Dueling brothers: Jeep (Magi-Car)
and Ronnie (Waterman-Hampshire) match racing at Lions Drag Strip-1965.
JEEP: by the Fall of 1964, Kent Fuller's revolutionary
Magi-Car was ready for the drag strip. Gary Cassady had been
tabbed to do the driving, but in early testing, complained that
the car was not handling right. In January 1965, Ron Winkle,
the co-owner with Kent on the project, called me to see if I
had any interest in driving the car. The timing couldn't have
been better because Larry (Stellings) had decided to use a different
driver for the Red Stamp Spl. We loaded the Magi-Car onto the
trailer and went out to Fontana Drag City for some testing. Kent
lined me up scant inches from the edge of the asphalt, but I
figured he knew what he was doing. He did; the car handled perfectly.
Confident that the dragster was OK, we took it to Bakersfield
for the 64-car March Meet. Even though we qualified the car both
days, it was a tough weekend, losing to Gary Gabelich on Saturday
and Connie Swingle on Sunday. The next weekend we went to Fremont
for their Spring Championships. In round one we were paired with
Art Malone and our 7.74 was more than enough to handle "The
Colonel". That set up a second round pairing against my
brother in the Waterman-Hampshire car. We improved to 7.62 and
a showdown with Pink-Snively in the semis. Mike ran a 7.65 and
beat us and then went on to take out Garlits in the final. I
was always very comfortable and confident driving the Magi-Car.
But, it was still of an experimental design, and, should never
have been expected to be a consistent winner right out of the
gate. We won several top eliminators, but never any big events.
I left the Winkle-Trapp-Fuller because Ron and myself never really
gelled as teammates; maybe, too many prima donnas on one team?
In late 1965, I teamed up with
long time racer Glen Stokey from Redondo Beach and his partner
Dee Caspary. Caspary's family owned a lumber yard (Atlantic Lumber
Yard) and with money from that business had built a beautiful
Sorrell-bodied top fuel dragster based on one of Glen's own designs.
Glen did not want to drive any longer and offered the job to
me. It was a perfect arrangement, but unfortunately, of short
duration. In early 1966, Caspary was drafted and Glen decided
to park the car until Dee got out of the service.
The Magi-Car at the 1965 March
Meet; this car had a sensational vehicle reaction time and Jeep
was rarely second out of the gate.
The Sunday "B" list
at Bakersfield 1965; Jeep and the Magi-Car lost to Connie Swingle
(#50) in Garlits' number two car.
Jeep out on Art "The
Colonel" Malone; Fremont Raceway-March 1965
Jeep in his comfort
zone with the Magi-Car at Fontana Raceway.
Jeep was never without a job
for long; when he and Larry (Stellings) parted company, Kent
Fuller and Ron Winkle came a calling. Note: what a coincidence
- Jeep paired up next to what would be his next ride (Caspary-Stokey).
Jeep at Fontana Drag City
(above) and at Lions Drag Strip (below) racing Ronnie (again)
in one of their many, and very popular, match races.
ON DRIVING STYLES
JEEP: guys would either "flat foot" or "drive
it". I held the car with the brake, then hit the throttle,
simultaneously slipping (not dumping) the clutch to keep wheel
speed at an acceptable level. If the car started to spin the
tires excessively, I controlled it with the brake. In the shot
below at Puyallup, I'm just reaching for the brake to slightly
pull the motor down.
RONNIE: I shallow-staged and held the car with the clutch
and a very light brake-but did not put a load on the car. With
approximately 7-10'' of rollout, I could start moving when I
saw the yellow light and get up on the tires before my opponent.
In the shot below at Lions (below), the "method to my madness"
had just become readily apparent to "The Snake".
JEEP: I spent the summer of 1966 driving a beautiful
dragster called the "Rainbow's End" which was owned
by Don Kunda and Romaine Dauphine. This was a top dollar Kent
Fuller car with a Tom Hanna body and Dave Zeuschel engine. It
was another short-lived adventure as the guys soon ran out of
money and had to quit racing the car. But, it was fast as well
as beautiful. I can recall that we won at least once at Irwindale
beating Danny Ongasis in the Honda of Wilmington car for top
eliminator. Stories abound about what eventually happened to
the car. I know for sure that it sat over at Dusty Rhodes' place
for a long, long time. Rumors floating around hint that Paul
Romaine bought it only to have it stolen; it ended up in Australia;
or, even in Japan (according to Romaine's 'ex').
This is a staged shot at Las
Vegas for a drag racing magazine; the production crew had been
trying to get some night shots of a nitromethane motor with its
signature six foot header flames. After several disappointing
attempts with other teams, the Rainbow's End delivered its pot
RONNIE: the Waterman-Hampshire car, as successful as
it was, needed to be replaced after two years of hard racing.
We sold it to Leland Kolb who had Woody modify it into a "legs
over" car. Leland then put an injected Chevy into it, loaded
it in a shipping crate, and sold it to some guys in Australia.
So, in the Spring of 1967, we started building a new car. Actually,
I started building a new car. After driving W/H for two years,
I knew exactly how I wanted it to be: it would have a longer
wheel base and be shorter at the front end; a "legs over"
the rear end with the motor moved another inch forward. At the
time, I was working at North American in Downey, California.
An aircraft fabrication plant has some of the most skilled workers
in the world and I allowed myself to take advantage of this situation.
Not only did I get some of their machinists to make me parts
for the front end, but their professional welders put the finishing
touches on the frame. While the Bradley-Hampshire-Waterman top
fuel dragster was taking shape, I drove for Randy Scoville. I
had a real interesting experience driving for Randy right after
the '67 PDA meet at Lions. I was on a pass at Irwindale and at
1000' or so the steering wheel came off its shaft. I went for
the chutes and hit the brakes, but that just pulled me into the
guard rail. Every time I used the brake, I was pushed toward
the rail, so I just decided to just go along for the ride. The
land around Irwindale Raceway was a big dry wash and there were
rocks everywhere. I caromed off a big boulder, flew at least
ten feet into the air, and did not come back to the ground for
quite a distance. Fortunately, the car landed right side up and
I escaped with minor scrapes and burns on my arms; that was the
closest I ever came to being involved in a serious accident.
Nonetheless, it had been a sobering experience and I promised
myself never again to jump into somebody's car without making
sure it was totally safe to drive.
The Bob Bradley-Ronnie Hampshire-Sid
Waterman top fuel dragster finally got to the drag strip in January
1968. Sid was actually a silent partner in this project, so we
did not letter his name on the car. Waterman Racing Engines had
many clients, and the conflict of interest in racing against
some of his customers could have hurt the business. Actually,
in the end, it was exactly this problem that would doom our little
venture---it became too difficult for Sid to have a personal
stake in a top fuel dragster and not have it damage his relationship
with some of his clients. It was a shame, too, because this car
ran good from the start; we led the Division Seven point championships
deep into the '68 season before being edged out by Gerry Glenn
and John Bateman (Atlas Oil Tool Spl.). Finally, the constant
scrutiny and grumbling over his involvement in the Bradley-Hampshire
top fuel dragster forced Sid to sell the car in early 1969. For
the first time in over four years I was without a top fuel ride.
I did drive for Rapp-Rossi at Bakersfield '69, but spent most
of that year watching my brother race the Caspary-Stokey-Hampshire
Ronnie and his cousin Steve
Justice (no relation to author) packing the chute-Irwindale Raceway.
"Puzzlement and Bewilderment"
might be a good title for this frame;
Ronnie has both hands on his helmet, Sid is totally absorbed
with the situation, and the car has gotten the fan's rapt attention.
1968 PDA meet at Lions; this
was the race where Kruse had (4) 16-car fields. Bradley-Hampshire
qualified in the #2 pool but got beat by their old nemesis Danny
Ongasis in round one.
Bradley-Hampshire won the
first divisional race of 1968 at Irwindale Raceway and kept the
points lead deep into the season; Sid's involvement with the
car created alot of tension with his clients. Eventually, it
got to the point where the Bradley-Hampshire (and Waterman) project
could no longer sustain itself and the car was sold.
Jeep: In September 1966, Dee got out of the military
and was itching to get back into racing. Don and Romaine had
run out of money so I just picked up again with Glen and Dee.
At first, we ran the same car as before, but it was soon apparent
that the car was too heavy and no longer competitive. In early
1967, Dee decided to fund the building of a brand new top fuel
dragster and commissioned Kent Fuller to do the work. He stored
the old car at his Atlantic Lumber Yard and went around Los Angeles
purchasing the best parts cubic money could buy. The final result
was a magnificent race car; one of the finest ever to hit the
drag strip. We (Glen, Dee, and I) kept the car at Sid's shop
and all three of us shared the mechanical duties; a little later,
Glen decided to retire from racing and the car was re-lettered
In March 1969, Caspary-Stokey-Hampshire
was the featured car
on the left; Glen Stokey on the right.
in Drag Racing magazine; C-S-H with the cowl removed.
Left to right: Glen Stokey,
Joe "Donkey" Lynch, Michelle (Jeep's ex), Dee Caspary,
The staging lanes at Lions
Drag Strip-looking northeast (the starting line would have been
to the right; 223rd St. to the left).
See the spinning tire on the
left - Jeep called this a "headache tire". Synonymous
for any bad tire that rattled his head on the roll bar so hard
that he got a headache from it.
Is there a lot of history
here, or what?-Tom McEwen, Kenny Safford, Ronnie, Glen Stokey,
and Bobby Tapia. Note: Bobby Tapia drove the Red Stamp Spl. after
Jeep left for the Magi-Car.
Jeep's license signed off
by Larry Sutton and George "The Stoneage Man" Hutcheson.
(car in question was Dusty Rhodes' beautiful Rhodes Runner).
The front wheels are "searching"
just a bit because Jeep kept such a soft, but deft, hold on the
steering wheel. Jeep> "Kent's cars were built to go straight-never
any reason to over steer a Fuller car".
The final rendition of the
Caspary-Hampshire car-new paint, lettering, and even more chromed
parts; they way it looked on the night of the accident at OCIR.
JEEP: April 26, 1969 was "the day that will live
in infamy" for me. I had no premonition or uneasiness that
something terrible was about to happen. The race that day was
a 16-car show at OCIR, a track I had been down countless times
before. It was the first round of eliminations and I was paired
against Joe Lee (Abbott-Lee). We pushed down toward the starting
line, fired, but at the last moment were told to shut off-there
was a car still on the track. That is the last recollection I
have of what occurred that evening. But, Ronnie was there and
this is how he remembered it,
RONNIE: The cars were re-fired and brought to the line.There
was nothing to indicate that a tragic accident was about to happen;
both drivers were on strong but seemingly uneventful runs. Joe
was in the left lane and Jeep in the right lane when at about
900' the front end of Jeep's car turned on him. The dragster
went on its side across the track, hit the left side guard rail,
and careened back to the right side, colliding once again with
a guard rail. The second impact ignited a flash fire, knocked
off the top of the roll bar, and exposed my brother's head to
the track's surface as it gyrated in circles down the drag strip.
I was at the starting line standing next to John Bateman, and
we just reacted instinctively and took off running down the track.
By the time we got there emergency crews had arrived and were
attending to my brother. Jeep was conscious but his injuries
were massive and life-threatening; he was rushed to the Santa
Ana Community Hospital where he would endure over five hours
JEEP: My inventory of injuries was like a laundry list:
seven broken ribs, punctured lung, broken left and right arm,
broken left and right wrist, and broken collar bones. I had a
cut in the left bicep tissue so deep the muscle was almost severed.
A natural "lefty", this accident made me right-handed.
It would be a year before I could even feel any sensation in
my left hand. The neuro-muscular injuries, as bad as they were,
paled in comparison to the danger I faced from a lacerated liver.
RONNIE: I had been sitting in the waiting room awaiting
some word on Jeep's condition when the surgeon in charge walked
in. He told me the situation was this: "If your brother's
liver ruptures, it's all over-these organs do not grow back together.
I've done all I can; it may take a power greater than that on
earth to save your brother." But, he was saved and it was
probably due to this doctor-he used a procedure that basically
secured and supported Jeep's liver in a hair net.
JEEP: I was in intensive care for four days and spent
another week at the hospital before I could be released. I spent
another two months convalescing at home. I was not able to move
my left arm for about one year; even today, I still don't have
very good feeling in my left thumb and fingers. This accident
pretty much finished me as driver and I was in no position to
even think about being a car owner. As soon as I was able, I
returned to work; I had a family to support.
Record of generous donations
from Ed Donovan, Cragar Industries, Schiefer Manufacturing, and
Jeep: The guys took what remained of the dragster back
to Sid's shop to try and find out what had failed on the car.
They were pretty sure it involved the steering, a hunch the turned
out to be correct. The cause of the accident was directly related
to a failed radius rod. The weld on the heim joint on the left
radius rod had been severely weakened from over buffing at the
chrome shop. The down force created by the front wing, a recent
addition, had pushed the spud out of the tube of the radius rod.
This started a chain reaction that broke the heim joint in the
right rod, totally unloading the car. With all control gone,
the front axle flipped the dragster onto its side driving it
tangentially across the track into the left guard rail.
Does the tail section on the
Caspary-Hampshire car remind one of another beautiful top fuel
dragster? After the crash, Leonard Van Luven purchased the tail
section and used it as the model for the same on Keeling-Clayton's
Despite all the medical expenses
and loss of income, it never occurred to me to blame or find
fault with anyone for the accident. There was not a soul on earth
that forced me to drive a top fuel dragster; I did it because
I loved it. I knew that every time I got behind the wheel of
a race car, it could be my last, yet I continued to do it. To
be candidly honest, driving a top fuel dragster was just a devilishly
dangerous, yet delightful, ego trip. From the very first time
I went to a drag race, I knew I wanted to be a driver. I loved,
even thrived on, the thrill, danger, and glory of driving a top
fuel dragster. It was just a compelling sensory experience; the
ultimate natural "high". That is why if anyone would
have approached me about filing a lawsuit, I would have punched
them in the nose. <editor's note: not long after Jeep's accident,
law suits began to show up on court dockets from other drivers
seeking compensatory damages from injuries suffered in drag race
crashes and accidents>
Who knows, I might still be drag
racing today if it weren't for the accident. This is one of the
reasons I love the cackle fests and reunions so much; it lets
me relive all the great moments I had drag racing during the
greatest era in our sport. It also allows me to get together
with all the guys in the Throttle Merchants and bench race about
all the people, characters, unforgettable moments, and wild times
that occurred so long ago. I end my story with this recollection
about a personality that had a whole lot to do with my drag racing
career-Larry Stellings. The Stellings-Hampshire Red Stamp Spl.
got off to a fast start in 1964. After setting low e.t. at the
NHRA Winternationals (7.81), we headed up to Bakersfield for
the March Meet. On Friday, we ran 7.97, a time exceeded only
by Norm Weekly and The Frantic Four (7.95). That night we went
to a fancy French restaurant in town for dinner and to celebrate
our run. Larry, who always liked to show people a good time,
had invited three ladies up from Los Angeles for the evening.
Now, he able to do this because his dad owned a 7up bottling
plant in Sacramento, and he used to make regularly-scheduled
visits up there when the money got low. Larry also had this bad
habit of taking the keys out of the ignition and just tossing
them under the front seat. When we came outside after several
hours in the restaurant, everything was gone: the Red Stamp Spl.,
trailer, Larry's station wagon, all our tools and spare parts.
Hours later, probably around 4:00 a.m., the Kern County Sheriff's
Office called the motel to report that they had found a race
car. Larry borrowed another team's El Camino and hustled out
to the scene of the discovery. Amazingly, the tow car was gone,
but the dragster and trailer had been left behind. Because the
guys who owned the El Camino had blown their only engine, they
let us use their stuff for the race. The final chapter to this
story occurred several months later when Larry got yet another
call from the sheriff's office-they had located the stolen wagon
in the garage of a house in a new development. And, everything
was there except my driving suit, gloves, and helmet. Some time
later, "Wild Bill" Alexander swore he saw my stuff
on some guy racing motorcycles on an oval track-how about that?
RONNIE: My last race car was the Caspary-Hampshire-Robinson
top fuel dragster. In September 1969, Dee re-purchased the Bradley-Hampshire
RCS chassis and had Sid build us a 392 cid Chrysler using some
of the parts not damaged from Jeep's car. We had Tom Hanna do
the tin work, George Cerny the paint, and Tom Kelly the lettering.
Herb Robinson, who provided a lot of the funding for the dragster,
owned H&H Processing in Hermosa Beach, a popular business
with the racers for hard anodizing parts. The very first time
we took the car to a drag strip we ran 227 at "the Beach".
We knew we had a good race car and at the 1970 Winternationals
we let everybody know more about us. Even with "bad"
tires on the car, we qualified for the program. Goodyear had
some new and larger slicks available at the track but wouldn't
give us any until Carroll Shelby intervened and settled the matter
in our favor. In round one we clobbered Don "the Beachcomber"
Johnson running low e.t. and top speed at 6.74-224 mph. In round
two we took out Robert Anderson from Louisiana, setting up a
semi-final match with Larry Dixon in the "Howard Cam Rattler".
Danny Porsche called our coin toss with Larry and we lost; this
was important because the left lane was at least a tenth slower
than the right lane. No matter how you set up the clutch, cars
would haze the tires just long enough to give the guy in the
other lane a slight advantage. Larry got me by about ½
car length, but blew his engine. Tony Nancy was a no-show for
the final and Dixon won the event on a less than stellar pass.
That coin toss with Dixon Sr. was so pivotal in the outcome of
the race; if we could have only put Larry in the left lane, I
know Caspary-Hampshire-Robinson would have been in the winner's
circle. But, that's drag racing!!
Ronnie, Sid, and Dee after
setting top speed of the meet atLions Drag Strip, December 1969.
Round one of the 1970 Winternationals
versus Don "The Beachcomber" Johnson; Ronnie has just
cleared the last speed light and the chute was just starting
to come out.
With only one good eye, Ronnie
drove by looking down the left side of the car-qualifying pass
at 1970 Winternationals.
The warm up rollers
in the pits at OCIR; Dee Caspary behind car.
Pits at Irwindale (1970)-who's
that in the background on the scooter? Steve Gibbs, of course
(he was the Manager of Irwindale at the time).
RONNIE: After Pomona, we went to the March Meet followed
by the Spring Championships at Fremont. We qualified at Bakersfield,
but broke a rear end and had to hustle back to RCS to repair
the drive train. It was a total thrash all weekend and when it
came time for eliminations, we were shut off for a leaking fuel
line. Fremont went a lot better; we made it to the final but
lost to Steve Carbone and Larry Huff's "Soapy Sales"
car. After the spring "Cinderella" races were over,
we competed in the NHRA Division 7 championships, and even went
to the Springnationals in Dallas. At the end of the year, Dee,
abruptly and without explanation, put the car up for sale. I
guess he just wanted to get out of racing. Because I had accrued
enough points throughout the year, I was invited to participate
in the World Finals at Dallas, Texas. Larry Bowers hired me to
drive his car but we had clutch problems and were never able
to make a "clean" run. Meanwhile, Dee had sold the
RCS car to Korody-Kolyer, a corporation that specialized in manufacturing
diesel engine parts. I drove the car a few more times, but was
replaced by Dwight Salisbury. Later that year, Dwight had a nasty
little encounter with the guard rail at OCIR extensively damaging
the front end of the Korody-Kolyer car.
1971 was a weird year for me
in particular, and drag racing in general. The days of the front
engine dragster was just about over and rides were starting to
get harder to come by. A lot of guys could no longer afford the
expense of nitro racing and just got out of the sport. I was
crewing on "The Greek's" car during his '71 Western
swing when Ted Gotelli called and asked if I wanted to drive
his car. I took over for Norm Wilcox, but later that year Ted
went the way of Dee and quit drag racing, too. Ironically, my
last ride was the "Howard Cam Rattler", the same car
that had beat me at the '70 Winternationals. I drove "The
Rattler" for Bob Downey off-and-on throughout that year
after which I just faded off into the sunset. Actually, I made
a determined effort to build my own top fuel dragster, but it
was entirely beyond my means-the days of the "dirty old
garage floor motor" was finally over.
Ronnie driving Ted
Gotelli's #701 car at OCIR-1971.
RONNIE: The Waterman-Hampshire cackle car is fast becoming
a reality. Sid has already built the motor and the car is fast
coming together at Kent Fuller's shop in Rancho Cordova, California.
If everything goes as expected, we should have it ready for the
2007 California Hot Rod Reunion-----fire the next pair!!
THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
left to right: Jesse
Schrank; Jeep Hampshire; Ronnie Hampshire; Joe Douglass.
of Speet - Part 1