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Folks Of Interest Steve Kanuika.. A East Coast Legend moves on

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by NITROFC, Nov 24, 2009.

    Joined: Apr 17, 2001
    Posts: 6,177


    With the passing of Steve Kanuika last month. I received a email with a little history of him and his Speed Shop and Drag Racing history with some of best.

    Steve Kanuika, who died last month. Steve's son (also Steve) had former Funny Car ace Clare Sanders put together the following info forall.

    It began early. At 17 years of age Steve and his brother opened a small shop in the basement of their folks’ home, a small Pennsylvania cattle ranch. Street racing was big at the time; real American Graffiti-type stuff. Steve did the work on the cars and engines – he had that magic touch -- as older brother Bill talked up the business. Steve would build the motor in the basement, then use his dad’s tractor to hoist it out and into the customer’s car. One of his early efforts was to hop up friend Buddy Corleto’s Buick Century – it was fast, and word of mouth brought customers.

    His first dragstrip race car was a ’54 Chevy p/u truck running a 283-inch mouse motor – also their daily driver parts truck. It proceeded to set the D/Gas record in Vineland, N.J., Langhorne Speedway, York, and Lancaster, where Bill Jenkins was the tech inspector. Other Kanuika cars included a B/Dragster powered by a 327 Chevy with a 4-71 GMC blower (in a Lynnwood Welding frame), a C/Gas Henry J, and the most famous, his C/Gas Willys pickup with a 301-inch injected mouse motor. It set the record at 10.80, 127mph and even made the cover of Drag Times.

    In the early ‘60s, business was getting to be too much, so Mom finally threw ‘em out of the driveway. Steve immediately opened his first shop in Upper Darby, named Kanuika Bros. Automotive (in an old gas station). Steve’s talents continued to earn him a dedicated following in drag racing circles, and his business boomed - at one time he was operating four Steve Kanuika Speed Shops! Then came the "Jungle Jim" sponsorship, and the shop in Concordville, Pa. (with six employees) became the place where you could find the two "Jungle Jim" Chevy II Novas; it wasn’t far from Jungle’s “pad” in West Chester. Those were glory days - Kanuika and K&G were THE speed shops in the Philly area – no one else was even close.

    Steve built his last racer; the ’69 Jungle Jim Camaro Super Stocker, with acid-dipped doors and frame, blueprinted 427-inch rat motor and all of the go-fast “stuff”. It was a 9.80s match racer, very popular, and another rolling billboard for his speed shops. This car still holds a class record! It was driven by Steve, and eventually sold to Dick Collins.

    Speed parts were selling, the Jungle cars were winning, and it was all good. . During this time Steve had the success of having both his motors in the '69 Funny Car finals in both of "Jungle's" cars as well as sponsoring some of the greatest cars and drivers of the time. These included no less than Lew Arrington's Brutus, Roland Leong's Hawaiian, Mickey Thompson , Jade Grenade, Neil Mahr's Superpress as well as many other famous names like Dickie Harell , Goeske, and Lewis to name a few. He also was one of the first to offer chassis-dyno tuning and many innovative engine building techniques. Focusing on all aspects of the build and machine work totally in house. He was a true pioneer and a class act for the sport of drag racing. He never gave up the love even in his retirement, he would build motors by appointment, and had been working on several engine design patents.

    He is survived by his wife Delores, son Stephen, and daughter Heather. At the time of his death, Steve was in the process of building a blown alcohol Funny Car with his son. That car is expected to be running In the spring of 2010 painted like the Super Stocker as tribute to Steve and driven by Steve Jr.

    "It is worth noting," said Sanders, "that I can never recall him having a bad word to say about anyone, ever. Steve Kanuika was a true racer’s racer, husband, a father, a gentleman and one of the really good guys. I sure do miss him."

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 24, 2009
  2. Great history on one of the best motor men in the business,
    Thanks for posting Al.
  3. Slim Pickens
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 3,342

    Slim Pickens

    Thanks Al! Great history. Slim
  4. Always well worth the time to recall the deeds of the good ones that have pass on to the heavens but have left such a rich history....thanks.

  5. Muttley
    Joined: Nov 30, 2003
    Posts: 18,441


  6. Spike!
    Joined: Nov 22, 2001
    Posts: 2,733


    Wow! Thanks for that! His shop is right up the street from me. Another speed shop owner, Harry Tillman still has a shop near me as well. He worked for Kanuika until he opened his own shop.

    Kanuika's old shop is now called "Birds and Bees" and is toy store.

  7. a true east coast icon ! rip steve
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2009
    Joined: Apr 17, 2001
    Posts: 6,177


  9. Toymaker
    Joined: Mar 26, 2006
    Posts: 3,920

    from Fresno,CA

    Awesome story, thank you.
  10. Thanks to Jungle Clare and Al for a great bio. Those were times when a local 4 store speed shop chain could win on a national basis. RIP Steve and JJ.
  11. thanks for the info,I never knew most of that and really respect what the guy did....what a GREAT life he had!
  12. Slim Pickens
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 3,342

    Slim Pickens

  13. Carl5Coupe
    Joined: Oct 31, 2010
    Posts: 601

    from Buford Ga

    I lived just down the road from the shop in Concord township Pa, I still have the old stickers on my tool box.

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