Friday, April 11, 2008

Drag Racing a 1947 Anglia

I worked my way through college by selling automotive parts. One of the last places I worked catered to a lot of the drag racers in the Fort Worth Texas area. I spent two summers, and Sunday’s during the school year, working at the main store on the near east side of Fort Worth. The assistant manager was a drag racer. He was quiet, sort of moody, stood over in the corner of the sales counter with his pad of paper and a rolodex. Let’s call him “Buddy”. He could sell a lot of parts and make it look easy. First, he had his rolodex full of all the racers out at Green Valley Raceway.

Second, he could smooth talk people with deep pockets into buying all sorts of stuff. Some kid with his Christmas money would come in for a new Holley carburetor to make his heap “fast”. Buddy would not try and talk any sense into the kid, he’d go get the biggest carburetor that would mount to the guys car. But then he’d point out that the kid also needed a new intake manifold to “do this right”. So, the kid would wind up with a new aluminum intake, a fresh Holley, new gaskets, and a heap that was probably slower. Buddy could care less. He got the big sale.

Another trick Buddy taught me was over charging the customer. We didn’t call it that, we called it by several other names. Screwing the ashpfat over was one. Giving them what they deserve was another. Buddy taught us to not do this to just anyone. Do it to the customer who was being an “insert slang term for an object of the male anatomy here”. Once, I had to head back into the warehouse, Buddy had me cracking up so. The “customer”, had come in with his Trophy Girl Friend (TGF) and proceeded to talk down to Buddy.

Buddy: “afternoon. How can I help you today?”
Customer: “You could buy me a case of Budweiser at the liquor store next door!” (Sneer over at the TGF and grab her rear.
TGF: Giggle….
Buddy: “Right. What automotive parts do you need today?”
Customer: “Ok SPORT! I need a set of dual points for a Mallory distributor” (squeeze TGF)
TGF: Giggle
Buddy: “OK” (heads off to the back, without even looking up the part)
Upon his arrival back
Customer: “sport. You sure these are the right ones for my 1973 Chevy?”
Buddy: “Sure. All Mallory’s use the same points. The 3111 is the primary. The 3112 is the secondary. If you’d said you’d only needed a set for a single point Mallory, then I’d be selling you a 3111 only, as that is the primary side on a dual point and the only side on a single……What else”

TGF: “Those are a pretty silver color”
Customer: “I’m waiting to give you a silver bullet too!!!” (Grab A** again, and try for the B**B)
TGF: “Giggle!”
Customer: “OK sport. I was just checking to make sure you know what you are doing. I also need a set of spark plugs:
Buddy: “right. For that Chevy Monty you drove up in?”
Customer: “Fastest thing you’ll ever see, what else! Sure”
Buddy: “You want AC, Accel’s, Motorcraft, Champion and I think we have some Holley plugs for it. What is your brand preference?”
Customer: (With a slightly puzzled look, because he had no idea Accel or Holley made plugs for his POS. “Um. Accel’s because they work the best with the Mallory at making my car fast”.

Buddy would then head back to the back for a set of plugs. He’d rarely bother to look them up. This was done for the shock effect. What the customer didn’t know was, we had another set of parts books in the back and could look them up, out of sight of the customer. But by walking off without looking them up, it always gave the customer a pause, thinking we either were morons, or mind readers. Buddy knew all the small block Chery spark plug numbers anyway. If anything, he'd pick up either a "cold" or a "hot" set of plugs for dimb-bulbs like this customer. Help make his POS Chevy to run even worse than it probably already did.

Buddy: “Here you go. What else……sport
Customer: “You sure these are right?”
Buddy: “yep”
TGF: “Ohhh…They have a pointy thing on them!”
Customer: “Yeah. But you know mine is huge!” (try for the b**b-squeeze again)
TGF: “Stop IT….giggle”

By this point, we’ve all decided to watch Buddy mess with this guy. Plus, the TGF was in a revealing tube top.

Customer: “OK. I need an oil filter also”

Buddy was way ticked off by this point: “look, is there anything else you want? I’ve already made two trips to the back, when I could have gotten it all with one trip”
Customer: “no sport. That will be it. I just LIKE TO WATCH YOU WALK”
TGF: “giggle”

Buddy heads to the back one more time. He returns about five minutes later, after using the restroom, getting himself a soda, browsing through some old racers magazine.

Customer: “What took so long there sport?”
Buddy: “Well, I knew you wanted the high performance oil filter, so I had to get a ladder and get up to the top shelf for it”
Customer: “right-o there sport. Good choice. How much is the damage for all this?”

Now back then, a set of the Mallory points was probably about $2.50 each, the Accel plugs were about $2. If numb-nuts customer had gone with the Champion, AC or Motorcraft, they were about a buck each. The filter was about $3. So, the bill should have been about $24, plus tax. Buddy cranked up the hassle factor and charged about $5 for the points (each), $3 for each plug and something like $6.23 for the high-performance oil filter. I think he changed the guy $40.23, plus tax, for $24 dollars worth of parts.

Customer: “Um, that seems a little high for these parts”
Buddy: “Well you’re a racer man. You know how these high-performance parts are. Beside, you want to give this nice lady a great ride……”
Customer: “You know that’s right!!” (try the B**B grab one more time)
TGF: “Giggle. I hope you aren’t TOO fast! Giggle”
The guy shelled out the bucks. We were in awe, and hiding in the back laughing…..

So, Buddy is also a drag racer. Big time drag racer. He has a 1947 British built Anglia. His was the color and body of the plain car at the top of this blog, but with the motor of the bottom, blue, Anglia. Buddy has a 454 cubic inch Chevy monster motor in it. Think something that weigh's about what a Volswagon Beetle does. It has the two speed Lenco transmission, the purpose built rear gears, most of the interior is aluminum panels. The motor is also built with nothing but going fast in mind. It probably is putting out about 600 horse power. When it runs, he can cover the quarter mile in about 9.5 seconds. One of the fastest at the race track. He likes me crewing for him. I know when to hand him the Budweiser. We go to the track anytime the car is running. Just riding it to the staging lanes was an experience. I could hardly put my feet on the sheet metal floor due to the vibrations of the race motor. One race weekend, Buddy broke the motor. In fact, he cracked one of the cylinders in the block. That is not a good thing. It lets the coolant into where the exploding fuel should be. This put Buddy in a bad mood for a while. Over charging and harassing almost every customer. His sales numbers were fantastic. I guess they would be when you jack up the prices to everyone. So for a few weeks, we are not going racing. The next Friday, Buddy leaves his corner of the sales counter, where he would lurk, and picks up a tape measure and heads over to me. He asks me for the keys to my Ford Mustang, the one I still own.

I shoot him a questioning look. He says, “OK. Just the trunk key. I need to measure something”. Relieved, I hand them over. Buddy heads out, opens the trunk and takes some measurements of the trunk. He walks in and says “It will fit. You will need to move the spare tire into the back seat. On your way home to Arlington (where I lived), stop by this address. Look for the door that has this number over it. Tell them you are Ray, you are there for Buddy’s motor. It’s all set up”. At this point, I’m wondering what I’m in for and what is up with all this secrecy and “how about a PLEASE”. Buddy informs me that his motor has been fixed, and I need to pick it up in Arlington. Go by my place, change into work clothes, drive to his house, unload the motor and help build it. So we could go racing. Hey, I was young, I go for it.

So I arrive at this business warehouse looking place. I find the locked and bolted door. There is only the number on it, no sign, nothing. I hear some banging around behind the doors, so I knock loud. A minute later, the door opens about three inches and a voice says “what do you want”. I give my name and Buddy’s name. I half expect the door to slam, as I’d not been told any secret code word. Either that or a shot gun blast through the door. Nope, the door opens up just enough for me to slip in and I’m told to get inside. Once in, it all becomes clear. This is a Pro-Stock NHRA race shop! Specifically, Reher - Morison racing. Hence, all the cloak and dagger secrecy. They don’t want any competitors spying out their tricks. The Voice shows me the pristine 454 Chevy block and asks what I’m loading it into. He looks a bit skeptical with “A Mustang trunk”. He points to another bay door, and instructs me to back into it, when he opens it. By the time I pull around, he has the block up on a hoist, ready to lower into my trunk. Sure enough, it fit! The car is dragging its tail on the ground, but I make it home, change clothes and eat. I head over to Buddy’s house.

We get the engine block out of my trunk and start cleaning and doing the preparation work on it and the parts. I get to install the piston rings and the top half of the rod bearing. Buddy is installing the crank bearings and the bottom rod bearings. We get the cam in by midnight, and Buddy has three of four beers in him. I head on home. I get up the next day, Saturday, and head to work by 8:45 AM for our opening. About 10 or 10:30, the manager asks me where Buddy is. I fill him in on the prior night’s activity. About noon, Buddy pulls into the parking lot, with the Anglia up on the trailer. Buddy walks in all bleary eyed. I asked him if he’d gone to bed. Buddy: “Yep. The sun was coming up as I bolted the radiator in. I opened another Bud, and went to bed”. I asked if he’d started it. Nope. First time will be tonight at the track. We work the rest of the day and head to the track after closing up at 6 PM. Buddy stops off to fill his extra large ice chest up with Budweiser and ice. And loads two MORE cases into the back of the truck with all the spare parts and tools. We get out to the track and roll the car off the trailer. I go filling up the radiator and checking bolts. Buddy puts in the spark plugs and continues hooking up wires. After an hour of checking things, Buddy finishes off his second beer and states “time to fire up”. I stand by as Buddy gets in the car and cranks. Wonder of wonders, it fires right up! Making a huge racket and rattling my teeth. Sounding good! We start to draw a crowd, including a few friends who had hung around. The engine starts getting rougher and rougher. Then, it belches fire out the carburetor and dies. Buddy doesn’t look very good. I ask if he had shut it down. Nope, it shut itself down. This isn’t good. I wonder aloud if maybe it isn’t the timing that is off. Buddy opens his third Budweiser. He asks me to hand him his spark plug socket and goes about removing a plug. I go ahead and pull off the rest of the spark plug wires. Buddy takes out one plug, looks at it and hands it to me. I look at it and it looks like the motor was running rich, which would explain the back fire. Mean while, Buddy has moved on to the second and third spark plug. That third one was the killer. He removes the plus and out comes a stream of water! Yes, the sleeved repair has split or another cylinder has split. People start moving on to the next car, as we won’t be doing any drag racing this week either. Buddy downs his Budweiser and walks over to his truck, looks in the back at two cases of Budweiser and states, “I need more beer” and hands me a ten dollar bill! I try and convince him that two cases are enough, but he’s not listening. So I head back down the road to buy as much beer as I can and return. Buddy has started drinking with both hands and looking for other people to get drunk with him. I watch a few rounds of racing, talk to some of Buddy’s racing friends and head on home. I had to work on Sunday, but Buddy had Sundays off.

Monday, Buddy arrived looking pretty bleary eyed still! He is moody, but I ask him how the car is. He’s gone ahead and pulled it apart again, but is thinking to look for a new block this time. Later that afternoon, one of the other racers stops by. Out of earshot of Buddy, I take the opportunity to ask how the rest of Saturday night had gone. Seems Buddy got ripping drunk but his friends had hidden his truck keys! He’d wound up sleeping, passed out, in the bed of his truck. The track night watchman had his keys and once Buddy had sobered up, he gave him his keys to let him drive home.

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