By Paul Zielsdorf
I have always wanted to drag race but I never had the means to do it. In high school we would go to the nearest drag strip, Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, which was one and one half hours away. We would go to the Land Speed Nationals where I remember a ‘34 Ford coupe running a blown injected hemi on nitro.
It was there I got the got the quarter mile bug. I always wanted to run down the strip but I never quite got there, not until January 2008 at least. That is when I was surfing eBay and found a survivor drag car that had been lost in time since 1973. The owner was a ‘car guy’ two miles away from me; we had never met before. I purchased the car because it was very cool, but more importantly, because it was very small and would easily fit into the already full garage.
Mike Gish of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, was 12 years old in 1965 when he first remembers seeing this yellow Fiat Topolino, then owned by Jerry Adams of Kenosha, Wisconsin, run down the track at the legendary Great Lakes Dragaway aka Da’Grove in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Mike and his dad, Slim (who was a modified dirt track racer and the first guy to run a hemi at Hales Corners in South Eastern Wisconsin) frequented the track to watch the racing action. The cute little Fiat was painted yellow and running an Algon injected 409 Chevy mill nestled in a Lakewood chassis.
It wasn’t until the fall of 1967 when Mike was reading the classifieds in the “Milwaukee Journal” that he had the opportunity to purchase the car from Power Automotive, a speed shop in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as a used roller. Jerry had sold the Mondello prepped 427 to his buddy and moved to Oklahoma.
Since the engine was gone, he enlisted his friend Jim Luker of Magnum Racing Engines in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to build a balanced and blueprinted Hilborn injected, 301 small block Chevy engine. It consisted of a 283 block and crank, Isky aluminum rods, Isky roller cam, needle bearing rocker arms, domed pistons and 461 camel hump heads that were ported and polished. Spark was supplied by a Vertex Magneto. The engine was monitored by Stewart Warner gauges and a Sun Tach. The engine was painted Rustoleum equipment yellow and mated to a 1962 Chevy 3 speed transmission with a Corvette shifter via an Ansen NHRA approved bell housing.
The rear end was a 1957 Chevy axle with 4.56 gears and Olds axles machined by Henry‘s Axles Service. Stopping was performed by Airheart disc brakes and a Girling clutch slave cylinder operated by a hand lever. The wheels were magnesium American Racing Torque Thrusts in the rear and spindle mounted twelve spokes up front. The slicks were Mickey Thompson M/T Dragsters with Pirelli’s up front steering through a Corvair box.
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