As the saying goes, it's great
when a plan comes together. For Big Yohns Racing "the plan"
came together at the 13th California Hot Rod Reunion held at
Fomosa Raceway, October 1-3, 2004. Here is Big Yohn's version
of the events that took place.
Well, what did the Roman's say,
Vini, Vidi, Vici! We came, we saw, we conquered. I don't know
if we conquered anything but we did, for sure, come and see!
We got to the track Thursday
with both the Junior Fueler and Shubert/Herbert packed in the
trailer. they looked like Sardines! This is looking into the
back of my 24 foot box. On the left, facing us is the race car.
It is a two-piece car, butil that way, by Bob Meyer. The fron
section hangs on the ceiling on the left, front spindles toward
us. Wheels are on the wall to the left.
Shubert/Herbert is not a two piece. Would have been but we couldn't
find a set of splice joints in time. So, all I can do with it
is take off the front axle. Five 3/8ths bolts and it's off. 3-4
minutes max. The axle and wheels hangs from the trailer ceiling
right at the rear door. We use the dolly to roll the chassis
into the trailer and set it down on the support that Meyer made
that bolts to the front of the motor and rests on the floor.
On Friday the Shubert & Herbert
car was debuted in the Jr Fuel pit of Johnson Racing. Basically
kept out of the limelight until the fire up at the Double Tree
hotel that night.
Zane hopped in and got comfy!
With the upholstery in, it's just his size and he looked good
in there. I don't know exactly what he expected, but I think
it's safe to say that he was pleased with the finished product.
I had bought a 60's drivers suit
and mask, gloves etc. from John Shoemaker this summer. He said
it would fit someone 6' 2" and 38" around the waist!
Zane is about 5' 9" and maybe 34 waist. The waist was fine,
but the suit was a little short on him! Look out for Shoemaker!
LOL. It was just fine, because it was with Zane in mind that
I bought it!
I couldn't find an old helmet and Zane couldn't find any of his
old stuff either, so I bought a new helmet and took a color chip
to the paint store, had them match the paint, took the helmet
and the paint to my favorite Body and Paint shop, Tim's, (that's
a plug and I can too do that) and he got it painted to match
On the far left, partly cut off, is Valerie Shubert. The left
side is the side I don't see out of too good, sorry Valerie!
Next is Valerie's school chum, Martha, sorry i didn't catch or
don't remember her last name, next is Bill Cunningham who crewed
for Zane in the early days and the man, himself.
This was Friday about 5:00 and we were headed for the Double
Tree where we were going to be one half of an all S & H fireup
about 9:00 P. M. Bet you can't guess who the other half was!
In the background (below) is car and trailer. I borrowed a trailer
from Bill "Magicar" Pitts because it was more period
correct than a 16 foot flat bed car hauler which was all I had
up there besides the box the race car rides in.
We hooked everything up and I
headed for the Double Tree. After I turned the corner by our
pit area, I looked at the rig on my right and slammed the brakes
on. The White Combo belongs to John Rasmussen who is a competitor
of ours in Junior Fuel with Gene Adams and Ron Pratt as partners.
Not a shabby group.
I thought the contrast was kind of noticeable. When we raced
Top Fuel in 1966, we looked just like the El Camino and the trailer/race
car do here, except we had a single axle trailer that was nowhere
near as nice as Pitts'. (For nitpickers, 1966 we had a different
race car but we towed with an El Camino. In 1967 we had this
race car but towed with either a Cad Fleetwood or a 57 Olds Fiesta
The point here, is not what we towed with what year, but what
a typical hobby top fuel rig looked like, compared with what
some people feel they need to compete in Junior Fuel!
It's so funny that's it's actually funny and I laugh when I look
at this! Notice the push board. We didn't need it Friday night,
but I thought it looked kind of "Butch"! We used it
Saturday night though. Big Yohns
Well, here's one for the scrapbook.
Shubert and Herbert with Shubert/Herbert! That's Zane in the
I will have to say that the next couple of hours are in competition
with the most significant hours in my life! Bringing these two
Icons of the sport together at one of the most prestigious events
in Drag Racing is a great satisfaction! To have them sitting
and standing alongside my "pile of pipe" is truly awesome.
Neither of them had been to any recent Nostalgia event and to
say that they were "blown away" by the reception they
got would be among the hugest understatements of all time!
I kind of had an idea that the car would be well, received and
they (Chet and Zane) would be well received, as well, but what
happened was beyond my expectations!
On the lower
left is Zane's wife Valerie with a pretty big smile. I am putting
the funnel into the fuel tank because it had been running for
awhile but we didn't want to run out of fuel, as I was going
to refill the tank while the car ran. The fellow with the camera
poised in the Maroon shirt is from the NHRA Museum. That's Kol
behind him. On the right is "Motorman" Bob McKray who
handled fireup chores and kept track of motor heat etc.
Here I am just about to add fuel,
the car having been running for some minutes by this point. It
was sounding fine and either McKray or Zane were whacking the
throttle every once in awhile. That's Dan Kaplan (who shot some
of the pictures I am using here) in the White tee-shirt and light
I am adding fuel
and McKray is giving the throttle linkage a little nudge to slow
the idle down.
Here's Zane in the seat, motor
running and getting his first sniff of Nitro in public, for close
to 40 years. He declined to use a breather mask and handled everything
We didn't get much of any flames
because partly, we were running only 15% Nitro. This is what
they actually ran in the car. We also had the barrel valve lean
to not use our fuel up any faster than we had to. A rich barrel
valve and 95% nitro would probably make flames!
I brought 600 handouts, framing
quality montage pictures of the car in a smoky wheelie and Zane
in the cockpit, and Chet Herbert (above) signed them all and
they all went. Zane signed many of them for fans. Zane's wife
came over to me after it was all over, and asked me if I would
sign some pictures for them! Do you have any idea how looney
this is for me? Zane Shubert's wife wants my autograph? Can't
happen in this lifetime.
Bob Frey says "And The Crowd
Went Wild". After we fired the "Little Guy" (on
15%, believe it or not) when we shut down, there was a roar from
the 400-500 people like I have never heard before! It made the
hair on the back of my neck stand up.
On Saturday the Shubert &
Herbert car took its place on Cacklefest Row in "The Grove"
for all to see and admire.
We had an opportunity
to do a test push start Saturday afternoon about 4:00. Prior
to the test start, we had a discussion back in our pits about
the short time the car would run, given the small fuel tank.
Bob Meyer had brought Ronnie Goodsell along. Ronnie was a very
prominent driver in the same era as Zane and was pretty interested
in our project and in helping. Zane said the idle was fast, that
he idled the car about 500, just fast enough to keep running,
so the wheels started turning and we worked on slowing the idle
down The we was actually Goodsell, as he went to work on the
injector and did some stuff.
So when we our
test push start, it was with the slowed idle and everything worked
fine. Zane was concerned that I wouldn't be able to stay right
behind him and things would get goofy. I figured I could do it,
it had been a long time but some things you don't forget! We
had a push mark patch about a foot wide on the push board afterwards
and I think a lot of that was before and after the on track part.
Anyway, it started fine and we had waited till we were down toward
the end of the track so we would not run out of fuel before we
could make sure the revised idle speed and everything was okay.
It was fine.
was a real blast. Last year Kol and I (and our crew) brought
the Ted Cyr Lincoln Chassis Research car from the Museum in Pomona.
It was during the "get-ready" period in early September
that I decided that I wanted a Cackle Car of my own and that
started this whole deal.
I really have to wear this crappy old driving suit?"
are you complaining about, it looks like Armani from here, fits
me one thing, no matter how good it feels, you won't try to do
a smoking wheelie!"
Here is Zane
being pushed from the starting line. This was the Parade. Dave
McClelland was announcing and he was very kind in his explanation
of the car and talking about it's re-construction.
As we pushed
down the track, I was more than a little pleased to realize that
the applause from the grandstands on both sides of the track
followed us all the way to where the stands thinned out, about
1200 feet! It was thrilling to hear the crowd exhibit their respect
for the car and the guys, Shubert and Herbert! I liked it! If
I had any lingering issues about the wisdom in spending the $
in recreating this car, they were answered at that point!
We are sitting at the far end
of the track waiting for the Funny Cars and Fuel Altereds to
run. I wonder how many times Zane sat like this at Long Beach
and the other LA area tracks, waiting for next round? Must have
felt like old times!
Prior to the
actual Cacklefest, nobody thought to turn the fuel shut off "on"
and it was in the "off" position until Zane figured
out why the car wasn't starting and pushed the fuel shut off
in and it fired about a 100 feet before the turn around. "Man,
was I relieved!"
The clutch was
set up nice and soft and Zane had no problem with it or the brakes
and everything worked just fine. It ran and ran, at the slower
idle. Zane whacked it every once in a while and it was the "energizer
bunny", it just kept on running! This picture (above) shows
more than Robert Briggs thought when he took it. The lights from
the track lighting were on me and lit me right up. It's just
how I felt. That the light was on me. It was the eve of my 70th
Birthday and while I have had many nice family birthdays from
a loving family, this was special.
was perfect, the people were perfect, I don't know how it could
have been any better! We went back to the pits after the Cacklefest
was over and all three of my kids were there and some spouses
and grand kids and Meyer and Goodsell and my wife, Linda, came
along this time too. We had barbecue (Kol cooked, I sat) and
a couple of beers and then it was Midnight and I was 70! Too
Old To Die Young! I made it!
We made it to the semi's with the race car the next day and found
some clues to our spongy performances this year. Happy, Happy!
Big (Still Crazy After All These Years) Yohns