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History Drag Strip Days

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by J.Ukrop, Feb 10, 2017.

    Joined: Jul 30, 2009
    Posts: 2,258


    Great shots. I remember the Old Connecticut Dragway. Great Times. All gone now, however I think the actual strip is there and it is now being used for testing by Consumer Reports
    els likes this.
  2. Junji, back in '57 the Rebel Rouser Ford was unbeatable in "Super Stock". But, it was far from stock, The 352 was heavily massaged by Les Ritchey. Back then, "inspections were pretty loose. The Ford was king of the hill until the Chevy 4 speeds came out. The 3 on the tree just wasn't as quick.
  3. Dick Lobach
    Joined: May 10, 2015
    Posts: 63

    Dick Lobach
    from Emmaus Pa

    Aug.1955 Convair Field Allentown PA.,NHRA Regionals, drag racers2grey.jpg blew Aug. 1955 Convair Field, Allentown Pa., I blew a trans. second time trial run, didn't get to compete
    Pufff, els and Pete L. like this.
  4. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-2-23_5-19-0.png 1958 315 hp vs. 1959 335 hp
    Hey Dean,

    These two guys were the tops in their “stock” classes at Lions for quite some time. The 58 Biscayne was listed as the 315 hp model and it was fast. The 59 Impala was listed as the 335 hp model. They were equally fast as the drivers were considered the best in the stock classes. Their times indicated that they were stock similar to the others in the class, but the reaction times made them jump out in front most of the time.

    These two were well known and were the motors “tweaked?” Back then no one knew what any racer did in his own garage. But, the top of the line motors had 11 to 1 ratio and higher grade racing cam from the factory, plus Positraction. That combo made them winners every weekend.


    The movie clip shows a half time "LeMans" race entertainment segment at Lions in 1960. But, as the factory improved the newer cars, we (58 Impala 348/280hp) were out gunned with the increased horsepower every year until in 1960, it was hopeless to race against the factory stockers with more horsepower…So,now, bring on the gas class Willys…

    Thanks, Rruss
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
    els and lothianwilly71 like this.
  5. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241



    Dean, again, nice photo from those early days. We did not have a camera for those great shots. But we were able to record on film, the Bader and Ferrera (blown Cadillac motor) in their Crossley Altered at Lions in the 59-60 season. Usually, the Reath Automotive Altered sedan gets the jump on the opponent. Someone must have been sleeping at the line. It was Bader and Ferrera all of the way to the finish. Altered sedans at their best at Lions Dragstrip.

    It looks like the Reath Altered sedan starts to pull up on the Crossley, but the Bader/Ferrera Altered won this time. upload_2017-3-3_17-5-53.png
    els and Dean Lowe like this.
  6. theamcguy
    Joined: May 7, 2009
    Posts: 231


    Lots of memories here Thank you for sharing.
    els likes this.
  7. That is some good stuff!!!
    els and lothiandon1940 like this.
  8. Roger O'Dell
    Joined: Jan 21, 2008
    Posts: 1,143

    Roger O'Dell

    For me it was the white penny's t shirt, Levi's , but my brogans were chucka boots, then wingtips, then just before the army beatle boots 3 different shoes in a decade. Shirt and pants stayed the same. At lions I was a watcher, only got on the track once. But I was warming the tires in 80's and 90's
    RonaldR and els like this.
  9. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-3-22_3-31-32.png upload_2017-3-22_3-31-49.png

    Big motor, small motor, they all came to race what they built in their backyard garages. It did not matter if the class was A/Gas or F/Gas, or even the stock classes, the competition was always there and that elusive trophy was calling. The excitement of racing what you just built against your friends or even another backyard racer was thrilling. A pure adrenaline rush… Another rush was if you were gloating about the just finished ¼ mile run win and forgot to start stopping, immediately. With most tracks being ½ mile, that end chain link fence and dirt mound was fast approaching. Time to step on the brakes, now…


    Get your best seats where ever possible, regardless of safety. The closer you are, the better the experience…

    upload_2017-3-22_3-32-43.png upload_2017-3-22_3-33-1.png
    Entry + pit pass= $2.50 in 1959 → $20.51 in 2016
    Jet96 and els like this.
  10. RR
    Joined: Nov 30, 2008
    Posts: 106


    I like the pictures that are posted here and the nostalgia- I am appreciative of the comments, shots and forum. But (and not trying to be hateful, disrespectful, or a troll), there is still drag racing going on today- all flavors- grudge, bracket, nostalgia, national events. Get out there and support the events! Racing is dying slowly. Don't let your yearn for yesterday cost us tomorrow. Go spectate! Go race! Take a kid with you so that 50 years from now, he can post a thread like this on another forum remembering the great times he had at the drag races.
  11. ntfday
    Joined: Jul 5, 2005
    Posts: 8


    In 1960 I flagged the season at Dahio drag strip in Dayton, Ohio. The strip was located at the Montgomery County airport a little west of Dayton. The strip is still there, as of Feb 2015 anyway, though it is no longer being used and all of the buildings are empty and deserted. After I completed Marine Corps boot camp in 1961 the first place I asked my dad to take me to see was Lion's . Other than the year I spent overseas, May 63-June 64, you could find me most weekends at either Lion's, Irwindale or OCIR after it opened.
    els and jnaki like this.
  12. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-4-18_9-32-2.png upload_2017-4-18_9-32-17.png @ Bakersfield Smokers 1960 #2

    Albertson Olds (Oldsmobile) was a car dealer in the South Bay region of Los Angeles. They sponsored two race vehicles that made a name for the dealership in 1960.

    There was a dragster [A K88 CHASSIS] driven by Leonard Harris that won most of the events on the West Coast during this time. The other was the altered Fiat that ruled the altered class at Lions and other So Cal dragstrips. Leonard Harris drove the altered coupe at Lions, as well.


    For some unknown reason, we do not have any Albertson Olds Altered films at Lions Dragstrip. But, we caught them at the 1960 Bakersfield Smokers event: March Meet #2. It was a single timed run and a race against the Eldon Dye blue altered coupe.

    els and olscrounger like this.
  13. 1959...I was 11 and my dad and his beer drinkin, Harley buddies all took their Harleys across the river to Dallesport, Washington to race at the drags. I was left home! I'm STILL pissed of at him for not including me that day. His 45 flathead went 88 mph and I bragged about it at school the next day....wasn't there so I got no photos. ERRRRrrrr.
    knucklenutz, els and warbird1 like this.
  14. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 4,340

    Hot Rods Ta Hell

    Great story and pics everyone. Looks as though the Julesburg strip is still in operation!
    els likes this.
  15. els
    Joined: Sep 11, 2016
    Posts: 359


    Pufff, do you know how fast the rear engine dragster was back then?. very cool.
  16. Big Daddy did not build the first rear engine dragster, but he built the first that was safe to drive and went straight down the track without darting all over. It was all about steering geometry and he found the solution by accident. It's been told in one of his interviews that can be found in YouTube. They needed to slow down from FED steering ratio if my memory serves right.
    els likes this.
  17. mike bowling
    Joined: Jan 1, 2013
    Posts: 3,556

    mike bowling

    From the collection of Jere Sheehan, President of the "Cam-Snappers" CC, est. 1952 in Newburyport, Mass.
    Sanford Airport was the "local" dragstrip until New England Dragway opened in 1966. DSCN1629.JPG DSCN1630.JPG
    els likes this.
  18. christmas tree
    Joined: Dec 7, 2009
    Posts: 339

    christmas tree

    There,s always the question of who had the first sucessful rear engine dragster. 1954 to 56 or so there was the Smokin White Owl a flathead powered car which ran in the 140,s on fuel, which was good time,s for the era
    els likes this.
  19. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-6-15_5-12-30.png upload_2017-6-15_5-13-11.png
    Don Prudhomme single Buick FED 1960 Bakersfield Smokers Meet.
    Ever since we saw Tommy Ivo’s red, single injected Buick racing at Lions, we thought that is the epitome of FED racers. His reaction time was super fast and once he got out in front, he usually did not lose. The build of the red Buick FED was immaculate, a show quality build. It was fast and won a lot, but eventually Ivo put on a 671 to keep up with the big hemi FEDs. Here is the progression from injected Buick to the 671 FED.

    But, one day, there was a white Buick powered FED that looked like Tommy Ivo’s red injected version in the Lions pits. We immediately had a double take as it looked exactly like the red injected Buick FED. Some tall young guy was running around setting things up. Later, we would find out that this was Don Prudhomme’s first FED that he got from Tommy Ivo.

    We were also impressed and thought he bought it and painted it white, but it had carburetors instead of injectors. So, what was the story of this build? Tommy Ivo was finished touring with the twin and sold the single Buick FED to Prudhomme. For some reason, we did not get any runs on film at Lions.

    So, at the 1960 Bakersfield Smokers meet, we again, saw this white Buick powered FED. This time we were able to catch the fast racer in one of his timed runs prior to the eliminations. Watch it as it is a fast clip… a power wheelie

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
    Jet96 and els like this.
  20. George Klass
    Joined: Dec 31, 2007
    Posts: 966

    George Klass

    It was Don's buddy, fellow digger pilot (and my sometimes room mate) Connie Swingle that came up with the idea of slowing down the steering ratio that made the R.E.D. more drivable.

    Growing up in SoCal (graduating high school in 1955) and going to the drags every weekend was like being re-born every week, seeing new stuff, meeting new people, and the excitement of just being alive.........we thought it would never end.
    els likes this.
  21. das858
    Joined: Jul 28, 2010
    Posts: 753


    Wow ! Don't know how I missed this originally but sure glad I caught it today. I got to meet Darrel Zimmerman while racing at the Division 5 et finals at Cedar Falls Iowa in 1985, very friendly guy. But the big surprise for me was the picture of my friend Marvin Crewdson from Lincoln Nebraska at the Julesburg race in 1959 ! I nearly bought a k-88 dragster from Marv in 1985 complete with bored and stroked 283 chevy for $1000.00 dollars ! I passed on it because I was looking for a mid '60's style digger with a 3 point cage and longer wheelbase. Still kicking myself for that decision !
    els likes this.
  22. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-8-1_3-43-49.png 62417

    At the Lions Dragstrip Museum event, there was a 51 Ford sitting in a wing of the complex. People walked by and glanced at this old race car from back in the early 60’s. It was worn and showed signs of a car that had been raced many times over in So Cal.

    It had an unusual front body panel that served as a platform for the gas tank, and as a shroud for the motor compartment. There was even a matching air cleaner scoop for the carburetor. The interior was immaculate in its machining and metal work.

    The information posted on the window just called for more research of its history. The Ford was owned by Carl Swift. He was given the title of Irwindale Raceway’s “Mr. Unbeatable” because of his race records.

    A small time racer with a win streak a mile long, turning times that any racer would love to have racing. He wasn’t the big time gas class champion with a blown Hemi or in a lightweight Willys, but a 51 Ford with a Flathead motor.
    upload_2017-8-1_4-6-32.png 62417

    As I was standing there admiring the Ford, an old drag racer walked by and said, “That car was always the class champion at the drags. Boy, he won everything.”

    Carl Swift, Irwindale Raceway’s “Mr. Unbeatable”


    Hot Rod Network:
    Article by Dick Martin
    A young man who was about to be shipped to Vietnam approached Swift to sell his 51 Ford Flathead with fender mount headers built by Doug Thorley. Fender mount headers for a Flathead V8? Exclaimed Swift, thinking there was no such thing.

    He bought them for car for $200. Years later, Doug Thorley told Swift if he ever had a problem with them, he would repair them for free
    Swift’s drag racing numbers advanced by tiny increments. So, anytime he could shave some weight off or gain a horsepower or two, was a bump up.

    He happened to stumble on Flathead gold. Or should we say Canadian aluminum gold, In a Glendale auto parts store, when he asked if they had any Ford Flathead parts.
    They said there were some old aluminum heads the store thought about tossing. He purchased the pair for $35. They were a point higher in compression than the cast iron heads.
    The aluminum intake manifold was courtesy of the Long Beach Swap Meet for $35. An aluminum timing cover was laying in the dirt at an auto repair shop in Pomona, which Swift promptly bought for $15. (Note Swift’s dazzling aluminum shaping after he restored the coupe.) upload_2017-8-1_4-0-14.png
    Swift’s drag car became a nickel and dime project over the years, as were most early hot rod race cars. Yards project, but built many a 32 Ford and Swift’s 51 Ford was no exception/ this was not a thrown together a work in Salvage progress over the years. The aluminum work that Carl crafted speaks for itself, doesn’t it?”
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
  23. els
    Joined: Sep 11, 2016
    Posts: 359


    Very cool.
    jnaki likes this.
  24. flatheadgary
    Joined: Jul 17, 2007
    Posts: 878

    from boron,ca

    carl swift and i had serious competition between us for quite a while. my bantam and his car ran about the same numbers. we raced at lacr anytime we could. seems like we were always the only flatheads in a class. carl gave me ride in his car once. we went down to the end of the track after the racing was over and he nailed his flatty and it just about scared the crap out of me. my altered doesn't come off the line all that fast and i wasn't used to that 4 speed either. i eventually put 2 carbs on and started to go faster so it wasn't a good race anymore. ANRA moved to bako and carl didn't want to go that far so we only see each other at the antique nats now. we don't run each other there because were in different class'. great guy!!
    knucklenutz, els and jnaki like this.
  25. Mike VV
    Joined: Sep 28, 2010
    Posts: 2,443

    Mike VV
    from SoCal

    The orange Ford above, still runs today. At least of Carl is still around. Last time I saw the car run was "about" a year ago.

    els and jnaki like this.
  26. els
    Joined: Sep 11, 2016
    Posts: 359


  27. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241



    This FED is the early version of the Bivens and Fisher 1966-67 FED. It is not the current “Checkmate” FED. (two friends from my old high school in Long Beach: Jerry Bivens driving and the late, Doug Fisher crew chief/ builder.) The car was the 2nd fuel dragster Jerry and Doug ran. The first was a small block Chevy. (Blown with a 2 port, Hilborn injector.)

    The racecar looked good, but, was not very competitive. So, they parked it and began the build of the car pictured. The chassis was too long for a standard garage so they moved to a larger garage on Willow on the Westside of Long Beach, near Fisher’s house. The “blue car” pictured, ran well. Checkmate was their 3rd dragster …83017… Thanks, Tim)

    Draglist: Here's Bivens & Fisher, Lions, 1967. The photo says that the team ran a 7.12 on this day.
    2017 Bivens and Fisher “Checkmate” FED

    "Checkmate" will be at Barona Dragstrip on Sept 30 for the Nitro Revival.
    Ron Funkhouser and els like this.
  28. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241


    upload_2017-10-25_7-33-24.png upload_2017-10-25_7-34-12.png
    upload_2017-10-25_7-35-17.png upload_2017-10-25_7-35-30.png upload_2017-10-25_7-35-44.png
    upload_2017-10-25_7-36-3.png upload_2017-10-25_7-36-17.png upload_2017-10-25_7-36-35.png
    upload_2017-10-25_7-36-55.png upload_2017-10-25_7-37-37.png upload_2017-10-25_7-37-48.png

    The collector’s pin array was made by Jack Gillett (current Sidewinder owner) and instantly hit home. Thanks, Jack…
    upload_2017-10-25_7-38-52.png Escondido 92917
    Jack Gillett, Sidewinder: Me, too...

    As a young kid, I was able to go to a few other drag strips besides Lions Dragstrip near my Long Beach house. ( Lions, where I grew up watching the original Sidewinder.) San Gabriel, Irwindale, Pomona dragstrips and later, used to drive by the OCIR almost weekly when it was open.

    But, the two that I was not able to see or experience were the Santa Ana Drags and the Saugus Drags. I was too young and Saugus was too far away. But, the old photos that depict some of the racers and cars exemplifies the early hot rodders. The closest I got to the Santa Ana Drags was to take this photo (years later of Nick Macaluso’s immaculate 40 Ford Sedan Delivery) in front of the old 40’s style restaurant. It was on the same side and pretty close to the original dragstrip near the Orange County Airport off of Red Hill Ave.


    Growing up and living in So Cal had its advantages in the hot rod world. Even though dragstrips are slowly shutting down, there are still a few places keeping the spirit of drag racing alive.

    I was fortunate enough to experience those Dragstrip Days at plenty of places. Hopefully the dragstrips all over the USA will continue to prosper and stay around for the next generation of hot rodders.
    Ron Funkhouser and els like this.
  29. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 6,241



    The Bader/Ferreira Cad powered Altered Crossley was tearing up the So Cal dragstrips during the 1959-60 era. It was unsusal because of being a Cadillac motor powered instead of a SBC or Hemi. Our favorite race was the one we filmed of the Crossley vs the Reath Automotive Dosser/Sundin white Ford sedan in the Altered Classes at Lions. Eventhough it was one race, they raced each other in the very competitive Altered class, almost weekly.


    Reath Automotive in Long Beach, sponsored many racers in different classes. (from Altereds, Roadsters, Gas Coupes, to Dragsters ) Since we bought a ton of speed stuff (including: pistons,rods, and a balanced crank) from them, had our 671 rebuilt there, and always hung out for a “lesson from Joe,” We knew we wanted to be on that Reath Automotive sponsored list for our Willys. It was lined up in 1960 for us to be sponsored. The rear deck lid was going to have a Reath Automotive lettered when we were going to have the Willys painted in the middle of August, but things happened.
    upload_2017-12-6_4-48-39.png upload_2017-12-6_4-48-54.png

    Bader and Ferreira Crossley VS Reath Automotive Dosser/Sundin Ford Sedan
    elgringo71 and Ron Funkhouser like this.
  30. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 6,260


    IMG_0928.JPG Attached is a picture taken by the local newspaper of the 36 Ford drag car we built as teenagers in my Grandpa's garage and raced at New Yorks Westhampton drag strip in the early to mid sixties. It was originally flathead powered and later swapped to a 327 SBC. I'll never forget Grandpa saying "you kids are crazy, you spend hundreds of dollars to win a 59 cent trophy". I'm the skinny guy in the middle.

    Ron Funkhouser and Finn Jensen like this.

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