Monday at the moviesMonday, June 02, 2008
So I stumbled across More American Graffiti on HBO the other night and got to watch “Big John” Milner in some faux 1964 footage as he raced at Fremont and kept hoping for that big “factory” ride. Although the film was shot in 1979, they did a fair job of replicating the cars (blooper: Moroso decal on Milner’s valve covers; company not founded until 1968), and it gave me a hankering for some more nostalgic footage that led to a multi-hour odyssey through the good and the bad posted on YouTube.

There’s an awful lot of drag racing stuff out there, not all of it great and not all of it historic, so I’ll save you a bit of legwork (fingerwork?). These aren’t the only good ones out there, just the quick 16 that I came across, in no particular order. For the multipart videos, you should see links come up in the player to the next part.

This oughta pretty much blow your day and bring the IT police knocking at your cubicle to ask why you’re sucking up all of the company’s bandwidth. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Bust out the popcorn and enjoy.

Title: Traditional Hot Rods and Drag Racing

Duration: 2:12

Background: Apparently a trailer for one of the several vintage drag racing films sold on the Car Films Web site

Footage quality: Excellent

Sound: Yes; interviews and the Rip Chords doing "Three Window Coupe"

Why it’s worth watching: Opens with a pair of great circa 1974 interviews -- Shirley Muldowney talks in-depth about racing in a man's sport (plus we get a quick look at her first Cha-Cha Top Fueler), and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits talks about always being a target for his opponents – then transitions into vintage racing footage from Pomona and Great Bend and lots of quick-cut pit action. Cool footage of Mickey Thompson's sleek Panorama City Special streamliner towing down the return road.

Title: Drag Cars Havin' Fun #2

Duration: 4:45

Background: Professionally shot, based on the variety and position of camera angles; unknown program

Footage quality: Good

Sound: Moody Blues "Knights in White Satin"

Why it’s worth watching: Race footage of Calvin Rice and the J.E. Riley & Son dragster and early Pomona footage, transitioning into footage from the 1971 NHRA Supernationals at Ontario Motor Speedway, including the Blue Max, Don Prudhomme's Carefree Barracuda, the beautiful California Charger Top Fueler, and tons of front-engine Top Fuelers and Mopar Pro Stockers. Nice in-car footage from front-engine Top Fueler (begins at 1:25). Interesting fish-eye lens use. You'll easily spot many heroes of yesteryear. (This clip is the better follow-up to Drag Cars Havin' Fun, which is heavy on some Dick Landy pit action and in-car shots -- dig those deck shoes he was driving in -- and includes lots of repeat footage from the first clip.)

Title: Auto Racing 1969, Part 2 - Drag Racing

Duration: 5:44

Background: Part of Speedvision's The Wild, Wonderful World of Auto Racing (as evident partway through when the footage is minimized at the five-minute mark for the Speedvision sports "ticker"), with the emphasis as a primer of the sport; filmed at the 1969 Springnationals at Dallas Int'l Motor Speedway

Footage quality: Excellent

Sound: Professional narration

Why it’s worth watching: Good mix of Pro and Sportsman cars and a good look at the fabulous Dallas facility, including the trademark tower. Plenty of good pit stuff of some vintage (and famous) cars and good on-track action of 6.7-second Top Fuelers. Good look at early Funny Car cockpits ("These are vehicles of the space age," the narrator intones) but includes the unfortunate, fatal Funny Car accident between Pat Foster and Gerry Schwartz.

Title: Psychedelic '70s @ York US 30 Dragway

Duration: 3:54 (part 1); 6:12 (part 2)

Background: Promo for Bee on Video's 88-minute full-length video

Footage quality: Average, vignetted at corners

Sound: Ambient sounds (announcer, engine noise)

Why it’s worth watching: Shot mostly from a spectator's viewpoint, nonetheless features some cool scenes, including "Dyno Don" Nicholson's Pro Stock Maverick arriving on a ramp truck, rare footage of the Don Garlits Dodge Charger Funny Car that was driven by Gary Bolger for only a few months (reportedly "Big" had no real involvement in the car; the name was used to book the car and Garlits received a percentage of the booking fee), the wild Durachrome Bug VW Funny Car, "Wild Bill" Shrewsberry's L.A. Dart wheelstander, high-winding small-block Pro Stockers, and Miss Hurst Golden Shifter Linda Vaughn and the famous 10-foot-tall Hurst stick-shift. Part 2, which checks in at more than six minutes, includes more of the same, plus Bill Jenkins' revolutionary Pro Stock Vega, more L.V., two jet cars, and Bob Perry's wild Hell on Wheels tank wheelstander.

Title: Don Garlits Wins the 1967 U.S. Nationals

Duration: 3:18

Background: Flashback video from last year's ESPN2 coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, introduced by Paul Page, of Keith Jackson's call of this famous moment for ABC's Wide World of Sports program

Footage quality: Very good

Sound: The golden voice of Keith Jackson

Why it’s worth watching: For years, you've heard the legendary story of how "Big Daddy" refused to shave until he ran in the sixes, which he did – and then some – with a 6.77 final-round victory over James Warren, then whipped out the ol' Barbasol on the starting line … now you can see it for yourself, from suit-up to push-start to the no-burnout/tire-wipe to a slow-mo tight shot of the finish-line margin of victory. "So now he'll have to cut off his whiskers," says an excited Jackson as the crowd flocks to the starting line to back-pat their hero and watch him climb on the hood of his truck and lather up. Also includes post-race interview of a humble Garlits.

Title: Drag Racing - Pacific Raceways 1963

Duration: 2:49

Background: Video from the Mother's Day drag races, May 12, 1963, at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.; home movies shot by Tex Steere and converted by his son

Footage quality: Good

Sound: None

Why it’s worth watching: If you like early dragsters in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, you'll like this one. Injected diggers, early Top Fuelers, boiling smoke off the back tires on their runs; I don't know any of these cars, but there's a good mix of them: blown, injected, and otherwise, spewing smoke off the rear tires. Some nice overall shots of the track, which has been around for more than 40 years. Also worth noting: the total lack of guardrails at the track that now hosts an NHRA POWERade event.

Title: Return To Lions

Duration: 5:21

Background: Posted by Jerry Miles as part of the effort to remember 1960s Hawthorne, a close neighbor to Long Beach., Calif., home of Lions Drag Strip, this is a slideshow of still photos covering the track from its 1955 opening until the Last Drag Race in December 1972

Footage quality: n/a

Sound: Instrumental track

Why it’s worth watching: A mix of familiar photos and new ones, including a lot of early color images, that gives you a pretty good overall look at the fabled track that made the intersection of 223rd and Alameda Avenue known around the drag racing world. For unfortunates like me who never got a chance to visit, or those who want to remember when they did, it's a nice piece of work with nice transitions between images. Includes some of the famous old cars that ran at "the Beach," including the Super Cuda, Stone-Woods-Cook, Lenarth's Secret Weapon Jeep, Shores & Hess, etc. Pretty cool image of Tom McEwen's Mongoose-bedecked firesuit, too, as well as the ticket booth. Curiously though, it's not all Lions. I saw images from Bristol, Pomona, and Famoso mixed in.

Title: T.V. Tommy Ivo Crash

Duration: 1:21

Background: One of the most spectacular crashes in Winternationals history, Tommy Ivo's fiery Saturday afternoon rollover in the lights while racing former wrench John "Tarzan" Austin was unforgettable. Paul Sadler's dramatic sequence made every drag mag, including several covers

Footage quality: Average

Sound: Instrumental track

Why it’s worth watching: I didn’t even know any footage existed of this famous crash, but here it is, shot from the grandstands at about 1,000 feet. It shows "T.V. Tom's" mount light up and go over at real speed and in slow motion, parts and pieces flying everywhere in the aftermath, followed not only by some of the still images snapped by Sadler, who was at the finish line, but additional photos taken from farther downtrack on both sides of the track. Ivo, whose only injury was a scratch to his chin while unbuckling his helmet, was his ever-quotable self. "All of a sudden the car took a sharp turn --a drastic, instant move. We were at the lights anyway, so I backed out of it and turned the wheels to recover. But she didn't recover. She kept right on coming around. I figured at that time, 'Well, I'm gonna go over.' I've got a deathly fear of rolling a race car, especially at those speeds. When she got to about a 45-degree angle, I figured that was it, I had bought the farm, the big casino. I didn't wanna see it happen, so I closed my eyes flat out of stark, dead fear. And missed the whole show. The car took this one tumble, and there was this terrible crack like someone hit me in the back with a 2x4, ya know what I mean? At one time, down around 120, I thought I was upside-down, so I opened my eyes and could see that starting-line tower going away from 'em 'cause I was going backwards, and sure enough, I was upside down so I closed my eyes again."

Title: Vintage Dragsters

Duration: 2:24

Background: Vintage footage of the 1963 Smokers Fuel & Gas Championships in Bakersfield, professionally produced; source unknown

Footage quality: Average

Sound: Voice-over, engine sounds

Why it’s worth watching: The footage isn't great, a little grainy and dark at times, but they're all here -- Don Garlits, Tommy Ivo, the Freight Train, Don Prudhomme (in the then-red Greer-Black Prudhomme dragster), Tom McEwen, eventual winner Art Malone – at one of the era's premier events. The footage is largely shot from the finish line looking back with a fair zoom, but you get to see several of the famous battles wire to wire: McEwen-Adams frustrating "Big Daddy," a squirrelly Prudhomme against Malone, Gordon Collett winning Top Gas, and, of course, the Top Fuel final, won by Malone over McEwen on a holeshot, 8.33 to 8.31.

Title: Indianapolis Nationals 1960-1969 PT1

Duration: 9:25

Background: Home movies shot throughout nearly a decade of Indy racing. The original 8mm films were first converted to VHS and then DVD, which hurts the quality

Footage quality: Poor to average

Sound: None

Why it’s worth watching: Lots of staging-lane and pit-area shots of cars throughout the years, including the dual-engine cars of Eddie Hill – the infamous car that dug up the starting line with its dual rear slicks – and the Dragmaster Two Thing. The initial race footage, shot from the stands near the starting line, is limited to poor views of launches, but the action gets cracking around the 2:40 mark when the camera is moved downtrack to film entire runs. You get to see a nice panoramic view of the Indy facility back in the day – a pretty spartan affair except for the DA starting-line tower – and some full-speed runs. The footage suffers from its third-generation nature – inconsistent lighting, sprocket-jump, vignetting at the corners, and dust artifacts (one monster Texas-shaped piece appears at the top left of the image at the 2:40 mark and is there for the duration) – but it's still cool to see the A/Gas Supercharged cars like Stone-Woods-Cook and Jack Chrisman in the infamous Sachs & Son Comet – the forerunner of the Funny Car class -- run down the vaunted IRP quarter-mile. Part 2, which clocks in just shy of 10 minutes, features more Top Fuelers and better camera work (i.e., cars can be seen more clearly). Watching both parts, you can watch IRP grow – more stands, the Hurst crossover bridge, the addition of guardrails, etc. – which is pretty cool. Not a lot creativity – hey, they're home movies -- and would have been awesome with sound, but still a priceless slice of Indy history.

Title: Early Drag Racing

Duration: 2:47 (part 1); 2:54 (part 2); 2:51 (part 3)

Background: Professionally produced piece from the second annual Winternationals (1962), though some have argued it looks more like 1963. Unknown origin. First of three parts

Footage quality: Very good

Sound: Voice-over narration, engine sounds

Why it’s worth watching: Great early footage of Pomona Raceway shows a much different look than today's mega arena. Panning down toward the top end from a nice grandstand shot, there's no Brackett Field Airport or golf course and only hay bales and logs for "guardrails." Good footage of the Dode & Martin DragMaster Dart making a pass, Connie Kalitta's Bounty Hunter (complete with crossed-out names below the cockpit) being push-started down the track then making a run, Jack Chrisman in Mickey Thompson's dual-engine dragster getting pushed down, making the traditional U-turn at the starting line, then getting waved away by the flag starter, and a nice shot of two departed heroes – Thompson and "Sneaky Pete" Robinson – chatting on the starting line. A second part, Early Drag Racing 2, shows the dual-engine Howard Cams Special, Robinson's machine, the McEwen & Adams Shark car, and a nice pan shot of the pits and staging lanes, and Early Drag Racing 3 shows more of the same, plus door cars (Don Nicholson versus Dave Strickler in a classic West versus East Chevy Stocker battle), Gary Cagle in the Mooneyes dragster, and more. 

Title: Early Drag Racing 1

Duration: 2:46

Background: I'm pretty sure this is part of the short film Vroom that was professionally shot – at Pomona, I believe – in the mid-1970s. Kind of confusing naming because it was posted by the guy who posted the above three clips, but this one is not related to them

Footage quality: Excellent

Sound: Instrumental

Why it’s worth watching: Artfully shot with beautiful close-ups of cards and equipment and the people of the early 1970s NHRA scene -- the Pollution Packer, the California Flash, the War Horse, and "Jungle Jim" (including a quick memorable scene of "Jungle Pam") all preparing for battle. A fun montage kicks off the clip that's all about drivers getting ready to run – from entering the gates to suiting up – but symbolic to the preparatory material, it's over almost before it starts. The user did not post the rest of the film, which ends in mid-sentence as Carl Olson – in his National DRAGSTER decal-wearing Top Fueler – begins to speak from the cockpit.

Click to watch; user has disabled embedding

Title: Mike Dunn Crashes

Duration: 4:00

Background: This is taken from one of Diamond P's Decade of Thrills tapes, a two-incident look at Mike Dunn's misfortunes in the 1983 season in Roland Leong's Hawaiian Punch Dodge Funny Car

Footage quality: Excellent

Sound: The golden voice of drag racing, announcing legend Steve Evans, and the expert commentary and analysis of Don "the Snake" Prudhomme

Why it’s worth watching: The two incidents – shown out of chronological order -- first show the obliteration of the HP Dodge at the 1983 World Finals at OCIR, the engine blown almost out of the chassis, attached still only by the fuel lines, that then levers the chassis into a pair of barrel rolls. Shown from three angles in a three-minute segment. Fans of today's ESPN2 shows will enjoy the post-crash interview with the baby-faced Dunn. After that, it's back to Columbus, Ohio, for his stuck-throttle, tire-exploding, fiery, off-the-end-of-the-track run at the 1983 Springnationals.

Title: Early Drag Racing 1950-1960

Duration: 2:42

Background: Unknown professionally produced clip

Footage quality: Very good

Sound: Voice-over narration

Why it’s worth watching: Some really fine looks at early drag racing iron that made history, including Mickey Thompson's Panorama City Special streamliner, Calvin Rice's J.E. Riley and Sons Nationals winner, the Bean Bandits, the twin-engine Bustle Bomb, and Ray Godman's Tennessee Bo-Weevil. The narration involves good technical information about engine types and car construction and those involved with building the cars. There is no actual racing footage here, but it's still well worth the watch to ogle some of these great cars for drag racing history that you’ve no doubt read about.

Title: Hot Rod Magazine 1958 Presents - Ingenuity In Action Pt 1

Duration: 7:32 (part 1); 9:03 (part 2); 10:23 (part 3)

Background: Although the credits show that it was written by Hollywood director/screenwriter Haile Chace and produced by him and Sam Davis, you'd have to guess that NHRA founder Wally Parks, then still the editor of Hot Rod, also had a hand in this wonderful 27-minute-long video diary of a trip to the 1959 Nationals in Detroit, dedicated "to hot rodders everywhere, and their great zeal for experimentation"

Footage quality: Excellent

Sound: Voice-over narration

Why it’s worth watching: The film follows the efforts of the Jim Nelson and Dode Martin DragMaster team, long an NHRA favorite. I'm guessing that the narration is done by Martin. Part 1 shows the team preparing the car at home (near San Diego), then setting out on the road and meeting up with their teammates from the Dragliner team (some great vintage southwestern America highway footage) and a quick stopover at a regional event in Oklahoma (which they won). Part 2 finishes their trip and shows them going through tech and pre-run tuning; a visit from NHRA secretary Barbara Livingston, who would later become Barbara Parks; and early time trials with a variety of cars and classes, including a low e.t. run by the team highlighted by in-car footage of a wild and wooly launch. "Expensive noises" ("a twisted cam lifter") led to a bottom-end teardown (the old "mushroom head" lifters had to be pulled out of the bottom of the engine) and lots of on-track action from modified roadsters (including that of future NHRA VP Bernie Partridge), the famous dragsters of Kenny Lindley (Miss Fire III), Jack Moss, the Arfons brothers, and eventual Top Eliminator champ Rodney Singer, plus all the final rounds, winner's circles, and special awards. In addition to low e.t. honors, the DragMaster team won the Safest Constructed award. Filled with humorous scenes and commentary, it’s a much-watch.

Title: Asphalt Digout Part 1 of 5

Duration: 9:42 (part 1); 6:23 (part 2); 9:36 (part 3); 7:36 (part 4); 4:43 (part 5)

Background: Professionally produced video purportedly was distributed to a select few racers in tribute to the great "Broadway Bob" Metzler, owner and super-promoter of Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove Wis.

Footage quality: Good to very good; a little jumpy in parts

Sound: Voice-over narration, engine sounds

Why it’s worth watching: Part 1 is from the late 1950s with great early footage of the legendary Great Lakes Dragaway, including a match between Chris Karamesines, Don Garlits, and Art Malone’s Little Rebel, plus lots of door cars of varying speeds, including four-abreast racing. Part 2 takes place in 1968 and features jets versus Top Fuelers (Tommy Ivo, Jim Nicoll, Don Cook, Dick LaHaie, and “the Greek”) and Funny Cars (Paula Murphy’s Miss STP Dodge, the Chi-Town Hustler, “Fearless Fred” Goeske, and Arnie Beswick). Wheelstanders include Bill Golden’s famed Little Red Wagon versus Richard Hutchins’ Chevy Rebellion. Part 3 looks to be late 1971, at the track’s famed Olympics of Drag Racing, featuring a mix of front- and rear-engine Top Fuelers (some of the latter of which have no rear wings yet). All the big names are here: Garlits, “Snake” and “Mongoose”(in their high-back Hot Wheels FE dragsters), Ivo, LaHaie, Steve Carbone, and John Wiebe, plus wheelstanders including "Wild Bill" Shrewsberry's L.A. Dart wheelstander, the Flying Red Baron Mustang, Bob Riggle’s Hemi Under Glass, and Connie Swingle in The Trash Truck, which makes contact with Bob Perry’s Fugitive II Corvette, then crashes (4:50) into the billboards lining the track, breaking Swingle’s foot. At 5:50, Garlits chucks the blower, which, pre-blower restraints, tumbles down the track. Part 4 looks like 1972 and is heavier on Funny Cars (including rare footage of Fred Mandoline’s machine). Part 5 is outtakes with no narration.

So there you have it. Sixteen great "home movies" and a trip down Memory Lane.