Gassers Midwest: Fast and Fabulous
The Hill Brothers, Bill and Pete, were charter members of the famed 1960’s informal group known as “The Ohio Gassers”. They built and ran a series of very successful, traditional Gassers. Each Hill Bros. race car was known for its beautiful paint, chrome and workmanship as well as blistering performance that made all fan favorites. The Hill Brothers’ ’33 Willys, “The Red Baron” has since been skillfully and strikingly recreated by Ken Kull, continuing its crowd-pleasing tradition while appearing at nostalgia Gasser events across the nation.
Story and Photo Captions by Jim Hill
America’s geographical Midwestern region includes what is often called the “Heartland”. It’s within this region that much of America’s agricultural staples – corn, wheat, soybeans – are produced. It’s also where much of America’s heavy industry once ruled. Sadly, it’s now often called “The Rust Belt” for its decaying cities and rust-covered plant sites where once the nation’s mightiest industries once ruled.
Indeed, the American auto industry was once the nation’s largest single non-government employer. At its head stood General Motors, the world’s largest corporation and following closely behind was the American steel industry and those that supported them.
From across America men came to work in the industries of the nation’s blue-collar working masses. They also brought with them a strong love of the auto, and competing. Much like “down South”, full-bodied, full-fendered vehicles were preferred for racing, first on deserted streets and rural roads, later on circle tracks and drag strips.
Some of these built businesses that provided parts and services for the racing hobby. A few created companies that became large corporations, building and distributing racing and performance products. Names such as Mr. Gasket, Lakewood, Hurst, Holley, and others became cornerstones of the auto aftermarket. Speed parts distributors such as Midwest Auto, Summit, Gratiot Auto, Jeg’s, The Rod Shop, Van Senus and others sold the parts.
The Heartland also created a huge crop of racers who themselves gained legendary status. None were as active or respected as those who raced Gas Coupes and Sedans, Modified Productions and Street/Modified Eliminator.
This week we explore a handful of America’s Heartland Gasser stars. This is but a cross-section of the amazing talent and lore of these storied drivers and their cars.
Jerry Ault chose a uniquely original Ford Model-T coupe for this early B/Gas project. Ault’s sponsor was his family business, Ault & James Speed Shop, a popular Dayton, Ohio speed parts and race engine builder still operating today! Ford T carried correct period equipment including injected small-block Chevy, American mag wheels and M&H Racemaster “Pie Crust” rear slicks. (Bob Rogers pic)
Dayton’s Jerry Ault was an annual participant at the Nationals. Here Ault’s ’63 F/Gas Corvette is in dire straits, sideways and trying not to take out the Christmas Tree, or roll over! This became one of the most photographed Nationals Modified Eliminator finals ever as Ault lost to Don Coonce when an aluminum connecting rod disintegrated at 8,500 rpm, oiling the tires and sending Jerry awry. He gathered it in and avoided disaster, ending up on the grass in the opposite lane as shattered alloy pieces and eight quarts of oil exited.
Another Cleveland resident, Gene Schwartz made a name in two distant careers. Schwartz was a regular and popular Midwest drag racer with his two E/Gas ’52 Chevys. His first was a ’52 Deluxe coupe (above) lost in a crash. It was replaced by a second car, a ’52 sedan, with psychedelic airbrushed paint and a “Strawberry Fields Forever” scheme.
Schwartz’s “Strawberry Fields” ’52 sedan was hastily built to compete in the 1966 Nationals. Schwartz won his favorite class, E/Gas often, and held both ET and MPH class records in NHRA. The late Sam Gellner, also a Cleveland native, was Gene’s favorite engine builder.
Gene Schwartz is also known to fans as a world-class blues bass guitar artist along with his brother, Glenn, both having performed for many years with Robert Lockwood. Schwartz is an inductee in the 2016 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame!
This ’52 Chevy Deluxe is Gene Schwartz’s current project. The car runs at nostalgia Gasser events with an injected small-block Chevy and a manual four-speed, just like in the old days when Gassers ruled! Gene is a 2016 inductee and will have the car on display at the ECDT Hall of Fame Weekend, October 14-15-16, Henderson, NC.
Most drag racing fans know “Farmer” Arnie Beswick as an early Funny Car driver and currently a nostalgia match racer with his “Tameless Tiger”. Here’s Beswick’s earliest hot rod, a ’58 Pontiac C/Gasser for the Morrison, Illinois legend.
Berkley, Michigan’s Mike Fons was an early Pro Stock racer who preceeded his Pro days running his big-block Camaro in A/Modified Production with power from the talented Dick Arons. Fons later ran the 426 Hemi powered, Ted Spehar built Motown Missile Dodge Challenger in early 70’s Pro Stock battles until rules manipulations eliominated the Hemi from competitive racing.
“Ohio George” Montgomery remains as one of Gasser racing’s most competitive and successful car and engine builders as well as a cutting-edge innovator. His Dayton, Ohio “George’s Speed Shop” has been the starting point of many successful racers. George’s original ’33 Willys A/GS coupe was baby blue and Cadillac powered.
George’s faithful ’33 Willys underwent its next transformation with chassis modifications and blown small-block Chevy power. George gained the name “The Easter Bunny” because he rarely traveled to the 60’s A/GS stronghold of California, and only ran at the Nationals. The likes of Stone-Woods-Cook, Big John Mazmanian and K.S. Pittman all saw the backside of George’s Chevy powered car during those years called the “Gasser Wars”. (Jim Hill photo)
The final configuration of George’s fabled ’33 found it again receiving chassis modifications and updates, this time to handle the huge power of a blown 427 SOHC Ford. The car proved to be evil handling, forcing George to build a new Mustang with blown SOHC Ford power for A/GS. This change to late-model bodies also heralded the end of A/GS. as blown Gasser racers switched to Funny Cars and the lucrative money earned with match racing.
George’s Mustang was powered first by a blown 427 SOHC Ford, then a Boss 429 Shotgun Hemi, of course with success. Here George receives the NHRA Nationals A/GS class winner trophy from cam maker Harvey Crane. (Jim Hill photo)
One of Montgomery’s biggest wins came in Little Eliminator at the 1960 NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway. Ford provided a 1960 Falcon Ranchero as a prize for Little Elim. George’s perfectly preserved Falcon “trophy” appears only during at the Nationals. (John Olcott pic)
The “First Lady” of Gasser racing remains Barbara Hamilton. Barb was the first woman licensed by NHRA to drive a supercharged race car in competition. Her bright-blue ’37 Willys remains like the last time it made a run at the Nationals. Barb is also a 2004 ECDT Hall of Fame member and one of the friendliest, most gracious ladies ever.
Barb Hamilton found plenty of competition at home in Ohio, but often traveled to major events. Here she’s getting ready for the next round of Super Eliminator at the NHRA Sprngnationals, 1966, Bristol Tennessee. Blown AA/Altered is Ronnie Spiller in the Spiller & Boyd roadster, from Hialeah, Florida. (Jim Hill photo)
E.L. Williams built this Henry-J B/Gasser and gained a reputation for being a strong runner in Michigan Modified Eliminator racing. The “J” was powered by a 426 Hemi and boasted car show quality paint and appearance. Here he hammers it off the line at the Popular Hot Rodding Championships, one of the Midwest’s premier events, held annually at Martin, MI.
Bill Gorvet drove the “Vitamin C” Willys in A/Gas competition across the Midwest. This was an early Gasser to use the power of the new ’64 426 Hemi in a classic chassis. Sadly, his became one of the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Tim McDonald was another Cleveland-area racer that enjoyed notable success in Modified Eliminator. Here his D/Modified Production C-1 Corvette hooks-up and leaves hard at the NHRA Springnationals, National Trail Raceway, Columbus, Ohio. Tim built his own engines and cars, tuned, maintained and drove. (Jim Hill photo, Springnationals, Nat. Trail Raceway)
Ontario, Canada’s George Turnbull epitomized the weekend racing family in the 1970’s. His homebuilt A/Gas Opel GT used big-block, injected Chevy power from Troy, Michigan’s George Delorean. George is the brother of famed GM executive John Delorean. Turnbull hauled his car, tools, spare parts, wife and kids to the races inside a converted school bus! (Jim Hill photo, Gatornationals)
Mike Marinoff’s B/Gas Supercharged Willys was a familiar runner at upper Midwest tracks. Marinoff’s Willys ran this car for many years and was always a strong contender.
Dale Moody & Sam Jones ran this ’37 Chevy coupe for several years in C/Gas Supercharged. A 283 Chevy with a 6-71 blower and Hilborn injection powered the I favorite M-J Chevy to a Street Eliminator win at the 1962 NHRA Nationals and at the World Series of Drag Racing, in Cordova, Illinois.
OK, it’s not really a Gasser, but the driver’s remarkable, lengthy career deserves mention. Michigan’s E.J. Potter was best known for his small-block Chevy powered motorcycle, “The Widowmaker”, and its death defying runs. In the mid 60’s Potter also built this “Gasser”, a mile-long Plymouth sedan powered by no less than an Allison V-12 engine! The ghostly white, Stephen King “Christine” apparition was appropriately named “Nightmare”, shown here at the NASCAR Winter Nationals, Deland Naval Airfield, Florida, near Daytona Beach. (Jim Hill photo)
Another Michigander, but hardly a “madman” was Warren’s Al Maynard. Maynard’s first Gasser was a ’32 Ford five window coupe, followed by this well-known E/Gas ’57 Chevy, here on the pits at The Nationals. Next came a ’67 Camaro and then a Dodge Challenger. Maynard’s race cars were all winners in class and Eliminator. He was also known nationally for his photo-memory of hard to find performance parts, and as a supplier of such rare NOS items.
Lutz and Lundberg ran in the upper Midwest states, always successfully. They started with this many-door Willys, running B/Gas. Their cars were always show quality and feared among Midwest racers for their performance.
Lutz & Lundberg next ran this A/Gas ’48 Anglia, also with considerable success using an injected, small-block Chevy for power.
Years before he made a hero reputation as driver of the Chi Town Hustler and Hawaiian Funny Cars, Illinois’ Ron Colson got acquainted with serious hot rods in this ’41 Studebaker. Running a small-block Chevy in B/Gas, the Colson & Wood ‘Stude was tough car to beat at tracks in Illinois, Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. Colson, a 2015 ECDT Hall of Fame member, later drove both Top Gas and Top Fuel front engine dragsters.
The Stoltz & Velasquez ’40 Willys coupe ran out of Paul’s Automotive, in Dayton, Ohio, one of the many blown Gassers that made an annual appearance at the NHRA Nationals in the 60’s.
Doc Dixon took an essentially stock ’69 Camaro, bolted in a Dana 60 rear axle with leaf springs and Lakewood/Jenkins “bump bars” and a 2×4, tunnel-rammed small-block for the 12 lb. per CID F/MP class. Many class wins and several Divisional and national wins later the viability of the rudimentary combination was validated. (Jim Hill photo, Gatornationals)
Old Chevy Tri-Five Gassers never die! That is never better illustrated than Peter Broadrib’s restoration of the original, NHRA Street Eliminator World Champion Moody’s Garage ’55 D/Gasser. Originally from England, Peter grew up loving those American hot rods. Now a U.S. citizen and long-term Arizona resident, Peter carefully returned the historic ’55 to its glory. Vic Cooke’s pic at the California Hot Rod Reunion shows off the results.
Michigan’s Bob Ogorek built this Chevy powerted Henry-J to advertise his Kustom Equipment Co., speed shop, in Flint. Ogorek later created Kustom Headers, a well-known exhaust supplier during the 1970’s and 80’s.
Norwin Palmer took a different approach with his C-2 Corvette. Running first in Gas classes, Palmer switched to D/Altered by merely changing his entry form! More unusual was his use of a 351-C Ford for power! (Jim Hill photo at Le Grandnationals, Sanair, P.Q., Canada)
Frank Mazi’s slick, beautiful Chrysler hemi powered Opel GT ran as both a AA/G (A/Gas Supercharged) entry and later as a BB/Altered. The sparkling little car was known for its incredibly loud exhaust note, high rpm and hard running performance.
Drag racing was a family affair for the Wittbrodts, of Detroit. Patriarch Elmer, grandma Mildred, sons Ron and George plus kids ran this homebuilt C/Gas Anglia for several years, then built a ’67 Camaro. Here driver George puts the Anglia through its paces at Milan Dragway.
What happens when you stuff a massive, 427 SOHC Ford into the confines of a classic ’57 Ford Thunderbird? You get Bill Coon’s Plymouth, MI based ’57’Bird. Coon’s A/Modified Sports terror was many times class winner and a consistent threat in 60’s Street Eliminator racing.
The 10 lbs., per CID C/Mod Production class was always hotly contested. Joe Rhyne’s Chicagoland based Camaro was one of the best of the bunch. Rhyne went on to have a successful race engine building operation. (Jim Hill photo, NHRA Nationals, Indy)
Colorful, outspoken Tony Christian’s Modified Eliminator career found him winning many class trophies and several major event Mod Elim’s as well. Christian, shown here working on the injected small-block, started with this ’57 Chevy Gasser.
Christian’s next winner was this Corvette, running 12 lb., per CID, H/Gas class at NHRA Winternationals, Pomona. Christian was in the Modified finals several times during the 70’s with this car. The Chicago native continues today as a major figure at NMCA events.
Few racers squeezed more serious winning out of a single classic ’33 Willys chassis than Mansfield, Ohio’s Virgil Cates. Known as “The Flying Junkman”, Cates’ began running the ’33 in the 60’s, as a Chevy powered C/Gasser before pulling the front cap, bolting on a Model A radiator grille shell and declaring the car a C/Altered. With it Cates won the NHRA World Championship Comp Eliminator title in 1965.
Cates’ next foray found him running with the front cap in place, as a C/Gas Supercharged class entry with the top chopped. This was a brief interlude before he went back to the sans-front end, B and C/Altered configuration.
Next came 426 Hemi power and B/Altered class for the well-traveled ’33 Willys.
Cates’ finally parked the trusty, rusty Willys and built this modern Opel GT for both Gas and Altered class racing. The GT carried the 426 Hemi from its former nest in Virgil’s ’33. Cates was a racer’s racer, respected and admired by all who lined up against him. Here Vrigil leaves with air under the front axle, running A/Gas at the great NHRA Sportsnationals races of the 70’s, in Bowling Green, KY’s Beech Bend Raceway. (Jim Hill photo)
Cleveland, Ohio was a hotbed for Gasser racers during the 60’s. The Rodriguez Brothers built and for many years raced this ’56 210 sedan in D/Gas. Here Jimmy Rodriguez cleans the tires as he edges towards the starting line at the NHRA Nationals. “Hut’s Dyno Shop” was Ron Hutter’s Cleveland area engine shop. Hutter’s engines became a popular, trusted source for NASCAR racers in several divisions.
Gilman Kirk was a loyal graduate and supporting alumni of The Ohio State University. He was also an avid drag racer and astute businessman. Kirk’s Rod Shop, in Columbus, became legendary for its team concept, with heavy emphasis on Gas class racers. (Jim Hill Collection photo)
One of The Rod Shop’s best was the Stickel & Riffle ’48 C/Gas Anglia. Here driver Bob Riffle and Jim Thompson discuss horsepower advantages with the small-block Chevy that powered the four-speed C/G runner. (Jim Hill Collection photo)
Stickle & Riffle preceeded the Anglia with this ’40 Willys coupe, running in B/Gas with small-block Chevy power.
Before Rod Shop sponsorship and paint the Stickle & Riffle team ran this clean, green ’48 Anglia in C/Gas, shown here at the ’66 NHRA Nationals. Bob Riffle capably drove.
Painted in Rod Shop team colors, the Jim Thompson-Bob Riffle duo cut a familiar and oft-winning profile in Midwest and national Gasser racing in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Columbus, Ohio Stickel & Riffle duo tried their hand at 426 Hemi powered, A/Gas Supercharged racing with this Funny Car inspired Barracuda. (Jim Hill Collection pic)
Gil Kirk inked a deal with the Nationwise Auto Stores parts chain that created the Nationwise-Rod Shop racing team. Here the team gathered for a group shot. The multi-car group was widely regarded in the 1970’s.
Cleveland’s Pete and Bill Hill were contemporaries of the famed Ohio Gasser group. Their ’40 Willys coupe featured blown small-block Chevy power for B/Gas Supercharged.
The Hill Brothers later earned a national reputation with this very scienced A/Gas Supercharged ’33 Willys. The car featured a Funny Car style chassis and flip-top fiberglass body and was a popular match racer with 426 Hemi power. The car was later painted a striking candy apple red and renamed “The Red Baron”.
Bob Kamp is today well known for his K-Motion valve springs and valve train products. Kamp was also once a serious Modified racer with this 11 lb. per CID Corvette.
Dave Rudy’s ’32 Ford B/Street Roadster, “Rudy’s Beauty” easily lived up to its name. Candy red paint, chromed-everything and flawless appearance made it a Best Appearing Car winner at numerous events and later on the ISCA Hot Rod Show World circuit.
Dick Weinle’s career as a racer, engine builder and later as track owner-promoter of the Cincinnati area Edgewater Raceway made him well-known among Midwestern racers and fans. Weinle’s Hemi powered D&J Auto Corvette was a steady Modified runner. This early spring Edgewater pic has Dick off on another run with the candy green showpiece.
Woldhauser Brothers built this Willys Jeep Overland wagon for B/Gas, with 426 Hemi power. As loyal Chrysler followers they even used a Dodge truck as push car.
If you ever wondered what drag racing was like during the peak of the Gasser era of the mid 1960’s, check out this 1966 photo. Literally hundreds of Gas, MP and Street Roadsters lined up, revved up and cleaned their tires behind the line, beneath the Hurst crossover bridge at Indy! Look at the variety of cars and try to imagine all that beautiful noise! (Jim Hill photo)
Jeg Coughlin’s Jeg’s Automotive, in Columbus, Ohio, grew a speed shop hobby into a national parts retailing power. Jeg ran a blown Austin with Jeg-built hemi power and later, an unblown nitro Funny Car, then Top Alcohol Dragster and finally Top Fuel and Funny Cars.
That’s Jeg, Sr., patriarch of the Jeg’s family racing dynasty, wrenching on the 426 Hemi powered Austin A/GS. The Coughlin family is now in its third generation of drag racers.
Here Jeg, Sr., faces the California Speed & Sport AA/Altered driven by Arnie Swensen. The Camaro has a blown big-block Chevy for A/GS. Swensen’s rear tires are bouncing off the ground, as was common with this car! (Jim Hill photo, ’68 Springnationals, Englishtown, NJ)
Funny Car legend “Fast Eddie” Schartman’s career began as a Cleveland, Ohio street racer, then he went legitimate with a fast ’55 Chevy C/Gasser, and later this ’33 Willys A/GS entry. This fuzzy photo was clipped from an ancient, yellowed National Dragster.
Larry Teter’s Illinois based ’32 Victoria was Chevy powered and nationally known for its performance. Teter won C/Gas class several times at the Nationals in this beautiful, classic hot rod, shown here in the pits at Indy Raceway Park.
Roger Grove’s Grove Bros., Opel Kadet was a consistent Midwest A/Gas winner running an injected 426 Hemi.
Grove’s Kadet A/Gasser had no trouble with power, seen leaving wheels-up.
Here’s a classic A/Gas Supercharged match-up at the Nationals, featuring Paul Frost (right, purple ’40 Willys) and Jim Oddy’s Buffalo, NY based Austin square off. The Nationals brought the fastest California cars east for legendary class trophy battles and national bragging rights as A/GS champ for the year!
Dick Titsworth’s Toldeo-based Seaport Automotive was a northern Ohio favorite with racers. His ’48 Anglia ran both B/Gas and C/Altered with injected, small-block Chevy power. Here Dick launches at National Trail Raceway. (Chance Brockway photo from the Jim Hill Collection)
Tom Langdon was a GM employee and Gasser racer from Utica, MI. Landgon’s “Holeshot-6” ’48 Anglia H/Gasser used an Chevy inline 6 for power and sometimes giant wheelstands!
Mickey Hart’s was a well known Cleveland engine and chassis shop. This ’33 Willys A/GS was one of many cars running out of Hart Automotive. T
Keith Ferrell built one of the Midwest’s most well-known ’33 Willys, “The Dogcatcher”, panel truck. This car was later bought by the late Bob Urban, who rebuilt it into a candy painted, super-chromed, favorite feature car on the ISCA Hot Rod Show World circuit.
King Speed Shop’s Chicagoland parts stores were favorites with both track and street racers! This three-window ’32 Ford A/Gasser was one of several cars sponsored by The King.
No Modified Eliminator team was better than Albert Clark’s effort. Car owner-builder Clark ran engines built by Fairfield, Illinois’ Wayne County Speed Shop. G/Gas was 11 lbs. per CID Modified class at the time. Driving ace Don Coonce confidently wheeled the car to many class wins and several major event Modified wins in the 70’s. (Jim Hill Photo)
Long before “Akron Arlen” Vanke became a Chrysler factory sponsored driver the Ohio native earned a solid reputation as a Chevy Gasser racer. Vanke’s efforts later earned him this car, one of the first of the ’68 426 Hemi, Hurst-built Barracuda Super Stocks. Vanke later very successfully raced factory-backed Plymouth Pro-Stocks.
Jerry Haley’s ’33 Plymouth classic was powered by a much modified, inline 6 cylinder GMC engine. The powerful GMC truck engine had a unique cross-flow ported cylinder head, built by Rockford, Illinois’ Sterling Racing Engines.
From the Detroit area came Sam Gianino. Sam first gained fame with his NHRA Nationals winning ’57 Corvette. Sam followed up with a 426 Hemi powered Barracuda B/Gasser, and then this small-block Chevy powered Vega, running in Pro-Stock. (Jim Hill photo, Gatornationals)
Sam Gianino returned to Modified Eliminator with this B/Gas small-block powered Monza. Sam had no problems adroitly rowing the five-speed trans to eight-second, 150 mph clockings and many wins. Here he leaves hard at Dick Weinle’s Edgewater Drag Raceway, Cleves, OH.
Dave and Susie Koffel are one of drag racing’s most well known couples. In the early 60’s they ran this famous ’48 Packard sedan in E/Gas, with a high-winding, 283 CID, small-block Chevy. Flat-towing the massive Packard on a tow-bar, the Koffel family traveled as far south as Miami, Florida. The behemoth has been fully restored and Dave and Susie engoy running it at nostalgia events.
Koffel’s infamous “Flintstone Flyer” was well engineered, with maximum 10% engine set-back and an easy access hood. E/Gas class win at the ’62 Nationals was but one of the big dog’s achievements. Note huge parachute at rear (?). Koffel is an ECDT Hall of Fame member.
Following the Packard Dave built this Studebaker Lark, the “Flintstone Flyer Too”, also powered by an injected Chevy, for E/Gas. A couple years later Dave got Chrysler factory help with a ’65 Plymouth B/FX before becoming one of Chrysler’s race group engineers. Today
“Koffel’s Place” is still family owned and operated by Dave and Susie’s sons. Koffel’s Place produces B-1 aluminum race heads for the “B” Dodge-Plymouth as well as a variety of other trick race parts, including complete engines.
Cleveland, Ohio’s Joe and Tom Hrudka were were unable to seal ported small-block Chevy heads with stock gaskets. They began making gaskets, selling them out of the trunk of Joe’s ’57 Chevy. That grew into Mr. Gasket Company. A ’55 Chevy D/Gasser won class for them at the Nationals, followed by this ’40 Willys C/Gasser, here at The Nationals. “Meal” is the notably talented Cleveland race car builder, Dave Meal.
By the mid 60’s Mr. Gasket was growing its product line as Joe and Tom built and ran this flashy C/Gas Supercharged ’33 Willys panel truck. A small-block Chevy with 4-71 blower and Hilborn powered it while Joe power-shifted the four-speed trans. The car was later sold and became “Foley’s Fooler”.
The final Hrudka Brothers Gasser effort was this Monza D/Gasser. Chevy powered, the car had the latest Pro-Stock technology and was driven by Tom Hrudka. (Jim Hill photo)
Long-term Mr. Gasket employee and Hrudka Brothers racing crewman Rich Smith exercised his own five-speed hand in this C/Gas Monza. Rich began as a Hrudka Bros., pit crewman in the mid 60’s and held numerous positions within Mr. Gasket Company.
In the late 1968 Joe Hrudka had Dave Meal build this top-line, blown big-block Camaro for A/Gas Supercharged. “Mr. Gasket Test Car” had all the bells and whistles but saw little racing action. Continued business growth and waning interest in the A/GS class due to the rise of the Funny Cars soon parked the car. Here it sits in the pits at The Winternationals, Pomona, 1969.
Racers at The Nationals usually came home with several new t-shirts, generously supplied by companies such as Mr. Gasket, Schiefer, Crane Cams, Valvoline and others. Here’s a Mr. Gasket t-shirt from ’69 The Nationals. (Jim Hill’s own t-shirt and photo!)
Tom Prock and Jay Howell gained national fame with this flip-top, Funny Car inspired ’33 Willys A/GS match racer. The Prock & Howell “F-Troop” Willys was named after a popular 60’s western TV comedy. There was nothing funny about the car’s eight second, 170 mph runs. This is the restored car, in all its beauty.
The “F-Troop” Willys was loaded with Funny Car technology, including a one-piece, flip-top, fiberglass body and its Logghe FC chassis. Power came from a fuel burning big-block Chevy with Hilborn high-profile, 4-V injection and an 8-71 blower.
Prock & Howell’s Willys was the fuel engine tuning school for Tom Prock. Tom would later become known for his driving and tuning in a variety of nitro FC’s. His son, Jimmy Prock, remains one of the premier nitro crew chief-tuners on the major event stage. Note header flames and wheels-up stance.
Fred Hurst has been an Ohio Gasser hero for decades, first with his famous candy apple red ’40 Willys. A 426 Hemi provided the go motivation in this NHRA Nationals photo.
Fred followed his Willys with a ’68 Barracuda, also 426 Hemi powered. It too was both pretty and brutally fast!
Hurst’s final Gasser project was this equally beautiful Opel GT A/Gasser. Naturally, the Opel had plenty of Hurst built, 426 Hemi power. Here it makes a run at National Trail Raceway. (Photo by the late Chance Brockway, from the Jim Hill Collection)
An original Ohio GAsser legend was Cleveland’s Ron Hassel. Ron gained fame first with his ’56 Chevy sedan, then in the Hassel & Vogelsong ’40 Willys B and C/Gasser. Here Hassel leaves the line during B/Gas class runs at The Nationals, 1963.
In 1965 Hassel left Ohio for South Florida, where he worked as Sales Manager for Crane Cams. There he teamed with Ronnie Cox, (left) winning the ’66 Nationals B/Gas in this ’48 Anglia. Hassel is an ECDT Hall of Fame member. That Indy Nationals trophy remains one of drag racing’s most cherished prizes and a career highlight.
Hassel returned to Cleveland in 1967, shortly after the Nationals. He became Mr. Gasket’s National Sales Manager but found time to drive this ’48 Anglia D/Gasser owned by Joe Hrudka, with Hassel’s engine and trans. Ron lost the ’67 Nationals trophy to the Russo & Santo four-door Willys from New York in the same car, running C/Gas.
Eckard & Kirk was another storied Ohio Gasser teams. They began in the mid 60’s with this ’48 Anglia running in B/Gas. Color tinted plexiglass windows were quickly outlawed by NHRA, as a safety measure. Stock Anglia front axle was used, with four-lug stock steel front wheels, American five-spoke mags rear. The car is returning to pits at The Nationals.
The Columbus, Ohio Eckard & Kirk team ran several different cars including this heavily modified, B/Gas, 426 Hemi powered Dodge Charger running as part of the Rod Shop team. Ugly, bolt-on “headlights” were demanded by Tech crew as part of rules required “street equipment”. (Photo from The Jim Hill Collection)
The Eckard & Kirk Anglia resurfaced as a Super Gas runner with second generation Terry Eckard driving in the 90’s. The 9.80 break-out index car runs a big-block Chevy.
From Berkley, Michigan, Paul Mercure and Mike Keener fielded one of the most formidable Modified Eliminator teams in racing. Two nearly identical Gen-1 Camaros were run with powerful Booth-Arons small-block Chevy power. Both carried the “Check-Mate” name. Here the E/MP car makes a run at the NHRA Cajun Nationals, Baton Rouge, LA in 1978. (Jim Hill photo)
The Wally Booth-Dick Arons race engine collaboration produced reliable power for many Mod racers in the Midwest. Here driver Paul Mercure leaves at the NHRA Sportsnationals, Bowling Green, KY, that event running in C/Modified Production. (Jim Hill photo)
Towards the end of Modified Eliminator’s existence the team switched to a C-2 Corvette. Here Mercure makes a run in 11 lb. per CID G/Gas at the Popular Hot Rodding Championships, Martin, Michigan. (Jim Hill photo)
NEXT WEEK: Gassers From The Wild and Wooly Southwest