PA­PER TRAILS, PART 11

July Through De­cem­ber 1964

Drag Racer - - Contents - Text by Dave Wal­lace

THE SEC­OND HALF OF THIS SEA­SON STARTED WITH A MEM­O­RABLE MONTH. A sin­gle Sun­day served up two of the big­gest mile­stones in drag rac­ing his­tory: the first be­liev­able, backed-up 200 and the de­but of the first nitro-burn­ing stocker, both on July 12.

Don Garlits was not ex­actly fa­vored to break the dou­ble-cen­tury bar­rier first, given the flurry of

198s and 199s com­ing from Cal­i­for­nia cars since Chrysler en­gine-builders fi­nally no­ticed and adapted the up­swept head­ers that had kept clever Chet Her­bert’s small-block Chevys so com­pet­i­tive. No, smart money had ei­ther Frank Can­non or Paul Suther­land blast­ing through first in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Flexy-Fly­ers from Woody Gil­more’s Race Car En­gi­neer­ing (where em­ployee Suther­land welded up Woody’s first set of Chrysler zoomies for his top-speed ri­val). In­stead, Can­non was two weeks too late to 200, by which time Garlits had punc­tured the bar­rier re­peat­edly and un­doubt­edly.

Jack Chris­man’s rad­i­cal mid­sea­son con­ver­sion of the ’64 Sachs & Son A/FX Comet, which dom­i­nated SoCal class rac­ing with

Bill Shrews­berry driv­ing, was in­spired by the Dodge Charg­ers. Af­ter Charg­ers co­driver Jim John­son topped

141 mph in Lions test­ing, Mer­cury’s rac­ing divi­sion de­ter­mined to deny Dodge the pro­mo­tional ben­e­fits of a 150-mph stocker. Chris­man, a vet­eran sling­shot racer and NHRA’s orig­i­nal na­tional cham­pion (1961), was com­mis­sioned to break that bar­rier us­ing FoMoCo equip­ment. Jack didn’t mess around. Whereas the Charg­ers re­tained Torque­flite trans­mis­sions and full in­te­ri­ors and ran pump gas, Jack hooked a blown, in­jected, ni­troburn­ing 427 di­rectly to the Comet’s rearend, Top Fuel-style. The Caliente nearly ac­com­plished its mis­sion the first time out, clock­ing 148.27 mph (in

10.38 sec­onds) on July 12 in Fre­mont, Cal­i­for­nia. La­bor Day week­end, it wowed the NHRA Na­tion­als crowd with blasts as fast as 156.31, de­spite smok­ing its M&H drag­ster slicks past the eighth-mile mark. Iron­i­cally, at Indy, “B/FD” was let­tered on the win­dows of a car that launched the first and only chal­lenge to fuel dragsters as the “kings of the sport.”

Yet an­other last­ing in­no­va­tion from the lat­ter part of 1964 is ex­hi­bi­tion wheel­stand­ing. A mi­dengined, cab-for­ward, rear-weighted pickup that Dodge en­vi­sioned as the ul­ti­mate A/FXer pro­duced far too much trac­tion for its own good, un­til Su­per Stock racer Bill “Mav­er­ick” Golden bravely rode out the wheel­ies in which­ever di­rec­tion the Lit­tle Red Wagon wan­dered.

Last but not least, Ford’s con­tro­ver­sial sin­gleover­head-camshaft 427 that NASCAR ban­ished was si­mul­ta­ne­ously get­ting shoe­horned into some of the first fast­back Mus­tangs to roll off the as­sem­bly line. In fact, se­cret track test­ing of the first SOHC car oc­curred in late De­cem­ber (with a sin­gle-carb NASCAR in­take, pend­ing re­lease of an eight-bar­rel setup). Be­cause these pur­pose­built Holman-Moody A/ FXers were not for­mally in­tro­duced un­til the new year, we’ll save them for 1965’s in­stall­ment of

“Power Trails.” Mean­while, the is­sues of Drag News and Drag Sport Il­lus­trated sam­pled for our con­tin­u­ing se­ries can be seen in their en­tirety as in­di­vid­ual page scans on CDs avail­able from Wd­ifl.com.

Mickey Thomp­son was among a se­ries of savvy track op­er­a­tors who tried, but failed, to find suc­cess in Fon­tana, Cal­i­for­nia. The founder and for­mer man­ager of Lions Drag Strip ob­tained con­trol from the wife of Don Rack­e­mann af­ter “Rack” went to jail. De­spite splashy Drag News cen­ter­spread ads and qual­ity shows like this show­down of the world’s fastest fu­el­ers, the San Bernardino County strip was never able to over­come com­pe­ti­tion from tracks closer to Los An­ge­les, about 50 miles west. Leg­endary Mid­west­ern pro­moter Ben Christ later took a shot, rechris­ten­ing the strip Drag City, be­fore Fon­tana closed for good. Fu­ture land-speed-record-holder Gary Ga­belich is wear­ing a woman’s wig in the mug shot (bot­tom).

The same week­end that the 199-mph Flexy-Fly­ers of Frank Can­non and Paul Suther­land squared off at Fon­tana, Don Garlits beat them both to the first be­liev­able 200. In eight days of July, he would record three 200s plus a 199.10 in three states.

Can­non and Joe Schubeck bolted zoomies onto their 392 Chryslers at roughly the same time this sum­mer in Cal­i­for­nia and Ohio, re­spec­tively. The down­force-pro­duc­ing in­no­va­tion and a new M&H rub­ber com­pound shared credit for push­ing Garlits and Can­non through the 200-mph bar­rier two weeks apart. Woody

Gil­more’s

Race Car

En­gi­neer­ing wasted no time plac­ing an ad in the same July 18

Drag News that car­ried news of the first widely ac­cepted, backed-up 200.

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