Well, it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well, it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well, it’s all right, doing the best that you can
Well, it’s all right, as long as you can lend a hand
RIDING AROUND IN THE BREEZE
©2013 Bill ‘Badco’ Ott
Gainesville Raceway - Gainesville, FL
March 10 - 13, 2011
The first image begs the question: “How many travelers does it take to change a sparkplug?” The answer: “You talking a left or right threaded plug?”
Another question: “How many travelers can fit in fit in a bitchin’ ‘57 Chevy station wagon?” The answer: “All of the above.” But, already we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves…..
It was sometime back around January or February when the phone rang and I instantly recognized that southern drawl on the other end as belonging to none other than Manassas, Virginia’s own Bill Klein. Bill’s the watchman and caretaker of Bob Bilbow’s ‘Lyndwood Welding Special’ dragster, an assemblage of cold steel, chromoly, aluminum, and tin that was welded together back in 1963 (give or take a year or two) by Bob’s Dad, Pat Bilbow. Pat worked out of a cinderblock, brick, and concrete structure that was nestled in the mountains up in Luzeren County, Pennsylvania in a small town called Wilkes-Barre. Pat named his business Lyndwood Welding. Nobody knows why, and that’s just one of the mysteries that continue to this day regarding the place.
From what I’ve been able to gather from a former employee of Lyndwood that dwelling was hotter than hell in the summer and colder than hell in the winter. At least you knew what you were up against when you clocked in every morning.
Word is that Pat and his company turned out somewhere in the vicinity of four hundred dragster, altered, and roadster chassis (in those days the last two were separate classes). Pat and crew also manufactured narrowed Ford Banjo-style, Olds, and Chevy rears, complete front axle assemblies, direct drive units, loud pedals, friction shocks, brake handles, steering wheels, dash panels, drag links, steering arms, completed bodies, scatter shields, widened steel wheels, etc. In fact, just about anything one would need to assemble their own dragster out in the garage. Pat also sold completely welded up rollers... just drop in your own engine and go racing. He also offered those wire spoke wheels the big guns out in California were running... for a price. To find out how the spoke wheel deal came together check out...
Lyndwood Welding still exists at the same location on Fellows Avenue but they don’t build dragster chassis anymore. Hell, the place still even has the same phone number! Don’t believe me? Just dial VA3-0049 and ask for Bob. He’ll tell ‘ya. Ah, but I digress again, already.
The nature of Mr. Klein’s call (remember him?) was to inquire if I’d be interested in accompanying him and a crew of assorted misfits to the upcoming NHRA Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Florida in March. Steve Gibbs wanted ten older (and better) dragsters to ‘Cackle’ in front of the crowd just before the start of Final Eliminations.
“We’re going to push start those puppies…do it up just like back in the day,” he said. “Don’t have time to talk right now.” I quickly told him, “I’ve got airline reservations to make!”
So once again, I find myself on the receiving end of one of those deals the average drag race fan would kill to be part of. Someday, I’m gonna sit down and try to figure out exactly why all of this stuff happens to me. But that’s for some other time. As I already stated, there’s airplane reservations to be made and bags to be packed…..
Monday, March 7th found me flying out of El Paso on an early flight to Houston, where I hopped a connecting flight to Dulles International. The prior week I had been treated to a stress test, complete with radioactive dye for the nuclear images (!!) courtesy of my cardiologist. I was given a letter to show to the nice people from TSA, in case I happened to set off any alarms. They had nothing to fear... my glowing in the dark would cease by the end of the following week. The letter came in handy. Thanks Doc!
Monday evening found me sitting at Bill’s place, feet up and drinking wine enjoying his and the lovely Margaret Klein’s Southern hospitality. Tuesday morning found us south bound on Interstate 95. I was back in my old stomping ground again. The trailer with the dragster inside pulled like it wasn’t there. Nice ride.
The trip to Gainesville was uneventful. Wednesday at 9 AM we found ourselves unloading the digger and pushing it into the area where it would sit for the next few days, adjacent to the track’s finish line.
Thursday dawned colder than hell but the crowd was good considering the temperature. Bill had put together a great display covering the history of some dragsters that ran Lyndwood Welding chassis back in the day, such as Jim and Allison Lee, Joe Jacono, Joe Tucci, Dick Swecker, and the Lickliter Brothers, to name a few. Speaking of Joe Jacono, he and the lovely Vicki dropped by on Thursday and kept everyone within earshot entertained with his colorful stories of the past. The best one-liner of the weekend came from Jacono when he described his first encounter with Pat Bilbow and Lyndwood Welding... “I told my partner, you gotta see this stuff. These guys up in Wilkes-Barre are puttin’ cars together with pipe that doesn’t have threads on the end! Not like that crap we build!”
The sun was starting to set and the crowd was thinning when I gave Joe and Vicki a hug and we said our goodbyes. Too bad I only get to see these guys about once every two years or so. I love ‘em both. continued on next page...