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Don Fezell's Grocery Getter Collection

For Pennsylvania enthusiast Don Fezell, pursuing vintage drag cars had been a winning strategy

By Geoff Stunkard, Photography by Geoff Stunkard, Joel Stunkard

1962 "Tonto II" SD421 Pontiac Catalina: 13,100 miles
"That '62 Pontiac was a car that both Randy Delisio and I looked for years to find. These Pontiacs are hard to find, because they were not packages like the Z11. You could order whatever special stuff you wanted from the dealership, so it was a mix-and-match deal for them. There were about 140-plus Super Dutys built that year, and some of them were SD389, not 421s, and not many got all the lightweight stuff. This 421 Catalina has every piece of aluminum that was offered—the exhaust manifolds, the bumper and the bumper braces, the sheetmetal, the differential center section. All of it," says Don."This car was originally raced by a dealer in Wyoming, who started racing Pontiacs in 1961. It is called Tonto II because it was their second car and his crew chief was a Native American whose name actually was Tonto. The dealership raced until about 1966. This car was finally discovered sitting behind a service station in Wyoming. The buyer was from Michigan, but he decided he really could not afford to do the car right, so Randy basically brokered it for him to me, and then Randy did the restoration. It was complete but still needed to be redone, and Delisio is great with the aluminum."

"As a side note, that aluminum is hard to restore. It gets very brittle, and you cannot grind or hammer on it much. In fact, if I have one of my aluminum cars out in the sun at a show, you can look at it after a couple of hours, and the fenders will begin to look wavy. Pull into the shade and in a couple of hours it'll straighten back up. The aluminum from back then is so thick that it just absorbs the heat."

1969 Dodge Hemi Super Bee: 21,000 miles
"That Hemi Bee was a one-owner car; a friend of mine up near Niagara Falls located that car in Buffalo, where the owner had left it out in his backyard since the '70s. The wheels and tires were down in 3 to 4 inches of dirt; it's a very low-mileage Hemi car, at 21,000 miles, and it was all there. The owner had run out of money for racing it, and he simply parked it when the gas prices spiked back then and never moved it again," Don says. "It is one of the few red-on-red Hemi Mopars with a white top and white stripe. The paperwork was all there, and we found the build sheet when we took it apart. This was a wonderful car to restore; the sheetmetal was still solid, mostly surface rust with some pitting in the lower front quarters from leaves piling in there. The driveshaft still had the three tape stripes showing. I think it is probably the prettiest car in the garage."

1964 McCoy Motors 427 A/FX Mercury Comet Caliente: 12,126 miles
"They only made 22 of those cars. There were about 100 Ford Thunderbolts but just 22 of these Calientes, all built on two days and all modified for Mercury by Bill Stroppe in California. These cars were hardtops with bucket seats, so the Comets were a little heavier and got a fiberglass decklid that the T-bolt didn't, but mechanically they are almost identical. Glass hood, doors, inner fenders, bumpers—that shaved about 300 pounds off the car," Don says. "Moyer Motors campaigned it originally, and I met up with the original driver when we displayed it at York a couple of years ago. It is special to me that it is from Pennsylvania, because when we checked about a year ago, there are only eight of these Comets known to still exist."

Don continues, "This was a car Randy Delisio actually restored for himself. This thing has a great running 427 in it, the original motor, and it will fly down into the low 11s on the 9-inch tires we've got under it. I only own it because Randy had another car he wanted to do, and I got the chance to buy it for that reason. It's a lot of fun."

1967 R-code 427 Eight-Barrel Fairlane: 9,900 miles
"That car is from here in Dubois, always has been, so it is pretty special. Cletus Heller, who ran a spring works here in Dubois, always had new cars, and he bought this one for his son, Greg, as a graduation present in 1967. Greg drove it around a little bit, raced it at Keystone Raceway a couple of times, put headers and wheels on it, and then Cletus put it away in the basement of a building here in town, about four blocks from my garage. For years, people tried to buy the cars; there was a '55 T-bird, which I still have, and a '60 T-bird that I sold, as well as others. One day, Greg called me and told me he needed to sell his Fairlane. That opened the door to buy all of the cars, but the Fairlane was first.

"He kept all the parts he had taken off, such as wheels, tires, manifolds, and had even bought the scooped Super Stock hood that was available that year. I took this car to Randy, and we pulled the motor out of it and freshened it. Other than that and reinstalling the old parts, including the steel hood, that car has never been apart. It is probably the best original R-code 427 Fairlane in the country."

1968-1⁄2 Phil Bonner "Daddy Warbucks" 428 CJ Cobra Jet Mustang: 3,077 miles
"The Daddy Warbucks was given to Phil Bonner by Ford. Back then, those guys all raced for Ford. He paid a dollar for it and raced it as a Super Stock in the early months of 1968, then made an Ultra Stock match-race car out of it and installed a 'cammer in it mid-year. Back in those days, guys were match racing during the week, so he had a good reason to change it. In 1969, it was sold and ended up in Rochester, New York. The 'cammer was still in it, and that owner ran it until 1973, when he blew the motor up. Then, he sold it to another owner in New York, who simply parked it in the back of his garage for 20-some years. In the late '90s, Randy Delisio found it, and I bought it and took it right to Randy's shop to get it redone. It still had the SOHC mounts, but the VIN was in it, and Randy spent a year and a half restoring it. Those cars were all white, and we painted it with Mack Truck Blue like Bonner had done, putting it right over the white paint. Phil is very proud of the resto. He ran a 7-second eighth-mile with it at a match race against Al Joniec in his old Cobra Jet, which I also own."

1971 SJC429 Mustang SS/E drag car: 192 miles
"The dealer raced the car and won SS/E class at Indy in 1971, but he had disbanded the race team at the end of the season, since a couple of guys were stealing from him," Don says. "They simply put the car away in a building near Washington, D.C. Well, my son and his grandson were working in the same computer department in D.C. and were talking about cars, and that was how I heard about it. The grandson had been told it would be his, but he wasn't a racer, and when he knew I was going to keep it as it was, he sold it to me. This car still has the original gold-leaf race paint, original interior, and original driveline. It's a real surviving example of that era's Super Stockers."

By Geoff Stunkard
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