Maxton ECTA Meet April 10th & 11th, 2010

April 21st, 2010

Here is kind of a blow by blow of events since Bonneville 2009. After I got home from the flats, I was met with a Homecoming put on by a bunch of friends and a bunch of people that I didn’t even know. My head was so big it was unbelievable. 

 Homecoming from Bonneville 2009The Homecoming Banner

  I started working on the car right away to prep it for Maxton in October. I put my 3.25:1 rear gear back in, tweaked my suspension, relocated the fuel tank and got rid of the unnecessary weight. I installed two new M/T drag radials on the rear and went through the fuel system again and a thorough check over. That included cleaning of salt, LOL. We took the car to Maxton in October with high hopes of breaking 200 mph there. The weekend weather was horrible. It rained most of the day Saturday and when the track finally got dried out there was a bad accident that shut us down. We got one run in that isn’t worth mentioning. Sunday dawned cloudy but the rain held off, however they wouldn’t let the fast cars run until the track got really dry, which took some time due to weather conditions. We got one more run in that was horrible too so we loaded up and came home.

Over the winter I did a leak down on the motor and found two weak cylinders. I pulled it down and went through the whole thing again. I ended up putting two new heads on it and cleaning it up inside. Of course, new rings, bearings and two more new titanium valves. I put it all back together for my Bonneville slide show in January. I went though the fuel system and tune up one more time too. We came back down to Maxton in April 2010 with high hopes of once again breaking 200 and getting in the ECTA “2″ club. The existing record in D/BSTR was 198.37 and it was ours from 2009. At the drivers meeting, Keith Turk asked us all to do a shakedown run as the track was cleaned up a lot and changed somewhat. I had driven it the night before in my 46 Pontiac Convertible so I felt comfortable with it, however I heeded Keith’s warning and put down a 191.something pass. We went right back in line and did our normal between race maintenance. The second pass was much better at 198.7something. It bumped our record, but no cigar. I was pretty depressed by now thinking that the car just didn’t have it in it. We went to impound and got our record certification. We did our checks and decided to change the fuel pill again and went back down and got in line. When it was our turn to run we flooded the engine on the line and couldn’t get it started. Many cars went around us and I kept trying various tricks to get it started. Finally, when the battery had just about quit, it coughed and fired a little. More cranking and it started and I managed to keep it running. It was running real ragged though due to fouled plugs. The starter saw us fire and moved us right into line. Ronnie gave me a hell of a push off and I popped the clutch. It bogged down, sputtered aweful but then took off and almost yanked my head off. When I went through the traps I glanced down at my tach and saw something above 7,000 RPM’s. I thought “oh no, a 199 run for sure. I got her whoaed down and rounded the sharp corner at the end of shutdown. I did my shutdown proceedure and escaped from the car. I saw Keith Turk coming down the return road in his pickup truck. He stopped a ways away so I didn’t think I was in trouble or anything. I just started picking up my chute and gear waiting for my crew to come pick me up. Keith finally came down by me and asked me how I did? I told him I didn’t know but I thought I did around a 199 something. He just said, “oh” and pulled to the side. He then opened his truck door and asked me to come over. When I walked over, he said, ”you just went over 201mph and you are in the coveted ECTA “2″ club. I was almost in tears with excitement. We hugged and my crew came flying up. we were all dancing with excitement. We took the car to impound, got everything certified, and went back to our pit.

We had our usual crew head to head meeting and decided we would change the classification of the car for the next day. Blown Gas Roadster was our voted choice and the crew proceeded to remove the rear fenders, remove the headlights, lower the rear suspension and streamline what we could with racer’s tape. We covered up most of the radiator and all cracks in the body. Then we went to the banquet that night.

The next morning, I woke up the sun, still very excited. We towed down early but we were still back in line a ways. We finally got to the starting line and fired up. Ron pushed hard again and I took off. The engine immediately went to 9,000 RPMs as intended but the transmission wouldn’t shift out of 1st gear. After I played with it and saw the finish line coming up, it decided to shift. I went though the traps at a mere 180 MPH. We immediatly went right back in line. We changed the pill again, checked the shifter and lit off. This time as I went through the timing traps I thought I saw the tach at 7,300 RPM’s. I’m thinking this is good LOL. When the gang finally got to me, Ronnie Jr said I went 198. I wanted to die. Then they told me I went 206.0 mph. YESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was jumping for joy knowing I had just gone faster than any other roadster had ever gone here in Maxton. What a feeling.

Well after that we got through tech and got our “2″ club stuff. While we were there a guy hit 272 mph on a bike. Kinda made my feat seem trivial, LOL.    
 

Steve Van Blarcom

Car #1946

Bonneville 2009

September 27th, 2009

Well, it is another year and another trip to Bonneville with the 1946 Race Car. I and my new traveling companion, Dennis Dagliere left Wallingford on August 1st. We made it all the way to Dayton, Ohio the first day. We passed Billy “O” on the side of the road outside of Columbus, but a phone check said he was OK. We took the low road (I-70) across this year through Kansas. The second night we stayed in a camp ground in Paxico Kansas. A town not readily found on any map. It was the coolest little town.

bonneville-2009-003.jpg  bonneville-2009-012.jpg  bonneville-2009-007.jpg                                                                           

We took a short cut up through Colorado and arrived in Laramie, WY the next night. Met a guy there and went to his shop. He had a few cool cars. We ate at the Altitude Cafe, a favorite establishment of mine. Got up on Wednesday morning, washed the coach and trailer and headed for Wendover. Popped one trailer tire in Wyoming and one more in Utah.

 On the Road in Wyoming 46 Pontiac in Bonneville

 We went out on the salt early Thursday morning with the 46 Pontiac and staked out our pit stalls. Rod King and Gary Gustafson arrived mid morning with my pickup truck and the 1034 race car. They brought the 1034 car out to the pits and then I took the truck back in to fetch our trailer. People and cars were arriving all day.

1034 car behind truckTruck and trailer1946 Car ArrivedPit Stall

After we set our pit stalls up and unloaded all or our equipment we both towed down to the tech line. Both cars went through easily with only one minor adjustment needed to the seat padding. Getting through tech on Thursday sure takes the mental load off. Richie, Ronnie, Ron Jr, Laura and Jimmy all got in safely. We were able to get a few loose ends cleaned up on the race car Friday and we got into town early enough to kick back at the Nugget with a nice meal.

1034 in techTech lineAt the NuggetDenises fine OldsFront of NuggetRolling Bones having fun

On Saturday morning we had the drivers meeting early. A few of the SCTA people were recognized for different accomplishments along with the volenteers. The number of people it takes to put on an event of this size is tremendous. It is like our CSRA swap meet only three times as many. The person that got the coveted Bob Higbee award was Larry Volk. I didn’t know Larry personally, but got to know him later. Larry heads up the 200 mph club. I real neat guy to know if your lucky enough to go there. More on that later.

 Drivers Meeting 

After the Drivers meeting we put our race car in line for the first run. Of course everyone else did too so it wasn’t right away. My friend John Beck brought his 511 D/BSTR roadster up in line ahead of us. The present record in our class was 208.8, set by my other good friend Donny Cummings in this same car. John ran up to 209 something and pulled his chute at the three mile marker. I supposed he did all he wanted to do and that put him into impound. We got to run a little later and the car ran horrible. I guess no matter how much prep you think you do, it just doesn’t always work for you. We went a slow 199 or something like that. I didn’t even want to remember. The only positive thing was that I made it all the way down and it didn’t heat up or damage anything. To the pits we went. We pulled all the injectors and cleaned them out. Then I disconnected my new MSD timing retard module completely. We worked on it for a while and when we fired it up and reset the timing it seemed to be perky enough to run again. The only trouble was it was now about 3:30 in the afternoon and the lines were long. We finally got to run at 5:30 or so. The car pulled real strong this time. When I saw the four mile marker coming up, I looked at the tach and knew I was over the 209 that John set. I also knew it was around 6:00 PM and I wanted to get to impound early so I decided to take the time I had at the four. Now I did something really stupid. I pulled my chute with my right foot still on the floor. When the chute came out, the rear wheels dug in and I started spinning in circles at 219 mph. Not a pretty sight. I guess I set another personal record. I have spun that car three times before, but never at that speed. When I got it stopped, I just jumped out all excited because I knew I was elligible to go to impound. The only problem was that it was late in the day and I also knew I had to get either Lee Kennedy or Kiwi Steve to re-tech the car before I could run again. I also had to find Dan Warner to certify that the car would indeed pass class. Luckily we got all that done and we were able to go back to town. No marguerittas that night. Have to get up real early and be fresh the next day.

   Impound Sign Love that sign  Spin at 219.mph stickerMorning Back up runMorning Run

The next day we are all up at “O” dark thirty headed for the salt. We pull up in line at Lands End just in time to head right out on the salt. We go to impound and hook up the car. We are allowed to go down to the fuel truck because we got to impound so late the day before. We fueled and sealed the tank and waited for the procession to go by. I didn’t want to run too early anyway so it worked well for me. I finally got in line knowing that John Beck had gone by earlier with the 511 car. The plan was to let John go first and hope he broke the record enough to get it and get into the “2″ club. It all seemed logical as he could only run to the three mile marker and I already had a faster time. Well John, being the expert driver he is, went by the three at 210 something. That solidified him in and left plenty of room for me. I was the last of the impound cars to run. The team juiced up the motor at the start line. It came to life and sounded healthy. They gave me a nice smooth push off and I let the clutch out in 1st gear. The car responded nicely and I feathered the throttle through 1st and 2nd gear. It fish tailed a little but I felt good holding it back. 3rd gear went even better and I finally banged 4th somewhere close to the one mile marker. When I got into 4th, I was able to roll into it pretty hard. Then I hit 5th and left my foot down from there. I watched the mile markers and tried to read my tach and guages. (things get a little hairy on the concentration level) When I got to the three I looked down. The tach was hovering around 7,000 RPM’s, not as high as I wanted, but it was still pulling hard. At the three and a half it was around 7,200 or 7,300 RPM’s. When I hit the four, I was up to 7,400, which I knew got it done. However, the car was pulling so good, and handling real well, so I decided to go all the way to the five. I knew it wouldn’t count for the record but might tell me what I really could do. I went through the five at around 7,700 RPM’s. That later translated into 219.93 MPH and the car actually peaked 220 out the back door. When the crew told me how fast it actually went, I almost forgot about the record. I never thought the car would ever go that fast. I was elated to say the least. Now it was off to Tech again. That is where they pump the engine to determine that it is classed correctly. I really wasn’t nervous about this because I knew we were legit.

Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009timing slipBonneville 2009

After the engine passed certification the record was signed off on and became official. Now for the moment of my life. A moment I have been trying for over three years. The moment when Dan Warner handed me my Red 200 MPH Club Hat and shook my hand, inducting me into the coveted “2″ Club

Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009

We didn’t race anymore at all the rest of that day. We went back to our pits and basked in the glory, just letting the whole thing sink in. We took a lot of pictures and took the dreaded CSRA canopy down before it killed someone or destroyed a race car. Hey! it lasted three years. That isn’t too bad.

  Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009

We went into town that night and ate and celebrated just a little. The thought that the car went over 220 MPH kept coming up in my mind. I just never thought that this car would ever go that fast. Soooooooooo we jumped right back in line on Monday morning to run it again. After the impound cars had all run, we got our turn. The weather was cool, the track looked good and the car fired up and sounded good. I got another real smooth push off and eased down the throttle. From my past experience, I kept it real low key in 1st and 2nd gear, but when I got into 3rd, I pushed it a little harder. The car felt good so I put it in 4th. Now I rolled into it hard, finally reaching 5th. The car was real solid with little or no bouncing around. The engine was roaring sweetly and I knew it was pulling good. I concentrated on counting the mile markers, which were coming by pretty rapidly now, until I saw the big five on the orange marker. I glanced down at the tach and guages. Tach over 7600, temp guage at 170 or so, and boost guage right on 21 #’s. When I went by the five, I gently rolled out of the throttle and pulled the chute. Poof! I felt it blossom, and started my turn off. I knew the run was good but I wasn’t sure how good. When the team finally found me, they told me we just hit 119.414 at the five and 220.328 out the back door. HOLY SHIT! This was just too much. Here we go to Warnerville (impound) again. 

 Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009

We checked the car over again in impound, reading the plugs, verifying the fuel system, and rechecking the timing. Everything was good. We changed out the fuel pill for a leaner mixture in the cooler morning air and covered it up for the night. Nothing to do the rest of the day, but we couldn’t party too much because we had to get up at “0″ dark thirty again the next day. We went into town that night and attended the Inliners Party. They fed us with some real good food as they do every year. They hold their party at the KOA campground which is where our motorhome is parked.

Tuesday morning we up real early and out on the salt by 6:00 AM. We hook up the race car to the truck getting ready to roll. Check all the air pressures in the tires, etc. Ron Jr. comes over to me and says we have a problem. The air tank for the shifter is empty. We left the valve on last night and it all leaked out. Scrambling time. Ron Sr. and Rich ran for the spare tank up in the pits. Jr jumped into the car and started unbolting the tank straps. I took the regulator off the tank and laid it aside. The new tank arrived. Jr bolts it in and I reinstall the regulator. I turn the air on and it reads 2000 #’s as it should. I turn it back off so it can’t leak out and we tow down to the line, just in time. When it is our turn to run, we fire up the motor. It sounds good. We push off and I let the clutch out. The car doesn’t go into gear. SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! what could be wrong now? the push truck gives up on me taking off and I just pull over to the return road. Somehow the regulator valve got turned off by mistake. We didn’t make our back-up run but we also were not far from the line. We simply towed the car right back into the line to run again. This time I verified that the regulator would be on when the tank was turned on. We got to run again later that morning and went 219.894 at the five and another 220.319 out the back door. Off to Warnerville again to wait for the next day.

 Bonneville 2009

The next day was Wednesday and we were up bright and early again. Towed down to the line with the rest of the impound cars. We took off smoothly again and I think I pedaled the car a little too softly. However, other cars seemed to be spinning all over the place and I did not want to spin out. It was a good run but I knew I wasn’t going as fast as I went the day before. Well, it turns out I only went 214.064 at the five which averaged out to a 216.979 record. We were happy that it was that good to say the least. When we examined the timing slips, it was noted that the day before we had a 7 MPH tail wind and today we had a 4 MPH head wind. I think that figures out we had an 11 MPH deficit just due to the wind. We took the car back to tech to recertify the engine size again.

Bonneville 2009 Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009

Wednesday night we attended the 2 club banquet. We finally got to wear our white shirts we purchased three years prior in anticipation of this night. we had a fantastic meal and formally accepted the induction.

 Bonneville 2009

Thursday morning we finished packing, broke down the motorhome, and headed east for home. The San Giovanni’s stayed one mre day, but Richie and my faithful navigator, Dennis drove back with me.

 Bonneville 2009Bonneville 2009

When we arrived back in CT, three days later, what a surprise. It seems some of my friends gave me a surprise welcome home party. I want to thank all of my friends who supported me in this endeavor. The San Giovanni’s, Richie Libassi, Dennis Dagliere, and Jimmy Hanson. Without the support, it just doesn’t happen.

Bonneville Trip 2008

November 21st, 2008

On the Road to Bonneville 2008        On the Road to Bonneville 2008     On the Road to Bonneville 2008

 Well, 2008 was another exciting trip to Bonneville. I left bright and early on Monday morning, August 11th. My traveling companion had to bail on me at 9:00 PM the night before, so I was going alone. I made it all the way to Indiana the first day. I made it to Nebraska the second day and to Laramie Wyoming the third day. I just love to stop in Laramie. I usually drive over to Wyo-Tech and eat in a resteraunt downtown called the Altitude. Great food, drink, and people. I pulled into the Wendover KOA on Thursday the 14th, a day earlier than I told them. I left my stacker trailer out at the truck stop at the entrance to the salt flats and went into town with just the coach.

On the Road to Bonneville 2008        On the Road to Bonneville 2008

I had to do some work on the coach on Friday so I kept busy waiting for everyone else to arrive. The action at the Nugget had already started for Friday and Saturday night. Gary and Rod were somewhere in Wyoming driving my pickup truck. Ronnie, Laura, Ron Jr. and Richie would be flying in on Sunday and Bruce and Holly were somewhere in the Dakota’s. Jimmy and Marcia flew in on Frday night. They wouldn’t let us out on the salt until Sunday morning, so we were in line at the gate and ready to go at O-dark-30. We got out there, grabbed a pit area and unloaded the cars to take to tech. It was a good thing we were that early as the tech line just got longer and longer all day. We breezed through tech and headed to the pits to finish setting up. We were told that we had to move as you couldn’t be on the front line unless you were from California. So we moved all of our stuff to the second row.  We set everything up again and towed down to the fuel truck to fill the tank for Monday morning. When we got back to our pits, two inspectors came by to tell us that our gas cap would not pass tech, so I had to go find a new one. Luckily, the guys from Moon Eyes were a few pits down (on the front line) and they sold me a new cap. Great bunch of guys here.

Tech Inspection       Pits

Sunday morning dawned early. We were once again down in line before the gates opened waiting anxiously for our first run. We got in line early and we were right up front. I think we were actually the third car on the salt for the week. What an awesome feeling, just being here on the salt with some of the biggest names in LSR. My heart was pounding and my stomach was churning butterflys as it always does.

The Starting line 1st Run     The Starting line 1st Run     The Starting line 1st Run

Off we went with Jimmy pushing me hard. I saw the first mile marker looming in the distance as I shifted into second gear. The car felt light but I kept my foot into it. I shifted a little early into third gear and found bottom. The car came out from under me before I knew what had happened and I just started spinning in circles. I just tried to keep the engine running and keep the car from tipping over as best as I could. When I stopped, the track Safety Steward had already got to me. His name was Lee Kennedy and I got to know him real well by the end of the week. Lee asked me if I was ok and then told me I would have to take the car to the pits for inspection. I told him I knew the drill from last year and I would see him later in the pits.

 Another Spin Sticker       Another Spin Sticker

We noticed right away that the rear end had moved over and the left rear tire was hitting the fender. We checked all the measurements, wheelbase, toe in, side to side. We adjusted the panard bar and pulled the fender away from the tire. When we were checking the wheels and tires we noticed a bit of run out on the right front wheel. Upon investigation, we found a cracked front wheel hub. I didn’t even know where these hubs came from or what kind they were. A call to Jimmy Shine down at So-Cal Speed Shop told me they had one. Another call to my older brother Jack and I had two of them picked up. Jack flew them up to Wendover in his private airplane that afternoon. We met him and I took him to dinner and fueled his airplane as thanks. Is this connections or what?

Jack’s Plane

The next day we put the two hubs on and towed to the line. I got off in the late morning for our second run of the year. I made an easy but successful pass at 207.7 MPH. Not to the record, but none the less we made it all the way to the 5 mile marker. I said it was still squirely out there but I felt we could now go and improve the run. We towed to the fuel truck to refuel and went back in line. We checked the plugs and other things in line and finally got to the front. It was mid afternoon now and we were off again. I was ginger in 1st gear, short shifted into second and brought the fuel in as gently as I could. The car seemed stable and i pushed it down. I hit the magic 7,000 RPM number and pushed the button for third. WHAM! Something real bad happened but I didn’t know what. I knew I lost something out of the car because it seemed to be in neutral. I don’t know how high the engine reved but I hoped my MSD chip protected it. I pulled off the track immediately so as not to piss of the officials again. Along comes Lee Kenedy again to tell me I had spit my drivesaft out on the track. He looked underneath and scolded me for not having a driveshaft safety loop. I told him I left the line with one. He radioed out to someone to stop the races until all the parts were found. They actually returned all my broken parts to me later. Now it might seem that my luck had finally run out, but Noooooooooo. My crew was not ready to pack it in yet. I went accross the way (to the front line again) where my friend John Beck was Pitted. He is from California you see. When I asked for a nut, another guy approached me and asked me if I needed a new driveshaft. I said yes, among other things, and he introduced me to Lee Watson. Now I find out that Lee Watson owns Inline Empire Driveline located in (you guessed it) southern California. Lee had me measure everything up and called his shop. They made one up for me and had it shipped overnight UPS to his room in Wendover. What a guy. Now my friend, Greg Sampson, just pulled a 202 MPH run in the famed She Bad II car, something he had been trying to do for four years. Instead of basking in the glory of his run, he came to my pit and bailed under my car to start welding on it. He put it all back together for me so that we could race when we got the driveshaft. We got the shaft the following day at around 2:00 PM. I put it in only to discover that the transmission was junk. Oh well. Do you think we quit here? Noooooooooooo, not my crew. It was into the trailer it went, up on the lift, and we pulled the transmission. My friend Wayne Jesel brought me his spare transmission. We actually had to pull the motor ahead to get the trans in and out but we did it. When the car was on the lift we discovered more carnage underneath. Some done from the driveshaft and some from the spin. Greg was back welding again. He ruined at least three T shirts that day. You can probably guess that me or my crew were not having too much fun at night. We were back on the salt on Thursday morning to try again.

On the line again     On the line again

We finally got to run in the late morning as all the impound cars and bikes from the previous day get to run 1st. I took off again feeling very aprehensive. I got into it a little hard in 1st gear and the car came around. I let up and got it straight, shifted into second. I started creeping up and it came out sideways again. I punched third gear and it seemed to straighten out. I saw the 1st mile and was still accelerating when the car just came completely around and started spinning again. By now I was pretty disgusted. Along came Lee Kennedy again with another spin sticker. He was feeling as bad as we were for our bad luck. All the way back to the pits I was questioning just what the hell we were doing wrong. When we got back to the pits we heard that several other cars had spun and that the track was shut down. I looked south and noticed a flag blowing straight west very hard. When I looked to the north, there was a wind sock blowing straight east as hard as it could. This was quite unbelievable but I felt a little better knowing there were other circumstances involved with this last spin. The car appeared to be ok this time but the track stayed closed the rest of the day. We went to the inliners party that night.

Back on the salt early Friday morning. By now we were all too tired to be excited or even have butterflys. Three more friends had arrived with the Street Rodder Road Tour. These guys drove out from Connecticut and just had to bring their cars out on the salt. You go guys.    

 Streaker’s Sedan     Al’s Coupe     The Duece from Mass

Well here we are on the line with not much of the week left. Some of the crew had left as they had to fly home. This time it was Rich and Ron pushing me off. I took off lightly and the car was stable. I cranked it to around 6800 RPM’s and shifted it. Took it up again and punched the dreaded third gear. The car stayed straight. I took it to 7,000 and punched fourth. I went by the three and punched the button for fifth. I had the hammer down and the engine was pulling strong. When I went by the three and a half, I looked down to see I was over 6,800 RPMs which I knew was over 210 MPH. All of a sudden, the whole car lifted and set over to the right about two car widths. I was scared but held the wheel straight and focused on the four mile markers coming up. Then it happened again, only one car width this time. The wind was gusting like crazy. I was now going by the four mile mark and I looked down again to see I was going over 7,000 RPM’s. I knew I just put us in impound and was trying to make a decision as to whether I should pull out or go to the five. The engine lost RPM’s and I looked down at the temp guage. I was sick to my stomach as I noticed it buried over 250 degrees. I pulled the chute, drove off the track, and pulled out the fuel shut off. I coasted over to the return road. I had just turned 215.343 MPH at the four.

Impound      Impound Run

We towed down to impound and filled out the neccesary paperwork. We then proceded to check the engine out. It had two dead cylinders. #5 and #4. The exhaust valve on #5 had grown and no longer had any lash to it so it stayed open. I was able to shim the rocker assembly on that one and got it to 40#’s of compression. There was no hope for # 4 though. We put new plugs in it and test fired it. It did not pop back in the intake and didn’t seem to have a lot of blow-by, so I assumed it was another exhaust valve. I decided that I would try and run it for the backup run on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as soon as it fired on the line that day, a big puff of smoke came out of it. I nursed it through the one but the oil was coming out everywhere. I was afraid of fire so I pulled out. We packed up and headed for home.

By the way, Lee Kennedy came over to Impound to congratulate us and he brought world renouned Top Fuel Drag Racer, Doug Herbert with him. Doug congatulated us too. Way Cool Stuff you won’t get anywhere else in the world.

 Another year will come. I have a lot of people to thank for coming out and working so hard. I hope I didn’t burn them out.

Bonneville Trip 2007

September 19th, 2007

On the Salt  

Bonneville  Trip

Hi all,  WOW! What a trip! It was just another great adventure in the lives of Rich Libassi, Butch Kenny, Jimmy Hanson, and Street Rod Steve. I started prepping for this a whole month before leaving. It was still a lot of last minute jamming but finally we were ready to leave out on Saturday, August 4th. Butch met me right on Butch time, but it didn’t matter because I could not get the A/C to come on in the new coach. I had the whole dash apart. Rich, Chuck and Ron Wendt, and several others came by to wish us luck and see us off. After working a couple of hours on the A/C, I decided to leave without it. (It came back on before I hit Cromwell and worked perfectly ever since) Butch and I made it to Canandaigua, NY the first night, just as the Chocolate Chip Cookies played out. Rich and my friend Jimmy would follow in the airplane at the end of the week. We had dinner with my younger brother and his family that night. It was a treat for me. The Coach and Stacker

The second day was uneventful, thank goodness, and we camped in Illinois that night. We made it to Gothenburg, Nebraska the third night and Laramie Wyoming the fourth night. Laramie is a real neat town with a special restaurant that I like a lot. It is called the Altitude and has excellent food. We washed the coach and trailer in Laramie and unloaded the 56 Chevy to ride around in. As soon as we unloaded it, it down poured. We cruised on up the WYO Tech. to look around. What an awesome school. They teach it all there. They even teach Street Rod Fabrication, upholstery, mechanical, and body shop. It was very impressive to say the least. We set out early on Wednesday morning for Wendover. As we crossed the Continental Divide, the temps were high. The right rear most tire on the trailer gave out with a scream. This caused a little delay as we changed the tire and straightened the fender. We cruised on into Wendover, UT and left the trailer at the tire shop, at the entrance to the road to the salt flats. We took the Coach and 56 into town and set up. It was time for my Marguerita for sure and Butch’s snack stash was running low. The temp was only in the 90’s so it wasn’t too bad yet.

Truck Hooked to StackerBonneville Salt Flats Sign

Thursday morning we met my Chevy truck out at the tire shop. Two nice young friends from Maine had driven it out for me. I hooked the stacker trailer up and proceeded to lands end. When I got there, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Great Salt Lake had migrated from Salt Lake City to Wendover. I could have made an advertisement for Chevrolet when I towed that huge stacker trailer through the lake and out onto the salt. I wish I could have gotten a video of that. I met up with the other two race teams from Maine out on the salt and two other friends from Connecticut called me to meet us. They were Rich Foreman from Wallingford and Tim Baravski from UPS in North Haven. We all set up together in the pits. I was very lucky to be part of the ECTA. They gave us awesome front line pit stalls. We unloaded and set the huge CSRA easy up up. 

  CSRA Easy-up

 (Did I say easy? Luckily I had a big trailer) we set the tarps out and unloaded the racecar. Butch hooked the towrope on and we went to Tech. I was nervous, as this was my first time. (I was a virgin again). We flew through Tech with many compliments on the car and what I had done to it. My head was swelling and my face was beaming. We went back to the pits and pulled the 1034 Ford Coupe back down to Tech. It went through with flying colors too. In the mean time, my friend Gary Gustafson took the 306 Corvette through easily. WOW! Three cars through Tech. a day early.

 1034 Coupe306 Corvette

We all helped each other so it went smoothly. We went back into town to wait for Rich and Jimmy, but it seemed that every flight into Salt Lake was messed up. They didn’t get to Wendover until late Friday afternoon. Thursday night was kind of dead at the Nugget, the old State Line Casino. We met friends and ate though. Friday, we pre tripped the car once more, fired up the engine, and had it ready to roll for early Saturday morning.

 Rich and Butch and me all went to the drivers meeting and then to the Rookie meeting. The Maine crew took my car to the line for an early start. We all received rookie stickers and returned to race. It was at the rookie meeting that they informed me that I had to make at least one rookie pass on the short course below 150 MPH. This is because I had never actually driven on the salt. I made that pass at 176 MPH, but who is looking?

 We went back to the line and I was nervous as a cat. When I took off, I forgot all about being nervous and just had a wonderful trip down the track. It was almost like a Sunday drive, trying to go so slow. I got back in line feeling real good about the car and my crew. We were all focused. It had gotten a little hotter by afternoon and the salt started getting a little soft. My friend, Gary, came over and told me his Corvette was slipping all over the place and he was going to change his weight. I finally got to the line on course #1. I had decided to try running short the first time. I left the line with flying colors but I got loose right away. I back pedaled it and hit second. It got loose again, so I did the same and hit third. I passed the 2-¼ mile marker at 199 MPH and I started to get loose again. I thought maybe I could hold it, but it came out from underneath me. We did two 360’s at 199. It was now nicknamed the “E” ticket ride. The safety crew put a sticker on the car and we went back to the pits for a safety check and a retech.

 spin out sticker

 We checked everything with a magnifying glass and touched up a few things. We wanted to get it reinspected that day so we could run early the next morning. We put the car down off the jack stands and tried to roll it back. OOPS! The transmission was locked up tight. It seemed to roll ahead ok but locked up going backwards. General consensus was that the 1-2 Sprague clutch was either welded together or just broken up and jammed. We pulled the transmission dipstick and the oil smell was sickening. We jacked it back up and ran it on jack stands. It seemed to have only one gear, which we assumed to be high gear. After considerable deliberation, we decided that we would try and push it over 70 MPH and run in high gear only.   

 The NuggetThe NuggetThe Nugget

 That night was a wild time in at the Nugget. Every shape, size and type of rat rod was there. Most of the cars like this that we see were actually built recently and just depict what went on in the early days of hot rodding. Most of the cars out here were actually built in the 40s and 50s. There are 4 bangers, inliners, and flat heads abound. If you saw overhead v-8s, they were Olds, Buick, Hemi or Caddy motors. There are very few small block Chevy motors. The early speed equipment is all obsolete stuff or one off home made stuff. This is a must see for any hot rodder and it goes on every year.   

 Ready and WaitingBilly O’Connell

 Rich and I had the car reinspected early Sunday morning and headed for the line. All of a sudden there was no extra help. Billy O’Connell and his friend Don showed up at the line and tried to help where they could, but it was basically just Rich and I. We pulled it off though. It seems everyone thought someone else would be there. When we got to the front, Rich buckled me in tight and squirted the fuel in. The engine fired and I warmed it up. He ran back to the truck and pushed me off. We flew off the line. Rich felt me shift into gear and leave. He kept his foot right into the old Duramax and I got off around 70 or so. I now realized that I was in second gear, not high. I kept the revs at 9,000 and hoped for the best. At the 2-mile marker it shifted into high gear and we were off. We went through the traps at 203.332, which qualified me for my “A” license. I could now run any track or anywhere I wanted. We ran one more time that day but only pulled a 198.797. I pulled out too early that run, but I had a better feel for the transmission. That better feeling just meant that I didn’t have a clue what it would do next. 

Sunday night was spent at the KOA campground, where we were camped, at the Inliner’s party. They fed us ribs, sausage, salads, etc. Great bunch of hot rodders. They asked for a small donation only. 

O’Dark 30

Taking Off Taking OffTaking Off 

The next morning we were on the salt at 0 dark thirty, (No margarita’s last night). Jimmy was all set to push hard. When it was our turn we took off to the left sideline. At 70 MPH both vehicles were getting a little loose. I grabbed a gear and tried to leave, but it bogged. It was in high. Jimmy knew I didn’t leave so he floored the Duramax again and I shot off. I banged the shifter backwards and found second gear. I up shifted the transmission at 9,000 RPM again, but it didn’t shift. Just as my stomach turned, it banged into high all by itself, somewhere after the 2 ¼ mile. I just held it to the floor and drove. The car drifted only slightly as I crossed the 4. I pulled the chute after the 5. The tach was reading 7,000 RPM and I knew I had it. We picked up the timing slip and towed to impound. 210.925 MPH! We had broken all records in this class.

In ImpoundTony Thacker and IImpound

We checked the car all over in impound and relaxed the rest of the day. We left the salt early. We went to the coach and all showered up. You get kind of sweaty when the temp is over 112 degrees.

 Hop-Up PartyHop-Up PartyHop Up PartyHop Up Party

That night was the party at the bend of the road sponsored by the Hop Up Magazine people. It was pretty much the same menu and just as tasty. Everyone was congratulating us on the record run. I even had to sign a pair of valve covers that would be auctioned off for charity. No margarita’s for Steve this night either. We arrived at the track on Tuesday morning at 0 dark thirty again. All the record setting cars get to run first, so that was us. There were a few cars in front of us and we had to wait longer than usual. I had butterflies in my stomach for sure. The starter motioned for me to get buckled in so I did. Then a guy pulled three motorcycles out of a truck and put them all on the line in front of me. I had to wait for five bikes before I could go. I was hot, nervous, and fading fast. The three bikes all had to be push started, warmed up, and they only ran under 100 MPH. It was awful waiting there. It was finally my turn to fire up so Rich squirted in the fuel. The engine fired and stalled. Another squirt and a little dribble and she came to life. I warmed it some but it was still a little fat. No time to clear the plugs, we were off. I banged the shifter in gear again, looking for second gear. It went in second but up shifted too early into high. That was OK, I thought I could clear out the plugs and pull it off. She started to climb at the 2 and even better at the 2 ¼. Just as I neared the 3, a big cloud of smoke covered the windshield and me. A sickening feeling came over me. I had forgotten to turn on the water pumps at the line. I turned on the pump but the smoke got worse. I pulled the chute and aborted the run. We had failed our back up run miserably. That night was a dismal night in mudville. We caucused in the truck on the pull back. We decided that we had enough fuel to jump back in line as soon as we could. We spent 3 ½ hours in line, fixing the radiator hose and checking out the motor and got another pass in. This time I ran out of fuel at the 3. You know what thought did. We fueled it up and put it back in line for early the next morning.

Wednesday morning was another early one. We were just a few cars from all the impound cars from the day before. By now I had confidence in my engine and fuel system but the transmission was junk. We went with the same game plan. Fire the motor on the line. Warm it only a little, and push as fast as we dared, try for a gear and hope we lock up. This was our last chance to break the record again. Rich was the wheelman again as Jimmy had left to catch his plane back to Maine. When I felt the car swaying I jammed the shifter back. It went into high. I hit it again and it went into second, but then right back into high. Oh Well! Floor it and cross your fingers. The RPM’s were coming up slow. At the 4 I saw 6500 RPMs, not fast enough. All of a sudden, something big and black flew by me on the right side. A quick check of the gauges said everything was ok. The engine was still pulling. Then the car started shaking badly. I thought I had a flat tire but it wasn’t pulling to the side. It was just shaking. I couldn’t coax any more RPMs out of it, so I just held it to the 5 and pulled the chute. We managed to pull a 206.567, but shredded the R/F tire and the left didn’t look too good either.

  R/F Tire Shredded End of Racing

We towed it back and loaded up. No 200 MPH club banquet for us that night. We loaded the car and pulled the trailer back across the lake, which had gotten considerably deeper with all of the traffic across it. We all said our goodbyes to the Maine crew and Butch, Rich, and I headed east. We made Wyoming the first night and Lincoln Nebraska the next night. We headed out across Iowa and Illinois on Friday, intent on beating the Chicago traffic by early afternoon. BANG! Another blown tire on the trailer, just before we crossed the Illinois border. This one liked to rip the fender clean off the newly painted trailer. We changed the tire, but went into town to get two new ones. After three tire stores, we got two mounted and put on. We got back on the highway, figuring that we might just get under the Chicago thing. As we rolled up to speed, an Illinois State Trooper had other ideas. He was hiding in front of a big truck doing 55 MPH with his radar pointing backwards. He explained to me that the law in Illinois for trucks and RV’s pulling trailers was 55. He detained us sufficiently and gave me a warning ticket. We actually made it through Chicago with only a little pain due to a couple of accidents. By now the good snacks were running low, but the pepperoni and cheese was still holding on. Butch really knows how to buy food.  We hit the Ohio border around 10:00 PM. three hours later than planned. When I tried to get the ticket it said I had an over weight axle. Can you believe they had me pull two “U” turns and run through a different toll lane? It still wouldn’t let me have a ticket so the toll guy gave me a hand written one. We spent that night in a truck stop. We finally arrived in Wallingford around 6:00 PM on Saturday night. We missed Derek Pesco’s party but it sure looked busy when we drove by. I am already making plans to go back next year to try for the record again. It’s in my blood now. I am forever grateful for my wonderful wife Judy, and all my friends that showed up to help me, Butch, Tim, Jimmy, Rich Foreman, Lyle from Meriden, Billy “O” and Don and all my Maine friends, and most of all Rich Libassi. He has been there for every race and never let me down. He can do every job to get the car off the line and we proved we could do it together. I want to get him to drive it soon. Save The Salt Steve  “Street Rod Steve”  Van Blarcom