Stories from the Storm Center cont...
The second NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in 1993 was an expensive one for Byrd. With two days of exhibition runs under his belt, during a pass he spun a rod bearing in his "little thousand-dollar" injected nitro motor. The resulting blast was devastating, as it blew the timing cover off, the main caps were lying in the front nose of the car, and the camshaft was blown out the back of the block into the converter. Tearing it down later, Stormy found the lifters in the bottom of the oil pan!
After the car had been sitting idle and unrepaired for the next year, luck smiled on Byrd in a big way. His buddy, Rod Hynes, borrowed his tow car and trailer so that he and boss, Rocky Childs, of Childs & Albert, could go pick up Childs' former top fuel dragster he had just found. "The Addict" had been runner-up to James Warren at the wheel of the Warren-Coburn-Miller "Ridge Route Terrors" rail at the 1968 Winternationals. After they returned, Hynes mysteriously announced that "Rocky wants five-hundred dollars." Not knowing what to expect, Stormy gave him the money. Two weeks later, Rod showed up with eight, brand new Arias 12.5 to 1 pistons, a set of Childs & Albert aluminum rods, 8 tool steel C&A pins, Z-Gap rings, main, rod, and cam bearings, and an oil pump! Rocky told NDW that "I cried at Rocky's generosity and will always remember the sweet side of this man. I miss him to this day..."
In 1997 at the Pomona Nitro Nationals Stormy qualified on the bump with a "weak 60%" tune-up and the "Brew" didn't make the list. After losing in the first round, it was a bitter pill to swallow seeing that the class they had helped build was shutting them out, as newer and faster cars were appearing on the scene almost daily. Bypassing the March Meet the following year to match race at LACR, during the second pass two rods exit from the "Brew" car. Akenbauer was unable financially to build a new engine, so the car sat in Stormy's garage while he was busy putting together a new engine for "Revelation."
With a Don Hampton 8:71 blower on the strong new, alcohol-fueled 350, the car found a new life! Bookings from promoters poured in as Byrd was wowing the fans with his show: one-handed smoky burnouts and a succession of "back-up girls" - ala "Jungle" Pam.
Eventually, Frank Krestin helped put "Strange Brew" back in action by supplying it with a 350 Chev and an Art Carr Powerglide. Joel and Dave Gruzen, with Dave driving, began racing the car along with the three in their own stable. For several years Dave and Stormy had fun match racing each other at various events until Byrd put one of his former back-up girls, Eily Stafford, behind the wheel. He told NDW that "she's driven darn near everything and can clock .000 reaction times...she's now 'The Brew Meister!'"
Stormy was honored as one of four car owners invited to race in car-crazy New Zealand, the first time since the L.A. Hooker funny car went over in 1977. The result? He and his "show" were not only a hit, but at the first of the country's two biggest ever races, Byrd won Nostalgia Eliminator! The events, undoubtedly with a big boost from Stormy's performances, were such a hit with fans and local racers alike, that the promoter, Ken Galvin, signed a nine-year lease with the CEO of the Taupo Thunder Dragway for future and similar endeavors!
It has long been obvious to anyone who has seen Stormy Byrd at a race that his passion and mindset for the sport of drag racing is much like that of one of his heroes, ϋber racer and showman, Tommy Ivo, whose mantra was always: “I’m gonna put the guy in the other lane on the trailer and entertain the folks while I’m at it!”
A true drag racer…and we’re glad to have him!
NDW - Editor with Stormy Byrd; Photos by Pam Conrad & Martin Libhart