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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim


Grease.... Have you heard?June 20th, 2004

(If you don't remember  5 & 10 cent stores, and Continental Kits, you may need to grab the old guy sittng in the chair to help you out with the following....)

Bob Dylan told us The times, they were a changin’, and even though his voice was laughable, somehow his words were so prophetic, we knew his voice wasn’t important, we just knew he was right ! (The answer was blowin' in the wind)

We were the kids of the ‘50s &’60s, and the curb service drive in restaurants, where the girl came to the car , took your order, and returned with the food on a tray that clamped onto your open window, and hung outside your car door, and the drive-in movies, and the mercury skirts, and continental kits, and the Douglass Steel, and glass pack mufflers but all that was a changin’ and so were those Modifieds we had all come to know and love...(Bye Bye Miss American Pie) !

You know, it’s funny how your perspectives change with age, (or, as I prefer to call it, cumulative wisdom). Back in those days, I loved the Modifieds, the coupes and coaches, you bought at a junk yard, or off somebody’s driveway, and gutted the interior, trimmed the fenders a little to clear the larger tires, and beefed up the suspension. Then you dropped a big full race 312 Ford, or 283 Chevy under the hood and welded in a roll bar and driver’s seat and went racing. Most were built in a couple of weeks in the backyard garage, or even under the combination apple tree/engine hoist in the back yard.

As much as I loved those wonderful Modifieds, though, I, like most of the drivers of the day, aspired not to NASCAR Grand Nationals, (Now Nextel Cup), which were basically the same thing only new cars right off the showroom floor, but to Indy cars... Real race cars, built from the ground up for nothing but racing, not a souped up street car. From this area, I only remember Mike Magill, and Wally Dallenback Sr. making it to Indy.

The real transition decade for the Modifieds was the ‘60s. In the ‘50s, engines had to be the same make as the body, you had to use the original frame, model "A" crossmember were used as the front suspension , (a single leaf spring that went left to right between the two front wheels), engines had to be in the original location. By the end of the ‘60s, tubular chassis, set back engines, any brand engine, in any brand body, coil springs and torsion bar suspensions, and more were allowed. Modifieds were becoming real race cars. Things were going so fast it was hard to keep up with all the new developments. The car you built in January might be obsolete by August. (Drove my chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry.)

A few late 60's cars even had interior, or exterior wings !!!

For me, having been born in 1945, (I know you’d never guess I was that old by looking at me - Ha !), the ‘50s were the years I learned to adore the Modified coupes and coaches, and the 60's were the years I began to be even prouder of them as they became more and more wild and fast and worthy of being considered a real race car. But then came the 70s, and the Gremlins and Pintos, and even one Nash Metropolitan... At the time, I loved those too, but over the years I have come to realize that the coupes and coaches of the ‘50s and ‘60s were, and are, the quintessential Modifieds.

As many of you , (I hope), know, I write other columns for other sites on current Modifieds and Nextel Cup racing, and occasionally a piece on the '50s and '60s, but I have been a big fan of 3 Wide's Picture Vault ever since I discovered it. When 3 Wide asked me to write a column for them on just the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was thrilled to do so. No matter how old I get, or how much I may like whatever is being called a Modified by then, those will always be my favorite eras.

In the columns that follow weekly, I will be telling you stories of the legends who made this sport great... Tasnady and McLaughlin, Olsen, and Hildreth and so on. I will try to give you some of the color of the times, as my family owned a sportsman, a modified and a midget during those years and I was privileged to be able to travel with the race team and meet all the famous, and not so famous of this wonderful sport. For those of you who were there, I hope it brings back memories of happy days (Especially for you, Fonzi), and for those of you young whippersnappers who weren’t there, it will give you an insight into how the sport began and how we got to the Teos and Bicknells of today. Either way, I will try to make this an interesting, informative, and amusing column for everyone.

Welcome aboard a trip back in time... a trip to "Grease"... Not the movie with Travolta, and Olivia Newton John, but the real grease - the Modifieds of the past ! 


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Date: 12/02/04  From: George Perkins:   In regards to modified drivers that made it to Indy, New England driver Dennis Zimmerman, a member of the "Eastern Bandits" and a regular at Old Bridge in the mid sixties, was rookie of the year at Indy one year.  I can remember him and Flemke pulling into the pits at Old Bridge with just enough time to make the consi after running Manassas in the afternoon. They always made the feature and I think Flemke even won a feature this way.  George Perkins



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