The Skinny, Flame-Spittin’ Car Before This One!
Copyright 2007-2018 by: E.C. Field
The golden days of drag racing, spawned many legends. Like most sports heroes these people were only human and depended a lot on their underpaid, overworked and incredibly loyal crews to help them over the tight spots. The following story has been told at many get-togethers over the years. I have heard it with minor variations from at least a dozen people. It’s absolutely true of course.
During the early 60’s, the corn fields of the Midwest were often buffeted by the sounds of huge V-8 engines. Gentlemen farmers during the week, the weekends they reserved for visits to the famous US-30 Dragstrip. Nearby, one crazy farmer of greek descent had about a mile of ruler-straight blacktop in front of his place. Almost exactly a quarter-mile away through the rows of corn and millet, was a railroad overpass with a blind cross-street on the opposite side. Very late at night, after working many hours on their rail, the crew would fire up a “junker” ’57 Chevy with a split railroad tie for a front bumper and push the racer out to the road. You know, just for a quick test run. They also had an old pickup with a wrecker hook on the back that could lift the race car and haul it back to the barn in just a few minutes. This seemed perfectly reasonable to them since it wasn’t uncommon for several hours to go by without traffic on this piece of backwoods.
Very early one Saturday morning (sometime after one A.M.) they decided to get one more quick run in before loading the car on the trailer for a big race the next day. As the thundering rail was about halfway to the crossing, an extremely drunk gentleman in a Cadillac Eldorado glided up alongside the overpass and began to brake for the stop sign … just as he passed it of course. Feeling guilty for this minor matter of timing, he hit the brakes harder and stopped in the middle of the intersection. Since it was a warm, moonlit summer night, he had his window rolled down and found his concentration broken by a tremendous hullabaloo coming from his left side. It took almost a half-second for him to focus on the rapidly approaching race-car with it’s accompanying cloud of tire smoke, excess fuel flaming out of the exhausts and big, white parachute. The rail-jockey was doing everything he could to stop; but it was just too late. Fifteen or twenty miles per hour may not seem like much in a car wreck, but when one vehicle is made of spare tubing and the other is 4500 pounds of Deetroit Big Iron… Well, you can imagine the scene as the hapless race car folded the first half of it’s frame against the Caddy’s door.
The greek’s pit crew meanwhile had seen everything and had the situation well in hand. The tow-truck driver arrived first and completed one of the nicest bootleg turns they’d ever seen, stopping with his hook mere feet from the back of the wrecked rail and heading back toward the farmyard. No one was really hurt so they went to work. While the driver was still in it, they snagged the roll bar with the hook and hauled the wrecked race car back into the barn. Another crew member in the “junker” ’57 Chevy backed off about thirty feet and rammed the Caddy again in the same spot. This caused our alcoholic friend to spill the last of his beer all over the seat. He then collected what was left of his composure and started to scream at the pit crew. These husky farm boys didn’t take kindly to this and took turns sitting on him (to keep him from hurting himself of course) until the police arrived a few minutes later. After dutifully listening to both stories, the police only smiled, shook their heads and arrested the Caddy driver for driving while intoxicated. The drunk continued to babble as they drove him away about “that damn, skinny, flame-spittin’ car before this one”.
That’s the way I heard it anyways and… like I said, it’s bound to be true.