I’m off this week to Charlotte for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, and the column that I had planned didn’t pan out. I’ve been holding on to the photos below for just such an occasion, so I made a beeline for them to share with you this weekend.
They were sent to me by Chris Muhli, and they show good ol’ Beeline Dragway in 1970. Richard Brereton, a friend of Chris’, took the photos, many of which were in pretty rough shape – age spots, wrinkles, ink bleed-through from a rubber stamp, etc. – but I used Photoshop to clean up a number of them to publishable quality. The work was worth it because, as Chris wrote in his email, “They aren’t the best quality, but they still show some neat details of how it was back then. … I thought you might find them interesting.”
As you’ve seen throughout the years, I love these old shoebox/scrapbook finds because they’re clearly shot by a fan and have the ability to transport you back into the photographer’s shoes and give you that unfiltered look at the era. There are a lot of pit shots in his collection, and I think I speak for a lot of us who went to the drags back in the day that half of the fun of going was that first trip through the pits to see who was there and what they had brought. These photos do that for me.
Before I saw my first Funny Car, I built a lot of plastic models, and I always remember how those chassis looked, with the “tray” of tin extended outside the roll cage, as exemplified in this shot of Gene Snow’s Funny Car. Love the header scorch marks on the body. Snow was a killer on the NHRA and AHRA trails in the early 1970s.
“Big Mike” Burkhart’s pit was crammed with three Funny Cars, his Nova and two Camaros. Burkhart drove and had a series of other drivers wheeling his cars, including my old pal Mart Higginbotham, Charlie Therwanger, and Paul Gordon.
Another great look under the skin, this time of Roland Leong’s Hawaiian Charger, which won the NHRA Winternationals that year with Larry Reyes driving. Their Pomona victory was a huge turn of fortunes from the 1968 event, when their new Charger took flight in the lights, but by this time late in the year Pat Foster had taken over the controls..
How about this gem? I’m pretty sure that’s Ed McCulloch warming up his car. Check out the tin that surrounds the driver cockpit. Pretty cool.
And here’s “the Ace” on the track with the Whipple & McCulloch Barracuda, which replaced the Duster they lost to fire earlier in the year. The photo also gives you some kind of idea of the way the place looked. Most photos you see are shot from the other side of the track.
Another fine detail shot. I’m going to go out on a limb (again) and say that, based on the paint color and decal arrangement, this is Tom McEwen's Duster.
Here's “the Snake’s” Hot Wheels Barracuda getting backed up from a burnout. Note that there’s no guardrail lining the track on the left lane.
The slingshot of recent Insider profile subject “Kansas John” Wiebe sat ready in the pits. Note Don Prudhomme’s iconic Hot Wheels hauler in the background.
Here’s Delmar Hines’ Bantam-bodied, Missouri-based Die Hard fuel altered, looking mean and ready on the trailer.
The 1970 season was the first for Pro Stock. Above is the Herb McCandless-driven Sox & Martin Duster, and below is Butch Leal’s California Flash Camaro, his last non-Mopar for a long time.
Here’s Tommy Maras’ unique homebuilt Chevelle wheelstander, appropriately dubbed Moonshot.
Thanks to Chris for sharing these photos and giving us all a little trip back in time, 45 years into the past.