Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drag Racing Memories

I remember that we used to race some pretty cool cars back in the day BEFORE the Musclecars of the late 60's. Probably the quickest of them all was Dickey Anderton's Factory super stock Plymouth (62 or 63, I believe) 426 Ram Inducted Wedge Head (before the Hemi's). When he pulled in at the Chuck Wagon or the 28th street Clover Drive-in with the headers uncapped the entire metal awning system would rattle. No one would take him on.

Doug Moore might have been the closest competitor with his ‘32 Coupe or his later ‘55 Chevy 2-door post. I believe his ‘55 had a full race 377-inch Chevy small block. Then came Roger Enderbrock in a Black ‘64 Impala, 409-425 Horse. These three guys were two or three years older than most of us.

Big (literally) Joe Kennedy always had a fast car, too. His full size ‘64 Ford Galaxy convertible was supposed to have a 390, but I'm almost sure it was a 427 side oiler. It was VERY quick for a full size heavy convertible and a real girl getter also. Joe was a Great guy.

Wendell Jordan ran around with Joe and had a nice yellow Corvette. I'm not sure of the engine as he did not race it with us too often. I bought my ‘63 Dodge 440 2-door from Doug Moore. It was a 383 four-speed. It was one of the top two drag cars from our class of 63. I won many races out on loop 820 before and after school or on a convoy from the Chuck Wagon.

Terry Fricks had a nice, fairly quick ‘60 Impala convertible. It was silver and probably had a 409. Terry never told me. I remember also a close race I had with Jimmy Bilderback in his ‘62 Corvette 327-365 horse. Close by about 6 feet. I jumped him 5 or 6 car lengths off the line but he came on like rocket sled on the big end and almost won.

Benny Thompson, a good friend of mine, had a quick MOPAR, a ‘63 Plymouth 383. We sort of teamed up and used his car to tow mine to Kennedale a few times. I eventually modified my Dodge to B/modified production class and was able to post an 11:20 E.T. at 112 M.P.H. at Green Valley Raceway. Benny went on to work as a Police Officer in Ft.. Worth where he eventually retired I believe.

Johnny Gearhart had a VERY NICE Black ‘57 Chevy Bel-air. It was quick for what it was, and a real collector car too. As I recall some of these guys were Juniors but were still good friends and racers. Most all of the guys went to (the yet unopened) loop 820 and Randol Mill road. We used the North bound access road to race.

Races were either before school, at lunch period or right after school. The important top dog races were later on in the evening after a quick meet up at the Chuck Wagon, very seldom for money, as we spent it all on our cars. The notoriety for having the winning car was enough. Strangely enough I NEVER received a contest of speed ticket....thank goodness, because my father was the Ft. Worth Corporation Court Judge.

I hope this brings back some memories for some........James G.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Loop 820 - 1963

It’s often difficult to relate to someone much younger how things in our childhood seemed so clean and new relative to what we see today. The picture was taken in October 1963, the month our eastside portion of Loop 820 opened for traffic. It shows the intersection of the Toll Road (I-30), opened in 1958, and Loop 820 when both of these sections were new—47-years ago now.

I recall the opening of the Toll Road and learning to drive on it roughly coincided with attaining my license at age 16 in 1961. Actually, I had been driving for several years before that, since about age 13, with my father riding shotgun. The traffic was so light then, even on the highways, that it was relatively safe to break in a youngster well in advance of his or her sixteenth. I would log some time behind the wheel driving my family out to the Howard Johnson’s on the Toll Road to get my mother her weekly fried clams fix…HoJo’s Wednesday special, if I recall correctly. I had a hamburger, couldn’t stand the fish.

Loop 820 was under construction during our high school years and opened just after we graduated and launched elsewhere to take on a larger world. So, I don’t have any recollections of using it except as a parts supply venue while it was under construction. About 1961, someone, Dillard I think, procured a 1934 Ford Flatbed truck in a trade with one of those local car traders who operated from the yard of an old house. I think he traded a broken Hupmobile and a 10ga. shotgun for it, if I recall correctly.

Getting that old truck in shape for licensing proved to be a challenge for some 15-16 year olds with neither money nor knowledge, and I think a light fixture or two was sourced from parked equipment up on Loop 820; that is, until the local roving guard rolled up. Anyway, no one ended up in jail and legal or not that old truck saw some limited service hauling a bunch of us around the neighborhoods on weekends. The old flatbed disappeared suddenly and I don’t recall the story of where it went. However, I don’t think anyone ever solved the problem of the missing muffler and the noise always summoned the local gendarme. Some of the likely perpetrators in this adventure were Means, Dillard, Tate, Cooper, Shields, Koebernick, McCoy, McCook, Scott, Larmer, Lange, and maybe a few others.

The 1963 picture of Loop 820 and I-30 clearly shows an overpass and an underpass. Brentwood Stair went under (1) and John T. White Rd. went over (2). The picture below is a current (2010) satellite view that shows the massive build up in the area over the past 47-years and marks the under/over passes. Note that the old picture shows little or no traffic on I-30, even though it was about 5-years old when the picture was taken. That is an example of what I have trouble relating to younger people about how things were…I think that route has been heavily congested for decades now.