PAPER TRAILS, PART 12
Two Weeklies, One Week of November 1964
ANY GEARHEAD LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE LIVED OUT WEST IN THE '50S AND '60S WILL INSIST THAT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WAS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE FOR HOT-RODDING AND DRAG RACING. Yes, there will always be deniers who swear that some local scene elsewhere was equal to, if not better than, the coast's, just unfairly underrepresented in newspapers and magazines that just happened to publish in the L.A. area. The real reason that
SoCal got so much press coverage, goes their argument, is that the weeklies and monthlies were there. Historian and NHRA Motorsports Museum Curator Greg Sharp, a product of the car-crazy Long Beach-San Pedro region, counters, “That's exactly backwards: The newspapers and magazines were here because the action was here, and all year 'round, street or strip.”
Indisputable evidence unexpectedly emerged during research for the previous episode of “Paper Trails,” which involved the last six months of 1964 (see “Paper Trails, Part 11,” pg. 68, Sept. 2017). We were struck by how much “offseason” activity was reported in same-week editions of Drag News and Drag Sport Illustrated following a rainy L.A. weekend. At a time of year when strips across most of America were either already shuttered for winter or just hosting low-risk sportsman classes, open Top Fuel shows and major match races continued out here. Most tracks ran Sundays, though two of the best known, Lions Drag Strip and Fontana International Dragway, hosted weekly pro shows right through fall and winter.
Because C.J. Hart ran his weekend feature programs on Saturday nights, Lions escaped the Sunday rainfall that shut down other SoCal strips. Top Fuelers were his Halloween headliners, but surprise-entrant Jack Chrisman stole the show—just as he had at NHRA's Nationals that summer—along with DSI's cover with the nitro-burning Sachs & Son Comet. It's impossible to overstate this compact's impact, both at the time and forever more. Originally successful for Chrisman and Bill Shrewsberry as a legal A/FXer, the reconfigured fueler made tirefrying exhibition singles of 10.71/147.54, 10.72/151.26 and 10.67/149.50 here.
What particularly impressed us about the soggy Oct. 31-Nov. 1 weekend was how all of L.A. got rain that Sunday, yet the subsequent issues of both weekly tabloids gathered sufficient news, rumors, humor, action photos and advertisements—mostly involving local activity—to ink 24 pages in Drag News plus 12 in Drag Sport Illustrated (DSI). As a result, before we bid farewell to the 1964 season, this entire installment is devoted to those respective, competitive editions, each cover-dated Saturday, Nov. 7 (and on sale the previous Wednesday). To read either publication in its entirety, on screen, PDF page scans are available on disc from Wdifl.com.
Coincidentally, the front page of the other weekly tabloid featured Arnie Beswick in the world's other supercharged “stocker” (following the premature end of the groundbreaking, now-grounded Dodge Chargers). The Farmer took two rounds and Phil Bonner won once before rain interrupted Houston's best-of-five (!) match race. The gas-burning GTO was much quicker and faster, clocking 10.36 at 140.42. Forrest Bond shot the upper photo, while Bill Hughes photographed Pete Robinson's successful Atlanta defense of his number one spot on the all-important Drag News Mr. Eliminator List. Challenger Norm Weekly lost this round to a red light