Way back in the 1960s (some of you remember the '60s, don't you?), Bill Thomas Race Cars was a high-performance Chevrolet race shop located in Anaheim, California. They were involved in everything from the Mobil Gas Economy Runs to SCCA road racing to preparing engines for Stock and Super Stock drag racers like '62 NHRA U.S. Nationals champion Hayden Proffitt and other well-known drag racers.
Although GM was "officially" out of racing, Bill Thomas Race Cars more or less functioned as a "back door" for numerous Chevrolet high-performance projects generated on the West Coast, some of which were more popular than others, like Thomas' infamous SCCA road racing Cheetahs, which were his answer to Carroll Shelby's Cobra. And then there were other less well known projects, like Thomas' SCCA Chevy II road race cars built between '62-63.
In '62, Thomas and his staff built and entered a fuel-injected 327 Corvette-powered/Corvette IRS-equipped Chevy II in the SCCA Production class at Riverside Raceway called "Bad Bascom's Ghost." Unfortunately, due to the nature of the beast (it was a prototype), the SCCA immediately outlawed the car. However, there was a happy ending-the Ghost eventually ended up in the hands of the late, great Dick Harrell, who outfitted the car with a 427 Z11 engine, renamed it "Retribution II," and match-raced it with tremendous success.
The following year, Thomas tested the SCCA waters again, this time with not one, but four '63 Chevy IIs equipped with the same 327 Corvette powertrains and suspension systems as the Ghost. But that wasn't what made these cars so unique. It was the fiberglass fastback roofs, which were also featured on the yet-to-be-released Rambler Marlin and first-generation Dodge Charger production fastbacks from '66 and '67.Once again, Thomas' SCCA aspirations were thwarted, and the Chevy II fastback project was ultimately scrapped. And this is where the "heroes" of our story come in.
In the early '60s, the San Antonio, Texas, Top Fuel team of Carl Callier, J.E. Kristek, and Buddy Cortinnas earned a reputation as "giant killers" in the NHRA Division Four Top Fuel ranks with their small-block Chevrolet-powered Top Fuel cars. With the release of Carl's son Fritz from the U.S. Army in '65, the team went funny car racing. At this juncture, we'll let CKC Racing Chief Mechanic Kristek tell the rest ofthe tale:
"In 1965, Fritz just got out of the U.S. Army and really wanted to go drag racing. However, his father didn't want him driving a fuel car, so he told us that if the team wanted to continue under his sponsorship, we needed to build what they called a 'Factory Experimental Stocker.'
"In 1964, Bill Thomas Race Cars built a total of four fiberglass Chevy II fastbacks for GM to race in the SCCA B/Production class. These cars were equipped with a Corvette independent rear end, huge drum brakes and fuel tank, fully adjustable front suspension, and a Rochester fuel-injected 327 Corvette small-block V-8 engine. Unfortunately, the SCCA refused to homologate these cars, and they were never run. A close friend of ours, Dick Harrell, got our foot in the door, and we paid Bill Thomas Race Cars $2,500 for one of these Chevy II fastbacks."
For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that Chevrolet drag racers Dick Milner from Seattle, Washington's Alan Green Chevrolet, and Atlanta, Georgia's Houston Platt purchased and converted two of the remaining three Bill Thomas Chevy II fastbacks into match racer stockers, while the fourth car was rumored to have actually been converted into a street car, and is in the hands of a collector.
"To make a long story short, with Harrell's much-needed assistance we located a 427 Chevrolet Z-11 engine block through a Chevrolet dealership in California. Then Dickie provided us with the heads and dual-quad intake manifold, after which we installed a four-speed transmission and Oldsmobile passenger car rear end and went drag racing," Kristek said.