Back in those days there was no “safety signal”.As soon as the yellow light went off, Bill
was going to have a green light and be able to unleash the heavy breathing
mouse motor in the Bel Air.He knew
enough to ignore the roaring big block beside him, and was already thinking
about the 1-2 shift and how much clutch to let out.
It was quite a sight
as the veteran highway patrolman, Jim Murphy, slowed to a stop about half a block
behind them, with the blue glow coming out of the Cobra Jet's headers and the
shiny little brown and white Chevy patiently waiting at the light. The night was clear and cold; the two cars
were at the last stoplight…only a block from the edge of town, and the deserted
road led uphill into nothing but darkness and two sweeping curves.
Bill watched as the yellow light flashed on, and then jerked
his eyes to the right to wait for the green.Inside the silver Ford, Marvin put his lit cigarette into the console
ashtray, dropped the RPMs, and pulled the C-6 down into low.
The light flashed green.Marvin nailed the gas, and the big Fords rear end moved sideways as the
Detroit Locker started both wheels spinning with the application of 450+ pounds
of torque multiplied over and over by the gears.
The Holley in the Chevy opened wide and the traction bars
slapped up against the springs as Bill let the fast clutch up about 2 inches
off the floor.Six thousand RPM arrived
in an instant, and as Bill crossed the intersection he pulled the Hurst shifter back into 2nd
gear and let the clutch pedal spring up.The cold street, heavy air, and sticky tires were all working together,
and the steering wheel got really light.The left front fender rose into the air as both wheels came off the
ground while the 23 year old Chevy twisted under the shock of instantaneous
Out of disbelief, Bill let completely off the accelerator,
and the front end slammed to the ground.The Cobra Jet Ford surged ahead, fishtailing slightly, and Bill laid
back into the Chevy’s Holley, grabbing 3rd gear in a fraction of a
second and feeling the rear end jump to the right as the clutch engaged.Out of habit, he held the shifter hard,
pushing it up and to the right…still not convinced that it wouldn’t pop out of
third gear like it did before the cluster rebuild.“Damn, those are taillights,” Bill thought to
himself.He had never been behind like that
when he unleashed the Chevy.
They’d gone about a block, and Bill was playing catch up as
the 400 settled into pulling third gear.The Chevy’s front bumper was just even with the back axle of the Ford,
but Bill could feel the Chevy continuing to gain slightly.The Bel Airs rear end had settled down and
she was going straight, the Ford continued to undulate.Bill pressed as hard as he could against the
firewall, waiting for 6600 rpm on the tach.The little Chevy wailed and shook, heat poured out the shifter hole in
the tunnel, and Bill let his death grip off third gear long enough to yank the
T-10 back into fourth.
Bill knew he could run 6600 rpm, he figured the big Ford
might be good for 5800.But what kind of
gears are in there?Are those tires
under or oversize?Bill knew those big
Fords were notorious for running at high rpm, and it sure wasn’t a dog off the
line…They’d kept their high compression ratios, even when GM and Chrysler
didn’t…what else had Marvin’s daddy paid for?He had to get him now.Bill knew
that he’d had Marvin cold, but lost it when the front end lifted.He was going to keep in it, push as hard as
he could ‘cause that rich son-of-a-bitch wasn’t going to beat him.6600 RPM would give Bill just over 140 MPH.But what could Marvin do up this hill?And what about the corners?
Bill’s 3-4 shift had sent the Chevy surging ahead.There were no street lights now, only the
blacktop divided highway and some faded out lane dividers.The steering wheel shook a little.Fourth gear was good and the Chevy shrieked
like a banshee as it pulled up the hill.The incandescent yellow lights reached out only about 150 feet, and he
was covering that much ground every second.But Bill knew the road, he knew every longitudinal crease, every little
bump, every patch that they’d made.He
knew that halfway through the corner it tightened just a bit, and the texture
of asphalt went smooth as glass.The
Chevy felt strong and hunkered down nicely as it went over some soft waves in
the surface and Bill started to pull just past the Ford.
4th gear also brought something else.About 300 yards back Bill noticed a flash of
two red lights in his mirror, and the sudden blaze of halogen high beams.
No time to worry about that now, it was going to cost some
money or he’d get away.No way that Bill
was going to pull over so Marvin could run home.
Bill was on the inside coming up to the sweeping right hand
corner; he lifted off the accelerator and pushed the brake pedal hard.The old drums shook violently and it seemed
that the Chevy might vibrate to pieces.The body pitched hard left as Bill set her into the corner.Too fast to drop a gear, Bill eased back onto
the gas and was at almost 5,000 rpm when the corner tightened a couple
degrees.The old tall Chevy, even with
the stiff springs, was at its limit.The
slippery low Ford was on the outside, and edged around Bill in one smooth
motion, still with the header glow billowing out from under it.
Tail lights again, but Bill knew he could chase it down this
time.His hiking boot was pressed hard
on the floor now, his right leg jumping in excitement and fear.The Ford was going as fast as it could.The Chevy kept winding up and reeled in the
Ford.A few yards ahead, now a car
length.Bill had him!6600 RPM, and the needle in the only other
lit gauge started to waiver and drop.Bill let off the gas, the RPMs dropped, and the oil pressure
recovered.Still ahead of the Cobra Jet,
Bill laid into the Chevy again and the RPMs soared.Another corner, Bill knew he was about 60 mph
too fast and he was coming up to it at about 200 feet per second.The race was over.The cop was still back there, but after this
corner Bill knew he could get to the top of the hill, dive onto a secondary
road, and follow the familiar ridges home.
Bill let completely off the gas, and hit the brakes hard for
the second time.Once again they shook
the whole car, but they didn’t seem to have much effect.Bill threw the Chevy into 3rd, and
the 400 screamed a near-death wail.Marvin’s
silver Ford went past on the left, still wide open, as they flew towards the
left hand sweeper.They were both going
fast, really fast, Bill had cut his speed from 140 to about 90.But Marvin didn’t plan on losing the race
Jim Murphy had been
chasing down “damn motor-heads” for almost 20 years, and knew he could
eventually run down almost anything on a flat straight, but going into these
hills, with all their hidey holes, it was tough to keep up on the steep grades
with highway gears.If both these guys
got a lead on him, hit their lights and got off on a little approach, he would
spoil his record of always getting a runner.
Indeed, Jim was no
stranger to the folly of young men around his town.He had taken many of them to task for their
actions, and was secretly proud when he saw them grow into fathers, mortgage
holders, and even cops.He never saw
himself as just an enforcer.He was out
to protect the public from their foolishness…but to give them a chance to live
another day, too.
Dust.“Damn it!” Jim silently swore.
They say things slow down in a crisis, you may have
experienced it yourself.Someone shoots
a gun at you, it’s like you can see the bullet come out of the barrel; you
watch your friend get his throat slit, and you see the flesh separate and the blood
start to pulse out.When that silver
Mustang slid across the road in front of Bill, he swore he could see the second
filament glow soft and then bright as Marvin hit the brakes, trying to slow
down too little and too late.
Inside the Mustang, Marvin knew something was horribly
wrong.The car was drifting to the
right, in front of Bill’s Chevy.Marvin
stabbed at the brake pedal as the back end of the car began to slide and cross
the fog line; then all hell broke loose.The over assisted Ford power steering did him no good, the car was
completely unsettled, and when he turned the wheel about half a turn to the
right it reversed the slide but put him into a violent clockwise spin.
Bill saw a flash of Marvin’s face, contorted and wide eyed, as the
Ford spun in front of the Chevy. Marvin
was pushed up against the door, as if in a Tilt-A-Whirl carnival ride, then
thrown to the passenger side as his un-seat belted body kept moving one
direction while the car rotated around him.After a full 360 degrees the Mustang shot off the shoulder into the
darkness of the ditch, gravel and dust flying…still moving in its original
direction at over 70 mph.
Inside the Mustang, because of the way it went off the road,
everything became smooth and almost silent for an instant.With the lithe silver Mustang airborne,
Marvin’s last conscious second on earth was viewed through the bottom of its
windshield, since his head was now wedged between the glass and the passenger
side dash pad.
The Mustang’s nose
dropped, its headlights briefly illuminating the yellow October grass.Touching down, 102 feet per second become 0
feet per second.The impact shattered
the headlights first, the uni-body contorted and the windshield dropped out,
aided by Marvin’s weight pushing against it.As the rear of the car flipped
over the front, Marvin’s body stayed between the hood and the ground.Blood, glass, gasoline, oil, coolant, and
battery acid, spewed under the hood.The
still burning cigarette, wedged in the console ashtray, finally fell out and
dropped through the windshield opening.It touched the gasoline soaked dry grass and with a quiet “Whooppff”
finished the scene.
Murphy was 1,000 yards
back when things started to go bad.He
hadn’t called in the pursuit, so to everyone’s knowledge he had just happened
upon this series of events.He saw the
old square car’s brake lights come on and move to the right, the flash of
headlamps as the Mustang spun, and the cloud of dust and debris.The flames were not yet obvious.He had let off the gas and was reaching for
his radio even before Bill blasted past the wreckage.
Bill had killed his lights, hit an approach, and snuck home
over the winding ridges just like Trooper Murphy expected him to.Bill put the ’56 away in his mother’s garage
and never even washed her.In 1990 she sold
it after he was killed in an early skirmish of Operation Desert Storm.Someone from California bought it, and said they were
going to paint it purple.
Jim Murphy spent the next 21 years looking at white ’55 and
’56 Chevy’s, but never felt that he’d found the car or the driver.He was right…he never did.When he retired in 2000 he moved to Arizona, where there
were lots of old Chevys to haunt him.He
and Bill were the only souls who knew that his perfect record had been spoiled,
by one that got away.
As for Marvin, his parents had always told him that smoking
would kill him.
I’ve been nuts about cars since before most people have any memories.I clearly remember my parent’s baby blue ’61 Plymouth and how I thought it was ugly even then.I have distinct memories of the tail lamps and the front grille and headlamps, but not the interior.When Mom parked it on our steep driveway she would place a “huge” square rock behind the front tire.I still have that rock now, and it is only about half the size of a concrete block, but I remember that I couldn’t lift it back then.
My dad stated the Plymouth was cursed.It got hailed on, an experienced semi-driver backed over the trunk, and other bad things followed it. Mom decided she needed something small to drive around town, like, maybe a Volkswagen.Joe Pronto’s dad (a salesman at James Motors) said he had just the car for her and would bring it by the house that night. I was only 27 months old when that claret red metallic ’63 Chrysler showed up in the driveway and Pronto had to drive the ’61 back to work the next morning (more on the red Chrysler later).A few months after that, the Plymouth was in the newspaper, prominently featured in the photos of a fatality accident.
Mom got the barely used Chrysler and Dad kept driving his thundering red and white ’57 Olds 88 Holiday hardtop.I always thought the Olds was cool.I remember cold mornings with the exhaust coming out the bumper ports and the starburst designs woven into the seat covers, but Mom complained it wouldn’t pass a gas station.They always traded at the Sinclair on the corner of St Patrick St. and Fifth, and I thought it was great fun watching the little amber balls spin around on the side of the gas pump while the Olds took on another 20 some gallons.Dad commuted to the airport, so my trips with him to the gas station were at least once a week.To this day the smell of freshly lit match takes me back to riding in the back seat and barreling down a highway.I could peer over the top of the front seat and see the needle bouncing to the right on the oval chrome speedometer, my dad’s face illuminated by the faint glow of the dash and a freshly lit cigarette.
I figure I was about 3 1/2 when a teenager picked up the neighbor girl for a date and then smacked into the back of it.Police cars, a guy with a bloody face, and all sorts of excitement ensued.Soon after that the Olds was repaired at the Robbinsdale body shop (was that Milo Schindler way back then?) and traded for a ’63 Plymouth.
The Plymouth was a real runner.It had the same 383 as Mom’s Chrysler, but a four barrel instead of just a two.More that once I remember my father turning right off of St Patrick Street to head up Elm Street, fishtailing on the smooth asphalt with both the little 14 inch bias plys smoking away.He was 58 years old, making good money, and didn’t seem to care about the whole ticket thing.
I also remember when he decided to go check out the new StevensHigh School.By this time I suppose he was 60.He drove over the curb, and then drove around on the sidewalks around the new school to get a better look.A police officer pulled up in a big Delta 88 cherry top and asked him what the hell he was doing.“Just checking out what 50 years of paying my taxes has built,” he said.No citations were issued.
Dad really didn’t respect his cars at all.He would take them to the Badlands to go rock hunting, and occasionally take the steep trails up to the top of SignalHeights just because he could.I think he washed them once every Spring.
During this formative time the neighbors’ cars were awesome.There were really no hot rods, except for the lavendar’37 Chevy Roadster with yellow wire spokes.But cool luxury cars and muscle cars were everywhere.
Across the street was a blue ’56 and a white ’63 Imperial.Next door was a green ’67 Camaro jacked up like a dog in heat.Salesman Pronto down the street had a black ’66? GTO with a red interior and a vacuum gauge, and a matching black Lemans, along with an always brand new demo.(One of my favorites was his 1968 Satellite 2 door in B5 blue, just gorgeous).They had a bunch of boys, and one day the oldest son came out while all us kids were in the yard, and lit that GTO up, leaving two black stripes all the way to Third Street.Cool.
There was a gold ’57 Chevy two door across the street, Mr. Walsh from the men’s wear store had a Model A stashed in his carport, Bill Potter bought a new avocado green’68 Dodge Charger R/T for his wife Judy, Charlie Whisler had a whore red ’57 Imperial sedan, the interior of a ’67 Thunderbird Landau a couple houses down was incredible, and Kim Morrison’s mom brought home a teal Cougar with sequential tail lamps.That was a very pretty car.
So all those car memories happened before I was 5 years old.I started cutting pictures of cars out of the newspaper and magazines, and my grandmother helped me with a scrapbook and labeling all of them.Unfortunately this somehow disappeared from Mom’s house when I lived in California, I imagine my sister helped out by throwing them away.
Dad helped me out by testing my knowledge going down the road.I had to correctly name the make and model, and then try for the year.I was no good at anything before about 1955 (which he could always get, or at least make up something that sounded good) but it was still a lot more fun than counting horses.
So anyway, my favorite cars were Chrysler Imperials and British sports cars.120 cars later I’ve still never owned an Imperial and only one MG and three Jags.Why?Simple.Muscle cars were cheap in 1977, and I had discovered horsepower.
Remember that ’63 Chrysler?It became one of my mother’s favorite cars.She had gotten a new car every two years, and when they went to trade it in on teal ’65 Newport, she changed her mind.She looked at Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, and an awesome Buick Wildcat coupe.But the Chrysler remained.And with good reason.
Legend has it that my dad was in Denver with one of his younger FAA employees, finishing up some mandatory training.He was Governor of the Moose Lodge in ’65, and needed to get back for a 7:00 p.m. meeting.It was a little before 3:00 when he called from the Denver FAA office.It was before 7 when he walked into the Rapid City Moose Lodge.He had turned the wheel over to his young staff member, with one simple directive: Rapid City, 7:00.One gas stop on the way.
That Chrysler was a road car, and Mom kept it ready for action with lots of new tires and aftermarket seat belts in the back for my sister and I. The Interstates were still under construction, and I remember her saying that she didn’t really like to drive much over 100.She said it ran real nice at 87.I have no idea where I got my tendency to want to go fast…
Anyway, as the Chrysler came up on 100,000 miles she finally relented and got a ’70 Plymouth Fury III with just a 318.However, she kept the Chrysler for a spare.The Plymouth lasted about a year and a half, she blew the engine on a high speed interstate run somewhere between Presho and Midland.I guess it just didn’t have the long legs of the Chrysler. A rock solid ’72 Impala followed, and she still kept the Chrysler.
I started driving at 14, just after the family took a cruise to Bear Butte and back in the ’63 to watch the odometer turn over 100,000 miles.To commemorate this, Dad took the Chrysler in for a top engine job.A week after that he had the transmission re-built.Then this was assigned to me since it was the oldest car in the driveway.Mother was not thrilled.
You know how adolescents don’t have a grasp of the consequences of their actions?You know how big Chrysler V-8’s seem kind of doggy off the line…that whole torque versus horsepower thing with highway gears?You know how a 383 wakes up with a little bit of a cam and dual exhausts, especially above 75 mph when those highway gears start to make sense?You know how crazy it is to have bias ply snow tires and have the goal of dropping the needle past 120?I guess it’s probably good that Mopars had notorious speedometer error or I probably would have never lived to be 16.In any case, the Chrysler was quite a machine, especially with shag carpet, an under dash 8 track, and speakers on the rear deck.I took off the hubcaps, painted the wheels red candy over bright white, and added trim rings, chrome lug nut covers, and center caps.This is also when I learned about old Mopars and the meaning of L or R stamped into the wheel lug top.Damn, I could not get those to budge until my mother came out and schooled me a bit.
A classmate, Pat Jones (former principal or RC Central) got a new blue and white Chevy truck with a 400.We went up on Hwy 16 and lined up.The old Chrysler would barely turn over a tire if you launched easy, and Pat’s new 400 c.i. truck was holding the lead until about halfway through 2nd gear.At 70 the old Chrysler edged past and started to walk away, when that final upshift from 2nd to 3rd happened at 88 mph the car lengths stretched out between us like a semi truck.I shut down at about 115, with my right leg jumping all over the place from the adrenalin rush.That was fun…if I catch my boys doing it on the public highways they are grounded for life.
So I wasn’t 15 yet when my friends (the twins) bought a ’69 Chevelle Malibu.Their dad found this good little Chevy with about 36,000 miles.It was factory red with silver sills, had a 350, Muncie four speed, and factory posi-trac, all sitting on some Magnum 500 wheels with dual white stripe tires.A black pinstripe ran down the side of the body.There was no power steering, no power brakes, no air conditioning, and a bench seat.It did have a factory rear seat speaker to go with the AM radio.Weird options, yes.Damn cool, double yes.I will swear on a stack of Hot Rod magazines that this was the quickest stock small block car I have ever driven or ridden in, and quicker than a lot of built small blocks and most any stock big block we ran against.Of course, it topped out at about 105.You can still see her, forlornly sitting beside his house at the Chapel Lane Y.We were old enough to know better, probably 18, when she got put into a nice flat spin coming out of the first corner going up highway 16.Just a little over 90 mph but it was spitting rain. This episode had something to do with girls.Stupid, lived through it, beat the crap out of the car hitting some posts, and yes, my sons would be grounded for life.
Anyway, the Chevelle was my introduction into TORQUE and numerically high gears.I hated jocks, hated Mustangs, and was crazy for speed. But I was working in Keystone so I bought a Honda N600 sedan from Rapid Motors for $495.Got a loan from the credit union for $44.38 per month.After getting run off the road and almost killed by a Michigan tourist, my belief in seatbelts was reinforced.READ THIS:I WOULD BE DEAD AT 15 if I had not had my seatbelt on...it was bad enough with it.So, I went looking for something else cheap to drive...of course a Toyota ‘cause gas was up to 55 cents a gallon.I customized my HiLux truck by shaving the bed hooks, filling the side markers, adding Western Cyclone 1 wheels, a black and gold crushed velvet interior, and priming the whole thing.I cut the front springs and put on some Thrush side pipes.Kenny’s body shop laid on the 1977 Chrysler Sunfire Metallic black paint (still a great color) for $120 including materials.I spelled out “SPEED THRILLS” with vinyl letters on the back glass, but had to really rev her up and dump the clutch to light ‘em up at McDonalds.Obviously, I needed more cubic inches.
I had long hair and a bad attitude, I figured I needed a bad attitude car.Looked at a bunch of ’68-’70 Chargers, but they wanted so much for them….usually between $800 and $1400, and you could usually find some rust.Damn near bought a 383 four speed combo but gee, that driver’s seat cover needs some work.Looked for a ‘Cuda and couldn’t fine one.Looked at a ’71 Chevelle 402 but everyone had a Chevelle, big whoop.Looked at ’63 Triumph Spitfire, red with a white top and non-synchromesh transmission.Well, OK I just had to check it out.
Then I got serious.I needed a four speed, and I needed to be able to drop in a built 350.Old cars were cool.I needed a ’57 Chevy and Carl Satterlee had one for sale.So I called RC Cycle and went to see him.This was September or October of 1978.He had a metallic blue ’57 Hardtop with a 327, a four speed with a too short shift handle, and a black diamond pleat interior.$1600 and looks good and sounds good.I had $1500.One paycheck later and he had sold it to someone else.
So I saw a black ’57 in the paper and went to check it out.Drove to Hot Springs with Mom and Dad to look at it and it was super nice.Fresh black 2 door sedan, 283, four speed.Offered him $1500, he said $1600, so drove home to sleep on it…after all it was not a hardtop.Called back the next day to meet his price, and get, “My girlfriend really likes it and doesn’t want me to sell it.”What a pussy.
So finally in December I see an ad for a ’56 hardtop Bel-Air 400c.i. for $2200Call the guy up and find out that Kelly Lane (who had once been my Scoutmaster) has it for sale on behalf of his brother, Tim Lane, who owned Granny’s Speed Shop in Lead/Deadwood.Apparently Tim had the 400c.i. small block professionally built by local renowned race motor builder (you know who) and went through a number of 12 bolt posi and 10 bolt rear ends, usually when leaving the bar.
Had to go look at it, and it was cold as hell.The battery was in the trunk so we had to jump start it to get it to turn over.She was rough.Typical car from Lead, both headlamp hoods rusted out, caved in driver’s door, bumper hitch in the back that had severely modified the bumper, ripped up carpet, radical 400 small block with two big air filter elements stacked up, different sized mufflers with no cross over, 8 inch Corvette rallye wheels all around with bald tires on front, old black GTO seats, and 3 coats of faded copper and white paint.Door locks didn’t work, air shocks leaked and rubbed the back tires, it wouldn’t start, the speedometer didn’t work, the shifter hole had been hacked and left a gaping void between the seats.Good god, I was in love.I had to have it.The “Ka Boompity Boompity” of the cam sounded like a pair of Harley Davidson’s on their honeymoon.
He wanted more for this car than any other I had looked at.Said he might take $2000 but I didn’t have it.Went home with a head full of dreams.About a month later Kelly calls me up and says Tim really needs to sell it.I think the price he shot me was $1800.For some reason I was short a couple hundred bucks, still paying for the Toyota and all.I hang up the phone and my Dad asks who it was.I tell him what’s goin’ on and he says, “Well let’s drive over there and get it.”I couldn’t believe it.This was the ONLY time he had given me any cash, even fifty cents, since I was 14 years old and had a job.I was thrilled, and hope I thanked him enough before he died.
Every bit of money I made went into the Chevy, and when I finally sold the Toyota pickup I was able to get serious about fixing it.First thing was traction bars.She would hop like a trout in the bottom of a boat if you even tried to lay into it in first or second gear.I adjusted the snubbers up against the springs and it was a whole new world.Then I got the biggest battery I could find back then, a whopping 660 Amp one.I found some High Speed Pursuit G78-15 bias plys on clearance for the front end, and replaced the air shocks.I also went ahead and added 3 more bolts to mount the seat, since the previous single mounting bolt engineering job caused it to swivel at the wrong moment.
However, I left the super fast homemade clutch linkage.The clutch pedal was off the floor only as far as the power brake pedal when it was engaged, and it would start to catch about half an inch off the floor.It was awesome!Gave me an excuse to wear those big hiking boots, and caused permanent damage to my left foot.(This is when I reinforced my knowledge about fulcrums and levers.)
The ‘56 was running like crap, too rich and would cut out.An ignition tune up, a rebuild of the Holley carb, and I was ready for the Mustangs.The first time I laid into it after the major tune up and with the traction bars was at least as much fun in the front seat as I’d had in the backseat of the Chrysler.
I got a couple of good front fenders with the car, and a nice door.I set to work stripping the body with chemical stripper, a scraper, and a DA sander.The three coats of old paint were probably an eighth of an inch thick.I eventually took it to Joe’s Sandblasting and he blew off the panel edges and such.I removed the bumpers and found a decent used rear in Belle Fourche. (I often ran without a front bumper for about four years, going for that gasser look I guess.)
I finished up after a couple more weeks with the DA sander.Sometime in here I had removed the interior and left door, plus everything off the front clip except the radiator support and inner fenders.I decided to blast up Hwy 16 one time, and I think she was just about airborne….Kids, grounded for life, all that.
Denny Scholl worked at Thomas Auto Body, but took on the project in his dad’s shop.Chose a brilliant white for the upper body and ‘77 Cadillac saffron metallic for the hood and lower body, so it was kind of a stock look but with a lot more flash.He put in a small quarter panel patch, blocked it out, and shot it with Acrylic Lacquer which came out extremely deep and shiny.This job was supposed to cost me $750 but I think he dinged me for an extra $100, which took me a while to pay.I ran the car over to French’s, and for $620 they did carpet, seats, doors, kick panels, and the parcel shelf with white naugahyde pleats and copper piping. Sorry, couldn’t afford Slim’s Auto Trim.The car was finally finished at the end of September.I was a Senior and ready to hunt Mustangs.
On the night after the big Cobbler/Raider football game I got pulled over on 8th Street, headed South, just before St. Pat.Everyone I had ever known drove by.It took that cop at least 45 minutes to write me a fix-it ticket for a burned out second element on my left taillamp.At least the starter had time to cool off so it cranked over when he finally turned me loose.
I did some horribly dangerous things that year.I hit the dip in front of Kmart at about 70 mph and skidded out into Campbell Street.I think I eluded officers three times, but not really sure if it counts when they don’t get close enough to you to see your license plate.I used to take her sideways through the median going up Hwy 16 just to scare people. I pulled the front end up once when I hit 2nd gear and scared myself.I beat up on every Mustang I could.I got beat after second gear by Wylezik’s 427 c.i. ’57, really surprised me as I’d never seen taillights like that before.I got into a short race with the current principal of NorthMiddle School when she drove a ’68 Chevelle SS.
By April of my senior year the 400 had to go, trouble was starting to follow me.I paid $600 for an almost new 305 out of a Monte Carlo and tucked it in.We put the 400 in a ’69 Firebird my friend had, and still has.Last August he called me up and said to come down and pick up the motor. He'd trade for a steak dinner. So, unbelivably I just got back that mighty mouse engine after 28 years.
Sometime after my Junior year, and before I sold the Toyota, he and I had bought a ’54 Cadillac hearse for $175.We brought it home behind the Toyota from its resting place up in Carriage Hills.At the corner of West Boulevard and Kansas City I fried the Toyota tires trying to get it rolling.As we pulled it across Mt. Rushmore Road the left front tire finally blew out.Then we started the interior on fire with some bad fuel pump wiring.In any case we pulled the top off the engine and Johnson Machine boiled out the heads for us and didn’t charge a thing, probably felt sorry for us when they found a little crack.We put it back together and it ran a whole lot better anyway.Drove it to Denver and back, used it as a camper all summer, and “really impressed” the chicks during the homecoming parade and up on Skyline.Wanted to paint “Meatwagon Express” on the sides, but the neighbors were already complaining about it being parked out on the street.Idiots would always come up and say, “Nice Hurst, Dunfee” and I’d say, “Yeah, that Competition Plus shifter in my Chevy is sweet.”
Right after graduation I had a Tuesday night off and ran into the Counts at Family’s Sub Shop on 8th Street.Neuzil set me up with an application and Satterlee sponsored me, so a month later I became a Count.I remember going for a ride in Carl’s low rider turtle back T that first night, and someone passing a bottle of Mad Dog to us from another car while we rolled down the street.Times have changed a bit.
Remember the ’63 Chrysler?It was finally traded in June of 1980 on a used, very rare 1975 Buick Century Pace Car that my sister gradually destroyed.Some reservation residents bought the Mopar Missle off the back row at Brekhus Buick and it was seen a couple of days later pulled over by Halley Park, steam pouring out from under the raised hood.I suppose that was the end of her.
All pause now for a moment of silence to hail the great and mighty ’63 Chrysler.I’m thinking she committed hari kari right there on Main Street.Rest in Peace, oh car of my youth.
About a year later I’d finished a lot of work on the ’56.New transmission, new wiring harness (except for the headlamps), new front bumper, new tires, and a wiper motor that actually worked.Headed for the Scottsbluff rod run with only 2nd and 4th gear because we hadn’t had time to adjust the shifter.Then the driveshaft fell off south of Chadron.Got a ride, got a joint (the spicer kind), and got back to the car.A rattlesnake had crawled underneath to stay out of the sun.Made it to Scottsbluff.Went on the poker run and then stopped in town.Drank at the bar.Headed back to the campground and the headlamp wiring caught fire.Pulled over at a gas station.They were closing but said I could leave it inside if we got it to stop smoking.Did that.Pulled into their bay.Looked for hissing sound.Observed back tire going flat. Danny Gorman was on a motorcycle with only one helmet, so he said he’d have someone come pick me up.Waited outside the station.Proved to cop that we had money so didn’t get arrested for vagrancy.Waited for our ride.Started to feel sober.Visited with cop again.Couple of hours later Art Herder showed up in his new Trans Am.Climb in the tiny back seat and headed back to the campground.Missed the awards ceremony and the Hard Luck trophy because I was stuck by the road.They saved it for me and I got it with breakfast.Good times, awesome fun.
In 1982 I got the opportunity to buy a ‘70 Cyclone Spoiler 429 SCJ.I’d been after this particular car for a while and picked it up with only 50,000 miles on the odometer.Come to find out a lot of this accumulated mileage was from the Orange County Dragstrip, and from 1973 forward it had mostly been a bracket car.Don Hauer and I had a lot of fun doing a smokey Go-Whoa event that summer.We had a terrible E.T., but we made more noise and tire smoke than anyone else out there.
This car was later stolen from my garage, along with all my tools.It was recovered about a week later, and I sold it to some cowboys.Eventually the younger brother of the guy who stole it bought it and did a beautiful and correct restoration.It got sold in about 2001 and hasn’t been seen since.There is lots more to the story, involving cops, girlfriends, cop’s girlfriends, liquor, more cops, flying hoods, dragstrips, bad fuel pumps, midnight bonsai runs, and a flying Volkswagen…but that is a whole ‘nother chapter.
In about 1984 I dragged home a rusty hulk of ’64 Chrysler 300 convertible from Minnesota.This took two trips and included a wheel spun off the axle, the car spontaneousley removing itself from a tow bar, a fuel pump, a coil wire, an irate highway patrolman, lots of dead slimy newts, a truck stop prostitute with a feather boa, lots of beer, mutant local residents, a lounge lizard Disco King guy, free storage in a trailer park, hitchhiking, a free ride from the highway patrol, senile old people, and a huge dump truck purchased at auction….in no particular order.It was a great time.
After stripping the body I found a shotgun blast into the driver’s door and some bullet holes through the inner windshield frame and front fender.The car obviously had some history…and I found out all the serial number tags corresponded to a ’64 Chrysler New Yorker 4 door hardtop.Hmmm.It got painted Dr. Kildare gray, and a new black top turned it into a very pleasant car to drive.
After that I did a bunch of cars and bought a few already close to finished.They include:
’70 Cutlass S 350 2 door sedan with 330 HP
’70 Cyclone Spoiler modified 429 Super Cobra Jet
’84 Buick Grand National Turbo
’68 Camaro RS/SS-350
’69 Camaro 327 coupe
’28 Ford Rat Fink, Cadillac powered roadster
’78 El Camino full custom
’79 El Camino SS
’65 Jaguar E-type
’68 Road Runner clone
’38 Chevy 2 door sedan (already done except for the parking brake)
’71 Lincoln custom
’64 Impala four speed
After selling those cars I never saw them again.Weird, huh?
Currently I’m stuck with a radical ’53 Chevy truck and my dream car, a factory 429CJ/4 speed Cyclone Spoiler. One of my sons is dying to buy a ‘65 Riviera, but is just a little short on cash…I guess it’s my turn to re-pay the favor now. Thanks, Dad.
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