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Part 4 - 1st car I purchased! .. Let the fun begin or locked down and let it rip!


timkingsbury

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In this chapter: Its locked down, who knows and who cares how much HP it has, its time to take this puppy to Toronto International Dragway ! Lol.. the NHRA 1/4 mile track, not the now Toronto International Airport !

 

What had started off as a young guys spotting a dream car in a junk yard, had really become the ultimate family project in my family . Really made possible by my Dad, and both Grandfathers playing significant roles, as did a great deal of the family. I fully realize without the support of my Mom and Grandmothers in the background, the project would have long ago ground to a halt!

 

By its initial completion I think all of my relatives were aware of the project and many had contributed. I likely also used up all my birthday and Christmas presents for a decade along the way.

 

Heck even my 1st cousin got involved. She and her friend came over washed and waxed the car without my knowing. They had just left a note with a smiley face on it and a note "Finally clean and ready to roll! Don't forget to take your favourite cousin for a ride.. hint hint!"

 

My Dad had spent what I thought was a lot of time "tuning the elephant" as he would say. I am to this day still suspicious he was just delaying the launch date until he had a day off.

 

One Saturday morning which was really only a couple of weeks after the interior had been put in, Dad said to me - "want to go for breakfast with grand-dad. I said sure. I walk out got in his pickup and he yells as he is coming out of the house, to move the truck out to the road. I remember like it was yesterday thinking what does he want to do that for. I moved it out and came back to the house as he had went back in the house. We had a garage that was integrated into the house and had bedrooms over top of it. Usually Mom's car was in one side and there was "stuff in the other bay" What I didn't realize is Dad had brought up the Challenger and parked it in the garage. It seems everyone else in the village did.

 

Dad heard me come back in the house and yelled from the garage, - "I am down here, lets take this one"..

 

I remember thinking, take what one, Mom's car? Why would be want to take that. I walked down and there with the garage door rolled up was Dad sitting in the passenger seat of the Challenger..

 

Wow.. talk about a kid at Christmas.. I walked over opened the drivers door and said - "when did you sneak this in here" and who cleaned it?" He smiled, handed me the note my cousin left and in I got.

 

I had heard it run what seemed like a hundred times, and even sat in it and fired it up many times, but today it seemed to be a little different.

 

As the starter engaged and the elephant came alive, it was like she was finally ready to get out of the cage. I remember it seemed like it barely turned over when it flashed up and as I feathered the gas peddle and let it warm up
you could hear the power. I pulled off the emergency brake and off we went. Pretty much with my foot on the clutch, the other on and off the brake all the way out the drive, down an incline and down to the stop sign.

 

I am not sure who had the biggest smile on their face, Dad or myself, but I do know it took a lot of restraint not to lite it
up right there. But I turned right, let the clutch out and barely above an idle, drove it the couple of blocks to the main street. I looked both ways, and as I turned left onto the main street, I heard Dad say "flash it up a bit" which was coincidental as it was straight and pointed down main street I put my foot into it. Oh my god did it go. The front tires came up, the back wheels broke loose and the monster under the hood came alive.

 

Its about 730 on a Saturday morning, and I am launching the Challenger on the main street of Rockwood. Its a sleepy little village with 995 people at the time, and everyone knows everyone, believe me. The speed limit is at the time 30 mph and well I may have been slightly above that as I shifted into 2nd opened it up for about 10 seconds, and then had to shut it down for the up and coming stop sign!

 

I looked over at Dad, he was looking at me, both smiling, and he just pointed his finger forward. I took it pretty easy as he rolled out of town and I was wondering if I was fouling the 16 spark plugs(2 per cylinder) as I was moving barely over an idle going out of town.

 

As we hit the edge of the town, and the ironic sign "Rockwood Settles here", which is ironic as the cemetery is right beside the sign, I down shifted from 3 to 2nd, and hammered it. The front tires came off the ground, the back tires were lite up and the smoke was rolling out the wheel wells and we were off. The front end came down straight and I never took my foot off the throttle, until the revs hit the red line and I speed shifted it into 3rd and again the tires broke loose momentarily. It was pedal to the floor and we may not have had wings but we were flying. Into 4th and I back off as the speedometer was well north of the speed limit.

 

Dad looks over and says to me - "ok its officially broke in, so you can stop babying it! Butttttttt if your going to drive it like you stole it, we best take it to the strip!"

 

And so the seed was planted.

 

We went down and picked up Grandpa Kingsbury who had really long ago finished breakfast. He literally would be up before the crack of dawn, and would have a half a days work done and breakfast made and eaten by 730am. We got down to the farm and he was sitting out on the front porch. He could hear us coming for likely 2 miles but sat there and seemed to enjoy us rolling up the lane. I said, "do you want to drive Grampa" and he chuckled and said, "nah there maybe too many police out." Dad had gotten into the back seat behind me and was wedged in with his feet over to the passenger side because Grandpa was well over 6 foot 6 and with his long legs had the seat all the way back and it well tilted into the back. The Challenger definitely was only a slight step up to a Plymouth business coupe when it came to 3 generations of Kingsbury's in the car. At 6 feet and 225 at the time, I was definitely the smallest member of the family in the car as we headed off to Guelph for breakfast.

 

I don't remember a lot of the trip in, but I do remember as we pulled into the restaurant's parking lot, my Grandfather Bolton had his car parked right at the front door. During breakfast as more and more of Dad's buddies or employees or Grandfather Bolton's friends arrived it was clear this was well planned. There were no cell phones or instant messaging in those days. Heck, both Grandfathers were on a party line telephone service still in the 1970s.

 


What started off as Breakfast turned into a 1 car,car show with us sitting at the front window and Dad or one of the Grandfathers out doing a show and tell with the car hood up. After breakfast Grandfather Bolton says something to the effect of "lets talk her out to the strip" and he lead us out to the edge of Guelph where a good friend of his owned the private air strip. I remember thinking there is not a chance they are going to let me take my car out on the strip, but hey I was just driving. We drove in the airport and up close to the middle of the track was and still is a little restaurant. In we went for coffee and as we were being given a table by the window, Grandfather was walking right past the employee only sign, through the kitchen and into the office that was in the back where the owner of the airport spent his Saturday mornings.

 

Out he came with Grandfather and both sat down and we had coffee. A few minutes went by and he looked over at my Dad and said - "well Eddie, so your boy has a new race car I hear". I cant remember exactly what Dad responded with, but the conversation soon turned to maybe having a little match race down the strip against his Sons Corvette.

 

His son had a 1967 corvette with a 427 in it. the engine was built by the local speed shop and had a big blower coming through the hood a couple of holley carbs and some crazy velocity stacks on top of that. It looked like something out of a cartoon.

 

They had a few planes scheduled to take off or land in the next 40 minutes but after that there seemed to be a window.

 

I just sat there at listened. Heck the car wasn't on the road for 1/2 a day yet and were talking about drag racing it.
Dad looked over at me at one point and said, well what do you think. You want to take it out for a tuneup and see
what we have. I do remember saying something like - "well if you think we should be really racing it, and if you think
I can handle it, I guess".

 

I do remember him saying back to me that given how I handled it so far, and given the airstrip is real wide, there should be lots of room and he wasn't remotely worried about the engine.

 

So an hour later we roll out onto the air strip for an old school start and a car parked down the strip at the 1/4 mile marker. To be honest I had seen his son drive the Corvette through Guelph many times, and even had him come up to the lights beside me when I was on my motorcycle. The Vette ran like a complete ****-house with some wild cam and questionable ignition system that seemed more like it was missing more times than it was firing at low idle.

 

It really wasn't much of a race, as despite the Vette leaving the line early, I was going by him in 1st gear as it was sounding more like a hit and miss motor than some high performance drag racing car, and when I crossed over the 1/4 mile marker he was 30or 40 car lengths behind me. It really wasn't close.

 

He wanted a rematch and his Dad who owned the strip said, ok but this time if your tires start moving before my flashlight goes on your disqualified and paying for Tims fuel for the next month. This time he most certainly didn't leave early but about the time I hit 3rd I looked in my rear view mirror and couldn't tell if he had left the line yet or not he was that far behind. I crossed over the finish line and I could see him coming behind me, but he was a long long way back. We all wound up back in the airpark restaurant and not only did the owner shake my hand, but he also said to me if I ever needed any high test aviation fuel that all I had to do was drop by to see him and then directed me to
take the car over and fill it up on him, before we left !

 

To say I had fun with the car was an understatement. There were more than the odd guy wanting to run me across the lights, but the reality
was there was nothing even close to touching it. It could pass anything but the gas station, and I pretty much always had the trunk 5 gallon gas cans as it was pretty fussy about what fuel it ran on, and 105 octane fuel wasn't just on every corner.

 

The car was definitely not a daily driver and the reason was strictly because even with a great part time job, that seemed me really working 40
hours a week while I was going to school, I just couldn't afford the fuel to drive it all the time.

 

It wasn't long before Dad and I wound up with the car at Toronto International Dragway. The strip has officially closed as an NHRA track but there
was still Friday and Saturday night racing taking place and Dad knew the manager Ted Bosma. There was pretty much everything short of top
fuel and jet cars at the track and there were no sunday racing.

 

We would drive the car to the track, change the back tires to slicks, and away we went. The licence for the dragstrip to operate seemed to
have major restrictions. So some how Dad got us in to do a bit of testing early so for several Fridays we got there at 4pm and were able to get a
few passes. Then came my chance, we were in a Modified Stock class and honestly I am not sure what the restrictions were. I know there were no blowers, and they were always checking the block casting #, but it didn't seem to be an issue with obviously nonstock heads and 2 distributors. Nor did they seem to be testing fuel, or at least not that I remembered.

 

I have a ton of Friday night and Saturday afternoon drag racing stories, tons of pictures, time tickets and pictures of some pretty famous
drivers who Dad worked for or with at some point that happened to drop by the track to see "the kid". On thanksgiving weekend we had
a record 95 degree day with humidity that was approaching 100%. Dad had swapped out in carbs, and components to run Alcohol and in a
cross over class race with the Pro Stock winner, the Challenger is 9.95 seconds 135.07 MPH in the 1/4 mile to break the 10 second barrier.

 

Remember this is well before electronic boxes, and this is a 4 speed car, so back in the day, breaking the 10 second barrier was quite a feat. It also got the attention of the tech crew chief.

 

Shortly after Toronto International would shut down as subdivisions crept ever closer and the one time country side drag strip that was one
of the 1st to see Jet cars rocket down the track, quickly become under major attack by local politicians and just about as quick faded into the history books. Despite being encouraged by a number of well known drivers and racing teams, probably for the best I didn't pursue the lure
of a career in drag racing. Lol... that doesn't mean that I don't have a signed ticket by a very famous driver and managed to keep a top fuel car in the lane at well north of 200 mph, but of course, that is another story !

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Tim - Thank you for all your time and effort. I have loved your series on your 1st car. I have loved all of your entries and really look forward to seeing whatever new items you post.

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