Born into a farming family in 1930, Arnie and his parents ran a 160-acre spread with 1,000 chickens, 300 hogs, hundreds of feeder cattle, and many acres of corn. But when not planting (April through May) or harvesting (October and November), Beswick traded tractors for traction as one of drag racing's most popular personalities, bagging his first big win at the 1955 NHRA Nationals in Great Bend, Kansas, where his B/Stock 1954 Oldsmobile took class honors.
Although it's rare, good things sometimes do emerge from the dustbowl of calamity. In the case of Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick's half-century-long drag-racing career—most of it aboard Pontiac products—there's little doubt that General Motors' March 1963 decision to pull out of all forms of auto racing was a very good thing. It may not have been immediately apparent—Beswick's supply of vitally needed 421 Pontiac Super Duty cylinder heads, crankshafts, and engine blocks dried up overnight—but the move put the Morrison, Illinois, farmer forever on the map as an underdog. And spectators love nothing more than an underdog.
Before the suits on the 14 floor of the GM building decided to pull the plug on automotive exhibitionism (as a means of reducing corporate profile that was under scrutiny from trust-busting lawmakers), Chevrolet and Pontiac had poured vast resources into their racing programs in an effort to reach the unprecedented number of young new car buyers from the post-WWII baby boom. With 76 million American kids born between 1946 and 1964 (38 million of them were hatched before 1954 alone), smart marketing teams knew it would take exciting, youth-oriented models, as well as racing, to attract them to the showrooms.
Though it was Ford that launched the Total Performance advertising campaign in 1962, the term is perfectly descriptive of the three-pronged approach taken by those carmakers with pockets deep enough to develop the wide variation of machinery needed for NASCAR-, SCCA-, and NHRA-sanctioned events. That's what it took to reach every type of buyer in the red-hot youth market, and it was a true "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" scenario with billions of dollars at stake.
And it worked. Chevrolet performance engineers crafted the 348 and 409 Super Stock engine and vehicle packages for use in NASCAR and NHRA events. Victory came quickly with Junior Johnson taking the 1960 Daytona 500, while the top tiers of 1961–62 NHRA Stocker action were dominated by W-motored cars driven by Don Nicholson, Frank Sanders, Dave Strickler, and Hayden Proffitt. On the twisty SCCA road courses, Rochester fuel-injected solid-axle Corvettes thwarted Europe's finest on a regular basis. All of the positive race publicity undoubtedly helped Chevrolet remain the premier U.S. automaker, selling an average of 1.7 million new cars every year in 1960–62.
At Pontiac, the Super Duty racing engine and vehicle program was launched in 1959 and grew from strength to strength with each model year. Without a sports car in the lineup, SCCA road-race action was nil, but consecutive Daytona 500 wins in 1961–62 only hinted at what future NASCAR racing efforts might hold. Despite their size, on the dragstrip, Pontiacs diced with Chevys, while the Ford and Chrysler contingents generally struggled for Third Place as their respective Super Stock programs were not yet fully mobilized.
And Arnie Beswick was there, winning the 1960 NASCAR/NHRA Winternationals (Top Stock) and 1961 NHRA Indy Nationals (Super Stock). Additional headline-making NHRA and AHRA national event victories by Pontiac Stock and Super Stock racers Jim Wangers, Hayden Proffitt, Mickey Thompson, and Lloyd Cox undoubtedly played a certain role in boosting sales from 396,179 in 1960 to 521,477 in 1962.
And then it all came crashing down. With GM's sudden and voluntary termination of all factory-backed racing and development on that mid-winter day in 1963, Chevrolet fans lost the lightweight Corvette Grand Sport, the canted-valve 427 Daytona Mystery engine, the Z-11 lightweight Impala, and the Rochester fuel-injected Chevy II FIA road racer. At Pontiac, the ban squashed the 421 Super Duty engine program, the Swiss Cheese Catalina lightweight and the 421 Tempest LeMans swing-axle A/FX package. Fortunately, a handful of each example had been released before the axe fell.
Let's speculate for a moment: If GM had not withdrawn from racing, there's no doubt that a succession of wilder off-road, drag-, road-, and stock-car racing packages would have been developed by Pontiac and Chevrolet. It is also probable that the Ford 427 SOHC and Chrysler 426 Race Hemi would have been met head on with equally exotic machines—and would not have seemed so invincible. Alas, we'll never know what we would have missed.
As for Arnie Beswick, his skill as a driver in such a free-for-all would have seen him continue as a Pontiac racer, with full access to the latest go-faster factory parts. But again, there is a strong likelihood Arnie would not have been alone. And with other Pontiac racers at each meet, the chance of winning would shrink. It is certainly possible that Arnie's star might not have shined as bright had he not been one of the stalwarts who stuck with Pontiac after the GM plug was pulled. But, stay he did. And by enduring a constant uphill struggle against Ford and Chrysler Funny Car teams—as well as grief from Chevy racers, who benefitted from an open back door to the engineering department—Beswick has carved out his place in drag-racing history as one of the sport's true underdogs.
Still racing at 84, Beswick and his 1964 GTO "Tameless Tiger" Pro Modified match racer can be seen at several annual events running deep 7s at nearly 200 mph. Thanks to Arnie for giving Elapsed Times access to his personal scrapbook and sharing some wonderful memories.
I had a 1954 Oldsmobile that won Top Stock at the 1955 and 1956 Nationals in Kansas, but this was my very first Mopar, a 1956 Dodge Coronet D-500-1. This was a 316ci Hemi with two four-barrel carburetors, backed by a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. A friend of mine ran a D500 on the circle track, and it was equipped with the same motor, only it was just a single four-barrel carb motor, hence the D500 designation. This was the year Chevy introduced its 265 two four-barrel Power Pack and thought it had the baddest of the bad—until it looked at the taillights of my Dodge too many times. Ford didn’t have much better luck.
After giving the Chevys and Fords a butt-kicking in my D500-1, I knew I had to have the new 1957 Dodge D501 model. They were putting that animal together with a big Chrysler 354 Fire Power Hemi, but it was just too nose-heavy. In those days, we had to run a 7-inch tire in Stock class, and the car was a big disappointment because there was no way to get it off the line. Dodge only made 56 of these cars built to legalize the package for racing, plus maybe 10 more used by the Ohio state police. This car broke me of my Mopar habit; the final straw was its pin-type synchronized transmission that’d break if power-shifted. This car was on display at Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing in Florida for more than a decade.
When the Mopars let me down in 1957, I didn’t want a Chevy since they were like belly buttons, even then. So I looked at Pontiac and liked the 1957 Tri-Power 347. When it grew to 370 cubes for 1958, I bought one. My Chieftain ran in A/Stock in 1958 and left the starting line OK, but again, I got tired of rebuilding the steering-column-mounted shifter. So for 1959, I swapped in a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed with a floor-mounted shift—and ran in C/Gas where the switch was legal. The four-speed was a quick fix to the busted steering column problem. It even helped the e.t. a bit. I also ran a new 1959 389 Tri-Power Catalina in legal A/Stock. Yes, it also had three-on-the-tree but ran strong.
Though fullsize Chevys had four-on-the-floor in 1959, Pontiac waited an extra year. I bought this 1960 Ventura hardtop with the 389ci Trophy 425-A Tri-Power engine and new-for-1960 eight-lug wheels from Morrison Pontiac in Clinton, Iowa, where I worked as a part-time mechanic during slow months. I made sure they kept the window sticker on the side glass to avoid hassles with the NHRA inspectors over the four-on-the-floor. Still, at the NASCAR/NHRA Winternationals in Daytona, they made me sit out one night over protests from other racers who thought the four-speed wasn’t legit. I had to get a telegram from Pontiac sent to clear up the problem. This picture shows the final run of six nightly points races of the week; I’m in the near side. I won the Stock Eliminator title and actually drove the car to the race from Illinois, and back again pulling a U-Haul cargo trailer.
My 1961 Ventura hardtop was named the Passionate Poncho and is seen with permanent painted lettering I had applied after I got it home from the 1961 Daytona races, where the paper sponsor banners I stuck to the car blew off in the wind. At the time, my dad was dead set against painted lettering on my cars. I ran a semi-stock 425-A until late May when the 363hp Super Duty parts became available. That over-the-counter Super Duty kit included a four-bolt block, forged steel crank, 8-quart oil pan, forged 11.2:1 pistons, big valve heads, a clutch fan, deep groove pulley, dual-point distributor, iron headers, an aluminum Tri-Power intake manifold, and the McKellar No. 7 solid cam. This stuff represented Pontiac’s most serious effort to that time.
Here’s the same 1961 Ventura facing Dyno Don’s 409 with updated sponsor art at the 1961 U.S. Indy Nationals. I’d already won S/S, and Dyno Don had taken the Optional Super/Stock title—or so we thought. But this run was for the overall Mr. Stock Eliminator title. Don’s 409 had new heads and carburetors since its Winternationals victory and beat me in this race, then the Ramchargers Dodge for the win. But after it all, he was declared illegal due to questionable valvesprings and the bigger AFB carbs. As for me, my 389 was declared 1.5 thousandths oversize on one cylinder and booted out. I raised Cain and hired one of Roger Ward’s Indy-car mechanics to measure the bore again. It came up one-thousandth less than the allowed 0.060 overcut. Mickey Thompson’s seven-car fleet of Pontiacs had the same machine work—but nobody protested them. The tech people were in bed with Mickey’s team, for sure. Note I only ran the eight-lug wheels up front. I switched to conventional five-lug rear wheels to make it easier to juggle tires around to suit changing track conditions.For having the nerve to dispute the NHRA's ruling, I was banned from competing in any NHRA national competition for the 1962 race season, but i was no big deal to me. I had plenty of lucrative match races to fill in the void.
The factory Super Duty program was hitting its stride when I got this 1962 Ventura hardtop. It came right off the assembly line with aluminum fenders, a 421 SD, dual quads, aluminum exhaust manifolds, 4.30:1 gears, and a wide-ratio aluminum-case four-speed. This picture was taken at a small track in Georgia, and I found out the guy I loaned my gas can to ended up using the whole three or four gallons I had in it. I was short of time to make the next round and couldn’t find anybody at the track that had any of the octane I used. So I jumped into the race car and drove it to this nearby gas station. The station owner was very surprised and snapped this picture. On September 23, 1962, this car set a low A/SS elapsed-time record, running 12.11 and 12.12 back-to-back. I ran plenty of Southern and East Coast strips with it since they paid healthy purses compared to Midwestern tracks. The competition didn’t appreciate me taking their money so much and put me through plenty of teardowns. They didn’t have today’s P&G cylinder volume heckers back then, so it was a constant hassle pulling the heads off the engine.
The year 1963 was the high-water mark for my direct involvement with Pontiac. Though I never got my cars for free, I had access to the latest packages. This was my Swiss Cheese Catalina in B/Factory Experimental trim note the missing low-beam headlamp duct for extra carburetor cold air access. This was also the first year I had a car hauler. Prior to this, I either used a tow bar or if the track was close enough, I’d actually drive the race car over the road. The truck is a big GMC gas job I bought from NASCAR great Cotton Owens. Remember, while big Chevy trucks of this era ran Chevy power, GMC units had Pontiac 347s for a few years. That made it a natural fit for me and Owens, who was also associated with Pontiac at the time. A couple years later, fellow Pontiac drag racer Jess Tyree had an old Dodge cab-over car hauler he used to transport his 1963 Tempest Funny Car. He stuffed a 421 in that truck and really covered the miles fast between match race engagements.
Taken at the 1963 U.S. Nationals, the wagon’s exceptional traction made for strong launches and frequent FX and Modified Production victories. Here, I’m about to eliminate the Frederick Motors aluminum-nose Max Wedge Dodge, though Dave Strickler’s Z-11 Impala kept me from taking the trophy that day. The 13 Super Duty Tempests were equipped with an exotic Powershift transaxle essentially two Corvair Powerglide two-speed automatic transaxles mounted inline to yield four forward speeds that worked kind of like a four-speed automatic with a clutch pedal. The limitation was that 3.90:1 was the lowest gear possible and that limited me to 5,200 rpm in the lights. The 421 wanted to go 6,500 at the finish line and that cost me some races. Also, I had to replace the ring gear in the Powershift unit every 12 to 13 runs. And that meant an all-day job—not something I could do between heats.
I have four daughters. These are the two oldest, Arnette and Paula, sitting on the aluminum fender of my new 1963 Swiss Cheese Catalina. Yes, they left some imprints in the flexible metal surface. My two younger daughters are both in the Air Force. One just retired after 23 years. The youngest has been in for 17 years, so she’ll be hanging in there for a little while yet. The Catalina was a big car, but the weight reduction measures cut total mass to about 3,300 pounds, and it’d run 11.69 at 123.5. The 26-gauge aluminum fenders were even thinner than the ones used in 1962. This car usually rode on a trailer towed behind the ramp truck. I could run it in B/FX and clean up after sweeping A/FX with the smaller Tempests, or add ballast to hit 3,650 pounds and run in B/Super Stock.
These are the same daughters, this time sitting on the thin aluminum hood of my 421 Super Duty Tempest wagon, which I named Mrs. B’s Grocery Getter after their mother, Evelyn, and for the cash winnings, which paid for plenty of food in our household. I put up such a fuss after they indented the Catalina’s hood that Mom pulled the same trick, setting them on the wagon. The wagon is one of six, along with seven coupes, built before GM shut everything down in March of 1963.
The wagon’s finest hour was at the 1963 Drag News Invitational, where I ran it and the big Catalina and downed all challengers. That really helped put me on the map and led to a steady demand from dragstrip promoters and operators who paid me appearance money to run. This picture was taken indoors at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, where they raced inside during the winter months. The strip was only about 500 feet long, and at the finish line each car had to thread through a narrow doorway—at speed. Plenty of guys crashed, so they shut it down after a few winters. My wagon’s rear overhang was hard to beat on that slippery surface.
The GTO was very competitive, but we had some trouble with transmissions. At first, I ran a 1955 vintage four-speed B&M Hydramatic, but it’d slip sometimes and over-rev the engine. Then I got in with some guys at Detroit Transmission and Pontiac engineer Tom Nell and sourced the new 1965 Turbo 400, and things improved. That said, if I hooked up on a first pass, I knew the Turbo 400 wouldn’t make a second run without a sprag or clutch-pack failure. So I learned to have a spare—or two. It only took 30 minutes to swap the Turbo 400, where the heavier four-speed Hydramatic took much longer. The hassle was weight and the number of perimeter bolts holding the torque converter together. I had a long-running feud with Mr. Norm and had many run-ins with Gary Dyer driving the Mr. Norm’s blown Hemi Coronet, not to mention holding my own against Dyno Don’s factory-backed SOHC Comet Cyclone door-slammer. Track promoters loved my GTO because it was a GM product, and since GM was out of racing, I was the underdog and one of the few competitive GM cars on the match race circuit.
The GTO was the big thing for 1964, so I built the Mystery Tornado with a GMC supercharged 421 Super Duty for the new Supercharged/Factory Experimental class. I was 34 at the time, and Hot Rod magazine gave the car a nice four-page story in the May 1965 issue. I’m seen here with my wife, who worked at the GE plant but managed to take some vacation time to attend the 1965 NASCAR Winternationals in Daytona. Here, we’re posed at a local Sears store alongside the Patterson Motors F/Stock Automatic 273 Barracuda Formula S during a pre-race car show. The GTO was purchased from Bill Knafel Pontiac in Akron, Ohio, and started out as a 348hp Tri-Power, four-speed pillar-coupe. There were only 16 miles showing on the odometer when we pulled it apart.
This is a very historic and tragic picture from April 1965. It’s my Mystery Tornado GTO and Richard Petty’s 43 Jr. Outlawed Hemi Barracuda, just hitting the gas at Southern International Dragway in Dallas, Georgia. After about 400 feet, he crossed the centerline directly behind my GTO. He near-missed the corner of my rear bumper and came across my lane and directly into the crowd standing along the fence by parked cars and atop pickup truck beds. An 8-year-old boy was killed outright and many others injured. After the crash, Petty locked himself into the cab of his tow rig because things got very ugly. Dale Inman Petty’s crew chief of more than 30 years was helping keep things calm, but there was an angry and drunk crowd, who wanted to get at him. Inman had to physically take three guys down before the cops arrived and restored order. The strip organizers canceled further racing after that accident. (Editor’s note: At the time, Petty gave an interview to the Feb. 1966 issue of Car Life magazine and said, "I don't know what's going to happen; I feel strongly that we were not to blame, but the courts will decide that, I guess." A $1.5 million lawsuit resulted, lawyers settled, and Petty continued running an updated version of the match Barracuda through 1965 before returning full time to NASCAR track racing. The hulk of Petty's Hemi Barracuda was later junked but exists today after being exhumed by a collector in the 1990s.)
Seeing my success as a drag racer first, and my association with Pontiacs second, Lincoln-Mercury race honcho Fran Hernandez came calling in 1965 with an offer to run a new SOHC 427-powered Comet Cyclone in A/FX. After struggling as an independent with zero parts support from Pontiac for almost two years, I figured maybe the Mercury deal might be a good one, so I took it. But I soon realized that the SOHC was one complex engine and maintenance was a nightmare, what with different thickness lash caps needed to set the valves and two camshafts to synchronize. Plus, after a few months, spectators got used to the exotic SOHC cars and the novelty wore off. You can’t imagine the pressure I got from tracks to bring the Pontiacs. To top it off, the sodium-filled exhaust valves were failure prone. I lost two engines due to this and had to return the entire engines to Ford for repairs. For a while, I had Don Gay drive my supercharged Pontiac at the same event where I ran the Comet, but Lincoln-Mercury didn’t approve so I happily returned the car. It went to Paul Rossi. But I till got to pose with Dyno Don and Hayden Proffitt in a Mercury magazine ad, sipping victory champagne no less.
Bill Stroppe’s Long Beach, California, shop put the fleet of four SOHC Comets together, and I was first introduced to mine about one hour before registration for the 1965 NHRA Pomona Winternationals closed for the day. It wouldn’t pass tech due to thin welds on the rollbar. So I borrowed a welder in the pits, beefed the welds, and finally got approved. My first ever pass in the car was made during eliminations, and I was eliminated by Tom Grove in one of the 2 percent Plymouth altered wheelbase cars. Knowing I’d be doing a lot more match racing than sanctioned NHRA racing, I requested a spare SOHC motor to explore and make better, maybe with a supercharger. But getting one was difficult, so that was another thing that made leaving Mercury easy. Besides, on the match-race circuit, strip promoters would pay me three times as much to bring the Pontiac as they would the Comet.
In late 1965, I knew the Mercury deal was unwinding, so I completely transformed my 1963 Tempest Super Duty sedan into a full-blown altered wheelbase match racer called the Tameless Tiger. I did this because at 3,450 pounds the Mystery Tornado 1964 GTO was too heavy. It’s full frame and standard wheelbase was a drawback against the ever-lighter Ford and Mopar match racers on the circuit. So I kind of followed the Mopar pattern and pushed the Tempest’s rear axle forward a foot then moved the front wheels forward about 7 inches, secured with a basic straight axle and leaf springs. Notice how the rare aluminum front fenders were simply slashed for tire clearance. Since the Tempest was a unibody car, the end result weighed 2,800 pounds. By this time, I was having a really rough time getting enough Super Duty crankshafts and cylinder heads. The block situation was OK since standard 1965 and 1966 passenger car 421 Grand Prix and 2+2 units were strong enough as long as Super Duty or aftermarket steel caps were swapped i
Compare this picture to the preceding one, and you’ll see that Jess Tyree and I stretched the front fenders and frame for extra stability at high speed. The Tameless Tiger was nudging 170 mph and mid-8s on fuel, and the extra wheelbase helped keep it pointed straight. The original aluminum fenders gave way to a one-piece fiberglass flip-nose by Fiber Glass Ltd.—notice the sponsor logo added to the rear quarter-panel. This car covered most of the quarter-mile with the front wheels in the air. If I was ahead of my competition, I had a terrible time lifting my foot off the pedal, so as you might guess, the car got crashed several times. Depending on how bad and where it crashed, it frequently got repainted with different lettering to help give exposure to whoever helped me repair the damage. I was also appreciative of any sponsor who came on board with anything, even some oil or spark plugs; their name would go on the car.
After facing the 1966 tube-frame, flip-top Mercury Funny Cars with my steel-bodied 1963 Tempest and 1964 GTO, I knew I had to follow the same formula to remain competitive. My 1966 Star of the Circuit Gee Tee O match racer was completed in mid-October of 1966 and featured a Fiber Glass Ltd. body mounted to the lightly modified framerails that were taken from my 1964 Mystery Tornado GTO. The Star of the Circuit name stems from a dragstrip announcer who loved the paint, and also due to the fact I toured the car all across the country, from Cecil County, Maryland, to Bakersfield, California. At 2,800 pounds ready to race, it ran 8.50 at 170 mph at Rockford, Illinois, on its first pass. It wasn’t a flip-top car; the main body was bolted to the frame, but the one-piece fiberglass nose tilted forward for access to the front of the nitro-burning Pontiac motor. I still got in and out through the doors, which were hinged like a normal car. Serious engine work required removal of the tinwork inside the car, since I drove from the back seat area. In this shot, I'm racing Al VanDer Woude's Flying Dutchman Hemi Dart roadster at Lions. Pappy Hart knew how to get the word out. I was never there with anything less than a packed crowd in the stands.
For 1968, Pontiac radically restyled the GTO body, so I kept up with an all-new car, the Star of the Circuit II. It was my first true flip-top Funny Car. The one-piece fiberglass body was made by Fiber Glass Ltd. Under the skin was a copy of the round tube frames being made by the Logghe Brothers but with some of my own ideas. This picture shows the car before it had ever been down the track. I was on my way to the weeklong NASCAR Daytona speed weeks drag event in 1968. Each year, I stopped in Atlanta, at Ron and Joan Garwick’s home to do some final detailing. Our parents were good friends, and we grew up on nearby farms before he moved to Georgia. No doubt, his neighbors got a kick out of seeing my match race Pontiacs appear every year in their backyards for a few days.
I got talked into racing the Boss Bird on dirt at a few state fairs against quarter horses and pulling tractors. The course was about 300 feet long, and the promoter set it up in front of the main grandstand. I loaded a bunch of ballast and replaced the slicks with knobby snow tires. I won, but it was close. This tractor is one of many I raced. Notice the carbureted Chevy big-block and International Harvester radiator shell. I’ve always been a fan of IH tractors.
I ran everybody from Dyno Don to the Ramchargers in the 1966 GTO. Despite their use of Hemi heads and overhead camshafts, my "obsolete" Pontiac gave them all fits. By this time, I was using a 428 Pontiac block but with 1963 SD heads and cranks, since they were still the best parts available. My fans loved it when I led the more powerful Funnies to the finish line, which happened a lot. Here’s a late-1967 matchup between my 1966 and Doug Cook in the Stone, Woods, and Cook Dark Horse 2 Mustang at Green Valley Dragstrip in Texas. Cook was an independent racer like me. That meant zero factory support. That explains why he ran a 1958 Chrysler Hemi in his Mustang. There’s no way a Ford-subsidized driver could get away with that. A little bit later, I was at Alton Dragway in Illinois coming back down the return road when I saw Doug’s Mustang get airborne going through the lights. He got banged up pretty good, and it was quite a while before he was healed enough to drive again.
I’m pretty sure this picture shows my Star of the Circuit GTO racing Jungle Jim’s Chevy II at Capital Raceway during one of their King of Kings shootouts. I think this might have been the run where we both got really loose, crossed into each other’s lane but kept on it before crossing the finish line, side by side. The crowd gave us a standing ovation as we passed the stands on the return road to the pit area. I might have been known as one of the more fearless drivers on the circuit, but you can be sure I met my match any time I lined up against Jungle. The word "fear" was not part of that man’s vocabulary. I loved Jungle Jim. In many ways, we were like brothers.
When I heard the NHRA was starting the Pro Stock category, I wanted to be part of it. I built a Ram Air V-powered 1969 Judge called The Righteous Judge, seen here in testing at Jacksonville, Florida, prior to the Daytona Speedweeks event. By the late 1960s, Pontiac engineering, like Chevrolet, was dabbling in some exotic metal. The RA-V program was an outgrowth of the Trans Am 303 engines that were considered for SCCA use. They had even-spaced exhaust ports and huge intake ports, more like tunnels. The motor had ungodly rpm capability, but the low-end torque wasn’t much better than a basic D-port head. They worked best with a supercharger on my Funny Car. I wasn’t competitive against the likes of Grumpy, Dyno, Ronnie, or other big-name racers. Plus, the Funny Car was in such high demand, I only ran the Pro Stocker about a dozen times.
I built the Boss Bird for the 1972 race season, but splayed-cap Ram Air V engine blocks were impossible to get. I only had one Ram Air V block left, and I didn’t want to wreck it, so by the end of the season, I switched to a 426 Chrysler Hemi. This picture was taken at a small gas station in College Park, Georgia, I used to visit on my way south each year. Model kit maker MPC did a 1⁄25 scale plastic model kit of this car. I hear there is talk of it being re-released by Round 2, the outfit now in control of the MPC kit tooling. Round 2/MPC already re-released the kit of my 1969 Super Judge GTO. I’ve had many of my cars modeled in scale. I sell them at ArnieBeswick.com.
Funny Car chassis technology was progressing so fast I had the Logghe Brothers build me an all-new car for 1969 based on one of their superlight frames. It had the right suspension geometry for high-speed stability. I named it Super Judge, and I guess you could say it was my first professionally built car. Here, I’m running Hayden Proffitt’s Grant Rebel SST at Oswego, Illinois. Like Pontiac, AMC had very few off-the-shelf pieces available for supercharged engines. Hayden ran an honest-to-gosh AMC 343 engine bored out to 438 inches. When it ran well, it’d go 8.11s at just more than 180 mph. I was still running Turbo 400s in my cars. I really have to give a big thanks to Tom Nell, the Pontiac engineer who helped me rework the Turbo 400 to live under the strain of blown fuel racing.
This picture of the 1972 Boss Bird was not staged but sure is fitting, what with me being a corn farmer. But seriously, I ran at many cow pasture strips and cannot begin to count the number of times I blew through makeshift fencing then plowing through corn or beans after running out of shut-down area. It was a bigger problem after I put the Hemi in my Boss Bird and started running more than 220 mph. Sadly, I had a huge fire near the end of 1972 that saw the loss of everything I owned, including my farm equipment, race cars, haulers, and tools. It put me out of racing for many years.
After the 1972 fire, I quit racing to focus on rebuilding my farming interests. But in 1986, I played part in a Blast From The Past nostalgia drag race show. At first, I drove a friend’s 1963 Tempest with a carbureted 455 street engine but got the bug again as Dyno Don Nicholson, Ronnie Sox, Malcolm Durham, Phil Bonner, Dick Brannan, and others also came out to play. My current race fleet consists of a 1963 LeMans with a 462 Pontiac engine and this 1964 GTO with a 572-inch Pontiac-type Pro Stock motor. For several years, I raced the Tempest against Dyno Don’s 1962 Impala. At a three-day Labor Day race at Great Lakes Dragway in 2003, I beat Dyno three nights in a row in a best-of-3-out-of-5 match race series. He came up to me, mad, and asked if I’d let him win the next pairing. I said, "Dyno, in our years of racing, how many times did you let me win? None." I wouldn’t do it. He turned and said "F you," then walked away mumbling to himself.