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"Bankamericar" AA/FD Restoration - Page 3
(Cacklefest 2003 - Not How We Planned It)







Wednesday, October 01 started off with high expectations. The car was finally done and ready for its maiden fire-up. The plan was to get the fuel system close, check for leaks and put her in the box for the weekend. Wrong! At the foot of John's driveway a very bad thing happened. After the first fire-up that produced a high idle, the car was shut off, adjusted, backed off and then refired - not! As soon as John hit the mag switch there was a huge "boom" and the street was littered with scrap metal and block fill! Seems the block was not magnafluxed or ultrasounded before the machine work was done and the autopsy revealed that there were minute cracks in the # 2 and # 4 cylinder walls. Nitro got in them after the first fire up and when they got spark on the second - done deal.

Needless to say it was a very big let down, especially after all the hard work it took to get the car done for the CHRR. With no spare parts whatsoever it looked like our weekend was trashed. I was driving down from Oregon and crossing the Siskiyous when I got the news and almost drove off the road. Like the others I was shocked and really bummed! I thought for awhile and called John back and told him to put it in the box and come to Bakersfield - we'd figure out something.


Boom 1

First fire up was fat and fast idle.


Boom 2

After the boom John gets out and looks down at the damage. Pieces hit Crew Chief, Ronnie Rapp in the food and cut Alex Mikkelsen's legs.


Boom 3

1000 words..........


Boom 4



The explosion was so violent it pushed the upper frame rail out 4" at the motor mount and put dents and a hole in the freshly painted body panel. Ouch!




Out of the box on Thursday afternoon.





Fast forward to Friday morning. We had stopped licking our wounds and got into drag racer mode. We spent all day Thursday looking for a 392 fuel short block to borrow or buy with no success. Late Thursday we finally got lucky when Don Green (Rat Trap) offered his spare Donovan long block. Although it was not period correct, it was the only option we had. And so "The Great Cacklefest Thrash of 2003" began.


Friday AM

The body was stripped and the car was ready to go on the stands for the swap.


pre thrash


linkage out




392 out

Getting the dead 392 out was no problem.


392 out 2


392 out 3


dead player


dead player 2

Again - 1000 words ......


dead player 3




Once the 392 was out all the parts were laid out to go on the Donovan. Ya gotta love our huge hi-tech work bench. It was suppose to be our picnic table!


parts 2



Thrash 1

After pulling the long block out of Green's truck we started figuring out what we needed to make it work in our car. A car that was built in 1968 and NOT designed for a Donovan. As it turned out, there were a lot of parts we needed to make this deal work!


Thrash 2

Alex and Don Green put our degree wheel on the engine.


Thrash 3

By Friday afternoon, after finding and changing the stepped bellhousing studs we needed (thanks to Jon Halstead) we were ready to drop the Donovan in and see what we were facing to make it fit.


Thrash 4


Thrash 5


Thrash 6


Thrash 7

There were three major problems. One, the ribs on the Donovan wouldn't allow it to sit properly in the frame rails. Two, the oil pan was to deep and three, the oil filer assembly wouldn't fit at all.



As day turned to night we'd spent most of the afternoon scrounging parts. I can't even remember all the little stuff we needed like lash caps (thanks Gene Amaya), a brass oil pump drive (thanks Don McManus), a line up shaft (thanks WW2 Racing), assorted nuts, bolts and aluminum grinder (thanks Jack Harris), 1/2" pitch blower belt (thanks Dennis Fenstermaker & Brendan Murry), oil (thanks Frank Genco), generator & compressor (thanks Dennis Prater) and the biggie - special thanks to Darrell Tedford (Tedford & McGee) for bringing this from home -- the only shallow oil pan that would work on the car! That's what brought it together. And then there was Tom Hanna's crew that cut the baffles out to make clearance for the 5/8" stroker. This was definitely a group effort!


Thrash 8

After we got the pan, the oil pump had to be changed (out of our old engine) and gaskets had to be made. Chuck Goebel is just one of the racers who stepped in to help over the ordeal.


Thrash 9


Thrash 10

The biggest task by far was grinding the ribs on the block to fit in the chassis. Bob Damly and Rick Kepler did all the grinding with a hand grinder and small compressor -- it was a laborious job that took about 2 hours.


Thrash 11

As the block was prepped, everybody else made sure the other parts we needed were ready. Bob Danly and John Jennings made the on-site custom parts needed for the engine to finally fit.


Thrash 12

By 10 PM we were ready to drop it in again.


Thrash 13

Bingo! After all the alterations it was a perfect fit.


Thrash 14


Thrash 15


Thrash 16


Thrash 17

Ronnie Rapp and Bruce Dyda install the clutch - she's almost done. We then installed the bellhousing, steering and linkage and called it a night.



Thrash 18


Donovan in

Finally - the Donovan is in place waiting for plugs and fuel.


Thrash 19

Saturday morning we put the top end on and by 10 AM were ready for another first fire-up.






fire up 1

A collective sigh of relief and high fives followed as oil pressure came up and the engine fired. It was fat but that could be fixed....and we had some oil leaks and those were also fixed.


fire up 2



Last Step

Putting the cowl on was the last step before the second fire-up.


Kane fire up 1

After a major change in the fuel system we were ready to try her again. This time we gave the seat honors to Lynn Kane who, back in April of 2003, was the first fan to step up and offer parts for the restoration. His help has been overwhelming and nobody deserved the second fire-up than him.


Kane fire up 2

Alex raps the throttle as Lynn enjoys the moment.


Kane fire up 3

I told him he'd need ear plugs! After the fuel system fix this baby was pounding the ground.


Kane fire up 4


Kane fire up 5

Lynn described the experience as a "life highlight". We're sure glad we could give it to him.



push prep

Our next step was to get everyone in sync for the Cacklefest push start. John hadn't push started a car since the 1970 March Meet and it had been 33 years (1975) since I was push started. In spite of suffering from a gallbladder attack that had plagued me since the previous Thursday, I was strapped in the old girl for the first time since 1971... and I was in heaven.




Bankamericar 2


Bankamericar 3

Once we made the turn onto the strip it was 1971 again. It was magic - like we were all young again and this was something we did every weekend. John did perfect and the car fired right up. What a friggin' thrill! Needless to say, everyone who had busted their butts the past two days were ecstatic. We'd pulled off the improbable, if not the impossible.


Bankamericar 3b


Bankamericar 4

Getting lots of looks was John's '58 Chevy built by John Jennings at Outlaw Products...and it had the trickest push bar ever.


Bankamericar 5


Bankamericar 6


pulling away



After the car fired I took it past the lights and stopped so Ronnie could give the engine a once over. She was clean and dry.


back to pit 1

Back to the pits


back to pit 2


We were ready for Cacklefest!




On Sunday morning we got a very unexpected surprise - a shock actually - icing on the cake. At 10:30 we were informed that they needed the car, push car and crew on the starting line in 20 minutes. Seems the staff had unanimously voted us the car that best represented the era and the overall spirit of Cacklefest.


Award 2

Dave McClelland interviews John Ewald about the car - its history/restoration and what we had to go through to make the call for Cacklefest.


Award 3

The core crew Alex Mikkelsen, Ronnie Rapp, John Ewald and Don Ewald.


Award 4

John, Gregg Sharp and the dumb driver (ask any owner, all drivers are dumb! LOL).


Award 5

More of the gang: Alex Mikkelsen, Rick Kepler, Bruce Dyda (who did the restoration) Ronnie Rapp (Crew Chief), Greg Sharp, John & Don Ewald.


Award 6

Jim MacMonagle does an interview for 1010TV


Award 7

Back in the pits we had to share the award with the guys who made it possible - Don Green and Ron Hope.



The rest of our day was spent taking Don's engine back out and putting our dead player back in. Was it worth it? One and all say "ABSOLUTELY"! This was not something any of us want to go through again (and we won't) but what a great story for a bunch of old dogs who though their thrashing days were long over. Next time we'll be more than ready and are looking forward to many more CHRRs to come.

Again - many thanks to EVERYONE who made this happen.



UPDATE 12-11-03

Fixed Chassis

Update time for the "rebuilding of the rebuilt BankAmericar". Bruce Dyda has repaired the frame rail and engine mounts (which had been pushed out 4 inches), and he kept the fix behind the body panel so it will never show. He is good at what he does! He also redid the brake system and the clutch... figured we didn't need the counter weights and all those springs... Don's leg was getting a bit tired in the Cacklefest until Ronnie got the clutch pin in. Thanks to Weber/McLeod clutches for doing the final balance. We now have a good block to work with thanks to Dennis Fenstermaker and Ken Rappaport of Race Car Research. Henry Velasco straightened the crank, Jerry Sweeney at Brooks Rods fixed the one hurt rod and Arias knocked out a new piston. Gene Mooneyham checked the blower and confirmed it was not hurt. Our best fan Lynn Kane came up with a NOS set of gaskets for everything... don't know where the hell he finds all this stuff! But I sure am glad he does. In this first shot is the repaired rails. JE


Sir Ronnie

Being the owner of a top fuel car has it's drawbacks... like having to deal with a crew chief by the name of "Sir Ronnie" Rapp. He has this very weird way of making me greet him...


Rapp 1

For those of you that think Ronnie is just a grump with no since of humor...you haven't spent time with him. He even cracks himself up working on the injectors.


Rapp 2

Forgot to mention above... the heads were fixed and made all better by Larry Ofrea at Valley Head Service. Glad Ronnie doesn't mind that drive to his shop from Orange County... took him about 3 hours each way <grin> JE


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