Be­hind the Scenes

Drag Racer - - Contents -

IN DRAG RACER’S “BE­HIND THE SCENES” COL­UMN, VET­ERAN MO­TOR­SPORTS JOUR­NAL­IST BILL HOL­LAND EN­DEAV­ORS TO SHINE THE SPOT­LIGHT ON THOSE DE­SERV­ING RECOG­NI­TION. This is­sue we’re turn­ing the ta­bles, mak­ing him the sub­ject. The tim­ing is per­fect, be­cause he’s be­ing in­ducted into NHRA’s Hall of Fame at the Cal­i­for­nia Hot Rod Re­union for his 50-plus years of in­volve­ment in hot-rod­ding.

For Bill, the jour­ney started when he was 13. Home sick from school, his mom brought him a copy of Hot Rod Mag­a­zine to pass the time. Lit­tle did she know it would spark an in­ter­est that would never abate.

Born and reared in Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia, a mecca for hot-rod­ders at the time (Von Dutch was pin­strip­ing cars around the cor­ner from Bill's house), Bill reg­u­larly fre­quented San Fer­nando and Lions drag strips.

Bill's first “real job” after col­lege was in the ad­ver­tis­ing depart­ment of the Hol­ly­wood Ci­ti­zen-News and Val­ley Times news­pa­pers. He also au­thored a mo­tor­sports col­umn, “The World of Wheels,” which cov­ered local races and items of in­ter­est to car en­thu­si­asts. Close to the pa­per's North Hol­ly­wood of­fices was Fi­asco Au­to­mo­tive, op­er­ated by his high school pal, Terry Clair­mont, and Richard John­son. They ran a blown small-block Chevy-pow­ered MG TD in the Mod­i­fied Sports class. After learn­ing the ropes at Fi­asco, and a brief stint with Dwight Sal­is­bury and Bob Chris­tensen, Bill teamed up with John Guedel in Top Fuel.

In 1967, their Na­tional Au­to­mo­tive Spe­cial­ties car de­buted and was run­nerup at the Grand Open­ing of OCIR, set­ting the track ET record with Tom “The Mon­goo$e” McEwen driv­ing. Later, Guedel set the OCIR speed record at 223.88 mph with the Ed Pink-pow­ered beauty, which also won

Best Ap­pear­ing Car hon­ors at the Hot Rod Mag­a­zine drags at River­side and was on the cover of Drag Rac­ing Mag­a­zine. Na­tional Au­to­mo­tive Spe­cial­ties pro­duced drag rac­ing's first for­mal data-gath­er­ing sys­tem (Drag Log) and a squeeze-bulb hy­drom­e­ter (after Bill grew tired of in­gest­ing nitro while mix­ing fuel with a hose).

In 1967, Bill de­cided their T/F should ap­pear on TV as part of Hol­ly­wood's famed Santa Claus Lane Pa­rade in an ef­fort to pro­mote the sport. More pa­rade ap­pear­ances fol­lowed, with the 1968 edi­tion see­ing their re­vamped car sport­ing Art Lin­klet­ter's House

Party liv­ery, and in 1969 in tan­dem with their new Art Lin­klet­ter's All-Amer­i­can car and Dwight Sal­is­bury's Smoth­ers Bros./Beach

Boys dig­ger. Their car was also fea­tured in a Vogue Mag­a­zine spread—the first and only time the fash­ion world was ex­posed to drag rac­ing. Movie and TV com­mer­cial ap­pear­ances were also on the docket, which helped fund the car.

From 1967-70 Guedel and Bill also owned Na­tional Speed Shop in Canoga Park, Cal­i­for­nia, and ran the cars out of the shop. They also

spon­sored Ed Sig­mon's ill­fated Pro Stocker (de­stroyed in a garage fire) and sev­eral sports­man cars.

Bill's drag rac­ing and news­pa­per back­ground merged in 1969 when

Wally Parks tabbed him to be the ed­i­tor of NHRA's Na­tional Drag­ster. His five-year ten­ure saw mon­u­men­tal changes to the sport, in­clud­ing the tran­si­tion from front- to rear-en­gined drag­sters, the in­tro­duc­tion of Pro Stock, and the tremen­dous surge in pop­u­lar­ity of Funny Cars. NHRA mem­ber­ship tripled dur­ing that pe­riod. He also made use of his mar­ket­ing back­ground by do­ing ads for NHRA and a va­ri­ety of man­u­fac­tur­ers.

See­ing the need for spe­cial­ized mo­tor­sports mar­ket­ing, in 1974 he en­tered the ad­ver­tis­ing/PR busi­ness. Hol­land Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Inc. has been a SEMA mem­ber since 1975, and dur­ing the en­su­ing years, has worked with many well-known man­u­fac­tur­ers. He also did PR projects for rac­ers, in­clud­ing the late “240 Gordie” Bonin, Tom McEwen (Corvette 25th) and Don Prud­homme (Fi­nal Strike Tour). Bill also cre­ated what's be­lieved to be the in­dus­try's first CD press kit, for “First in the Fours” Chuck Etchells.

For 20-plus years Bill's com­pany pro­vided dis­play ser­vices for spon­sors on the NHRA trail, as well as street rod and other events. They de­vel­oped pro­grams for Sears Crafts­man, Lin­coln Elec­tric, Win­nebago and many NHRA ma­jor spon­sors in a co-op rig.

Al­though he's had a great in­ter­est in street-rod­ding since a teenager, it wasn't un­til a decade ago that Bill built one. Dubbed 23-GT, it has a clas­sic track road­ster style com­bined with a con­tem­po­rary chassis, sus­pen­sion and pow­er­train. The all-alu­minum 427-ci fu­elin­jected (EFI) small-block pow­ered T with IndyCar sus­pen­sion and a Tre­mec six-speed was one of the 12 con­tenders for the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show's Amer­ica's Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster hon­ors in 2009. It was also fea­tured in Hot Rod Mag­a­zine, plus the Hot Rod In­dus­try Al­liance and ARP booths at the SEMA Show.

He's been in­volved in sev­eral NHRA and per­for­mance in­dus­try ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing serv­ing on the com­mit­tee that launched the Cal­i­for­nia

Hot Rod Re­union, and as a mem­ber of the SEMA Schol­ar­ship Com­mit­tee and the NHRA Per­for­mance Af­ter­mar­ket Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil. He's also a mem­ber of Hot Rod In­dus­try Al­liance and Mo­tor Press Guild.

Un­like many fea­tured in “Be­hind the Scenes,” Bill's driv­ing has been min­i­mal. Aside from rac­ing a '57 Dodge at San Fer­nando, San Gabriel and Long Beach (don't ask him about the LeMans race at Lions), a 409-pow­ered

'53 Stude­baker at Bon­neville and El Mi­rage, and passes in the Mazda-pow­ered Project Rotary drag­ster, that was pretty much it—un­til re­cently, when he de­cided to road race vin­tage sports cars at age 70.

His cur­rent mount is a '62 Daim­ler—a fiber­glass-bod­ied Bri­tish car with a 2.5L

Hemi V-8 that re­sem­bles a minia­ture 392. Bill quipped, “I en­joy telling the sports car guys that I'm an old drag racer, and when I get near a Hemi I want to feed it nitro.”

Show­ing no signs of slow­ing, Bill said, “I re­ally en­joy our in­dus­try and thrive on the creative process. I've al­ways tried to stay at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy, whether it's the lat­est in au­to­mo­tive com­po­nents or in meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. When I started, we were us­ing type­writ­ers and past­ing up ads by hand, [then we] tran­si­tioned into com­puter graph­ics, and now [we're] im­mersed in ... so­cial me­dia. We're do­ing a lot of con­tent cre­ation at our fa­cil­ity, and even have a 1,200hp chassis dyno.” He added “My he­roes are guys like Ed Isk­ende­rian, Gene Win­field and Chris Karamesines who con­tinue to go through life at full throt­tle!”

Bill's lat­est project is build­ing a resto-mod '74 TVR with a 5.0L DOHC Ford Coy­ote en­gine and McLeod five-speed. Co­de­named “T-Rex,” he plans on rac­ing it at the drag strip, dry lakes and road cour­ses and com­pet­ing in the Op­tima Ul­ti­mate Street Car com­pe­ti­tion.

Life is good in the fast lane.

Bill Hol­land in front of the con­sole hold­ing the data-gath­er­ing equip­ment for his com­pany’s 1,200-hp Dyno­jet chassis dyno, not a usual sight at an ad­ver­tis­ing/PR agency.

Bill with TV’s Art Lin­klet­ter (stand­ing) prior to the 1968 Santa Claus Lane Pa­rade in Hol­ly­wood. Art’s daugh­ter, Diane, is on the en­gine, John Guedel is in the cock­pit.

Re­cently, Bill has taken to driv­ing vin­tage sports cars in road rac­ing. His ’62 Daim­ler SP250, pow­ered by a rare 2.5L Daim­ler Hemi V-8, was largely built by Bill.

The 1969 pa­rade saw Bill (with Bob Chris­tensen) tow Dwight Sal­is­bury in the Smoth­ers Bros./ Beach Boys and John Guedel in Art Lin­klet­ter’s All-Amer­i­can fu­el­ers down Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard.

Bill’s 23-GT com­bines a con­tem­po­rary chassis and driv­e­train with clas­sic track road­ster styling. Body­work and paint are by Mike Spitzer. It was a con­tender for AMBR hon­ors in 2009. Photo by Randy Lorentzen.

Hol­land and Guedel com­ing off the rollers at Lions with Hol­land (L) and Dale Nichols.

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