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You gonna run that junk? October 8, 2007

Posted by Glen in Uncategorized.

     First of all let me say this before I start this next story…

   I am about to write a story about a very dirty word in today’s society…”Street Racing”

   In today’s society visions of small cars..Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, “Rice Rockets” if you will Even ugly asses Saturns..all of them with 18″ to 20″ tires with what we old fellows call “Fart Can” mufflers. Stickers written in japanese saying whatever hell for all I know they could “say I sleep with my sister for fun” Then they have the gauges all inside the interior now called “cock pits” like their some kind of fighter jet or something…

   Back in the days we had a nitrous oxide system that carried “jets” that could deploy anywhere between 50 horsepower to 500 horsepower of nitrous oxide into our carbureted engines.  These little punks these days now call it “NOS” I need some NOS for my car and it comes now in 50-100 hp “shots” . These guys these days don’t even have a clue thanks to fast and furious movies. The term “NOS” is actually the name of one of the nitrous oxide companies out there. Nitrous Oxide Systems. So yeah it makes my skin crawl when I hear those terms.

   One last thing before I start the story, In our days “street racing” took place in a marked off distance. More than likely a quarter or eighth mile. We went to a desilant highway and parked and the only two going at a time were the participants. The winner was just that “the winner” nowadays these kids are driving through busy streets at high rates of speed with no concern for other drivers along the path and I’ve even heard incidents as to where if the wrong person won the challenge there could be an eruption of gunfire. BY ALL MEANS AM I TO EVER CONDONE THOSE ACTIONS!!

   Okay on with the story….

   Back in the days of my high school days I would drive a car that would hold its own for the most part and be near stock as it was as well. Sure there might of been a kid in our parking lot from time to time that might of had a faster car, but not with the reputaion I carried. Normally we’d scare em with our entrance or maybe just because.

    We were “wild eyed boys” to say the least. My best friend at the time Dennis and I were a force to be reckoned with. Growing up as neighboring friends riding our bicycles around evolving a year apart as automobile drivers soon thereafter.

   In high school I bounced back and forth between driving a ford or a chevrolet. My best chevrolet to the day then was a 1966 impala super sport. It was a beautiful butternut yellow and Dennis had a matching colored 1967 chevrolet malibu. His car came with a 283 cubic inch engine. When I bought my impala it had no engine in it. I bought a 350 engine from an uncle and man did it smoke after installing it. My dad later on bought and sold salvage cars and I found one with  396 big block that we later installed. That in itself brought me prestige. I was the only boy at that time at school with a bona fide big block engine in my car. Honestly by today’s standards that car was slow. But given the fact of the massive sized valve covers and growl the exhaust made would make a many a person back down .

    Moving forward to past graduation I was working at a small local parts store. I became friends with a guy named Chris that had a “Bangin” camaro. I loved it when he’d pull up as this beast was sounding like something from the track.

    Chris was a typical “know it all yankee” bottom line if it had been done he had done it. But man did that camaro speak volumes to me. I told him so and his reply was “stick around kid I’ve got something better than that junk going together”.

   Chris and I started hanging around and yes he did have something a little better. It was a 1969 Chevelle and it was pretty cool and quick as well in those days standards it was atleast. The only downfall was his smart assed attitude all the time. I found myself a many a time not really liking being around him, but being 21 and part of a car that went as fast as that one seemed was pretty cool.

    Over time I introduced Chris to our circle of buddies. Guys that all had what we deemed “street cars” meaning a car that was a definate boulevard bruiser of sorts. They all seemed fast but didn’t have all the neck snapping features that old chevelle had.

   We all would meet and go out in search of prey from time to time looking for hapless victims. We’d run up on a youngster that had a car that was at the school and tell him we had a guy outside with a pocketfull of money that was quickly dwindling as he was losing race after race and did they want some of the action before all the cash was gone. They’d follow us back to where we had Chris and his car stashed and continue luring them into certain defeat.

    After a while we were pretty known and couldn’t get any kind of races. We even resorted to offering deals like 10 or 20 car length head starts…Nada Zip Zilch the fishing hole had been fished out.

    With this came the saga of looking to the big city of drag racing. We had always heard of the “Tampa Airport” area where the big boys raced. There was rumors of a guy named Jeff Bushey From Jeff’s Speed Shop unloading his trailored 1967 camaro named “Iron Man” to race against a then active player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the name of Richard “Batman” Woods in his V8 powered Vega. But that all was way before our time. We’d also had heard about the racing across a well known bridge that connected the counties of Hillsborough and Pinnellas and it was several miles of very traction retaining cement. It also had emergency lanes on both sides of the bridge so there was ample parking for all the spectators and such. But keep in mind if you were unlucky enough to be a felon and we were boxed in by the state troopers your only source of getaway was over the side and that could be a very long swim to get away. Also if there was any type of catastrophic failure to your car (read wreck) you’d probably go over as well and hope you could get out in time before sinking into the dark waters of Tampa Bay.

   So we go out there with our smart assed yankee racer. We showed up at the local Burger King finding us (about 12 guys) and them (about 300 guys and their girlfriends) all standing out in the parking lot. There had to be atleast 100 street racers sititng in the parking lot.

    We ran up on a 1970 1/2 camaro and not sure if it was suffering from starter failure or too much compression in the engine but once it was push started it sounded pretty radicle. I was the guy bankrolling the money for the races that night and to be honest all I really had to lose was $25 and it was scared money I really couldn’t afford to lose at that.

   Chris announced he had aquired a race for the night and it was that before said camaro. I was like you sure? he said don’t worry we got him. I reluctantly unhanded the hard earned green. We drove out to the bridge and I ran to the finish line…my god a quarter mile is a long way for an out of shape 21 year old to run. They lined up and you could hear the engines revving way up as they lunched the cars Thats where the thrill of illegal racing gets its best. Watching your friend’s car running hard against another and knowing your not footing the bill when parts go to scattering.

    So we line up against this guy and I think of how back then it took me 5 hours of work to earn the money I’m about to lose to this push start camaro. They take off and I can hear  Chris’s chevelle winding out strong. He shifts and I hear the loud chirp of his rear tires as it hits a hard second these guys are neck and neck all the way till the finish line and all of a sudden the camaro fell back in the final last 25 feet of the race. I CAN’T BELIVE IT!! WE WON!!

    I run for my ride to the other end of the bridge all excited about doubling my money and thinking we need to leave before Chris pulls off another stunt like this. When we get back to the Burger King I retrieve my now $50 and say okay I’m pretty beat lets leave. Chris says hang on for a little while its only 1am its still early.

   Out of the not so far distance I hear the rumbling of something fast..No I didn’t see how fast, it just sounded fast. Across the street I see a 1967 mustang notchback waiting to turn in to the Burger King. Its a couple of different colors as it looks like it was cobbled between a couple of different donor cars. Its black in some places and gold in others. It has a white fiberglass hood on it and man does it sound mean. He pulls into a parking spot and I here someone say its “Big Dannie”.

    Most of the locals walk over to this monster with four tires and remind me of a pack of dogs when the big one shows up all of the little ones want to smell his butt to see where he’s been.

    “Big Dannie” gets out of the car, mind you I say “Big” this guy looks more like he should of been in the ring with Hulk Hogan as his tag team partner. He has a United Speed World tee shirt on and he’s filling all of the XL size out on it. Not fat mind you, his muscles looked like they had muscles. On the other side a short young lady gets out and she’s wearing a matching USW shirt and she’s filling out the top part right nicely.

    The locals are all talking to Dannie and they point towards our car and before long he’s headed our way. He makes his way toward Chris, which by this time is a few beers to the wind (another pet peave I have DUIing), Dannie says so you think this junk is fast I hear. Chris drunkenly says “it’ll hold its own against most of this road junk out here”. Dannie is starting to bow up and says well then good you won’t have any objections to running may car then. Chris once again smarts out by saying I doubt it. 

   Dannie moves over to his car and asks Chris if he’d like to inspect the car thats getting ready to completely clean his clock. Chris hearing the car had a 351 cleveland engine in it replies “if you’ve seen one piece of cleveland junk you’ve seen it all” .

    This enrages Big Dannie to the point he’s yelling your gonna look at the engine thats gonna whip your ass and if it doesn’t I’m going to! As Dannie is saying this he’s bouncing his finger tip off the hood of the car and I can literally see the front fenders of the car moving and here the front coil springs creaking as he does so.

   I tell Chris you’d better listen to this guy as there’s enough of them here to all stand in line 12 deep to kick each of our asses. I also at this time figure the $50 in my pocket has Big Dannies name on it as well.

    Big Dannie’s friends (if he really had any) finally convinced him he didn’t need to show off any mechanics under the hood if we didn’t want to see it. I personally wanted to, but that was in the days that I didn’t speak my mind.

    We head out to the bridge I see Dannie has pulled into the Gulf station and has his back seat pulled up in his car doing something. What he was doing we found out was turning on the valve to the nitrous oxide bottle before going over the bridge.

   Needless to say it was another seemingly long jaunt for my out of shape body to the finish line to await the sure severe beating we were about to have doled out to us. I heard both the cars heat the tires before staging. Then the usual flash of the headlights to let the starting guy know they were ready. Our car had its headlights on the mustang just ran his parking lights. They left and I could hear our chevelle running through the gears and see it running down the road okay, but the real gut wrencher was seeing that mustang flying like it was. It had us by atleast 5 car lengths to say the least. Upon reaching where we were it flashed its headlights 3 times as to add injury to insult as it flew by. The car was exceptionally quiet for being so fast. Chris saw that he had none the chance by about half track and slowed to pick us up knowing I’d be even more heated at things having lost all of the money and having to foot it back to get a ride.

    Back at the Burger King we had to listen to all of the “if you’ve seen one cleveland junk you’ve seen em all” B/S so we didn’t hang around long.

     So it was back to Plant City the few weeks following preying on some different guys and telling those we had already beaten that the car had became slower with us having to change engines because we had lost our good one in a lost race.

    We even sand bagged some of the races losing to much slower cars just to get the others to thinking we were really telling the truth. We even at first primered the car to mask it to some but the losing was what we needed to do after a month or so we were back on top and once again standing around with our dorks in our hands with no racing action.

    The following week on friday I saw an article dealing with street racing in Tampa Bay. It was in the Tampa Tribune. I was like a GI getting a post card from home reading it over and over. There was a new spot we’d never heard of andwe thought atlast a new place to roam.

     That morning we rode over to check out the new “fishing hole”. We saw the spot and decided to come back that night, we rushed home as our car was in pieces from freshining the engine up and we’d better get busy .

     My friend Dennis arrived home around 6 and I went over to tell him we were going over in the 6 cylinder chevelle we drove around to chaise parts in to see what was happening and sort of scout the place out some.

     When we got there, a plenty a car was there and 100 or less people were out and about around there cars. we saw some of them drinking beer or mixed drinks from the red dixie cups and got out to look around. Chris was already pretty lit, (should of been my sign to go home from that) We asked who was who and Chris spoke up saying he wanted to know who the baddest M/fer was there. By saying “baddest” he meant “fastest” they all pointed to a tall slender man leaned against a red primered duster with cragar wheels on it. The car was primered and had a white six pack scoop on the hood. I looked at my article in my pocket and recited what the author of the article said. “The red duster cranks his engine as he pulls away, it sounds like a prostock engine at the very least”. I say Chris this guy’s got some real engine in his car, Chris turns to remind me we do too, (I know we do, but we also have a driver that on a good sober day has reaction times that I’ve seen people laying with pennies in their eyes better at) He walks up to the duster and were now face to face with the owner.

    The owner ( Howell) is leaning against his car drinking out of one of the now familiar dixie cups. He’s around 6 ft tall wearing a pair of levis and penny loafer shoes. He has a white button down shirt and hair combed with a sort of cowlick hairdo. He greets us with a “hey dude hows it going” sporting a smirk/smile that tells us he’s the king of this parking lot.

    Chris says “I hear your the king here” Howell smiles and says I come here but I don’t know about being king and sort of chuckles as most everyone around him is doing the same thing.

    Howell asks Chris if he’s talking about racing, what does he have to run with. Chris says I have a 69 chevelle. Howell replies that if were talking about the one we drove up in, than were waisting our time as well as his. Chris says no I have another car at home that should do the trick.

    This immediately brings loud laughter from Howell. He says let me get this right…You’ve came out here tonight to race me but you forgot to bring your car… Laughter bursts out from all over at this point. Chris says no we didn’t forget the car, (at this point he’s starting to get disturbed) he goes on to tell the group how he had a couple of finishing touches to get it going mainly the tightening of 3 bolts in the torque converter and filling the transmission with fluid. 

    At this point Howell is not looking too amused, he tells Chris to come back another time when we have something to talk about. Chris at this point is ticked off saying something smart and saying well if he wasn’t interested in racing then thats how it was.  Howell asks Chris what he’s talking about. chris replies his car can be ready in about 2 hours. Howell says it’s already getting late by the time we go back and fix our junk and drive back it’ll be a long while yet. Chris says well come to our place in 2 hours and we’ll be ready for you.

    Howell then asks if we were to have a race and if I were to beat you, which I’m sure I will, how much can you afford to pay me? Chris replies with “half a rock” This brings a big smile and laughter from the man leaning against the red duster. Howell at that point asks ” Who are you fucking Fred Flintstone”? The whole crowd now is howling… After the laughter dies down, Howell says “I’ll tell you what, I’ll be there in 2 hours, if theres no car there you’d better know how to handle yourself physically because this isnt for fun mister” Chris acknowledges this is for real.

    We leave Dennis behind to show the group how to get to our neck of the woods. Chris and I drive back to Dover to do some thrashing on the “dragster” as Chris calls it.

    Thrashing is an easy word with what went on. We had some serious assembly to get done, yet we’d done it so many times it was second nature for us.

    A couple hours later we were driving our way to the strip os road we raced on in southeastern hillsborough county. When we first arrived there was nothing in sight. We left to go try the car out one more time and readjust the timing (which meant unfastening the fiberglass front clip) we set it one last time and went back to see if we had company yet. What I saw at this point was no less than 100 cars on the side of the once vacant road sides.

    I said at that point ” I think they made it” Chris’s reply was a somber “no shit” . I got out of the car and walked over to see the 2 racers hand their money over to the person picked to hold it. I was about to make my way to the finish line as thats where I always stood during these matches and Howell said which one of you is going to show me the quarter. I raised my hand volunteering. He said get in the car and show me then.

   We hopped in and he looked at me face to face and said ” what you see in here and down the road is where it stays, if I hear you’ve told that other guy how this car runs I’m coming to kick your ass” I replied don’t worry as I want to be let out at the finish line anyways. He reaches over and flips a couple of switches and turns the key and this beast roars to life. He shifts it into 1st gear and we speed to the end as we pass the finish line I nervously tell him that the blurry white line we just crossed was it.

     He turns around and launches the car hard and sprays the nitrous almost immediately it seems. Coming up on the finish line he stops to let me out reminding me of our deal. I say don’t worry as the other car is at the end and I’m here.

    I walk over to Dennis, also standing at the finish line. Dennis asks me “hows it run” I tell him “were going to get our asses smoked on this one” we both laugh sheepishly knowing Chris is about to get taken down a few notches.

    The cars do their burn outs and line up, I see ours on the far side of the road. We even have our guy start the race. Using him always gave us an advantage as he’d tell the racers “I’m going to point at each of you, as soon as both of you have been pointed at I’ll raise my hands and you take off”. That was all good for us anyway as we had our deal set that he’d point at the opponent first and be nice and slow then point at us last and immediately raise his hands. So our deal was as soon as he pointed at us to hit the gas as he’d lift as soon as he pointed. Leaving the other guy off keel as we had moved so slow and smooth pointing at him yet jerking our hands up as soon as we got the point.

    At any rate the race started as it did above, Chris being slow reacting lost already 2 car lengths right off the bat. Howell was out on him badly at first. Chris’s car took off and I thought we’d pull the duster some at first.

    Story be told, we looked as if we’d forgot to even put an engine in our car that night. The duster beat us by atleast 15 car lengths. Of course Chris had every excuse in the book about our new found friend cheating on him. But the truth be known Chris had his own bag of tricks as well, hence the starting line tactics with our guy starting the race.

     We basically got our lunch handed over to us by a better racer and that was all there was to it. Over the next few weeks the duster showed up at our hangout in town once or twice and that alone just set Chris off like crazy. He bagan to hate to hear the word “Howell” or “Duster”. I made sure to try and fit it in as much as possible in our conversations.

    Over time I found Howell was an employee of one of my customers and would always make it a point to say hello if I was delivering a part there or whatever. He seemed like a nice guy for the most part and over time we lost contact with each other. As a matter a fact not too long after all this we all sort of lost contact with each other for one reason or another.

     In November of 1999 I got a call at my job from a customer asking for a part. I took his information and asked his name so I could return his call after getting it in for him from the warehouse. Low and Behold it was Howell! I asked if he remembered me and that night racing some small town boys. He replied he seemed to remember something about it. After a few moments of chit chat we had it all worked out as far as how things were back then. We made great friends from that point on and still am today. Howell refers to me as “The Mr. Haney of used auto parts” gaining that title from my wheeling and dealing and from the character off of the show Green Acres. I wear that title proudly. I also got reaquainted with  Chris a year or so later. I even went as far as taking Howell out to visit Chris and they became friends as well.

    To this day even with me living in North Carolina Howell and I still stay in touch atleast once a week.

    Friends like Howell Thompson only come along once in a lifetime. I’m blessed to have him as a friend as he’s not the typical yes man kind of friend. One of his favorite sayings is “If it quacks like a duck”.



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