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The Fred Files, part 2

17 Jul 2009
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

Several of you just about wet yourself when you read about the Fred Files, former NHRA Division 1 photographer Fred von Sholly's collection of late-1960s and early-1970s images that he sent to me recently, covering his travels to legendary East Coast facilities such as Cecil County Drag-o-Way, Aquasco, York, Capitol Raceway, and Raceway Park. I gave you a little sample of five photos to whet your appetite, and I guess I did a good job. Y'all are starving for this kind of stuff.

I forwarded Fred a bunch of messages from readers eager to chat about the good old days or looking for photos of their cars and reconnected him with a couple of old pals. Makes a fella feel kinda good, y'know?

Anyway, so below is the first full course of your memory-invoking meal, 10 more great images. Enjoy.

Short of stature but big in ideas, Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins tested the wheels off his Chevy Pro Stockers at Eastern tracks in the early 1970s. You don't get to be No. 1 by standing still. This is his '70 ½ Camaro – the first of the so-called second-generation Camaros – and dubbed Grumpy's Toy VIII. It was unveiled in July 1970 and fitted with a 430-cid Rat motor -- no small feat considering that the production car was a small-block-only piece. This car never ran well at national event weight (though it was a killer mountain-motor car) and was the immediate predecessor to Jenkins' groundbreaking Grumpy's Toy IX small-block Vega. Bruce Larson bought this car and ran it in Pro Stock for a season and a half as his entree into the class.

Tom Sneden in his and Dave Reitz's Bob Banning Dodge-sponsored Challenger. There were three images of this car, but I love this one, not only for the old ramp truck in the background, a Dodge similar to but less fancy than Don Prudhomme's recently restored Hot Wheels unit, but for the crewpeople in the shot: the guy jumping onto the bumper to stay out of the way of Bruce Larson in the far lane, the guy on top of the truck holding a rag to his face to ward off the nitro fumes, and the woman in the backseat of the truck covering her ears. Priceless!

This is a great look at an early-1970s Funny Car. That's Gene Altizer in his Logghe-chassised Big Ed's Speed Shop-sponsored Pak Rat Nova at Cecil County in 1971; this ex-"Jungle Jim" entry was one of the bad-ass injected cars of the era. Check out the square roll cage that was typical of these cars -- a far cry from today's formfitting cages – and the not-quite-zoomie headers.

This is the one that started it all, the original Blue Max Mustang of Harry Schmidt. The car name, of course, came to greater fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s when owned by Raymond Beadle, who drove it to three straight world championships (1979-81). This particular Max, wheeled by Texas hot shoe Richard Tharp, was a prolific match racer; one year, it was reported to have run 96 dates.

Before his notorious line of Rolling Stoned cars, Joe Jacono campaigned Top Fuelers and a pair of Brief Encounter floppers with tuner Biddy Winward. This ex-John Mazmanian Barracuda was the follow-up to his short-lived effort in an ex-Bob Tasca SOHC Mustang, which was lost to fire, but not on the racetrack. Shortly after Jacono earned his Funny Car ticket (Don Prudhomme and Connie Kalitta signed off on his license forms in Atco, N.J.), it's reported that, for unknown but imaginable reasons, a friend's girlfriend doused it with gasoline as it sat on the truck and set it ablaze. They bought this superfast car, formerly driven to a number of 220-mph speeds by Mazmanian shoe Rich Siroonian, right after the 1971 Winternationals.

Great shot in the eyes in E-town of Leonard Hughes and the Candies & Hughes 'Cuda leading what looks like the Phil Castronovo-driven Custom Body Enterprises mini Charger to the lights. For years, the Englishtown track was a great place to shoot midtrack and top-end photos such as this because the guardrail was not up against the racing surface but separated from the track by 20 or 30 feet of grass. Woe be it to any flopper driver who got bold enough to put a wheel out, though, as the grass could be as treacherous as any guardwall.

Wait … Don Garlits in a Funny Car? Well, no, not quite, though "Big Daddy" did lend his name to car owner Bud Richter and driver Gary Bolger for booking power (and a percentage of said bookings) in 1971. This deal, brokered with the Chicagoland Dodge Dealers network by super agent Ira Litchey, didn’t last long.

Just because you lived in Southern California certainly didn’t mean you confined your racing activities to the West. Evidence the Maryland appearance of the Downey, Calif.-based Beaver Bros. L.A. Hooker Maverick and driver Dave Condit at Aquasco in 1971. I'd hazard a guess that this was one of the first cars built by Steve Plueger.

"Jungle Jim" Liberman was a one-man wrecking crew when he needed to be. No fancy-uniform-attired crewmembers around back in those days to move the car into position for a photo shoot at Cecil County.

Here's a special one for Insider reader Valerie Harrell: her dad, Dickie Harrell, times two. The Chevy racing legend, near lane, paired off against his hired gun and crew chief, Larry Christopherson, in this 1971 shot; "Mr. Chevrolet" is at the wheel of his Camaro and Christopherson a Vega. Harrell died in September 1971 in a racing accident in Toronto after his right front tire blew, sending him off the course. Christopherson, who made a name for himself with the Arizona Wildcat Funny Car, was the final driver hired by Harrell; previous shoes included Charlie Therwanger and Clyde Morgan.


Okay, there's another heapin' serving of the Fred Files for your weekend enjoyment. I'll be back next Tuesday with more fun and games. .