West Coast Report 41st Edition by John Gilbert
Shake Rattle & Run — Gearhead Kid Builds Auto Restoration Empire
Torn from the pages of Street Rodder magazine, welcome to the West Coast Eastwood blog and consequently the 41st edition of the West Coast Report. For those that have been patiently waiting since last April 12 when the 40th edition of the West Coast Report last appeared, thank you for your patience. Mental patients, metal patience, artichoke smoothies, there’s a tech story title in there somewhere. Oh, and talk about cool the massive Eastwood blue tool cabinets behind the flames are located in Street Rodder magazine’s Irvine, California, air-conditioned tech center.
Where were you in ’62? Eastwood founder and CEO Curt Strohacker knows exactly where he was. Curt was a 14-year old gearhead kid enjoying the ’62 Southside Winter Nationals and there’s a historic photograph to document the occasion. Wayne Bryant from Omega Photos snapped a shot of Curt and his buddy peering under the hood of a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air drag car known as “Shake Rattle & Run.”
The December 30, 1962 USAC sanctioned event happened once again in 1964, and has gone down in auto racing history as the indoor drags. According to Curt it was wilder than blimp bowling on blindfolded elephants in celebration of Oktoberfest. Okay those weren’t Curt’s exact words not even close, but when I spoke with Curt he said it was a wild event with cars crashing into the walls, and rubber smoke billowing through exhaust fumes so thick one could hardly see or breathe. The gargantuan building’s polished cement floors provided a slick surface that today’s drift racers can only dream about.
The Chicago International Amphitheater was the venue. Torn down in 1999, it was a massive structure built in 1934 to house the International Live Stock Exhibition. ¬¬In addition to hosting momentous bovine spectacles the arena was where Elvis first donned his Gold Lame suit in 1957, and the Beatles appeared on stage in 1964 and ’66. The reason cars were crashing into the walls was if a guy didn’t have his dragster pointing dead straight as he was going through the eyes he’d stuff it into the narrow doorway separating the Amphitheater’s cement walls. Incredibly the final stage of the shutdown area was an immediate exit out into the parking lot… lending a new significance to the expression, Holy Cow! To learn more Google “indoor drag racing” that will pull up a proverbial wealth of both visual and textual information regarding this most unique of all drag racing spectacles.
The grand spectacle of indoor drag racing is a testimonial to the hardcore passion Chicagoland gearheads have held for all things automotive since the automobile industry’s birth in the late 1800s. The first of its kind anywhere Eastwood opened a new store in Alsip, Illinois, that has become a destination point for anyone that loves automobilia.
Here’s a little something for the Shelby Mustang lovers out there a completely original unmolested example of a ’66 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350-H. It did have an engine change, but the original Shelby prepped hi-po 289 is still kept with the car in crate form.
In 1966 I was 14-years old when my mom and I flew from Los Angeles, to Detroit, Michigan to spend the summer at the family farm in Stockbridge. The first cars I spotted as our American Airlines 707 touched the ground was a Hertz parking lot full, and I mean full of black and gold, and white with blue ’66 Ford Shelby Mustangs.
Source: May 1966 Car and Driver archived road test. “Shelby has contracted to supply Hertz with one thousand GT 350s, designated the GT 350H (“H” for Hertz). Most of these special GT 350s will have the new high-performance automatic transmission, although a limited number will be available with 4-speed manual transmissions for the do-or-die purists. Said puristi will have to join the Hertz Sports Car Club, the qualification for membership being a demonstration of your ability to operate a manual gearbox.”
“Finned, cast aluminum rocker covers and sump are bolted on, as is a high-riser intake manifold and a big 4-barrel carb with 1.7-inch venturis and center-pivot floats so it won’t cut out in turns. This, along with fabricated steel headers and low-restriction mufflers, boosts the horsepower figure by 35, to 306 @ 6000 (vs. stock 271 @ 6000), and the torque from 312 lbs-ft. @ 3400 to 329 lbs-ft. @ 4200. Final touches include the rear brake scoops, a new hood with a big air scoop and NASCAR-style hood pins, plexiglass rear quarter windows in place of the regular Mustang fastback’s vent panels, a cleaned-up grille with the Mustang emblem offset to the driver’s side, and the stripes.”
Have you ever called a Mustang GT350 that you spotted in public as a fake? It could have been you were looking at a ’65 as ‘65s didn’t have the plexiglass quarter windows, or brake scoops. Car and Driver in its May ’66 article spoke to the low quality of Shelby produced cosmetic components. “We also found fault with the rear seats and quarter windows. Construction of both was rough-and ready, and in poor condition after only 5000 miles. The upholstery was beginning to tear, the trim was starting to come loose, and rain leaked around the plexiglass window. The rear seats are none too comfortable, but, surprisingly, better than the last notchback Mustang we drove. But it’s a sports car, not a bloody bus, and besides, few of our complaints would bother the man who only rented the car.”
I prefer to gather restoration research from magazines of the day as I believe important details are lost to the memory of a current articles author… in particular recollections of an Internet wizard. “The hood and its scoop look the same as before, but last year it was molded fiberglass, this year stamped steel. Inside, the change is more pronounced. The ’65 GT 350s had standard Mustang instrumentation plus a pod atop the dash housing a tach and oil pressure gauge. The steering wheel had a wood rim and considerably less “dish” than the standard wheels, and the horn was operated by a spring-return toggle switch on the fascia.”
Were the Hertz Shelby Mustangs the original rent-a-racer? “There isn’t any significant difference between the GT 350 you can buy and the Hertz version. The standard GT 350H color scheme is black with two broad gold stripes—a sensational, crowd-stopping combination. Other color schemes are available, including the regular GT 350’s white with two broad blue stripes. A trio of narrower stripes along the rocker panel are interrupted by a “G.T. 350H” nameplate behind each front wheel. All the Hertz cars have the “occasional” rear seats and “mag-type” wheels that are options on the GT 350. Incidentally, the “H” might well stand for “Homologated” if Shelby—or, for that matter, Hertz—wanted to race the car as a Group 2 sedan; the 1000 examples Shelby will produce for Hertz fulfill the FIA’s minimum production requirement.”
“Standard high-performance, 271 horsepower Mustangs are delivered to the Shelby American factory near Los Angeles International Airport, where they are rebuilt to GT 350 specifications. Wide-base wheels and 130-mph 7.75 x 15 Goodyear Blue Streaks are fitted, as are trailing arms at the rear, a one-inch anti-sway bar at the front, and Konis all around.
The front suspension geometry is altered, the steering speeded up, and a chassis brace is installed across the engine compartment between the upper shock mounts. The front brakes are 11-inch Kelsey-Hayes discs with heavy-duty pads; the rear brakes are 10 x 3-inch drums (3/4-inch wider than stock) with sintered metallic linings.
Finned, cast aluminum rocker covers and sump are bolted on, as is a high-riser intake manifold and a big 4-barrel carb with 1.7-inch venturis and center-pivot floats so it won’t cut out in turns. This, along with fabricated steel headers and low-restriction mufflers, boosts the horsepower figure by 35, to 306 @ 6000 (vs. stock 271 @ 6000), and the torque from 312 lbs-ft. @ 3400 to 329 lbs-ft. @ 4200. Final touches include the rear brake scoops, a new hood with a big air scoop and NASCAR-style hood pins, plexiglass rear quarter windows.” Don’t forget to watch “Turd Pickers” the History Channel’s new show based on a Beverly Hills family that makes a living mining gold from the sewers below the gold-paved streets of California.
Here’s the indoor drag’s run sheet from December 30, 1962. Pretty cool stuff, you can Google the car’s owner name and its make and come with some the participants that went on to become very famous drag racers. In particular Google “Shake Rattle & Run.”