NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

BUY TICKETS
BUY TICKETS   |   TV SCHEDULE
X

The Misc. Files: The G Force

16 Jun 2009
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

Welcome back to the Misc. Files, brought to you today by the letter G. Two full file folders awaited me yesterday, and as I began rifling through them, there were so many fun photos and cars that I had trouble limiting it to my self-imposed 10 photos. I literally would do 50 or 60 from each letter if it weren't for the time it takes to research each one and that other job I have as editor of National DRAGSTER.

Leafing through the photos is such a fun process that I feel a little guilty getting paid to do it. (Okay, well, not really, but you get the sentiment.) It's like reading a great book, when you can't wait to see what the next page holds, or digging for buried treasure. Sometimes I come across a photo or a car I remember or know about, but the real fun is in the ones I've never seen. I have a variety of sources at my disposal, including old magazines, books, the full National DRAGSTER library, and, of course, the Internet. I also have a dedicated cadre of Insider insiders, guys like Bret Kepner, Danny White, Bill Pratt, Dave Wallace, and former ND Editor Bill Holland to help fill in the blanks if I draw them.

Okay, race fans, buckle up and get ready for a dose of the G Force.

I came across this photo and for a second thought I was looking at Dale Armstrong's famed Canuck topless Funny Car. Although "Double-A Dale" and Jim Grant are fellow Canadians, it's definitely not the same car in which Armstrong first gained fame. Grant's topless B/A Valiant, Canadian II, was the follow-up to his more conventional Canadian Valiant doorslammer. This photo was taken at the divisional event July 7, 1968, at Mission Raceway, where Vancouver-based Grant set the national record at 9.48, 145.16.


George Reese's George's Corvette Shop cars were popular draws on the East Coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but none was wilder than this one, the Long & Lean II, a stretched '64 Corvette reportedly fitted atop a Top Fuel chassis running a small-block Chevy mill on a small load of nitro. Reese updated to a more conventional later-model 'Vette and then a Vega in 1972 before adopting the George of the Jungle moniker, driven by Tom Stephens, Mark Emery, and Tom Raley. This photo was snapped by R.F. Bissell at Aquasco Speedway about 40 years ago, on April 20, 1969, when it ran 8.75 at 177 mph.


Here's where Funny Cars came from. This is the Golden Chariot injected fuel '65 Plymouth Valiant A/FXer of Ohio's Hans Anderson ready to duke it out with "Fast Eddie" Schartman's Roy Steffey Enterprises Mercury Comet at National Trail Raceway in June 1966. According to the caption on the back of this shot from longtime Columbus, Ohio, lensman Chance Brockaway, the Chariot was a fill-in for Mr. Norm and, with a one-second handicap start, beat Schartman two of three, including 10.02 to 9.16 in this battle.


This is Joe Godwin's unique Lincoln Continental Mark IV flopper, shown in alky trim at the 1976 Gatornationals, though he later built another (a Mark VI) and converted it to cackle. The Indiana runner and partner Jim Capps had a flair for the eye-catching, right down to a true landau roof, door handles, and the classic Continental trunk. The car was mostly a UDRA match racer but a crowd-pleaser everywhere it went for its unique look. I really liked this car. I liked it so much that when this photo appeared in National DRAGSTER in 1976, I painstakingly created a custom card for this car in my Vallco Drag Racing board game. Now that's dedication!


Here's another car that I really dug back in the 1970s: Roger Garten's Donovan-powered War Horse. Man, those early '70s Mustangs looked tuff. Here he's airing out the car at Irwindale Raceway, circa 1972. When the Mustang II came out in 1975, Garten, like so many, switched from this boxy version to the sleek aero model … and things were never the same for me, nor for Garten. He and crew chief Glenn Way won the Division 7 championship that year, but he retired early the next year after deciding that they didn’t have the funding to move to the next level and wouldn't be content to run only occasionally. Garten's racing career began with pretty fast cars; he debuted in Chuck Finders' A/GS Willys, then drove the Tocco & Harper fuel altered before going right into Funny Car in the early 1970s.


All right, let's keep this Mustang roundup going. Here's the Gretchko Bros. Mustang, the popular Funny Car follow-up to their crowd-pleasing fuel altered of the late 1960s. The chassis of the flopper was actually a lengthened version of their fuel altered frame, which was topped with a green-hued 'Stang body beginning in 1972. Brother Mike drove while Tim and Tom twirled the iron.


Some might say that Larry Gould was a huge fan of the legendary Ford cammer engine, and some might just say he was stubborn, but the longtime Illinois-based Funny Car racer ran the SOHC engine in his Funny Cars for years, well past the time when everyone else was using late-model Hemis and kicking his blue oval up and down the track. This 1979 photo, from Southwest Funny Car match race hotbed Green Valley Race City, shows Gould pairing off with Bill Selley in Chris Eckert's High Plains Drifter Camaro (the ex-Narramore & Pryor machine; Eckert, of course, later gained fame as crew chief for Gene Snow's Top Fueler in the 1980s). Gould stayed true to the Ford bodywork, too, from a Mach I Mustang to a Mustang II and eventually an EXP. He stayed at it with the Ford until finally switching to a Hemi in the late 1970s. He continued to run sporadically – the last I could find of him at an NHRA race was Topeka 1997, when he was driving J.R. Wade's KB-powered American Dream Cutlass. After his Funny Car racing ended, Gould got a nostalgia Top Fueler, dropped back in an aluminum cammer, and, according to Kepner, in 2000, driver Fred Bach broke "Sneaky Pete" Robinson's 30-year-old 6.50 record for Ford engines with a best of 6.23 at 235 mph.


Roger Gates was a veteran dragster handler from the late 1960s and 1970s when he slipped behind the wheel of this exotic-looking machine at Irwindale Raceway. Although this car originally was conceived as a Top Fueler – and indeed that's Gates' TF 7755 permanent number lettered on the engine cowl -- mechanical issues kept the car from competing as a fuel dragster.

The lettering on the side of the car, owned by John Glaspey and Jim Moser and built in their Van Nuys, Calif., shop, reads QuickSilver, but astute drag fans will better remember it for becoming the Boraxo-sponsored Alcohol Dragster.

What's cool about the bodywork is that it could be lifted off and was hinged at the front so it could be tilted up, Funny Car style, to access the engine for start-up. I came across an under-construction shot as well, which is dated December 1972 in the frame of the photo, so this Barry Wiggins image is probably a 1973 shot (a year later, Herm Petersen and Sam Fitz were experimenting with a similar-looking Can Am-style Top Fueler of their own, which was only mildly successful).

On alcohol, the Boraxo car ran as quick as 7.19 at just under 200 mph.


Before his Rocketsports team was renowned for its road-racing champions, standout Trans Am and IMSA racer, 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, and Champ Car Series owner Paul Gentilozzi was a drag racer, first with this D/Gas Arrow in the late 1970s and later with an ex-Bob Glidden Plymouth Arrow in the early 1980s.


Irwindale Raceway was a hotbed for injected Funny Cars in the 1970s. You might recognize the car in the far lane of this 1971 'Dale shot as the Evolution Corvair of Gary Henderson (featured in the E column of the Misc. Files); in the near lane is the Dumbo Barracuda of Jon Giardina, complete with an elephant mascot (not sure what Disney would have done had they found out!). Giardina had campaigned an ex-Charlie Allen Dodge Dart Funny Car before moving into this more sleek ride.


And, finally, I also found another great old SoCal flopper, the Durachrome Bug of Warren Gunter. This VW-bodied Funny Car really intrigued me, as it did so many in its early 1970s heyday; I actually was able to track down Gunter to get the whole story, and I just don’t want to cram it into this spot. You can read about it here Friday. So don't "bug" me about it right now, OK?  :)

Follow-ups:

I was thrilled to hear from Jim Eberley, whose cars I featured in the E edition of the Misc. Files. I showed Jim's Datsun Alcohol Funny Car, with which most were probably familiar, but also had come across the car pictured above, which I successfully deduced as an Anglia (my dad used to own a similar car, though not nearly as sporty).

The Insider nation had hesitated some guesses (Fiat, Simca, Hillman), but it was indeed an Anglia. The inclusion of that car truly touched Eberley. "Just months after this picture was taken, my father died of a brain tumor," he wrote. "He was my whole world. I was blessed to have known him for 17 years. We built this Anglia together when I was 15 years old. It was a 1960 and had a 473-cid Chevy in it with Crower injection and ran in the 10-second range on the quarter-mile and in the mid-sixes on the eighth-mile track in Colorado Springs. This car was a blast to drive. It never made a straight run in its life. After my dad passed, I bought my first Funny Car and was licensed to drive it at 18; 20 years later, I was forced out because of today's high prices. I loved my dad and loved how he supported my love for the sport of drag racing."


Speaking of dads from the E files, I also heard from Mike Edstrom, whose Blind Faith Funny Car, campaigned by him and his sightless father, was featured in that article. "I can't tell you how cool it is for me to come across something like that without first knowing about it ... completely chokes me up," he wrote. "Obviously, what [current blind Funny Car owner] Jay Blake has done is quite impressive and touches me pretty close to home. I wonder if he's aware of my dad; maybe his story provided Jay a little inspiration. I wish him all the best and continued success. My dad lost his eyesight at age 31 and had an extremely positive and optimistic attitude about not only racing but living. His machinist's background and 25 years of fuel experience gave him a tremendous amount of knowledge about running nitro motors. He also was a pretty good driver when he could see." 

Insider reader Joey Glasscock was in Gainesville for Mike's wild encounter with the guardwall and snapped a nice sequence, which included the pic at right. I had written that the car was heavily damaged, but Mike corrected me.

"The body in that picture was unfortunately not destroyed," he said. "I spent three weeks fiberglassing the left side back together; Dad made me … LOL. We ran it the rest of the '87 season, and I rode a little low in the seat waiting for it to cave in on me!

"Actually, that chassis suffered absolutely no damage. We stripped it, put it on a jig, and, amazingly, it wasn't tweaked; the only damage was a bent rear wheel and a smashed front wheel dust cap. My racing involvement over the past 10 years, sadly, has been limited to a spectator capacity. I got really hosed over by [a potential sponsor] after having put that deal together. It cost me a tremendous amount both financially and personally and left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.
 
"The great Leslie Lovett pulled me aside in Denver when I was driving Brent Fanning's car and told me, 'We're watching you.' He was very encouraging and urged me to pursue a marketing degree. Dad died a few months after that and put me in a tailspin for some time. Now I've got a good life, married to a wonderful lady, two great boys, and a good career as a semi driver for FedEx Freight. I live in Maple Grove, Minn., a few miles from 'Showtime' [Tom Hoover], and when we see each other at Brainerd, we talk about how fast we used to be. Actually, he calls me 'Double B,' and, of course, he's 'Double A!' We're all crazy and addicted to nitro, right? You never know."


After the F Troops edition of the Misc. Files, I heard from yet another son, Chris Swedberg, son of Jim Swedberg (who drove Tom Fisher's car; hence its inclusion in the F's instead of the S's). Chris sent along these two pics of his dad, doing a pretty fire burnout in the Swedberg & Dewars dragster (above), one of many diggers that he drove before moving to Funny Cars, and in the Wild Oats Vega flopper (below).


I also heard from Bob and Cathie Floch, who were grateful to have their Funny Car remembered. They are looking forward to campaigning their new fuel altered on the Nitro Bad Boyz circuit and were appreciative of the kind words toward their son, Nick, who left us way too soon. Ohio fan Doug Wiseman also remembered the Flochs. "That brought back many memories," he wrote. "I worked in the E.T. shack and as the starter at Milan Dragway and always looked forward to Bob and Cathie coming to Milan. I sailed on Lake Frieghters in the early/mid-'90s, and I would always hear from them that when I made it to their port city, I needed to call and they'd come get me for a home-cooked meal."


I mentioned Bob Toth in the F Troops article as the later driver of the Outer Limits dragster shown there with Ed Fox at the wheel. Toth is still racing some 30 years later and passed along this photo of his current ride, the Tweety's Rat nostalgia Funny Car of Bob Rosetty. "Ed Fox was a really good guy," said Toth. "He taught me a lot, along with my best friend Roger Toth. Thank you for writing the article; it's cool to be known."

Hey, it's what we do here …