By Stephen Justice




Dueling brothers: Jeep (Magi-Car) and Ronnie (Waterman-Hampshire) match racing at Lions Drag Strip-1965.

JEEP: by the Fall of 1964, Kent Fuller's revolutionary Magi-Car was ready for the drag strip. Gary Cassady had been tabbed to do the driving, but in early testing, complained that the car was not handling right. In January 1965, Ron Winkle, the co-owner with Kent on the project, called me to see if I had any interest in driving the car. The timing couldn't have been better because Larry (Stellings) had decided to use a different driver for the Red Stamp Spl. We loaded the Magi-Car onto the trailer and went out to Fontana Drag City for some testing. Kent lined me up scant inches from the edge of the asphalt, but I figured he knew what he was doing. He did; the car handled perfectly. Confident that the dragster was OK, we took it to Bakersfield for the 64-car March Meet. Even though we qualified the car both days, it was a tough weekend, losing to Gary Gabelich on Saturday and Connie Swingle on Sunday. The next weekend we went to Fremont for their Spring Championships. In round one we were paired with Art Malone and our 7.74 was more than enough to handle "The Colonel". That set up a second round pairing against my brother in the Waterman-Hampshire car. We improved to 7.62 and a showdown with Pink-Snively in the semis. Mike ran a 7.65 and beat us and then went on to take out Garlits in the final. I was always very comfortable and confident driving the Magi-Car. But, it was still of an experimental design, and, should never have been expected to be a consistent winner right out of the gate. We won several top eliminators, but never any big events. I left the Winkle-Trapp-Fuller because Ron and myself never really gelled as teammates; maybe, too many prima donnas on one team?

In late 1965, I teamed up with long time racer Glen Stokey from Redondo Beach and his partner Dee Caspary. Caspary's family owned a lumber yard (Atlantic Lumber Yard) and with money from that business had built a beautiful Sorrell-bodied top fuel dragster based on one of Glen's own designs. Glen did not want to drive any longer and offered the job to me. It was a perfect arrangement, but unfortunately, of short duration. In early 1966, Caspary was drafted and Glen decided to park the car until Dee got out of the service.

The Magi-Car at the 1965 March Meet; this car had a sensational vehicle reaction time and Jeep was rarely second out of the gate.


The Sunday "B" list at Bakersfield 1965; Jeep and the Magi-Car lost to Connie Swingle (#50) in Garlits' number two car.


Jeep out on Art "The Colonel" Malone; Fremont Raceway-March 1965


Jeep in his comfort zone with the Magi-Car at Fontana Raceway.


Jeep was never without a job for long; when he and Larry (Stellings) parted company, Kent Fuller and Ron Winkle came a calling. Note: what a coincidence - Jeep paired up next to what would be his next ride (Caspary-Stokey).


Jeep at Fontana Drag City (above) and at Lions Drag Strip (below) racing Ronnie (again) in one of their many, and very popular, match races.


JEEP: guys would either "flat foot" or "drive it". I held the car with the brake, then hit the throttle, simultaneously slipping (not dumping) the clutch to keep wheel speed at an acceptable level. If the car started to spin the tires excessively, I controlled it with the brake. In the shot below at Puyallup, I'm just reaching for the brake to slightly pull the motor down.



RONNIE: I shallow-staged and held the car with the clutch and a very light brake-but did not put a load on the car. With approximately 7-10'' of rollout, I could start moving when I saw the yellow light and get up on the tires before my opponent. In the shot below at Lions (below), the "method to my madness" had just become readily apparent to "The Snake".



JEEP: I spent the summer of 1966 driving a beautiful dragster called the "Rainbow's End" which was owned by Don Kunda and Romaine Dauphine. This was a top dollar Kent Fuller car with a Tom Hanna body and Dave Zeuschel engine. It was another short-lived adventure as the guys soon ran out of money and had to quit racing the car. But, it was fast as well as beautiful. I can recall that we won at least once at Irwindale beating Danny Ongasis in the Honda of Wilmington car for top eliminator. Stories abound about what eventually happened to the car. I know for sure that it sat over at Dusty Rhodes' place for a long, long time. Rumors floating around hint that Paul Romaine bought it only to have it stolen; it ended up in Australia; or, even in Japan (according to Romaine's 'ex').



This is a staged shot at Las Vegas for a drag racing magazine; the production crew had been trying to get some night shots of a nitromethane motor with its signature six foot header flames. After several disappointing attempts with other teams, the Rainbow's End delivered its pot of gold.



RONNIE: the Waterman-Hampshire car, as successful as it was, needed to be replaced after two years of hard racing. We sold it to Leland Kolb who had Woody modify it into a "legs over" car. Leland then put an injected Chevy into it, loaded it in a shipping crate, and sold it to some guys in Australia. So, in the Spring of 1967, we started building a new car. Actually, I started building a new car. After driving W/H for two years, I knew exactly how I wanted it to be: it would have a longer wheel base and be shorter at the front end; a "legs over" the rear end with the motor moved another inch forward. At the time, I was working at North American in Downey, California. An aircraft fabrication plant has some of the most skilled workers in the world and I allowed myself to take advantage of this situation. Not only did I get some of their machinists to make me parts for the front end, but their professional welders put the finishing touches on the frame. While the Bradley-Hampshire-Waterman top fuel dragster was taking shape, I drove for Randy Scoville. I had a real interesting experience driving for Randy right after the '67 PDA meet at Lions. I was on a pass at Irwindale and at 1000' or so the steering wheel came off its shaft. I went for the chutes and hit the brakes, but that just pulled me into the guard rail. Every time I used the brake, I was pushed toward the rail, so I just decided to just go along for the ride. The land around Irwindale Raceway was a big dry wash and there were rocks everywhere. I caromed off a big boulder, flew at least ten feet into the air, and did not come back to the ground for quite a distance. Fortunately, the car landed right side up and I escaped with minor scrapes and burns on my arms; that was the closest I ever came to being involved in a serious accident. Nonetheless, it had been a sobering experience and I promised myself never again to jump into somebody's car without making sure it was totally safe to drive.

The Bob Bradley-Ronnie Hampshire-Sid Waterman top fuel dragster finally got to the drag strip in January 1968. Sid was actually a silent partner in this project, so we did not letter his name on the car. Waterman Racing Engines had many clients, and the conflict of interest in racing against some of his customers could have hurt the business. Actually, in the end, it was exactly this problem that would doom our little venture---it became too difficult for Sid to have a personal stake in a top fuel dragster and not have it damage his relationship with some of his clients. It was a shame, too, because this car ran good from the start; we led the Division Seven point championships deep into the '68 season before being edged out by Gerry Glenn and John Bateman (Atlas Oil Tool Spl.). Finally, the constant scrutiny and grumbling over his involvement in the Bradley-Hampshire top fuel dragster forced Sid to sell the car in early 1969. For the first time in over four years I was without a top fuel ride. I did drive for Rapp-Rossi at Bakersfield '69, but spent most of that year watching my brother race the Caspary-Stokey-Hampshire dragster.


Ronnie and his cousin Steve Justice (no relation to author) packing the chute-Irwindale Raceway.


"Puzzlement and Bewilderment" might be a good title for this frame;
Ronnie has both hands on his helmet, Sid is totally absorbed with the situation, and the car has gotten the fan's rapt attention.


1968 PDA meet at Lions; this was the race where Kruse had (4) 16-car fields. Bradley-Hampshire qualified in the #2 pool but got beat by their old nemesis Danny Ongasis in round one.


Bradley-Hampshire won the first divisional race of 1968 at Irwindale Raceway and kept the points lead deep into the season; Sid's involvement with the car created alot of tension with his clients. Eventually, it got to the point where the Bradley-Hampshire (and Waterman) project could no longer sustain itself and the car was sold.

Jeep: In September 1966, Dee got out of the military and was itching to get back into racing. Don and Romaine had run out of money so I just picked up again with Glen and Dee. At first, we ran the same car as before, but it was soon apparent that the car was too heavy and no longer competitive. In early 1967, Dee decided to fund the building of a brand new top fuel dragster and commissioned Kent Fuller to do the work. He stored the old car at his Atlantic Lumber Yard and went around Los Angeles purchasing the best parts cubic money could buy. The final result was a magnificent race car; one of the finest ever to hit the drag strip. We (Glen, Dee, and I) kept the car at Sid's shop and all three of us shared the mechanical duties; a little later, Glen decided to retire from racing and the car was re-lettered as Caspary-Hamphire.


In March 1969, Caspary-Stokey-Hampshire was the featured car
in Drag Racing magazine; C-S-H with the cowl removed.



C-S-H's "Scratch" on the left; Glen Stokey on the right.


Left to right: Glen Stokey, Joe "Donkey" Lynch, Michelle (Jeep's ex), Dee Caspary, and Jeep.


The staging lanes at Lions Drag Strip-looking northeast (the starting line would have been to the right; 223rd St. to the left).


See the spinning tire on the left - Jeep called this a "headache tire". Synonymous for any bad tire that rattled his head on the roll bar so hard that he got a headache from it.




Is there a lot of history here, or what?-Tom McEwen, Kenny Safford, Ronnie, Glen Stokey, and Bobby Tapia. Note: Bobby Tapia drove the Red Stamp Spl. after Jeep left for the Magi-Car.

Jeep's license signed off by Larry Sutton and George "The Stoneage Man" Hutcheson. (car in question was Dusty Rhodes' beautiful Rhodes Runner).



The front wheels are "searching" just a bit because Jeep kept such a soft, but deft, hold on the steering wheel. Jeep> "Kent's cars were built to go straight-never any reason to over steer a Fuller car".


The final rendition of the Caspary-Hampshire car-new paint, lettering, and even more chromed parts; they way it looked on the night of the accident at OCIR.


JEEP: April 26, 1969 was "the day that will live in infamy" for me. I had no premonition or uneasiness that something terrible was about to happen. The race that day was a 16-car show at OCIR, a track I had been down countless times before. It was the first round of eliminations and I was paired against Joe Lee (Abbott-Lee). We pushed down toward the starting line, fired, but at the last moment were told to shut off-there was a car still on the track. That is the last recollection I have of what occurred that evening. But, Ronnie was there and this is how he remembered it,

RONNIE: The cars were re-fired and brought to the line.There was nothing to indicate that a tragic accident was about to happen; both drivers were on strong but seemingly uneventful runs. Joe was in the left lane and Jeep in the right lane when at about 900' the front end of Jeep's car turned on him. The dragster went on its side across the track, hit the left side guard rail, and careened back to the right side, colliding once again with a guard rail. The second impact ignited a flash fire, knocked off the top of the roll bar, and exposed my brother's head to the track's surface as it gyrated in circles down the drag strip. I was at the starting line standing next to John Bateman, and we just reacted instinctively and took off running down the track. By the time we got there emergency crews had arrived and were attending to my brother. Jeep was conscious but his injuries were massive and life-threatening; he was rushed to the Santa Ana Community Hospital where he would endure over five hours of surgery.

JEEP: My inventory of injuries was like a laundry list: seven broken ribs, punctured lung, broken left and right arm, broken left and right wrist, and broken collar bones. I had a cut in the left bicep tissue so deep the muscle was almost severed. A natural "lefty", this accident made me right-handed. It would be a year before I could even feel any sensation in my left hand. The neuro-muscular injuries, as bad as they were, paled in comparison to the danger I faced from a lacerated liver.

RONNIE: I had been sitting in the waiting room awaiting some word on Jeep's condition when the surgeon in charge walked in. He told me the situation was this: "If your brother's liver ruptures, it's all over-these organs do not grow back together. I've done all I can; it may take a power greater than that on earth to save your brother." But, he was saved and it was probably due to this doctor-he used a procedure that basically secured and supported Jeep's liver in a hair net.

JEEP: I was in intensive care for four days and spent another week at the hospital before I could be released. I spent another two months convalescing at home. I was not able to move my left arm for about one year; even today, I still don't have very good feeling in my left thumb and fingers. This accident pretty much finished me as driver and I was in no position to even think about being a car owner. As soon as I was able, I returned to work; I had a family to support.


Record of generous donations from Ed Donovan, Cragar Industries, Schiefer Manufacturing, and John Bateman.





Jeep: The guys took what remained of the dragster back to Sid's shop to try and find out what had failed on the car. They were pretty sure it involved the steering, a hunch the turned out to be correct. The cause of the accident was directly related to a failed radius rod. The weld on the heim joint on the left radius rod had been severely weakened from over buffing at the chrome shop. The down force created by the front wing, a recent addition, had pushed the spud out of the tube of the radius rod. This started a chain reaction that broke the heim joint in the right rod, totally unloading the car. With all control gone, the front axle flipped the dragster onto its side driving it tangentially across the track into the left guard rail.



Does the tail section on the Caspary-Hampshire car remind one of another beautiful top fuel dragster? After the crash, Leonard Van Luven purchased the tail section and used it as the model for the same on Keeling-Clayton's California Charger.

Despite all the medical expenses and loss of income, it never occurred to me to blame or find fault with anyone for the accident. There was not a soul on earth that forced me to drive a top fuel dragster; I did it because I loved it. I knew that every time I got behind the wheel of a race car, it could be my last, yet I continued to do it. To be candidly honest, driving a top fuel dragster was just a devilishly dangerous, yet delightful, ego trip. From the very first time I went to a drag race, I knew I wanted to be a driver. I loved, even thrived on, the thrill, danger, and glory of driving a top fuel dragster. It was just a compelling sensory experience; the ultimate natural "high". That is why if anyone would have approached me about filing a lawsuit, I would have punched them in the nose. <editor's note: not long after Jeep's accident, law suits began to show up on court dockets from other drivers seeking compensatory damages from injuries suffered in drag race crashes and accidents>

Who knows, I might still be drag racing today if it weren't for the accident. This is one of the reasons I love the cackle fests and reunions so much; it lets me relive all the great moments I had drag racing during the greatest era in our sport. It also allows me to get together with all the guys in the Throttle Merchants and bench race about all the people, characters, unforgettable moments, and wild times that occurred so long ago. I end my story with this recollection about a personality that had a whole lot to do with my drag racing career-Larry Stellings. The Stellings-Hampshire Red Stamp Spl. got off to a fast start in 1964. After setting low e.t. at the NHRA Winternationals (7.81), we headed up to Bakersfield for the March Meet. On Friday, we ran 7.97, a time exceeded only by Norm Weekly and The Frantic Four (7.95). That night we went to a fancy French restaurant in town for dinner and to celebrate our run. Larry, who always liked to show people a good time, had invited three ladies up from Los Angeles for the evening. Now, he able to do this because his dad owned a 7up bottling plant in Sacramento, and he used to make regularly-scheduled visits up there when the money got low. Larry also had this bad habit of taking the keys out of the ignition and just tossing them under the front seat. When we came outside after several hours in the restaurant, everything was gone: the Red Stamp Spl., trailer, Larry's station wagon, all our tools and spare parts. Hours later, probably around 4:00 a.m., the Kern County Sheriff's Office called the motel to report that they had found a race car. Larry borrowed another team's El Camino and hustled out to the scene of the discovery. Amazingly, the tow car was gone, but the dragster and trailer had been left behind. Because the guys who owned the El Camino had blown their only engine, they let us use their stuff for the race. The final chapter to this story occurred several months later when Larry got yet another call from the sheriff's office-they had located the stolen wagon in the garage of a house in a new development. And, everything was there except my driving suit, gloves, and helmet. Some time later, "Wild Bill" Alexander swore he saw my stuff on some guy racing motorcycles on an oval track-how about that?


RONNIE: My last race car was the Caspary-Hampshire-Robinson top fuel dragster. In September 1969, Dee re-purchased the Bradley-Hampshire RCS chassis and had Sid build us a 392 cid Chrysler using some of the parts not damaged from Jeep's car. We had Tom Hanna do the tin work, George Cerny the paint, and Tom Kelly the lettering. Herb Robinson, who provided a lot of the funding for the dragster, owned H&H Processing in Hermosa Beach, a popular business with the racers for hard anodizing parts. The very first time we took the car to a drag strip we ran 227 at "the Beach". We knew we had a good race car and at the 1970 Winternationals we let everybody know more about us. Even with "bad" tires on the car, we qualified for the program. Goodyear had some new and larger slicks available at the track but wouldn't give us any until Carroll Shelby intervened and settled the matter in our favor. In round one we clobbered Don "the Beachcomber" Johnson running low e.t. and top speed at 6.74-224 mph. In round two we took out Robert Anderson from Louisiana, setting up a semi-final match with Larry Dixon in the "Howard Cam Rattler". Danny Porsche called our coin toss with Larry and we lost; this was important because the left lane was at least a tenth slower than the right lane. No matter how you set up the clutch, cars would haze the tires just long enough to give the guy in the other lane a slight advantage. Larry got me by about ½ car length, but blew his engine. Tony Nancy was a no-show for the final and Dixon won the event on a less than stellar pass. That coin toss with Dixon Sr. was so pivotal in the outcome of the race; if we could have only put Larry in the left lane, I know Caspary-Hampshire-Robinson would have been in the winner's circle. But, that's drag racing!!


Ronnie, Sid, and Dee after setting top speed of the meet atLions Drag Strip, December 1969.


Round one of the 1970 Winternationals versus Don "The Beachcomber" Johnson; Ronnie has just cleared the last speed light and the chute was just starting to come out.


With only one good eye, Ronnie drove by looking down the left side of the car-qualifying pass at 1970 Winternationals.



The warm up rollers in the pits at OCIR; Dee Caspary behind car.


Pits at Irwindale (1970)-who's that in the background on the scooter? Steve Gibbs, of course (he was the Manager of Irwindale at the time).


RONNIE: After Pomona, we went to the March Meet followed by the Spring Championships at Fremont. We qualified at Bakersfield, but broke a rear end and had to hustle back to RCS to repair the drive train. It was a total thrash all weekend and when it came time for eliminations, we were shut off for a leaking fuel line. Fremont went a lot better; we made it to the final but lost to Steve Carbone and Larry Huff's "Soapy Sales" car. After the spring "Cinderella" races were over, we competed in the NHRA Division 7 championships, and even went to the Springnationals in Dallas. At the end of the year, Dee, abruptly and without explanation, put the car up for sale. I guess he just wanted to get out of racing. Because I had accrued enough points throughout the year, I was invited to participate in the World Finals at Dallas, Texas. Larry Bowers hired me to drive his car but we had clutch problems and were never able to make a "clean" run. Meanwhile, Dee had sold the RCS car to Korody-Kolyer, a corporation that specialized in manufacturing diesel engine parts. I drove the car a few more times, but was replaced by Dwight Salisbury. Later that year, Dwight had a nasty little encounter with the guard rail at OCIR extensively damaging the front end of the Korody-Kolyer car.

1971 was a weird year for me in particular, and drag racing in general. The days of the front engine dragster was just about over and rides were starting to get harder to come by. A lot of guys could no longer afford the expense of nitro racing and just got out of the sport. I was crewing on "The Greek's" car during his '71 Western swing when Ted Gotelli called and asked if I wanted to drive his car. I took over for Norm Wilcox, but later that year Ted went the way of Dee and quit drag racing, too. Ironically, my last ride was the "Howard Cam Rattler", the same car that had beat me at the '70 Winternationals. I drove "The Rattler" for Bob Downey off-and-on throughout that year after which I just faded off into the sunset. Actually, I made a determined effort to build my own top fuel dragster, but it was entirely beyond my means-the days of the "dirty old garage floor motor" was finally over.


Ronnie driving Ted Gotelli's #701 car at OCIR-1971.






RONNIE: The Waterman-Hampshire cackle car is fast becoming a reality. Sid has already built the motor and the car is fast coming together at Kent Fuller's shop in Rancho Cordova, California. If everything goes as expected, we should have it ready for the 2007 California Hot Rod Reunion-----fire the next pair!!




left to right: Jesse Schrank; Jeep Hampshire; Ronnie Hampshire; Joe Douglass.




Brad Hampshire



Merchants of Speet - Part 1



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