31 October 2005

January 1964

You may remember I once took a crack at being an auto mechanic.
I'm glad I did.
From that experience, I have a good basic knowledge of how cars work,
and I have an idea when a mechanic
is trying to sell me "headlight oil".

My interest was sparked by Willy.
Willy was a born mechanic.
Two years my senior, he had worked at the Service Station where I worked until he graduated from High School. He then went to work as a mechanic for a trucking company.

Willy and I hung out together a lot.
We called ourselves "The Old Dads".......don't ask me why.
We both loved drag racing.
We decided we would buy an old V8 powered car,
remove and rebuild the engine, and take it racing.

After a little searching, we found a 1955 Ford 2-door sedan
within our price range.
It was rusted out and at least three colors....an ugly car,
but appearances didn't matter to us.
This would be an ongoing project.

That Fall and Winter, as our budget allowed, we took the engine apart,
had it cleaned up, and put it back together.
I say we.......but Willy directed all the work.
He knew exactly what he wanted to do.
We bored the cylinders, then picked the lightest pistons we could afford
and sent them and their matching connecting rods and fasteners to be balanced.

We wanted to race the car in it's "stock" class, so we installed a stock camshaft.
We re-jetted the carburetor and put on bigger exhaust manifolds to make the engine breathe more air.

The car had an automatic transmission.
We removed that and put a standard tranny in it's place.

By Spring, the car was back together, running like a Swiss watch.

When this car left the Ford factory in 1955
the red-line on the engine was 4,500 R.P.M..
We bought and installed a new "Sun" tachometer, and it indicated our balancing worked wonders.......
our engine would spin to 7,000 R.P.M., pulling hard all the way!

We replaced the original 15-inch tires with a huge set of 14-inchers
to lower the final gear ratio for drag racing and put as much rubber on the road as possible.

If you've seen the movie, "American Graffiti", you've gotten a sense of what life was like for kids of my generation. We had a 1/4 mile drag strip marked off on one of the country roads, and we used it frequently.

We would cruise the local drive-in restaurants to see if anyone wanted to try their luck against this old, beat up Ford.

One night, "Bob", a guy from a neighboring town driving a '59 Ford
decided he wanted a piece of The Old Dads and their patchwork Ford.
Bob's nice '59 Ford had a much larger engine in it.........352 cubic inches,
compared to our little bored-out 272.
But the '59 was a bigger, heavier car, so it wasn't too far out of our class.

Mind you, these races were for bragging rights only........no pink slips involved.
Few would have been interested in it, but no one wanted to be beaten by this ugly old junker!

At the end of the race we were a couple car lengths ahead of Bob.....
We had beaten him badly enough that he didn't return to cruise around the restaurant that evening.

I'll never forget that night, because of Bob!
Who was Bob, and why is the memory of outrunning him such a big deal all these years later?

"Bob" was Bob Glidden.
In a few years, he was seldom beaten.......
NHRA National Pro Stock Champion in 1973,
'74, '78, '79, '85, '86, '87, and '88!

But that night in the Winter of '64,
Willy's fabulous, junky old '55 Ford
and "The Old Dads"
sent Bob home licking his wounds!

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