Features

More injected Funny Cars!Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Posted by: Phil Burgess

Sorry for the delayed absence, but duty called in the form of a trip to Dallas, and who would ever pass up a chance to watch a race at Texas Motorplex, where anything can happen and usually does? Yesterday was a travel day, replete with the now almost inescapable delays, and this morning was dedicated to whacking a chunk off of my National DRAGSTER duties. Hence today's late posting.

First, I want to thank you all for the kind words about the Jeb Allen article last Tuesday. It was challenging for reasons that many of you understand and for the delicate nature of the subject. Addiction is not a topic easily discussed, and it's usually not something that finds its way into this column, but it was an important story to tell, and, based on your responses – some from those similarly afflicted past and present – it was inspiring. I forwarded most of the messages to Jeb as well as some of the photos that were attached to help him resurrect his collection.

Second, and the subject of today's column, is the response to my recent posting about Midwest injected Funny Cars and the photos sent by Jim Farnsworth. I had no idea it was such a popular and nostalgic topic for so many. I received dozens of responses and even more photos, some of which I'll share today. Worth noting to the many who asked about the absence of certain other injected cars is that the column was just about that Midwest gang and was not intended to be the end-all story about injected fuel floppers. Anyway, on with the show.

"You continue to stir up some great memories, most recently with your piece on injected Funny Cars from the early '70s," wrote Bill Stapleton. "I spent countless hours in the back of a Ford wagon traversing the East Coast on weekends traveling from Jersey to Florida to the south, Canada to the north, and everywhere in between. Besides the old standards running with Tom 'Smoker' Smith’s ECFFC (Smoker, Gene Altizer, Ken Wigglesworth, e.g.), there were the 'new guys' just cutting their teeth, most notably Al Segrini, Al Hanna, and Joe Amato. Jake Crimmins built and drove a car in ’71 with my brother-in-law, John Skistimas, and that Maverick showed up in your last ramp-truck photo run."

Al Booton had already seen many of Farnsworth's photos. "I sat next to Jim last December at Vern Moats' Christmas party, and Jim had two albums with him full of drag photos," reported Booton. "We had a blast looking at them, as they went way back to the Des Moines Dragway, and I am helping a friend work on a history of that track. Jim told me the story about going into Chicago to pick up the Gaglione & Paulo car and ramp truck. He said it was really scary."

A lot of you asked about the West Coast injected Funny Car scene, including our old pal and Lions denizen Robert Nielsen. "I have a bunch of injected Funny Car photos from the early 1970s at Lions," he wrote. "The frustrating part of this is once again, I am unable to locate these since like many of my OLD drag racing stuff, it has been packed away in boxes that I did not label very well. I did find one photo of Chris Christensen’s injected Chevrolet Vega leaving the starting line at Loins. This was probably one of the very early West Coast injected Funny Cars. Note the exhaust headers are not the individual four-tube ‘zoomies’ but instead a four-into-one collector type. Since I shot this photo from the 'photographer’s area' just past the starting line on the right side of the track, it was probably on a Sunday when Chris and several other injected Funny Cars were out making ‘shakedown’ passes."

Another great West Coast injected car belonged to Ken Veney, whose all-conquering Veney's Vega has been resurrected by Vic Miller. Paul Grant sent a couple of shots taken at the recent Pacific Raceways Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event. "The car looks great and runs strong," he said. "He was running with the Nostalgia Nitro exhibition class and obviously nowhere as quick, but great value to watch with big burnouts and cool wheels-up launches. I saw on Facebook he was trying to get a group together to race in the Northwest with injected nostalgia machines."

I also heard from Miller himself, asking what I know about Veney's incredible 1972 season on the injected Funny Car circuit in SoCal. "I know Veney won like 15 of the 17 races that year. What I am building on is that I believe Ken had the most winningest drag car that season." I asked our old pal Todd Veney, Ken's son, who replied, "As the story goes (in the Veney household), he won every single one; you know how racers' memories are, though. I personally don't ever remember him losing, but I was only 6 years old."

Insider regular Cliff Morgan continued the theme. "Wow, such neat old photos. I always remember [Lorry Azevedo's] Drummer injected car and that Gene Adams had an injected Satellite (I think) that he ran with another driver, and those two faced off in Pro Comp one year at Ontario. Also Fontanini & Nannini, who I never saw in person but always remembered the name. Anyhoo, good reading, and I hope we get another bunch of injected photos. You could do a whole bunch of stuff just on Adams & Enriquez, my all-time favorite injected nitro guys."

And speaking of the Fontanini & Nannini car, I heard from James Kirby, who owns the Fontanini Stinger Charger and is slowly restoring it. If you go to his webshots page, you'll see about 40 or more photos just on Fontanini & Nannini that he has collected.

Even more A/FC pics can be found here courtesy of Jeff Titsworth, Dick's son, including a few photos from the IFCA banquet at the Playboy Club in Chicago.

The injected Funny Car column was a big hit with Kevin Johnson, who actually pilots a restored A/FC , the Glory Daze Camaro, in competition on the East Coast. "My dad, John, a racer and part-time Maple Grove employee back in the early '70s, and I restored and are racing a Camaro-bodied Logghe stage 1 chassis (originally John Dekker's) as an injected alcohol flopper car at East Coast nostalgia events," he reported. "It's only tagged for 8.50, which isn't anything spectacular for a flopper until you see its launches and steering job to get it down the track. It's a crowd (and photographer) pleaser, and we're having a blast running it. It's very reasonable to build and run, so we're solely out to have fun. Here's our website with pics and more info on the car: www.theglorydaze.com."

Johnson also sent me a link to some of his dad's old photos from Maple Grove, which I will share later this week in tribute to the upcoming Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals.

And finally, it's time to go to injected Funny Car school with Bret Kepner, the Midwest's foremost drag racing historian, who had comments about some of the machines featured in my original column. Take it away, Bret ...


 

The photos (even the shot of Farnsworth's Firebird), are all from Ray-Mar's, taken, as you might expect, at "Broadway Bob" Metzler's Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wis. The majority of the shots were, indeed, from an IFCA event late in 1973, although most of the teams shown also competed in the United Drag Racers Association during the same period. I have a feeling the "expensive" burnout photo of Farnsworth's Vega was taken at Cornhusker Dragway in Omaha, Neb. However, the first three pictures were most likely taken at one of "Broadway's" other extravaganzas.
 
To my knowledge, Ohioan Bob Durban never did race with the IFCA but attended a few UDRA programs. He was most likely booked independently at the event since the car was well-known for its then-recent NHRA national event final-round appearance.
 
Likewise, Dick Titsworth wasn't an IFCA regular, but chances are good the photo used wasn't taken at an A/FC circuit event. In typical "Broadway Bob" fashion, the Toledo Challenger is paired with Dale Emery in Bob Riggle's Hemi Under Glass Camaro AA/FC! By the way, Titsworth was later instrumental in setting up what would be the UDRA's largest Funny Car market competitor, the NHRA Division 3 BB/FC Circuit. 

Finally, Bob Ehgotz was more of a regional racer than a circuit member. The Duane Muelling-wrenched Michigan Firebird shown replaced the team's other Pontiac-bodied FCs, and, like all others, it was powered by a real-live Poncho powerplant. Muelling went on to even greater success when teamed with Al DaPozzo.
 
Now to the real IFCA guys. Joe Arrigo enjoyed a stellar year in UDRA competition in '72 and moved his Michigan Camaro to IFCA in '73. Interestingly, Joe didn't make the switch to BB/FC like so many others when the A/FCs died a slow, uncompetitive death through '74-'75. 
 
Nick Gaglione won a UDRA national championship at the helm of a Nova A/FC, and, if it were even possible, his Vega was even more beautiful. Though Gaglione's competition license number was 382, that looks to be St. Louisan Mike Gordon doing the driving at this event. All of the Chicagoan's machines were immaculate and of ISCA show-winning quality as evidenced by the lead photo used of Farnsworth tending to the Vega's stunning chassis. Nick's son went on to win several NMCA/NSCA Pro Street events in the 1990s. 

Art Cambridge, shown alongside Gaglione/Gordon, raced his Iowa big-block Chevy-powered Opel GT infrequently but always on 100 percent nitro. It was beyond a handful, and this is a fairly rare shot of it in action going straight! It's important to note that the car was built on a stock 95-inch wheelbase and was, most likely, the shortest A/FC ever built. It wasn't the only Opel GT Funny Car ever constructed, but nearly every other attempt was stretched at least a few inches.
 
No black-and-white image can ever do justice to any of Tom Kenny's Red Baron FCs. Each of his cars (Nova, Camaro, and Monza) was done in magnificent red metalflake paint. Tom lived close to all the major Chicagoland tracks and was a regular at Union Grove, Byron, Oswego, Gary, and Martin. 

Another absolute stunner was the candy-apple red DeCausmaker & Tiffin Mach I, which debuted early in '73. Vic Tiffin had campaigned a variety of Vega-bodied A/FCs before unveiling this car, which was, for all intents, a state-of-the-art AA/FC without a supercharger. The car was brutally quick, and its most interesting claim to fame came when the team qualified at the '73 AHRA Gateway Nationals ... in the AA/FC field! (They went two rounds!)
 
The shot of John Kelly in the Blue Meanie Vega is rare because this was the only season he was with the car. Based in upstate Illinois with crew chief Alan Poko, it later became the first of many Tremor FCs run by Poko with driver Bud Williams. The duo went on to many years of success in UDRA, AHRA, and NHRA Division 3 competition. 

At the recent U.S. Nationals, comments were made over the PA system to the effect that Chicagoan Fred Hagen had come out of nowhere. In fact, it was Fred's son who was at the wheel a few weeks ago, but Fred Sr. has been racing Funny Cars for 41 years! This Challenger was one of the only non-Fords that he ever ran in FC trim, which means it was also one of the few to not carry the name Dark Horse. Hagen mentored a yound Fred Mandoline during this period, who was racing a Camaro A/FC campaigned jointly with DaPozzo. By the way, that's NHRA national event winner Ben Griffin in his Texas-based Mach I A/FC in the other lane. Although not an IFCA or UDRA circuit contender, Griffin enjoyed huge popularity with the Union Grove fans, and Metzler booked him extensively at A/FC ... and even AA/FC ... shows at the Grove. 

 

St. Louisan Jim Guthrie shocked a lot of folks when he debuted this beautiful red Mach I A/FC after years as the designated driver for Dick Harrell's injected nitro FCs. The real inside joke was the big-block Chevy engine under the Ford body. Guthrie later switched the car to BB/FC status before retiring.
 
It's true that Vic Tiffin originally drove the Vega that would later become the Yoakum & Stovall Mini Spoiler, but that's John "Lil Abner" Yoakum at the wheel. (This was '73, and Tiffin was in the aforementioned Mach I.) Previously, this car was raced by Tiffin under two paint schemes, but it retains its identifiability by the location of the driver. Carrying a stock 97-inch-wheelbase body, it was originally an altered outfitted with a FC body, and the Vega was a perfect fit for the already-short car. The driver ahead of the rear-end housing is the telltale sign. 

Jack Ditmars may have owned it, but it's a solid bet that his longtime friend and partner Herb Moeller was at the wheel of the rear-engine Boss Brute Vega A/FC on this run. I'm not sure how many laps were made by Ditmars in this car, but they were few. Illini Moeller campaigned the car almost exclusively; he also occasionally drove just about every other machine that Ditmars owned all the way back to the Little Screamer B/Altered '34 Ford.
 
If memory serves, The Stinger paint scheme was one of the last carried by "Fast Albert" Fontanini prior to adding a supercharger and competing with this Charger in AA/FC trim before his tragic highway death. That would put this photo around the late summer of 1970.
 
The Gray Ghost was the last A/FC campaigned by Chicagoan Larry Swiatek, who had previously raced a rare '68 GTO body under the same name. Both had Chevy engines, but Swiatek was a Poncho fan favorite. The very fact that Arnie Beswick's identical Trans Am-bodied AA/FC is in the background makes the photo a rarity.


OK, school's out for now on injected Funny Car. I have a bunch of other photos from our old ramp-truck pal Bob Snyder that I'll share in the future. For now, it's back to work on ND for me, and I'll see you later this week. Thanks again for all of the input and info.

Posted by: Phil Burgess

From the outside, Jeb Allen looked like he had it all. He was driving a Top Fueler and on the front cover of the sport's most popular magazine, Drag Racing USA, when he was 17. He became a national event Top Fuel winner at 18 and a world champ in all three major sanctioning bodies long before he turned 30. He had a wife and two young sons and sponsorship for his race car.

As a fan in the grandstands, I had cheered Jeb on when he won the 1981 championship in dramatic fashion at Orange County Int’l Raceway, and although I was hired by NHRA the following May, I didn’t get to work an event for National DRAGSTER until his swan song at the 1982 Finals. After that, he largely dropped off the radar screen. Rumors of alcohol and drug abuse circulated, and I know that his many friends here at NHRA mourned his absence and fretted over the turn of events in his life. Because his exit and my entrance roughly coincided, our career paths never crossed.

Until last week.

Out of the blue, Jeb — a regular reader of this column as it turns out — wrote to ask about getting some photos from his racing career because his scrapbooks had been lost in a fire. I asked about an interview. We traded e-mails and missed calls, and eventually he called me, from Taipei, Taiwan, where he was visiting his wife's family and preparing to head for China on a sightseeing trip.

I had heard that Jeb had reinvented himself and had become a successful home builder in Northern California, and I was eager to hear his tale of redemption from the disease that is addiction and his rebirth. It's a subject near and dear to my heart because, you see, I have a very close family member who is, as it's politely put these days, "in the disease."

I know well that the 12-step recovery program requires, among many other things, a personal inventory, amends, and "rigorous honesty," so I guess I was not at all surprised that Jeb was not embarrassed to share the story of his fall from greatness, and when he found out about my personal connection to his story, he was even more open, kind, and even supportive.

While I'm working on a Jeb Allen career story for my Pure Nostalgia column in this week's National DRAGSTER, I wanted to share this update here because I know a great many of you knew Jeb or of him and because his story is one of the fragile nature of the human spirit and also the strength of the human spirit, and it's a story that could have far-ranging inspiration no matter your station in life.

I don’t mean to get all preachy, but I've sat in on a lot of rehab meetings and counseling sessions lately to know that sobriety is a hard, scary, and challenging thing for an addict, something I think that is hard for those of us fortunate to not to be so afflicted to understand, so I have a huge appreciation for someone who's committed to their sobriety for any length of time, let alone the 22 years that Jeb has been clean and sober.

Even with two decades-plus behind him, he describes himself honestly as "a recovering alcoholic" because, as I have learned, that's the way people who are being successful in their recovery view themselves — as a constant work in progress — but I’d have to say that his recovery is a model, and all you Jeb Allen fans out there should rejoice that your hero is well and back on his feet.

Allen won the NHRA Top Fuel crown in 1981 in this car. Among that year's achievements was a 5.62-second blast at the Gatornationals, a run that finally toppled Don Garlits' amazing 5.63, set in 1975, from the top of the Top Fuel sheets. "That was one of my biggest moments," Jeb says proudly.

While my DRAGSTER column will go into greater detail, after much initial success in the early years of his career, his terrible two-car accident in Tulsa, Okla., in 1973 with John Wiebe was a real setback, emotionally and mentally. He recovered, of course, and went on to win the AHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, the IHRA title (and very nearly the NHRA title) in 1980, and, finally, his dramatic NHRA championship in 1981.

What few people, including myself, realized was that despite corporate names such as English Leather and Revell on the flanks of his car, he was running on a shoestring budget.

"All I had was the money they were going to give me," he told me. "Most of the rest of the people I was racing against — with the exception of Shirley Muldowney and Don Garlits — had other means of supporting their race cars. I was hard pressed to have a complete spare motor or short block. It was a struggle the whole time. Every year on my birthday [June 8], my dad would buy me a supercharger; maybe that's why I always do well in Englishtown."

His 1982 title defense was a tough one, mentally and financially, and ultimately cost him his family as well.

"I was getting tired," he admitted. "There were some issues I had festering, and I couldn’t get the sponsorships I needed. English Leather said they could sponsor me again, but they couldn't give me quite as much money. During the latter parts of my racing, I was drinking quite a bit. I never drove under the influence, but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t wait to have a beer and I just drank too much and used drugs. I decided I needed a vacation, and all I did was 'vacation.' It took me until 1988 to get sober.

"I took getting sober just as important as any drag race. For a year, I went to three meetings a day, and all I did was concentrate on doing what I was told and not drinking."

It was the following year that Jeb met his new wife, Sue Tsai, and it turned his world around. He had been doing some construction work in Santa Rosa, Calif., and learned how to build houses. In 1990, he founded Palomar Builders — named after the piping company that his late father, Guy, used to run — and moved north to Redding, Calif., just shy of the Oregon border.

Highland Park is Allen's newest development. "We've already built 58 lots, and we're under construction on 41 more at this time," he said. " I think drag racing showed me how to get things done no matter what. Just turn on the win light."

"Sue and I moved to Redding, and there was a lot of opportunity in a small community," he said, "and we've worked our way into being the biggest home builder and largest residential land owner in the city. We own almost 1,000 resident lots. We had some great success in 2005 and 2006; we were selling 150 houses a year."

And now, he's giving back.

"We're pretty well set and have our lives in order, so right now we're really building houses to help support all of the local subcontractors who helped get us there," he said. "We can’t make a whole lot of money doing that, but we’re helping all of these other businesses, and that feels good.

"Once you get your priorities straightened out, good things seem to happen. Everything I ever looked for and wanted out of booze and drugs, I get that feeling every day by being sober. It doesn’t cost me anything, and I wake up feeling good.

"Getting sober is my biggest accomplishment in life."

For a guy with three world championships, national records, and race wins under his belt, that's saying something. Jeb was an inspiration to fellow teenagers like me back in the 1970s, and, apparently, it's a role that he's still playing for me today.

Well done, Jeb. Welcome back.
 

Midwest injected Funny Cars of the 1970sFriday, September 17, 2010
Posted by: Phil Burgess

Injected fuel cars are a big part of the sport's history from Jr. Fuel on up, and although the combination lives on today in the Top Alcohol Dragster class in the A/Fuel designation, injected fuel funnies are no more, though they were certainly popular in the early 1970s.

Before Pro Comp and the popularity of methanol-burning Funny Cars, a lot of the pioneers in that class tried A/Funny Car, including folks such as Dale Armstrong and Ken Veney. I received correspondence this week from another of those early A/FC racers, Jim Farnsworth, who sent me a ton of photos of the cars that he raced and raced with in the early 1970s.

It's cool to see these Funny Cars, some with small "hood scoops" and some with none at all, and to see some of the names associated with the class back then.

Farnsworth, who raced most recently with a blown alcohol Funny Car from 1992 through 2001, got his start in a '31 C/A Ford coupe called The Hustler, racing at Des Moines Dragway, Humboldt Dragway, Cordova Dragstrip, and other Midwest haunts, match racing often against the likes of Jack Ditmars and his Lil Screamer.

After spending two years serving in Vietnam, Farnsworth returned and bought the Blue Bandit A/FC Pontiac Firebird from Dick Stokes and went racing in the International Funny Car Association, locking horns with teams such as those owned by Ditmars, Jeg Coughlin Sr., Dick Titsworth, Hagen & O'Hara, Guthrie & Burton, Gaglione & Paulo, and more, many of whom are represented below.

Farnsworth later bought the Gaglione & Paulo Vega and a ramp truck (you didn't really think we'd get away from ramp trucks, did ya?) and raced until 1975, when he got out of racing to concentrate on business. When he returned in 1992, it was with an ex-Vern Moats Daytona, and Farnsworth, 66 years young this month, still helps ol' Vern once in a while. He's also looking for his old Pontiac, which he'd love to find, restore, and run in nostalgia racing, so keep your eyes peeled.
 

Jim Farnsworth's Hustler Firebird
Farnsworth's Vega
Look, a ramp truck! Someone should do a whole column on ramp trucks.
Bob Durban at the wheel of the JEGS 'Cuda
Dick Titsworth's Seaport Automotive entry
Bob Ehgotz and the Muelling & Ehgotz Trans Am
Joe Arrigo's Camaro
The Gaglione & Paulo Vega, driven by Nick Gaglione
Art Cambridge's Opel
Tom Kenny's Red Baron Camaro
Vic Tiffin wheeling the DeCausmaker and Tiffin Mustang
John Kelly's Blue Meanie Vega
Fred Hagen and the Hagen & O'Hara Challenger
Jim Guthrie driving the Guthrie & Burton Mustang
Tiffin in the Yoakum & Stovall Mini Spoiler
And perhaps the wildest A/FC of all time, Jack Ditmars' rear-engine Boss Brute Vega
Al Fontanini's Charger
The Gray Ghost Firebird


Cool ... that was fun! Shows that you don't need to have a blower to have Funny Car fun. OK, I'll see you next week. I'll only have a column Tuesday (but I think it's going to be a special one) before I travel to Dallas Thursday for the big show there. Thanks for visiting.

The big ramp-truck send-off columnTuesday, September 14, 2010
Posted by: Phil Burgess


 1 of 11 
 
Jim Eshelman sent the following three images, which he took at his first AHRA national event at Beeline Dragway in early 1967. "I was 17 years old; man, how time flies," he wrote. This is Al Vanderwoude's famed Flying Dutchman.
 
Just as the ramp trucks themselves passed into history, to be replaced by enclosed trailers, then fifth-wheel trailers, and ultimately 18-wheelers, so too must end (for now) the history of ramp trucks here. Oh sure, I could (and probably will) continue to receive images until trailers no longer have tires but float along on cushions of air on highways in the sky, but I thought I’d give this popular thread a massive send-off today.

It has been tremendous fun, and I've received tons and tons of thank-yous from the Insider Nation for looking back at this great period in our sport's history. As always, the plaudits really go to my readers, who supplied an unending stream of photos and stories from their personal archives, allowing many of us to see things we'd never dreamed of in images perhaps never before published.

In the gallery at right and in the many scroll-downs below, you'll find way too many photos, and your Web page probably won’t finish loading until 2013, but, hey, that's the price we pay for the history of the sport we love, right?

My quick count shows about 57 truck photos … damn, would have liked to have had 64. Wait … 64 ramp trucks! This Tuesday night at DRAGSTER Insider Raceway. Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday!

OK, on with the show. Let's get to truckin'.

Wow, here's a great shot. Clinton Snead sent this photo of the ex-Richard Petty 43 JR. Barracuda, which by then had been purchased by Eddie Ratliff. "Maybe it's not a famous crew, but it is a famous car," wrote Snead. "The reason I have these pictures is because my dad, Larry Snead, actually drove this car for Eddie Ratliff a few times, and he is on the far left in this picture. One quick and interesting story about this truck: When Eddie acquired the car, he, of course, had to paint the truck to match. From what I have been told, they actually made a pattern from the '43 JR.' on the side of the race car and used that as a stencil to paint it on the door of the truck. No vinyl wraps in those days!  And yes, I know this is more of a flatbed truck, but I still thought it would go with the theme."

Longtime Texas fuel racer Bobby Rex, who has just completed a new version of the Mexican Revolution Vega on which he wrenched for Johnny Valdez, sent this photo and tale of woe from their touring days. "Johnny and I were booked in at a Funny Car show in Odessa, Texas," he wrote. "I think about 1973. We were in the staging lanes, about the third back. It was cold and cloudy. The pair that had run before us came to the staging lanes and told us that it was snowing in the traps. We all laughed and didn't pay any attention. Within five minutes, we were all trying to load our cars on the trucks in a light snow. Before we could get out of the gates, it was snowing. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in about 30 minutes. This picture was taken at the motel. We all drove home in the snow." If you look close enough, you can see the snow whipping past the car at a 45-degree angle. Cool! I mean, cold!

Wow, talk about good timing. Bobby Starks sent this photo, which shows "Big Mike" Burkhart's fuel-burning Chevy II. You probably can’t read it on the rear quarter, but the name there is Harry Schmidt ... yes, THAT Harry Schmidt. Before he created the Blue Max, Schmidt teamed with Burkhart in 1966-67 on this car. I know this only because I have penned a Blue Max history story for this week's Pure Nostalgia column in National DRAGSTER. A week ago, I might not have known that.

Last fall when Dale Adams was hunting for a ramp truck, he found a couple of interesting ones, including this gold Dodge that was for sale in Portland, Ore., but was originally from the Midwest. It had been restored yet still retained interesting decals on the windows, including class-winner stickers from Lions Drag Strip, York U.S. 30, Capitol Raceway, and Eldora Raceway and other period stickers.

Brad Barrie sent the above photo of the truck that he now owns when it was the property of the guy who also owned the '55 on its back and wanted to know if anyone knew of its roots. James Riola, who works for Kalitta Motorsports on Dave Grubnic's Top Fueler, is originally from California and believes that the truck and car belonged to a friend of his from the Canoga Park area. "His name is Guy Binko, and this car and truck were one of the staples of the bracket racing scene in Bakersfield from the '80s to the '90s," he wrote. I forwarded James' e-mail to Brad so they could figure it out.

Bob Snyder sent another boatload of his ramp-truck photos, which you can see below, but the above photo caught my eye as I was pretty sure that the Armstrong-Hoover-Larsen 'Cuda was one of Dale Armstrong's earliest cars. I dropped "Double A Dale" an e-mail asking for confirmation and identification of his partners. Although the first name of Mr. Larsen escaped Armstrong's memory ("He was a short-term partner for about a year or less."), Woody Hoover, who died four or five years ago, was a longtime Armstrong friend and partner who owned a drywall business.

"We built this car to run on the Southern California injected alcohol circuit," he reported. "It had a 511-cubic-inch big-block Chevy. About a month before the last race at Lions and just before they created Pro Comp, we put a blower on it and lowered the compression, and it ran under the NHRA classification of BB F/C. At the last Lions race, we ran in Comp eliminator, qualifying No. 2 by running .15-seconds under the existing NHRA BB F/C record."

I mentioned in a previous column that we thought we had a lead to find Armstrong's ramp truck, but the trail went cold. "Apparently, the fellow who had it sold it about five years ago and has no record of the sale. If you hear anything about a 1969 Chevy ramp truck with a Cadillac engine in it, please let me know. If we could find a photo that shows a license plate number, it would expedite the process."

OK, Insiders, you have your homework assignment! Now on to to the newest Snyder gallery: (Shameless plug: You can buy these and other photos from Snyder's collection on www.vintagedragclub.com).

Alan Phillips' Baltimore Bandit
"Flash Gordon" Mineo
Malcolm Durham's Strip Blazer
Tommy Grove's Mustang
The famous Hawaiian
"Big John" Mazmanian's 'Cuda
Jim Barillaro's unique Cammer Jammer SOHC Torino
Fritz Callier's famed CKC Chevy II
Shirl Greer's Tension Charger
Frank Huff's Super Vega
Jake Crimmins' Raceway Speed Center Maverick
Roger Lindamood's Color Me Gone Charger
"Pee Wee" Wallace's Virginian Barracuda
Butch Kernodle's All-American Camaro
Tony Wahlay's Warlord Camaro (note front fender damage)
"Jungle Jim": ramp truck as service bay


And from our good pal in the Midwest and longtime National DRAGSTER contributor Tom Schiltz, here's this mini gallery.

The Tignanelli Bros. B/A Charger
More Ramchargers
More Malcolm Durham
More Connie Kalitta
Rare shot of Jack Chrisman's Mustang
Tom McEwen's 'Cuda
Coleman/Taylor Super Ford Torino
Don Schumacher
Jess Tyree
"Fast Eddie" Schartman's Air Lift Rattler Cougar
Bill Jenkins
Don Grotheer
"Dyno Don" Nicholson
Dick Loehr's Ford Drag Team
Fred Goeske's Road Runner
Goeske's 'Cuda

The last pic of Goeske's ramp truck leads me to the final (again, for now) ramp-truck story, which was sent by Herman Marchetti, known better to some of you as Herman Hermanator.


 1 of 6 
 
 
 
"Reading about the ramp trucks has been a real treat for us old-time drag race fans," he wrote. "One truck that stands out for me is Fred Goeske's, thanks to a friend. The first two Instamatic photos of the Road Runner were taken by Dana Winters at Irwindale Raceway in the fall of 1969. Dana was always a fan of Fred and used to hang out in his pit area. Fred even offered to take 12-year-old Dana on tour with him one year. All it would cost was $300 for room and board, but his parents could not come up with the cash, and he missed out on a real adventure.

"Dana now has Fred's original 1966 rear-engine Hemi 'Cuda Funny Car sitting in his garage awaiting parts to get her back up and cackling soon. We went to Pomona for 'Mousie' Marcellus' 75th birthday party in 2005, and on our way out of California, Dana Winters, O.J. Stephens, and I stopped by Fred's business in Thousand Oaks. Fred still has his ramp truck.

"The interior was restored and the outside repainted; it looked almost new. I believe he said over 300,000 miles on the odometer. This truck hauled the Hemi 'Cuda II, Road Runner, the Speed Sport 'Cuda, two Vega Funny Cars, two Duster Funny Cars, his last rocket Funny Car, and probably a few more in between. It was a real treat to see it and take a few photos of it. "

OK, gang, that's all for today ... whew. That was a lot of ramp trucks.
 

Previous Entries
Next Entries
 
..
TwitterFacebook