NSS Inc. WAR CHIEF
by Bob Wilkiewicz
Nostalgia Super Stock Inc. Staff
After 54 years in drag racing, there is one person in the sport Larry Kaufman doesn’t know - but would certainly like to.
Of those Kaufman does know, however, many aren’t merely current racers; more than a few are pioneers, legends and most importantly, friends.
Now at most any event, he can walk into any locale and be welcomed to talk with talents such as Austin Coil, Chris Karimesines, Don Schumacher, Bill Simpson, Tom Prock, Bob Stange and Arnie Beswick, to name just some.
“Over the years they gave me parts, advice, and taught me how to race,” said Kaufman. “It’s because of these guys; they made me the racer I am today.”
Larry Kaufman's War Chief photo by Peter Ores
Which is an outstanding one, with the addition some of his own skills in first surviving the street racing scene and then for many years steering through the auto parts business as a Chicago North Sider.
From his early days on the streets to today’s senior statesman in Nostalgia Super Stock Inc., Kaufman has gone from driving a ’59 Pontiac Catalina to owning and driving a piece of factory history - and having seen it almost all.
Kaufman never had a problem with courage. “He was a young friend and afraid to drive it,” said Kaufman of his first turns with the steering wheel. “Back in the day, my nickname was ‘Leadfoot.’”
By 1961 Kaufman had bought his first Catalina; by 1962, he had established a reputation; by 1963, he was wheeling a new model 421 cu.in, 370 hp Catalina and also a frequent racer all the area tracks; US 30, Oswego, Byron and Great Lakes Dragaway.
“It was an education,” he said. “I started to learn and got to know my way around all the tracks. And I acquired friends all along the way.”
By 1966, Kaufman was also living a sequence common to many young racers; love, marriage, children and a sold car.
Forward to 1984 when he went to a race in St. Louis, just to watch and spend a weekend with Al Gartzman, who was racing his ’62 Catalina. The two friends got to talking that maybe it was time for Kaufman to get back into the game. They agreed to partner for a mutually beneficial car search.
“Al was going to Florida on a scouting trip but I decided to stay home,” said Kaufman.
“I said maybe if I find something or maybe if you find something...I’ll call you or you call me.”
A few days later Gartzman did call.
“He said, ‘I got good news and bad news, which do you want first?,” said Kaufman. “The good news is I found a ’63 Catalina and it’s beautiful, original, everything is right. The bad news is I bought it for myself.’” continued on next page...
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