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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Flatheads Forever!

By Mike McCloskey

Thanks to Robbie "Pea Soup" Andersen

Jon Lundberg read the following comments at the dedication of the McCloskey and Jordan fuel flathead dragster to the NHRA Motorsports Museum at the 2000 California Hot Rod Reunion.

We direct your attention to the starting line where Mike McCloskey and Greg Jordan's fuel flathead dragster is displayed. At this time, the owners would like to present the car, for permanent display, to the National Motorsports Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona. Accepting the car on behalf of the museum is the Vice President of NHRA, Steve Gibbs.

The flathead V-8 engine was produced by Henry Ford from 1932 until 1953 and is credited with the birth of the sport of drag racing. It lent itself to "hopping up" and many of today's manufacturers got their start building hot rod parts for the flatmotor.

Greg joined Mike's crew in 1963 and by 1966 they had formed a partnership and fabricated the frame for the dragster you see here. The car began its racing career in 1968 and by the 70s, it was dominating flathead racing. The owners were charter members of the United Flathead Racers Association. The group boasted as many as 29 flathead powered race cars and provided shows to many smaller drag strips throughout California, Arizona and Nevada for over 10 years. Imagine; a small track owner could buy a 16-dragster eliminator package for under a thousand dollars!

During those years, this car was virtually unbeatable in competition, winning the overall points title for eight straight years! A remarkable feat considering the competition. Some of the notables include the McCray brothers, McCain and Houtz and the venerable "Mr. Flathead," John Bradley. Probably the last competitive flathead at national events, it traveled to the AHRA World Finals in Spokane in 1978 and defeated a 16 car field in Top Comp Eliminator. The qualifiers included 15 overhead-powered dragsters and only one flathead!

The original 239 cubic inch engine has been heavily modified. The heart of the power plant is a 5/8-inch stroker crank which, coupled with a 7/16 overbore yields a substantial 312 cubes. Hilborn injection, M&H tires and a Ford C-4 three speed automatic transmission combined with 70% nitromethane yielded times in the low 9's at speeds of 150 MPH. Running the car on pump gasoline garnered the team the title of "first gas flathead in the nines." Total weight of the car is less than 1000 pounds thanks in part to the Schwinn front wheels. That's right, bicycle tires!

The rail was raced at various nostalgia meets until 1990. During that time, the car was continually modified to keep up with ongoing rule changes. A five-point roll bar was installed. Three-inch wide harnesses and an onboard fire extinguishing system were also added. When NHRA mandated that only factory-welded chassis were legal for competition in the fuel classes, the little racer was finally retired from competition. It had raced at nearly 50 drag strips over a period that spanned more than 20 years.

Mike and Greg loaned their icon to a friend who put it on the nostalgia show circuit for several years. In 1999, the flattie was found in a barn in the high desert where it had languished and deteriorated for some time. Greg recovered the car and delivered it to Mike's shop where he agreed to take time out from classic Corvette restorations to rebuild the race car. The M&J "Magic Mountain" car has undergone an extensive year-long reconstruction and is presented as it raced in its heyday, the mid-seventies. Return with us now to those days of yesteryear and enjoy this historic piece of drag racing lore.

 

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