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C/FX Racing - Battle Of The Heavyweights

Obscure C/FX was Fertile Ground for the Small-Block and Dragstrip Drama in the Summer of 1965

By Geoff Stunkard, Photography by Vintage Accounts

In separate letters dated January 5, 1965, Ford's John Cowley informed Jack Hart of the B/FX and C/FX combos for the coming season. The B car(s) would be based on the Fairlane and could be equipped with either the 427 high-riser wedge with dual-fours or the new SOHC engine with Webers. The primary driver of this combo for the factory was California's Darrell Droke. A lightweight Galaxie with the same engine options went to Jerry Harvey of Indiana. The new Ford C/FX combination would use the Galaxie/289 Cobra combo. The base was the 1965 Galaxie 500 hardtop that had a vented fiberglass hood with a Thunderbolt-like teardrop bulge (3,550 pounds base weight minus 23 for the hood); to that was added a heavy-duty rearend (85) with reinforced suspension (11), trunk-mounted battery (35), four-speed (6), 15-inch wheels with spare (the spare weighed 19), and the eight-barrel Cobra engine. A scatter shield added another 45 pounds and the rollbar (yes, one) pushed 43 more pounds into the car, for a true weight of 3,781 pounds. Ford included a statement that teams would remove fuel to get closer to the minimum weight.

Ford then went with proven winners for this combo, brothers Bill and Jon Hoefer of La Habra, California. The Hoefer family had been racing 409 Chevys before converting John's 1956 street Chevrolet to run in the D/Modified Production class in 1964. With Bill driving, the duo had won the Street Eliminator World Championship that year by a mere five points when they held off a charging Joe Lunati and his A/Modified Sports roadster in late-season going. Modified Production was new for 1964, and the weight break in D/MP and C/FX was the same, 13.00 lb/ci. Previously, the Hoefers had run a 265ci combination in a sedan that weighed 3,450. With a 289, the big Galaxie had to weigh 3,757 pounds to get right at the edge of the minimum—Cowley was correct that it was close to that number when the large gas tank was emptier.

"Ford approached us," Jon Hoefer recalled. "It happened all of a sudden. Right after we'd won the championship, we had this new car to race. Ford got us an engine from Shelby, a Cobra, but we had to put the car all together and do the stuff to change it to C/FX. We had a lot of support for the year, but the Chevy had run so well, it never broke, so there was a difference with the new car. We had some problems with the clutch and had to get another engine pretty early after we did a cam change Ford told us would work and the engine blew. Still, there were not a lot of C/FX cars, and we never had to run against another C-car that year, so we often walked over into the eliminator. At the start, the car ran 13.40s, which was about the same performance as the Chevy had done."

The late Bill Hoefer was a racer's racer. He knew how to play the finish line, and the season in D/MP had taught him well about the benefits of treating the class index with respect. Three days after Crowley's letter to the NHRA, on January 8, Hoefer posted a win at the season opener in Carlsbad, California, clocking a 13.48 at 104 in the final—you would not hurt your index if you went flat-out in the final round. With literally no one else running in C/FX, he kept the soft 13.92 index that had been set by Suburban Motors the previous season at the 1964 Muncie, Indiana, points race, and then managed to reset it to the same 13.92 clocking. The Hoefers' black beauty was back in Carlsbad in late February, winning Stock over Droke's Fairlane, clocking a 13.25 best with a new engine from Earl Wade, and beating Dave Beebe who was driving a blown fuel-altered with a 4.15-second handicap in a special Overall Eliminator race. In April, they returned a third time to get record points, and they equaled the current 13.92 record, which would hold for the next three months. And racing for Ford was different than the Chevy deal had been; Jon left at midseason due to life's other responsibilities, so Bill was on his own.

"My dad knew Les Ritchey, and also a guy named Mike Smith who had a Mustang. They took that car to Bonneville in 1964, and that might have been how the factory deal sort of happened," remembers Willie Hoefer, Bill's son who is also a winning sportsman racer. "Les had his shop next to this bar, and all the drunks would [come] out, and his dog would chew them up. It was an exciting thing to see as a 9-year-old kid.

"I remember it was a big deal. A truck would back up to the house, and whatever parts we needed were on it. And my dad had to call every Sunday night to somebody at Ford and tell them what had happened that weekend—if he won, who he beat, and if not, why—and they also would tell him where to [race]. He ran a lot of out-of-town [races] at their request."

Bill's wife, Sylvia, had also experienced this unfolding, and her perspective was a little more open-eyed than young Willie's had been. "J.W. Burch & Son was the dealership we got the car from. When we first got the car, we went to Pomona, and on the first run down the track, that new Shelby engine blew, big time. So we had to go get another engine. Earl Wade built it, and Jack Bear, who had done our Chevy engines, helped.

"I didn't get to travel much with Bill. I stayed home to work and take care of the kids. But I liked to drive. When we first started racing, I had a single four-barrel three-speed 409, and Bill had the twin four-barrel, four-speed 409, and we raced all over since there were a lot of tracks back then. It was at places like Long Beach with no starting lights, just flags. There were only a couple of women drivers. I was one, Shirley Shahan was one. It was pretty exciting to get up there, and people would look in the car and say, ‘Oh! It's a girl!' That was a fun time, and we won a lot."

In National event action in 1965, the rain-shortened 1965 Winternationals found Bill posting an unopposed class win and going to the final round in Street Eliminator. A subsequent trip to the inaugural NHRA Springnationals race in Bristol, Tennessee, that June resulted in another class crown and a national event crown in Junior Stock for Bill, as B/FX and C/FX changed divisions after Pomona. It is likely that this win over a stellar field, including finalist Doug Patterson in an F/SA '65 Barracuda, also got the attention of Chrysler racing boss Dick Maxwell.

By Geoff Stunkard
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