right is a drawing of the car.

According to a story on Cunningham's Web site, "It also had the dubious distinction of being the first dragster that crashed at the dragstrip. After arguing with the organizers of the race for hours, who did not want to let the car run and blocked it from running by saying 'there was no place to put the number,' it was resolved that they would paint the number on the tire, which they did. Cunningham got the car lit off, and Kavenaugh brought it to the line and made his pass. But when he was toward the other end, the throttle stuck wide open. There was a kill switch on the firewall, but he couldn't reach it because he was wearing an improvised seat belt. There was another problem. The kill switch was a war-surplus item that was 'off' in the center position but was 'on' in both the up and down positions. When Kavenaugh lunged forward to flip the switch off, he knocked it right through the center off position to the bottom on position, so the car never shut off, and in the motion of lunging, he lost control of the car, which got sideways, flipped three times in the air, and landed on its wheels in the drainage ditch beside the raised-bed two-lane road which was the dragstrip."

Below is a shot of the old location at the Goleta airport, with the starting line (34.432312, -119.833055) marked with those coordinates and the finish line (34.430348, -119.836742) marked by the white stripe on my red rectangle. The end of the asphalt is way off my pic, but it's at 34.425665, -119.844668. According to TTGA reps, our image of Goleta "won't appear to be correct because the original runways, running NE-SW, were dug up and replaced with the E-W runways. The coordinates we've supplied, however, mark the location of the original runway on which they raced."

 

Okay, that's all the ghost-track hunting we have time for today. Thanks again for taking the ride.

Going for 50, and other thoughtsThursday, December 04, 2008
Posted by: Phil Burgess

 
Yesterday, we shipped the 48th and final 2008 issue of National DRAGSTER to our pals at Conley Publishing in ultrachic Beaver Dam, Wis., and, as tradition requires, we hoisted a few glasses of bubbly and toasted one another for putting the "30" on another publishing season of drag racing's oldest news weekly.

I wouldn't be any kind of drag racing reporter if I didn't have a few stats to toss at you, so, for the record, the issue that electronically zipped into the Internet's ether was number 2,301 in the long and proud history of National DRAGSTER, and like the 2,300 that preceded it, it was meticulously produced, from the issue's planning through its sendoff, from the creation, copy editing, and proofreading of the stories, through the selection of the photos and page designs that followed. If you could run an issue of ND through one of those gee-whiz CSI-type element analyzers, I'd guess that each would include fair mixes of pride, dedication, expertise, and good old-fashioned hard work and also a little piece of each of the more than 40 staff members who keep the wheels rolling with their weekly contribution to the puzzle.

What's especially noteworthy about this week's issue – aside from being packed with our typically thorough year-in-review package – is that it also marks the beginning of the 2009 publication season. On Monday, for example, the entire editorial staff will be deep into 2009 planning meetings, scheming on new ways to improve our weekly coverage of the sport, and, most notably, scheming on ways to celebrate what will be National DRAGSTER's 50th anniversary year. I'm pleased to unveil here, for the first time to the general public, the logo that will represent our yearlong celebration.

 
 
As its longest serving editor, I like to think it's no coincidence that National DRAGSTER and I were both born in 1960. Although I was just entering my third trimester of fetushood when the first issue hit the streets Feb. 12, I still feel like we're twins. I've seen well more than half (1,276, or 55.4 percent) of them off to the printer, and it's still a thrill each time.

I still find it amusing to pull out our somewhat tattered and torn copy of that first issue and read the manifesto that was laid out.

"For years, there has been a growing need for a publication devoted expressly to factual, interesting and informative coverage of activities and accomplishments that take place year-round within this fast-growing sport. That's the job the National DRAGSTER is proposed to do: keep you posted.

"Naturally we won't win any awards for journalistic prowess at first, nor will we compete very strongly against The New York Times, but we will do our utmost to bring you timely reports on what goes on at the hundreds of drag events that take place during each annual season, and we'll strive to keep our reports authentic and well-written.

"Giving credit where it is due and providing recognition where it is earned will be DRAGSTER's big objective. Concentration of attention will naturally be on NHRA-sanctioned strips, for it is sponsorship by NHRA that has made this publication possible. Event schedules will be announced and results posted, listing top performers in all areas. Technical information of importance to drag racers will be regularly provided, and timely tech tips will be abundant. In short, we've pledged ourselves to the task of creating greater understanding and appreciation of drag racing, an objective we think you'll also note in our advertisers' copy. "

In that first issue, Parks also answered questions regarding the new publication, which came on the heels of small newsletters like Tie Rod and Drag Link that had served as direct communiqués to the membership. Parks' answers at this point in history --- when the Winternationals had just been added as a second national event and NHRA still wasn't really in the drag racing entertainment business – are interesting.

It also was in this initial issue that the guidelines were set down that exist to this day, that DRAGSTER only covers NHRA activities at NHRA member tracks, with the intent being to reward the loyalty of those tracks with the biggest and best exposure for which a track manager could hope.

Q: Why didn't NHRA produce a drag racing newspaper before now?
A.
NHRA was originated and has been conducted primarily as a car club coordinating body, having drifted into drag race sanctioning in response to the sport's early need for organization and standardization of procedures. We have long realized the necessity that existed for a well-edited publication to represent the sport and its participants, but only recently has NHRA been in a position where it could assume this responsibility with assurance for its success.

Q: Did any particular situation prompt NHRA to begin the National DRAGSTER?
A:
Two things prompted NHRA's production of the DRAGSTER: the increasing need for a high-quality drag racing publication and our growing obligation to provide more valid recognition for NHRA-sanctioned strips and contestants.

Q: It is noted that the DRAGSTER will be published every other week. Is there a particular advantage to this?
A:
Since one of the intents with the DRAGSTER is to produce a good appearing newspaper, it was felt inadvisable to attempt weekly publication. Neither was it deemed practical to solicit advertisers at this frequency, hence the DRAGSTER's every-other-Friday publication schedule.

Q: What strips will be featured in the new paper?
A:
Editorial coverage and recognition in the DRAGSTER will be reserved for events sanctioned by National Hot Rod Association. As there are approximately 100 sanctioned strips located throughout the U.S. and in Canada, the responsibility for giving them all adequate coverage is a big one, and all efforts will be exerted in that behalf.

Q: What purpose do you feel another drag racing newspaper can fulfill?
A:
Honest reporting, with up-to-date information based on sound fact, is a purpose in itself. We expect the editors and reporters of DRAGSTER to uphold these ideals and thereby help produce a better, more FUN type of sport with benefits for all concerned.

The third question points out that initially National DRAGSTER was published only every other week, which was the case for only the first two years, at which point we got into some really screwy frequencies. After 24 issues in 1960 and 1961, the staff produced 26 in 1962 and 1963 and 45 in 1964. In 1965, there were a whopping 52 issues, which was the schedule for three years before dropping to 51 for 1968 and 1969 and down to 49 for 1970, then up again to 51 from 1971 to 1973. From 1974 through 1981, 50 issues were produced each year before we settled on 48 issues.

Today, those four weeks – typically slow news weeks with little or no racing -- are not only about recharging the batteries but also used for production of special publications such as the annual Fan Guide and other projects.

A week ago today, on Thanksgiving Day, I wrote in this space about heroes we've lost this year, and then the phone rang Tuesday with the sad news that we'd lost 1958 Nationals champ Ted Cyr, adding yet another sad marker to the season.

It was Steve Gibbs on the line, and Cyr was one of his all-time heroes as well as a close friend. "We all have our heroes, and Ted was one of mine from day one," Gibbs shared with members of our e-mail group. "Ted was among the very best drag racers to ever go down the strip."

Gibbs had tipped us off a few weeks before that Cyr's health had taken a turn for the worst recently, so I had already begun the sad task of preparing yet another obituary. I polished it together later that afternoon, and Steve helped get me in touch with Cyr's wife of 58 years, Irene, who filled in a few details for me.

You can read my full story here, but what always strikes me when I have to sit down and condense someone's amazing life into a couple of hundred words is how little we sometimes know about some of the people in our sport. The other thing, of course, is that the losses just keep piling up, and with each loss, it seems as if we lose another bit of our history.

I counted yesterday the losses of those on our list of the Top 50 Drivers from NHRA's 2001 50th Anniversary season, and it's saddening. Mickey Thompson (number 11), Lee Shepherd (number 12), Ronnie Sox (number 15), Jim Liberman (number 17), Don Nicholson (number 18), Pete Robinson (number 22), Jack Chrisman (number 23), Willie Borsch (number 34), Blaine Johnson (number 36), John Mulligan (number 41) Dave Schultz (number 44), Malcolm Durham (number 48), and Elmer Trett (number 50) are all gone.

The list of losses in our 51 to 100 list from that year is, unfortunately, longer: Gary Ormsby (number 52), Doug Cook (number 59), John Myers (number 62), Dick Landy (number 65), Pat Foster (number 68), Mike Sorokin (number 70), Art Arfons (number 71), Tony Nancy (number 74), Clayton Harris (number 82), Dickie Harrell (number 83), Mike Snively (number 85), Calvin Rice (number 91), Connie Swingle (number 95), Don Carlton (number 96), John Lingenfelter (number 97), and Jimmy Nix (number 100) have all gone to that great dragstrip in the sky. To be fair, "only" Sox, Nicholson, Schultz, Durham, Landy, Foster, Arfons, and Swingle passed after the list was revealed, but to realize that's nearly 30 of the top 100 drivers in our sport's history are no longer with us is simply staggering. I hope it's a long time before I have to write another one.

Response to Monday's car-songs blog was predictably strong, with requests flooding the airwaves here at KNDI.

Dick Dale and His Del-Tones obviously are on the playlists of many, including Bruce Walsh, Roy Nau, and drag racing photog and fly fashion femme fetale Dawn Mazi-Hovsepian, and with tunes like "Mr. Eliminator" (a song about Tony Nancy), "Wild Wild Mustang," "The Victor," "The Scavenger," "Hot Rod," "Racer," "Grudge Run," "Mag Wheels," "426 Super Stock," "Blond in the 406," and "Nitro Fuel," who could blame them?

Dawn practically made her own album: "RPM" by The Customs, "Fun, Fun, Fun" by The Beach Boys, "Let's Go To the Dragstrip" by The Nomads (and formerly done by The Tokens … "wimoweh, wimoweh …"), "Drag Strip Fury" and "Drag Strip Race" by The Rondelles, "Dragstrip Girl" by the Casino Rumblers, "Drag Racing Robot" by the Donut Kings, "Happy at the Drag Strip" by Guided by Voices/Herkimer Mohawk, "Two-Lane Blacktop" by Rob Zombie, and "All Fired Up" by '80s metal band Fastway, whose music video at right features cool '80s racing footage from E-town, including Bruce Larson's USA-1 Corvette, the Chi-Town Hustler, Tim Grose's Spirit, the Boston Strangler, and U.S. Male, plus jet cars and wheelstanders.

Former NHRA tech dude Jim Skelly remembers, "One of my buddy's older brothers had [Hot Rod Hootenanny] in vinyl back in the day. Two tracks that I remember are 'Termites in My Woodie' and 'If'n It Don't Go, Chrome It' (the writer ends up driving his whole rod into the chrome tank)."

Our pal "Berserko Bob" went with "Go Lil' Camaro Go" by the Ramones and the "Drivin' Sister" by Mott the Hoople, and both he and Down Under's Donato suggested Paul Revere and the Raiders' "SS 396."

Forget about your Hemis and your GTOs
I've got a new machine, and she really goes.
When I pass you up on the drag strip you'll know darn well
You've been beat by a porcupine V8 Chevelle
Taching it up now, you better be quick
Cus' nothing can outrun my SS 396.

John Snapp and others thought we ought to ride around with Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally," but he also plucked Simon and Garfunkel's lesser-known "Baby Driver" because of its drag race sound effect at the end of the song and the lyrics "Once upon a pair of wheels, I hit the road and I'm gone; What's my number; I wonder how your engine feels." Snapp also got his fingers snapping for "She Has Funny Cars," a cut from the Jefferson Airplane album Surrealistic Pillow that not only is not about drag racing but also does not even include the song title in the lyric. According to Wikipedia, the song discusses materialism in American society, but it has also been said that the song is about drummer Spencer Dryden's girlfriend's "funny" car. Hey, it was the '60s, and they also were seeing white rabbits.

"BeachBum Bill," from the decidedly unbeachlike town of Longmont, Colo., thought there was no song meaner than "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena," and Bob Maghy cut in with Brian Setzer Orchestra's "Switchblade 327."

Pullin' way ahead of the pack
Chop top deuce, Saturday night
Flames shootin' outta the back
Switchblade, don't cut him off
He won't cut you no slack
He'll cut you to ribbons if you come to town
He'll carve out his name in your back
Blacktop burnout, Saturday night
Try and catch him if you can.

 
Shirley Smith suggests ZZ Top's "Manic Mechanic ("You want to race? If you insist. At that price, I can't resist."), and Phil Schaadt nominated Judas Priest's "Hell Bent For Leather" ("Black as night, faster than a shadowcrimson flare from a raging sun; an exhibition, of sheer precision") and a song that's also one of my favorites and on my CD, Golden Earring's "Radar Love."

I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
It's my baby callin', says I need you here
And it's half past four and I'm shifting gear.

We also received a nomination for the apostrophe-heavy Doobie Brothers track, "Rockin' Down the Highway."

Got those highway blues, can't you hear my motor runnin'
Flyin' down the road with my foot on the floor
All the way in town they can hear me comin'
Fords about to drop, she won't do no more
And I smell my motor burnin'
Underneath the hood is smoke
Can't stop, and I can't stop
Got to keep on movin' or I'll lose my mind.

And finally, Dave Cox and Chuck Carman both were quick to point out Bruce Springsteen's tech faux pas in "Racing in the Streets" about putting fuelie heads on his 396; those are small-block heads, and the 396 is obviously a big-block.

Ranted Chuck, "I like the song, but if he got a set of fuelie heads on a 396, I'd like to know how, and even more so why. Not to just pick on Bruce, but I could write volumes on these kinds of mistakes. I know a lot of us would be happy to lend some 'tech support' so the songs, movies, books, etc. make sense to those of us who know better. [The movie] Two-Lane Blacktop is a classic example. When the '55 is in the gas station and the attendant asks, 'Chevy block?' it's almost painful to watch. Then when the guy asks, "Dual headers?" ... it's so stupid, it almost makes me angry." Oh man, Chuck, let's not get started on favorite car movies.

Or should we? Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds (H.B. Halicki's original version), American Graffiti, More American Graffiti, Funny Car Summer, Heart Like a Wheel, Bullitt, Grand Prix, Two-Lane Blacktop

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