Need for Speed
My rush came from anything with four wheels or wings, fast and loud!
1964 - In the bayou state of Louisiana, I bought a "like new" (less than 1,000 mi) 1963 Daytona Blue 327 ci/ 340 hp Corvette convertible for $2,200. I purchased the car from a local military recruiter. The recruiter had recently returned from Viet Nam. Not knowing anything about the war in Viet Nam at the time, I asked him, "Why are you selling such a beautiful car? It looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor." The soldier’s answer to the question is one I will never forget. As he looked me in the eyes he said softly, "The car doesn’t mean the same to me now as it did before I left for the war." I felt a deep uneasiness of prying further into the seller’s mind. He was, after all, a soldier.
I was a junior in high school at the time. I loved cars and racing. Road racing, Drag racing, Grand Prix, Formula One, and NASCAR all raised my heart beat. My rush came from anything with four wheels or wings, fast and loud.
I raced my car from 1964 thru 1967. The car became my "need for speed" adrenalin addiction. In the first three years I owned this car I had eight different racing motors that I built and raced in several drag racing classes. By my 18th birthday I had defeated numerous company sponsored drag racers and risen to regional racing points leader. Some of my favorite races during those years were against the "new" Carroll Shelby Cobras. In road racing, they were nearly invincible. But, in drag racing my Stingray could take the small engine block snakes. As fast as she was, my "sleeper" Corvette was driven on the street daily.
To help support my addiction, I worked as a mechanic apprentice while still attending high school. I would also occasionally accept a street racing challenge to help pay for my speed machine. I was living the dream of every teenage racing "wanna be."
Challengers would come from far and wide to race the little convertible. My car’s reputation grew, but unfortunately I soon became a target for the street racing underground and the local and state law enforcement as well. After several close calls with the law, I retired from street racing. However, the "smokies" did not forget I had out foxed them. I would test the car the night before each Sunday sanctioned drag race on a remote country road.
The sergeant major of the Louisiana state police knew that. He had a son that was my competition at the drag strip. The "smoky sarge" knew of the upcoming regional drag race and he also was aware of the remote road the drag racers tested their cars on at night. I drove the car several miles out of town to the testing grounds. All was dark and quiet.
The car ran perfectly through all four gears. The car reached 120 mph in less than 12 seconds. Red flashing lights appeared behind and in front of my screaming Stingray. The state police had placed a road block in front of me and two side-by-side patrol cars were in hot pursuit. The remote country road had bayou on both sides of the road. No escape.
1967 - As the Louisiana state police celebrated their "big catch" the sergeant places the hand cuffs on me while stating "Boy, you're not going in the jail, you're going under it."
The next day I was in front of the parish judge. The judge gave me a choice. Either join the military or go to jail. I pleaded with the judge explaining I had just been accepted to
the General Motors Institute for Automotive Design. I was going to design, build and test cars of the future. Unimpressed by my pleas the judge slammed down his gavel and ordered me out of the court room. Deflated like a balloon, I slithered into the local military recruiter office and joined the United States Air Force. The military recruiter just so happened to be the same man who sold me the 1963 Corvette several years before. After signing the enlistment papers the recruiter asked me if I still had his old car. "Yes Sir," I replied, "and I will never get rid of it!" The recruiter chuckled and said "If you go to Nam and make it back NOT in a box, you'll sell it." "No Way! Not in a box and not going to sell the car," was my answer.