Long Trip Home
"BankAmericar" AA/FD
(Another One Saved)
Page One

This page will chronicle the finding and restoration of a race car. Not any race car ... it was our race car - the last front engine Top Fueler John Buttera ever built. If it seems personal, that's because it is. We have had a lot of help in this venture and many requests for "the rest of the story". This is not a case of bragging or self-service. It's simply a chance for us to share an incredibly neat thing with our friends and the fans of WDIFL.



OCIR, 1969



Phoenix - 1970

BankAmericar AA/FD

Prologue: In the Fall of 1968 I contacted John Buttera in Wisconsin and told him I wanted a "big brother" to the Jr. Fuel car he'd built for Richard Lockerman. It was a magnificent piece but too small for Top Fuel. Buttera informed me he already had it - a 173" wheelbase Top Fuel car he had built for himself but was not going to race. He was relocating to SoCal and would deliver it when he came out. In November of 1968 the car was delivered to us in Long Beach and our expectations were met in spades. It was virtually complete less engine (below). The price tag: $1,750!


new car

April, 1969


togetherJohn Buttera: The car was originally built for John himself, it had a lot of "trick" parts (like the steering wheel, brake handle, throttle pedal, chute release, brackets etc.) which were all chromed. The Lakewood bellhousing and custom fuel tank were polished. All the aluminum Hanna body parts were anodized gold and other parts red. And the kicker was a complete Strange Eng. full floater 8 3/4 rear end with chrome housing. Dual Airhart disc breaks and a Simpson chute. Basically, all we had to do was add paint, a plumbed engine and nitro.



Paint & Lettering: Dick Olson and Kenny Youngblood: The late Dick Olson (my partner in the F-Troop Jr. Fuel car) insisted on painting the car. He asked what colors I wanted and took it from there. It was pearl white, candy blue with candy gold trim. It all came together when Kenny Youngblood did his magic on the cowl. At the time the was a new deal and I had used mine to the max getting the car done (mostly at Reath's). When I told Kenny that, he came up with the "Bankamericar" logo. Here Fred Smith and myself pose with the car when it was race ready in March of 1969.



Engine: The original 392 engine was a real mutt - but parts were all good. We bought a ton of stuff from Lou Baney just after he retired as a car owner. We also got a lot of parts from Reath Automotive. A boneyard A-1 block and crank were prepared by Gary Slusser. Ed Donovan kicked in the valve covers and valve train. Larry Ofrea at the then new Valley Head Service did the heads. Joe Pisano supplied the pistons and rods - Crower the cam and clutch. Paul Schiefer gave us a magneto. Cragar supplied the blower manifold.

More Help: Bill Simpson and Fred Crow gave me a new firesuit, belts and chutes. Bell Helmets sponsored me then and for years to come. Champion stepped up for plugs and Valvoline the oil. Sid Waterman gave all the help we could afford. Cyclone sponsored the headers and brother John and his team (J&M Racing Photos) suppled us with "ink".


The Restoration


Thank You List

The people who are making this happen - either by contributing parts (big or small) or giving us deals that are too good to be true......

Bruce Dyda - Dyda Race Engineering: A superb fabricator who took a pile of photos and perfectly restored the Buttera chassis and Hanna body. Although he had access to Buttera for collaboration, he didn't need any help other than the pictures. If you have any fabrication or restoration in mind call Bruce at 310.768.3163

Lynn Kane - stepped up "just because he wanted to be part of the project".

Larry Steinegger
Kent & Evelyn Fuller
Darrell Tedford
Rick McGee
Frank Genco
Jim Murphy
Howard Haight
Bill Pitts
Dan Kaplan
Doug Peterson
David Pace
Mousie Marcellis
Gene & Dorothy Mooneyham
Dave Sammons
Bob Barry
Dave West
John Jennings - Outlaw Garage
Leroy Shaver - Centerline Welding
Larry Ofrea - Valley Head Service
Arias Pistons
Pete Jensen
Pete Jackson
Dale "The Coyote" Smith
Don McManus
Ronnie Rapp (crew chief)
Chet Herbert Cams
Bob Brooks
Jerry Severs - Paint-n-Place
Dick Gaylord
Troy Cagle
Rod McCarrell
Al Schramm
Bill Turney
Littlefield Blowers
Baer's Canvas & Upholstry
Alex Mikkelsen
Jerry Sweeney - Brooks Rods
Rick Kepler
Dean LaPole - LaPole Headers
Dennis Fenstermaker
Ken Rappaport - Race Car Research
McLeod Clutches
Velasco Crankshafts
Firestone Tires
K&N Filters



The Long Road Home

I bought the car in late 1968 and campaigned it until mid 1971 (Best ET & speed ... 6.38 @ 228 in 1971). We went to the rear engine deal in mid 1971, this car was sold for $750 in 1972 and headed east (Indiana). In 1998 I started searching for it. Your proverbial needle in a haystack. After posting photos of the car on WDIFL I finally got a lead in 2000 when Mark Polson of Atlanta contacted me saying he thought they had my old car. I saw the car at Darlington in 2001 and confirmed it was THE car. But Polson wasn't ready to sell it - they were racing it! I put first bid on the car when they were ready to sell - in November of 2002 they were. Brother John paid over twice what the car cost new to get it back very used. What follows is more of the details with photos.



The car in 1997 with Mark Polson at the wheel. Obviously it had gone through several changes since it left Cerritos in 1972. However, at this point the chassis is still "virgin" (almost). Oh, we have no clue where the car was or who had it from 1972 to 1997.



By the time I saw the car at Darlington in 2001 Polson had upgraded the chassis to meet the 7.50 specs and installed a blown alcohol big block Chevy. This 35 year old car was going 200 mph in 2002.



Fortunately the chassis updates only included a new cage, kidney bars and a new cowl. But, they kept the original cage and cowl which we got back with the car. Removing the kidney bars and extraneous brackets will be no problem.



back home

Getting the car back to SoCal from Atlanta proved to be almost as hard as finding it in the first place. After several delays, Rick & Matt Stambaugh finally got their rig together and headed west in April. This is what the car looked like at John's house after they took it out of the trailer and a set of "Flyin Phil" wheels were installed for mobility. What a sad sight!



Buttera 1

In early May, John (Ewald) took the car over to John Buttera for a damage assessment. We can't print what John said about his last FED, but the bottom line was it was well within the salvage range. John no longer has a shop but offered to do the "small stuff" and said he'd advise Bruce Dyda (who's next door to Lil John's buddy, Don Long) on the chassis restoration.





Dyda 1

The car arrives at Dyda's shop in Gardena. He had the same reactions as Buttera - the difference being they weren't personal about it.


Dyda 2

Bruce pours over the stack of photos to assess what the car looked like when it was ours. Fortunately brother John took a lot of photos that will allow the reconstruction to be dead nuts perfect.


chassis 1


chassis 2

The original cage sans the kidney bars made all the difference in the world. But note how far the main rails were stretched to get the friggin BB Chevy in!


chassis 3

This is where is stands as of 05-12-03. Check back often as the chassis will move along at a rapid pace. In the meanwhile, its all about collecting parts.




Some Of The Parts


stock 6:71

Thanks to Kent Fuller, Gene Mooneyham had a brand new, stone stock, 6:71 blower to start with.


Gene Mooneyham



Talk about the ultimate make-over! And I'm not talking about Gene and Dorothy!



parts 1

When they're for a race car, parts go in the garage. When they're for a restoration they stay in the living room.


parts 2



All dressed up with nowhere to go - yet.



Update 06-03-03


Dyda align

Bruce Dyda sets up the engine alignment.



392 back in place


front end

Bruce cut off the front end to ensure that the engine alignment was perfect. Dyda will weld it back on and straighten the "age wrinkles".



Front axle waiting for the main rails to be reattached.



Update 06-09-03


back together 1

Back in one piece...


back together 2


back together 3


back together 4


back together 5

Bruce Dyda is a fabricator and restoration expert. Being a student of the classic dragsters (which can be seen in the "look" of his Surfers Paradise NE1 car). He studied the many photos of the Bankamericar carefully to determine the original configuration and made it match. He had to replace many damaged parts with fresh pipe as there was no way to repair parts that have been raced for over 30 years.


back together 6


back together 7


back together 9

Bruce's job is getting close to done. Once the car leave his shop it will be blown apart for powder coating, chrome and anodizing. The body will go to the painter and then - stay tuned.



Update 07-05-03


body side

Bruce Dyda is moving right along with the restoration.


chassis rear


front end


front full


front full 2




motor plate


motor plate 2


side rear



Update 07-13-03


cockpit 1

Moving right along, Dyda repaired or replaced the parts needed to replicate the original controls (steering, throttle, clutch, chute-fuel handles and brake).


cockpit 2


cockpit 3


cockpit 4


windscreen 1

New windscreen


windscreen 2


frontend 1

The front end has been repaired and reinstalled.


frontend 2



Bruce machining brackets for the front wing plates.




push bar 1

The original push bar has been reinstalled.


push bar 2


Rick Kepler tries out the seat



Update 07-17-03


7-17 photo 1

Dyda nailed the clutch pedal and linkage.


7-17 photo 2


7-17 photo 3

Clutch pedal and throttle pedal & linkage.


7-17 photo 4

What were finding with Dyda Engineering is that Bruce not only does perfect fabrication but he does it without lunch breaks! As you can see, these photos are only three days after the last.


7-17 photo 5

Here's the throttle linkage exactly as it was.


7-17 photo 6


7-17 photo 7


7-17 photo 8

Front "wings". Never knew if they were all that functional or not but we used them.


7-17 photo 9



Update 08-08-03


08-06 update 1

The body has been anodized gold again and here Dyda attaches the windscreen. Next stop for the tin, Jerry Seivers at Paint-n-Place who just recently did Prudhomme's Mattel Funny Car restoration and of course, is John Force's exclusive painter.


08-06 update 2

The chassis is done and electro-painted black (a process we didn't have in 1968).


08-06 update 3


08-06 update 4


08-06 update 5


08-06 update 6

Fuel tank bracket


08-06 update 7


08-06 update 8

Throttle, clutch and other hardware is refinished.


08-06 update 9


08-06 update 10

Chute release.


08-06 update 11


08-06 update 12

Dyda's the man! Nobody, not even Buttera himself, could have done better.



Everybody needs a period correct pushcar. Again, with a lot of help from our friends, here's John's "Bankameripushcar" prior to its metallic blue (1966 Corvette blue) and silver paint job.


pushcar 1

It is a '58 Chevy Biscane. The engine is a 383 Stroker with twin 4's on top, a 700R4 tranny. We dropped the front end 2 inches, added power disk brakes, power steering, power windows, air conditioning, and shaved most of the emblems. It has a Posi rear end and old drag racer Dean LaPole did the header system. Cragar S/S wheels with Firestone Indy 500 Firehawks for the rubber. We estimate the engine will put out around 475 horsepower.


pushcar 2

The entire '58 project is being done by John Jennings at Outlaw Garage (714-420-5037) in Anaheim. John's business is restoring and repairing custom cars and hot rods. When it is debuted all the photos taken from it's very humble (and sad shape) beginnings will be seen. It has been through as much work as the Bankamericar has had to go through. Between Jennings and Dyda we are sure everyone will appreciate the quality of their work.


pushcar 3

All the custom flamed polished parts were made by Flaming Engraving.


Another One Saved Page 2

Another One Saved Page 3

Fan Fire-ups Page 1

Fan Fire-ups Page 2

Fan Fire-ups Page 3


WDIFL Racing

Members Site Map || Visitors Site Ma

Copyright 1998-2017. All Rights Reserved.