The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Hot Rod Willys, Jan 15, 2011.
I gotta be honest ... if there is one car on earth that should never be chopped, it's the '37-'41 Willys coupe
Perhaps it is the style of the chop or the overall look of the other chopped Willys coupes. If one were to stand near the old Grist Brothers Willys A/Gas Coupe, it was a great way to be introduced to a real Gas Coupe and Sedan trophy winner/record setter. The deep sound of the big MEL motor, the cool smooth looks with the chopped top and the addition of the Moon Discs were looks that took place over the years. We saw and heard the Joe Mailliard version at Lions during our times in attendance from 1957 to late 196o.
The other photos came with a Reath Automotive sponsorship, a Dempsey Wilson Racing Cams, and then a C&O Stick Hydro sponsorship. But, it was pure Grist Brothers and their chopped Willys Coupe that made believers out of everyone.
We have always liked the chopped Willys Coupe. Would we do this to our 1940 Willys Coupe? Not if it was going to be a dual purpose drags racer and street driving hot rod. But, perhaps if it were strictly for the drags, the view only lasts for 12 seconds or faster.
During our time racing our 1940 Willys Coupe with a 671 SBC and Strombergs, we had set the fastest time for a C/Gas Car and was close to the national record. But as we know, there was a glitch in that last run in 1960 and our Willys bit the dust. The eerie thing was, the Grist Brothers were in their A/Gas class on a run just before our turn. They were staging in front of us. We were excited that it was the finals of our C/Gas Class.
It was a surprise to see flames coming out of the cab, the door and down below when it happened after my brother got such a great start. But, we were at the starting line watching. Eddie Grist was about 9 and his family of dad/uncle were in the tow vehicle when they saw our Willys take off, get the big lead and then right in front of where they were coming back down the return road, the big explosion and ball of fire in an instant.
photos from the Grist Brothers collection
In talking with Eddie Grist several years back, He told me that it was a memory that will not be forgotten, ever. He had never seen an explosion and fire in a race car. Plus, it happened right in front of the whole Grist Family on the return road.
On the other hand, in 2017, I met another photographer and author of the current coffee table book: So Cal Thunder, When Lions Roared…”
He was a 20 something sitting in the spectator’s stand watching the drag races all day and into the night. He mentioned to me that it was the most intense incident that he had ever witnessed at a drag strip. He said that our Willys Coupe was getting quicker and faster on each run from the early elimination races. They had been hoping that we would win that last race as we deserved the win with outstanding results all day.
The explosion and resulting fire was definitely spine chilling and when the Willys Coupe started heading for the spectators side fencing, all was lost. He said that race car drivers in the area and the security guards all had fire extinguishers, but the flames kept coming out of the cab. Then he saw Atts Ono and my self spraying larger extinguishers into the cab. But then I disappeared in the 58 Impala tow vehicle, back down towards the finish line.
That is where my brother was being loaded into the white Pontiac ambulance by our friend, Mr. Childers. I had become friends with Mr. Childers as he was always standing near his ambulance while I was next to him on the tower side at Lion’s Dragstrip shooting with my movie camera.
The episode will be in all of our minds from that fateful night at Lion’s Dragstrip. Thanks to Atts Ono, the Grist Family and other racers that tried to do the best they could.
In the height of the Gas Coupe/Sedan wars of the mid 60s, prior to their sad goodbyes in the ever popular Gas Coupe and Sedan Classes, there was a lot of sh@## slinging going on in the periodicals and local newspapers. Of course we all had/have our favorites from those times and when a record gets set, things get challenging.
We missed all of that because we were out of the Gas Coupe and Sedan racing by 1962. Now, our racing was geared to the dusty trails and dry lakes, 100 mile long runs on our desert motorcycles. But, the local weekly Drag News paper kept us apprised about the goings on in that Gas Coupe/Sedan Class and racers.
The SWC group had plenty of backing in their builds, so their idea was to showcase the challenges if and when they would take place.
Wonder if it ever got finished?
That yellow on looks like the "Golden Greek" car that Keven (gassagarage) had for sale years ago.
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