Monday, September 2, 2013

DIRECT CONNECTION (Brought to you by Mopar)

Mother Mopar's blessed sons, the Ramchargers. What kind of car company turns their engineers loose with a '49 Plymouth business coupe and no blueprint? Walter P. Chrysler's wildass spirit lived on in the form of the seminal High and Mighty, which ultimately spawned the Viper. Huh?!

Somewhere along the line, I read that the "Mopar" moniker was short for "Motor Parts", which headed Chrysler Corporation's early parts requisition forms. Factual or not, such trivia obviously clings to my remaining brain cells, and this seems as good a day as any to propagate an amusing urban myth (or historical footnote - somebody please clarify this). It just seems appropriate, coming from the ballsiest American car manufacturer ever in terms of concept, design, marketing, and backdoor support: When Ford and GM whisked their racing programs underground, Mopar blatantly labelled theirs "Direct Connection" and boldly flatfooted it to Winners Circles and showroom sales, right in front of God and everyone. Amusing. And as usual, only remotely related to this week's topic. We've been over this before, but it's really the soul of the blog and deserving of a tune up: The connections - direct and otherwise - that we all share.

There's obviously a thin but tenacious thread of humanity, spirituality and petro chemicals holding us together. I'll say it again: This bond no longer surprises me, but continues to amaze me. Example: Mere minutes after posting last week's contribution from Cole Foster in California, I received a note from Ray Guarino in New York, concerning a recent Foster connection of his own. My half baked theory: When we're fully present in our lives, that presence creates a ripple effect that reverberates through everyone we know, then through those people's connections and so on, until it ultimately boomerangs back to us, indirectly.

Meanwhile, the momentum of last week's childhood revelations theme rolls on. Motormouth Ray shares a glimpse into his past and a look at where he ended up. As for his future, that's up to any radio or TV program directors wise and/or brave enough to place Real McCoys like Ray and partner Chris Switzer into a larger market  than their current Long Island beat...

TOP: "Wearing a diaper and trying to drive a car - probably a harbinger of my senior driving years!"

MIDDLE: "Cruising around, wearing a fedora, while puffing on a pipe. Not PC at all, but hey, it was the Mad Men years, after all. I'm probably picking my fingernails with a switchblade, just for good measure."

BOTTOM: "Driving at last, and finding out that vehicle maintenance comes with the turf. You're looking at all the tools I owned, stashed in that one red toolbox (which I still have). What you can't see is the car raised on a screw jack, while I crawl under it and change the clutch. Yikes!"

Today, Ray shares lessons learned, via the Motor Mouth Radio Hour: "These are the kind of visual aids I bring into the MMR studio on a semi-regular basis. This is the dash for my GTO, but I've brought in fenders, tranny parts, engine internals, and all sorts of other cool crap!" (I declare Ray a true visionary for bringing visual aids to radio! - SG)

"Case in point: This is the tube muffler that I installed on the GTO header to drive the car to a friend's Meineke shop, so he could make an exhaust system for the car. On MMR, the fun is always happening. I like to call it 'life.'"

After last Sunday's Motor Mouth Radio Hour, Chris and Ray ambled over to a buddy's shop for a little cackle action. The Pacers' "Tasmanian Devil" T Altered has long been one of my favorite East Coast cars. But it turned out to only be the opening act...

Get a load of the following answer to last week's SGE contribution from (tubing God) Pat Foster's son, Cole...

"Last Sunday's Cackle Fest had many people contributing their past and present race cars to the fray, with our good friend Billy Lynch being the headliner. Billy has the honor of owning the last full chassis built by Pat Foster, and it's sitting under the body of his rail! Of course, when you get to know a nice guy like Billy, he lets you take pictures with him." (Photos courtesy of Ray Guarino)

Ray directed me to for insight into Billy's rail. I got a snoot full. My eyes are still watering, but I'm not complaining.

Billy Lynch campaigned this Race Car Specialties chassis through the Sixties, with 1967 being a stellar year of successes. He switched engines routinely to compete in both Top Gas and Top Fuel. After a twenty year break, he returned to Top Fuel in 1990 with Pontiac Jack Ostrander driving. Al Segrini took over the seat in '91, with Big Jim Dunn tuning. Ken Veney and Leonard Hughes Crewchiefed through '95, when Lynch finally retired. (Photographer unknown)

Psyche! In 2006, Lynch contracted Pat Foster to recreate his old Race Car Specialties steed at Foster's new Moscow location (Moscow, Idaho, that is). This would be "Patty"'s final project. Follow along and drool over Foster's shoulder, as he waves his magic wrench over some tubing and creates a masterwork... Please pardon Patty's filthy shop.

These images comprise only a sample of's comprehensive coverage of the build. Check it out! (Photos by

The finished product arrived in a crate at Lynch's back door (body panels were shipped separately). 

Billy plugged-in a 392" Chrysler nitro guzzler that had been under construction simultaneous to the chassis work...

And presto! Lynch's 1967 vision of the car took until 2008 to be fully realized, but now surpasses his own high expectations. Patty went out on a high note. Cole carries the torch. A New York DJ completes the circle. And I continue to struggle with the Cackle phenomenon. But I'm absolutely inspired by this level of craftsmanship. What a masterpiece! (Photos courtesy of Billy Lynch)

The Thor of his generation, wielding the tools of his trade. Pat Foster shape-shifted metal in the shop and down the race track. When he exited through the gates, he took a big chunk of drag racing's independent spirit with him.


I'm making up for lost time these days. I never had a paper route as a kid, but now work a side job delivering Auto Trader-type periodicals to make ends meet. Tomorrow, the world! Full circle job placement for an author? That circle won't be complete until I run a printing press. But I did spend nine years cutting newsprint.(Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts)


After my computer fireballed in the lights last week, life went eerily silent. Following a classic thrash, the monster machine was finally refired yesterday and the initial online test run turned up this amusing tidbit: Shirley Muldowney has agreed to pilot a recreation of her (rarely seen) pink '73 Satellite Funny Car at select 2014 events, where she will match race Bruce Larson's USA-1 machine. John Worm at Slingshot Dragsters (instrumental in Larson's build) contacted Shirley and offered to supply the car, which is already on the jig in Worm's Pennsylvania shop. Muldowney stated that her sponsorship search has been relentless since her forced retirement in 2003, after 40+ years of racing. Shirley added that if the Worm deal doesn't come to fruition, she's throwing in the towel for good. In a surreal twist of irony, I'm typing this while ESPN2 coverage of the 59th annual Chevrolet Performance National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway (whew!) drones in the background and echoes throughout the SGE complex. And Shirley just confirmed the above rumor, on camera.

Shirley, then and now. She won't kiss your ass, but she'll kick it all the way down the track. Thank God, she hasn't changed a bit. We need you more than ever, Shirley!

Danny Thompson (son of Mickey) and uber-fabber/elder statesman Kent Fuller weren't ready to run their respective streamliners (both finished with help from Kickstarter campaigns) at SCTA's Speed Week, but both will be on the salt for this October's private Shootout event. And get this: Shirley Muldowney will join the saltfest at the 2014 Speed Week, shooting for 500 MPH in the Doug Herbert - Ray Evernham streamliner. This has been the best week for racing news in a long, long time!

Top to bottom: D/T and company, ever thrashing; Fuller is down to the short hairs; If Doug Herbert and Ray Evernham seem an odd couple, consider the ramifications of Shirley at the controls. Tres Amigos Loco Grande! My sources report recent rains are quickly evaporating at Bonneville and the course should be spectacular by October.

 The plan from the start was to document my Model A build with myriad photos for a future book project. I was off to a solid start (1,500 shots) when it all went out the window last week. The reality is now a mist of data particles scattered to the binary code gods in the wake of my computer meltdown. I took advantage of the down time and got a start on my rear crossmember at Dr. Lockjaw's shop. This lone image (shot before tacking in the infamous crossmember) is now the only image on earth of the car. But I'll probably take more.


As you know, I'm pretty sour on NHRA's big show. But hey, this is the U.S. Nationals. Good ambient noise for blogging. Robert Hight won Funny Car. I can picture a chopped Fiat Topolino body on this chassis. I can also imagine Shirley Muldowney and Bruce Larsen going at it next year at the 60th Nationals...


Special greetings to Tim Bradham and Tim Newey! The latest SGE followers are now eligible to learn the secret SGE handshake and fraternize with the others. Keys to the executive washroom are in the mail to the Tims. SGE Gold Cards to follow.

Mopar drivers are identifiable at a glance. That's a complement, guys. Tear 'em up! And don't forget to back up your files!