The Great Race of '68

In the summer of 1968, I had a '56 Ford Ranch Wagon. I built out the back so there was no back seat. Remeber, these were the days of no seat belts. I put carpet back there.  My friends just laid down or sat back there.  I did a lot other stuff back there too.
(Click "About AuCountry" on the left to return)

Anyway, I was visiting my friend Tom Opsahl who lived on Crystal Street in Salt Lake one day and, from his living room window, saw a '56 Ford Convertible in the driveway next door. It had really cool looking red and white tuck and roll interior so I went down to look at it. The owner of the car came down and asked if I wanted to see the motor. I said, "Sure." I mean, what gear head ever turned down that offer.

When he opened the hood, there it was, a 406 cubic inch Ford with three two barrel carbs. The air filter was this big, polished aluminum, oval. WOW. So, I asked if he wanted to sell the car. He said, "Sure, $175." So, I scraped together $175 and bought the car.

Think about it, most kids would have loved a convert, but I wanted to build a sleeper. So, I used the shop where my girlfriend's dad worked, to take the engine from the convert and put it into my Ranch Wagon. I had to drive it with no mufflers to Midas where I had them put glass packs on it. Oh, yea, I put the 4 speed from the convert into the wagon too. The engine from the Ranch Wagon (a T-bird 312) went into the convert. I sold the convert for $175.

Now, it was race time.

For several weeks, I raced everything that came along. I always won too. It was fun. No one suspected that this wagon, which could smoke one tire for about a block, could beat their daddy's Mustang, Comaro, etc. But, I did. Then one day, I saw Mike in his '56 Chevy Bel Air Convert. We had always raced each other. It was always a dead heat. Try as we might, we had always been evenly matched. Was he going to be surprised.

There we sat, West bound at the intersection of 2700 South and 13th East, gunning our engines, both of us grinning from ear to ear. Mike suggested we make a left and head down 13th East to where is goes into 11th East; less traffic. OK. So, since I was already in the left turn lane, Mike made an illegal turn from the through lane and we both headed to the light where 11th East starts.

With our engines pulling several thousand RPMs, we both side stepped the clutches when the light turn green. Smoke everywhere. One tire on each car spinning for all it was worth. As we accelerated, we were both neck and neck. "What the hell?" I thought. Why can't I pass him? First Gear, Second, Third, Fourth, we were both side by side, doing well over 100 miles per hour down 11th East.

At 3300 South, neither of us giving in, we ran the red light. We didn't even look for cars. At 3900 South, we ran the red light. Both still side by side. Both with looks of disbelief in our eyes. At 4500 South, we slowed and stopped at the red light. I was still on the left. I leaned over, rolled the window down and yelled, "Whatcha got in there?" Mike replied with, "Whatcha got in there?"

When the light changed, we raced through the intersection, pulled into the vacant lot, jumped out of our respective cars, ran over to other's cars and opened the hoods. Mike stood there looking at a 406 hp 406 with three dueces and there I stood, looking at a 375 hp, fuel injected 327. Mike had been busy that summer too.