From the Editor’s Desk
by Connell R. Miller
The other night, with the TV off and a diet coke with a splash of Bourbon at my elbow, I began reminiscing about some of the events I’ve experienced over 62 years either spectating or participating in drag racing. I’ve been hooked on this form of motorsport ever since the day my dad and I hopped into his brand-new 1952 MG-TD and made the 30+ mile trip from Dallas to Caddo Mills, where the Chaparral car club was sponsoring drag racing on the concrete runways of the old World War II military training field.
Skipping through the years to 1969, I chuckled as I remembered one late summer weekend when my driver, John “Goat” Osborn and I were preparing for a trip to Omaha for a big race. Johnny lived across the street from Division 4 Top Gas stalwart Dick Moritz, for whom he had been helper on his cars since his early teen years. My dragster was in Dick's garage where we had just built a new engine and tweaked the Schaefer “slipper” clutch.
After buttoning everything up, the next step was to fire ‘n test. It was too late in the afternoon to load up and tow out to a certain little-used, long and flat road near Collinsville, our favorite testing site. So, we did the next best thing. John climbed in the race car, I got behind the wheel of my Chevy wagon, and off we went. A couple of blocks to the east, Goat hit the mag switch and the 462 cubic inch blown Chrysler fired right off. Sweet! We pulled into the empty parking lot in the back of a church and stopped.
While I had my hands on the heads, to determine the heat in the engine, suddenly the back door to the church opened up and a number of very dressed up folks came streaming out and down the steps toward us, including one couple - he in tuxedo, she in a beautiful wedding dress.
Oops and uh oh!... We were wedding crashers!
A 40-something with a serious look was the first one to us and our now-quiet race car. Fearing we would be subjected to a serious chewing out at the least and put in shackles and chains and hauled off by the local constabulary a possibility at worst, we immediately began profusely – and very sincerely - apologizing, stating we could not see the cars parked in the front parking lot and that we didn’t expect anyone would be there late on a Friday afternoon. 40-something then broke into a smile, introduced himself with a handshake, and told us he was the troop leader for some Boy Scouts. Would you let us come by sometime and you could tell them all about drag racing and show them your car? he asked nicely…..
Hell yeah, podnuh!… Any time!
I gave him my phone number (but he never called), apologized again to the newly-united bride and groom and the rest of the crowd, and we pushed off down the street.
1969 photo of John "Goat" Osborn, the driver of my AA/Gas Dragster
The story doesn't end there, however....
At the end of the block we turned right, where there were several baseball fields, with teams and spectators at each diamond. Still wanting to test the new engine and clutch set-up, I signaled him to hit the switch and fire it off again. Pow! Man, it sounded good (and very loud in that quiet neighborhood!). Idling it to the next corner, he turned right and stopped. Looking around, the ball fields were suddenly now almost empty as everyone was gathered on either side of the street corner where we sat! No cars were parked or coming and all the kids were standing on the grass on either side with none in the street. So, after making sure it was clear, John suddenly nailed the throttle, hazing the tires and shooting up the street, shutting it off after probably hitting close to three times the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in this residential area.
As I pulled away behind him, I could see the multitude of kids now in the street looking down and gawking at the two black stripes left behind by the 9.50x15 M&H Racemasters. I’ve often wondered how the youngsters described what happened to their parents when they got home and, 45 years later, how many might even still remember perhaps their first up-close-and-personal encounter with a 200 m.p.h. dragster!
In case someone had called the Tulsa P.D. and one of their finest was searching for these “hot rod hooligans,” we quickly got the car back into Moritz's garage and pulled the door down, laughing about the evening’s festivities while we loaded the wagon in preparation for an early morning start up to Omaha.
Oh yeah…the race? At Omaha, we made it to the finals, where we had to run Doug Ferguson who was driving Charlie McClintock’s car. Lordy, lordy…we won!, and after being interviewed by a local TV station’s crew, we loaded up and headed on the long road back to T-Town with the “1969 Midwest Gas Dragster Championship” trophy resting nicely on the backseat.
That was a fun time racing back in the day as anyone who did it would attest to; however, looking back to that “squirt” we made on a public street with kids around, chalk that up to be exuberance of youth (read: doin’ kinda stoopid stuff!) and no, we would not do that today!
If you have similar stories you’d like to share with our readers, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connell R. Miller
Nostalgia Drag World - by Connell R. Miller
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