Here is a little story about the Chevy
powered Burkhart-Therwhanger '71 Camaro. Charlie
Therwhanger didn't have any NHRA points in 1971, and I had
accumulated 1100 in something called the NHRA's "WCS Traveling
Division". My ride in the Dick Harrell #2 car had ended with his
death, and the season seemed to be ending on a very sour note. I am home
in Dallas. Charlie calls and asks me to drive his car at the
World Finals. It makes for kind of a long story, but here's the
Nothing fit me. As an example, we ended up with
vice-grips for a reverser handle. But that was normal in
those instances and days.
We qualified with a 7.13, I think number seven or thereabouts.
Therwhanger's happy, we are all happy, so life is good.
We hurt the motor a little, but not to bad. Blew a head gasket in to
the lifter valley, melted a piston (just a little), and
"got" the cylinder wall. No problem, Charlie fixed it
The first round we beat Lou Azar. Second round, Gary
Henderson in the "Super Duster" goes down. Now we are
feeling pretty "sassy" after taking out the "Super
Duster." They were considered one of the "big dogs."
We know that making it to third round, and with people breaking
stuff, it's anyone's race. Therwhanger says it will run a low teen
or an "0" the next round. I think it was the old 10, 10,
and 10 tune-up. We were at 4,000 feet, so it may have already had that
In the third round, on the burnout, the motor blew both head
gaskets, the oil pressure goes to zero, and the idle goes way up,
making it kind of hard to stage.
I motion Charlie over to the car after backing-up. I point at the oil
pressure gauge showing zero. Several times, he swings his arm in a long,
exaggerated arc over his head, with his index finger fully extended,
pointing at the finish line. Believe me, there wasn't any misunderstanding
I'm thinking, "Well... it ain't my car or motor, but...it is my
ass." Being 25 years old, it sounded like the
perfectly reasonable thing to do, so... it's excitement time.
The car just didn't have any beans on six cylinders, but at least
it didn't blow up, and it even ran in the sevens. That's the furthest
I ever went at a national event.