Hanging With Pals

Some good people I have met along my travels.

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Andy Milonakus (center) was working for the Jimmy Kimmel Show when he interviewed me and fellow altered wheelbase funny car fanatic Richard LeFebvre (right). We were at the Irwindale Raceway running our altered wheelbase cars down the 1/8 mile strip when Andy’s ABC crew cornered us for a few words. Here, we are attempting to describe the basics of drag racing. I’m saying something like “the two cars have to line up evenly for a fair start”. I have no idea if this bit ever made it to air.

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Seasoned magazine readers will know Jim McFarland (left) as a regular contributor to HOT ROD since the Sixties. Also a stellar engineer and public relations guy (he served at Edelbrock for many years), I used to ask Jim to proof read some of my more technical writings at HOT ROD. He always added something of worth – and occasionally steered me away from making mistakes. Jim is a living legend in the car magazine world. Another of my favorites was Roger Huntington. Though deceased, Huntington’s writings for all of the major magazines were toned like a personal letter from a pal. He had a way of bringing the reader into the discussion like few others.

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I have always had a soft spot for stand up comedians. When I lived in LA I used to hit The Comedy Store on Sunset for a late night pick-me-up. There on every night of the year, hundreds of known and unknown comics do their thing. Here I am with (L to R) Brody Stevens, Don Barris, (former SPEED TV executive) David Lee, an unidentified comic and yours truly. While I’ve never attempted stand up myself, it is one of those things I know I must attempt before I croak. To me, comics are as brave as astronauts.

Brad Whitford may not have the same level of instant recognition factor as Steven Tyler, but as soon as this world class guitarist plugs in, you know where a good chunk of Aerosmith’s sound comes from. Also a car fanatic, I put Brad to the test during a Feel The Steel segment at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas show in September, 2012. Brad mentioned he had owned a few 1967 Corvettes so that’s what I chose for him to try and identify – while blind folded. Guess what…he got it. Some folks ask, “Is Feel the Steel rigged?” No way. I kid you not. The task is really a lot easier than it looks. Try it sometime and I bet you’ll eventually get it right. The trick is this: go to the hood scoop! That’s the best tip-off. From there, you need to have a good understanding of grille shapes and textures. But this is real folks!

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Big Daddy Don Garlits is another legendary guy I used to read about as a kid in the mid-Seventies. Who knew we’d become first-name pals. Though it’s certainly a much bigger deal for me than for Big, I’m thrilled whenever I get the chance to do an interview with this drag racing pioneer. His memory is as sharp as a 20 year old. Here we’re chatting about his then-new 392 (Gen III ) Hemi powered front-engine retro dragster at the 2008 SEMA show.

Ralph Gilles (pronounced “geel”) is the top man at the Dodge SRT branch. I met up with him during the 2012 Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. I was there on behalf of RedlineDodge.com (doing live and pre-taped video segments for online viewers) and Ralph came by the Dodge display on the corner of Woodward and 14 Mile. Ralph has the guts to tell it like it is and recently took aim at Donald Trump via Twitter for some innacurate and unfortunate remarks about the future of Jeep. You probably heard about it in the news. I say Good On You Ralph for standing up and setting the record straight!

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I had the good fortune to do several magazine stories with Vic Edelbrock over the years. Vic is a straight shooter with a keen sense of humor. On this visit, I was interviewing Vic about his company’s role in the manufacture of the 440 Six Pack intake manifold of 1969-early 1970. Behind us is the very same 1969-1/2 440 Six Pack Super Bee Vic bought as a new car direct from Chrysler. He drove it for a few months then handed it over to Jim McFarland who did some R&D work with it. It was sold off in the mid-Seventies but a sense of nostalgia led Vic to track it down and have it restored recently. It has become a permanent part of the well known Edelbrock collection.

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Back in 1998, I was on staff at HOT ROD magazine and got the OK to build an altered wheelbase Match Bash car. We got Dyno Don Nicholson (back to camera) and legendary transmission wizard Art Carr (right) to be part of a shoot for HOT ROD MAGAZINE TV. To me, these guys are legends of the Match Race days of the Sixties. Art is still with us, but sadly Dyno passed in 2006. I was honored to be part of a special remembrance ceremony at the NHRA Museum in Pomona after his passing.