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Home Page Photo: Clyde Palmer, looking classic, way out West in 1966. (From History of San Jose Auto Racing, by Dennis Mattish – Jim Abreu Photo)

 Michigan’s Sammy Sessions and Wayne McGuire of Kentucky pace the 1964
field at Oswego. (From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic,
by George Caruso Jr. with Carol D. Haynes)



Some things seem as unchanged as the sun on the equinox or the winds over a cornfield in Missouri.  One of them is the racing community’s fascination with supermodifieds.  Especially those senior supers of the sixties that started – and largely defined – the division’s future direction.  (We have done a number of TEAROFFs about them, including one posted justabout two years ago: 8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds)

A major reason for this enduring enthusiasm is that senior supers are fundamentally beyond regulation.  An early super builder was limited only by the depth of his creativity, frankly often with optional attention to the safety of the driver.  The drivers, too, were essentially unregulated.  It was their job to launch the rocket ships at uncharted speeds, beyond all boundaries of bravery – and common sense.

Supers grew up at speedways all across the country, beginning right at the dawn of the decade of Woodstock and Vietnam.  And across the country, there were many varieties within the species.

In Florida, Pee Wee Griffin squeezed into his father’s #72 at Palm Beach for the 1960 campaign.  The car was basically a lightweight, open-competition modified, chopped and channeled on its way to superdom.  Over at West Capital Speedway in California, Billy Vukovich’s “hard top” was also transitional, with its narrowed frame and center seating.

From Florida Motorsports Retrospective Pictorial, by Eddie Roche
– Bobby 5x5 Day Photo

From Sacramento, Dirt Capital of the West, by Tom Motter – Bob Bockover Photo

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, Bradley Poulsen’s image of an unidentified #55 shows sprint car influence – and some very scary design and construction technique.
  Jerry Dolliver’s #24 “upright” paraded around the Northeast with grand success.  The flyweight, based on a Model A chassis, was powered by a flathead built by Bill Welch. That engine alone carried Gentle Jerry to over 100 feature wins, and it sits today in the ProNyne Motorsports Museum in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. (

Bradley Poulsen Collection

  Boyd Collection
The next couple of years were full of experimentation.  Massachusetts innovator Andy Smith glued together a tidy-looking #99 atop a late model chassis, replete with A-Frames.  It took a super-smooth shoe such as Freddie Borden, below, to ease it around.  But the more lasting innovation at the time was the move away from stock frames towards what were sometimes called “rail cars.”  One of the most infamous was the frightening, unimaginably long wheelbased Wilmington Ford #1/3.  Smokey Boutwell was a show himself in that orange capsule of a cockpit.  The thunderous Ford big block would fling him past two or three cars on the straights, but he would give back one or two manhandling his way through each turn.

Boyd Collection

Boyd Collection

By 1964, the custom chassis and space frames were just about everywhere.  On the West Coast, short wheelbases were the norm, with nice construction and California Speed-supplied power plants.  It seems everyone drove one out there.  Here’s a young Gary Patterson, later known as “the Preacher” and “the Hostile Hippie” during his edgy and ultimately tragic sprint car career.  Those little Golden State supers were not for the faint of heart.  At San Jose, Joe McGee jumped a right rear and flipped into a congested pit area, hospitalizing 18 people.

From Sacramento, Dirt Capital of the West, by Tom Motter
–  Garcia Photo, Motter Collection

From History of San Jose Auto Racing, by Dennis Mattish – Bob Mize Photo

It was not a lot different back East.  Frank Barthell brought engineering elegance (if not safety) to a small inventory of legendary entries, arguably the most famous of which was Lee Allard’s #1/4, “the Twister.”  A highly accomplished pilot, Allard was a big winner until Labor Day 1964 at Hudson Speedway.  He barrel-rolled off the fourth turn and, as seen below, the cage literally sheared right off.  Lee was conscious afterwards and pretty beaten up.  But nowhere near as wounded as he was phenomenally lucky.

Halloran Collection

Halloran Collection

By the second half of the decade, it seemed that the garage out back was closed down.
  Highly sophisticated, expensive configurations quickly came to rule, supported by a busily growing industry of speed parts manufacturers.  Down South, the “skeeters” of Rat Lane, Armond Holley, Gene Tapia, and Rod Perry gave way to monstrously fast injected slingshots.  Below Page Reynolds in a winged, rear engine machine nips Tony Walters at the line at Mobile in 1967.

From Southern Supermodifieds by Gerald Hodges

At Oswego, New York, where the annual Labor Day Classic had become such a showplace of technology, the influence of Indianapolis was clearly visible.
  In 1968 Todd Gibson hauled in with an ex-Indy roadster, “the Flintstone Flyer.”  He’s pictured below spinning, just after setting a new track record of 19.47.  By the next year the field was dotted with early wedge cars that led over the years to the supermodified profile we see so frequently today.  That’s John Spencer in Doug Duncan’s rear-engine car, shadowed by Irish Jack Murphy shaking down Jim Shampine’s wedge.

From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic,
by George Caruso Jr. with Carol D. Haynes

From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic,
by George Caruso Jr. with Carol D. Haynes

January 1, 1970 ushered in a whole new era, but few who were involved in those unruly sixties will ever forget.
  We certainly haven’t.

In 1971, a 5/8 mile dirt track called Lakeville Speedway near Providence, Rhode Island, was running wide open competition.  I bought an upright super from the URDC circuit, perhaps ten years old at the time, for the lofty sum of $400.  We adapted it for dirt and plunked in a small block.  It was a little tentative for a couple of laps while I waited for anything that wanted to fall off to do so.  Then it was time to boogie!

Sure wish we all could still be doin’ that today.

Boyd Collection

Boyd Collection

© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12-09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181