Well, as I recall, it was in
the early to mid sixties. We were at Long Beach and had qualified
early. We were just sort of killing time and fooling around.
Now, it was almost time for qualifying to finish (it was open
until 5 or 5:30, I think) and I look up and here comes Dick Stahl
through the gate, open trailer in tow as fast as he could go.
He unhooks, unloads, throws some fuel in the tank, and heads
for the starting line with his driver dressing and trying to
run at the same time. You had to know Stahl, he was 6 ft. 9 in.
tall and a gangling sort of guy, made the car look small, like
a kid pushing a toy car as fast as he could, covered in grease
and had been up most all night putting this thing together. Dick
was usually late back then and always in a hurry; I don't think
he ever caught up. He wasn't much on finishing the small stuff
So anyway, C.J. lets him in line
right behind Zane Schubert who was pushing out as Dick's driver
is getting in and bolted down. Dick squirts it with a load of
alky and they push off right behind Zane. The thing fires and
it had oil pressure. Dick and driver are looking good. They turn
around, and Dick runs over and twists the barrel (Why? Because
he liked to do that, need it or not), gives it a whack, and sends
it to the line. Zane's in the left and Dick's in the right and
I am standing there to root for him. The light goes green and
off they go, tires smoking and fire out the pipes. Zane was out
first, Dick's thing was right behind, and it looked like it was
a nice pass. I was saying to myself Cool, he did it and about
then the chute comes out.
Well, it was down hill from there.
In all his hurry to finish the car and get to the track, Dick
forgot to do one small thing -- well, four of them to be precise
-- he left the motor plate bolts out. The 392 zips right down
the frame rails, takes the fuel tank along, jumps over the left
front wheel, hits the ground a time or two, then bounces clear
over Zane's car and beats him to the return road in a pile of
smoke. All this is going on and Dick and I are in the truck hauling
down the strip. We get there, and Dick runs over to the car where
the driver is picking up the chute and putting it in the seat.
Dick asks, "What happened"? His driver* says, "Felt
good to me". The truth was, I think, that he didn't have
a clue the 392 was gone.
Dick was a good guy and a lot
of fun to be around at times. I miss him. God bless. But I sure
wish I could remember that driver's name.
Frank "Root Beer"
* The driver was John Wilson
I don't know who the driver was
and I wasn't there that night, but I remember hearing about it.
The word was that seeing that '92' bounce across and right in
front of his face, still running (it even had flames coming out
of the headers) had a profound effect on Zane. He woke up the
next morning -- and his beard had turned white! And that's the
truth. It must of been a couple of years later, when Stahl was
running the old M/T Hemi Fords -- and blowing up a few -- that
my partner, Staats, did some cowl art on one of his cars. It
was a Hemi Ford shaped like a hand grenade (pin out). The lettering
under the artwork read ALL ALUMINUM SELF-DESTRUCTING HAND GRENADE.
OK, guys, we were at the other
end and just starting to push back down the return road. I heard
the cars start and wanted to see who that was. We sat and waited.
Both cars left the starting line, and it looked like a very good
race. The small block Chevy was ahead. The next thing I know
-- here comes the motor. A big ball of fire and it's about ten
feet in the air. It hits right in the back of the Zane's car,
then bounces right over him, missing Zane by about three feet.
It's still a ball of fire and keeps on going, all the way to
the end of the drag strip. It ends up next to the gate at the
end. I think there was some guy driving down that street and
seeing this thing coming. He most likely messed his pants. I
ran over to see if the driver was OK. He wasn't looking too good.
He had more oil on him than was in the engine. He still didn't
know that the engine had come out of the car. The left front
wheel was gone. The fuel tank was gone. This was one of the funniest
things I had ever seen. Right about that time, big Dick and the
gang come wheeling up. The driver still didn't know the engine
had come out of the car. I remember Dick running over and asking
the driver, "What in the Hell happened"? The driver
looks at Dick and says. Man, this mother was on a good pass!
When we got right next to Zane, all Hell broke lose. "Did
we win"? Then Dick tells him that the engine came out of
the car. The driver sits down on the tailgate of the truck and
looks at me. I don't think he still knew what had happened. His
name was Wilson. John Wilson, I think. You know, after that deal.
I never saw him at another drag race.
Oh Yeah....That was one of the
more exciting races that I can remember. It was a close race
and Stahl's car had just passed me as we entered the lights.
I saw a big ball of fire. I thought it was a mag wheel on fire
that came flying over me. Then the driver jerked toward me and
went in behind me so I stayed on the throttle and didn't pull
the chute. The ball of fire bounced about 10 feet in front of
me and kept on bouncing. I came to a stop before I got to the
sand. That's when I found out that it was the whole engine and
not a wheel. For many years I thought that he had blown a clutch
and cut the back of the motor off. It wasn't until a couple of
years ago that I found out the thing hadn't been bolted down
at all. My beard didn't turn white for another 20 years later
but that flying engine got my attention that night. Everyone
at the end was running for cover. Ron or Jeep Hampshire was at
the end so maybe they would have a memory or two. I lost the
race but because he broke down I continued on in the eliminations.
We had mess cleaning a lot of Stahl's parts and oil off of our
car before we could run again.
I remember Dick Stahl was driving a roadster one night prior
to that race. He blew the crankshaft out of the bottom of the
engine, caught on fire and there was Stahl, standing on the seat
above the fire, hanging on to the steering wheel, going 150 miles
an hour. He went over the sand traps and the hoop-de-doos. That
may have been the last time he drove.
Zane "The Beard" Shubert