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Charlestown r . I dragway 1956-1964

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by hotrodbob406, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    There has to be somebody out there that raced at the old air field in charlestown .i am doing some research because my father and his friends raced there in 1956. They were all members of the Rod Knockers from Johnston R.I. My question to someone is, what runway of the 3 that were there was the one they actually raced on. I seen pictures of the air plane hangers in the back ground on the north side. Any info would be helpful. Thanks
     
  2. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,531

    aaggie
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I was stationed at Quonset Point and raced at Charlietown in 1964 but don't remember much about the layout of the facility. Charlestown NAS was an emergency landing field for pilots that took off from Quonset Point and had problems and needed to land/crash.
     
  3. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Take a day off and go walk the place. I did that maybe 8-9 years ago with my son, looking for remains of the Navy base.

    There were foundations of the hangers still there, and you could see the steel tracks in the concrete that the hanger doors rode on. They must still be there.

    You could try to draw a half-ass sketch as you find them all, and maybe get your bearings from that.

    Only part of one runway was there I think, back then. It was part of a walking trail. The town owns the whole place, or has use of it.

    I am positive there is at least one thread on the Charlestown Drags on hamb. I believe "Dean in Bankok" was on that thread, showed pics of his club there, etc. I might have the wrong guy, but I think it was him.
     
  4. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,752

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

    Did you guys own a 34 ford roadster??? Photo from that time period are hard to find!!!!! The airfield was set up like an "A" and I think they used the middle runway with the mark air craft carrier deck next to it. My friend Bob and I restored A rail job that was raced there by Tom Dunn starting in 1958 so we like to see lots of pics too. Jared







     

  5. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

  6. 327-365hp
    Joined: Feb 5, 2006
    Posts: 5,369

    327-365hp
    Member
    from Mass

    Bump for the fng
     
  7. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    It was a 34 ford owned by Jerry Thompson and built by the members of the Rod Knockers in a small garage on plainfield street in Johnston. The garage was owned by Jimmy Blickhorn. They won the big race there in 1956, right when the track first opened. I am going to try to post a picture of them soon.
     
  8. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,752

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

    very cool Bob, looking forward to seeing some pic, welcome to the hamb!!
     
  9. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    here is a great picture of the members of the car club (THE ROD KNOCKERS) from Johnston R.I. @ Charlestown Dragway in 1956. From left to right are (my father) JOHN COSTA, HANK FOURNIER, JERRY THOMPSON, JIMMY BLICKHORN (SITTING IN CAR) AND ANTHONY (NENO) DELLEFEMINE. They won the race that day and beat the big names at the time. My father passed away in 1990, but i remember him telling me when Big Daddy Don Garlits came to Charlestown in 1959.My sister and i had the chance to sit down with Hank,Jimmy and Neno and listen to all the bench racing they could remember about that day. It was very emotional to see these men,now in there 70's, talk about the good o' days of drag racing.I am sure my father was up there listening to them that day.It was great to reunite some of the originals from Charlestown Dragway.
     

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  10. andy checchia
    Joined: Feb 2, 2009
    Posts: 46

    andy checchia
    Member
    from USA

    I answered this for Bob, the runway that was used was appox 5,000 feet long. The magnetic heading would have been 5-23 or 6-24. They raced towards the north east (towards US rt 1). The pond was next to the runway. 1964 was the last year for the drag strip. When Viet Nam got cranked up, the base Commander at Quonset said he didn't have the personnel to staff it on race day? Go figure.
     
  11. andy checchia
    Joined: Feb 2, 2009
    Posts: 46

    andy checchia
    Member
    from USA

    Little trivia, President Bush (41) soloed from there in 1943.
     
  12. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Thanks for the info and history.


    Edit, I just did the Google map satellite view and you can see all 3 runway traces very clearly. You can actually park your car on the northeast end of that runway that is mentioned above, as it is the parking area.

    I doubt you can miss the airfield, but type in Charlestown RI, then look below the coastal RT 1 for a lump of land sticking out southward into Ninigret Pond. You will see traces of the A shape made by the 3 strips. The race strip starts barely a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean...how cool that must have been, to race there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  13. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,435

    56sedandelivery
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I GoogleMap.Com'd it also. Not much left of the runways, mostly taken over by vegetation. Looks like it's primarily a wildlife sanctuary now. There are former military fields just like this one from one end of this country to the other, and from Canada to Mexico. Some are active airfields usually owned/run by municipalities now, some have been completely harvested for their concrete or asphalt. More need to be used for automotive/race purposes; a little less for the birds. It's all such a waste to real estate, and many are remote, or some ways from populated areas. Butch/56sedandelivery.
     
  14. Jimbo17
    Joined: Aug 19, 2008
    Posts: 3,765

    Jimbo17
    Member

    I have a son living in R.I. and each time I visit him and drive on Rt. 1 though Charlestown I wondered where the old drag strip was located.

    Thanks F&J for the directions and the next time I am in R.I. I will check it out.

    Jimbo
     
  15. japar
    Joined: Jun 30, 2007
    Posts: 263

    japar
    Member
    from Seekonk Ma

    I got a pic of Dean Gregson running a Tasca Ford 63 Falcon there and didn't Hank Fournier crew on Gregs Trans Am Boss Mustang
     
  16. Jimbo17
    Joined: Aug 19, 2008
    Posts: 3,765

    Jimbo17
    Member

    The more I started thinking about the Charlestown Dragway I was thinking that since Tasca Ford is not that far away they must have some old photo's from racing there.

    I remember seeing Tasca Ford Thunder Bolts at Dover and Connecticut Dragway and they were really into drag racing in a big way.

    Anyone know if Tasca used Charlestown as a test track back in the early 60's?

    Jimbo
     
  17. japar
    Joined: Jun 30, 2007
    Posts: 263

    japar
    Member
    from Seekonk Ma

    Yes Tasca did run there in the early 60's these shots are from Charlestown and I have other very early shots but not sure of the track. Look close at the rear window on the Ford it says Tuned by Healey which would be John Healey thats also where they meet Bill Lawton who raced a Chevy at the time. Charlestown did open up about 20 years ago it was only open about 2 weekends 1 summer the place was a madhouse full of cars.
     

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  18. Surfer ED
    Joined: Dec 18, 2010
    Posts: 27

    Surfer ED
    Member

    An excellent book by Arnie and Bernie Shuman titled "Cool Cars and Square Roll Bars" has quite a few photos taken at the Charlestown RI strip in the 50's and early 60's.

    Popular Hot Rodding magazine often featured cars photographed at Charlestown in the mid 60s.
     
  19. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Easy to find, right off of Rt1. Just past East Beach rd, headed east, you will start to see the waters of Ninigret salt Pond on the right. Take the next? right exit which should be the first of 2 exits marked "Charlestown".

    Just barely off the exit, there is a small tourist info building on the left, then the old airfield property is on the right(fenced). It will be marked as some sort of Rec Area at the entrance road.

    I'd print a pic of the ariel view, so you can get your bearings when you get on the strips. There are so many turns on the entrance road into the park, that I lost my bearings. ;)
     
  20. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,752

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

    Here is a pic of Tom Dunn with his first dragster at the NHRA reunion at New England dragway last weekend. Built in 1956 and raced at Charlestown till 1961. Does anybody have pics of it from back then??????

    [​IMG]
     
  21. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    Hank Fournier told me the stories of when he raced in the Trans Am series for Ford back in the late 60's and early 70's. He was very close with the Tasca family and still is today.He is now in his early 80's and still has a very sharp memory of his racing years back then. Love to see that picture of that 63 Falon.
     
  22. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    Thats Bob Tasca senior standing on the white line near the cones.I have seen many different pictures of that 62 Ford Galaxie.Great view of the Charlestown Dragway. THANKS
     
  23. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    Thanks, all of you drag racers out there. I am very happy of the feedback that this thread has produced. As i am writing this to you all, i am watching the NHRA Texas National on tv and thinking of how drag racing used to be.We can not forget the early days and Charlestown is were it all started for us living in R.I.
     
  24. hotrodbob406
    Joined: Sep 10, 2013
    Posts: 11

    hotrodbob406
    Member

    I went to the NHRA Reunion at Epping N.H. and it was a blast from the past.If you missed it,they are going to have it again next year.There were cars that raced at all of the old drag strips in New England.What a sight it was to see all of those cars all in one place. Thumbs Up to the people at NHRA for giving us a chance to experience this. thanks.
     
  25. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,752

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

  26. japar
    Joined: Jun 30, 2007
    Posts: 263

    japar
    Member
    from Seekonk Ma

    Here's Dean Gregson out for a Sunday Drive in Charlestown RI in a drop top 63 Falcon 260 Sprint. He would later run a 289 68 notchback Mustang in Trans Am the 68 would end up with a Boss 302. The Boss 302 would later find its way into Mach 1 Mustang
     

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  27. japar
    Joined: Jun 30, 2007
    Posts: 263

    japar
    Member
    from Seekonk Ma

    Here's a pic of Dean's # 28 at the Glenn and # 27 the 68 notchback. The 68 is still being raced today
     

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    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  28. autobodyed
    Joined: Mar 5, 2008
    Posts: 1,944

    autobodyed
    Member
    from shelton ct

    actually, I know they use it at least once a year when Charlestown holds their annual weekend seafood festival/car show. they line one of the runways on both sides with any kind of seafood you can think of, they have a couple of bands and of course a small local car show. sorry, that's all I got.
     
  29. ronnieroadster
    Joined: Sep 9, 2004
    Posts: 788

    ronnieroadster
    Member

    My restored Chasisis Research Dragster ran at Charlston
     
  30. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Yes, a very large area near there is the Ninigret wildlife sanctuary, and that has affected other recreational uses of that particular area.

    The strip is just a stones throw from the Atlantic Ocean, at "East Beach". That is the only RI beach where 4x4 campers are allowed to camp. The Feds closed one of the bigger camp areas at the farther end of the sand road, due to bird nesting sites. I spent every summer weekend there from 75 to 81, beach camping. Back then, there was almost a nuclear power plant put on or near the strip.:eek: It was voted out.

    I doubt the town would ever consider race events at the old track, which is now used for walking, biking, etc.
     

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