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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Coup Deluxe*
"Part I"

©2002 Bill Ott

Sunday July 28, 2002
Raceway Park E-Town

Webster defines Coup as "a successful move or action, or as a closed two door automobile with a body smaller than that of a sedan. He then goes on to define Deluxe as "of extra fine quality."

"There's machines and there's fire on the edge of town" **

From 'Drive all night' by Bruce Springsteen

And that's what brought me here... the machines and the fire they make, as well as chance to take an early morning drive in occasional light mist and fog. It's good for the head... driving on the big wide interstate with no other traffic and not much to see. Nothing but the sound of the tires on the road... and the music. Paul Simon's singing a number about taking a long ride down to Tennessee with his young son...

"I have reason to believe, we all will be received, in Graceland"*** 

But it goes without saying... you can't travel through this part of New Jersey without making at least one reference to The Boss. Matter of fact, I just heard on a local FM station that he's about to make a comeback. That's right... sold the house in Southern California, moved back East, and has a brand new piece of work ready to make its debut and become another instant legend.

About thirty years ago, that would have been a good description of the latest chapter in "The Jungle Jim Saga." We'll just skip the part with the sad ending... Hell yes! Berserko Bob has promised us all a good time at the Inaugural Funny Car Reunion, and I, for one hope he's right.

Left the house a few hours ago just before the rains arrived there. Southbound on Englishtown Road now, and the skies look gloomy, the temperature is way up there for 8:30 AM, and the air is heavy. But know what? All feels right... after all, this IS North Jersey and the weather is supposed to be miserable this time of year. Remember... even the Gang from Glendora changed "The Simmer Nationals" from August to May a few years ago... finally taking pity on the attendees and the horrible weather conditions all (and the NHRA officials) had to endure every year at this venue.

Arriving at Raceway Park without incident... Hell, I didn't even get lost, but stopped twice to get directions anyway... (A traveling tip for this part of the country... don't ask for directions at any of the gas stations unless you are fluent in more than one dialect of Hindu). Arrived to a damn near empty parking lot. Which seems to be the norm at most of these reunions here in the Northeast... the exceptions being last November's BarnFest at Bruce Larson's place and the Charleston Dragway Reunion back in June. Come to think of it, those were the last two events I've attended. Maybe things are changing? And actually, an almost empty parking lot really ain't a bad thing... you get to park close to the gate.

After shelling out a more than reasonable $15 (American) for a ticket, I head straight for Lou Sgro's pit area. Haven't seen these guys for quite a while; time to get caught up. I also need a place to stash my gear and Lou and Colleen always leave the door open for me.

Last time I saw Lou and crew was at Atco at the close of last season, where the Woody (Gilmore) chassis sustained some damage during a pass. Repairs were made over the winter and the car looks better than ever... it's the Kenney Goodell '71 Challenger and is painted exactly as it was when it was originally campaigned back in Oregon. I'd bet Pat Foster had a hand in the original construction of this beauty (he worked with Woody at the time).

The guys were busy prepping the 452" alcohol burning KB for this afternoon's activities and all I was doing was getting in the way... time to walk, but I'll be back. Can't wait to see this baby out on the track later. One other thing on a different note - Lou and Colleen went and got themselves engaged over the winter, but haven't tied the knot yet... congrats guys.

Parked behind Lou's Challenger was the ever present Bruce Larson and his "USA 1" Camaro from Dauphin, Pa. and right behind the Camaro was John Rosetty's former Joe Jacono owned "Rollin' Stoned" '73 Barracuda... restored over the winter to appear exactly the way it did when Joe campaigned it up and down the East Coast during the Match Race days. Hey... looks like this place is starting to fill up some.

Ran into fellow Standard 1320 member Mark Hovsepian and scored a few Nitronic Research stickers. I asked about Ms. Hovsepian (the lovely Dawn) and found out she had to stay back in New Hampshire and hold down the fort. Speaking of 1320 people I also ran into Jack and Pat Brady who left the Topolino back in Rhode Island... to hold down the fort, too?

Took this opportunity to buy one of the numbered 'Lammies' from ol' Berserko Bob himself before he got too busy runnin' this deal. The lammies were made by the guys at T-Bird Entertainment... good job Walt and Mike... they're definitely keepers. On my way out of the "Photo Shop," I ran into Art Cimilluca, who was wearing only THREE cameras this morning, including a new digital model. Art told me that John Cerchio's "Storm Front" Beretta F/C wasn't here today, but should be back in action in the next few weeks. Mr. Cimilluca and my ol' truck driving pal Jerry Pecorelli (sp) are the "Storm Front" crew. Ron Capps thinks Jerry packs one hell of a Drag Chute.

Someone told me there were some cool front engine diggers that I need to check out parked behind the row of 'name' Funny Cars. Hey... speaking of names... ol' BIG hisself is here with Swamp Rat Thirtysomething (but who's counting?). One fine looking dragster. I think BIG's monostrut rear wing setup is the best looking one out there. Hell, if they gotta have one it may as well look pretty, no? BIG promised at least one test squirt later in the day... gotta get things just right for Wednesday's best of three with Shirley here at E-Town.

BIG also brought the Dodge wedge powered Swamp Rat IV... which (if I remember correctly) lost to Jack Chrisman driving the Mickey Thompson "Hemi" Pontiac powered digger in the AA/D (gas) finals at the U.S. Nationals in '62. Eventually S.R. IV wound up being sold to Bob Cassiday and 'Bitty' Winward out of Wilmington, Del. They renamed it "Brief Encounter" and after the passing of a few years, it wound up back in BIG's possession and now sits on permanent display down in Ocala. We were all expecting BIG to bring one of Jungle Jim's Vegas up with him... but he brought the Swampy IV instead. Never did find out why.

Now, about the old diggers in attendance here... a lot is going to be written about the Funny Cars that showed up, after all this IS a Funny Car Reunion... but there are a few really bitchin' old dragsters sprinkled throughout the pit area. (Matter of fact, there's all kinds of old racecars here along with the Funnies) and someone needs to mention them...

The first front engine dragster I find over on the back row is the beautiful red Gould & DeNoble "Probe" now owned by Ed Golden of Pinckney, Mi. Originally built in '67, "The Probe" features a Logghe Stamping chassis covered with an Al Bergler full body. Bergler was famous for the "Aggravation" Competition Coupes. He maybe ran a Modified Roadster that ran under the same name? Ed found this beauty on eBay one evening while searching for engine parts. This baby is detailed to the max... even has "Probe" engraved in the Bob Farmer built 392 Hemi M/T valve covers. Way cool!

Sitting across the way from Ed's digger, I found J. Dale Broderick's Topolino bodied A/Competition Coupe. Couldn't find out who built the chromemoly chassis, but it's a good looker and the twelve spoke dragster style front mag wheels finish it off just right. J. Dale built the injected small Chevy powerplant and applied the beautiful red metal flake paint with 'lace' highlights at his home in Clinton, Md. The ol' Fiat has turned the quarter mile in 10.18 seconds with a top speed of 131 MPH at Capitol Raceway.

Parked right next to the coupe is Rocky Pirrone's coupe... NITRO coupe that is. Rocky brought the "NITRO Charger" (‘69 Dodge Charger ‘Daytona') up from Philly along with his extended family... Donna and the kids, Tom Fox and the kids, oops... make that Tom Fox and the crew. The whole gang was sporting new "NITRO Charger" T-Shirts; looked cool. Gotta get me one of them. Rocky?

A few doors down I got to talking with Keith "Gunny" Grieves who drove down from Connecticut with the "Dangerous Toyz" dragster. The Toyz car has a real interesting history...

Originally owned and built by Powers and Riley who were based somewhere in Iowa and ran under the banner of the "Wynn's Wynner" it was the first Top Fuel car to run a reverser. Matter of fact, it was built to showcase the reverser that Powers and Riley manufactured themselves. It was later sold to the Strokers Car Club out of Springfield, Mass. It then was sold again at least two more times before it wound up in Gunny's hands with an injected 426 wedge between the frame rails. It now sports a Dale Hall built alky-burning 302" blown small Chevy engine. Dangerous Toyz has in its present state turned a best of 8.51 @ 160 during the Goodguys event at Indy.

Hey, it's almost noon, time to meet the G-Man and some others over at BIG's tent (the BIG top?). On the way over, I bumped into Mashie Mihalko and drug him along with me through the crowd. Man, it's starting to look like there's been one hell of a turnout for this thing. Hooked up with the G-Man, his wife Deb, and another 'brother trucker', Tom Parnaby and his better half Mary Pat, who seemed to be more into this than most of the guys. Tom and Mary Pat ran a Super Stock Dodge back in the seventies and she kept me going with wild tales... like starting the car in the garage while Tom was at work, and calling him up so he could hear how the tune up sounded... over the phone!

Speaking about how a tune up sounds, as we're standing here BIG climbs aboard Swamp Rat Thirtysomething and treats us all to a test firing of the NITRO burning Hemi. Sounded good from where we all were standing (real close). Hey, that NITRO stuff can make your eyes sting!

Thirtysomething attracted a crowd and after BIG shut it down a rather large BS session ensued. Among the attendees: Steve Gibbs, Mark Hovsepian, The G-Man, Jack Redd, Tom Parnaby, T.C. Lemmons, Mashie, and a few others.

Mr. Gibbs was a last minute surprise attendee who seemed to be glad he made the trip from sunny SoCal. Steve was also here to promote the upcoming California Hot Rod Reunion. New for this year is the Saturday evening "Ring Of Fire," which will take place sometime after the "CackleFest." Details at www.nhra.com Sounds cool... be there.

Parked near The BIG Show was fellow Standard 1320 member Bob Gibson and his "Tom and Jerry" Plymouth Duster Funny Car. The G-Man and Tom claim the car is named after them... but I doubt it... although it IS true the old R&R band Bad Company was named after my CB Radio "handle," honest.

PART II will cover more of the activities here at trackside, a GREAT dragster find back in the pits, and an encounter with a bunch of fun lovers from Down South. More old B.S. later.


* "Seaside Bar Song or Coup Deluxe" by Bruce Springsteen
** "Drive All Night" by Bruce Springsteen
*** "Graceland" by Paul Simon

Read Coup Deluxe Part Two HERE.


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