A few years ago, Mike “Nick” Nicholas reestablished the Hot Rod Hill Climb in Georgetown, Colorado, just about an hour’s ride west of Denver. There, deep in the mountains, he reincarnated the climb that was originally held in 1953 and 1954, and then lost to squabbles over racing on public roads. With a little help from friends, family, and the local hot rodding community, the event has now flourished over the last three years.
Mike then set his sights on classic dirt drag racing, like hot rodders did it back in the old days when they lined up on dirt airport runways and graded flatlands and did battle an eighth-mile at a time. His first Dirt Drag extravaganza was held last year in Monte Vista, Colorado, a quaint little municipality set deep in the San Louis Valley of Southern Colorado. It was the perfect landscape to build his dream drag race.
The county pitched in and helped Nick grade a dirt dragstrip from the open fields adjacent to the Best Western Movie Manor Hotel. It was the site of an old airstrip, and thus the perfect location for the event. Participants came from all over the States to do combat on his homemade strip, and the feeling from the drivers was that Nick hit a grand slam on this one.
This year, Nick ramped up efforts to make the HRDD better. Participating hot rods nearly doubled last year’s numbers, and the racing was faster and more heated. Early hot rods were the most prevalent, but racers with modified rides up to the ’60s came ready to run the track.
Festivities were added to as well. A large custom car show was held on the hotel green, featuring cars from the ’20s to the ’70s. Bands played, libations flowed, and food trucks filled bellies. It was a great time. Check out
hotroddirtdrags.com for up-to-date info on next year’s run. It’s a happening you don’t want to miss!
Hard Chop: Mike Orback’s project started as a ’32 five-window he scored out of El Paso, Texas. Only problem: It had no roof. Luckily, Mike had a section back at his place, Outlaw Speed Shop in Loveland, Colorado. The section had been cut just below the drip rail. When they placed it, the resulting 2-1/2-inch-high windshield looked so right they welded it on the way it was, and the Hard Chop was born. Mike added an old tube axle he had in the shop to the front of the ’32 frame, while the rear is a Halibrand Champ 303 quick-change out of an old sprint car. Engine is a 331 Hemi pulled from a Chrysler New Yorker. It’s topped by an early Edmunds 2×2 intake. Inside Mike’s got an array of gauges he scored out of a three-window he picked up in Idaho. Steering wheel is Schroeder, and Rex Rogers handbuilt the cool period bomber seats. There are more than 500 louvers punched into the body, all done by hand at Outlaw. The finish is bare metal; the only paint on this ride is for the Outlaw call-outs.
Flatty Rail: Outlaw started this build with a ’60s Dragmaster chassis, covered by a body hand-formed by Justin Brunmeier at the shop. Driver Royce Hopkins built the flathead using a 1953 8BA as a starting point. Heads are super-rare Evans marine heads off a 1947 Chris Craft (with no water neck). Roy had to custom-fit the 4-71 blower (off an early Detroit) to fit the Ford engine. The rearend, which sits precariously between the driver’s legs, is a Ford 9-inch. Up front the dragster runs on original magnesium Halibrand spindle mounts, though the rear Halibrand kidney beans had to be swapped out after the first run due to a lack of traction from the whitewall tires. It was a real blast to watch this rail run against the Hemi-powered dragster brought by the Deton8tors out of Denver.
Cragar Concoction: Art Jennings brought a neat little roadster to the Drags this year, a ’29 body on an original ’29 chassis with a special banger motor. This “reverse cam” Cragar Model A was built by Bill Kenz (of Kenz and Leslie fame) in 1934. Story is he gave away the engine and chassis after a friend of his died in a crash driving the original roadster. A friend of Art’s picked up these parts in the ’70s. He recently passed away and the family gave them to Art. The reverse-cam system gives the banger four intakes and two exhausts instead of vice versa. Kenz even handbuilt the manifold on this motor. Winfield carbs get this motor fed, and a stock Model A trans does the shifting. A stock dash holds the basic gauges, and Art threw in a set of modern seats for comfort. He has the original seats back home if the need arises to toss them back in. This ride runs on Ford 16-inch wheels all the way around, and Blue Oval hydraulic brakes do the stopping.
Six Shooter: Dave Overholt and his trusty ’31 Chevy roadster seem to appear at every event west of the Mississippi. It’s always a strong runner, and its owner constantly pushes her to the limit whenever he’s on a track—paved or dirt. The Bow Tie started down the hot rod path in the ’60s when the doors received a suicide fit, but then the project stalled. Dave got a tip from local legend Gary Vahling about the car and then scored the needy roadster. The engine is an early 292 straight-six. It’s a stock block, but the compression has been boosted to 10:1 by a highly modified 194ci head. A custom Clay Smith cam gets the valves jumping. Three Rochesters are up on top, connected to an original Offenhauser 3×1 intake. A vintage Mallory Double Life distributor gets the spark out, and those pipes are early Clifford issue. A ’57 Ford rear with 4.56 gears gets the power to the back wheels, a 4-inch drop axle gives him a nice rake up front, and stopping power is via Ford hydraulic brakes with Buick drums. The body is basically the same as the day he bought it. Sparse interior with a few period Stewart-Warner gauges makes this hot rod look the part. His son’s chalk writing of “Hot Rod” is still on the dash, and Beth Kearney of Lil’ Dame pinstriping did the work on the decklid in remembrance of Dave’s brother.
Highway Star: Pete Stringer, now 73, has been hot rodding since he was 15 years old. He’s never owned a new car in his life, and prefers to drive his hot rods in and around his town of Foxfield, Colorado. Pete’s stash includes a ’47 Ford coupe and a ’48 Ford pickup, owned since 1963 and 1964, respectively. But his daily driver is this beautiful, all-steel ’34 coupe, which he’s owned for 12 years. He put an old Ford heater in it so he can drive it through Colorado’s snowy winters. He says it drives like a dream and we believe him. He’s had it to both coasts and all over the continent, so it didn’t surprise us when he said he drove it the 225 miles from his house to the Dirt Drags. The roof has been chopped 4 inches, and the fenders were tossed away. It’s motivated by a ’55 265ci Chevy topped with a Holley four-barrel. Since Pete has back and leg issues, a Turbo 350 automatic does the shifting, though he prefers the feel of a manual. A TCI 4-inch drop gets this ride’s nose in the weeds, and ’40 Ford wheels and brakes sit at the corners. The interior is Spartan, to say the least. Just a ’40 Ford wheel and the aforementioned heater to keep Pete warm in the Colorado chill. This beautiful ’34 has logged tens of thousands of miles the last dozen years, and Pete says it’s the most comfortable car he’s ever owned.
Rays of Might: Ray’s Hot Rods out of Jamesburg, New Jersey, was well represented at the Dirt Drags. Owner Jim Loughlin, along with his brother John and their father Rob, hightailed it almost 2,000 miles from the Garden State to do some damage on the Colorado topsoil. And they came well-armed. Jim brought two rides with him. The No. 216 modified runs on a Model T frame and is powered by a 239ci flathead fed by three Strombergs—running nitromethane. Jim handbuilt the little speedster out of sheet aluminum. His second ride, the Death Capsule, is a wedge-shaped, mid-engine speedster built on a Model T frame as well. It’s a flathead-powered ride pushed by an Isky cam and breathing through Edelbrock heads and a two-carb intake. The body, once again, was handbuilt by Jim. The Death Capsule has become a staple of straight-line vintage racing, showing up at TROG as well as the Dirt Drags. Last but not least, car 313, the Brown Boogie, is brother John’s ride, built on a T frame and running a Model A four-banger and axles. It has an 18-inch motor setback for better balance, and the cowl has been narrowed 5 inches for both a speedster shape and wind-cheating profile. The ride has coupe quarters on it and sports random doorskins. It runs a Thomas aluminum head and a two-carb intake. It was made with castaway parts just lying around the shop. But boy can it boogie!
Banger for the Buck: Ron Cooper’s interesting hot rod starts out with a ’29 Model A frame sporting its original axles. Twenty-one-inch wheels and Excelsior race tires give this ride a high-in-the-clouds stance. The amalgamated body is built from a combination of the front of a ’22 Dodge touring sedan he found out in the sagebrush of New Mexico, and a turtle deck from a ’27 Model T he had on hand. The dash is loaded with gauges that fit perfectly in the Dodge’s original cutouts. The heartbeat of this hot rod is a ’31 Model A engine built by H&H Flatheads with a moderate high-compression head, touring cam, aluminum race pistons, and a lightened flywheel. Oversize stainless valves, along with inserts (no babbits), add to the creative build. Red’s Headers made the exhaust manifold, while the downdraft intake is a Wac Customs creation. One Stromberg keeps this banger fed. Ron put this beauty together with help from Johnny’s Fabco right there in New Mexico. Ron hit The Race of Gentlemen the week previous and then made it in time for the Dirt Drags!
Hawaiian Topic: Check out this neat little roadster. This killer ride was built in Hawaii back in the ’50s and was recently brought back to the mainland. It’s a time capsule of period-perfect parts and patina and was featured in HOT ROD in 1959. Check back with Deluxe for a full feature in the future. Source: hotrod.com