Decal detailsTuesday, February 01, 2011

I'm still pulling together all of the info from the massive collection of sticker/decal images that you all sent as the result of my two Sticker Shock columns last month, but in the meantime, here are follow-up notes on some of the decals that I showed off.

After they saw the decal for the Crane Cams 250-mph Club, I heard from Jim Hill and Henry Walther – regular contributors to this column and former employees of Crane Cams – whose memories were stoked by the image of the club logo.

In the announcement, which ran in National DRAGSTER in May 1981, Crane Cams Chairman Harvey J. Crane stated, "Only recently have Top Fuel dragsters begun to run in excess of the 250-mph mark, and we wanted to be the first to recognize what we feel is an accomplishment even greater than running 250 mph in a dragster, doing it in a Funny Car!"

When the club was announced, the NHRA national speed record was 247.25, set by Don Prudhomme a few months earlier in Gainesville (Prudhomme had taken it from a still-not-famous John Force, who ran 246.57 earlier at the event), but the record had stagnated at the 245 mark for more than a year and a half since Gordie Bonin had set the record at 245.90 at the 1979 U.S. Nationals. Robbie Williams was credited with upping the record to 247.95 later that year, but it was an altitude-corrected number recorded at the Denver points meet. Raymond Beadle got tantalizingly close with a 249.30 record at Indy in 1981 before Prudhomme finally did the deed in May 1982 at the Cajun Nationals in Baton Rouge, La.

"The Crane Cams 250-mph Funny Car Club was a project I hatched and was allowed to execute," recalled Hill. "Cragar had established prior clubs, but in spite of their huge popularity, the Funny Car guys seemed to be ignored. Funny Cars were running high 230s and a few 240-mph speeds (remember '240 Gordie' Bonin?), but the 250 seemed to be a barrier for the flopper guys. I thought the 250-mph mark would soon be eclipsed and wanted Crane Cams to be associated with that milestone.

(Above) Don Prudhomme became the first Funny Car driver to eclipse 250 mph in qualifying at the 1982 Cajun Nationals. (Below) From right, Prudhomme, Billy Meyer, and Ken Veney, the club's first members, were congratulated at the 1982 U.S. Nationals by Crane Sales Promotion Manager Jim Hill, second from right.

"When this program was announced, there was widespread skepticism that a Funny Car could reach a 250-mph speed," said Hill. "As you know, throw a barrier number in a racer's face, and he will find a way to punch through it. That was my mind-set when I proposed the 250 Club to Crane Cams.
"Crane was also just beginning to make serious inroads into the fuel racing market. Up to then, the majority of Top Fuel and Funny Car racers ran flat-tappet camshafts of fairly mild lobe profiles, with a number of problems. Those who tried roller cams saw immediate increases in speeds and e.t.s, plus a reduction or elimination of the fuel-wash, lobe-wiping problems that plagued flat-tappet cams. Engine builders were also beginning to step up to bigger blowers, bigger fuel pumps, ported cylinder heads, and engine combinations ready to respond to more aggressive camshaft profiles. I saw the 250 Club as an opportunity to gain exposure for our steel billet roller cams and roller tappets with nitro engine builders, but the club was also an open membership, regardless of camshaft brand used."

Remembered Walther, "At the time we started that club, I was in charge of running Crane's West Coast operation," he recalled. "As part of my duties, I was responsible for covering most of the NHRA national events with Chase Knight (who is still doing it for Crane today).

"With a fresh supply of decals, patches, and a great illustration of the ring, I set off to the first event to introduce the new club to the Funny Car drivers. What makes this stick out in my mind is the comments of the first driver I approached to announce the club. It was Don Prudhomme. 'Snake' listened to my spiel, looked at the goodies, and then, almost incredulously, proclaimed, 'Yeah, good luck with filling THAT club,' as if it would be years before any Funny Car, much less eight of them, would top the 250-mph mark.

"That somewhat took the wind out of my sails, but, wouldn't you know it, it wasn't long before someone did run 250 in a flopper ... and, of course, it was Prudhomme. Needless to say, it gave me great satisfaction to congratulate him on becoming the first member of the club. I'll have to remind him of that incident the next time we have lunch."

Tripp Shumake was the fourth member of the 250-mph Club and also a member of the Cragar 5-Second Club.
Kenny Bernstein was the 10th driver to record a 250-mph pass, and was made an honorary club member.

According to Hill, club members were presented with a solid gold, custom-designed ring created by Jostens, the same company famed for its NFL Super Bowl and MLB World Series rings. The members also received jackets with the driver's name, speed, and the 250-club logo, patches, and logo caps for the crew.

"It was the rings that the guys went gaga over," he remembered. "I would guess that most of the group still have their rings. They cost about $600 each, in 1980s dollars, as gold wasn't quite as pricey as it is today. I would like to think that these rings encouraged them to step up and crack that 250-mph barrier, but, of course, it was the desire to go faster, quicker, and win races that drove them forward.
"The sticker you photographed was one of those I gave to members and media folks in press kits. I saved a few of them, along with a couple of the 250 FC Club patches ... keepsakes from a long time ago. How amazing it is that today a 250-mph run by a Funny Car is a dog, usually a shutoff, early-chutes pass! It was a great promotion that Harvey Crane graciously allowed me to create and generated a lot of positive publicity and interest among all of drag racing. And, of course, it was a bunch of fun for me to produce."

Hill also told me that membership in the eight-driver club was extended on an honorary basis to Al Segrini and Kenny Bernstein, who ran 250.64 and 251.39, respectively, at the 1982 U.S. Nationals after John Force became the eighth and "final" member with a 250.69. Segrini's run was made just after Force's, and Bernstein's came the next day.

"Of the eight drivers who ultimately filled the ranks of the Crane Cams 250-mph Club, none took greater pride in his membership than the late Tripp Shumake," added Walther. "Long after the promotion had run its course, Tripp was still asking me if I had any of the decals or patches available. I always promised I would look for some. A few years later, I was cleaning out a closet and discovered a paper bag filled with the 250-mph decals and patches. I promptly packaged them up and shipped them to Tripp. In retrospect, I am glad I was able to fulfill his request before he left us. Tripp was one of the fun guys you always enjoyed spending time with out on the tour."

I agree with Henry about "Tripper"; he was one of my favorite people, and we lost him way too soon to a motorcycle accident Nov. 13, 1999. Tripp was riding his Harley when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road near his home in Chandler, Ariz. Atlanta was good to Shumake; he won his first event there, in 1981, and made the club there the following year.

For me, though, the most interesting person on the list is the "Wizard of Wadsworth," Ken Veney, who had already had two careers worth of success in the alcohol ranks before he switched to a nitro coupe in 1982; within about a dozen runs, he was a member of the club that so many other more nitro-savvy drivers were not.

"He hit 250 on (I think) his 13th run on nitro," his second-generation driving son, Todd, told me. "It was at the '82 U.S. Nationals, and the conditions were killer. He was going to run cast Dart heads and a flat-tappet cam like everybody else, but he really thought that billet heads with giant intake ports and a roller cam like he had in his alcohol car was the way to go, and I guess it was.

"The whole crew consisted of my dad's friends Jack Phenegar and Tom Ihala, my mom, and me. Jack did the bottom end, and Tom did the clutch. I got to pull the left head the next year, but that first year, I was only allowed to clean the pan. My mom mixed the fuel, and it was 85 percent every time. My all-time hero, Don Prudhomme, and Raymond Beadle, Billy Meyer, Austin Coil, and a bunch of people came by our pit area to check out my dad's new fuel heads, and I hovered in the background, trying to hear what they were talking about. Prudhomme said he might just want to try a set, meaning, if they were free. My dad's exact words: 'I already tried them -- they work.'

"Every run, it kept going quicker -- 5.99, 5.84, 5.78, and 5.73. He beat Raymond Beadle, who had just won the last three championships, in round one and Al Segrini in round two, and it looked like it might just be him and Prudhomme in the final, but they both got beat in the semi's. My dad smoked the tires but did an awesome pedal job for a rookie and almost chased down Gary Burgin, going 252.10 mph to back up his 254.23 for a new national record.

"Like the 17-year-old idiot I was, I traded my Crane 250 Club hat to my friend Tom Schiltz for a picture of one of my dad's old cars. He still has it."

The decal for the Sanair track in Canada stoked in reader Thomas Blouin the memory of perhaps the track's second-most infamous "crash" behind Shirley Muldowney's 1984 accident. Blouin was there when a biplane landed on the track as part of the pre-race ceremony at the 1975 event and proceeded to run down the Christmas Tree in a glass- and metal-shattering spray from its propeller. Blouin wrote that the passenger in the plane was the famed Linda Vaughn, but it actually was Miss Molson (name unknown) who rode into infamy.

As is the case with so many of the unbelievable incidents in NHRA's history, former NHRA Competition Director Steve Gibbs had a front-row seat for the event and was happy to share his memories.

"The pilot of the Stearman biplane had made a practice landing at the track earlier in the week, but at the time, none of the starting-line paraphernalia was in place," he remembered. "When he brought the queen in on race day, he taxied right up to the starting line …as he had before, and you can see the results. I once owned a Stearman, and you simply cannot see straight ahead.

"The Christmas Tree instantly became a fragmented mess of metal, glass, and wires. The pilot was pissed, as the prop was badly damaged ... but the queen never quit waving. I was at about the eighth-mile mark, looking on in disbelief. I was sure the guy would stop short of the Tree. We had a spare Tree, but it took some time for Art Hayward to repair the wiring and connector damage. The plane was not flyable, so it had to be towed to the end of the track for future repairs. The last thing I remember was the queen still waving to the crowd."

I mentioned that there were border-crossing horror tales when racers and others headed to Montreal, and former ND Editor Bill Holland had one to share. "I was charged with bringing a few thousand souvenir issues of ND to distribute at the event," he recalled. "It went with me on the plane as 'extra baggage.' Prior to printing the papers, I had contacted the Canadian consulate and asked if we needed to remove the price from the cover, or was it OK to leave it. I was assured that if we were just going to give them away, it would not be necessary. As you can probably guess, the Canadian customs officials had their own ideas. 

"So here I sit at the airport with all these bundles, and they want me to pay some exorbitant amount of duty, and I tell them there's no flippin' way. So I start to walk off and tell them something like, 'You can have the papers. I'm not going to pay that kind of money. And besides, I don't have it!' The customs official told me to wait, huddled with cohorts, and came back at me with a figure of around $30 to clear customs. Done! No doubt he didn't want to deal with all those papers. And that's how National DRAGSTER was introduced en masse to the good citizens of Quebec."

I also heard back from Rico Anthes concerning the Deutsche Hot Rod Association decal shown here, and I heard from Jerry "Big Daddy" Lackey regarding the group.

Lackey pointed me to www.dragracinghistory.de, where he said there is plenty of information about how he and a few others "turned a small existing drag racing club into the oldest and largest official drag racing club in most of Europe.

"This was over 41 years ago," he continued, "and I am also the last of the original five grounders still active with the conducting of the best-attended drag race event in Europe, the NitrolympX at the F-1 track in Hockenheim, Germany. We are going into our 26th year at Hockenheim and have had several NHRA drivers here over the years. For our silver anniversary last year, we had Melanie Troxel in her Pro Mod as our NHRA star guest. We have also had a few Top Fuel drivers here from the USA."

According to Anthes, the club was founded and registered May 7, 1979, and was located in Langenselbold, a little town close to Hanau/Erlensee in the Frankfurt area, where at that time all drag racing activities in Germany took place at the U.S. Army airbase, or fliegerhorst. The association's run was relatively short-lived; Anthes found records that DHRA closed all activities Aug. 16, 1990.

OK, that's all for today. Be sure to come back Friday, when I will begin showing off some of your decals.

A bold yet frustrating attemptFriday, January 28, 2011

As always seems to be the case with any mysteries raised in this column, the sleuths of the Insider Nation always solve the case. Today's story, about Bill Traylor's Bold Attempt streamliner that I featured here a few weeks ago, is just Exhibit No. 1,245 (roughly).

In hindsight, I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn’t put the pieces together sooner to remember this car in its later incarnation, but several others did. Although the car never made it big in Top Fuel, it did enjoy track time with the Zizzo family with alcohol in the tank. I heard from Traylor's son, Mark, as well as from Jerry Westhouse, who worked with the senior Traylor on the car, to get the story behind its build, and I reached out to current Top Fuel pilot T.J. Zizzo, one of our NHRA.com bloggers, to get his family's side of the story.

Before he built the Bold Attempt streamliner, Bill Traylor was an AHRA world record holder with his fuel coupe, named The Animal, built around a rare Al Williams aluminum tube chassis. He owned Traylor Engineering in Palatine, Ill., where he did automotive machine work and built dragster front wheels. One of his customers was Don Garlits, who purchased three or four sets a year, and the shop also was a popular summer stopover spot for the likes of Garlits, Don Cook, and Jim Nicoll.

"While my dad was not famous like some of the legends like Garlits, he was universally known and loved within the sport," said Mark. "He was always known to be out on the edge and willing to help anyone out at the track. Arnie Behling, Don Colosimo, Don Schumacher, Sid Seeley, Marvin Graham, and Marvin Schwartz are just a few of the guys that were regular faces at my dad's shop."

Traylor and Colosimo later partnered to run a front-engine Top Fuel dragster, the Chicago Missile, on the UDRA and IHRA circuits as well as on the match race circuit. Westhouse began working on the crew in 1970, and when Traylor and Colosimo broke up in 1972, Westhouse became Traylor's new partner.

The body for Traylor's fuel coupe had been built by Dave Stuckey, so it was Stuckey to whom Traylor turned for his first rear-engine dragster. Not content to simply follow the crowd to the back-motor side, the idea of a streamlined dragster was conceived.

From his Wichita, Kan., shop, Stuckey built the chassis with a 210-inch wheelbase and a standard aluminum body to go with it. They purchased a new aluminum 426 Milodon block -- serial No. 2 -- for the race engine and mated it to a Lenco two-speed with a 9-inch Ford rear end, though they also were one of first rear-engine dragster teams to experiment with a Crowerglide. Again fleeing from convention, Traylor decided to use a new Goodyear drag slick designed for the Funny Cars of the time.

The construction of the streamliner body led to an interesting story told by Mark. "Stuckey was really concerned about keeping the weight down. He knew how thick he wanted the paint to be but had no idea about calculating the surface area. He called several aerospace-engineer friends to come look at it to see if they could calculate an area for it. None of them had any idea how to get an accurate area. Dave had a ton of little 4-by-4-inch notepads around the house, so he took them to the shop and struck a line of symmetry down the center of the car and began taping sheets of paper to the body, cutting in slivers and wedges where it was required to follow the curvature of the body. When he was done, he counted up the number of sheets he used and calculated the area of the body and the volume of paint he needed to put the minimum amount of paint on the car. While I am clearly biased, I think this is by far the prettiest streamliner Top Fuel car ever produced."

Once the car was completed, Westhouse was chosen to drive the new ride, which was shaken down with conventional bodywork.

"We ran the dragster with the aluminum body in 1973 at UDRA races and some IHRA races," remembered Westhouse, who today works for Newman/Haas Racing. "Bill wanted to sort the car out before we ran the streamliner. It was an uphill battle with a new driver, new chassis, and a new engine combination. We ran good at a couple of races but were consistently fighting tire shake. If only we'd had data acquisition! The streamliner body was run once for a qualifying pass at the IHRA Spring Nationals in Bristol, and it shook the tires. The best pass we ran that year was a 6.55 at 230 mph.

"We ran the car a couple of times in 1974 without good results. At that time, Bill wanted someone else to drive, so we broke up in late 1974."

"Jerry was new to this level of race car, and my dad was not terribly happy with Jerry's performance in the car," Mark agreed. "I am not saying anything bad against Jerry, he is a good friend, but they were having a lot of tire-shake problems and were struggling getting the new combination running right. It was also my dad's first rear-engine car. "

The Bold Attempt was short-lived for a number of reasons, according to Mark. Primarily, his father had partnered with Tom Klausler and Bill O'Connor on a factory Lola Atlantic team with a Carl Haas association and was building Atlantic engines for Rahal, James King, and others as well as for Formula Ford, Can-Am, Formula B, and other road racing applications.

"One of his best friends said he had started being approached about putting together a deal to run at Indy, but it was probably a few years off in reality," noted Mark. "That additional focus of road racing being added in was probably the biggest reason for the project to slow down. I think my dad started seeing that the real growth for him in engine building lay in road racing more so than drag racing. At that time, there was more money flowing that way."

Traylor contracted Weber-Christian disease, a very rare condition, and the dragster was sold to defray medical costs. Traylor died April 12, 1976, at age 36. His son is trying to locate the original Animal fuel coupe, so if you've seen it or have any idea where it might be, drop me a line.

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A young T.J. Zizzo with the car he knew only as The Streamliner
The Zizzo family acquired the unique streamliner in 1979 from a Chicago racer whom T.J. knows only as “Dragster Danny.” In fact, until he saw the car in my first column, he didn’t know the car had a name, either. "I only knew it as The Streamliner growing up," he admitted.

His father, Tony, had been partners with the late Al DaPozzo, and when he ventured out on his own, the Stuckey car was his first. It came with both bodies, but the chassis was too short, so it was lengthened to 265 inches, as was the streamliner body. Zizzo ran the car with the traditional aluminum body as a Top Alcohol Dragster from 1980 to 1982.

"My dad, being the wild and crazy guy that he is, decided to do burnouts inside the Rosemont Horizon on the clay tractor-pulling surface in front of a packed house with The Streamliner mounted on the chassis. He finally ran it at the dragstrip in 1982 with the injector under the body, but the engine starved for air, so in 1984, he ran it at Byron with the injector sticking out of the rear of the body. It was still starved for air. The body was too aerodynamic, and the air just went right over the injector, and the engine went rich downtrack. My dad said he could never get the car over 200 mph.

"The next step was to put an Eddie Hill-style scoop toward the windshield, but that never came to fruition. My dad built a new longer Alcohol Dragster chassis, and The Streamliner went in the rafters of the garage, where it sits today. My dad has high hopes -- after he is done campaigning our Top Fuel dragster -- to someday build a chassis and bring that streamliner to Bonneville. He is a licensed SCTA Bonneville driver and went 262 mph a year ago in an AA/Gas Lakester. My dad said The Streamliner was the coolest car to drive because it was so quiet, but it was way too heavy to be competitive. Now I know why my dad does not like to sell his old race cars. Someday, someone will want to know what happened to that old race car, and there it will be, up in the rafters of our race car shop."

Remembering Jim JacksonTuesday, January 25, 2011

You may have read in the NHRA.com Notebook last week about the passing of Jim Jackson, who was partners with Simon Menzies on some Top Alcohol Funny Cars and a nitro Funny Car in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Menzies is a great friend of the Insider column who has provided us with lots of good information, so I thought I'd devote this column to Menzies' memories of his friend. Far more than just a remembrance, it includes interesting information and insight.

"Jim and I first met as competitors in Texas in 1975," he remembered. "I was running my own BB/FC, and Jim was running an A/Fuel Dragster in Pro Comp. He had previously owned and drove an A/Gas altered built by Dennis Piranio of Dallas. I was 24 years old, and Jim was the ripe old age of 21. We became friends, and the next year, he asked me to shake down a Donovan-powered BB/FC built for him by Bob Norwood.

"The Flyer ran a best of 6.81 at 206, which wasn't bad for the time.You may also notice the familiar shape of the rear spoilers. They resemble half pieces of a full-size stop sign, and, well ..."
"Jim Jackson and Bob Norwood with the low-riding Flyer chassis. Bob has gone on to field exotic cars at Bonneville and has set some records."
The Texas Twister

"At 42 inches high at the roll cage, the Lone Star Flyer was the lowest and most ill-handling Funny Car ever built. The driver literally had to lay down in the cage with his head tilted down to his chest to see forward out of the car. The Flyer had a nasty habit of making 90-degree turns if you had to lift for any reason, and it was a crapshoot which direction she would go. The only way to complete a full pass was to drive into the chutes to stabilize the car off power. I had to complete the last half of every pass with my hand on the chute lever as soon as I shifted into high gear. We ran the car at Green Valley, Texas; Union Grove, Wis.; and Spokane, Wash. I could write volumes about each of these races, but suffice it to say, after several near catastrophes, Jim decided to build a new car.

"We drove the whole operation down to Dale Armstrong's shop in Torrance [Calif.], where I was storing my 'Cuda Funny Car/altered, which was the same chassis that Dale drove as an AA/A to wins at Indianapolis and Tulsa [Okla.] for Jim Foust and me in 1974. Dale and Jim had borrowed it from me for a test bed for Dale's Donovan in the altered configuration while Mike Kase was building the infamous Alcoholic.

"We installed Jim's Donovan in my car with the Funny Car configuration for testing and finished the year off as the Texas Twister Barracuda while Kase and Steve Harris built the Jim Jackson Racing Enterprises Corvette.

"(Interesting side note: Kase was backed up almost a year for delivery of a new car, and I had sold my Barracuda to a gentleman from Norway. Dale and Jim Foust had parted ways, with the Donovan going to Dale's new Alcohol Dragster while Foust parked the Alcoholic. Still waiting for Jackson's new car, we put Jackson's Donovan into the Alcoholic for two races, and I unceremoniously drove it into the right-side guardrail at Irwindale [Calif.] after qualifying in the top spot, destroying the body. I included this just in case you didn't know what happened to the Alcoholic. The chassis from the car was bought by Billy Williams and fronthalved. This was the car that Billy crashed.)

"We ran the Corvette very successfully for two years, winning a total of 18 races, including the '77 PRO BB/FC Championship and the '78 AHRA BB/FC Championship.

"We started the '79 season with a new Donovan-powered Ken Cox Dodge Challenger AA/FC with wins at the Bakersfield March Meet and the WCS event at Fremont. The car qualified at all but three NHRA national events, including both eight-car fields in Denver and Baton Rouge [La.]. We qualified at all AHRA and IHRA national events entered and won two more open qualified non-sanctioned races that year and ran countless match races. We switched to a late-model engine after missing the cut at Englishtown and ran as quick as 6.09 against 'the Snake' at the Fremont tune-up race for the World Finals. That 6.09 loss against 'the Snake's' 5.99, I think besides the Bakersfield win, was Jim's favorite racing memory because, averaged out, it was the quickest side-by-side Funny Car run that year. Ron Colson took us out in the first round at the Finals two weeks later with Roland's [Leong] car, and that was that for Jim Jackson's car racing days, but it wasn't the end of his racing days.

"Jim married Janelle in 1982 and soon started dabbling in thoroughbred horse breeding and racing at his farm in Whitesboro, Texas. His interest ramped up quickly, and in the early 1990s, Jim and Janelle built Valhalla Farms on 800 gently rolling acres in Rockdale Texas, just north of Austin. They used Kentucky breeding-farm locations as a model and built the farm to look like it came right out of the race-horse capital of the world, right down to several miles of Kentucky black-board fence imported from, you guessed it, Kentucky.

"Valhalla Farms is an absolute marvel and soon became one of the premier thoroughbred training facilities in the country, complete with a racetrack that was a quarter-scale of Hollywood Park in California. Perfect in every detail right down to the track compound. Valhalla was one of only six facilities in Texas that could issue certified track times. They boarded and trained some very fast horses. Jim and Janelle fielded horses in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and won the Arkansas Derby and several Dallas and Houston Cup races.

"Jim got a little tired of the grind after his successes and leased out the training facility but kept his home and office while maintaining the grounds and started collecting and refurbishing classic cars for a few years until he discovered dog racing.

"Jim was on his way to being a successful dog owner, winning several races in the last few years. According to Janelle, there may be up to 500 dogs out there that are wholly or partially owned by them both. None on the property, but all boarded at dog-training facilities and tracks. Good ol' Jim -- he was just getting started.

"This has been about what I personally knew about Jim and his love of racing, something that he was very good at, but I knew that racing was just a small part of his life. Jim, in short, was the best family man I have ever met. Every time he changed gears and faded back on a sport wasn't for lack of interest but more that he had achieved success, and now it was time to focus on family, reaching a comfort zone and eventually moving on to another sport. I knew that Jim had helped many people and charities, but I had no idea what an anonymous philanthropist he really was. He had file cabinets filled with thank-you letters from children he sponsored to St. Jude's and other charitable organizations. On a personal note, I asked him 10 years ago if he would take my own son and teach him the horse business. I got one of Jim's typical responses: 'Hell yes; there's airplanes from California flying into Austin every day, but if he's anything like you, I'll send him back on the next flight!' My son Kyle stayed with the Jacksons for almost a year and is now one of the many in their extended family. Also typical of Jim, Kyle was the recipient of a Jackson nickname – 'California Cletus' -- and proudly answers to it in memory of his days with Jackson.

"Jim Jackson was one hell of a man and a dear friend. He left us too soon, and I miss him."

Sticker shock, part 2Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome to Part 2 of the Sticker Shock thread that I began Tuesday. If you were sick that day or can’t muster the strength to scroll-wheel your way down this page, I'm showing off some of the vintage decals/stickers that I found on Photo Department filing cabinets that were uncovered during our recent move from upstairs in the 2220 E. Route 66 media tower. (OK, so it's only two floors.)

As expected, I've been besieged, bombarded, and blasted with e-mails from the Insider Nation showing their old decals -- and I'll share those in a future column, so keep sending them – as well as feedback on some I've shown. I'll also soon have a treasure trove of information to share concerning the Bold Attempt streamliner; I've heard from Mark Traylor, son of the car's original owner, Bill (now deceased), and from Top Fuel racer T.J. Zizzo, who was one of the car's later owners and competed with it in Top Alcohol Dragster with his father, Tony, driving.

The decals in this installment were the ones that, as I mentioned Tuesday, were not visible for years because that side of the (very heavy) concrete-lined fireproof filing cabinet was against a wall, keeping them from general view. And for some of them, I ran into a few walls trying to track down information, but, as always, the fans of this column knew where to point me, and, thankfully, I knew who to ask.

OK, so as you can imagine, these first two decals mean a lot to me because they represent my livelihood for nearly three decades. They aren't the first National DRAGSTER stickers made, but they're both pretty noteworthy. The top decal is perhaps still the best known of any ND decal, even years after its retirement. I remember seeing this decal stuck proudly on many of the sport's top cars in the 1970s, as shown on the windscreen of the Kuhl & Olson Top Fueler in the second image (more on that in a second).

What's important about this logo is the permanence of its basic design elements. I'm not sure why the color choice for this popular decal was orange and blue because the logo appeared in many, many color combinations throughout the years on the front page and covers of National DRAGSTER, but the seven stars have been an on-again, off-again prevalent theme through five decades.

The seven-star version first appeared on the publication in 1971 and stayed there until the end of 1983, when the logo was redrawn and the stars eliminated. In 1983, the word DRAGSTER had become standardized in yellow type on a rectangular field of blue, and DRAGSTER colors have remained blue and yellow ever since. The blue background square went away in 1985, allowing much more freedom and creativity for placement on the cover. At the insistence of Wally Parks, the seven stars went back onto the logo in 1997, and, after an appropriate mourning period following his death in 2007, they came off again last year.

You don't see a lot of publication (or website) decals on cars today probably because the real estate is more valuable, but I asked Olson about its 1970s omnipresence in general and its prominent placement on his Top Fueler specifically. His reply was brief but honest: "Those racers who chose to display the National DRAGSTER decal in a prominent location were at least perceived to be more likely to see photos of their cars in the publication. I'm sure that was never 'official' policy, but the perception was enough to strongly encourage the practice." Well, that explains it! Ha! Of course, it has never been our policy to discriminate that way, but maybe if it came down to two photos and one car was supporting us by flying our colors, I can’t say that it wouldn't influence me.

The curious metal-flake-background logo probably drove photographers nuts when they used their flashes, and I have to say that other than as a curiosity, the decal, which is circa 1969, isn't that great of a marketing tool from a visibility standpoint.

I dropped a line to former DRAGSTER Editor Bill Holland, who was at the helm of the good Ship ND from 1969 through 1974, meaning that this happened on his watch.

"We really had no control over the decals; they were pretty much a Sport Service deal as I recall," he said, referencing NHRA's early souvenir vendor, "most likely a collaboration between Wally, Barbara, and [Sport Service's] Chick Saffell. And while we may have 'cleaned up' the logo at one point, nothing was done to radically change things without Wally's input."

Holland also echoed Olson's assertion about the decal usage. "I actually don't recall any concentrated effort to distribute massive quantities of the blue/orange decal, but I guess there was kind of a thought among the racers that having one on your race car increased the odds of getting a photo of it in DRAGSTER," he opined.

Holland also sent a photo of the infamous (his word) Guedel & Holland/Art Linkletter's All-American Top Fueler, taken around 1969, sporting the metal-flake decal on the windshield. "Didn't help influence the editor, though (grin)," he noted. "Please excuse the questionable attire. I thought candy-stripe polyester bell-bottoms were cool at the time. And, yup, that's a genuine 'bleach bottle.' "

Holland also reported that when "Mousie" Marcellus restored his and "Wild Willie" Borsch's Winged Express fuel altered, the metal-flake decal was his choice.

Speaking of logos near and dear to my heart, here's the old Orange County Int’l Raceway logo from the early 1980s. I don’t think there's a person alive who went to the County who doesn’t have fond memories (same can obviously be said for places like Lions, U.S. 30, and other ghost tracks, but OCIR was my home base for so many years). I did, however, always think it very curious that the track's logo featured an Indy car rather than a dragster because, despite the developer's plans and dreams of a multipurpose racing facility, only the dragstrip ever came to true fruition.

Here's the logo for another track that always brings back fond memories, Sanair, which hosted the NHRA Grandnational from 1971 through 1992. It remains NHRA's only national event hosted outside the borders of the United States and certainly proved an interesting venue. Sanair was near the tiny town (population about 5,000) of St. Pie, about 40 minutes north of Montreal in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. Although there were plenty of English-speaking residents, all of the street signs were in French (arret = stop), and there was definitely the feeling of being in a foreign country. There were fruit stands alongside  the track concessions, and fans – both male and female – wore some the briefest swimsuits I had ever seen.

Some racers hated going to the event (which only had eight-car fields) – there were plenty of horror tales of overzealous border guards having teams strip their trailers down to the bare walls before they could enter the country – but I always liked it. The venue, which also included the .826-mile paved triangular oval racetrack shown in the logo (the track hosted the Indy Montreal from 1984 to 1986), was the site of several nasty incidents, including Billy Meyer's severe fire in 1977, Shirley Muldowney's near-career-ending crash in 1984, and Don Prudhomme's 1990 blowover. The other interesting thing I remember about the track is owner/operator Jacques Guertin's home, which was at the end of the shutdown area. It was a tall, round tower, much like an aircraft fuselage standing on its nose. I never got to go into it, but there were stories that he guarded the residence with some sort of big cat (lion, cougar, or other) that lived in the tower.

Here are a couple more NHRA national event logos like I showed you Tuesday, though it's clear that the format changed along the way. The top decal, from the 1969 Winternationals, is a welcome change from the previous year's logo (shown in the last column), which was pretty much the traditional red, white, and blue NHRA logo with the event name and venue top and bottom. Some real thought went into this version, with not only the icy blue colors but also the cute white snowflakes to the left and right of the NHRA logo.

By the 1980s, the logos had changed to this square format, as evidenced by this colorful one from the 1983 Golden Gate Nationals, which features – ta-da! – an image of the Golden Gate Bridge. The great old Fremont, Calif., track – by then renamed Baylands Raceway Park – was about 40 miles inland from San Francisco but still seemed to benefit from the sea air. The track was famously good for performance, and the final national event staged there – the 1983 Golden Gates – gave it a ripping good send-off. In fact, it was so good that it was voted among the 40 Greatest Races when we had our 50th Anniversary voting in 2001.

Everyone seems to remember that Gary Beck ran 5.39 at the 1983 Finals at OCIR, but he did it first in Fremont. Beck, the first driver to run in the 5.6s, 5.5s, and 5.4s, smashed the 5.3-second barrier when he drove Larry Minor's Top Fueler to a 5.391, 252.10 blast in the Top Fuel final alongside the late Gary Ormsby, who lost with a 5.54 in what then was the quickest side-by-side race in the sport's history. The victory also helped Beck clinch his second and final NHRA Top Fuel championship. The Funny Car final between Meyer and Raymond Beadle was the quickest side-by-side Funny Car race of all time, with Meyer prevailing, 5.75 to 5.78. Similarly, the Pro Stock final was the quickest ever, with Frank Iaconio running 7.69 to beat Lee Shepherd's 7.68 on a holeshot. Vern Moats dominated the Top Alcohol Funny Car show with a pair of 6.36 runs – the first passes in the 6.3s – and broke the NHRA national record of 6.44. It was quite a race.

Longtime racer George Schreiber, who for years was a good friend of the DRAGSTER staff, made famous this logo for his "Bushmaster" nickname. He was one of the many characters I was introduced to in my first years here, even though his fuel racing days were behind him. Schreiber, like many racers, had an early fascination with cars, but it took a move from Montana to California to set him on his path. He found work with legendary ''Big Daddy'' Ed Roth, and together in 1963, they built the Yellow Fang dragster shown a few columns ago. According to Roth's website, he overheard Schreiber "talking about how streamlined dragsters were making better times, so Ed showed George a clay model of his concept. Thus Yellow Fang was born." Meticulous metalsmith Tom Hanna spent six months building the radical body, according to the site, which credits Steve Swaja with the design.

Schreiber ran a series of Top Fuel dragsters throughout the years before switching to jet dragsters in 1981. In a bio on the website for his Strafford, Mo., Rockin' Race Place restaurant/bar/museum ("where the pizza is always hot and the drinks are cold!"), he says that he got his nickname during the nickname heyday when there were so many tracks and racers that publications needed a gimmick. ''They didn't want to write 'Bill will race John,' they wanted to write 'the Zookeeper' will try to contain 'the Mongoose' and 'the Bushmaster,' '' he said.

To Lucy and her fellow cartoon kiddies in the Charlie Brown universe, happiness was a warm puppy. To Johnny Carson, in his famous book, happiness was a dry martini. And to the Beatles, happiness was a warm gun. For the rest of us, happiness was a Hot Rod magazine, or maybe a Drag Racing USA magazine, or maybe a Popular Hot Rodding or a Car Craft; you've gotta dig this groovy 1970s-era sticker from the fine folks at Petersen Publishing, complete with the requisite happy face. There's no understating the important role that Hot Rod played in the hot rodding movement, with Wally Parks at the helm showing how the sport could organize itself and improve its image, how to set up car clubs and drag races, and, of course, find top dead center.

You could also choose to swing with Super Stock magazine with this sticker, which I have to presume is from the 1960s based on the choice of the word "swing." Now would be an appropriate place to bid farewell to John "Monk" Reynolds, the founder of Super Stock magazine, who passed away Jan. 10 after a long battle with cancer at age 73. Reynolds not only helped create (with Jim Davis) Super Stock but also Stock Car Racing magazine and was co-owner of famed York U.S. 30 Dragstrip in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Reynolds and Davis took advantage of the bustling doorslammer scene of the mid-1960s to turn their regional, seasonal newspaper into a full-on monthly magazine. Both Super Stock and DRUSA became part of the New York-based Lopez Publications empire, which made them a bit unique because the era's major monthly hitters – Hot Rod, Car Craft, and PHR – were based on the West Coast. Super Stock took full advantage of its Eastern base to cover the burgeoning Super Stock scene at places like Capitol Raceway and Aquasco and even staged for many years the popular Super Stock Nationals, a major East Coast match race (later incorporated into the Division 1 schedule). Our dear departed pal Stevie Collison took over the magazine and made it bigger and better in three tenures as its editor before we lost him at the end of 2000. And let's not forget, too, that Leslie Lovett worked for Super Stock in the late 1960s right before he came to NHRA, so I bet ol' LL still had a soft spot for the magazine. 

Though earlier this week I lauded Hooker Headers' heart logo as one of drag racing's most iconic, I've always thought that this decal, for camshaft manufacturer Racer Brown, was pretty special, too -- simplistic in design but very memorable nonetheless. The late W.G. "Racer" Brown actually was a magazine writer before taking his knowledge into the parts business. He was part of the Hot Rod editorial team in the early 1950s when Wally Parks was forming the NHRA and, according to NHRA historian Greg Sharp, ran a Porsche and a lakester at Bonneville and launched the camshaft business after he left Petersen. According to what I've gleaned from my research, although the company wasn't the largest in the business, his attention to detail, testing, and customer service were his hallmarks. "The Dragmaster guys ran his stuff with great success," Sharp pointed out. Brown also was the longtime companion of Shirley Bunce, who for years worked with us at NHRA as a travel coordinator and, most notably, in the contingency program. I understand the business still exists and is run by a former employee who purchased it.

And finally, there's this interesting logo for the Deutsche Hot Rod Association. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of foreign languages knows that means it's from Germany, but when I went online to research it, I couldn’t find a single reference to the association. Being the resourceful guy that I am, I turned to the aforementioned Olson, who for years led NHRA's international efforts and has visited the far corners of the world to help promote our sport (hmm … "corners of the world" is an interesting cliché unless you really do think the world is flat, no?). Anyway, here's Olson's reply. "DHRA was a hot rod and drag racing club in Germany. If my recollections are correct, it was established by a group of U.S. servicemen stationed there, some of whom are expatriates still living and working in Germany following their discharges from the military. A name that immediately comes to mind is Jerry Lackey, with whom I worked during my tenures at both SEMA and NHRA, as well as more recently with the FIA." Olson suggested that I contact Rico Anthes, who he said has been the primary promoter and organizer of German drag racing for the past couple of decades.

NHRA fans might remember Anthes for the Top Fuel dragster that he ran in the 1990s and before that a Mercedes-Benz-bodied Top Alcohol Funny Car that both occasionally were driven by Texas hot shoe Dal Denton, who also helped tune the fueler. I haven't heard back from him yet.

OK, that's it for my decals. In a week or so, I'll share some of your decals, and I’ll be back next week with other stuff that I've been hanging on to as well as that promised look at what became of the Bold Attempt. Have a good weekend.

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