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Willys Photo Album

"If you don't make the eat the dust."

Mike Steinberg, 40' Willys,  A/Gas, Fremont drag strip
Photo from Mike Steinberg collection, circa June 1963 - Fremont Raceway
That's me standing in front of my A/Gas 40' Willys in the Fremont pits...a long time ago!

Mike Steinberg, 40' Willys A/Gasser, Fremont drag strip pit area.
Fremont Raceway, circa June, 1963 - Check out the cars parked in the pits in the background!

40' Willys Coupe, A/Gas - "Virginia's A&W Root Beer" (Our sponsor).  We got a pair of new 7" inch recap slicks sponsored to us, and all the burger's and root-beer we could eat.  We raced this car at Fremont, Fresno, Vacaville, and Half-moon Bay drag strips.  I think it was in 1964 that I broke the A/Gas world record at Half-moon Bay at 126 mph with this car, and held it for less than 10 minutes!  Someone else came right behind me, and turned over 127 mph.  Just like lose 'em like you get 'em!

My first real race car...with a partner; Bob Thurlow.  The 40' Willys and engine belonged to the late Dave McIntyre, my best friend who was killed in an industrial accident at Sacramento's 'Aerojet General' in 1962.  Bob bought the car and motor from the estate and we went racing.  The engine was a 283 Chevy bored to 4.00" inch, with a Crankshaft Co. 1/2" stroker for a grand total of 352 ci's (...hey, that was a big motor back then).  It had an Isky cam, Venolia 12.5:1 pistons, six Stromberg 97' carburetors and a Schiefer clutch.  I reworked the heads, and we bolted it all to a 3 speed LaSalle transmission.  Yeah, back then, you could actually go to a junkyard (not an 'Auto Dismantler') and buy them fairly cheaply.  We used a  40' Ford banjo rear-end, with a 4.44 rear ratio.

The engine came out of Daves 40' Ford coupe..."The Chevy Eater."  We'd go to Modesto, California in the "Eater" during the Graffiti days in 1959 and through the early 1960's, and race out on "Rumble Road" with it.  We'd cruise 10th street,  then into "Burgey's" drive-in on Saturday night.  Their were a lot of cool cars in Burgey's, just like the movie.  But that's another story!

One Saturday night, we raced the Willys at 'Vacaville' Drag strip.  I raced another Willys, I think it was Coy Martin from Sacramento, but he blew the engine on the starting line.  It's good that he did!  I went through the lights and turned 124. mph.  Just as I went through, the front universal on the drive shaft let go, and the drive shaft got loose and started beating the car to pieces.  The drive-shaft hoop that was a required safety item kept the shaft somewhat contained.  But it beat the floorboards up almost a foot, and I was trying to skinny over to the side of the car with a shoulder harness on to keep from being hit by the drive shaft.  I put my foot on the brake pedal and got down on it, but nothing happened.  It was like a rock!  Then I realized that the drive shaft had hit the brake line, and flattened it closed, and we only used rear brakes.  On the shutoff area at Vacaville, like a lot of Drag-strips who ran night drags, their wasn't very much lighting at all.  Now, I had my self a real situation.  I'm going well over 100 mph, with no brakes, can't see, and the engine is no longer connected to the drive line.  At the end of the Vacaville shutoff, the strip took a big right hand turn, because they used the track for roundy-round racer's.  I opened, and pushed hard on my door against the wind, to look out along side the car to try and see the track the best I could.  I knew I was coming up on the turn.  I some how followed the turn, but I was still going pretty fast, and I was using some real strength on the steering wheel, trying to steer with 18 degree's of caster in the front axle.  As I went around the turn, I felt the rear-end of the car hopping to the outside of the turn.  Somehow, and with the help of the man upstairs, I got the car stopped.  If that had happened at Fremont or Half-moon Bay Drag strips, I wouldn't be here right now, telling you about it.  It was all part of drag racing back in the "Sixties."

Mike Steinberg, 40' Willys, A/Gas, Vacaville drag strip
Photo from Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1963 - Vacaville Drag Strip

Going off against the fastest Vette at Vacaville, ("The Street Sweeper").

40' Willys, Lemon Twist
Photo from the Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1967 - On the trailer in front of my shop in S.F.

Interior shot of the "Lemon Twist."  Notice the clutch pedal, and four speed shifter handle.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, AA/Gas Super-charged
Photo from the Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1967 - Interior shot

Interior shot of the "Twist," showing the firewall and guages.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist
From the Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1967 - In front of my shop in San Francisco, CA.

The 'Twist' sitting on the "Trailer from Hell."

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, AA/Gas Super-charged, Mike Steinberg
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1969 - Close to the "Golden Gate Bridge."

40' Willy's Coupe, AA/G Supercharged & BB/Altered - My second Willy's coupe; the first "Lemon Twist," and my first blown gasser.  It had a blown & injected 430ci Lincoln engine in it.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, AA/Gas Super-charged
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1969 - Fremont Raceway

Running 1st Eliminator at Fremont, occasionally I'd race a Pro Stock car that ran there.  The guy driving it, just never could quite beat me on the lights.  Him and his boys were pretty frustrated about it.  The 'Twist I' could run a good 9.50 in the low 150's with a bigger over-drive pulley and some more magneto lead.  But when I did, I broke something each time.  I knew I was running the engine on the edge.  The money was in the e.t. bracket racing, so I backed the timing down in the engine a few degree's, and that made me very consistant.  Then I could dial it in at anywhere from say 9.70, to 9.90, and make runs all within a few tenths of a second.  That worked extremely well for me!  When I wasn't doing anything at the races, sometimes I'd sit on the wood fence rail behind the burn-out area, and practice leaving on the Christmas tree lights...over, and over, and over.

One night at Fremont, I was running 1st eliminator, and I had to go up against the Pro Stock car for the money.  This time, I saw Big Dave Sousa (Sousa Bros. & Dad funny car) crawl into it with his fire-suit on.  I knew something was up.  Well...we went off, and I was on the Twist hard because I knew I was up against someone with real talent.  We started getting close to the lights, and just as I went around him, I saw tire smoke from him slamming on the brakes.  I realized then what he was doing, but before I could lift, I tripped the e.t. light...and naturally...I broke out.  When I got back to the pits, I could see the guys with the Pro Stocker dancing around like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz!  It was the only time the car ever beat me.  Later, Big Dave came by and gave me a little smile from behind a Fremont burger, and I just winked back at him.  He was always a cool guy.

40' Willys, Official time slip, AA/Gas Super-charged
Kingdom drag strip
From the Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1969 - Kingdom Raceway, Lodi, California

A time slip for the Willys at Kingdom.  I ran a 31% percent over-drive pulley (the kill pulley), and 48 degree's lead in the magneto.  I bent half the push-rods on this run, and went through the lights with both hands on the steering wheel, and holding it tight enough to leave my finger prints on it!  Going over 150 mph in a high boy Willys was always interesting.

Fremont Raceway, Official pit pass
From the Mike Steinberg collection, circa 1968

A hard to get Fremont pit pass for me, the car, and one crew-member.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, Algon Fuel Injection
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967- Fremont Raceway

I ran the car at first with a Borg-Warner Ford 4 speed.  I Rebuilt the transmission, and ground off every other tooth on the syncro rings.  This made it into a crash-box.  I took off in 2nd gear, and powered shifted it into 3rd and 4th.  I knew, that if I missed a shift, I'd launch the blower, and maybe the motor.  Floating a valve in blown motor is highly undesirable, because it can  ignite the mixture in the blower manifold.  The large displacement of manifold area under positive pressure, was like having a bomb on top of the engine (hence the safety requirement for tie-downs for the blower that came later).  The manifolds had pop-off valves in them, but they had a way of not being big enough sometimes.  I smoked the tires almost to the 1/8th mile (half way).

That's 'Algon' injection on the blower.  I found and bought this set, and went over to the East bay and had Al Gonzales, the designer and builder of the injection tune it up.  I used them at first, but soon went to the Hilborn 4 holer's.  The Algon's had 4 adjustable nozzles on the housing, a barrel valve, and an adjustable pump pressure.  The fuel delivery increased with the square of the rpm.  Sometimes they would work great...then a cloud would come over, and everything would change.  You just couldn't beat the tried and proven Hilborn constant pressure delivery by-pass system.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, Fremont Dragstrip
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway, Saturday night drags.

Their were lights along the strip to the end of the 1/4 mile, and then almost nothing in the shutoff area!  You were on your own!  Generally I drove it into the chute.

One Saturday night at Fremont, I made it to the last round of 1st eliminator.  I was sitting first in line in the lower build-up area, strapped in and waiting for the signal to fire.  I had to race against a Chrysler powered Fiat A/Altered for the 1st eliminator money.  The altered pushed out from the upper build-up, and fired as he came down the strip.  He made the loop in the bleach box, and started making his burn-out.  Chet walked over to me, and gave me the spinning finger to fire.  My pit man Doug started squirting fuel into the injector intake, and I flipped the mag. switch to run, and hit the starter button.  All I heard was Riiiiiiinnnnngggg.  I hit it again, with the same ringing sound.  I knew I had just lost the starter bendix, and I was going to be out.  I was running the 4 speed in the Willys then.  I raised my hands up to Doug, my pit man, in exasperation.  Someone came along side of my door window and yelled at me, "...Hit the mag. switch!"  Then, I felt a big surge, and my car started rolling.  I realized I was being pushed, and they were trying to help me start it.  I had some prime in it from Doug, so I hit the mag. switch, waited until I was going about as fast as they could push me, pulled it into second gear, and let the clutch out.  The motor started turning over, and the car started slowing down.  At the last moment, I heard some cylinders starting to fire.  Then, with a loud "Raaack," the motor fired.  I barely had time to get oil pressure, and Chet was wildly waving for me to stage.  I wasn't even going to get a burn-out to heat the tires up.  I was very close to being disqualified; the other guy was heating up, and close to burning his motor down.  I staged the Willys, got the light, and we left together, with me pulling a big wheel stand.  He was a high gear only car and I pulled him through 1st and 2nd gears.  I just made it to the first light for the win, and $150., when the altered pulled right up along side me and went around.  When I got back to the pits, I wanted to know who pushed my car to start me.  I soon found out, it was only one guy.  Big Dave Souza, "Souza Bros. & Dad," a local popular funny car pilot, and also part time pro wrestler.  All 6'-4", 270 lbs. of him!  It felt like 6 guys pushing my car!  That's the way it was, back in the 'Golden Age' of drag racing.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, Mike Steinberg
Photo by Ted Stewart, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway

The first run on the car!

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, Fremont Dragstrip
Photo by Ted Stewart, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway

Same shot of the first run on the car.  When I said I smoked the tires almost to the 1/8th mile, I wasn't kidding!

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, Mike Steinberg
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway, Saturday night drags

I put a front end on it, and went to an automatic transmission.  I installed one of the first Art Carr racing Torqueflite  transmissions built to hold a blown motor.  On the very first run with the new transmission, I ran it all the way out in second, and it wouldn't shift into 3rd.  So I made a big mistake...I pushed the shift selector into neutral to abort the run.  The linkage was out of adjustment, and instead of neutral, it went into 1st gear.  The car spun around twice in the lights on me, and on the second spin, when I saw the end of the strip again, I pulled it into 3rd, and floored the throttle.  I got the car going straight, and drove it to a stop.  The ambulance and everyone came tearing down the strip after me, because they said they saw clouds of smoke and thought I crashed.  I had a cut on my hand, and to this day I don't know how I got it...LOL!  I got a time slip of 112 mph going through the lights backwards!!!  Here I am at Fremont, pulling the front wheels off the ground.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967, Fremont Raceway

Hazing a brand new set of Goodyear slicks out of the hole.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, 48' Anglia, Lil Hearse
Photo by Rich Welch, circa March, 1969 - Fremont raceway, night finals.

This was the NHRA/AHRA "Westcoast Fuel and Gas Championships," at Fremont Raceway in 1969.  In AA/GS, everyone came up from L.A. for this one..."Stone, Woods, & Cook; Jr. Thompson; Mazmanian; KS Pittman; Herrera & Son; Mallicoat Bros.; Steve Korney; Skip Hess; and others.  From Northern California, we had "Ron Nunes; Brasher & Cummings; Mike Steinberg; Del Rio & Carlson; Narlock & Worthy; Steve Woods; Panella & Minor; "The Hippy" Mike Mitchell; and others.  It was some meet!  Here I am racing the "Lil Hearse," (Narlock, & Worthy) a very clean, blown and injected AA/GS 48' Anglia panel truck.  Donnie and Pat are both good friends of mine.  I built the heads on their engine.  The car ran in the 9.90's unblown in A/Gas, back in the late1960's...pretty decent.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist, 48' Anglia, Fremont Dragstrip
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway, Saturday night drags

Me and Ed Schuck's 48' Anglia getting it on for the money in 1st eliminator...$150. bucks!  That always bought a lot of  beer and pizza for everyone after the races at the 'Fremont Bowl.'  The parking lot in the Bowl on warm summer nights after the Saturday night races, was jammed with every kind of race car on trailers that you could think of...and some of them, the most famous cars in the world!  The bar was so crowded, you couldn't have touched the floor, even if you'd been shot dead!  Yes, that's the same Schucks that now own the huge chain of automotive stores, and sponsor big drag races.

A few years back, I was helping with my buddys A/Fuel dragster, and we went to 'Sears Point' raceway for a big race.  I was walking around, and saw this big tent with "Schucks Automotive" on it.  I thought...naaahh! couldn't be.  I walked into their tent, and the guys were all working around a beautiful blown car.  A very high dollar operation.  One of the guys, a tall grey haired chap, turned around when he saw me, and we both started squinting our eyes at each other.  He said, ..."Oh my lord, I don't believe it...Mike Steinberg?"  I said, "Yeahhhh...Ed?"  He said, "Yeahhh!  We both gave each other a big man hug, and re-newed an old friendship.

40' Willys, Lemon Twist
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway

That little aluminum spoiler on the front end was not there for looks!  As I started getting the Twist into the high 140's, you could move the steering wheel back and forth in the lights more than I wanted to, and the car didn't respond well.  I took that, as coming close to flying!  So, during the week, I designed, built, polished, and installed the spoiler that you see.  It made all the difference in the world.  I was able to drive it with out much problem over 150 mph later.

The tires you see on the rear were the latest wrinkle wall M&H Racemaster tires, with narrow rims.  This was the latest trick setup.  Check out the footprint on the rear tires.  I used 4-6 pounds of air pressure in the tires, and with no liner's...because they wern't available then.  I was racing someone at Fremont one day, and trying to play catch up.  I caught him in the light's, and got by him just barely.  As I was coming into the light's, my car started swaying back and forth at the rear because I was only running 4 pounds of air in the tires.  The oscillation's started getting worse and worse as I got close to the light' fact so bad, that at that point I couldn't have lifted without rolling the car.  I didn't want to lose, and my adrenaline took over my good senses.  I kept my foot in it, and drove it into the chute at about 150 mph.  When the chute popped open and deployed, it really jarred me, but what a great feeling when the car jerked straight as an arrow.  Steve Reyes, the drag photographer told me afterwards that he and about 4 other photographer's, from Car Craft, Hot Rod, and Drag News, literally ran for their lives when they saw me coming into the light's, right at them, with the motor roaring, the blower screaming, and the car swaying back and forth.  He said we thought you were going to lose it for sure, and we were dead meat!  We got a big laugh out of that!

40' Willys
Photo by Rich Welch, circa 1967 - Fremont Raceway