That Time Again
by Eddie Buck
That time again. Seems I always have some riveting topic in mind. But, my rivets seem to turn into screws and it always ends up somewhere else. Hahaha.
It's been a busy year, lots of work, sometimes more than I can handle. But you won't hear me complain. First, no one listens! Secondly, it must mean I am doing something right. So, here I sit two days past deadline, on a Wednesday morning...as the printer drones in the background. My mind is in a fog, in the last 48 hours I think I have caught about 5 hours of sleep. A family member has found themself in a predicament, and we are now caring for my 7 month old nephew. No big deal, I've already raised 4 of my own, so one more isn't going to matter. But, the emergence of teeth has my little friend is a snit and at 50, those sleep deprived nights ... they aren't like they were 20 years ago. But, it's for the well being of the child, he's family, you take care of your own. I would venture a guess, most reading this would do the same. Doing something for your own, and ensuring their growth, sometimes at a sacrifice is a good thing. It's contagious and usually instills it in them as well. Gotta think about the future.
The health and well being of our hobby, passion, curse, sport... Are we doing enough? Are YOU doing enough? I'm not saying anyone should sacrifice food, clothing or shelter, to further the cause. Maybe a little time, patronize a car show, go to a race. If you have a little coin, maybe sponsor an award, kick in to the prize bucket, pick up the tab for something the event needs. It's a business expense in some instances... advertising, promotion, etc. Participation is a huge part of this. Competition is going to take place no matter what. Spectators make it grow, which sharpens the degree of competition. Ego, the great motivator increases with the audience that is witness to it. A few ducats never hurt either. First you put the ass in the seat. Then it wants it's money's worth if it's going to make the effort to be there. So ya gotta pay the players. Everyone wins... or so we're told. But, if the seat is empty, the content of the event will lack. There's always going to be diehards, who as long as they have a buck in their mitts, they'll be there. There used to be tracks everywhere, or so it seemed. You could race multiple days a week, and do it without breaking the bank. T-shirts were cheap, the food sucked, but the stands were full. If we weren't racing, we were cruising. It was all about cars... it was what we ate, drank, lived.
I think for the most part, cruising has morphed into "Cruise Nights" around here it's typically a once a month deal. A Friday or Saturday night at a place with a big parking lot. Occasionally, there's still a car show, but they aren't as common as they once were. Some of my fellow business aquaintences , here in town, have been tossing the idea of a Cars and Coffee idea around for a while. I saw this a few years ago on an episode of some TV show. That, in my opinion is about as close as we'll get to our beloved "cruisin' " in this modern day. A couple fellow degenerates were here at the shop taking the nickle tour, I tossed the idea out to them and it met with approval. I think this has gained some popularity in the past few years... there's hope. Too many issues spelled the decline of cruising, political, legal and financial. A teenager burning a tank of gas aint a cheap proposition anymore. Could you imagine putting 60 clams in your tank, on a minimum wage to cruise your old haunts? Things like this is what we are left with, but it beats nothing and has some definite benefits. Showing up at daybreak, with no setup... just park. Grab some coffee, BS with like minded souls and be gone by 9am. The mix from the traditional hot rod to the import set, offers a little of everything. Everyone goes away happy, plus the passers by get a dose and maybe get bit by the bug. The name of the game is exposure...no matter how.
I remember my first Street Machine Nationals. Mike Klein, may he rest in peace, and I both fresh out of jobs and about 100 bucks between us. His car was further along than mine. That means his was running, mine wasn't. Mike didn't subscribe to the cookie cutter ride. His was a 65 Chevy II 4 door with a 6 cylinder, 4 speed, 4 barrel on a Clifford manifold, a head that had about as much magic as old Tom Koulan could muster.. Now, this was a 6 cylinder that would make most big block equipped cars look like sissies.He had a switch under the dash, which lit the reverse lenses when he beat you. Many an embarrassment was handed out by "Mr. Six" and that little Deuce. Every trick was thrown at the inliner.... badass... nuff said. But, I digress... I think we had about 80 bucks between us when we left. Gas, eats, campground money, it was tight 1982 money. We had planned for this since before we graduated the previous year. It was about 90 miles away in Springfield, Illinois. We arrived and there were every make and model we could imagine. We were in heaven.
By Saturday, we were broke. We spent the rest of our gas money cruising the streets and fairgrounds and we were flat broke. Luckily, I had brought my sign kit and scratched up a couple stripe and lettering jobs. I made enough to let us eat pretty good and had enough sheckels to fill the tank for the ride home.
We set out Sunday afternoon, reluctantly, back to reality. Somewhere during the weekend, one of the impromptu street races we got into caused a little problem with the harmonic balancer. At least that's was Mike's diagnosis of the dilemma. It would make a certain noise at low speed and he figured if he downshifted and rapped it, the noise would stop. It did... until one of the bolts holding the radiator in place decided it was tired too. Getting the picture?
Right before this happened, we had stopped to top off the tank. I think we had enough money left for two sodas and a pack of smokes. We were once again broke, but what the hell, we were heading home..
Somewhere between Springfield and St. Louis, the tempestuous little Deuce is hemorraging antifreeze onto the shoulder of Interstate 55. No tools, no money and no phone for miles. As fortune would have it, our scrounger instincts were well intact. The radiator was secured... Well, it was secured enough to stay off the fan blade. We bent the mortally wounded cores on the radiator, enough to at least reduce it to a seeping instead of a gush. We had the cooler with what was left of the melted ice from the night before. We poured it in the radiator and hauled ass. We made it about 30 miles, stopped and emptied the cooler into the weeping radiator. Cracked the hood open and turned on the heater to try to keep her cool. That head had more money in it than most cars were worth back then. Cracking from overheating was not an option and no one was going to come get us either. Off we go... hauling ass and we got a break... RAIN! We made it just outside of St. Louis and the rain stops, the temp gauge starts climbing. "220 Ed and we have to stop." Mike says to me. Two more miles and we are back on the shoulder. Hood open, what little water left in it is steaming into the early summer evening. Mike says, " unless you can piss enough to fill this thing, we are S.O.L." There we are, kicking at the wet grass on the side of the highway.... looking at the ruts full of water....
Do you know how many Dixie Cups it takes to fill a four core Chevy radiator?
I used 5 ounce Dixie cups to hold paint when I would hand letter. Lucky for us I had a couple in my sign kit... it took 87. I think the dirt and debris we couldn't sift out, it must have clogged some of the leaks too. We made it the rest of the way home, with a pretty cool story to tell.
We lost Mike 4 years later, rainy night, slid his Corvair sideways into a light pole. I saw him that morning, for the first time in a few months. He had just gotten married that summer and the typical things that change our lives were happening. He was heading home from work.He saw me making the turn to my shop and followed me in. He told he was going to freshen up the Deuce. He had finished it a couple years before and wanted to get it ready for the ISCA show. We made a point to plan to get together soon and I offered him use of my shop. That was the last time we saw each other. He was doing what he loved his passion up until the very end.
This is how we lived, it was what defined us and what we were all about. Two broke guys having one hell of a good time. Before cell phones, Gameboys and computers, we had this. Daily, on the streets, you would see the cars that fetch big dollars now. It won't die with our generation, if we support and enable it. I know there are a fair amount of kids still into it, so there is some hope . I quite enjoy being able to give back to the hobby. I am a devout student of the history and every opportunity to do something to help it along, I am there . If it means getting a new devotee to the cause... worth every penny as far as I am concerned.
Often, I see someone post on some facebook page, how great it must have been. They romanticize the days when racing was, as they deem it..."fun". How they wish they could live the vagabond life. Yeah, if all they envision it to be was so, it would be dynamite. Like anything else, something was lost in the passage of time. One of my favorite quotes regarding this, from "Jungle" Pam Hardy. I'll paraphrase, "We were just a bunch of dirtbags crossing the country and a shower or bath was a luxury". The lustre would probably wear off real quick, if one was to magically transport back in time. They talk about how great it was and how boring it is now. There's a reason things have come so far... because it wasn't all that great. the money got better, the accomodations improved and creature comforts are never something to shun. Sure it takes a whole truckload of money to do it now, but there are guys trying to bring back a piece of it. One thing they need, other than money, is what I mentioned in the beginning of this tome..... participating spectators. The more of us in the seats/stands.... the more of them that will come out. It's never been a matter of getting rich. The only way to have a million in drag racing, is to start with two million. But if we go, the promoters have more dough to payout and that is what follows that Ego thing I mentioned, If a guy can get decent round money, then it makes it more attractive to go to the lengths he needs to, to make it happen. Support this stuff , if nothing more than to honor those who made it happen in the first place.
But... I could be wrong... not like it would be the first time.
Nostalgia Drag World - by Eddie Buck; photo by Bob Wenzelburger
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