NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

More fantastic follow-up

23 Feb 2010
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

It has been a busy two weeks with Pomona and Phoenix back to back, especially with Phoenix's drawn-out semi-conclusion. Don’t cry for me, Argentina, but it's going to be another busy week as we wrap up our Full Throttle coverage, prepare for Friday's conclusion of Lucas Oil racing, and race a deadline to get the coverage into next week's issue, which also will be the Gatornationals preview issue, complete with preseason looks at the Pro Stock Motorcycles and Pro Mods and more.

For fans of the Misc. Files segment that ran here last year, the current issue of National DRAGSTER picks up where we left off, with the letter M, including Lloyd Mosher's Little Giant Killer, Murf McKinney's own Funny Car, the Mori brothers' ChevWagen, and more!

Before I get too involved in the coming issue, I wanted to clear out a few more items from the Inbox. Later this week, I want to bring you Part 2 of Your Heroes, so stay tuned. And away we go …

Bob Brown sent me this fine pic of Sonny Messner posing with the GMC Carryall at the 2005 California Hot Rod Reunion, where it made its debut.
Todd Miller, who drove the GMC to Pomona from Messner's home in Acton, Calif., sent along this pic of Garlits and Messner working on Swamp Rat V.

After the juicy piece here Friday about the GMC Carryall that was used to push-start Don Garlits' Swamp Rat V at the 50th Anniversary Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline, I was glad to hear from the guy who actually owns it – and has been a big part of Garlits' career for decades – Sonny Messner, who also owns Swamp Rat III.

"On the 1st of February, 1960, I went to Lions Drag Strip to see Don Garlits," he wrote. "We became acquainted, and he asked me to help him with Swamp Rat III; Connie Swingle was driving. We pushed Swingle to start, and when the engine cackled, the nitro fumes came floating back into the Carryall push truck, I was hooked. Gar and I became friends, and I worked on every Swamp Rat thereafter.

"For the next 40 years, I bugged Gar for that car, and he always said no, but one day he relented. We came to a financial agreement, and he put Swamp Rat III back together. In the meanwhile, I decided to re-create the push car he would have used then, the same one I rode in back in 1960. Gar sent me all the photos he had and all of the anecdotes concerning the Carryall, right up to its demise in a canal. I faithfully re-created the truck from his photos.

"I asked him early on why he ran a GMC when he raced Chrysler stuff, and he told me that he and Smokey Yunick were friends for many years and Smokey asked him one time what he used for a push car. Don said he used his mom's 1950 Cadillac. Smokey said he could probably help him; 'Let me call some of my friends at GM.' He called back and said they had a surplus cop car in Saginaw, Mich., and that's how the black and white GMC came out. The current push car has a late GM driveline, and we have taken it to the Vegas nationals [SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals] several times, Bakersfield a dozen times, and other events. All of the stuff on the roof rack, Gar has contributed."

Thanks, Sonny, for filling in the details. What a great story, and another missing piece in the history puzzle of our little world.

After publishing Angel Nieves' photo of Bob Toyer's Vintage G.T.O. '40 Pontiac last week, I heard from Toyer's son Joe, who was thrilled to see his dad's car again and passed along this photo of the car from his collection. Bob died in 2002.

"I remember being at OCIR when I was a little guy and enjoying the races because my dad was a good father," he wrote. "I remember the stories of Lions Drag Strip that he talked about and how he was part of a club called The Qualifiers. My dad had lots of friends that loved him, and he always helped others at the track when he could, and I myself try to do this as he would. My dad had just two boys -- my older brother, Robert Jr., and me -- and even though my brother and I both love drag racing, I seem to have gotten the bug a lot harder than he. I still have access to his 1940 Pontiac and hope to with my brother's help rebuild it and bring it back out again soon. I wish my dad was still here with us so we could enjoy being at the track together. I miss him, and when I make that pass it will be in his honor."

Toyer also remembered that his dad's car ran a blown 327-cid small-block for a short period of time before the rear end broke, then went to the injected big-block. His dad later raced a roadster in Super Comp that he built himself, a cool '26 Pontiac roadster; "like his coupe, it was one of a kind," he noted proudly.

The 1970s SoCal doorslammer nostalgia just keeps on rolling. With all of the love we've been bestowing on Fords, Kevin Hardy thought that we ought to showcase a little Bowtie braggadocio as well, especially in the case of a car near and dear to him, the Hardy Boys '56 Chevy Super Stocker, shown at right launching with the wheels up at Orange County Int'l Raceway and the 1955 version, shown at good ol' Irwindale Raceway.

Fielded by a trio of brothers – Kevin, Pat, and Terry (the latter drove) – the car, shown in SS/N trim, was a multitime Division 7 champion and perennial national record holder in multiple classes.

"Probably the biggest feat was winning the division in 1976 and scoring more points than any other Sportsman-class car in the entire country," noted Kevin. "We earned 4,600 points, the result of setting a mess of national speed and elapsed time records and being in the final round of all five WCS events in Super Stock eliminator -- three wins, two runner-ups. I doubt if anyone ever did that before."

OK, that's today's quick update. I plan to be back Thursday or Friday with the second part of Your Heroes. The first was a huge hit, and I'm sure you'll enjoy Part 2 just as much.