by Mickey Bryant

I suppose all future star drag racers can look back to their early years and pinpoint the true beginning of their passion for the sport to one particular place or location. In most cases it would be their parent's garage at home or possibly a buddy's driveway or even auto shop at the high school.

For Dave Braskett is was Tom DeYoung's Garage and Gas Station.

Now, Dave as a teenager no doubt worked on his car some at home and spent most of his time in auto shop under the hood of his car. But when Saturday rolled around both Dave and I on separate headings would end up together at our #1 hangout right there at the corner of Orange and Market in Long Beach. It was owned and operated by our Jordan High School buddy, Tom DeYoung, who, like us, was a certified gearhead. Tom was a year or two ahead of us and as soon as he got out of high school he followed his own personal dream and opened a little business. Thus our Saturday destination was located on a small corner lot, (later the home of Winchell's Donuts) just down the street from Lindbergh Junior High School.

It had the look of the day. A two pump island station, parking for about five cars, and a garage about the size of a 1958 master bedroom, all on that compact lot. And in this one door garage was a cleared area where Tom would perform the everyday job of replacing brakes, transmission/rear end work and tune-ups. There was no hydraulic lift for two reasons. There wasn't room and at the time no one could afford that luxury. Around the three walls adjacent to the work area were a small desk and chair, benches and shelves packed with everything from boxes of bolts to cases of oil. In a little area in the far back was a part of the bench that was always void of parts and clutter. It was the place we would sit, coke in hand, and do some serious 'bench racing'. It was right there where the expression got its name.

On any given Saturday the three of us, Tom, Dave and me, at some point in the day would find ourselves huddled in that garage discussing the next step needed in order for us to really jump into drag racing. The prime target of the plan was Tom's pristine 1940 Ford Coupe that was always there and always staring at Dave and I while we worked on our own cars. Dave had this '47 Ford Coupe and I had a '49 Chevy Coupe. Both a distant second to the absolute crown jewel of a serious young car owner who wanted the best race and street look - the 1940 Ford Coupe with that small side window. And Tom had just that. Oh my God were we jealous. Tom, our buddy, had a real car business and a '40 Ford. Could it get any better? He probably had all the chicks he wanted too. Geez.

So in our "Bench Building" of the perfect drag car we started with Tom's car and went from there. It had to have a Chevy engine of course, and huge. We did have in Dave Braskett, what we considered to be the best Chevy engine guy on the planet. After all, stuffed into that pedestrian-looking '47 Ford of his was this wonderfully prepared Chevy V-8, tricked out and sporting a 3 carb manifold setup. There was nothing but precision in the whole engine compartment, and spotless. Dave spent countless hours under that hood making sure it was perfect. And that puppy was fast. My '49 Chevy had a little surprise of its own too. It had this 6-cylinder Jimmy tricked a touch, (mostly by Dave when I could get him away from his mount), and could hold its own, but nothing compared to what Dave built under his hood.

So back to Bench Building our perfect car - we had our motor. Now let's punch that baby out to a full 352 cubic inches. That would be about as big as you could go for that power plant and we knew where we could get the head work done. It was at the shop of our hero who just happens to be just down the street, Jocko's Porting Service. A good friend of Dave's, Norm Slaughter, worked there. Plus we would be glad to put Jocko's name on the side of the car. What a perfect arrangement!

Now, do we put a blower on it? It was the latest rage and the Chevy motor worked very well with the McCulloch unit specifically designed for the new Chevy 283. After all, Tom McEwen was kicking butt on the streets of Long Beach with that exact configuration. Good idea, but Dave and I both wanted something different and loved the look of those Hilborn Injectors and the thought of seeing them sticking out the hood of a black '40 Ford was enough. We will mount the injectors on top of that big Chevy motor.

It was here we decided to finish the dream car later. It might have been someone drove up for gas and Tom had to attend to business, or we counted our collective funds and figured we needed to wait to plan more when we hit the ten dollar mark.

We did decide on the team makeup right away. The car would be BRASKETT & BRYANT. Dave would be head wrench and I, Mickey Bryant, would drive. No one I knew could hold a candle to Dave when it came to wielding a 9/16" open end and back then I was pretty fearless when it came to going through the gears. Tom? He would donate the car and hold the fort back at the garage for the flood of business that was bound to happen once they got a look at this potent B/GS entry. Stone, Woods and Cook, we're coming after ya baby!
We might have been just a little naïve, I don't know.

We wanted to run B Gas so with our big displacement engine we had to weigh in at no less than 3,028 lbs. Shouldn't be a problem as soon as we figure out how to weigh it!

NHRA had just clarified the requirements for each Gas class and it was based on a weight to cubic inch ratio whether the motor was supercharged or not. We didn't want to run against the 'big boys' with those blown Chryslers so we will make sure we make weight and duke it out with the B/GS guys. Besides that class was loaded, and it had the local badass, the aforementioned Stone, Woods and Cook. Can you imagine, and we did, beating Doug "Cookie" Cook at Lions! It would be a dream come true.

Meanwhile, back at the garage, we were hungry so Dave and I went over to Mexico City Restaurant and blew half our stash on a #8 and a #3, extra flour tortillas please. You can't finish the dream car on an empty stomach.

A typical Saturday at DeYoung's would include washing and waxing our cars to adding some new trick part. It was quite a ritual when Dave or I would slowly open the box of some new go-fast item to spring it on whoever was there.

I remember unveiling my brand spanking new chrome valve cover for my straight six GMC engine and relishing in the oohs and aahs. However, during the install, I ran into a little snag and had to have ole Braskett help me. Unfortunately this was not uncommon and, boy, did I pay for it when I pulled him out from under that hood of his. The look was something like, "Now what?" but he always took the time to help me. I did detect a hidden sly grin now and then.

But most of the time it was Dave with some real deal. This guy must have spent every spare buck on that car, especially the motor. And it showed. He had this '57 Chevy 283 with ported and polished heads, (by Jocko of course), some other trick applications, and topped with three carburetors. All hidden in that pure vanilla stock 1940 Chevy coupe. We spent many a night in that ride at Grissingers Drive-In and at our little drag strip on Cherry Ave. Dave was a real serious guy but if you were his friend he looked out for you.

recall an incident about how caring and sensitive that big ol' tough guy could be. On one Saturday when we were at DeYoung's Garage, in strolls a classmate of ours and on his arm was my first true love who left me just two months before, Sherry Olson. It was very uncomfortable and after they finally left, I went out to be alone and to work on my car. In a few minutes here comes Dave to see how I was doing but acting like he was there to help me with the car. It was so funny to see him so sensitive and concerned. I finally had to say something and of course he denied caring how I felt. It was priceless.

As the hot rod fund started to grow the dreaming turned into planning. I insisted on a full roll cage for the driver compartment. If I'm going to be doing 120+ in the traps I would need all the security that '40 Ford could deliver. Dave's reaction was something like, "If you expect to keep your foot on the floor of one of my engines, then you had better be safe." At this point he had lost the wry grin and launched into a full race belly laugh. Pretty cocky this guy.

So here is what we had in mind. This is a wonderful creation by famed drag cartoony artist, Jeff DeGrandis, based on how I described the car to him. I wish Dave could see it. Oh, we decided with our winnings we would build up Tom DeYoung's base of operation, converting that tiny shop into a nifty garage and gas station complete with an office, waiting area and a real place to bench race. Maybe we would start looking at a bigger, badder drag machine and step up in class.

Every drag race legend had their own place where they dreamed of what they would build to take to the strip. Ours was called DeYoung's Garage and Gas Station.


Julie (Braskett) and I are in the process of writing a book about her dad Dave. Dave and I were best buds from high school to when we both got married. I have a ton of Dave and Mickey stories and they will be in the book. Here is a short one that all wanna be racers experienced, a garage hangout in late teens dreaming of putting something on the track.



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