Drake Viscome – “The Vindicator”

January 21, 2017

This hairy looking, wildly modified Ford Falcon was built for A/Factory Experimental match racing. The Falcon carried a 427 Ford “FE” Series wedge engine and the long intake ram tubes that became iconic with A/FX racers.

Story by Jim Hill

Drake Viscome jumped into drag racing early, and with both feet. Originally from Carmel, in upstate New York, Viscome’s long string of race cars have always carried the name “Vindicator”, and for many years carried the name of Carmel Ford.

Drake’s drag racing heritage came directly from his family, or more specifically, his dad Greg Viscome. From an early age Drake went with him and his dad put him to work on his flathead Ford powered, Chassis Research K-88 D/Dragster. Drake started out wiping tires, cleaning tools and trying not to get run over in the pits of Montgomery County Dragway and the other NY drag strips frequented by his dad.

In many of the oldie-goldie photos the name Carmel Ford shows up, and it was that Ford dealer, in Carmel, NY that supported both Drake and his dad Greg’s racing early-on.

Drake cut his driving teeth at the wheel of dad Greg’s old D/Dragster, but quickly progressed to an A/Gas ’63 Mercury Comet powered by a 427 Ford medium-riser engine. In those days Drake was a regular at Dover Drag Strip, Connecticut Dragway, at Colchester, CT, Lebanon Valley Dragway and Island Dragway, at Great Meadows, NJ.

In 1964 he took delivery of one of the new Ford Fairlane Thunderbolts. These two-door, factory-assembled race cars were made available to select Ford racers that Dearborn considered possible stars in local, regional and national competition. Now worth six-figures to collectors, the ’64 T-Bolts had medium-riser 427 FE engines with twin four-barrel Holley carburetors, ducted cold air, fiberglass front ends and gutted, bare essential interiors.

Ford’s upper crust management wanted to see these cars on NASCAR circle tracks as well as drag strips, but Big Bill France said no to small cars. That forced Ford to compete against the new 426 Hemi Dodge and Plymouth stock cars with ’64 Galaxy bodies. In a move to create parity among Detroit’s auto makers, France next outlawed the Hemi. Chrysler boycotted NASCAR until 1965, when new rules leveled the playing field and competition improved. It was on the nation’s drag strips where the Thunderbolts enjoyed their greatest success in Stock and then Super Stock and later, in A/Factory Experimental racing.

T-Bolts on the drag strip fared considerably well. Stars such as Gas Ronda, Hubert Platt, Butch Leal, Phil Bonner and Drake Viscome were tough in Stock Eliminator racing in their respective regions as well as at national events. The T-Bolts ran in Super Stock and SS/Automatic classes initially, then in SS/C and SS/C Automatic when NHRA launched Super Stock as a separate Eliminator bracket.

Although Drake Viscome ran cars ranging from dragsters to Alcohol Funny Cars, one of his most famous rides was this factory-built ’64 Fairlane. Carmel Ford was Viscome’s sponsor for many years and numerous race cars.

By the end of 1964 a few S/S Thunderbolt racers were answering the call of track promoters paying cash for match racing bookings against Dodge, Plymouth, Mercury Comet and Chevy AFX outlaw racers. To respond to the challenge, they built stroker FE engines of nearly 500 CID, and added Hilborn fuel injection, with tall, bell-top ram tubes. Hoods were discarded or a fiberglass hood with a gaping hole installed, for clearance. Gasoline went into the tow vehicle’s tank and a nitro-alcohol mixture concocted. The already sparse Fairlane interior was further stripped and a simple roll bar, usually just three-points added along with a lightweight ‘glass single bucket seat. Fiberglass body panels and plexiglass replaced any remaining stock pieces for which there were replacements.

The skinny, 7” wide “cheater slicks” originally rules required were replaced by larger 10 or 11” wide M&H or Goodyear slicks. Even with wide, sticky tires, traction with the new, big-inch nitro burners was less than optimum. The FE wedge engines were no featherweights, even those who managed to acquire a set of the scarce aluminum FE wedge heads. The answer could often be found just across the pits, where competing Dodge, Plymouth, Mercury and Chevy outlaw AFX cars were displaying their new “Altered Wheelbase” stances, often with primered panels fresh out of a local body shop.

“AWB” did not mean the 70’s “Average White Band” rock group, but “Altered Wheelbase”, and it began with the radically chopped-up ’65 Dodge of The Ramchargers. Wholesale chomping and chopping ensued until all the in-demand match racers were wheeling AWB former Super Stockers. And guess what? These hybrid Stockers had suddenly morphed into the tadpole version of what was tagged as a “Funny Car”.

For Drake Viscome the better idea (borrowing Ford’s ’65 ad theme) was a smaller, lighter ’64 Ford Falcon, an AWB car similar to those run by Atlanta’s Hubert Platt and Phil Bonner. Drake towed down to Florida and ran the NASCAR Winter Nationals and the AHRA Summer Nationals, at New York National, Long Island, NY. He also match raced several dates on Joe Vanni’s circuit.

Into the late 60’s he ran different Funny Cars, including the Rice-Holman Ford, Al Joniec Mustang and Gapp & Roush’s Logghe injected Mustang. During that period, he ran often with fellow ECDT Hall of Fame member Frank LaSeuer’s FC circuit.

Drake ran through the 70’s with the East Coast Fuel Funny Car Circuit and on other circuits and also drove Al Joniec’s Pro-Stock Maverick. Into the 80’s Drake found himself running Modified and Comp Eliminator.

In the following years Drake Viscome maintained his interest in drag racing by buying and selling specialty performance parts and cars made by and the Fords he was so familiar with. Although now a low-key, part-time operation, Drake still involves his knowledge in selling Ford performance cars and parts as well as exporting to European fans on the Continent.

Drake and his wife Laura now follow the drag racing activities of their sons, twins Drake and Greg Viscome. Drake runs an IHRA Super Rod Mustang and Greg a Stock Eliminator racer in both NHRA and IHRA events. Like their dad, they too are true-blue Ford folks.

The Viscome family drag racing legacy is continued through Drake’s sons, twins Greg and Drake. Thus 5.0L Fox bodied Mustang is a steady runner at NC tracks.

The Viscomes currently make their home in Troutman, NC, and enjoy their lives deep in the heart of “racing country”.

The East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Faithful Ford Racer Drake Viscome, “The Vindicator” to the Class of 2016.