A Visit to Deasey Machine Tool & Die Inc.
By: Roy Schreffler
...note from 3-Wide... A few months back I received the following email from Vintage Racer and Vault Contributor Roy Schreffler in response to an offer I had made to drive out to Michigan with him (if we could do it in a 2 days) to help pick up a vintage sedan body that he had won on ebay.
I can't find Paul Deasey's phone number from last year when you gave it to me and I called him up (October 2, 2003). I would like to call him again, so, if you have his number yet, it would be just great if you could email me with it.
I have the trip to Michigan all planned out now, sorry, it has turned into mostly a working business trip, so, it's more than just a day out and a day back. I leave Monday AM for Cleveland with another (co-worker) sales guy, and by Wed. eve. we end up in Grand Rapids. Thursday, my son and his friend fly out to meet me and then we drive back, and on the way back, I thought I would stop at Deasey's place for a chat. I expect to be back by late Saturday.
Let me know - Roy
Well, it turns out that I did have the number and with a guy like Roy, that's all that's needed! Read below for the entire story of Roy's visit with car owner and builder Paul Deasey:
After so many years have gone by, how is it that I "just now" am discovering a guy named Paul Deasey? It's a long story, that started, again, about four years ago.
It actually started longer ago than that, somewhere around 1964, at the Nazareth ½ mile dirt track. I didn't realize it then as a young 8 year old boy who loved cars, that history was being made only four miles away on those sultry summer nights when the breeze was blowing just right, and I could lay awake in bed and hear the roar of the cars coming from the nearby track. My dad had a friend who bought a brand new 1965 HIPO mustang, and he Drag Raced it at the ½mile. A couple times we would catch the Modified races before the drags. A year later the guy traded it for a 1966 Fastback HIPO. One particular night, during the modified feature, I remember hearing the announcer proclaim the leader, Al Tasnady, the whole night.
By the age of ten, I was building plastic models of cars, and fantasizing about being a driver and mechanic. It didn't help that Grandpa had so many old rusting hulls in his back yard, and they just beckoned me to get in behind the wheel and pretend to be a driver at the track, throwing speedshifts like lightning and making the sound of the open headers with my voice, it didn't matter, nobody was around to hear me anyway. GrandMa used to say to me "and you stay away from those old cars, you're gonna get hurt! Yes Grandma, I will", and I made sure when I closed the door it wouldn't make a sound! I would stare at the engines, all taken apart, and wonder what all that stuff did in there.
By the age of 12, I was wrenching on the old hulls, and by 14, I was helping to scrap them. I remember my dad taking me to the garage of Hanchick & Lerch, where my eyes beheld the neatest car I had ever seen, it was the Red #44 '37 Chevy Coupe, sitting there, and I peeked inside, and I wondered how the heck the guy ever drove it, sitting in the middle, with a hand lever for the brake, and the shifter all bizarre, boy, did I have questions.
By the time I was 15, I owned my first vehicle, a 1956 Ford F100 pickup, modified quite a bit, stainless steel running boards, chrome stacks, a 283 Chevy engine with an automatic trans, what a ride. I turned 16 in 1972, and started work that year, so I never got the chance to fulfill my passion for dirt track Modified Stock Car racing. I traded the plastic model parts for metal ones now, and acquired new cars at the same pace as I did the plastic ones; they came and went. Growing up in the muscle car era was pretty neat, and being able to own a classic 1969 Corvette with the 435HP/ 427 with factory sidepipes, well, it was a fantasy fulfilled. It had to go when the family needed a new home, so I settled for driving Demo Derby for a few years, just to stay close to cars, revving engines, gas and clashing metal. That ended and work and family kept me pretty busy. Then computers and the Internet became the rage, and eBay became a new passion for looking at old iron.
Stoked by conversations at work with my friend, Dean Frey, about those long lost days of roundy-round dirt racing at the local tracks, I was reminded again about the passion I used to have as a kid for those old coupes. Then, in the winter of 2000, on a chance trip to Ollies discount outlet to look at a digital camera, the whole mess started up again; there in the parking lot, high up on a rollback, my eyes beheld that sight of the car I saw in the garage of Hanchick & Lerch way back when, the completely restored Red #44 '37 Chevy Coupe stock car. So I waited in the cold until the owner of the rollback came out of the store. We made friends and I went to see the car in it's new home up in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I got bit by the bug, bad. Soon an eager eBay purchase yielded a '37 Coupe fresh from an Iowa'n cornfield. Then I joined the GSVSCC and NOTARC vintage stock car clubs in New Jersey and things really started to heat up.
I found out about the "707" Big Donkey driven by Al Tasnady in 1964, so my next eBay car purchase was a '37 Plymouth 5-window coupe (I didn't have to go so far for that one.) Then I stumbled onto an old Reading Sportsman racer, the #P-18, and decided to restore that to fast-track me into vintage racing, so I could say that I was one of the last to "race" on Flemington speedway, and sure enough, I was one of the last on that cold day October 18, 2003.
Another eBay score yielded the quintessential coupe body for dirt modified stock cars; a '35/'36 Chevy 5-window coupe, just like the Piscopo #39 cars of the mid to late '60s. And if that isn't enough, a still further eBay score yielded a '37 Ford Slantback, just like Deasey's "Gypsy". Since starting this journey back into time, I couldn't help being drawn to the mystique of Paul Deasey and those two cars with that big number; "707" and the cars special nicknames, the "Big Donkey" and the "Gypsy", and all the famous drivers that piloted them. Who was this car builder, what drove him to build these cars, what was he like?
So four years of living history and one day last October, I get up the nerve to pick up the phone and call Paul Deasey, all the way out in Everett, PA (Bradford County, near the town of Bedford) thanks to some front-end legwork by 3-Wide a.k.a. Joe Macfarlan of the popular website "www.3widespicturevault.com". After a full hour long conversation and a full sheet of copious note-taking, I was fascinated by this man. He did not disappoint, rather, he stoked the fire. Did I mention that I am a mechanical and electronic engineer myself, and I suppose I saw and felt a certain connection to Paul and the things he did which were, and still are, considered ahead of their time. So now it's six months since I last talked to Paul, and he isn't getting any younger, and I feel compelled to go see him, before he becomes another regret in my history book. A neatly timed business trip has me going right near his place, so I call him and set up a time to see him on a Saturday morning. He usually sleeps in now, until 9:30, he tells me, after all, at 79, he needs to get some rest, so we make it for 11:00.
My son and his girlfriend are also with me, and they agree ahead of time to give me all the slack I need with Paul, they will "listen in", as I described Paul to them as a man with lots of "character", and maybe they would get a glimpse of that. An hour would be all I needed, two if it went well. His directions are a bit vague, and Microsoft Streets & Trips didn't have his rural home and business on the map, after all, with an address of RR and Box xxx, it's hard for even the latest software to find. OK... he said past the church... and he is the third house on the left... "That must be it, over there.. up on the side of that hill, with that big 18 wheeler rig out front, and those barrels of metal shavings there...over there!" It's a sign that validates we made it, "Deasey Machine Tool & Die Inc." I get my digital camera ready.
The whine of the turbo diesel slows down, I wonder if he heard us out here. I hear some faint noises coming from inside, I motion to the kids that "He's in here, I think". I enter the unlocked steel door of the shop, next to the 18' wide garage door. It appears as though the house is built atop the machine shop. It's dark inside, and I hear voices and the hum of a hydraulic pump, typical of modern CNC machines. I see two guys near the machine, one guy has half his body in the machine and the other guy listens as the first guy describes what will take place when the program runs. They realize we are here, and it becomes instantly clear that before me stands Paul Deasey, the man "in the machine"!
He's of moderate build, flannel type Cammo Jacket and dark blue sweatshirt, clean shaven, bright and cheery, he gives me a firm handshake. His friend, Tony, greets us with a big, cautious smile. To my right I see a 5x7 framed photo of none other that Ploski in the later 707 with the Ford Cammer motor. Then the questions begin, but amazingly, they come from all around and from everyone. This is not a one sided Q&A session, oh no. Since my son was a trained machinist and also works as an auto mechanic, there was lots for all of us to talk about, except for maybe my son's girlfriend, she was just taking it all in. She marveled later about how much we all seemed to know and how she didn't understand a single word of it, but she knew that there was some high level stuff being talked about, and how sharp minded Paul is, and his capacity to remember even the minutest details.
We get the grand tour of the place. It's much larger inside than what it looks like from the outside. Lathes, CNC mills and all the "stuff" you need to do modern machining. We test each other with little factoids, and we pass. Paul and Tony accept us as fellow like-minded knowledge base folks. We digress from modern machining to the history of racing way back in his day. He talks about the time Frankie Schneider needed a tire in a hurry, and how Frankie's trailer was so far away it would have been impossible to get there and back in time to start the race, and Paul lent him one off his rack that was closer, and later got beat by him. He went outside to fetch something while we were talking to Tony, and he comes back with a set of original fuel injectors off the old 1964 Lincoln motor on the Big Donkey, yessiree, the real McCoys, and he shows me the finer points of this setup. He tells us stories of how he used to get paid by his competitors to set up their fuel injections, only to get beat by them the next race. It didn't matter to Paul, that was racing then, and he never minded helping out with this expertise, as this made him even better, because the bar kept getting raised, and eventually he would do one better and beat the competition again.
We digress again and start talking about what Paul is doing today with his machine shop business. He shows us how he can use his computer 3-D MasterCam software to make his innovative designs come to life. He then says, oh, by the way, wait until you see this... and he takes us over to a corner in the shop and under a blue tarp, which he flips off, he exposes the infamous Ford Cammer engine. It's the real deal folks, and he lets me take digital photos of it.
My son asks him questions, and more questions, and we get lost in more history, it is unbelievable. The time is just flying by, and we really need to go now, but somehow, the questions still come, and we get engaged in conversation again and again, and we are all over the map. Paul is a simple yet complex person, with a mind that is on a higher plane than most. Even though his eyes are looking at you, his mind is a mile away. He is the epitome of innovation and creativity, still, after all these years. And his friend Tony, just like him. We share a common type.
As I try to wrap up by saying it's time we best get going, we get outside and Paul disappears near a set of trailers. I hear him rooting around in there, and I go over, and inside is a racing museum of stuff he's collected. It isn't neatly arranged, it looks like it has been gone through over the years, but Paul is quick to point out the parts and what they are and what they were for, and then he comes outside and spots a set of old tires and wheels under the trailer and pulls them out and exclaims that these two setups were from the original1964 Big Donkey car, and he rolls them to me and says I can have them, imagine my surprise. I waste no time getting them situated nicely inside the '37 Ford slantback hull I picked up earlier in Michigan.
It must have taken an hour alone just to try and leave the place, we just kept thinking of things to talk about, but we had to get going if we were to get home before dark, so we had to say goodbye, and Paul said we could come back for a visit any time. Paul gives us directions to get back to RT30 and then the turnpike, and we head home. Then I start to get flashbacks to each conversation I just had with Paul or Tony, and I remember that Tony said he had taken personal photos during the whole time he had been with Paul as a helper going back to the early '60 up to the present, and I start to wonder what kind of treasure trove he must have. We did trade emails, maybe Tony will give me a peek into his"stash" some day.
Click on the Thumbnails for Full Size Pics
(All pictures below provided by Roy Schreffler)
The House and Machine Shop
First Hand History
Original 707 Tires and Wheels
3Wides Picture Vault would also like to note that the above story also appeared in Scott Pacich's "Under the Radar" in the April 27th Area Auto Racing Newsand in the Garden State Vintage Stock Car Club newsletter. (Not a member? Click their logo below!)
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