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Projects Vail, Conkling & Shosie Bros. A/Gas Henry J found, rescue begun!

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Zig Zag Wanderer, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

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    i've been involved with this resurrection for a few weeks now and i thought i'd share the progress so far; but let me back up a bit and give you some backround on the condition the car was found in, some pure luck in what items came with the car at the time of purchase, the folks involved, and what little history that we know about the car. i would welcome any additional information or leads
    that anyone here can provide.

    the story of the team of driver/machinist co-fabricator Larry Vail, owners/fabricators/partners Wayne Shosie, Gregg Shosie and partner Gary Conkling, (based out of Loves Park, Illinois), begins in earnest with Gregg Shosie purchasing new from Bryden Motors in Beloit, WI, a 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury with the 426 max wedge for A/Super Stock competition, with Larry Vail driving. they campaigned the car for one full season. with the debut of the race hemi in 1964 the Plymouth was rendered obsolete and Gregg decided to put the car on the street as his daily driver. the drivetrain, including the rear axle was pulled and replaced with a 383, matching torqueflite and rear axle from a wrecked 1963 Plymouth. Gregg offered up the max wedge drivetrain towards an attempted, but soon abandoned, remake of a 1930 Plymouth into a gas-class car. Wayne reports that the Plymouth's body was too weak and to do anything with due to its deteriorated wood structure.

    Larry had a friend, Gary Conkling, who ran a grain and feed store in Garden Prairie, IL who offered up the little Henry J body and an old house trailer, which was converted into a car hauler and construction of the car, designed primarily by Wayne Shosie and co-fabricated with Larry Vail, beginning around the end of 1964 or so. the car was ready for competition for the 1966 season, taking advantage of the new A/gas rule changes, repainted Chevrolet "county truck" Omaha Orange paint (to match their new tow rig), fitted with glass doors and tilt front and powered by the 426 wedge, running in the 10's at 115 to 118 mph

    the car evolved as many gas cars did...it first appeared with the now familiar nose-high gasser attitude with parallel leafs and wearing moon discs. film footage of the car in this time period on the return road at Rockford Dragway exists, according to Von Hartmann.


    the car underwent a substantial rebuild in 1969, featuring much lower stance, due to replacing the main leaves in the front spring packs with ones that had a flat pad area with a 90 degree "stop" at the front edge. the front shackle was replaced with a bracket on each side of the spring slider, with a cross-bolt to retain the spring should the front end lift off the ground. chains were installed as a crude fail-safe for the system. custom billet aluminum hubs were made for the now-brakeless front wheels. a state-of-the-art (at that time) Clutch-Flite transmission was used and the car was repowered by a Hilborn injected, Vertex ignited, Erson cammed '65 A990 426 Hemi, purchased, along with the wheels, tires, trans blanket and parachute from fellow UDRA member Elverne "Al" Pfieffer from Kenosha (who had used them for his own A/gas 33 Willys that rolled at Union Grove Dragway on August 24 1968 - Al decided to get out of Gas racing at that point). now at 1940 lbs, the car would launch hard and with the new, lower stance would now stay arrow straight for runs consistently in the 9.80's at 140+ mph. it was at that time that it was featured prominently in a two-page color spread in the February, 1970 issue of Popular Hot Rodding magazine. a big thanks goes out to Von Hartmann for pointing us in the direction of this issue and for the tip on the film footage.


    the car competed regularly at Rockford Dragway (now Byron Dragway), Union Grove, Wisconsin Raceway in Kaukauna, Alton, Oswego, U.S. 30 in Gary Indiana, National Trail in Columbus Ohio, and Tri-State Dragway in Cleves (Miami) Ohio. in NHRA events the car ran in the A/Gas (unsupercharged) class. the car also ran in the injected gas coupe class in events sanctioned under the
    controversial, racer-run UDRA banner, and according to the article, in 1969, was ranked in points standings among the top 5 in its class in the events held by the brutally competitive midwest chapter.

    the car was campaigned sporadically in the 1970 season as time demands and external pressures acted on the team, and the car was eventually "broken up" (drivetain removed) and the rolling shell sold in 1971.

    not much is known from this point forward, except that the car ended looking like this...


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    not a pretty sight to see, is it? supposedly the hack who did this gave the excuse that the frame "fell apart".


    in 2002 i saw the car for the first time in this condition, and to be frank, i kind of wrote the car off as too far gone to do anything with except to possibly combine with another Henry J.

    at HAMB on the rocks last year when i had a conversation with Von Hartmann and AA/Fuel34fordpu about the car again, they mentioned that the wheels, tires and front axle for the car still existed and that they were still with the car!

    ...and then on a night at the end of October this year, my pal Alex shows up at my place after dinner, fresh from a gathering of graybeards who get together and bench race at a mutual accquaintence's place on wed's nights....


    he says "you gotta come see this Henry J. it's an old drag car and it's on a 4x4 frame...."

    i said, "is it orange?" pretty much knowing that there could not be TWO of these things butchered this way in this area.


    off we went. for the first time, i got to see the wheels and tires and the front axle. i shot pictures in the dark... i struck up a conversation with the new owner and he seemed suprised that someone would have such an interest in old drag cars. i sensed that he did not have a great set of reference points to work with. he wanted a street driven vehicle with a sbc and a 700r4 trans. long story short, it all haunted me a bit. i offered to donate to him my '62 Olds rear axle if it was used to reconstruct the car as a period gasser and over a period of time we eventually convinced him to get some help from Alex and do the right thing and try to restore the car to it's racing glory. i, being unemployed right now and waiting for school to start in January, felt that it was a perfect opportunity for me to volunteer all my time to make this happen. i figure it's a good time to regain some skills i've lost touch with, provides great "dry run" for my own GMC powered Henry J H/gas project, and puts a few favors in my column that i can call in some day as well. Alex wants my input on this project as well...he's a hardcore early Ford hotrod guy and drag racing up to this point has not been his thing. he is catching the fever though.....

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    the hitch is...a hemi is a budget buster, any way you slice it...for the buy-in of a proper hemi core engine we could have a truckload of cool early smallblock chevy parts that could make this a plausible C/gas car. i'm no smallblock chevy guy but i certainly understand the economics involved, and clearly, there are examlpes too numerous to mention of hard-charging gas cars with sbc's....Charlie Hill's Filthy Forty, Dave Hales, Mallicoat Bros. Willys, Skip Hess' Anglia, i could go on and on.


    the general plan is to build it to be a running display piece. i would LIKE it to run down the strip again one day, but i guess we will see. i would like to see it recreated almost exactly in appeaerance as it is in photos, save for a C/gas designation instead of the A/gas designation. we will be following VINTAGE NHRA rules to build this car. we are so damned LUCKY to have the wheels and tires, the seats, all the fiberglass, those headlamps! it gives me chills!

    some teasers....

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    so, follow along and enjoy!
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
    swade41 and kidcampbell71 like this.
  2. ttarver
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 406

    ttarver
    Member
    from austin

  3. lorodz
    Joined: Jul 26, 2009
    Posts: 3,728

    lorodz
    Member

  4. resqd37Zep
    Joined: Aug 28, 2006
    Posts: 3,217

    resqd37Zep
    Member
    from Nor Cal

    Thats too kool! Bring it back to it's glory days.
     

  5. I LOVE HENRY-J'S! (Von Hartmann's is killer)
    Great find and great project.
    In typical HAMB tradition, I'll throw in my 2 cents.
    Maybe a 383 Mopar could be found to recreate the wedge look.
    Are the seats the genuine kitchen chair versions?
    1740 lbs with the Hemi might be a typo. You couldn't even build a 1740 lb. Anglia with a small block Chevy.
    But no matter what you put in it, it will still be an awesome looking J.
     
  6. bobwop
    Joined: Jan 13, 2008
    Posts: 6,097

    bobwop
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I was hoping this would show up soon. My bet is that you guys found some old Henry J parts and bodies in a brush covered, vermin infested shed located on the South edge of Fort Atkinson! Good for you. Please keep us posted. I agree, go with a Mopar mill.
     
  7. 40willys
    Joined: Jul 11, 2008
    Posts: 45

    40willys
    Member
    from Barnum, MN

    I remenber seeing this in a old Hot Rod mag. Way cool. Glad you talked him into restoring it!
     
  8. speedtool
    Joined: Oct 15, 2005
    Posts: 2,540

    speedtool
    BANNED

    I love me some Henry J gassers!
     
  9. johnny bondo
    Joined: Aug 20, 2005
    Posts: 1,547

    johnny bondo
    Member
    from illinois

  10. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

    thanks for all the positive feedback guys.

    bob, 2 frames from that stash of Henry J parts gave their lives to make this one. after we fit it all up and Alex stitched it together we took it to the blaster and it came back looking like this.....

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    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  11. Great, I hope this inspires me to get my project HJ going!! Keep us posted
     
  12. 66Coronet440
    Joined: Oct 26, 2009
    Posts: 367

    66Coronet440
    Member

    Cool, I love the old Henry J's. I think you should go with a 413 or 440 with a Wedge intake if money allows.
     
  13. That car was the blueprint for my Henry J I started in High School. I had that same magazine article from my dads stash since I was a toddler.

    Glad to see it being saved, needs the Hemi tho..................
     
  14. Great History and inspiration! I have a Few Henry J projects, without the cool history.
    I'll enjoy watching the build.

    A frame shouldn't be to hard to find. Let me know if you need help rounding one up, I have a few contacts.

    A new crate 426 would be perfect!
     
  15. I'd love to see that running down da grove again. Good luck and keep us posted
     
  16. rainh8r
    Joined: Dec 30, 2005
    Posts: 792

    rainh8r
    Member

    I agree with the 383/413/440 idea. It did run a wedge for quite awhile and they are way cheaper than a hemi to build, esp. if you aren't racing. Keep going.
     
  17. Looking forward to this.
     
  18. It looks like it has some original Ai Fiberglass parts. The molds are still in use, now known as Rod 'n Race Fiberglass. Many additional Henry-J molds have been added to the selection since your front end and doors were made.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2009
  19. Circus Bear
    Joined: Aug 10, 2004
    Posts: 3,238

    Circus Bear
    Member

    very cool. I'll be watching this one.
     
  20. Ramblur
    Joined: Jun 15, 2005
    Posts: 2,101

    Ramblur
    Member

    Aaargh. Thats rubbing salt in the wound for the one I let get away 30 yrs.
    ago and still haven't got over...:( I came across one in an Alliance,OH
    junkyard about 1979 and couldn't come up with the $200 asking price.
    It was at best a roller but had a similar engine setback,straight tube axle,
    massive Olds/Pont rear axle,and fiberglass front end.All wrapped up in what
    would now be considered perfect patina of faded purple paint,orange plexi
    windows with decal remnants and if you looked close you could still make
    out "Satans Krate" on the doors.Long gone except for a not so faded
    memory and a pencil sketch of what might have been.
    Best of luck to you resurrecting yours and hope you'll keep us informed
    of your plans/progress.:)
     
  21. awesome...gonna keep an eye on this one
     
  22. czuch
    Joined: Sep 23, 2008
    Posts: 2,688

    czuch
    Member
    from vail az

    Wassa matter with a 4x4 Henry J?
    EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Good save.
     
  23. Royalshifter
    Joined: May 29, 2005
    Posts: 15,517

    Royalshifter
    Moderator
    from California

    Thank you Drag God for saving another....amen!!!
     
  24. Very cool, I'm in the process of resurrecting an old Henry J 60s drag car and will be putting a tunnel-rammed 440 in it. I've been scouring the web to find some info on its racing heritage, maybe someone knows something here. It was raced in SoCal and I think it said 'Penny Performance' on the side.
     

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  25. plodge55aqua
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 1,711

    plodge55aqua
    Member
    from Alberta

    If Im not mistaken.. I this came out of either Washington State or Oregon.. Ive seen it before.. I do like it..


    to the Thread starter..cool that you found it..
     
  26. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

    Rich, thanks for the input on the 'glass, and thanks again all for the supportive comments. i fundamentally agree with all of you who want to see a wedge or hemi put back in the car. but the reality is that the car does not belong to me, so the final decision about the engine is not mine to make. Alex and i do have a stong influence on the build and we do act in an advisory capacity to try to preserve the "period correctness" of the car, but we
    are working for the owner. there are a couple of big factors involved, the owner is retired (a 30-year GM employee), on a fixed income, and a Chevy guy as well. we have access to other Chevy guys as well who have already donated parts like a great set of vintage Heddman 55-57 fenderwell headers (can't beat free!). a Vertex

    and an early 1 7/8" Hilborn are practically garden variety stuff, even still, for an sbc. when was the last time you saw a used Hilborn or fenderwell headers for B/RB mopar, let alone priced them? and we have not even talked about the price of internal engine components yet. so a wedge is a budget buster too, and the crate 426 is completely out of the question. it's literally the deciding factor between this car getting finished or not.

    Barn Find T, thanks for the offer but Alex has already patched this frame up, he has a ton of work in it...[​IMG]

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  27. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

    more pix of patching.

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    we fitted a new, sturdier front frame spreader from 3 x 3 .250 wall mild steel. overkill perhaps but once the crossmember was cut away it and the rear spreader are all that holds the frame together, so we put in a temporary crossmember at the front kickup

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  28. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

    we boxed the front rails and followed the "contour" of the outer portion of the bottom of the rail. this was done originally as well because, believe it or not, the shocks on the original tube axle
    come up INBOARD of the frame rails!

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    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  29. Royalshifter
    Joined: May 29, 2005
    Posts: 15,517

    Royalshifter
    Moderator
    from California

  30. Zig Zag Wanderer
    Joined: Jul 6, 2007
    Posts: 564

    Zig Zag Wanderer
    Member

    once a Henry J frame has the crossmember removed as in the original there's not much to them. photos indicate the original frame ran unboxed in front after crossmember removal. the new frame is easily managed between the two of us, probably goes 130 lbs with the front spreader and boxing, but without the temporary crossmember. we had the help of an overhead crane to remove the body but it's gutted pretty well. the original stucture was .040" aluminum floor, pop riveted to a very simple x-frame in back made of 3/4" x 3/4 aluminum angle in back (most of which was missing, and the rest unfit for reuse). the floor/firewall grid and rocker panel frames were 1" x 1" x .090 angle steel. not much to it. on fuel it could have run as an altered
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010

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