In the early days of racing the original Gunfighter, dollars were tight. I had a wife and daughter before I started the build, and my son Mike came along at the start of the 69 seasons. I recall telling my brother-in-law, "We need to make at least three rounds to have the gas money to get home." It has been so long that I don't recall if that was true. So many times racing at Puyallup, after I lost in eliminations, I would, at the promoter's request, go out and do wheel stands to entertain the crowd between rounds. I had a 150-pound battery in a 150-pound steel box bolted to the frame rails directly above the rear axle. There was no trunk floor. I would unbolt that box, slide it down the frame rails against the rear body panel, and bolt it back to the frame—quite the weight transfer trick. The instant wheel stands. The crowd loved it.
One night racing at Puyallup, we broke the rear end. Puyallup races were all Saturday nights. We would leave our Phillips 66 service station in downtown Portland at noon and arrive at the track at about 3. We drove back to Portland, to my Dad's house, removed the third member from my Cousin's Model Restored at Dad's, installed it in the Gunfighter, and headed for Newport for Sunday's race. We arrived at Craig Adelhart's motel room at about 5 am and slept on the floor for an hour and a half before heading to the airport, where they used one runway as the race track. The different gear ratios presented some problems; with each run, we had giant wheelstands. Iwas racing against Chet McFallow in his C/Altered Cobra. So far that day, I had run an 11.32, and he had run an 11.31. So it was going to be a close heads-up race. The Gunfighter came up, dragging the quarter panels
all the way through low gear, all the way through second gear, all the way through third gear, all the time, fortunately, going straight, and as I shifted into 4th gear, it came down and crossed the finish line. McFallow ran another 11.31, and I have no idea how, pushing all that wind, I ran an 11.18 and won the race. Returning to the pits, the crowd went crazy, cheering. I was glad to be alive because the car had gone straight,
and there was no way to steer it. That happened two other times, but in both of those, I had the battery shifted back and intended to do wheelstands. Once was at Van Isle Dragway on Vancouver Island, and I was the paid feature.
We had a lot of fun with that car. I should never have sold it. I said "we," referring to my crew chief, brother-in-law Rick. I had lettered on the back of the car, "Behind every fast car, there is a Fat Man; thank you, Rick Polier." And a great crew chief he was.
Another story occurred at the 1970 Winternationals. We were racing the 69 Fibreglass Mustang in C/Altered. ON test runs at Irwindale, sparks were flying out of the headers. My father-in-law was a master welder. He had welded the chassis and cage and welded the valve seats, as hard replacement seats were not an option; I don't recall
why. Unfortunately, the welds in the cast iron did not live, and the valves would not
seat. We scramble to find replacement heads. Lots of Chevrolet stuff
available, but Boss 302 heads were tough to find, especially already ported and complete with Valves. Finally, we found a set at Falconer and Dunn, a road race shop near LAX. They were $600. My father-in-law got $300 from his bank card, and I got the other $300 from my bank. I was racing with Art Nelsen, and we won the C/Altered class that year. Likely my most coveted trophy.
I was match-racing Bill Ireland at Balboa Raceway in Eugene. In round two, I broke the 3rd member. Bil helped me back at his shop the following
week with a five-bolt pinion ring and grade 8 bolts to help support that section. Today we have lots of billet parts, but none available then. I did not realize that when my car skidded to a stop when
the 3rd member broke, it placed a reverse twist on the stock 31 spline axles. At the next race in Seattle, the left axle broke as I shifted
to third gear. The car went left, over the guard rail. I was not hurt, but the car sure was. Hugh Wediken said, "when you get bucked off the horse, you've got to get back on and ride." An hour later, I was making a pass in his B/Altered Bantum roadster. The following week we installed my engine in his roadster and raced that over the next two months while installing a Comet body on my car.
The 1973 season was unusual not having a car of my own. I drove
Braden's Eagle at the Winternationals. It was a 60 Falcon with a Gurney
Eagle small block Ford that ran in D/gas. I lost in the final round when
the pilot bushing came out of the back of the crank, causing enough flex in the input shaft that it would not go into high gear. Braden took the
car apart for a new paint job. I convinced him to use one of my engines, a Boss 302, this time with a tunnel ram instead of an injector. While it
was apart for paint, Daryl McClevy asked me to drive his Hemi Dodge Pro Stock car at a race in Freemont. I loved it and was looking forward
to racing Pro Stock. We got Braden's Falcon back together mid-season. We won six races in a row. On Labor Day weekend, we won at Portland Saturday night, in Woodburn on Sunday, and decided to go to Walla Walla for a Monday race. We hurt something in the engine during the final round. This might have been my most successful season ever.