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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

"All Aluminum Self-Destructing Hand Grenade"

(a.k.a., "Who was that driver?")

By Frank "Root Beer" Hedge, Fred "Bikester" Vosk,
and Walt "Thumbs" Stevens

Thanks to Tom "T-Slick" Shelar

Well, as I recall, it was in the early to mid sixties. We were at Long Beach and had qualified early. We were just sort of killing time and fooling around. Now, it was almost time for qualifying to finish (it was open until 5 or 5:30, I think) and I look up and here comes Dick Stahl through the gate, open trailer in tow as fast as he could go. He unhooks, unloads, throws some fuel in the tank, and heads for the starting line with his driver dressing and trying to run at the same time. You had to know Stahl, he was 6 ft. 9 in. tall and a gangling sort of guy, made the car look small, like a kid pushing a toy car as fast as he could, covered in grease and had been up most all night putting this thing together. Dick was usually late back then and always in a hurry; I don't think he ever caught up. He wasn't much on finishing the small stuff ether. 

So anyway, C.J. lets him in line right behind Zane Schubert who was pushing out as Dick's driver is getting in and bolted down. Dick squirts it with a load of alky and they push off right behind Zane. The thing fires and it had oil pressure. Dick and driver are looking good. They turn around, and Dick runs over and twists the barrel (Why? Because he liked to do that, need it or not), gives it a whack, and sends it to the line. Zane's in the left and Dick's in the right and I am standing there to root for him. The light goes green and off they go, tires smoking and fire out the pipes. Zane was out first, Dick's thing was right behind, and it looked like it was a nice pass. I was saying to myself, "Cool, he did it," and about then the chute comes out. 

Well, it was down hill from there. In all his hurry to finish the car and get to the track, Dick forgot to do one small thing - well, four of them to be precise -- he left the motor plate bolts out. The 392 zips right down the frame rails, takes the fuel tank along, jumps over the left front wheel, hits the ground a time or two, then bounces clear over Zane's car and beats him to the return road in a pile of smoke. All this is going on and Dick and I are in the truck hauling down the strip. We get there, and Dick runs over to the car where the driver is picking up the chute and putting it in the seat. Dick asks, "What happened?" and his driver says, "Felt good to me." The truth was, I think, that he didn't have a clue the 392 was gone. 

Dick was a good guy and a lot of fun to be around at times. I miss him. God bless. But I sure wish I could remember that driver's name.

Frank "Root Beer" Hedge

I don't know who the driver was and I wasn't there that night, but I remember hearing about it. The word was that seeing that '92' bounce across and right in front of his face, still running (it even had flames coming out of the headers) had a profound effect on Zane. He woke up the next morning -- and his beard had turned white! And that's the truth. It must of been a couple of years later, when Stahl was running the old M/T Hemi Fords -- and blowing up a few -- that my partner, Staats, did some cowl art on one of his cars. It was a Hemi Ford shaped like a hand grenade (pin out). The lettering under the artwork read ... "ALL ALUMINUM SELF-DESTRUCTING HAND GRENADE."

Fred "Bikester" Vosk

OK, guys, we were at the other end and just starting to push back down the return road. I heard the cars start and wanted to see who that was. We sat and waited. Both cars left the starting line, and it looked like a very good race. The small block Chevy was ahead. The next thing I know -- here comes the motor. A big ball of fire and it's about ten feet in the air. It hits right in the back of the Zane's car, then bounces right over him, missing Zane by about three feet. It's still a ball of fire and keeps on going, all the way to the end of the drag strip. It ends up next to the gate at the end. I think there was some guy driving down that street and seeing this thing coming. He most likely messed his pants. 

I ran over to see if the driver was OK. He wasn't looking too good. He had more oil on him than was in the engine. He still didn't know that the engine had come out of the car. The left front wheel was gone. The fuel tank was gone. This was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Right about that time, big Dick and the gang come wheeling up. The driver still didn't know the engine had come out of the car. I remember Dick running over and asking the driver, "What in the Hell happened?" The driver looks at Dick and says. "Man, this mother was on a good pass! When we got right next to Zane, all Hell broke lose. Did we win?" Then Dick tells him that the engine came out of the car. The driver sits down on the tailgate of the truck and looks at me. I don't think he still knew what had happened. His name was Wilson. John Wilson, I think. You know, after that deal. I never saw him at another drag race.

Walt "Thumbs" Stevens

 

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