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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Wichita car expert judges 'Junkyard Wars'

Pat Foster, who re-creates and restores dragsters,
will appear tonight on the TV series' 2001 premiere.

By Mike Berry
The Wichita Eagle

[Note: This column appeared in the Wichita Eagle on 1/03/01 and is reprinted with their permission. The article refers to the program that aired on 1/03/01 evening on The Learning Channel (TLC). For future air dates, consult the TLC website at http://tlc.discovery.com/tlcpages/junkyard/junkyard.html. bp]

Pat Foster has been known to scrounge a few parts from junkyards as a fabricator of some of America's fastest drag-racing cars over his 40-year career in the sport. So don't be surprised if you tune in to The Learning Channel tonight and see his bearded face smiling out at you on the premiere of the new year's "Junkyard Wars" hit series. Foster was chosen to judge the zany competition, in which two teams of three members each (plus an expert consultant) are turned loose in a London scrap heap and told to build a certain kind of machine -- in 10 hours' time. The teams then pit their devices against each other to see which performs better.

"It's a fun deal. I hadn't ever seen the program before," said Foster, a transplanted Californian who now lives in Wichita, where he runs Foster Pro-Fab Inc., restoring and re-creating vintage dragsters.

The teams he judged had to build a functioning drag-racing car out of cast-off parts and then see who could produce the quickest run down an eighth-mile track.

In its first three years, "Junkyard Wars" was a strictly British production, with teams of English fabricators building everything from working submarines to aircraft capable of dropping powder bombs on a target. This year, all of the teams are from America, but the show is still filmed in England.

"It's a real working wrecking yard on the southeast side of London, about 40 acres," said Foster. The part of the junkyard used in the TV series is about a half-acre, and the crews do their building inside a pair of 8-foot-high walled-in enclosures.

Foster judged the machines built by the "Texas Scrap Daddies," a group of artists who use car parts for their sculptures, and "Chicago Fire," a group of Chicago firefighters who are into street rods. The Scrap Daddies built a lightweight, motorcycle-powered rail dragster, while the firefighters opted for a V-8 powered "funny car" without a body.

The teams seemed a lot more competitive than their British counterparts, and there were some confrontational moments on the set, Foster said. But the end result was a pair of cars that ended up running the track within 0.004 seconds of each other.

Foster said the slam-bang construction of the off-the-wall designs brought back memories. "It's fun, seeing the way you did things back when you were 16," he said.

Although he was paid only $258, plus his travel expenses, Foster hopes to be invited back to reprise his judge's role on "Junkyard Wars."

"I had never been to England before, and it would be nice if I could take my wife and son over for a vacation," he said.

The "Junkyard Wars" episode featuring Foster, taped last summer, airs on The Learning Channel, cable Channel 49, at 8 and 10 p.m. tonight.

Mike Berry
(316) 628-4899
C 2001 The Wichita Eagle


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