NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD
presented by Good Vibrations Motorsports
Animal's Random Ramblings
by Animal Jim Feurer
Everyone has their own thing. Anyone who knows me, or reads my stories, realizes my fascination for factory high performance cars of all brands. That is what fueled my drag racing efforts from a local bracket race sedan, to Pro Stock and finally Pro Modified.
The Animal Collection - photo by Doug Schmitt
I respect those racers that do not like doors, even though I do. I respect all types of motorsports, or sports, period. I have, myself, been involved in other types of motorsports and non-motorsports during my life. I was a swimmer, football player, drove a dirt stock car, worked with Indy car crews for 25 years and played soccer, even into my late 50’s. In the autumn of my years, while playing soccer for the Pierce Community Center, eligibility requirements were to have a pulse and wear shin guards! At 59 years old, I still had both, so, on the field I went, LOL!
When my grandson was about 5, we were at a family function and there was a heated discussion going on comparing one thing to another. I do not recall exactly what it was about, movies I think. But I do remember my little grandson's remark. He was as tired of listening to the discussion as I was. Finally, he blurted out, "That’s why restaurants have menus. Everyone does not like the same thing!" Wow, from the mouths of babes!
I recall going to a special meeting in 1971, organized by my home town friend, Ernie Whittington. It was held in the auditorium of my old alma mater, Washington Grade School, in my home town of Peru, Illinois. A huge group of racers of all kinds turned out to form an organization we called the AMS (Association of Motorsports). The purpose was to thwart the do-gooder zealots causing a stir about racers and excessive noise levels. The scary do-gooders’ ideas and demands were ignorant and ridiculous.
Ernie had brought stock car legend Bay Darnel to address our group. (Bay was still active then-"Hey Bay What Do Ya Say?") After the intro, Bay looked out into the crowd and said, "It is great to see all the different types of racing represented here tonight, joining together for a common cause”. Bay Darnell went on to say, "You know, usually stock car racers do not talk to drag racers. . . .and drag racers do not talk to stock car racers. . . .and sport car racers. . . .Hell, they don't even talk to each other!"
Man, that brought the house down!!!
I am labeled as a Ford only guy. Not true my fans, friends and associates. I love all American brands and even a few offshore ones. For example, a 1955 XK140 Jag , like my older brother had in 1960. A fine ride. (You can see that Jag with my older brother and I sitting in it on my website, www.animaljimracing.com. I was 19 in that photo. Click on the AJ and Friends Gallery and scroll the cams.)
In fact, my own personal favorite daily, fair weather driver for the last 10 years, is not American. It is my 2005 Torrid Red GTO six speed. It is actually an Australian Holden. I bought it new in 2005.
Since 1957, I have owned and worked on all brands of American cars. My first car, in 1957, was a 1950 Buick. I also had several Olds, Mopars, AMC, Pontiac, Chevys, along with a host of Fords, Mercs and a couple Lincolns. I still work on all American brands, not just Ford products.
Many folks assume I am a Ford only bigot because, for whatever reason, all my race cars, drag and stock cars have been Fords, Mercurys and a Lincoln.
One exception!! The first car I took to the drags to run, was with my partner Ray Furar. We both worked at Car Town in LaSalle, Illinois. The year was 1965, I was 24, Ray was 19, it was summer. That car was a red 1940 Chevy Coup Ray and I had built and was powered by a 1957 392 Chrysler Hemi, donated by the Car Town owner, my friend, the late Robert Brown Olmstead. However! Ray Furar drove that car at the drag strip, not me. We won B-Gas at Oswego Dragway that magic summer of 1965.
A huge part of the 1965 summer magic was that I got married that June 5th. 50 years ago. Little did I know, my Linda Lou, the young teacher I married, would be the catalyst for my racing career that was yet to come. Oh my, those wonderful cayenne racing years I still yearn for. It was a hell of a ride. . . .1969 to 2012.
I still owe Linda $99 for tires she bought for my 1963 427 Merc , so I could race a guy on a county road on a Saturday night. That was in 1964, before we were even engaged.
In the summer of 1967, I quit my job as a mechanic at Peterman Ford in Peru, Illinois, moved to Lacon, Illinois, 40 miles down the Illinois River from LaSalle, and opened a hands-on Gulf gas station.
The last thing I brought with me on our move to Lacon, was a 1957 Mercury with a locked up stock 312 V8 engine. I towed it all the way from Peru to Lacon with a chain. The crippled car had been given to me by Linda's sister Suzie. When asked by the town locals what I was going to do with that old derelict, I replied, "I am going to build a drag car out of it and race at Oswego.” They laughed. " Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! WahOOO!!! No chance," I was told. That lit my fuse!
I worked on that big 1957 Mercury off and on in my Gulf gas station for almost two years. Finally, by the summer of 1969, I had it ready.
On July 20, 1969, the same day Armstrong stepped on the moon, I entered my 1957 Mercury Monterey in the 1D Hot Rod class at the Oswego Dragway. By then, the big 57 Merc was painted ‘Hugger’ orange, by Ronnie Shaw, with a name emblazoned on the doors in huge letters, by our local sign painter, Abe Hamilton. The name I had Abe paint on the doors was ‘The Big Animal’. The Big Animal was armed, at that time, with a Ford 406 FE tri power, built by me, and a top loader 4 speed. I was the builder, owner and the driver of that effort.
I won my class that ‘historical moon day’ and several other days the next two years. By 1971, I entered the money paying class of Run Tuff Eliminator. By 1973, with ‘Big’ now armed with a 427 Ford tunnel port, sucking fuel from two big Holley four barrels, I won my first drag racing championship. I repeated the win in 1974 by again winning the Run Tuff Eliminator season championship for a second consecutive year. The doubters now had to laugh out the other sides of their faces.
And, as they say, the next 40 years is history, created by yours truly and my Linda Lou.
Like all things, we had our bumps and bruises. Not just physical, I had plenty of those too, but there were other non-physical bumps. Like when we hocked and sold all we could, even cashed in my meager life insurance and bought the Seaman & Rich Pinto Pro Stock car, the Stone Pony. I had won two back to back championships in RTE, 1973 and 1974, with my ‘Big Animal’ 1957 Mercury . It was now 1975, I wanted to make the move to heads up drag racing in the Chicagoland Pro Stock class that ran at Oswego, Illinois, and US 30, near Gary, Indiana.
Before Linda and I made that change, I asked the powers in charge of those drag strips about the future of the Chicago Pro Stock class. No problem, I was told. They LIED! After I purchased the Stone Pony in late September of 1975, the Chicagoland Pro Stock class was dropped for 1976.
Needless to say, when I found that out, I contacted the Oswego and US 30 decision makers. I was told that they had decided the PS class was not viable. I could run the Pinto in RTE. "WHAAAT??" I retorted, "I already have a Run Tuff car, the ‘Big Animal’ 57 Merc and just won two RTE championships back to back. Now I want to run heads up, not bracket race. Now I want to run Pro Stock!" "Too bad," was their answer. So I came back with my typical filthy mechanic/drag racer mouth, "F--k you-you a--holes!" and slammed the receiver down.
My reaction to that comment, telling me I should race my Pinto in RTE, and not Pro Stock was similar to when people laughed at me about racing my 1957 Merc at Oswego. My fuse was reignited.
Continued on next page...
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