Nostalgia S/S & Mopars at Atco Wrap Up - Part 1
©2001 Bill Ott
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2001
Mopar & Sunburn Central
"Four miles down Jackson Road... from route seventy three... that's THIS Saturday night... at the Atco Va - va - va - voomWay!!!"
Now THAT'S nostalgia. I just realized I can still hear ol' Joe Niagara (aka 'The Rockin' Bird') shouting those words from the A.M. station WIBG..."Wibbage" to us insiders... Radio 99 in Philadelphia.
And it's a damn good thing too. Hey... we don't need no steenking directions... we've got forty year old radio ads rolling around in our heads! As vivid as if we heard them this morning... static and all. Don't forget, we ARE listening to AM.
So, kids... how many out there remember when the only thing on FM radio was Classical music with maybe a little Sinatra thrown in to liven things up (not that there was anything wrong with 'ol Frankie, mind you)? Probably not too many, right? Somewhere around the middle to late 60's, is when all of that changed.
As Ms. Boop and I leave Olga's Diner in Marlton, N.J. and aim the van northbound on route 73, this driver feels confident he won't get lost on the back roads of South Jersey. Not with the Rockin' Bird giving directions from years gone past. BTW - as I write this, I'll be damned if I can remember what I had for breakfast at Olga's! But that old radio spot sure is booming in loud and clear.
Driving through a cold light mist and fog, the guy on the radio (FM of course) says today will be sunny with a high of around eighty. How could it not be true? After all... we heard it on the radio!
Exactly four miles after we executed one of those famous New Jersey 'Jughandle' exits from route 73, we're passing in front of the 'ol Atco Dragway. It's barely after eight in the morning and the pit entrance lane (they used to call it the Hot Car lane) is full of cars and trucks with trailers. And get this, a bunch of the racecars are on open trailers! The enclosed trailers are cool too, but today is Atco's Annual Nostalgia S/S meet, and somehow the open trailers seem more 'correct'.
After finding a good spot to park the van... close to one of the spectator entrances... yep, I said spectator entrance!! We couldn't even bribe our way into the pits without a racecar! Who do these people think they are anyway? I'm sure they didn't know who they were dealing with! But, damn it, we shall overcome this outrage, and be parked in the pits, before this day is over!!! You betcha'!! The gauntlet has been thrown down!!!
We collect our gear... Ms. Boop with half of the inventory of the Nikon Corporation, and myself carrying the complete "Trash Barrel Archives" (without the trash barrel) and prepare for the long trek to the starting line area, unaware that this is going to be another one of those special days that come along every once in a great while. We'll be spending the day getting re-acquainted with old friends, making a lot of new ones, with some great Drag Racing happening before our eyes.
A note about first impressions... when I attended the races at this facility some forty years ago (plus or minus a few, but who's counting anymore?), I remember a feeling that all was going be right with the world for the next few hours. Call it good Karma, vibes, kismet, or whatever. Know what? Got that exact same feeling all over again as I stepped out of the van. And a journey, even for just a short while, away from all of the crap goin' down in the world these days is indeed, a welcome thing.
Spent a lot of weekends at this place back when 'The Rockin' Bird', Wibbage, and AM radio were still 'hip'. This is my third time back here since those days. I left town for San Antonio in Jan. of '64 and stayed gone quite a while.
Things haven't really changed that much. Oh, the timing tower that used to be on the left side of the track about 300 feet past the starting line is now situated right at the starting line on the right side. And for some odd reason, someone decided to erect a cinder block wall with a pair of iron roll up garage doors that you must pass through to get from the pit area to the starting line. That's right... metal garage doors that by all appearances the track personnel can close at will. Man, when these folks say the track is closed... they mean it!! But for the most part, everything still looks and feels the same.
Heading through the Super Stock pits we come up on our old pal Charlie Baesch and his SS/B 421 inch, 4-speed equipped '69 Pontiac GTO. Haven't see 'ol Charlie since this same event last year. The Pontiac is still looking good and running as well as ever. He told us he hasn't been racing as much this season as in the past, but did attend the Goodguys Meet at Indy. Charlie is a past Goodguys Super Stock champ.
Continuing towards the exhibition car pit area, we're passing through Nostalgia S/S heaven, a Sox & Martin car here, a Bob Harrop Crescent Dodge car there, a huge Ford display... including a '53 foot transporter brought by the 222 Ford Racing Team. Part of that display was a cool Fairlane Thunderbolt. Never been a big Ford fan, but love those Thunderbolts.
Found a Mopar S/S car with the name Richard Sayell on the window and tried to track him down but didn't have any luck. A guy by the same name used run an AA/Altered and possibly an unblown gas dragster back when I attended the races here on a regular basis. Got a photo in the 'Archives' of a Hemi powered dragster, with the name R. Sayell in question marks. I was hoping to get a definitive (wow!) I.D. on that photo... some other time, perhaps?
Obviously if you're a Nostalgia Super Stock fan, this is the place to be. Must be about a hundred of them here. Didn't think to get any attendance figures from the track personnel before we left...sorry.
BUT, as cool as the S/Stock cars are, that's not the real reason we're here. No sir!! There are also some cool exhibition cars thrown into this mix, and a few NITRO cars, too. NITRO cars? Hell yes! How about Brian Kuhlman's Belle Dodge and Rocky Pirrone's Nitro Charger. Looks like I'm gonna get my 'fix' before the day is over. Yeah!
The Gasser contingent was well represented by the appearance of Larry Stauff, who towed his beautiful '49 Anglia "Obsession" all the way from the Cumberland, Rhode Island area. Along for the ride and to assist with the car was fellow 1320 member Jack Brady and son Pat. Two regular fixtures at the local races up north, and the California Reunion - way out west. If the management gave a long distance award, Larry probably would have won it.
Larry's "Obsession" gasser has quite a history... it was originally built and campaigned back in the Gasser Wars days... retired for a few years, only to re-emerge as a fine street rod (it's that all steel body and straight axle, 'ya know), and re-incarnated again in it's old Gasser form.
Another Gasser of note was the old Pittman & Edwards black '41 Willys, brought down from 'The Ranch' in Harleysville, Pa. by Dick and Mike Long. This is another fine looker, with quite an impressive history, that will still on occasion get out there duke it out on the track.
Rounding out the Gasser field was Jim Tinsmith's gray primer '33 Willys pickup with a shortened bed. Underneath the hood sat a blown 392 Hemi. 'Tinny's' pickup is a eye catcher, and man, it ain't even complete yet! Just wait 'til this beauty is finished. It wasn't ready to take to the track yet, but I look forward to seeing this one make a pass in the future. Hey, any body man named Tinsmith has gotta have his stuff together!
All three of these Gassers were parked side by side in the exhibition area, and the folks with cameras were having a field day... snapped from the proper angle, no one could guess that photo wasn't taken in the sixties. Cool. Along with the gassers, Jack Olcott was handing out fliers about his East Coast Gassers. Jack already has about 35 period correct Gassers (no wings, Nitrous, electronics, etc.) ready to run at five events next season at Atco!! If you're interested, Jack can be reached at his E-Mail address
firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned... should be fun.
On one side of the Gasser contingent, Darwin Doll (the former Div. 1 director) was drumming up support for his upcoming York US 30 Muscle Car Madness event, to be held at the York (Pa.) Expo Center, in July of 2002. More info can be obtained at the website
www.yorkus30.com. This should be a great event, and hey, it's close to my house!!
Sorry about the commercials... I'm really just trying to pass along some stuff I found interesting. No more, I promise... now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Pitted on the other side of the Gassers was Brian Kuhlman's Belle Dodge, and guess what? They're gonna fire this puppy up right now. Oh, boy... NITRO fumes!! The boys gave it a nice warm-up and threw in a few blips of the throttle... sounded strong. After the Hemi was shut off, I found myself again having to show the small crowd that had gathered (it is still barely 9 AM) the proper protocol to be observed after a NITRO engine falls silent. Screaming, shouting, and applauding!! They all caught on, and joined in after a few seconds. Gotta keep the NITRO gods appeased, ya know.
Brian has commissioned Jerry "G-Man" Gross to build him a 1/25th scale model of the Belle Dodge, and Jerry says it'll be ready for it's official un-veiling at the upcoming Nostalgia Dragfest at Bruce Larson's Stony Creek Barn, Nov. 10th. I've seen some of Jerry's work... even got a model of my 'ol pickup he made for me... and it's world class. Hey... was that just another commercial? Or two?
Also of note... Dave Heisey showed me the tickets for the Dragfest (they're as hot an item as the Dragfest itself), designed by Joel "Race Car Art" Naprstek. Very nice... as usual.
That's about it for part one of my observations and reflections on the day's activities. Part two to follow... eventually!! Hope 'ya stay tuned. More old B.S. later.