Growing Up with Cars, Model Kits, and Drag Races Question/Comment:
Hi Greg and I just finished reading your piece on the Little Red Wagon and the Dodge Little Red Express trucks. I have enjoyed and reminisced about subjects you have written about over the years.
This article struck a nerve with me and the fact that you had a “snail mail” address attached to your column so readers like me could respond. I have been welding, machining, fabricating and wrenching all of my life but when it comes to computers, I am old school. I can’t even send an email!
I guess I grew up in a different time when things were slower paced. I am doing my best to hang on to the good old days, and articles like yours really help.
I remember the wheelstander drag vehicles you mention like it was yesterday, and I, too, built a model of the “Little Red Wagon” just like you did. I still have that model to this day. I also know a guy locally who owns a “Little Red Express” Dodge that you mention.
Speaking of models, do you know what those kits cost today? Back in the day most of them were made by AMT, Revell and Monogram and cost $2.00 at best. The little bottles of testers paint cost 15-cents and the glue was either 10-cents or 15-cents. You could build many kits with those items, too.
Trying to find a Hobby Shop today is difficult because nobody stocks inventory any more and everyone shops online. Today, people like “ready-to-go” out of the box as die cast cars have taken over the hobby and become the norm.
You mentioned the wheelstander “LA Dart” in your article and I remember the candy stripe paint that included the underside, too. I also used to have a large color picture of the “Hemi Under Glass” with its front wheels high off the ground taken at night with sparks flying.
I grew up in northern Indiana near Fort Wayne and drag racing back then was never on the “rabbit ears” televisions we grew up with. Back then, we had to wait for the magazines to come out or travel to the best area drag strips where the cars appeared. For us that was U.S. 30 Dragway near Gary, Indiana; Muncie Dragway in Indiana; Indianapolis Raceway Park; or Motor City Dragway in Detroit.
On the radio all summer long you heard, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday at beautiful Motor City Dragway. Be There!” These commercials from radio station CKLW out of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, across the river from Detroit are lodged in my memory.
Of course, the wheelstanders were only part of the big shows as the altereds, gassers, super stockers and the dragster rails with the driver sitting behind the engine and over the rear axle were the heyday shows. Funny cars weren’t even thought of yet. It was all good stuff.
So what do you think Greg? Not bad for an old “baby boomer” who can’t even Google anything and has a hard time remembering what happened two weeks ago.
Thanks for all the great memories your columns bring to me and keep up the good work! Take care, Rich Sutton, Jersey Shore, PA.
Answer/Response: Rich, thank you so much for your comments and grand memories of growing up with cars, model kits, drag races and those great memories. I, too, had similar experiences as I attended my first drag race in 1958 when the Vineland, New Jersey, drag strip opened for business. It was a full quarter mile and they used to pack 4,500 people in there for a match race between Dyno Don Nicholson and his 1961 Chevy Impala bubble-top against a 1961 Pontiac 421 of Harold Ramsey from Wilmington, Delaware. Later, all the big names like Dave Strickler in his “Old Reliable” Chevy to the Ramchargers Dodges made the scene. They used to run best of seven match races and it was so exciting to see full-size cars run the high 11-second to low 12-second ranges. Back then if you ran the quarter-mile in nine seconds in your dragster you were blazing fast!
I also built hundreds of the models you mention, and still have a fairly nice collection of kits both built and un-built on hand. You are correct about pricing, as a decent model today is going to run at least $10 and up. Another area where I got involved was with the HO scale Model Motoring slot cars, as many of my friends had tracks at their homes and countless little cars and bodies. We then graduated to the larger slot car tracks where you went to a “Slot Car Raceway” in your city, bought a 1/24 size slot car and bought time on the track. A good friend of mine, Oscar Koveleski, had a booming business that catered to the slot car hobby called “Auto World” out of the Scranton area of Pennsylvania that he started back in the early 1960s. Oscar, I am happy to say, is still going strong today although he sold his Auto World franchise long ago. I remember my parents bought me a Gilbert American Flyer “Auto Rama” race set for Christmas in 1959. I was thrilled.
I’m impressed with your knowledge of the good old days, and certainly remember all those radio drag racing ads, too. Atco Dragway and Englishtown (both in New Jersey) ran identical “Sunday, Sunday” ads, too. I’d love to say more but I’m out of space!
Thanks again for your hand written letter and the very best to you Rich.