Tommy McNeely's Great Experiment
By Joel Naprstek
Is this really Tommy McNeely's big experiment
or is that RaceCarArt guy just puttin' us on?
Photo supplied by Joel Naprstek
I wasn't sure if I should let this be known... but since Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson have both 'fessed up I figured what the hell. It's time Tommy McNeely did too.
Attached is a rare photo, one of the last known shots of Tommy McNeely and his Sad Sack '65 Falcon funny/FX machine. But if I may, let me tell you a little story first.
Seems our hero F/X match racer Tommy was havin' a bit of trouble keepin' 'er straight, trying to avoid flattening the occasional armadillo or Texas scorpion that would wander from the wide open spaces onto the many Lone Star State strips back in Texas or on his frequent forays south of the border in search of some tacos and long jalapeno green.
On one long, long tow home Tommy got to thinkin'... what he needed was a real, long neck induced brainstorm... he needed somethin' different to keep that ol' Falcon straight. Back in the shop stewin' on the pot after some good, down home Monahans style chili, it hit him... or should we say left him!
Now ol' Tommy was originally a Stovebolt man but this bein' 1966 and all he was now runnin' a Ford. Tommy still dug those Chebbies though and recalled back how when he was just a kid in low heel boots, back before he could play with his longhorn, he'd seen and fell in love with a new '57 Bel Air his uncle drove to the family reunion BBQ & sidewinder roundup. He just fell in love with them Chebbie fins.
That long ago love for those fins was the key to the squirrel problem he had been experiencing with the track crossin' critters. He decided what that high flyin' Falcon needed was to whack off the roof for more speed (to get there BEFORE the critters did) and add a pair of fins to keep 'er straight on the top end.
After a few days and long nights in the shop with tin snips, pop rivets, 'glass cloth and bondo and some white house paint, the car was ready. Just in the nick of time too as Tommy had a big match race the next day at a strip just south of, and hard on the banks of the wild side of the Rio Grande... that famous ribbon of ass-fault called the Blue Fox-Frijole' Strip n' Drag-O-Way where they say you don't drink the water.
Tommy towed in, unloaded (he drank the water) and once siesta time was over the racin' commenced. Soon as Tommy fired up that Sad Sack, fin-sportin', high flyin' Falcon the locals knew there was gonna be no stoppin' him. One of 'em even yelled out, "He don't need no stinkin' brakes!" and quickly tied his serape' around the drag chute and pulled the release cable out. Remember now, NAFTA was decades away yet and gringos weren't as loved then as they are now.
Just as Tommy grabbed some local's tequila, primed the injectors and himself, fired 'er up and was about to buckle up, the south of border's equivalent of Miss Hurst decided she wanted to get a ride from Tommy. Takin' a heavy shot of penicillin he always kept in the map tray just in case a moment like this arose... Tommy said, "What the hell baby... I'm greased and ready to go... C'MON!
Up to the line he came, cleaned the tires, waited for the starter's waving of the red bullfighter's cape and he was off! Tommy was bangin' the old longhorn all the way down with that high ridin' seniorita lovin' every second of it!
In the excitement of the day ol' Tommy never made a checkout pass to get the feel of the place. Now he realized the mistake he'd made as he saw that ol' Rio Grande comin' up fast in front of him. Our match racin' hero hit the silk not knowing the damn thing was tied up in Cantinflas' serape and that the cable had been pulled before show time. Off the end of the strip he went, crushing more armadillos and scorpions than there was in the whole state of Texas and New Mexico combined! Into the muddy Rio they went, as the attached scan will show. When they finally cruised to a stop that Mexican cutie screamed out, "I'm all wet now you big Yankee! Let's go one more time!"
Tommy opened the door, kicked her out, fired 'er up again, dropped 'er in first, popped the clutch and with them big ol' low pressure Goodyears and a sneer, paddled his way back to the northern bank of the river. So ended the last pass of the Sad Sack.
After that episode, it was back to the drawing board. Tommy decided he hated armadillos and scorpions, stopped avoiding them, named his next car the Fugitive and for a long time after drag raced on two wheels and a set of spark pads that crushed and burned the hell out of the critters instead.
Two Steppin' Joel