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Land Speed Racing Newsletter #387

Land Speed Racing Newsletter #387


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Ann Lawford,   
PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Richard Parks, [email protected]  
PHOTOGRAPHIC Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, [email protected]
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REPORTER: Spencer Simon, [email protected]
FIELD REPORTER/HISTORIAN: Bob Falcon, [email protected]
HISTORIANS: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Burly Burlile, Jerry Cornelison, Robin Millar, Ora Mae Millar
IN MEMORIAM: Wally Parks, Tex Smith, Tom Medley, Lee Blaisdell, Eric ‘Rick’ Rickman (editors and photographers)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------STAFF EDITORIAL, by Richard Parks
     It is with profound sadness that I have to inform you that my brother, David Lee Parks, passed away on 8 January 2016 at his home in Corona Del Mar, California.  Below is his story that he and I co-wrote together.  He loved straight-line racing; drags and land speed.  He loved all the people associated with racing and with all his might and spirit tried to make it a better sport for all.  David had a rich heritage through his father and friends in the SCTA.  Ak Miller, Jack Lufkin and many others watched as David struggled to make his Camaro go faster.  Then when they had watched his torment enough they slapped him on the back and said, “Let’s get started.”  That’s the way land speed and drag racers are; they want to see the struggle, but when the time comes they are right there at your shoulder ready to pitch in.
     David seemed to be in the prime of life; healthy and eager to go racing or to work on another project.  That’s the bane of us all; we have too many projects to do for the life that we have in us.  But we have to admire David and those like him because they never stop creating and building.  We will all miss him greatly, but I will not only miss him; I will be lost without him.  He was my younger brother but his strong will and drive made him far more capable of the two of us.  He was my only sibling.  I taught him how to ride a bike, and a little about how to drive a car.  He far surpassed me; but that’s what you want to see a younger brother do.  I was always proud of him.  He’s gone now, but I will never forget him.  I spoke to Jim Miller just a few days prior to my brother’s passing and he told me that in 2015 we lost 72 land speeders.  Let’s hope that it will be awhile before we lose any more.  If you haven’t started on your life story now is the time to do it.  I nagged David to write his and he finally did though he said, “I’m still young.”  The truth is that none of us know when our time is up.  Let me know and I will help you write your biography.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin’ … David Lee Parks.  Story and photographs by David L. Parks, editing by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.   26 February 2012.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands, for photographs go to

     My grandfather, who I don't remember, but my brother Richard knew well, was Henry Clyde Parks, whom everyone called Skant.  He was the first of my line born on Beaver Creek, Salina County, Kansas and his date of birth was 1885.  I don't know why, but it could have been because he was shorter and skinnier than the other Parks family members.  Skant married Bessie Aurella Ravenscroft, who was from southern Kansas and whose father owned a grain mill and store. Skant had two brothers, Winn and Foss, and an older sister, Lillian Parks, who everyone called 'Pink.'  She married and stayed in the Midwest, but in the period around the First World War, uncles Winn and Foss moved to California and sent glowing reports back to their brother Skant to sell the farm and move to the 'Golden State.'  Henry Clyde and Bessie Parks packed up their belongings on an old Ford touring car and their three oldest children; Wallace Gordon Parks, Clyda Ione Parks and Nelda Rose Parks.  They made this trip out west around 1921, over dirt roads and once got lost in Mexico, before they found their way to California.  Henry worked in a hardware store owned or managed by his brother. 

     Eventually they made their permanent home in South Gate, California, which at that time was a rural suburb of Los Angeles.  In 1928 their last child was born, my uncle Kenny.  My father was Wallace 'Wally' Parks and he was born in 1913 in Goltry, Oklahoma on the farm which my grandfather had owned.  My father lost his mother, Bessie, whom he adored in 1933 to an infection brought on by a surgery.  A year later he met Mary Mant and they were married in December 1935.  My brother Richard was the first child, born during the end of the Great Depression and during the worst of the Second World War in January of 1944.  Dad served in the war as a sergeant in a tank battalion and saw action in Bougainville and the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf in 1945.  After the war he went back to work for General Motors test driving cars.  A strike at the plant left him unemployed and he ran for and became the president of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) in 1946, and the first General Manager of the SCTA in 1947.  From there he went to work as the first professional editor of Hot Rod magazine in 1948.  In 1951 my father founded the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and a year after that I came along.

     I was born on March 17, 1952 at Murphy Memorial Hospital in Whittier, California.  I was lucky to be there, because I wasn't breathing when I was born, so they put me into the new piece of equipment that they had just got (an "Iron Lung" breathing machine) which saved my new life. I am the second child of Wallace 'Wally' Parks and Mary Mant Parks, and spent the first four years of my life growing up in Rivera, California (before they combined it with Pico) with my older brother, Richard. Mom and Dad separated in the 1950's and Mom decided to make a change. Mary had always enjoyed the beach, especially the little town of Corona del Mar, California, which was a suburb of Newport Beach.  In the Spring of 1956, she bought a little bungalow cottage on Heliotrope Avenue, just three short blocks from the beach.  It had two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a small kitchen and dining room, which was barely big enough for her family of three, but she had a fierce love and pride in that little house.  A few years later her brother, Robert Mant, built an add-on studio apartment onto the garage and that gave everyone their own bedroom.  I was four years old when we moved, and the first school that I attended was Corona del Mar Elementary School which was just a few streets away from my home.  I was there through fourth grade, but don't look for it now though, as the school was sold and turned into houses many years ago. Next I attended Harbor View School, on the other side of the highway, for fifth and sixth grades, and then it was off to Junior High!  Lincoln Middle School was on a bluff above the town and at that time they had not built any homes around it so it was out in the middle of nowhere. 

     One day the teachers rounded up all the students and rushed us inside and locked the doors.  A mountain lion had come down out of the hills and was prowling around the school, and left huge paw prints in the wet mud.  The teachers poured Plaster of Paris into the footprints to make a display for the school.  My next school was Corona Del Mar High School and this was a brand new facility on the East Bluff of the Back Bay, not far from my home.  My brother had attended Costa Mesa High School and Newport Harbor High School because Corona Del Mar High had not been opened when he went to school.  He never stopped complaining about the long bus rides and how easy that I had it.  There is more to high school than just bus rides. My first job was as a bag boy at the local market. Mom knew the manager there and she threatened to take her shopping elsewhere if he didn't hire me. When Orange County International Raceway opened, I got a job there handing out time slips to the racers.
     I graduated from high school in 1969 and went on to Cal Poly Pomona where I initially majored in Physics. I wasn't quite ready for the rigors of physics and its prerequisite classes, so I started taking more of my general education courses to see where my interests lay, and eventually ended up in the Philosophy program.  I lived with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Olga in Pomona for my first year in college. They had room since their sons, Norman and Walter, were both away in the Navy. When they were discharged and came home, I moved into a 16-foot travel trailer parked at my Uncle Roy and Aunt Carol's house in San Dimas.  It was nice having "my own place," but it was a bit cramped, so when two of my friends (Craig and Stefan) moved into a larger place, I joined them. The years at that place were legendary, with many parties and multiple car projects being performed in the car ports.  By this time, my first car (a maroon 1964 Chevelle Malibu bought for me by my Dad) had morphed into a blue 1965 Chevelle Malibu (with a little help after a slight accident in Laguna Beach). I continued working at Orange County Raceway to make money for the parts I was breaking on my car.

     Eventually my two roommates got married and moved out. I downsized the apartment twice, and ended up living by myself in La Verne. I finally got a B.A. in 1975 (the 6-year plan...), but not before making many life-long friends through the Cal Poly Sports Car Club.  When I got out of school with my degree, I felt ready to take on the world, so I got a job in the local hardware store. After a while, I could see that my potential was much greater, so I became a mechanic at a local foreign car garage. In my spare time, I continued to play Badminton (a sport that I had played in college) at Lincoln School on Tuesday nightsI got to know one of the couples that played mixed doubles there, and the wife told me that she had a couple of daughters at home. They brought a daughter, Barbara Coddington, with them one time, which I proceeded to date for about six years and then propose to at the Royal Hawaiian Restaurant in Laguna Beach. We were married at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on May 22, 1982. Since that time, Barbara has worked for several dentists as a Dental Hygienist.  I went from auto mechanic to model maker and piping designer at Fluor Corporation, thanks to some inside help from my brother-in-law, Dan Nerison. Then I went on to Engineering Science in Newport Beach, but the economy took a dump and I lost my job. I went back to school at Cal Poly Pomona again, but this time for a B.S. in Engineering Technology. Once my degree was completed, I took a position with Jaykim Engineers in Brea, and later worked for MacDonald Stevens Engineers in Lake Forest.
     Barbara and I designed and built our home in the rear of where I grew up in Corona Del Mar. On August 31, 1985 Barbara and I welcomed our first daughter, Mari Amorette Parks, and almost five years later, we welcomed our second daughter Tamara Lee Parks on August 3, 1990. Our daughters grew up at the same home that I did and were able to have their grandmother live in the house on the front of the property. They were also able to attend the same schools and graduated from Corona Del Mar High School. In 1991 I took a position with Levine-Fricke Engineers, and although the company has been bought out and has changed names several times, the most recent name is Arcadis; I have managed to stick it out for over twenty years, with the last couple of years being part-time employment.  Barbara’s family, the Coddington’s, have always been avid water-skiers. It has been a family tradition that we travel to Lake Shasta every year to enjoy skiing and boating. We stay at the Ellery Creek Campground and are usually there with the Nerisons, Coddingtons and a few friends.
     During my free time I enjoy traveling to visit my daughters.  Tamara is an esthetician and is living in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Mari and her husband, Matt Bell, were married in 2007 and live in Provo, Utah.  I regularly travel there during the fall to watch the BYU football games.  Much of my time is now spent trying to fix up the shop building in Costa Mesa where I store and work on some of my cars. I named the place "The Old Garage" in memory of the party room of the same name that was located beneath my Dad's former house in Sherman Oaks. Hopefully some of the good feelings will live on.  I keep my cars there including Buttercup, my dad's El Camino, “Suddenly,” which was his race car and my newest acquisition, a 1965 Chevy Malibu convertible. The Old Garage also houses historical files, photos and movies that were lovingly preserved by Wally through the years. Also there are piles of files from my racing years at El Mirage, Bonneville and Muroc. I went from driving my Chevelle to El Mirage and Bonneville to race it in the '70s to setting records over 200 miles per hour in a full-race Chevy Camaro in the '90s, all thanks to being sponsored by my Dad's good friend, Ak Miller. I even had a few good spins at 190+ mph!  The race car has been sold, but I still like to go out to the dry lakes and watch the races. It's even more fun when you don't have to work on the race car, but I can't say that I am done with racing.  Once you get hooked the racing bug stays with you.

Gone Racin' is at [email protected].  

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin'...Jim Walters.  Story by Jim Walters and Richard Parks, photographs by Jim Walters, edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  17 July 2015.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands, for photographs go to

     Jim Walters was born in 1938 in Maywood, California at the old Maywood Hospital to Marjorie and Roger Walters.  He had a younger sister Phyllis Walters.  "When I was eight years old in 1946 my dad took me down to Hal Robson's shop in Huntington Park to have machining work done on our dump truck.  My father and my grandfather, Fred Walters, owned a material hauling business and they had six dump trucks.  Robson had won the 1946 Indy 500 race, the first race held after WWII had ended.  From 1942 to 1945 there were no Indy 500 races held so that materials like gasoline and rubber could be used in the war effort against the Axis Powers," Jim told me.  Robson shop was on Pacific Avenue and 54th Street in Huntington Park, California. 

     "I often went over to my grandmother's (Bessie Phillips) home on Virginia Street in Lynwood and a few doors down from her house was Troy Ruttman's shop.  I would go over to Ruttman's and there would always be guys who were working on his car.  He started out in jalopy racing like many of the other top racers who went on to race at the Indianapolis Speedway.  Southern California at that time was a hot bed of racing and produced some of the best racers in the country," Jim said.  Ruttman would go on to win the 1952 Indy 500.

     "Across the street and down the alley from my grandmother's home on Virginia Street was the shop of George Barris.  He was a well-known car customizer who is still creating new custom looks today.  Another shop next door to the Barris shop was William Gaylord Lunney's upholstery shop.  Gaylord, as he was called, was well known for his upholstery work in boats and cars.  Gaylord also built a line of speedboats.  My grandmother owned and operated a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue and served American food with an Oklahoma style.  I used to walk over to the restaurant for breakfast or lunch," Jim continued.

     In 1952 he attended Saint Rose of Lima High School in Maywood and two of his closest friends were Don Ockenpaugh and Bill Smith.  While he was in high school he had a paper route from 1953 to 1957, and some of his customers were Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Wayne Koppe, and Gene Thurman.  Roth was a pinstriper and designer and his creations are still popular today.  Koppe was a mechanic for Fritz Voigt and worked on the Mickey Thompson Challenger land speed cars.   Thurman was a dry lakes and land speed racer.  

     "I remember sneaking out of my bedroom window and going over to see Fritz and Dorothy Voigt at their garage on Slauson Avenue in Maywood.  In 1954 Fritz let me crew on his drag car at Santa Ana and Lions drag strips that I know of.  Fritz met his wife Dorothy when she was a carburetor mechanic at a garage in Huntington Park, California.  Fritz and Dorothy were a team, always doing things together.  They liked to dress casually in jeans and t-shirts.  After they divorced he married Mickey Thompson's ex-wife Judy.  Fritz had no children with Dorothy.  She remarried Gene Alsop, who was not a racer.  Fritz had two children by his first wife, Ryan and Vicky.  I remember that Fritz never cleaned up his shop and the floor was so dirty that you left footprints as you walked, but he was a great mechanic.
     A lot of people visited the shop and it was very busy.  I remember seeing Glenn Pingry there.  He was a Bonneville racer was a regular at the shop.  He lost his arm and smashed an ankle in a roll-over on the salt flats in Utah around the mid-1950's.  Leland

Kolb was another regular.  He had a roadster that Fritz worked on and in 1957 I went to the NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City with Leland to crew on his car.  Leland worked at Howard Cams for Howard Johansen.  At Oklahoma City Leland set a record of 124 mph at a 10.30 ET (elapsed time).  I remember riding to Oklahoma in the back of a pick-up truck; a great experience for a young man who had just turned 18.  Pingry was also on Kolb's crew.  Pat Kolb, Leland's wife, went with us.  She was on the management staff at Drag News magazine.   We towed the roadster on a trailer and it was so light we had to take the engine out of the car for fear that it would break in two.

     In early 1956 I was hanging around Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's garage at his home and he was welding a part on the back of his coupe and a spark from the torch ignited the gas tank in his car and the explosion blew Roth clear through the back wall of his wooden garage.  I ran around to the back yard and found Ed walking around cussing, with his hair singed off and his shirt burned.  If he hadn't had a cover-all jacket on he could have been seriously burned.  Soon after that he got tired of the coupe and I bought the '32 Ford 3-window coupe from him for $250, which included the Hemi engine.  I used to watch him practicing the art of pinstriping on glass.  At the time he made his living as a window dresser at the Sears Department Store on Olympic Blvd in Los Angeles.  He left his job at Sears and opened up a pinstriping shop on Atlantic Blvd.  Ed's second shop was on Slauson Avenue about two blocks down from Voigt's shop and began work on the OUTLAW, a custom roadster, for his first car show at the Los Angeles convention center.  An employee whom we all knew as Dirty Doug helped Ed with the plaster and mold work.  Ed had an airbrush and made t-shirts with his popular Rat Fink designs that appealed to the youth of that generation.  His white butcher hair caps were also popular with the racers.  His favorite car was a '47 Ford 2-door sedan that he used to practice new pinstriping designs and on the back of the car above the rear window he placed a mask of a gorilla's head.  The car looked more like an artist's palette.  Later in life he divorced his wife and moved to Utah. 

     In 1956 Jim joined the T-Timers car club in Maywood and two of the members that he can recall were Ron Cull and Fred Hudson.  The club organized in order to do quite a bit of illegal street racing. The T-Timers held organized meetings club members would get together and work on the cars at an International Harvesters dealership in Compton, California.  Bruce Cull was the owner of the truck dealership.  He was a rather stern man, but he let us use his repair shop and yard.  He was also a pilot who learned how to fly in the Civilian Air Patrol.  The T-Timers raced on Alameda Avenue, between Del Amo and Carson, which was a four lane stretch of road with two lanes going north and two lanes going south.  It was a concrete surface that was smooth as glass at the beginning and at the end it had some dips which made the racing somewhat dangerous if you weren't careful. 
     Jim continued, "We used to go over to the Clock Drive-In in the city of Bell with our dates and we would arrange races with other clubs.  After we took our girlfriends home we went over to Greasy's Diner on Florence and Eastern to arrange more street races.  There was a boy who would ride his bicycle over to Greasy's to be with us.  His name was John Force and he would later go on to become a champion Funny car driver and team owner.  Another street racer who frequented Greasy's Diner was a man by the name of Jim Lemon.  He had a '53 Ford pick-up truck and he put a heavy cast iron bathtub in the back of the pick-up to put extra weight on the rear tires for traction.  We raced on Bandini Blvd between Eastern and Garfield, another four lane street, with only commercial buildings in the area.  We raced at night when the traffic was light and sometimes we would have a club member at each end of the streets to give us a warning by flashlight if any traffic or police were coming our way.  We street raced all through the 1950's and '60's.  I got married in 1959 and stopped street racing for a year, but then missed it and went back to street racing," Jim added.

     "I never joined the SCTA or raced with that organization, but I did go with Fritz Voigt to Bonneville in 1954 to help out on the Mickey Thompson Challenger 1 land speed car," Walters remembered.  "Thompson rented a gas station in Wendover, Nevada and closed it to the public so that he could work on his car.  There were more than a dozen people who worked on the car at Bonneville.  We slept in our cars.  I drove up in my own car and took a friend, Leon Molett, with me and we slept in my car.  We couldn't afford a motel room and since we were working literally night and day we wouldn't have used a room anyway."  Leon would go on to race a front engine dragster exclusively at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, when Mickey Thompson was the manager there.  "I remember that it was so hot that year at Bonneville that even with hats we got sunburned from the reflection off the salt.  My ears and under my chin were sunburned red.  It was so hot and miserable that I never wanted to go back.  There were guys sleeping on the salt and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they managed.  I was 16 at the time and though it was a memorable trip that SpeedWeek cured me of Salt Fever. 

     When I was 15, in 1953 I went with Fritz and Dorothy Voigt to the Santa Ana Airport drag strip where he raced a flathead dragster.  Voigt’s dragster was one of the first of its kind, a shortened version of what they run today and only about 100 inches long (wheelbase).  The dragster evolved from the old Ford roadsters.  Drag racers would jettison unneeded weight and lengthen the roadsters until they began to look low and streamlined and very fast.  Santa Ana was the very first professional track for drag racing in the country and it influenced a lot of other promoters to open up drag strips all over the nation.   Voigt drove the car and Dorothy and I crewed.  The strip was on the airport runway and the drivers would start up their cars in a loop, stage and C. J. Hart would flag off the two competitors.  The cars would run over a wire that started the timing equipment and after a quarter mile the cars would run over another wire that stopped the timer.  On the return road the driver would stop at a hearse where they would pick up their timing slip.  They used a phonograph record player to mark the slips.  They would mark a record, the old 78 LP record would have marks on it in tenths of a second and then the timer would look at where the needle stopped and mark your time by hand.  It was primitive but it gave a good indication for the era of exactly how fast your car could go.  They didn’t record elapsed times (ETs) back then, only miles per hour.  Fritz would usually run a time of about 135 to 138 MPH. 

     After Santa Ana Fritz raced at Lion’s Drag Strip in Long Beach and I was about 16 now so that would be around 1954.  I remember one time we had to work on the dragster in the pits and we put tires down on one side and rolled the dragster over to pull the pan.  Mickey and Judy Thompson were running Lion’s Drag Strip at the time and they were impressed with the speeds that Fritz was achieving.  Mickey approached Fritz and asked him if he would work on Thompson’s drag and land speed cars and Fritz agreed and parked his ride and went to work for Mickey.  Fritz didn’t say much and when he did the language would curl your ears.  Fritz used a lot of idioms; one of his favorites when people came to him for work on their cars was, “Do you have any dust,” meaning of course gold dust or money.  If you quibbled about a bill that Fritz gave you his response would be, “If you’re so smart then why the **** are you here?” 

     I remember going to Lion’s with a friend who drove the motorcycle called Double Trouble that was powered by twin Triumph motorcycle engines.  Tom Glavis rode the motorcycle and owned one of the engines.  Pat Persetti owned the other Triumph engine and was Tom’s co-partner.  It was foggy that night and Tom couldn’t stop the bike and went through the wooden fence at the end of the track.  We took him to the hospital and I recall that the grumpy doctor came out and said, “Who brought this kid into the hospital,” and when we told him that we did he said, “Then come in here and help me get all of the splinters out of his butt.” 
     I never got into NHRA drag racing as it was out of my budget and I mostly raced on the streets.  I had an Anglia panel truck with a small block Chevy engine and I was invited to come up to Hollywood by Norm Grabowski, an original Los Angeles Roadster Club member and famous custom car builder for the movie industry.  Grabowski invited all the hot cars to come up and race against his club at the time which was called the Hollywood Roadster Club.  Dwayne Lidke ran a ‘29 model-A with a Buick motor.  Tom McMullen raced his ’32 Ford Roadster with a small block Chevy.  Tom and his wife Rose would later start up a publishing business that was quite successful among hot rodders and street racers.  He bought Chopper magazine from Ed Roth for $2500 and added motorcycles to his publishing empire.  McMullen later sold all his magazine titles for seven million dollars and shortly thereafter lost his life in a plane crash.  When I knew him in the early 1960’s he was going to Compton Junior College and was majoring in Electrical Engineering.  Lidke later built a twin-engined dragster which he raced at Lion’s and other drag strips.  The dragster had one Cadillac and one Oldsmobile engine with a chain coupling.
     Another member of the Hollywood Roadsters that raced against me that night was Edd “Kookie” Byrnes who was in the TV series 77 Sunset Strip and the song lyrics was “Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb.”  The club meeting was held at a hardware store on La Brea Blvd, near Melrose.  I knocked and was let into the store and taken to a back room that reminded me of a speakeasy.  Grabowski chaired the meeting of the Hollywood Roadsters that night and introduced us as coming from Downey to race any of their members.  They took us to Santa Monica Blvd after midnight and I remember racing against three of their club members.  I won two of the races and lost one and came home with about $300 bucks in my pocket, which was a pretty good night out.  There were other times when Norm would call and I would go up to Hollywood and race guys on Melrose Blvd.  We would meet at Scribner’s, a drive-in across the street from the Palladium Ballroom, and pick out other hot rodders that we wanted to race against.  Scribner’s had carhops and a radio show that broadcast out of the Drive-In.  My favorite competition was the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and Jaguar sports cars because they thought they were faster than an old hot rod.  I consistently beat them and earned a good amount of money off their owners.  After losing to me they would challenge me to go road racing on twisty, hilly Mulholland Drive above Bel Air, but I turned them down because my car was too short and tall to compete with them on a road course like that.

     After Jim graduated from high school he attended Los Angeles Trade Tech for two years.  In 1961 he enlisted in the Army, but was injured in an accident and the Army gave him a discharge in the same year.  He went to work for the City of Los Angeles in 1961 and that is how he earned a living and raised a family.  In 1975 he retired from the City of Los Angeles.

     Around 1980 my daughter, Julie Walters Moyer drag raced my car against Jr Thompson in nostalgia drag racing.  She match raced in the NDRA series of 23 races on the West coast and at Las Vegas.  Julie was sixteen at the time she drove my front engine dragster, which drag racers of the day called a slingshot dragster, with the driver sitting in a rollbar cage over the rear end.  Julie was the driver, I was the crew chief and sponsor and my other daughter Christine was one of the crewpersons.  Julie drove at Fremont, Orange County International Raceway, Las Vegas, Palmdale, Bakersfield, Pomona, Carlsbad, Sacramento, Inyokern, and Redding with the slingshot dragster. Julie drove for six years and then sometimes I drove the car and at other times I had other drivers race the car.  In 1992 I moved to Redding, California after my divorce from Ann Walters, in order to take care of my aging parents.  In 2002 I sold the dragster to Stephan Christian from Sweden.  In 2005 I met a young teenager by the name of Brandon Back who was interested in drag racing and I gave him some help in becoming a car builder and racer.  Brandon and I built the twin-engine phantom roadster, which is a clone of a 1937 Indy car that George Robson won the Indy 500 race in 1946.  Brandon has driven the roadster at Roseville, California. 

Gone Racin' is at [email protected]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Della Woods: This Funny Honey Never Lost Her Groove!  Article written by Jim Hill.  Reprinted from the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Newsletter.

Story by Jim Hill

     Talented female race drivers are now commonly seen in all forms of motorsports. Once an almost all-male domain, motor racing has come to accept and embrace the contributions that ladies in helmets have made. It wasn’t always that easy. Girls like Della Woods came up through the ranks at a time when they were not only shunned, but banned from the driver’s seat.  Racers are often known as a superstitious lot, and one of the superstitious phobias claimed that “women in the pits are bad luck”. (Huh?) Another revolved around the bad luck created by eating peanuts and dropping the shells in the pits, and that race cars were bad luck if painted any shade of green! (And I’m not making this up!)
     The girls were prohibited from driving race cars because of nothing more than the harshest form of male chauvinism. It just wasn’t done, and track operators sided with those who thought they were best suited for making sandwiches and sitting quietly in the stands. Today, in the 21st Century, such thinking is laughable.   In drag racing there were a handful of luminary female barrier-breakers. Among those was Ohio’s grand dame of supercharged Gassers, Barbara Hamilton. Next came Schenectady, New York’s fiery Shirley Muldowney, and from Lake Orion, Michigan, Della Woods.  Della and her brother, Bernie Woods, were born in Detroit but grew up on a farm outside Pontiac, Michigan. Repairing and maintaining farm machinery fostered Bernie’s mechanical interests, but it was horsepower and speed that sparked their collective curiosity. From an early age, both were fascinated by the sport of drag racing. Growing up close to racing-obsessed Detroit explains much of that interest. Some of their earliest memories were of local Detroit pop radio station CKLW blasting “Sunday! Sunday! At Detroit Dragway!” radio spots. (The powerful AM rock radio station CKLA was actually in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, based studios, across the Detroit River, but it was powerful enough to reach across Ontario Province and the U.S.)
     When both were in their late teens Bernie built a ’63 Dodge Polara powered by a 426 Max Wedge. A 426 wedge in a lightweight Dodge sedan was a very potent combination, but not without the need for preparation and tuning guidance. Bernie’s curious nature led him to seek and find help in maximizing the potential of the Dodge and its 450+ hp, 426 engine. Della went with her brother to nearby Motor City Dragway, north of Detroit, near Mt. Clemens, Michigan.  On a whim, she jumped in and made a 12-second, 120 mph run in the Super Stocker. Della was immediately enamored with the sensation of speed. She began by running a couple all-female “Powder Puff” races. Her ability quickly exceeded the powder puff format and she soon moved into the regular eliminators. There competed against the all-male fields, winning a few while gaining the respect of fellow drivers.
     Bernie’s next effort was with a ’65 Dodge Hemi 426 Super Stocker. It had a famous pedigree in being the famous “Lawman” Dodge owned and driver by Detroit attorney Al Eckstrand. Della made many runs in that car, but both the drag racing siblings wanted more.  Bernie wanted to build a car that was faster… a lot faster. He spent the long Michigan winter converting the Dodge Polara into a homebuilt Funny Car. Its all-steel body and less than pro-quality components were of course, a handicap. The car was heavy and not as quick as competitors, but with Della driving and Bernie tuning, they began to accumulate an impressive amount of hands-on knowledge. They named the car “Bernella”, the combination of “Bernie” and “Della”. Although not the quickest and fastest car in the field, they were competitive with Bernie’s tuning and Della’s on-the-Tree driving.
     Della’s early success did not come without issues. She had easily qualified for her Funny Car license. Della’s qualifying runs were witnessed and signed by legends Don Garlits, Roger Lindamood and fuel altered driver Don Kohler. From out of the blue, NHRA issued a letter that suspended her license. There was no stated reason, nor any questionable “incidents”. The only possible reason was her gender. After several more attempts and additional endorsements from other qualified, licensed drivers the association reinstated her competition license.  It was painfully obvious that sanctioning officials looked unfavorably upon a female driver competing against men, and maybe beating them! Those sexist fears likely had less to do with gender prejudice than concern for a tidal wave of bad publicity should a woman or spectators be killed at an event. After considerable pressure, NHRA, AHRA and IHRA finally, unanimously declared that when properly trained and equipped, the girls were equally capable as drivers in any drag racing category, including Funny Car and Top Fuel.
     Meanwhile, with their sanctioning battle won, it was time to focus on making the “Bernella” team more competitive. In 1968 Della and Bernie built a new ’68 Dodge Charger bodied Funny Car with a blown, 426 Hemi engine. The new car carried a new name as well, and the “Funny Honey” began taking match race bookings throughout the Midwest and on the east coast. The fans wanted to see how the girl driver ran against other headliner Funny Cars. Maybe it was just out of curiosity or perhaps the guys really wanted to see Della fail. Regardless of the motive, track operators were eager to book the new Funny Car for a “Battle of The Sexes” and their match race bookings took off.  The new ’68 Charger was slick and professional, with a current Logghe chassis and all the right pieces. Running big numbers wasn’t possible however.  The Funny Honey team raced mainly out of pocket. Spare parts were expensive and even minor engine damage could be catastrophic to an under-funded, nitro Funny Car team. Big power and headliner speeds were just a twist of Bernie’s wrenches away, but so were big expenses for engine damages. They maintained their conservative, don’t-hurt-it, tune-up combination, and relied on Della’s driving to provide an edge.
     In 1972 Bernie got married, and family considerations caused him to exit the Funny Honey show. Della carried on, and became associated with De Nichols, a GM engineer and owner of local precision machine shop, N&S Automotive. Nichols became Della’s crew chief, tuner and more. The long trips on the road led to a romance and in 1976 they married. The family team continued successfully for several more years, until the costs of running a nitro Funny Car forced their retirement in 1989.  In 1996 they once again felt the itch, and staged a comeback. Della and Dee first bought the “Fighting Irish”, a Gen2 Pontiac Trans-Am formerly raced by Tim Beebe and Dick Rosberg. They stepped up again by purchasing Chuck Etchell’s Funny Car, the first FC to officially break the 300 mph barrier for Funnies. Their on-again racing career was short-lived however. It ended when the reality of the obscene costs of today’s fuel racing without major sponsorship again forced them into retirement.
     During her career Della Woods not only broke through drag racing’s “glass ceiling”, she also blew away several speed barriers for female FC drivers. She was the first woman to go over 220, 230 and then 240 mph. In 1984 she won the Olympics of Drag Racing, an historic and prestigious event at Great Lakes Dragway.  Della has also paid her dues in racing generated injuries. Racing legend Smokey Yunick called this “sheet time”, meaning the time spent in a hospital bed following a racing accident.  In 1986, at Phoenix’s Firebird Raceway she had an engine explosion and a big fire that was followed by a bad crash. The car’s body was instantly engulfed and flaming bits flew high. When the track’s emergency first responders reached her Della was alive but seriously injured. Her multi-layered firesuit did its crucial job and protected her from the inferno, save for a few minor burns. Her other injuries were not so minor. Della spent several weeks recovering from a concussion, broken ribs, a bruised kidney and contusions resulting from the incident.
     Accidents and injuries are a part of racing. Della Woods always accepted that risk as an unfortunate downside to the sport of going very fast. Throughout her career that never hampered her desire to drive and race again. Within a few months she was ready to go. This is not at all a personal death-wish, but the desire to prove one’s worth in facing a challenge, and triumphing over fear.  In 1999 Della Woods was honored for her lifetime racing career with a well-deserved and timely induction into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame. That Hall of Fame induction now places her in the same company as Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield. Della’s accomplishments included listing her as “Drag Racing Driver”, without the asterisk denoting “Female driver”.
     Now 75, Della has seen and done so much in her lifetime, including being a healthy survivor of breast cancer. She continues to live in the Lake Orion, Michigan area, near Pontiac.   The East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame is proud to include Funny Car pioneer and talented, successful race driver Della Woods as a member of its 2015 class of inductees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GEORGE CALLOWAY interview Part II, by John “Gunner” Gunnell.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands, for photographs go to

HRHL: George, a lot of Bonneville racers came here to the 2015 PRI Show to attend a seminar about the future of Land Speed racing. What do you know about the “Save the Salt” problems and efforts to fix them?
GC: Well, when I went to Bonneville for the first time, in 1954, the salt was over 18 inches thick. Ok, so due to the mining, now, after 60 years, the salt is gone. What they do with the mining is that it rains in the wintertime and the salt flats flood and this dilutes the salt. So, they dug a ditch all along there and the water runs into the ditch and then they pump it out across the street (south of I80) in a drying pond. So, after 60 years of doing this, all the salt (at the speedway section) is gone.  
HRHL: What is the condition of the salt on Bonneville Speedway itself?
GC: Well, we’d like to have a 13-mile course to race on. It’s down to seven miles and miles 8 and 9 are just all dirt. For the past two years, we haven’t been able to get on the salt and I have a strong suspicion that if we have El Niño, like they’re talking about, we may not be able to race there next year, in 2016.
HRHL: Getting back to the history of Bonneville, when we were there we bumped into Ross Leslie. He was related to Bill Kenz and Roy Leslie, who were the first hot rodders to go 200 mph in 1950. Since you’re a member of the 200 MPH Club, did you ever meet them?
GC: I knew of them, but I never met them. Don’t forget that I was just a kid when I went to Bonneville that first time. Those guys were already well-known hot rodders. Also, there are a lot of guys like them that I didn’t get to know at that time.
HRHL: What do you think drove people like Kenz and Leslie, and the other early racers who you did know, to the Salt Flats?
GC: Way back when, they started bicycle races at Bonneville in 1914 or 1915. And then, they did a lot of endurance type things there. Guys were always racing at Daytona Beach for the land speed thing. But, then they got going too fast, so, they needed a bigger, longer, flatter place to race. And that’s how they got away from Daytona Beach and started using Bonneville in 1949. There were 50 original hot rodders who went to Bonneville that year, so they call them the “’49-ers.” And I was too young and I didn’t go until 1953 or race until 1954.
HRHL: How has the experience of going to Bonneville changed over time?
GC: Mostly the speeds are up. In the old days, 200 mph was a big deal. That’s how the Bonneville 200 mph Club got started. But, now 200 mph is nothing. You can just buy your Dodge Charger off the showroom floor and go damn near 200 mph. So, now they have the 3 Club (300 mph) and the 4 Club (400 mph). There are just a few people in the 4 Club, but there are a lot of people getting into the 3 Club that’s a club for drivers who average 300 mph   
HRHL: How do they figure the average speed?
GC: When we did it, we went out one day and exceeded the record and we qualified. Then, the next morning, we had to wait and we went out and ran down again within one hour. Then, we had to turn around and do it in the opposite direction. Now, this was all done for the international record. That’s the way the FIA is—within one hour you’ve got to return. And you’ve also got to do it within the same real estate.
HRHL: George, what do you mean by “within the same real estate”?
GC: Well, if you go down in mile 5, you have to back up for five miles so that you’re going the same speed again in Mile 5, but in the other direction. Then, that’s considered a two-way average. So, that’s what we did. We actually made three runs. We went 203 mph down and blew the motor up. We fixed the motor and returned again and blew it up again going back. We were just kids and we built our own fuel injection system. It didn’t work. It kept leaning out the mixture and we lost pistons. So, anyway, we leaned it out going back and we went 200 mph going back. That gave us a 201.58 mph average. That was the first coupe to go 200 mph. It was a ’49 Crosley and we were just kids.
HRHL: It sounds like Bonneville was more about engines back then and less about high-tech things?
GC: Yes that’s true and today the speed is increasing and increasing. Like I said, 200 mph was a big deal in the old days and now, if you’re not going 300 mph . . . But, you will never see a land speed record set out in Bonneville again.
HRHL: Why do you say that no land speed records will be set at Bonneville?
GC: The Land Speed Record is 764 mph (actually 763.035). It was set by Andy Green and that was done over at Black Rock Desert. Nobody is building 700 mph rubber tires. The original Thrust (Green’s car was called the ThrustSSC) came to Bonneville, before Andy discovered Black Rock Desert. It ran 500 mph on the salt and that broke all the brackets in the car because it’s got aluminum wheels and they ran into harmonics and vibrations in the car. When Andy runs again, it will be down in Africa—South Africa—I think. There’s a big lake bed down there and they’ve got to run in soft dirt because they use aluminum wheels, not tires.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GEORGE CALLOWAY interview Part III, by John "Gunner" Gunnell.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands, for photographs go to

HRHL: We remember 1959 when Mickey Thompson and a bunch of other racers were going to Bonneville to try to set records and outdo each other. Wasn’t that an exciting time for land speed racing?
GC: Yes. I remember that and then I got involved with Art Arfons. I was working with Jimmy Deist on safety equipment and parachutes. I packed the parachutes for Art’s “Green Monster” and for Bill Fredricks’ “Blue Flame.” It was a big thing between (Craig) Breedlove and Arfons. One of them would go out and set the record, then the other would break it and the first guy would go break it again. You see, back then they were all rubber tired and, of course, they were thrust vehicles - you, know, they were jets. The wheel driven record with a rubber-tired car is held by Don Vesco at about 460 mph, I think it is. That’s the fastest wheel driven; and that was with a turbine engine. It wasn’t a piston engine car, but it still drove through the wheels. So, they qualified as a wheel driven thing.  
HRHL: Did you know the Summers Brothers? We met them when they had the car in a car show in Germany the mid-1980s and Lord Montagu was trying to buy the Goldenrod.
GC: Yeah, I knew the Summers Brothers. Mike Cook restored their car. See what happened is they lived in Pomona and they came back and parked the damned thing under a walnut tree and all the leaves and the moisture came down in there. The bulkheads were made of magnesium. And between the leaves mulching and the water, Cook had to replace most of the bulkheads in the car. And it turned out funny. The car has four Chrysler engines and it wound up in the Henry Ford museum.
HRHL: What about Art Arfon’s Green Monster?
GC: Art crashed the original car and then he built a second car. It’s up in Santa Barbara. Golly, I can’t remember the guy’s name (who has it). But, the neat thing about Art is that he built the whole car himself and drove the darned thing, too.  
HRHL: When our Fox Valley Technical College team raced at Bonneville in 2012, they had an old streamliner called Spirit of Salt Lake City there. Do you know that car?
GC: Yes. Athol Graham built that car. He lived near the Salt Flats and thought he could go there early and hold the record for a week. He didn’t have the backing that guys like Thompson did and his tires were not good. One came apart and the car got wrecked and killed Athol. His wife saved the car and his son Butch finally restored it. Butch lived in Salt Lake City, but I don’t know if he’s still there.
HRHL: What do you do at Bonneville these days?
GC: I work when I go to Bonneville and I’m so busy I don’t know everything that goes on. People say, “You weren’t there.” And I tell them if they come to the starting line at Course 1, I’ll be there. I run the Course 1 starting line, but I don’t get around. I have friends who come and they don’t see me, but they see my wife because she works in the sales trailer. Like I say, I’ve been doing this—I can’t remember how many years—but, I’m still doing it.  
HRHL: What cars do you have today??
GC: I’ve got three ’29 (Ford) roadsters and a ’34 roadster. The ’34 roadster has a blown Honda in it. The yellow roadster-the ’29 roadster-just has an injected Honda in it. Then, we have another ’29 roadster with a big block blown Chevrolet in it. It set the record at Bonneville in September at 221 mph. The record had stood for 29 years before that. And we have another ’29 roadster with a D/FX Cosworth in it; it’s a turbocharged D/FX car.
HRHL: Our favorite Bonneville car is a flathead Pontiac powered streamliner that was on the cover of Hot Rod magazine. Do you know it?
GC: Oh, Don Ferguson restored it and it’s really neat. It was a Class B Lakester Streamliner built by Eddie Miller, Jr., who was just 20 years old when he built it. His dad. Jim Miller. He’s still a good friend. It went 146 mph in 1950 and was on the cover in August of that year. It went 156 mph in 1952. It took first in the first Hot Rod class at Pebble Beach.
HRHL: Do you think the old Bonneville memorabilia is getting valuable?
GC: Yes. Where I really screwed up is we have the Hall of Fame, which I’m deeply involved in. And there was a guy there who did a rendering of Wally Park’s Drop-Tank Car. The car belonged to Bill Burke and the engine belonged to Don Francisco and Wally did the driving. I could have bought the rendering for 60 bucks and all of them were there to sign it and I didn’t do it.
HRHL: Are there a lot of collectors?
GC: Well, nostalgia is a big thing. I did photography for years and all of my Bonneville photos were from the late-‘60s to the ‘70s and “Land Speed” Louise Noeth has it now. She was always after me to give her the Bonneville stuff for her book, so I gave her a 24 x 24 x 30 inch box of stuff and I said, “Here, take it.” And I gave my drag racing stuff to Bob McClurg. As a matter of fact, I just got a $50 check from him the other day for one of my photos. He lives in Hawaii now and I always give him a hard time about that.
Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands, for photographs go to

     Just before 3:30 AM, the Kern County Fire Department responded to a structure fire at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. Due to the rural location of the facility and the lack of nearby hydrants, crews had to shuttle water from the canal at HWY 99 & WHY 46 to the track in order to fight the fire.
     The old part of the tower that had recently been turned into a VIP and hospitality area, and the storage area below, that housed mission critical equipment, was a complete loss. The structure collapsed during the fire. One of the tracks safety vehicles that was parked next to the structure was also heavily damaged.
     Due to the efforts of the Kern County Fire Department Station 33 out of McFarland, the new part of the tower where the almost irreplaceable timing equipment is kept, suffered some minor damage but the equipment inside was spared. If this part of the structure was lost, it would be practically impossible to have replacement equipment built and installed in time for the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet (March 3-6, 2016).
     At this point Auto Club Famoso Raceway is committed to the 2016 schedule as posted. We obviously have our work cut out for us and it will be a struggle to be ready for the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet Test & Tune (Feb. 19-21, 2016), but we are already working toward making this happen.
     We have been contacted by tracks, racers, fans, and companies across the US offering their support in providing whatever is needed to bring the track back to operating condition. The racing community is strong and we cannot express our heartfelt thanks to the offers of support.
     The Kern County Racing Association operates Auto Club Famoso Raceway (just north of Bakersfield, California) and promotes a full schedule of races year round, including the world famous March Meet, which is recognized as the Mecca of nostalgia drag racing.  For more details, visit
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Aussie Invader Newsletter January 2016.   Reprinted with permission of Rosco McGlashan.

     Welcome to 2016 and we wish all of our sponsors, 1000 MPH Club members, supporters, Supersonic Selfie contributors and followers a fantastic New Year. We will be working our tails off to make sure 2016 is our year! We have had a very busy month, but being the festive season we see a slow down, with several business contacts leaving for their well deserved annual vacation. In Australia we can usually write off half of December and then half of January due to a downturn in work hours and those left holding the fort dealing with a double the workload. This time of the year is when we are always trying our hardest to make things happen in an effort to predict our timeline milestones for the coming year, set goals and work around the jobs we know cannot be done until the country is back in full swing. Propulsion system design is finalised Nick Colalancia the CEO of Rosetta Stone Operations and his mighty team of first class engineers have been working overtime on our motors catalyst pack housing and pressure head as well as the huge amount of plumbing needed for our propellant delivery, nitrogen storage and fuel system design. RSO have spent over 1000 hours to date on their propulsion design. Thank you so much RSO.
     We recently mentioned that our friends at Newland Associates in Kalgoorlie Western Australia have completed stage one of our tailfin. This Tee section is a work of art and fits perfectly into its slot on our car and has now been drilled and mounted. Thank you Newland Associates for a first class job.
     We are busy fitting up our left hand airbrake door which has just arrived hot off the mill from our friends at Kentin Engineering. These doors are a work of art and boy have they undergone some serious design time with numerous upgrades and modifications. We are hopeful of posting a video of them working within a week or two. Thank you Kentin Engineering, Paul Martin, GeoCam, Luis, Brett and everyone who has helped bring these components to life.
     Weeks before the latest announcement from the Australian Government about enthusing kids in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), our team member Mark Read was interviewed by Cristy Burne for the Science Network of Western Australia. The interesting thing here is that since Malcolm Turnbull has taken over the rhetoric from the government has changed completely; however in practice, it still seems to be falling on deaf ears, sad we could not have enthused the government with our project as a means to excite kids.
     We were honoured to have some special guests to our shop last week, World Speedway motorcycle champion Tai Woffinden was visiting Perth, (his second home) from the UK. I have always been a huge fan of Speedway, particularly the solo riders and are always impressed with the skill and guts these guys demonstrate often on rain soaked tracks and after driving nonstop from country to country on a nightly basis to appear at different race venues.  Con Migro Australia’s best and longest serving speedway promoter joined us at my shop. Con has seen many young hopefuls in the speedway world reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport and has many friends worldwide who hold him in high regard. Thanks for your time Tai and Con. The team from Siemens has been on the job with the design of our instrument panels, performance sensors and data logging hardware, we can’t wait to see this side of our car completed and working.
     We were also honoured to have American Jet Dragster hero Chuck Haynes visit our shop last week. Chuck is a regular visitor to Australia leaving the cold of Montana to race here in Oz. He has some very fast Pratt & Whitney J60 powered cars and puts on one hell of a show for the drag racing fans. We were invited to join him at our famous Kwinana Motorplex and boy what a fantastic night we had, great company, great racing, great weather. Thank you Chuck, Daniel Miocevich and the great Motorplex team for a brilliant evening.
     Well that is about it for this month, but a lot is happening and we are getting closer. Our team would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and stay safe. Remember if you want to be kept up to date with our progress in between newsletters, make sure you LIKE our Facebook page.  Kind Regards, Rosco McGlashan Rosco McGlashan and the Aussie Invader team.