In what is both an important tribute and a valid real-time glimpse into drag racing’s history, Illinois-based drag racing proponent Paul Brown is providing fans with something very special.
Over the past four years, Brown—a member of the founding family for the Chicago Faucet Co. and owner of Greybeard Racing—has chosen to give one of drag racing’s most famous early era drivers, Doug Thorley, some much-deserved recognition by re-introducing, touring, and displaying not one but two of Doug’s iconic machines.
Brown has been active at various dragstrips and car show events all across the USA with Thorley’s Chevy 2 Much and, more recently, his legendary 1967 Corvair—one of drag racing’s most recognizable and early nitro-powered Funny Cars.
Brown confirms that while both cars are clones of the original bygone machines, they are both constructed with highly meticulous detail.
The Chevy 2 Much car was the first one Brown stumbled upon, which was originally conceived in 1964 and built by Ted Brown. Gil’s Auto Body did the stunning one-of-a-kind Candy Tangerine and Red paint, which has been very precisely duplicated.
“In 1964, there were only a handful of NHRA national events and the Funny Car eliminator class had yet to exist,” Brown recounted. “So the original Chevy 2 Much was built as a Match Racer. It started out with an alcohol-injected 396ci big-block and weighed 2,100 pounds. It ran in the high 9s at over 150 mph, and is remembered as the first four-speed car to run over 150 mph in the quarter-mile. For a time, it and Jack Chrisman’s 1964 Comet were the only Funny Cars in Southern California. Doug Thorley raced it all over the country against many other famous cars of that era, including the Ramchargers Dodge and Ed Schartman’s Comet.”
“This tribute car was built by Doug Thorley and his original crew who did that in conjunction with Steve Gibbs when the NHRA museum was first opened,” Brown added. “The car was displayed there for 12 years and I acquired it from the first owner after it left the museum.”
During the 2016 season, Chevy 2 Much was an intricate part of NHRA’s season-long 50th anniversary celebration for Funny Car racing. It was also during that year some conversations led to Doug Thorley’s accomplishment of winning the very first Funny Car trophy in the Corvair, and also how unbeatable that car was.
“Someone (I don’t remember who) said, ‘You know, somebody should redo that Corvair’,” Brown continued. “Long story short, that notion stuck. I searched out and found an original Logghe stage 2 chassis and then a Fiberglass Trends Corvair body that had been sitting in a shop in Texas for 30 plus years. With those two pieces acquired, the beginning of a dream started.”
Using help from a great friend (Jet Townsend), Brown continued to gather up the rest of the components needed, including an original iron-block 427 Chevy with iron heads, a Bowers 6-71 blower, and Hilborn injector. All the parts were then given to Jimmy Quinn and his sons in Waukegan, Illinois, and the construction started. Some original internal engine components were found, too. The first version engine reassembly was made to the exact specs of 1967.
The acquired and extremely rare fiberglass body was given to Joe Miller (J. Miller restorations in Forreston, Illinois). But in particular, the story for reproducing the exact paint scheme for this Corvair (originally conceived by Larry Watson) is at a very high level of intricacy.
“During our research we discovered that a lace tablecloth was used to make the design and we spent months looking at fabric stores and online to try to find a match,” Brown added. “But we had no luck, so we contacted the owner of Larry Watson’s photo archives, who lives in Europe, in Amsterdam. We then downloaded those photos onto a CAD system. A measurement was taken for the rear lug nuts and transposed up into the design on the side of the car. After a single section was scaled and redrawn, the pattern was multiplied by 850. It was then transferred to low stick vinyl with the pattern being water cut. Two guys then spent 14 hours with razor knives and tweezers picking out all of the cutouts. With the gold paint applied, the pattern was removed to reveal a design as close as possible to the original. Since we had the measurements, we were also able to get all the lettering on the side of the car exact, as well.”
After those few very busy months, the car was complete. But after an initial fire-up it was determined that all of the vintage engine components were not going to work with nitro-methane. So for the final product, a switch was made to a newer, more modern assembly by Tim Alotti from Antioch Automotive.
The car was first shown to the public during a Hot Rod Reunion event held in Tucson, Arizona, in early 2017 where it was well received by fans, the media, and many old-school drag racers.
“The end result of our efforts were really confirmed when Doug saw it for the first time,” Brown said proudly. “His comment was, ‘Oh my gosh, that looks exactly like my original car.’ That was all we needed to hear.”
Recently, both of Brown’s Doug Thorley cars were featured as a show car part of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and Doug (who recently turned 89 years young) was there signing autographs.
Incredibly, that event marked the 50th anniversary of the very first Funny Car championship trophy, which Doug won in the Corvair at the 1967 U.S. Nationals.
Photos: Bruce Biegler and Dave DeAngelis