Nearby a couple of old time railbirds are smoking nails and have overheard Cuz’n Roy and I ruminating about the dueling topics of a) the absurdity of these race cars stressing a pushrod engine to 8000 rpm in four seconds; and b) the Spirit of America. One of the bleacher bums – the more portly of the two – is sporting a t-shirt with the caption, “This Ain’t A Beer Gut…This is a Fuel Tank for a Sex Machine.” He asks if we need tickets for the races for the rest of the weekend as he had extra. We tell him thanks but no thanks as we were just passing through, en route to see Breedlove attempt his supersonic record runs out at Black Rock, Nevada. We tell him that we would be on the road right now if the San Bernardino Freeway wasn’t so bollixed.
The skinnier guy chuckles, takes a pull off of his beer and relates how he and his partner knew Craig from the old days of car club gatherings on the Westside of LA, as well as when Craig himself was running dragsters out here all those years ago, back in the days before there were very many freeways, when the hot rodders congregated at hamburger stands like The 19 in Culver City (“… on the corner of Jefferson and Sepulveda,” the skinny guy said, “named after its 19 cent hamburgers”), the Clock Drive-in (“Sepulveda and Venice, across the street from the Shell Station”) or the Foster Freeze on Hawthorne Blvd. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon they took surface streets to the sundry drag strips such as Saugus, Santa Ana, Riverside, Fontana Drag City or Pomona – that is, if they bothered to take it to the drag strips at all…
“One night at the Clock, Craig Breedlove was draggin’ it out in some guy’s 3-window deuce,” the skinnier old timer says. “Craig crashed out by the railroad tracks and just about broke his friggin’ neck…”
“He went through the roof…”
“…We thought he was dead until the guy who owned the deuce called the police and an ambulance.”
“… I can’t believe none of us went to jail.”
“After that, Craig took it to the strip,” the sex machine says. “Eventually, he ended up driving for John Peters and Nye Frank for awhile, in 1962. Two blown and injected small block Chevies. They called the car the Freight Train. The whole crew wore engineer’s hats.”
Both bleacher bums chuckle at the memory of the train engineer’s get-up.
“Craig didn’t drive the Freight Train very long,” the fat man says as he exhales on a butt and pitches his cup. “It probably wasn’t fast enough for him.”