Joined: 13 May 2004
|Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 11:07 am Post subject: The Racers Edge!!
The Racers Edge!!
The first image was taken during the 1976 Firecracker 250 at Barstow (read Lenwood and I15) Ca.
These races started in the afternoon and ran into the dark. We had a pretty good race and were on the verge of winning if memory serves. Anyway on the last lap a hundred yards or so from the finish line the Bronco quit moving. John Branch was driving and called for help on the radio. Our main pit was close by and the chase crew was there in short order. After checking everything it was determined that the tranny had taken a dump. Here we are with the finish line in sight and the damn thing wouldn't move. Luckily we were on the top of a long hill that went down to the finish line. With help from the crew the race car was pushed about ten feet over the crest of the hill, and John and Mike went into the finish line with the engine running and John blipping the gas like it was moving. They went under the checkered flag, and stopped. Obviously the Bronco wouldn't move again, so John in his best stage voice said something about, Oh. Wow. Something has happened to the drive train." About that time out of the dark from up the course came the chase truck which pulled up in front of the Bronco hooked a tow chain on to the front bumper and off they both went to our pit. I think we ended up second or third. The early days were fun.
Quick story. In one of the Barstow races John Branch was driving the truck and Mike Lane was riding shotgun. They were in the truck out on the course in the race, and Mike told John that he had to "whiz" and could John pull over. Well they were in kind of a bad area, and John told Mike that he would stop as soon as they got out of the bad stuff. Mike told him ok. After a bit Mike again asked John if he would stop as "he really had to go." At that point John realized that they were back in the same area as when Mike had asked before, except it was now another lap later. Now these laps were a little over sixty miles in length and took about an hour to do. Mike truly had bladder control. Mike was an innovator. When I met him in 1969 he had gone to a junk yard and found parts, and pieces to put power steering in his Bronco. Also when we wanted to remove our door cutouts from the race Bronco and put solid"door skins" on to give us more writing room Mike showed up one Tuesday night and asked some of the guys to come out to his Bronco and help him. Here was a mold made out of plaster of Paris that took three men and a boy to lift. Seems he had removed a door from his Bronco and made this mold from scratch. So we were able to make our fiberglass door skins which I still have.
"1970 MINT 400 AT THE OLD SAHARA GUN CLUB. I'M GOING AS FAST AS I'VE GOT THE BALLS TO DRIVE MY BRONCO ALONG AN OLD RAILROAD RIGHT OF WAY, DOING ABOUT 95. I SEE MOVEMENT IN MY SIDE VISION AND THERE ARE PARNELLI AND STROPPE ABOUT 25 FEET OFF THE COURSE PASSING ME LIKE I WAS PARKED, AND TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY THEY BOTH WAVE AS THEY GO BY. ABOUT 25 MILES FURTHER ON I DROP OVER THIS RISE AND THERE IS A HELL OF A DROP OFF, AND DOWN AT THE BOTTOM IS PJS BRONCO OFF THE SIDE OF THE COURSE WITH BRONCOITUS AS WE USED TO CALL THE BROKEN FRONT ENDS, AND WE HAD OUR SHARE OF THOSE OVER THE YEARS. ANYWAY PJ IS ALREADY GONE AND STROPPE IS THERE WITH A BFH BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF THE FRONT END GETTING IT READY FOR A NEW ONE WHEN THE CREW BRINGS IT TO HIM. SO WE WAVED AT BILL AND KEPT ON MOTORING ONLY TO NOT FINISH THE RACE WITH ENGINE PROBLEMS.
BACK UP TO 69 MINT A MINUTE. DID YOU KNOW THAT THE MINT USED TO RUN IN TWO DAYS? AND PJ ROLLED HIS BRONCO THE FIRST DAY AND THE SECOND DAY TOO. WHAT MADE THIS A HOOT WAS THAT ON THE FIRST DAY HIS CO DRIVER WAS ONE OF THE UNSER BROTHERS, AND ON THE SECOND DAY WAS THE OTHER UNSER BROTHER. SO PJ AN INDY WINNER HAD THE HONOR OF DUMPING TWO OTHER INDY WINNERS ON TWO DIFFERENT DAYS. THE LAST YEAR FOR THE TWO DAY MINT WAS IN 72. THEN THEY MOVED IT TO JEAN FOR '73, AND IT SNOWED, AND PJ AND STROPPE FINISHED FIRST. WE FINISHED THIRD IN THE TRUCK CLASS. YEA WE HAD ONE OF THEM TOO. IT WAS A 300 6 CYL THAT HAULED ASS. BACK TO PJ. WE WERE IN TECH AT '71 MINT OUT AT THE ELKS CLUB. PJ CAME IN WITH A TRICK BRONCO THAT I THINK WAS A FORERUNNER TO BIG OLY. I THINK HIS SPONSOR WAS JOHNNY
LIGHTNING(sp?) ANYWAY HE HAD TWO PRETTY FAIR SIZED PROPANE TANKS IN THE BACK AS THE BRONCO WAS PROPANE POWERED. THE REAR TANK OVERHUNG THE BACK OF THE BRONCO BY SEVERAL INCHES AND THERE WAS NO BACK BUMPER, JUST THE TANK HANGING OUT THERE IN FRONT OF GOD AND EVERYBODY, AND I COMMENTED TO HIM (PJ) THAT IF ANYBODY HIT HIM IN THE REAR END OUT ON THE COURSE THAT HE WOULD GO LIKE A
ROCKET SHIP UNTIL THE PROPANE ALL BLEW OUT OF THE TANK. HE LOOKED AT ME, LAUGHED, AND SAID, "BOB. IF ANYBODY OUT THERE CAN GO FAST ENOUGH TO HIT ME IN THE REAR END I DESERVE TO GO LIKE A ROCKET." AND THAT WAS PARNELLI, A HELL OF A GREAT RACER AND A REAL ASSET TO THE SPORT.
I HAVE TO TELL YOU ONE DAY ABOUT WALKER AND PJ PRERUNNING THE FIRST CALIF 400 RACE COURSE AT BARSTOW ON MOTORCYCLES. THAT IS A HOOT TOO. ANOTHER TIME."
I was working at that ford store in Newhall when we ordered that bronco. we had hoped to make the '69 mint. well the bronco didn't come in forever. we finally got notice that it had been in a train accident in route from Michigan truck and was being repaired. I almost started on my '68 and then decided to wait out the new one. after I took delivery I had it about two weeks and had started to work on it, and I was "testing" it in the river bed near our home and I put it upside down without benefit of a roll cage. a real high intelligence operation. anyway back to the body shop again. And OVER THE YEARS IT SEEMED THAT ANYTHING THAT COULD BREAK ON THAT DAMN BRONCO IN A RACE DID. and always something different. we finally decided that the train crash had started the whole deal, and we had a jinxed bronco from the get go. and I believe it to this day. the bronco always broke at races, and the truck never did. someday I will send you a list of what broke, and some of them were pretty weird. it will suffice to say that right now sitting down in the shop the following things are original on the bronco,all else has been replaced at least once. front grille, transfer case, firewall, floor, back quarter panels. That's it. Those are the only things left.
Holman and Moody were big on the east coast and they built complete winning stock cars and raced them. Stroppe did stuff for them on the west coast. in fact the #15 merc that Parnelli drove in the early sixties at Riverside and Pikes Peak and ???? was a Holman Moody Stroppe car. Bill had it sitting in his shop on temple in long beach. part of that shop belonged to Ford motor co. Bardahl was a "snake oil" engine additive like Wynnes, STP, justice bros., etc. it was one of the top sellers back then and had been around for years. and now that you ask about them I have to wonder what ever happened to them. I don't remember seeing them for many, many years. speaking of Stroppes shop, it was on Signal hill actually, and was it neat to wander through. And you could. All the guys would stop and visit with you if they weren't ass deep in something. and Bill was always available to give advice, and answer questions.
'71 mint 400. what is
of interest in this picture is that this is the first time for KC lights on a race car. Pete brown used GE landing light sealed beams, and Raci mex "cans" to put them in. he was assembling these lights in his garage during the day as he worked a night job. I had met Pete late in '70 or early in '71. we got the lights on the bronco and I said we needed to cover them with something. after discussing what would be best he went to Van Nuys Awning and had some covers custom made out of canvas, and screened the KC on them in black. and KC covers were born. the covers had no padding so we cut
some foam rubber out of an old play pen pad I had so if a rock hit the cover the light wouldn't break. the lights were awesome. if you will remember the sylmar earthquake was on Feb 9th of that year. we
had pulled the 302 and put in a new 351 Windsor engine. with the earthquake, time got tight and we had about 15 minutes on the engine when we left for Vegas. we unloaded the bronco at the state line and drove the bronco down I 15 towards Vegas to break in the engine(try that now days). Jim freck was driving the bronco. he had driven the tow vehicle to state line. another of the crew was supposed to drive the truck and trailer on into Vegas. after Jim had left with the race bronco Bryan bailey realized that Jim had taken off with the tow truck keys in his pocket. as luck would have it our chase bronco came along right then and they chased Jim down the fwy to Jean. Jim had stopped there to check the fluid levels. Bryan got the truck keys and returned to the pick up and drove it on into Vegas. Jim and Bryan drove the bronco in the race and were doing well until it got "broncoitus." by the time we went out on the course and put a new front end under the bronco we drove all the stuff back to our motel in Vegas and called it a day. so much for the '71 mint.
we continued to use KC lights on all our race cars until we "retired" in '83. we never had a light failure in all those years even when we rolled our truck at Barstow in '73. but then that is another story.
This photo was taken before the firecracker 250 at Barstow ca in 1975. what is interesting is that the start/finish line for these races is at the Lenwood off ramp on I15. for those of you traveling the I15 to Las Vegas from southern Calif. this staring line was where the very large discount mall is today. back in the seventies the only thing there was a couple of gas stations and a cafe. the name of which escapes me. To the left is the Pickup with the 300 6cy,if you didn't shut the damn thing off in drive when you stopped you could get out, go eat a sandwich, and soda and then go back to it and it would still be running. later on we put a 390 in it, and then a 428.
So this race was at lenwood off ramp of I15 so of Barstow. we were running first and sailing along.
John branch had turned the truck over to Wally Wallace. Mike Lane was riding shotgun for both
drivers. anyway the truck was extra long in coming back to main pits. we had heard nothing from
them on the radio. all of a sudden in they came. the truck was crunched. Wally had done a
complete wheel to wheel and then flopped it on over on its side. it was there for sometime until
some spectator came along with a jeep and a winch and pulled it back up on its wheels. the guys
checked the fluid levels and all were ok, and they finished the lap and came back to the pits. we
checked it over and all was ok to go. Wally was so pissed that he was the one to wreck the truck
that john had to get back in and finish the race. we ended up third even with all the down time. we
had named the truck the persistent pickup when we built it, and it had lived up to its name again.
up to this race the truck had fiberglass door skins and no windshield. we put a complete real
functioning cab on it after this race, complete with heater/defroster. the guys who had been in it at
the '73 mint when it snowed thought the heater was a great idea.
Editors note: Bob Lewis graciously donated his time telling these stories, we at BFIX would like to thank him. I know for one I look forward to the next story.