Roger Lee Remembers Pat Foster
by Roger "Riceman" Lee
Pat Foster was one of the giants in drag racing. His prowess behind the steering wheel as a driver is as legendary as his fabricating talents wielding a welding torch or English wheel. Pat – “Patty” to his friends – left us way too early at the age of 67 in March of 2008. Friend and fellow master fabricator Roger “Riceman” Lee – “Slanteyes” to Foster and “Roundeyes” to Lee – recounts to Nostalgia Drag World a few anecdotes from conversations with his friend over the years…..
Having never dealt with pushrod lengths, I called Patty, who told me what to do.
Patty: “How did it come out?”
Me: “Good, but I didn’t have an adjustable pushrod.”
Patty: “So what did you use?”
Me: “A chopstick!” Click. ”Hello?” “Hello??”
I called him back and he said he was busy. Ten minutes later he called me back…”YOU SET ME UP, DIDN’T YOU?!” NO, but I found out the pushrod lengths.
The great chopstick caper #2:
When I was starting to get parts together for the Jim Brissette replica, I had bought new Donovan valve covers. I posted a picture of them on my mock-up motor and Dave West and then Patty both said that they were wrong – missing the rib on either side of the name plate. I really caught hell from both of them!
The casting company for these Donovan covers had screwed up the mold and deleted the rib. Patty said they were JUNK and to sell them and find the right ones. I wanted to get back at them for telling me this…get back but good! So, I took a set of bamboo chopsticks to the garage and cut two strips from them the same size of the cast ribs and placed them on the valve covers. I took a photo and sent it to Dave and Patty, with “What do you think?”
Are you %#$@& nuts? The hook was set! Patty was having none of this when I told him to trust me, that with a little super glue and aluminum paint no one would notice.
Back in my garage, I made four strips the size of the ribs out of aluminum. Each rib I drilled three equally-spaced 1/16” holes into the rib and valve cover. I cut off 12 pieces of 1/16th aluminum rod, chamfered the holes and peened the ribs on the valve covers. Then I filed the strips flat to match the height of the cover’s name plate. Done!
I took another picture of the now five-ribbed cover and e-mailed it to West and Foster. “How about the bamboo strips now, sanded with 600 grit sandpaper and painted aluminum? Look bitchin’?”
Patty, of course, figured it out and knew I was pulling his leg, but played along and we had Dave West going for months!
When Patty was hired to drive the Barry Setzer Vega funny car, Ed Pink told him that, unlike what the previous driver had been able to do, he wanted “smoke coming out of the front wheel wells too, on the burnouts!” “Are you sh***ing me?” “NO!” said Ed, “no WEAK SUCK burnouts…we’ve got LOTS of motors!”
I was telling Foster about me cackling in the “Frantic Four” fueler, to which he replied: “I’ll put your Hop Sing butt in the Mongoose funny car and make you “FRIED RICE-MAN!” “No problem, Patty…just put the body down and get your roundeyed ass out of my way!”
One day in the shop, Danny Ongais, the driver of Mickey Thompson’s (blue) Mustang was bitchin’ about how the car’s launch wasn’t consistent. The next race out Patty asked him how it was now.
Ongais said, “Man, that thing launches like a Top Fueler! What did you do?”
Foster had machined out the coilover shocks and had made struts, welding them in the shock housings so it still looked like the working coilovers. It was a year before anyone found out.
The Patty Foster driver tip of the day:
“If the car starts moving out of the groove, give the bitch a shoulder the other way. You are the only piece of ugly weight in the car that can move!”
In one of our many phone calls, Pat asked me if I knew of any race car fabricators, as he was needing some help. He told me about the test he was giving to applicants: to make an equal length 6” triangle out of .050 aluminum with 3/8” holes in the corners and with the correct spacing from the edges out. Some guys took hours to do this and not many passed his test. Just for a good laugh I made one, scanned a picture of it and sent it to him. Five minutes later the phone rang.
“How long did it take you to make that, Rice?”
“Ten minutes, Patty.”
“Respect has to be earned” Patty told me a few days before he made his last pass, “and you have mine.” Yeah, that got to me deep inside. Still does.
Many of us miss Pat Foster, but he lives on with his contributions to the sport we love, DRAG RACING.
Roger “Riceman” Lee
Nostalgia Drag World - by Roger Lee