THE OLD MASTERPIECE

 By Greg Sharp | Photography by Steve Coonan 

 Historic images courtesy of Pete Eastwood, Greg Sharp & Bruce Wheeler 

Originally published & printed in TRJ #52

Well known hot rodder Pete Eastwood purchased Ed Pink’s Old Master front engine dragster from Ted Guth and proceeded to restore it back to it’s legendary 1965, 150-inch wheelbase version. Two smart moves on Pete’s part, the third was getting it finished in time to reunite it with Ed Pink himself and it’s old Famoso stomping grounds for the 2010 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion.

 It was a memorable once-in-a-lifetime event. The guest list of nearly 300 included a cross section of hot rod and auto racing history. The names read like a Hall of Fame roster. McEwen, Prudhomme, McCulloch, Beadle, Brizio(s), Ivo, Leong, collectors Tom Malloy and Bruce Meyer, sports car greats Jim Busby and John Morton, and on and on. The occasion was the celebration of Ed Pink’s 80th birthday. The setting was the Galpin Ford Autosports showroom in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. This Taj Mahal of car dealerships houses the specialty arm of the largest volume Ford dealer in the country, plus their own car collection including a huge selection of Roth vehicles. 

Just inside the entry was the centerpiece for the evening. On the sparkling black granite floor was an equally sparkling front engine dragster. “The Old Master” recently restored by Pete Eastwood and debuted at the California Hot Rod Reunion just a few weeks before, shone like a diamond on black velvet. 

Lettered discretely on the cowl of the pink painted beauty was “The Old Master.” The car that helped put Pink and its chassis builder Don Long on the drag racing map, was the perfect symbol for the occasion. Although he was now turning 80, Pink has been known as The Old Master for close to 50 of those years due to his experience and expertise. 

This tale began during the “Golden Age of Drag Racing” in 1964. A virtual unknown named Don Long graduated from a pair of finely constructed Fiat coupes that won the then-popular B/Altered class at the 1962 and ’63 NHRA Winternationals, and employment as a draftsman in the aircraft industry, to venture out on his own as a drag racing chassis builder. He had already built dragsters for So Cal racers including Dave Vermilya, Jess Sturgeon and Joe Winter, but was looking for a vehicle (pardon the pun), which would lead to nationwide notoriety. He approached Pink with his ideas for a new type of chassis with the proposition that Ed would supply the engine and campaign the car. Unlike virtually every other builder, Long kept meticulous records of every car he ever built and still has them to this day. The next project would go in Long’s files as Number Seven. 

PROJECT 200 MPH 

Eric Dahlquist freelanced car features and race coverage in upstate New York before graduating from the University of Buffalo, and signing on as Technical Editor of Hot Rod Magazine. When Dahlquist came aboard, Publisher Ray Brock advised him to ride along with esteemed Photo Editor Eric Rickman to meet the movers and shakers of the hot rod world. One of their stops was the Tony Nancy complex on Woodman Avenue in the San Fernando Valley where, as Tom Madigan wrote in “The Old Master” (TRJ #48) you could “come in with nothing more than a checkbook and leave with a ready to run racecar.” Pink’s shop was just across the parking lot from Nancy’s and Ed and Eric became friends. In a bench racing session Pink told Dahlquist about his new dragster project, and how if all the ideas were combined into one car with the right up-and-coming driver we might “put it on the rest of the field” at least for a little while. Dahlquist pitched the story to Brock which became a two-part series in the March and April 1965 issues of Hot Rod Magazine entitled “Project 200 MPH.” The subtitle read “How to construct a sound dragster chassis using engineering, logic and common sense.” He went on to explain that “A careful appraisal of Don’s logic and methods will help him (the racer) evaluate the soundness of any proposed investment, which can these days approach three grand.” A lot has changed in the world of drag racing over the last four decades and that same $3,000 would be hard pressed to cover a modern team’s catering bill for a national event weekend! 

The story was extremely detailed because Dahlquist considered himself the representative for all those less fortunate who couldn’t go to the Holy Land of hot rodding. His gripe with the majority of California writers was, “They often took a lot for granted in their stories as if the people reading their stuff knew a lot of the facts to begin with. Often as not, of course, we didn’t. So we’d get started on a modification published in Hot Rod or Car Craft and run into a gap in the process and have to “wing it.” So, from the get go, I was on a mission to present the facts as I found them, as someone who had actually built a lot of cars myself and learned what the pitfalls might be the hard way.” There may be no better example of his viewpoint than “Project 200 MPH.” 

At the 1965 U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships—the legendary Bakersfield March Meet—the Old Master was runner-up on both Saturday and Sunday to eventual overall Top Eliminator “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. But, the well-earned celebration-as well as the huge trophy-came from being awarded the Outstanding Performance of the Meet in recognition of an unprecedented fourteen hard passes during the weekend. All but a bye run were in the seven second bracket. The happy crew included from left, John Wadkins, Ed Iskenderian, Ed Pink, crewmen Rick Bracken, and “Hal.” Driver Mike Snively enjoys the spoils with the trophy queen as crewman Jack Nobben looks on. 

For instance, when discussing laying out the magnesium motor plate, Dahlquist wrote, “It is an excellent practice to double check all calculations before cutting or drilling the material because it is, after all, quite expensive, going at $45 per copy.” And, when bending the main frame rails inward and trimming them for the front crossmember he said, “…you might as well resign yourself that the wheelbase is not apt to come out right on the button unless you build a bunch of these cars because there are so many considerations involved.” Now that’s keeping it real! 

At the time, there were two distinct schools of dragster construction. One was the rigid design predominant since the early days of drag racing. The other was the “flexible flyer” style championed by Woody Gilmore whose chassis were becoming very popular. This car would combine the flexible design along with a few of Long’s own innovations. Long was also what’s known in the drag racing world as a “weight freak.” A rough estimate says that every 100 pounds removed is the equivalent of adding ten horsepower. He demonstrated his beliefs to Dahlquist when he handed him a small anvil and directed him to walk across the shop, put it down and walk back. He then asked, “Which trip was easier?” Dahlquist immediately got the point and elaborated on Long’s theories. 

Another trend was the tendency toward longer wheelbases. As tire technology advanced, there was more and more tendency toward wheel stands. While spectacular, they did nothing toward winning a race and occasionally led to accidents. This car would feature a “rather long 150-inch wheelbase”—exactly half of the maximum legal length of the modern rear engine Top Fueler. 

A major section of the story dealt with proper construction of the front end. Long’s practices and Dahlquist’s explanations hopefully went a long way toward keeping home-built dragsters and their drivers out of trouble. The relationship between the front axle, the radius rods and drag link were carefully explained so that the car doesn’t “dart toward the boondocks, scattering trackside photographers.” The same went for the narrowed Olds rearend. Both were done using basic geometric principles for the simple reason that the method is “always reliable.” The car is built around the rearend, the Donovan coupler and clutch can, and the Chrysler block. Long designed an alignment bar that passed from the pinion bearing in the third member through the coupler, the can, the engine’s main bearing journals, and out the front. Since the engine provides the center of gravity, Long made it as low as possible with clearance factors being the oil pan and bottom pulley. Together with the fact that the engine sits 23 ½ inches “out” from the centerline of the rearend to the back of the block, determines the construction of the rest of the car. 

Don carefully thought out controls like the brake handle and the clutch linkage to give maximum leverage with minimal effort. He felt that these innovations were more safety features than merely driver comforts because they give more precise control of the car. Experts in all forms of racing agree that the driver can perform his tasks much more efficiently when he is comfortable in his environment. 

After their first night of competition the happy Old Master crew celebrated their $500 victory over a stellar field of 31 Top Fuel dragsters at Lions Drag Strip on January 30, 1965. From left are: Ed Pink, Don Long, crewmembers Jack Nobben and John Wadkins, and driver Mike Snively.
In its final season as The Old Master, the lengthy 170-inch wheelbase was covered by a Tom Hanna nosepiece painted in pearl pink and candy red stripes by George Cerny, Jr. The drivers were Mike Sorokin and Bob Downey. 

Speeds were climbing to the point that aerodynamics became important. The first nose wing on a dragster may have been the piece of plywood Howard Johansen spotted on Alameda Street on the way to Lions Drag Strip then bolted on the front end of his “Twin Bears” dragster in 1960. As you may expect, Long took a more sophisticated approach. He reasoned that the wing (or more properly the negative lift air foil), designed to work opposite of normal aircraft applications producing down force instead of lift, was a sound idea. However, he also reasoned that it would be more efficient if it could be adjusted as the car moved down the strip. Since the car lifts the front end on acceleration, he would take advantage of this by making two pairs of brackets. The front set mounts to the front axle while the rear set mounts to the front crossmember. All are Heim-jointed to allow movement. When the car first accelerates, the front crossmember lifts in relation to the axle increasing the angle of the wing. As it continues, the crossmember settles down taking wing angle out and decreasing drag. Typical of Long, the idea was ingenious and the car consistently went straight as an arrow. These features were the prototype for as many as ten Long chassis. While Dahlquist covered the buildup in great detail, our intention here is to give you the highlights of construction, competition, and restoration. 

While the chassis was under construction, Pink was, according to Dahlquist, putting together “an entirely new, super boss mill for his car.” It was the familiar 392 cubic-inch ’57 Chrysler built with Pink’s time-proven practices. The exception was his design for special springs and retainers that allowed incredible (for a big Chrysler at the time) 7800 rpm engine speeds. Ed also followed Long’s weight loss regimen by grinding five pounds off the block and engine mounts with a body grinder. On the outside was a Hilborn bug catcher atop a GMC 6-71 blower spun by an Isky drive, a Cirello “Frankenstein” magneto and custom zoomie headers by Long. 

The unmistakable cowl section with it’s twin blisters that provide toe clearance for the driver was just one of the things that didn’t need replacing. John Carambia sprayed the white basecoat before covering it in pink and Sunset Red Pearl acrylic urethane before Larry Fator was called upon to exquisitely duplicate “The Old Master” logo and lettering. 

One of the last things was the body. Dahlquist again, “This last operation is best left to a professional because even though the area covered is small, the skill to cover it in a pleasing fashion is not.” Veteran racecar builder Bob Sorrell beautifully built the seat and a body that included “toe bumps” on the cowl that became a characteristic of this car for decades to come. After installation and plumbing of the engine during a couple of all nighters by Long, Pink, and friends Jack Nobben and John Wadkins brought the project to completion. The car was taken to Fontana “Drag City” for testing. The first order of business was the scales. At the time the NHRA minimum legal weight for an AA/Fuel dragster using a blown Chrysler Hemi was 1250 pounds. Ready to run, without fuel and oil, the car weighed 1251 pounds. Oil was added, Mike Snively climbed in the cockpit, and the car was pushed off. The engine fired immediately and was brought up to operating temperature. After a couple of good whacks to check throttle response, Ed signaled Mike to kill it and the valves were adjusted. Two easy runs were made on the brand new engine/chassis/driver combination with 8.47 and 8.57 E.T.s, shutting off early. 

1965: IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR 

The following Saturday, January 30, 1965 was the first “official” time out. At Lions, Snively qualified the new rig with a 7.77, 197.80 and defeated a stellar field of 31 of Southern California’s best fuel dragsters for Top Eliminator honors and $500. The crew immediately proved that their theories were sound and that they had accomplished something rarely if ever done by a brand new race car. 

March 4-7th, 1965 was the seventh annual running of the legendary U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships—The March Meet in Bakersfield, California. On hand were 125 AA/ Fuel Dragsters! Read that again—125 AA/Fuel Dragsters. If you don’t count restored or nostalgia machines, there aren’t 125 fuel dragsters in existence today. The meet was so big that a complicated system of eliminations was required. The sixty-four lowest elapsed times would be eligible to run for Top Eliminator on Saturday. Out of the sixty-four, the low thirty-two would run for Top Eliminator on Sunday. Finally, the Saturday and Sunday winners would meet for overall Top Eliminator of the Meet honors worth over 9,000 1965 dollars. The qualifying line on Friday was over a quarter-mile long. Everyone wanted to win on Saturday, so they could sit out Sunday keeping their engine fresh while their competition would have to race all day for the right to meet them. By the end of the day the thirty-second quickest was 7.63 and the sixty-fourth quickest was 8.06. Just a year before Chris “The Crazy Greek” Karamesines set low E.T. of the meet at 7.84. And, there were still 61 AA/Fuel Dragsters that didn’t make the show!! In 1965 terminology, it was “unreal.” 

By round three on Saturday things were getting pretty serious. Snively and The Old Master put Michigan’s Maynard Rupp on the trailer with a 7.83, 194.18. In round four Snively hole shot “T.V. Tommy” Ivo in the Barnstormer (TRJ #38) with a 7.69, 191.48. The Don Long chassis was working so well with the Pink horsepower that Snively clicked it early in each of the preliminary rounds. Next Snively drew a bye while Don Garlits snookered “Surfer” Mike Sorokin into a red light by winging the engine unexpectedly. Garlits coasted to the final with an easy 8.59 at 116. In the sixth and final round (!) it was East (“Big Daddy”) vs. West (The Old Master). With the crowd on its feet Garlits fired followed by Snively. The Old Master sputtered and died and coasted silently into the staging area. Garlits singled for Saturday’s victory and everyone ran for the parking lot as the rains came. 

Pink and crew took The Old Master to Kern Auto Parts to figure out what happened. Apparently Mike had primed it with the throttle properly, but some air had possibly remained in the fuel lines causing a lean condition and a backfire. Everything else looked fine so the engine was buttoned up and prepared for Sunday. 

The next day dawned overcast and damp as Famoso Raceway in March so often can. The show was late getting started and early winners in the 32 car field all had elapsed times in the eights. All, that is, except Snively who, despite starting last, drove around Karamesines with a strong 7.90 at 190.26. Mike earned a reputation as a hole shot artist on Saturday, but proved that Pink horsepower could win on the top end as well. In the following round, Snively beat the Sandoval Brothers with an even stronger 7.75. Garlits on the other hand was marching through the field with Marvin Schwartz’s Garlits Chassis Special. He chose to drive Schwartz’s nearly identical car keeping his own fresh for the final. In round four Snively won with yet another hole shot over Doug Robinson in the yellow Horsepower Engineering fueler and shut off with a 7.93. 

In a repeat of Saturday’s final it was once again Snively vs. Garlits. Pink’s car had once more waded through four rounds with only a change of oil and spark plugs. Pink, not wanting to lose to a red light, instructed Snively to wait for the green and then race for it. Garlits could easily afford to take a shot at the lights, because even if he lost, he still had his own car for the overall final. He did, and Snively came out of the gate a half car length back. It stayed that way to the finish with Garlits taking Sunday’s eliminations with a 7.72 to Mike’s 7.78. 

In the final, Garlits climbed back in his own Swamp Rat 6B and defeated his employee Schwartz in the contest of the two black cars from Florida for overall Top Eliminator honors. It was the first of his five March Meet wins. 

On the other hand, Pink, Snively, and The Old Master had won more races than anyone—(nine out of eleven rounds!)—with all but the bye run being in the sevens. For that amazing accomplishment they were presented with the coveted Outstanding Performance of the Meet award and the admiration and appreciation of the 38,000 fans who watched both day’s races. 

Sitting in the late evening light at the end of the track The Old Master looks right at home. Massive Goodyear Blue Streak slicks mount 11×16-inch magnesium Halibrands that fit just millimeters from the side of the body. So close to the body in fact that they need to be removed in order to un-button the body panels.

In those days, the week after Bakersfield everyone went to Fremont for the Spring Championships. People and race cars jammed Northern California’s largest event. If you used your wildest imagination, your picks for Top Eliminator may have been Snively vs. Garlits. It happened just that way. Snively was first out of the gate with the “Old Man” right by his side. The Pink crew finally got its revenge. At Fremont The Old Master averaged 7.69 for five runs with the best, 7.50 saved for the final. After the race Snively commented to a reporter, “This is the first real big one I’ve ever won. I really owe the win to Ed Pink who built this sweetheart of an engine. Isky cams and my lucky boar’s tooth were both of invaluable assistance.” Garlits who was running on seven cylinders said, “Those guys really had the win coming to them, they worked really hard and that kid Snively is GOOD.” 

Snively was good. And he wanted to race a lot. Pink’s business was growing and reducing the time available for racing. When Don Prudhomme left the Hawaiian, Roland Leong immediately hired Mike. In 1966 they repeated Leong’s ’65 Winternationals and Indy wins. 

Following Fremont, Long lengthened “The Old Master” even further to a 170-inch wheelbase. A nosepiece was added by aluminum master Tom Hanna who says “Don Long was the best technical craftsman I ever met…bar none.” 

The next big go was the inaugural Mickey Thompson 200 MPH Club Invitational at Fontana November 6th and 7th. Anyone who had two legitimate 200 mph time slips and did it using M/T rods and pistons was eligible. During a bench racing session Tony Nancy asked if Ed was going to run it. Pink answered, “I’d like to, but I need a driver. Do you want to drive it?” Tony was flattered, but at the time had driven nothing but Top Gas. “You want to win this thing and it would take me a while to get used to a fueler.” Tony heard that Connie Swingle was no longer driving for Garlits and suggested they call him. As soon as he heard he’d be driving Pink’s car, the one-of-a-kind Swingle was all for it. Asked when he was coming, Swingle simply replied in his Oklahoma drawl, “Pretty soon.” Three days later, Swingle, his dog and his pickup arrived in Sherman Oaks. 

Depending on whose coverage you read, 52 or 53 fuelers accepted invitations to the meet. The rewards consisted of $5,000 cash (not a check!) for the Saturday night winner, and $2,500 for Sunday. They came from far (Garlits, Langley, The Dead End Kids) and near, or as Dahlquist put it “AA/ Fuelsville, L.A..” It was the biggest gathering of fuel dragsters outside Bakersfield. 

Qualifying wasn’t required. Thompson reasoned that if a car was eligible for the meet, it could qualify for any race around, so why bother wasting another run on the engine? Swingle was new to the car but they made one anyway, laying down a 7.66 for low E.T. 

In the first round, Swingle mimicked Snively with a hole shot 7.94 win over Kenny Safford’s 7.82 in the B&M Tork- Master. By the third round Swingle was continuing hole shot wins and on the other side of the program Garlits and Swamp Rat VIII were mowing down everyone they faced. It seemed impossible with such huge fields of top cars that these two would face each other four times for Top Eliminator in major meets in less than a year’s time. 

In the semi’s Garlits trailered Warren and Coburn, while Swingle singled (say that three times real fast!) when Ed McCulloch and the Northwind couldn’t make the call. It would happen once more. 

The difference this time was, Garlits was facing Connie Swingle, not only his former five year employee, but the man who built Swamp Rat VIII and was its first driver! Garlits won the coin flip and picked the left lane. Swingle staged at the far right edge of the right lane where no one had run. They staged carefully in the final of this “match race” that had lasted nearly eight months. The “Old Man” lit the red light and The Old Master gave chase. Connie passed Don at the 1,000 foot mark to win with a 7.80 at 207.84 mph. Project 200 lived up to its name, and had $5,000 cash to prove it. 

In the fall of 1965, Long continued his belief that longer cars were the answer to handling problems and while repairing some minor damage to the chassis lengthened the wheelbase to 170-inch. At the same time, a lighter and smaller Enderle “bird catcher” injector replaced the original Hilborn “bug catcher.” Pink reported that the change in performance was negligible. 

With the success of The Old Master, Pink’s business improved until he was building nearly one blown Chrysler a week. As 1966 dawned, Swingle returned to Florida and time constraints forced the dragster to spend more and more time on the trailer. Veterans Mike Sorokin and Bob Downey drove The Old Master infrequently in weekly Southern California events. Late in the year, Goodyear hired the car for tire testing. None other than Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen was at the wheel. In the four-day session the engine made 27 hard passes without the heads coming off. Oil and plugs were changed consistently and at night the bottom end was checked, but nothing more. All runs were in the 7.20s and 7.30s with the last two a 7.11 and a 7.15. The following weekend they made it to the semi finals at Long Beach followed by a runner-up finish in a 32-car Thanksgiving show at Irwindale. This meant that the Pink Chrysler had made more than forty hard quarter-mile runs without a tear down! Put in perspective, a modern Top Fuel team is thrilled to get little more than four minutes out of their engines counting the warm-up, burnout and run! It’s a feat Pink is extremely proud of. 

Connie Swingle readies for battle at the Mickey Thompson 200 MPH Club meet in November, 1965. Swingle defeated a field of over 50 fuelers, including his former boss Don Garlits, to take home $5,000 cash. Garlits was struggling with the new 426 Hemi while Swingle and Pink used the old reliable 392. 
In November, 1966 Goodyear hired The Old Master for tire testing. The driver was Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. During testing and two subsequent events, Pink’s 392 made some 40 hard runs without removing the cylinder heads—an extraordinary feat. McEwen recalled that, “I drove a lot of cars during that period and every one with a Pink motor hauled ass!” 

THE AFTERMATH 

In December 1966, Bruce Wheeler of Washington D.C. paid Ed Pink the amazing sum of $7,000 for the ready-to-race Old Master, complete with trailer. Wheeler intended to race it himself but found that his long legs prevented driving comfortably or safely. His friend, Al Friedman, with what today seems a particularly politically incorrect nickname of “The Jersey Jew,” quickly volunteered. On New Years Day 1967 Friedman, with no previous experience, smoked off the line at Irwindale Raceway to begin his licensing process. The re-named “Wheeler Dealer” team raced at Capitol Raceway and Cecil County gaining experience. Tuner Dick Burgess got familiar with the combination and they felt confident enough to head west for the July ’67 Professional Dragsters Association event at Lions. Against a star-studded field they qualified number one at 7.08 and 225 flat. At the U.S. Nationals they tied for Top Speed of the Meet with a 223.88. In April ’68 they returned to Southern California and qualified for the last 64 car PDA race. Shortly thereafter, Friedman received his draft notice. Bub Reese drove the car at eastern strips until it was sold again in 1969. 

A pair of the East Coast’s prettiest fuelers have at it. The late Al Friedman in the Wheeler Dealer in the near lane, is a car length behind the red-lighting Richie Bandell in the Bandell Brothers ex-“Surfers II” at Englishtown, New Jersey, in 1967. Neither the Bandell’s nor subsequent owner Gordon Tatum found much success with what many call the nicest fueler ever. 
At the very end of 1966 the former Old Master was sold and became the Wheeler Dealer. The now dark candy red machine was raced up and down the East Coast as well as at major western meets by the team of (from left) tuner Dick Burgess, driver Al Friedman (named 1967 Rookie of the Year by Drag Racing Magazine) and owner Bruce Wheeler. 
Friedman made his East Coast debut at Maryland’s Capitol Raceway in the spring of 1967 after licensing passes at Irwindale on New Year’s Day. It’s hard to comprehend now, but Bruce Wheeler paid Ed Pink the sum of $7,000 for one of the mid-‘60s outstanding fuel dragsters complete, ready to run, with trailer. That number wouldn’t get you very far in today’s drag racing. On the very same day Wheeler took delivery of a brand new ’67 Corvette complete with a 435-horse tri-power-equipped 427. 

The Old Master knocked around the east coast for the next 25 years—Boston fuel racer Hank Endres actually owned it twice—before “two guys from Vineland, New Jersey” got it. In the fate that often befalls old Top Fuel cars, the space formerly taken by a mighty Chrysler was filled by a smallblock Chevy and Powerglide so the once glorious fueler could end its competitive days as a weekly bracket racer complete with the requisite psychedelic paint job. 

In the late ’90s it was acquired by Indiana race car collector Mike Guffey. His primary interest is with early altered wheelbase A/FX cars but he’s earned the reputation as someone who will go to extremes to ensure originality. He knew that this was indeed The Old Master. After keeping it for a decade, Guffey sold it to Minnesota’s Ted Guth the man who did the beautiful restoration of Roland Leong’s first Hawaiian Dodge Charger Funny Car. 

P-WOOD 

You may recall Thom Taylor’s tale “Ride ’Em, Wreck ’Em, and Never Check ’Em” (TRJ #17) about the deconstruction of Peter Eastwood’s 100,000 mile Deuce three-window coupe. It implied that along with possessing considerable fabrication talents, Eastwood was a wild and crazy, impetuous hot rodder. That’s all true. However, in ’Liner Notes of #17, it further states that since 1979, “…he has calmed down and cleaned up his lifestyle considerably since the days of a somewhat misspent youth.” That is also true. In TRJ #39, Tom Madigan’s “Prehistoric Funny Car” describes the flawless restoration of the Mondello and Matsubara Fiat Fuel Altered by Eastwood and pals Derek Bower and Karpo Murkajanian. The quality of that project provides further evidence that Peter Eastwood is arguably the consummate hot rodder. Who else can you name that hosts the Christmas Day “Holiday Motor Excursion” for pre-1932 stock automobiles, had a hand in construction and/ or restoration of fifteen of the 75 Most Significant Deuces, and can give you chapter and verse on the ancient “Two Up Two Down” Ed Winfield sprint car? Or, has a Triumph drag bike in his living room, and brass-era restorations and an ancient Indian motorcycle nestled among the ’32 Ford chassis in the garage? Or, who has driven 2003 Rose Parade Grand Marshals Art Linkletter, Bill Cosby and Mister Rogers down Colorado Boulevard in Juan and Eva Peron’s ’39 Packard Super Eight Phaeton. Or, who built the first primered car ever on the cover of Hot Rod (the Eastwood and Barakat Deuce Tudor Nov. ’82) and the reverse-engineered-from-a-cartoon Prufer Cop Shop coupe? You can see that he’s something special. 

In 2007, he sold the restored Samurai front engine fueler, and was “ricocheting off the walls. I had to have another dragster.” An ad in Hemmings Motor News offered The Old Master. He was ready with cash from his recently sold Stevens-Duryea. He and Guth had corresponded regarding other race car projects so negotiations began. It took eight long telephone calls in eight weeks to consummate the deal. The restoration, as time and money permitted, took three years. 

Racecars are in a constant state of evolution, so it’s important to pick the point in its life that you want to re-create. Although The Old Master had certainly been centerfold spectacular with its long candy striped nose in red and pearl pink, Eastwood is a disciple of the form-follows-function school. Besides, the car achieved its greatest notoriety from “Project 200 MPH” and its brilliant showing at the ’65 March Meet. 

Eastwood and Steve Davis replicated the original articulating wing that was instrumental in getting the car down the track fast and straight. Designed by Long, the wing was engineered to create down force rather than lift and adjusted as the car moved down the track. Since the car lifts the front end on acceleration, Long would take advantage of this by making two pairs of brackets. The front set mounts to the front axle while the rear set mounts to the front crossmember. All are Heim-jointed to allow movement. When the car first accelerates, the front crossmember lifts in relation to the axle increasing the angle of the wing. As it continues, the crossmember settles down taking wing angle out and decreasing drag. 

A meeting with Don Long led to the question of how it would be restored. Hearing Pete’s answer, Long simply replied, “That pleases me.” Another meeting with Ed Pink led to the same question, the same answer and the same response. The Old Master as it appeared at the ’65 March Meet it would be. Every publication and photograph it appeared in was sought out and pored over to ensure the accuracy of the restoration. 

The biggest single operation of the project was to “front half” the chassis. That is, Eastwood had to fabricate everything in front of the motor plate and reduce the wheelbase from 170-inch back to the original 150-inch. Since the nose piece wouldn’t be used, Eastwood’s respect for originality now finds it, (complete with psychedelic paint), attached to the original pipe hanging on his shop wall. 

He borrowed the front axle from the Samurai (Number Fifteen on Don Long’s list) and built an identical replica for The Old Master. A narrowed ’50 Oldsmobile rearend replaced the 8¾-inch Chrysler that had been installed along the way. Major components like the Donovan can, the Mickey Thompson magnesium third member, and Ed Pink spider gear kit were obtained through the network that develops among those that own and restore these cars. The body was surprisingly complete. The cowl however, had been rather clumsily lengthened to match the Chevy and ’Glide’s forward placement. Eastwood duplicated the side panels but left repair of the original cowl and seat to superb metal craftsman Steve Davis. 

Here’s a sample of the effort necessary to achieve an accurate restoration. The cowl had been beaten, banged and abused over the years and the question arose over the number of Dzus fasteners on each side required to attach it. Pete and Steve agreed that three on each side would do the job. Shortly after completion of the body work, a photo surfaced that showed the cowl removed and the location of four fasteners on each side. If someone never saw the photo, they would never know the difference. But Eastwood would know and reluctantly asked Davis to do the job over. They cared enough to go the extra mile necessary to accurately complete the job. 

Eric Dahlquist (right) then Technical Editor of Hot Rod Magazine wrote an extremely detailed two-part narrative on the construction of Ed Pink’s new dragster for the March-April ’65 issues. The prophetically titled piece was called “Project 200 MPH.” This photo surfaced after body repairs had been completed forcing Pete Eastwood and Steve Davis to reconfigure the cowl’s Dzus button layout. 

Derek Bower built the engine for the Mondello and Matsubara Fiat and was tabbed to do this one as well. He made some internal changes to the engine combination because the car would only cackle and never see the heat of competition. But, Bower is a detail fanatic and it had to look exactly as it did in 1965. Because of the original hanging tabs used on a diesel, the blower’s ribs weren’t identical side to side. Pete carefully selected a blower case and machined it to match. No one would notice the difference, but Eastwood and Bower would. Cirello “Frankenstein” magnetos haven’t been manufactured in over 30 years and proved to be the most difficult (and expensive) component to find. The original fuel lines were Aeroquip aircraft type with a dull finish and sort of a fuzzy texture. New replacement Aeroquip hose is smooth and shiny, Bower spent the time to figure out a way to make the new appear dull and fuzzy. He also cared enough to go the extra mile necessary to accurately complete the job. 

Derek Bower built the engine for the Mondello and Matsubara Fiat (TRJ #39) and was tabbed to do this one as well. He’s a detail fanatic and thus the perfect partner for Eastwood. The hanging tabs on the left side of a stock GMC blower were machined off and the ribs machined and reshaped to match those on this side. Not many would notice the difference but Eastwood and Bower certainly would. Pete spent hours grinding five pounds off the 392-block exactly as Pink had done originally. Visible pieces such as the Delta timing cover, Isky idler assembly and three-inch blower drive, the lightweight wedge under the Hilborn bugcatcher, and the Chrysler oil filter canister duplicate the originals. Eastwood replicated Don Long’s 2¼-inch zoomie headers. Bower modified shiny new Aeroquip hose to duplicate the dull and fuzzy originals.

THE REUNION 

During the 2010 NHRA Winternationals it was announced that Don Long would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield that October. This gave Eastwood a goal. On October 10, less than a week before the event, he reported the first fire-up and that “It sounds pretty stout!” At the Honorees reception held Friday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bakersfield, each of the Honorees is introduced by emcee Dave McClelland who outlines their careers. Long is a quiet, intelligent almost introverted sort, and most expected him to just say thank you and be done with it. Instead he delivered a speech that brought the house down. He began, “I am not a good speaker like Dave McClelland. I am not good on stage or in front of a camera like Tommy Ivo. I can’t drive a race car like Don Prudhomme, can’t build an engine like Ed Pink or tune one like Roland Leong or Bob Creitz can. However, as a young man, it was said that I was a hard worker and a fair welder.” Nearly every one of the heroes mentioned was a former customer. “I would like to thank Woody Gilmore. In a very healthy way, our rivalry brought many benefits to our community. Even today, Top Fuel chassis will find much of their performance rooted in Woody’s ‘Flexi- Fliers.’ Woody, had it not been for you I wouldn’t have worked so hard. Next is Tom Hanna. His aluminum work made my chassis look soooo good.” And perhaps most relevant to this story, “You know, we old timers are very fortunate—we were there before cost, craftsmanship and art were forsaken. We were there when innovation ruled—and we will be there when the finest chapter of drag racing history is written! We were there in the genuine good ol’ days.” 

Shortly after the ceremonies concluded, Peter and Derek were in the parking lot of the hotel to perform the car’s first public fire-up. Pink and Long were among the hundreds of spectators, the flames were tall, and it was a terrific reunion. At the Saturday night Cacklefest, The Old Master was push started and performed beautifully. Long later admitted that seeing it for the first time made his eyes water and the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. 

A few months later, the invitations for Pink’s 80th birthday party went in the mail. When Pete called to RSVP, he asked Ed’s adoring (and adorable) wife Sylvia if she would like to have The Old Master at the party. She caught her breath and gushed, “Would you do that? Could you do that?” 

Of course he could.•

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