Back in the Day
Today Chicago’s Ed Koop is 70. As a high school senior, he special-ordered a black ’61 Biscayne Fleetmaster, 348, four-speed, two-door sedan. His Mom was listed as the legal owner, as Koop was just 17. From day one, he raced his 350hp monster in B/Super Stock at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin, as well as on the street.
With headers and Atlas Bucron soft tires, it was undefeated. At year’s end, it would be only one of 138 V-8, Series 1411 Fleetmasters sold. It was a four-speed, 4.56:1 screamer running in the 13s. Koop called his ’61 “Runaway” and lettered it as such.
In August, 1961, 18-year-old Koop enlisted for a three-year tour in the Army. He didn’t tell his parents until two days before reporting. Three years later, he was one of the best paratroopers in the 101st Airborne. But civilian life and his ’61 were beckoning.
Next, employment came at Nickey Chevrolet’s parts department. But he and others had to work rotating shifts—where work hour scheduling changed every six weeks. In late 1964, Koop uncovered within Nickey’s crate engine storage something no one else wanted: a ’61 360hp 409 engine, less carburetor. Sold!
With headers, the 409 propelled his ’61 to mid/low 12s at 106-108 mph. Nickey’s rotating work hours began to take a toll. So did a broken axle at Union Grove. His pal, Bob Rasmussen, had to tow Koop and his ’61 all the way back to Chicago with a rope. For the record, Rasmussen went on to own the famous “Chevy Shop” in Chi-town. The guys who crewed the ’61 were Jimmy Winjie and Jimmy Sommerman. Koop also owes a lot to one of his best friends, local legend Philly Nicholas. Philly had the fastest ’63 409 in Chicago when new. It was called “Ragamuffin”.
Over the last 48 years, Koop went on to own other superb cars, including a low-mileage ’57 Nomad, which he still has. He is best remembered because he never sold his ’61 Biscayne. It’s mint and all there except for interior door and rear panels. Koop even has his ’61’s original sales documents.
His father was one of Chicago’s finest, so Koop ultimately followed in Chicago law enforcement with a three decade career for which he received over 100 commendations. It takes a Chevy guy, eh?