The Gassers Pt. 4

        ROCKY'S ROAD         


It was so very hard for me just to look at that pile of wreckage.

One of the ladder bars on my beautiful race car had broke and I went end over end into the other lane, ending up in the spectator parking area. It was a wild feeling strapped into the seat and being upside down staring at the aluminum insert in the top.

In somewhat of a panic, I spun open the apparatus on the shoulder harness only to end up falling to the roof, if all of that makes sense. I was suspended by that harness. I just fell into a heap as I attempted to discover where this warm red fluid was coming from which continued to run onto the roof where I now lay.


As I inspected the red fluid, which I had thought was blood, it was actually B & M transmission fluid pouring out of the upside down transmission. Boy, was that a relief.  Maybe they should consider changing the color of that stuff.

As I laid there for a few moments I could hear someone running and yelling as he was getting closer and closer to the wreckage (it’s not exactly easy to call your pride and joy wreckage). Several people on foot had finally reached me there in the spectator parking area where I came to this resting place.

With a little assistance I was able to get out of the wreckage and attempt to move around a bit. After some inspection, I could see that I had only a small scuff on the back of my left hand apparently it had hit the asphalt when the car landed on that side first. I was sore as all get out but nothing broken, torn or missing…..that was a good feeling, for sure.

My friend, the late Bill Jwayad, arrived on the scene with push car and trailer so that we could load up this “junk pile” (which just moments earlier was this gorgeous race car). Back to the pits we went after picking up the pieces that had been scattered about near the accident site. Later, we figured out the reason for the crash was a broken heim joint on one of the ladder bars… broke and the bar dug right into the asphalt.

The race fans circled around the area and there was an opportunity to help myself out of this indebtedness that I had going on. On the spot, we sold off $150.worth of parts and pieces of the Anglia to those that gathered around the car. With most of the body parts (except for the shell) being fiberglass there were lots of small pieces available for my little “vending booth” that was sitting in the pits.

There I was with my years of work, all the money I had and my future to continue doing what I had been doing, in question. I had zero money to fix this car so selling everything when and where I could just really made sense to me. I couldn’t even fulfill the race date that weekend in Port Orford due to this accident, the first race I missed with my car. I was just shocked over what had happened and now what am I going to do?

I really enjoyed the sport but could the Good Lord be telling me not to do this driving routine anymore. At a later date in the summer, I even attempted to drive another AA/GS panel truck at PIR. Unknown to me the front axle wasn’t adjusted right for caster and camber and I went from guard rail to guard rail, back and forth several times but, fortunately, never hurt the car. I was as white as a sheet knowing that I should hang up my driving gloves, for sure. Later that day, I would see the race car wouldn’t even tow straight which gave me some confidence back but moving on to another chapter in life was already in the works.

Yes, the Good Lord was telling me to not drive race cars any more. I need to listen better.

I sold off everything I had for running a race car and then started analyzing my future direction. I knew I loved the sport but my resources were dismal, like nonexistent. My friend, Al Beachell, who had helped me with some bookings with our gasser group, ran the drag races at PIR and Woodburn. I went over there and told him that I would help him with the race events in Portland which I did during the next year in 1972.

Beachell ended up that year with financial problems due to bad weather and Bill Doner from Seattle took over the contract with the City of Portland for 1973. Doner needed a local guy and there I was…..ready, willing and able. Life as a track operator began right there. Perfect timing!!   

In 2001, I had a retirement party at SIR during the NHRA Nationals that year. Coonrod was able to find Terry Simonson to come to that party so I could thank him one-on-one,

30 years later, for the safe race car he had built for me. That whole accident could have ended a lot different if that car would have come apart and I got hurt. I can’t thank him enough for his excellent craftsmanship.