Updated: Jul 12, 2021
The Hot Rod Reverend in the staging lanes for Fast Fords at Dragway 42
There is so much to report on this great event that I am going to break it up into two parts and do my best to be as concise as possible. Several subscribers were planning on meeting me during the weekend, and to be very up front with all of you the weather forecast up until Thursday evening just did not look promising at all to have a drag race, car show, or a swap meet. As a matter of fact, the forecast showed so much rain we wondered if we should have brought boats instead of trailers! This certainly hurt attendance although several hundred people showed up and a little over 100 cars were raced.
The forecast for the weekend of Fast Fords did not look good at all!
I will admit that I know very little about legal drag racing, but like I said in a prior blog post one of my friends who lives very close to my house invited me to attend. Tony Fritz runs a very hot Maverick race car with a strong 427. His 1/4 mile ET was consistently in the 9.5 second range all weekend and performed very well. As my last blog post stated, I was privileged to visit Dragway 42 and meet the owners just a couple of weeks prior and I am so glad that I did. The Sunday evening before Fast Fords there was a shooting at the track where one driver was killed and 5 others injured. It was all over the news. Of course, that horrible incident probably kept some people away from the track for Fast Fords although the crowd that attended Sunday night was very different from the clientele we had during our weekend. (Dragway 42 rents their facilities out to groups of racers and enthusiasts each weekend so the demographic changes constantly.) At any rate, the track staff were still in a state of shock and remorse. During the week just after the shooting, contact was made from Mary Anne Matcham (the owner), Tony, and myself concerning all that was going on and that my services as a preacher of the gospel would be needed.
Early on I had always planned to drive the 55 Ford up to the track on the interstate (Dragway 42 is 3 hours away from where I live in Loveland, Ohio) and have my friend Chad Robinson drive the Excursion with the all of the supplies we needed for the ministry part as the Hot Rod Reverend. As it happened, Chad had to drive his own vehicle since he was going farther north immediately after the race and my dad who would be coming along as well just could not do any driving because of the results of his knee surgery. So... it was time to find a car hauler. I opted for this two axle unit from Smith Trailer in Cincinnati and they gave me a great deal on a 4 day rental.
The 18' car hauler from Smith Trailer performed flawlessly and served our needs well.
On Wednesday just before Fast Fords I decided to give the 55 Ford the once over. I had not really planned to race it since there was going to be a car show and I had no idea about what it would take to run the car down the track but I did want to clean it up a little bit. One of the things I decided to do among many other projects was to paint the tailpipes with high heat black paint (even though I have chrome tips you can still see the exhaust pipes a little bit and they had some red overspray from way back when I painted the car a few years ago). While under the car I noticed a tremendous problem that needed attention quickly!
One of the straps that make up the rear muffler hanger was broken in two!
Yep! The passenger side muffler hanger was a mess! This was probably original to the car and why I had not yet replaced it I do not know. I had no idea how long it had been that way. The exhaust were not making any noises and things were stll held together by the one strap, but still! The problem I had was that there was no time to purchase a hanger and have it shipped, nor did anyone have the part in town. So... I had to use a little DIY ingenuity and make two brand new straps. You can expect a blog post about this very procedure and how we went about making the repair. I also took quite a bit of video while under the car explaining the process. I will tell you that the repair looked like it was an aftermarket/original part and it performed flawlessly.
The repair of the muffler hanger went well, and we will write another blog post soon...
On Friday morning my dad's flight into Cincinnati was delayed - this put me at a disadvantage since we still had to travel by truck/trailer for 3 hours on the interstate. We had 1,000 Fast Fords Race Programs to deliver and were expecting to beat the opening of the gates at 4 pm when both spectators and drivers would be arriving with their car haulers. Because of my friend Chad's schedule, and because my dad was late with his flight, I had to load the car by myself. With the design of the car hauler this was not a problem.
The car hauler had plenty of room for both the 1955 Ford and the C2AE Y block!
Obviously, I had more cargo than the Fairlane. This engine block (a C2AE 292 Ford Y Block) was loaded for two reasons: 1. As a part of my sermon on Sunday morning and 2. For Ted Eaton to take a look at a place on the deck for which I was concerned. The room, balance, and tracking were near perfect, and of course the trailer had D rings for ratchet straps to keep things secure. (Which we really needed up and down interstate 71 in Ohio!)
The trip from the Cincinnati area to Dragway 42 was uneventful, but we did have a lot of rain. People knew that I was praying for good weather and along the way I was certainly asking the good Lord again to hold off the weather and dry the track for us. Would you believe that when we got there the clouds had parted, the weather forecast had miraculously changed, and the track was ready to go at 4 pm? When we arrived at the main gate we dropped off the race programs and happened to see the owner, Mary Anne Matcham, who was waiting for our arrival. She approached me about holding a moment of silence for Luis Cuevas, the man who was shot and killed the previous Sunday. Mary Anne also asked me to pray with everyone just before eliminations the next day which I certainly told her I would do. Like everyone else at that time of gate entry we scurried along to find our parking space. (Mary Anne had blocked off a section just for us because she knew I would be holding a church service on Sunday morning.)
Don Jessup (my dad) and Chad Robinson getting around Dragway 42
After getting the 55 Ford unloaded and while setting up our trailer, Tony Fritz came by with a few of his friends and we all gave greeting to each other, looking forward to the events of the weekend. Friday night was just a test and tune, but it certainly promised to bring out some very fast Ford-powered cars and trucks. One individual stopped by to talk to me specifically about the weather. He believed that I had something to do with the clouds clearing out and everything being so dry. I told him that I certainly do not claim to have any sway with what God does with weather, but I did let him know that I was glad our prayers had been answered!
We set up the trailer just off the finish line of the main drag strip...
At this time I had no plans to drive the car on the track - it was there just for the show. (which was poorly attended because of the rain forecasted for the weekend with only Sunday looking any good) I was surprised to find that many guys stopped by to look at the car and talk old Fords. I guess the 55 Fairlane draws more attention than I realize. Of course everyone asked, "Are you going to run it?" And to this I always replied that it was not my intent, the car really isn't set up to race, etc. The conversations most often ended with me giving this statement, "Uh, I don't know a lot about legal drag racing..."
My dad was there to help load and unload the 55 Ford at Dragway 42
Friday evening, Chad, dad, and I all decided to hustle to the bleachers when we started hearing the burnouts at the staging lights. Dragway 42 is a wonderful facility, but it is rather large. Thankfully the track has a contracted business that rents golf carts out all weekend so getting around was an easy affair. We loved checking out the vintage Ford cars and trucks come up to stage in the lanes and prepare to get down the track. Most of the engines were either FE or Y Block, but there were some others. The vehicles were just as nostalgic as the engine choices.
Soffian Adam in the 59 F100 went up against Gary Burnette in the 56 Thunderbird
It was a real treat to watch the Y Block guys line up for test and tune and race each other. It was my privilege to finally meet a host of fellas that I had only known online up until that time. Veteran Gary Burnette, a fellow North Carolinian (yes, I have roots in Mt. Airy, my birth record is in Raleigh) from Asheville had a very quick 56 Thunderbird. Newcomer (like me) Soffian Adam from New York brought a 1959 F100 just to get with the guys and see what it would do. He DROVE the truck to the track! He had some early problems trying to get his tires to keep from spinning on launch (well, I did too on Saturday but more on that in part 2) but Soffian got it all sorted out pretty well. We had a great time talking with him during the weekend about his projects, some of the modifications he has done to his Y block, and what it's like to drive the truck to the track and thrash it like that for three days.
Ted Eaton, master builder of world record Y Blocks, sits in the staging lanes in his 23 T altered
Ted Eaton's Y Block is one mean machine - it gained a lot of respect early
In part 2, I will introduce more of the Y Block faithful to you, but we will close part 1 with a tip of the hat to one of my heroes in the Y Block world - Ted Eaton. Very few people alive today have contributed more to keeping this engine in the news, working on parts or upgrades, or helping enthusiasts keep their rides moving along. His machine shop is located in Lorena, Texas, and Ted has a wonderful website that not only shares information about his business but it also includes very helpful technical articles concerning Y Block engines. If you have never visited his site, I suggest you go to www.eatonbalancing.com and root around. You are sure to stay awhile and glean valuable help. I was humbled during the weekend to spend time with Ted each day - whether it was listening to advice he was giving someone else, nodding my head as he showed me a new Bonneville MEL engine, or getting my questions answered about the C2AE deck for which I was concerned, the man was the real deal and just as genuine as he could be. We owe him a great debt for all the work he does and the attitude he displays. Hopefully one day I can visit his shop on Lorena, Texas.
My son and I did finish the introductory video for the website. The video is below here in this post, but I also decided to place it on the home page of hotrodreverend.com so that visitors can learn how to navigate the site and hopefully find some help. This was our first time to put together such a multimedia work and there certainly was a learning curve. We had fun shooting all of the clips and putting it together, and it ended up being a great father/son project. Hopefully in the coming years we can make some improvements.
In part 2 of this post about Fast Fords, we will get into what happened Saturday and Sunday - you don't want to miss it. During the first round of eliminations in bracket racing I went up against none other than Ted Eaton! I've got video to prove what happened - both in car and from the bleachers.
The Hot Rod Reverend standing next to Ted Eaton (cowboy hat) and other Y Blockers
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup