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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Memories of Dover Drag Strip

By Tom DeLello

Digger ready to go at Dover Dragstrip. Photo by Tom DeLello
Digger ready to go at Dover Dragstrip. Photo by Tom DeLello

I'm an old Drag Racing Fan myself... We used to frequent Dover Drag Strip in Wingdale, N.Y., from 1961-1964. Here's a snapshot I took back in 63. I don't really remember very much about the machine, except that it didn't run very well that day. That's a short wheelbase Dragmaster chassis, and that would have made this machine about a year and a half out of date for the time I took the picture. Also it was a blown small block Chevy, probably 327 C.I.

The big "Honchos" at the Dover Drag Strip in those days were the Lagana Brothers. As you must know, Bobby is active now in the Top Fuel category with Bobby Jr. But in THOSE days, Billy ran red 409 and 427 Chevys with a sponsorship from a local Chevy dealership in Eastchester, N.Y. He was FAST... 11.90 ETs at about 120 MPH.

But his brother Bobby was the real show, if you ask me... Bobby ran a very ratty looking post war Plymouth coupe in the C/G class. He ran in the low 12s and 113+ MPH. It had a small block Chevy with those straight up fuel injector stacks and a Borg-Warner four speed transmission. In those days, the gas coupes used heavy-duty truck rear axles, and very large 300-lb. truck batteries, mounted in the trunk for ballast purposes. But Bobby had his mounted up high and outside the trunk body... as a device, I guess, to raise the center of gravity and create better weight transfer. I've often wondered how that could have been legal according to the rules of drag racing in those days. Eventually, Bobby managed to give the coupe a red paint job and he fashioned a fiberglass front end that didn't look too neat...but it worked...!

(If anybody's got any digitized photos from those days at Dover, I'd love it if you'd e-mail some to me!)

My brother built an AA/FD with a blown Hemi...he took it to California and teamed up there with Paul Gommi. The machine was unsuccessful in drag racing, but my brother taught himself valuable welding skills by building it and that became the basis of a successful career for him.

My father did beautiful restorations of V-8 Fords from the thirties...he did five of them as a hobby...but had no use for drag racing...

This one was his 1932 Roadster...

1932 Roadster. Photo by Tom DeLello
1932 Roadster. Photo by Tom DeLello

And this one's a 1935 Ford Convertible Sedan...very rare.

1935 Ford Convertible Sedan. Photo by Tom DeLello
1935 Ford Convertible Sedan. Photo by Tom DeLello

He also did another '32 Roadster, a '35 Phaeton, and a '36 Phaeton. Then he did a '36 Cord by Auburn, but couldn't complete it due to a lack of parts.

Our neighbors ran an SS/A Dodge 426 C.I. Ram-Inducted, sponsored by the Gramatan Dodge dealership in Mount Vernon, N.Y. They did well with it at Dover Drag Strip, too.

We also would go to other tracks in the Northeast: Englishtown, NJ, Westhampton, L.I., East Haddam, Conn., and others...

I went to the Don Garlits Museum last month...good show! I'm going to the Gatornationals in March. Gonna' be FUN...!

Tom DeLello
Miami, Florida
tdelello@bellsouth.net

 

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