Over the next few days, I bought a 3.36 open third member at a junkyard for $15 and installed it at my friend's Sunoco gas station. Highway mileage jumped to 15 from a dismal 10. A Hurst shifter from Honest Charley's catalog would come later. The next week I was back in Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa. I waited on tables at the Lions Club a few nights a week for $3 an hour, did engine super-tune-ups, miscellaneous freelance farm work and worked at an auction on Friday night, all to earn money for gas and insurance. I parked the car in an elderly lady's unused garage for $5 a month and drove a beater car and a friend's Maico 250cc motorcycle to get around school and town.
The Impala SS ran in the 13.70s at 102 mph with the factory 4.56:1 gear ratio, lake pipes and 7-inch slicks. Surprisingly, my best friend's new 1964, 3x2, 389 GTO with 4.33:1 gears, headers and slicks ran 13.90 at 99 mph. Towards the end of the summer-with fenderwell headers, super-tuning, one head gasket instead of two, a Z11 cam and ram-air-my car ran in the 12.80s and 12.90s at 108-109 mph. It was a fun ride and never broke a thing. In the fall, I decided to leave the '62 in my parent's garage and take the train back to southeast Iowa and college. Cheap beater cars were all over the place. Farmers were always dragging derelicts in "off the farm."
Late '64: Two Street Races
As a practice, I never street raced. Period. But in November '64, I was challenged by one of the Windy City's finest. I was home for Thanksgiving and got my '62 out to go see some friends 40 miles away. I'm driving south. A patrolman is headed north. The '62s front end was jacked up and the Doug's fenderwell headers with side exit glasspack exhaust were rumbling good. I noticed him eyeballing me. I then saw him do a U-turn as I turned right onto a four lane, one-way west street that eventually merged onto the freeway.
Within four stoplights, the patrolman was on my right side beckoning me to roll down my passenger window. I obliged.
He asked, "That an '09?"
I nodded affirmatively.
He replied, "Ya wanna run it?"
I answered, "Against what?"
He said, "I've got a 327 '56 Chevy that'll blow your doors off."
I just smiled back at him. We met at midnight on a closed off industrial street on the northwest side. Geez, a patrolman asked me to show him how much quicker my car was than his. My '62 had 9.00-14 Atlas Bucrons and an E&R rubber disc clutch that put 1 1/2 car lengths on his white '56 in first, second and third gear. That was that.
He was shocked. I later became pals with a lot of Chicago's finest. In the next few years, I tuned many of their Chevys and Mopars. I still am friends with many to this very day through our life-long love of super Chevys. I cannot divulge the street racing cop's name. Word was, no one had ever outrun his '56. I promised I would never tell. Well, you win some and you lose some. I have not talked to him since 1966. I hope he is still around. He learned how easy it is to get your fanny handed to you.
A month later during the Christmas holiday, a guy in a maroon 19631/2 425hp 427 Ford Galaxie was after me. The weather was cold, but there was no snow on the ground. To be honest, I did not think my 12.80 - 12.90 e.t. '62 could beat his big, bad '631/2 427. I figured my '62 could run mid 13s through the mufflers on the Bucron tires. A friend of mine had a similar Ford with 4.10:1 gears and the ashtray used to rocket out of the dash and onto the front bench seat on every 1-2 powershift. The glovebox door would also bang open.
Well, on a Saturday night, he was waiting outside a rock 'n' roll dance place. It was out in the boonies on a four-lane country road. I was with two pals: 6'3", 295-pound Bill Smith and 6'2", 225-pound Wayne Seitman. I was 6'5",190 pounds. Well, with 520 extra pounds on board, I fully expected to get dusted. But guess who won? After five runs, my 409 was 5 wins and 0 losses. Each win was by about three feet-per-gear. The '62 ever so slightly pulled away. I figured he probably had a 3.55:1 gear. I later heard he traded his Ford on a little MGA sporty car. When the word got around town that my '62 409 dusted this '631/2 427 no one ever challenged me when I was home-and that was good. I never liked street racing. Neither did the area cops, all of whom I got along with great. My '62 was then garaged again.