2008 Goodwood Festival of Speed

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The display of Vintage Dragsters at the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the brain child of NHRA Museum director and ex-pat Brit Tony Thacker. “I used to work at the SoCal Speed Shop and put in an exhibit to the museum for the sixtieth anniversary of the Shop with the blessing of founder Alex Xydias. The response was good and Wally Parks, who I had known for twenty years, asked me to become Director of the Museum. I had been coming to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, on and off, since it started and in 2005 we shipped the Bonneville ’32 Ford Roadster to England to use the MIRA wind tunnel and ran it up the hill at Goodwood. I later ran the car at Shakespeare County.

I accepted an offer from Kev Elliott who was editor of Custom Car at the time to drive it to the docks. He later called me to tell me it had overheated. I then remembered the fan had fallen off when we previously ran at Bonneville. No harm was done though and we got the record in 2006."

Tony continued “I made contact with Mick Walsh, a consultant to the Festival, after the 2005 event and he suggested bringing cars over and we shipped Mickey Thompson’s Challenger over with other Bonneville cars in 2007. Jarah Venables (pictured right, with Dusty McWilliams of the NHRA Museum) came over from Goodwood in spring 2007 and the idea of having a Cacklefest was born. We went through the Museum and figured what would run and show the evolution of Top Fuel dragsters.

The process of getting the cars over was more difficult than we planned. We originally planned to load them to a container boat in Los Angeles and ship them to Southampton. In the event, there was a shortage of ships, so they were placed in road containers and transported to Houston from where we shipped them. Goodwood organised all the logistics. They are the most professional event company I have worked with. Lord March may be coming over to Bonneville later this year or next year and there is every chance we will be bringing more cars in the future. Which ones? I’m not sure as the Museum changes its exhibits so frequently" .

We were honoured to have pioneer drag racer and American Motorsports Hall of Fame member Art Chrisman (pictured with son Mike, right) present at the event. Art said “We started racing on the street in the 1940s and then started to use Santa Ana when it opened in 1949-50 for legal racing. I ran car no. 25 from the start. It was an old dry lakes car originally built in the 1930s and had a pretty short wheelbase, 110 inches. We ran the car through to the first NHRA Nationals in Great Bend Kansas in 1955 and ran a best of 140mph with a Chrysler Firepower Hemi engine. We used nitro in the early days but more recently have run the car on methanol.

“After 1955 Mickey Thompson came out with a slingshot and we cut the no. 25 car up to convert it but then decided it would be better ti build a new car which is how Hustler I (no. 15) came about. At its debut at Oklahoma City in 1958 it won best appearing the car but the hemi made too much power even on gas. By March 1959 we had got it right and won Bakersfield and we were runner up in 1960 and 1961. In 1962 Ford’s Autolite spark plug division offered me a job as a representative and retired from racing as. I worked there for ten years until it was sold to Bendix. Since then I have been running Chrismans Cars with my son Mike (right) who also runs a Junior Fuel car. We restored No. 15 in 1989 and have run it at Hot Rod Reunions and cacklefests since. At the 50th Anniversary of that first meeting we made a pass at Indy.”

The Addict is owned by Rocky Childs, who ran it as the Childs & Albert team in the 1960s with various drivers. Years after selling it, Rocky located the car and had it restored it with friends. Working on the car this weekend is driver Rod Hynes and team-mate Jim Donn. Rod was driver of the Coors Light Quadzilla McGee-engined Fuel Altered and said he follows the NFAA with interest. The Addict was a regular winner at San Fernando in 1966-67 with a best of 7.89. For 1968 there was this improved version in which Dwight Salisbury became runner-up at the ’68 Winternationals with a 7.4/215.84.

Rod said “The character of the sport has changed out of all recognition since then. The cars then locked up the clutch away from the line and the driver had to feather the clutch pedal away from the line and try not to spin the wheels too much. Burnouts hadn’t been invented either. Sadly Rocky Childs couldn’t make it to Goodwood but he still runs Akerley & Childs producing piston rings.”

Representing the most modern, but still vintage, Top Fuel Dragsters is the Over The Hill Gang rear engined dragster from 1979. Driver Kelly Brown, original co-owner Sonny Diaz (with wrench) and owner Tom Curnow are working on this car. Kelly Brown said “I was reunited with the car after a gap of thirty years after Mike Furnell restored it and Tom Curnow donated it to the NHRA Museum. The original owners were Sonny, Jim Polopoulos, Gary Read and Bill Schultz."

I started racing in Top Fuel from 1967 and then took a break to pursue a stunt driving career and returned in 1978-79, which were my best years as a driver. I was NHRA Champion in 1978 and in 1979 I won the Gatornationals, Cajun Nationals Mile-High Nationals and the 25th Anniversary US Nationals. I then had to go back to doing stunts due to lack of sponsorship and still do some for TV commercials doubling for actors.” We noticed the car is running an Arias engine and Kelly commented that the team had tried this combination at the 1979 March Meet, so this is historically accurate.

Tommy Ivo’s barnstormer was lovingly recreated by Ron Johnson who runs the cacklefest.com web site which gives a lot of information about the restoration projects and these cars’ appearances at events in the US. Ron said “I was last in the US about 25 years ago and the weather is like that in Minnesota where I am from rather than San Diego, where I currently live. This is a great event. We don’t have anything like it in the US. I supervised the restoration of the car and hired the right people to get the job done. It was built from nothing in six months. I do about twelve events a year with it, street get-togethers in Southern California and Hot Rod Reunions. We’ve been to Bowling Green Kentucky and plan to go to Las Vegas later this year. I think Phoenix would be interested to host a cacklefest as well. The crowds love it and I don’t think it detracts from the racing.”

The car is one of two this weekend that saw action in the UK in the 1960s. The Barnstormer car was driven by Tommy Ivo to seven second passes at the 1964 Dragfest meetings and match raced against Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat at those events. Ron said “Every time I have brought the car to an event someone who has seen it run with Tommy driving has come for a chat and this weekend is no exception, a guy brought some shots he had taken from the Blackbushe meeting in 1964.”

Bob Muravez is in the driving seat of the Barnstormer car. Also known as Floyd Lippencotte Jnr in his early days following anti-racing pressures from his family, Bob said “I have relatives in England so come over from time to time. It’s great to be in the car as Tommy Ivo started me racing in 1960. At the March Meet I do a burnout which is not possible on the surface here.” Bob’s first serious ride was the Freight Train, an AA/GD with twin Chevys. “It ran with Chevys until 1970 when the team put in a pair of Chrysler Hemis. In 1992 the car was restored by original owner John Peters (with Chevys) and I would have liked it to be here, but it didn’t work out.” He also drove fuelers, including Don Johnson’s Beachcomber and The Assassin rails, winning several events against huge fields of up to 75 cars."

Bob recommended the book “Fuel and Guts” by Tom Madigan, a former driver who also wrote a book on Edelbrock which won a Californian motorsport writers’ award. The interview material for Fuel and Guts is preserved on tape and is being considered for publication. One of those interviewed for the book was Nye Frank, who sadly passed away last August. Bob said “It was needless as he was attacked by a local delinquent. Nye was one of the great innovators in drag racing with the Freight Train but also in Land Speed Records with Craig Breedlove and NASCAR (with a 7/8 scale car before templates were introduced) and more recently in desert racing. For more information on Bob Muravez including video footage, see his web site akaracing.com.

The Mooneyes dragster is owned by Shigehiro Suganuma of Mooneyes Inc and was one of the first dragsters to come to Britain when it raced up the Brighton Madeira Drive at the 1963 Speed Trials. Shig is promoting the Mooneyes brand and hot rodding in Japan. The car built in 1962 on a Dragmaster kit chassis was owned and tuned by Mooneyes founder Dean Moon and driven by Cary Cagle who won Middle Eliminator at the 1962 Winternationals and from 1963 by Dante Duce who achieved a best of 9.25/166.6.

The chassis is a replica of the original built by Dode Martin from the original Drag master chassis frame following a 2005 crash. The 383 small block Chevy has a front-mounted blower. Dean Moon ran Mooneyes from the 1940s until his death in 1987. For more details of Mooneyes’ international network see www.mooneyes.com.

Unique amongst the cars here is the continuous ownership of the Glass Slipper, one of the most innovative cars ever built and inspiring copies of its features such as the enclosed canopy and wheel discs from cars built decades later. In 1954, Ed and Roy Cortopassi and Doug Butler built the Glass Slipper and have owned it ever since. Ed (right) and Doug (left) are pictured by the car. Ed said “We built the car in our back yard – there weren’t any chassis building shops in those days and everyone built their own. We first intended to drag race it but we ran it at Bonneville and ran a record 181mph in 1955. We then ran a standing kilometre in 1958 at an air force base in Riverside for the German Auto Union which was 168mph and recognised as a new FIA world record.”

“The car raced competitively from mid-1955 to 1962 and was then retired until 1981 when we ran some exhibition passes. The car has been in the NHRA Museum since it opened in 1998. We have taken the car overseas before, we took it to Hawaii in 1957. This is our first trip to Europe.” The car’s best times are 8.93/172mph in 1959-60 with a small block Chevy on nitro.

The Charles Bang Special is owned by Dean Butler and powered by a Ford Flathead V8 with Offenhauser heads. It held the D class quarter mile record in 1965 at 10.32 seconds. You can see footage of it being fired up at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Press Day at www.youtube.com.

The Cacklefest team from all eleven cars present got together for a group photo shortly after the fire-up.

The Howard Cams Rattler was raced by Larry Dixon senior in 1970 winning the Winternationals that year. It was the start of a year when Dixon raced it almost weekly. Other drivers during the car’s life (1968-72) include Jack Chrisman, Larry Dixon, Norm Wilcox and Rick Ramsey. The car was owned by Howard Johansen and in 1996 his Grandson Bret Johansen found the car and started the process of rebuilding it with Nick Arias III. During 1997 and 1998 the car was restored and arrived in time for the grand opening of the NHRA Museum in April 1998

The privilege of sitting in the drivers’ seat of the Howard Cams Rattler fell to the girlfriend of Festival of Speed organiser Jarah Venables, Charlotte, whose birthday it is today. Afterwards, and not at all fazed by the authentic spray of oil her visor received, she said “My teeth are still rattling and I don’t know when it will stop!”

Dave and Charlie West are here with this replica of the Beebe and Mulligan Fuel Dragster. This car the restoration of which Dave masterminded, won the 1969 Winternationals. It was low qualifier at the US Nationals when a clutch explosion at 1000ft caused injuries that would take the life of popular driver John ‘The Zookeeper’ Mulligan. The reconstruction used as many as possible of the resources and types of equipment used in the original car. “When we started building the car we never dreamed that it would come back to life as it has. Tim Beebe was apprehensive about the whole project but we had faith in Pat Foster who worked for Woody Gilmore who built the car. Tom Hanna built the original body and Tony Nancy the upholstery. Even Engle were able to reproduce accurately the cam grind from the original."

“We go to about three or four races each year and this year will attend the Infineon Raceway nostalgia event, the March Meet and the Californian Hot Rod Reunion. Being here is the chance of a lifetime and we have been treated like royalty”, said Dave. “We are overwhelmed by the size and the organisation. I’ve been into hot rodding for a long time but have only recently been able to afford to build a car like this. I raced Junior Fuel in the early 1970s for two or three years in a DeSoto powered rail built by Gene Adams."

The one car that didn’t participate in the cacklefest was the Showboat car with its four Buick Nailhead engines. This was built by Tommy Ivo following a successful period running a twin engined car in NHRA’s nitro ban era from 1957 to 1963. Ever the showman Tommy said “If two are good then four must be better”. The car was four wheel driven but at its debut it became clear that handling could be an issue with the front slicks breaking loose at the same time that the rears were hooking up. The NHRA promptly banned the car and thus the world’s first exhibition car was born.

Tommy Ivo sold Showboat to Tom McCourry who put a body on it and ran it as the Wagonmaster. Tommy discovered the car completely by chance in the mid-1980s and had it restored; the car resides in the NHRA Motorsport Museum and is currently owned by Ralph Whitworth.

Feature ©Eurodragster.com

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