The Lamplighter Chevy

The Lamplighter Chevy

As this week winds down, I have drag cars on the mind. Not early drag cars, but machines of the mid-’60s variety. We’re talking straight axles, radiused wheelwheels, superchargers, mags and slicks. You know, the cars we drew in our notebooks growing up.

For today’s post, I initially planned to feature a Willys Gasser. Not Stone, Woods & Cook, “Big John” Mazmanian or K.S. Pittman. Instead, I wanted to dig up a’40-’41 that had been lost to time. So, with that, I walked over to our hall closet and pulled out a box of magazines.

The box is filled with titles that teeter on the H.A.M.B.’s outer limits. The majority are East Coast publications, jam packed with homely hot rods, Match Bash Funny Cars and a healthy helping of tech articles. I figured I’d scoop one out of the box and find my feature.

Well, that’s not exactly how it went. Instead, I brought the box to the kitchen table and started flipping through pages. Before I knew it, the pile started to grow. And when it was all said and done, I came across a car that fit my criteria—except it wasn’t a Willys.

Nope. Instead, I was drawn to a 1937 Chevy coupe. Owned by 26-year-old Richard Rakaczky of Reno, Nevada, the car was specifically built for B/Gas competition. In the drivetrain department, Richard opted for a hot smallblock. To quote Leland Norene, the man behind the June 1966 feature in Hi-Performance CARS:

“Rakaczky’s Chevy-powered Chevy is zinged by a ’63 327 which was bored .060-over to 337 cubes. Pressure is supplied by a GMC 671 puffer mounting Hilborn two-port shpritzers, and breathing is handled by a Schneider stick with a 4.80 lift and 320-degree duration.”

Well said, Leland. The rest of the project was straightforward. Highlights included a dropped front axle, Olds rearend with 5.12 gears, homemade traction bars and a fiberglass hood from Cal Automotive.

There’s a lot to like about this Stovebolt, from the stance to the color to the fact that it was fast. At the time of the article, it was running in the low 11s at almost 130mph—that’s flying for a 3,100-pound car on piecrust slicks.

For me, however, I’m drawn to how simple the entire package is. It’s purposeful. It’s powerful. And, best of all, it’s a car I’ve never seen before. I was hoping to call Richard to have him fill in the details, but he passed away in 2019. Nonetheless, I’m glad that I stumbled upon this Chevy that he built all those years ago.

Joey Ukrop

 Photos by Leland Norene, HPC, June 1966

A note about the fire suit picture

Back in the mid-to-late-’60s, fire suit pictures were common in car magazines. More often than not, they were snapshots of fuel car drivers. If that’s the case, then what’s the story with the last photo? Isn’t this a Gasser? Short answer, yes. While I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but think back to the late Don Nowell, a lifelong hot rodder who was active on the H.A.M.B. during his later years. When I was interviewing him at his house in the San Fernando Valley, I remember him telling me about running his ’37 Chevy Gasser on fuel at San Fernando. It was solely for exhibition purposes. but it helped pay the bills. Maybe that’s what was happening here? —J.U. 

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