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Ron Johnson's Bowling Green Diary

Chizler Cacklefest

A week long adventure in Ron's own words....


That's me, with our new Motorhome, filling up at Bowling Green on Thursday. I drove 2100 miles in three days and picked Don Ewald up at Nashville. I was glad to be there.


Checking the trailer at the gas station it was found that Chizler was able to wrestle itself loose from it's bonds in the rear and was ready to attack the front straps when we got there. Talk about a Brute!


The Surfboard theme sign was a carry-over from the Del Mar Car Show in April.


Gary Sumek at Lenco was kind enough to provide a coupler at no cost. Thanks Gary. It's is a little bit of a job to remove the cowl and couple or un-couple, but well worth it to have the secure knowledge that the car can't move under power.


The driver area is pretty small and very rudimentary. Of course 45 years ago it was the norm!


Thursday afternoon, son Kol was working on getting a better fit for the blower starter. Garlits, on the right, stopped by and we had a nice opportunity to visit. The Chizler had been in his Museum for 23 years, up until we got it three months ago. Boy, it seems longer ago than that, considering all that's happened with it!!


After some modifications to its blower snout starter, I decided to test fire the Chizler. Dusty McWilliams and Michelle Read were on hand to help.






Friday afternoon, Rex Rexroat was kind enough to load and haul the Chizler into town (and back again) in his trailer. The Chizler sits under the canopy of the host hotel, the Holiday Inn Convention Center. NHRA's staff people assist in fueling. That's Rex with the fuel jug.


Chizler is ready to fire up, waiting for it's first meeting as a running race car with it's owner in 43 years. Chris was in town, but having dinner and hadn't seen the Chizler yet. Anticipation grew. I was nervous. What if something went wrong and it didn't fire-up or the starter didn't work right or ?


Finally, nightfall and Chris arrived together. The program inside was over and the outside crowd of 300 or so doubled as the auditorium emptied. Chris slips into the Chizler with an assist from Dusty McWilliams and Steve "Hook" Gibbs watching on the right. Together Again!!!


Greek getting a quick rundown, Dusty was explaining the fuel shut-off positioning. This stuff was all different as John Loukas had rigged the car with Alex Mikkelson, at Alex's American Roadster Shop in Placentia and Chris hadn't seen any of it before. The Blonde hair and hand with the cocktail belongs to Chris' wife Sandy who accompanied Chris along with Chris's long-time Crew Chief Larry Lones and his lady friend Mary Kaye.


It's been primed and I hit the starter button. Tension was at the peak! All that had been done up until now would be for nothing if it didn't fire up.


Eureka! It runs. Look how the crowd disappeared from behind the headers on both sides. We had 90% in the tank and it was loud! I wanted it idling rich so it would really be stinky and it was, and slow so it wouldn't run through the fuel too fast. I had a guy come up to me the next day who said he had been behind fuelers running for 40 years and had never been driven away before. Notice even most of the people in the inverted Vee in the center were having trouble staying there. This was something those people will remember forever. The guy in the gray shirt with the cocktail is Chris' Crew Chief Larry Lones. This was as big a deal for him as it was for Chris as he had been a Crewmember on the Chizler too.


I don't know who was more relieved when Chizler barked to life, Chris or me, but the grin on his face makes it obvious that he's enjoying himself.


Chris didn't like the idle because it was a little soggy so he wanted me to lean the barrel valve, which I did. That was okay, I had made my point by then.


The alleys stayed clear and people kept a respectful distance. It was glorious.


I think the tearing up was from Nitro fumes. Chris was blinking a little and who could blame him?


Chris whacked the throttle and the idle didn't come all the way back down.


Dusty grabs the linkage and brings the idle back down.


The Chizler is stilled after it ran through almost the full 5 gallons of 90% nitro.


Old buddy, Hubert Platt comes up to congratulate Chris as he climbs out of the car.


My guess is that, even with as much enjoyment as he got from the experience, Chris was glad it was over.


Alison Lee, of the "Great Expectations" Top Fuel car from the 60's and 70's greets Chris.


"Broadway Bob" Metzler, irrepressible former owner of Union Grove Dragways in Racine Wisconsin warmly greets Chris. I think it is fair to say that Chris was Metzler's favorite Top Fuel Dragster driver/owner and Metzler was Chris favorite promoter/track owner. Their history together is long and storied and Chris was the "Home Town" favorite of the crowds there.


These two have a lot to laugh about, together again!


The crush of people around Chris was simply grand.


Joe Jacono greets Chris and he gets ready to wash the Nitro residual down with a "Black and Water".


Steve Gibbs says hello. Steve and I have worked together through this project from start to finish. He has been a great help.


Chris with Dale Emery, Kenny Safford who had his car back at the track, and Pat Foster who accompanied Don Trasin's two cars to NHRR.


Jim Adolph in the Black Hawaiian shirt and Nitro Jim McMonagle just visible over the heads of Adolph and Chris.


Jim Adolph, Chris, Jacono and long-time NHRA Division Three director Bob Daniels, McMonagle again over their heads.


On the right, Larry Lones in the jeans and Gray shirt, Mary Kaye and almost out of the frame, Chris wife Sandy.


Sandy, Dale, Me and Chris. My relief at having Part one successfully completed was overwhelming. It was time for an adult beverage.


Saturday Vic Cooke asked to take Chizler to track end and shoot some "Beauty" shots. 7:15 came early.


Larry, Mary Kaye, Me , Chris and Sandy as we spent the early afternoon, selling tee-shirts and Chris signing my handouts and a surprisingly wide variety of artifacts that people had brought with them.


I showed Chris and Sandy my album with shots of my Shubert/Herbert car "Shoobie". Chris hadn't been at a CHRR since it was completed so he had not seen it since 1967 when we were at a race at Union Grove.

It was very heartwarming to see how many people came buy to get Chris' autograph.


Ever the perfectionist, Chris is working on throttle reaction by adjusting throttle linkage.


The dynamic duo, Chris and Larry doing what they have been doing for 52 years. Kol was assisting them and I was an observer. What fun to be right in the middle of things.


Aha. Finally Chris shows a small sign of aging. He has to use reading glasses for fine work.


Now the barrel valve. Before he was done, Chris and Dale Emery leaked down the barrel to get it just right.


Around 4:00 P. M. it started to rain. It rained off and on until about 7:30 when a decision was made to alter the program. Instead of the normal push start Cacklefest, all the cars except the Swamp Rat #8 and the Chizler would be set out on the track in a row and blower started. Chizler and Swamp Rat would parade to track end and push start and both end up on the starting line. While backing the motor off prior to pulling up to the staging area, Kol saw the blower belt was close to breaking. This started a thrash to locate and install a replacement belt which ultimately involved Kol, Don Ewald, Chris, Larry and others as we literally robbed the belt off Norbe Locke's "Grandpas Toy" which was parked two cars down. Here Kol is bent over the motor with Don assisting as I prepare to round up Chris and his party.


The nose is not easy to remove, so the belt had to be changed by reaching in under it and disconnecting the fuel pump and fuel shut-off cable. Having two wrists on each arm would make it a lot easier, but the group made it happen.


The belt replacement was completed just as we were instructed to pull into the staging area. The last minute "thrash" was in the very best tradition of Drag Racing. How many times do you suppose Chris and Larry have worked right up to the "bell" for next round to be ready to go? None of us had anticipated this kind of tension. The drama was almost overpowering, between the rain and the mechanical. It makes the whole story much more compelling in the future re-telling. What the picture doesn't show is the crowd of people circling the car, caught up in the events unfolding.

Thanks to Norbe Locke for not pressing charges when we "stole" the blower belt off his brand new car, "Grandpa's Toy" and thanks to Dick Gaylord for showing up minutes later with another belt, with which we were able to put Norbe's car back in running order.

As a sidebar, Chris and Larry told Kol if he ever wanted to crew with them, there was a place for him on their team, anytime, anywhere. Can you say "Proud Dad?"


Chris sat calmly waiting to get pushed down track. I wonder what thoughts were going through his mind. The last time he sat in this particular Chizler waiting to push start was in 1962. At that point he was probably glad to be retiring this car in favor of his new Rod Stuckey built 3 point cage car. Who said you can't go home again?


Hurry up and wait. We are in "pause" mode as we prepare to have the Chizler pushed down track, past the grandstand as Dave McClelland will introduce the Chizler and Chris to the crowd.


Having rookie driver, Larry and I felt we needed to give him a last reminder of the placement of pedals and switches and stuff. He seemed to appreciate it!



Introductions over, the Chizler was the last car to be waved off by Steve Gibbs of the Wally Parks NHRA Museum of Drag Racing, sponsor of the event.


Excitement builds as the Chizler is pushed off.


It worked! It worked! Chizler is alive again and cruisin' toward the starting line.


A different angle, and more light yields a sharper image.


I checked the head temps a few times as Larry Lones observes from behind the Chizler and Greg Sharp, curator of the NHRA Museum watches the familiar routine. I can't help but think that Larry would kill to be doing my job, but he didn't so I did it.


We're about there. Chizler is running low on fuel and Chris gets ready to click it.


Chris is out and we've done it. Don Trasin and Pat Foster fired up the McEwen/English Leather car in the background and it ran for a few minutes. When it shut off the "Fest" was over. The applause was thunderous. Amazingly, after four hours of nothing to do but sit out the rain, the fans had remained and the stands were full. I think they like it!


Back in the pits Chris wanted a photo with one of his sponsors - South Oak Dodge. The Greek... always playing the crowd. Just after this shot Chris, Sandy, Larry and Mary Kaye headed back to Chicago to prepare for an IHRA event in Edmonton, Canada the following weekend.



To sum it up, the first of a limited number of appearances for the Chizler was a roaring success. From the time that the idea to do this occurred to me until now was five months. We've got another five months to go and then the Chizler will lose it's heart to the Loukas/Preising Coupe and leave the Sunshine again to return to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It will undoubtedly never be alive again. We have to treasure each opportunity to see it and Chris "Together Again"!



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