Behind the Scenes
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.