When I arrived on the scene in
LA, I was and still am some would say "outspoken".
I only tend to say out loud what lots of folks are already thinkin.
As a result of things I had to say at the original UDRA meetings,
Joel Purcell of (Broussard Purcell Davis and McEwen) dubbed me
the Louisiana Lip. I later wrote a column for Drag Digest (an
early effort to compete with drag news) under the title "The
Latest from the Lip". It was kinda like a drag racin gossip
column with opinions. Guys like my pal Ralph Guldahl, Jeep, and
others liked what they read and encouraged me. The paper ultimately
When I went to work for Ralph at Drag Racing Magazine, he encouraged
me to write like I spoke. I did. I did a road test on a Pontiac
Firebird 400 and in our coverage of the Hot Rod Magazine Drag
Race at Riverside, I mentioned that when I put my foot in it,
nothin' happened. Pointing out that it has no suds---no get up
and go. That comment cost us the Pontiac account. Ralph attributed
it to "Prieto, just making Waves."
The publisher Lou Kimsey, like
the attention it created and told me to do more of the same.
It was only one page of advertising but we got lauded for telling
it like it was.
Ralph suggested I write a monthly column on subjects near and
dear to the hearts of drag racers but nobody was able to do anything
about---like drag strip food, port a johns, incompetent announcers,
ideas of shortening drag strip length to 1000 feet, etc.
He then suggested I call it The Wavemaker....and away we went.
The response was great. One column on the 1000 foot drag strip
prevoked Dale Ham (NHRA Division 4 Director) to offer to take
me outside and kick my ass. I confronted him at Pomona and he
apparently had second thoughts or he listened to Bernie Partridge
who told him to ignore me. It did not deter me at all.
We kept it up until the company changed hands and Ralph and I
went to the Petersen Book Division. I got hired first by Bob
Green and I brought Ralph in shortly thereafter. We produced
several picture books with our photographs under the titles Drag
Racing Pictorial and Hot Rod Pictorial. They sold quite well
and bring premium prices for old issues nowadays.
The Wavemaker lay dormant while at Petersen, SEMA and MEMA but
resurfaced when I returned to California and went to work for
the ad agency.
Don Crassweller, ad salesman, for Speed and Custom Dealer, a
little publicly-unknown trade publication in the hi performance
industry, came to me to write a column and a feature each month.
I agreed and began a column under the heading "Finish Line"
and it ran on the back page of the magazine. I stuck the needle
in the SEMA folks, the NHRA, the Warehouse distributors and assorted
other industry sacred cows.
It had a tremendous impact within the Speed Equipment industry
and to this day, no less than the illustrious Ed Iskenderian
carries around a copy of one column in his wallet. The title
of that little ditty was called The Tale of the Scammers and
the Dupers. It was parable written in Old English to mislead
the principals (mostly about SEMA and the Board of Directors
decisions) but get the point across to those who knew who they
were. It was great fun and it had the desired effect.
When Scott Cochran introduced Drag Racing and High Performance
Illustrated, we talked about including the Wavemaker column.
We put a few together mostly on NHRA issues and related items.
(One is attached)
One instance, I got a letter from Mike Lewis, then operator of
Indy raceway park and VP of NHRA. I had written a synopsis of
the money paid out at the end of the year to various sanctioning
body champions. I quoted what that years champ-Eddie Hill received
from NHRA, and included what the NASCAR champ got and what the
CART champ got. The disparity in the amounts was alarming by
comparison. Eddie Hill got so little, I thought he would be embarrassed
to be compared.
My question was why this disparity existed, since according to
their own advertising, NHRA was the largest motor racing organization
in the country and by implication the best.
He, Lewis,never addressed the of why the disparity in purse.
He did admit that Partridge admonished him to ignore me and my
rantings but I guess I get under their skin too often.
I got a lengthy letter from Mike Lewis and I printed it in the
letters column. What he failed to do, despite his various ramblings
about my lack of knowledge of what NHRA does for the racer. My
response to his letter, in print, was "you still haven't
answered my question. That was the last I heard from until I
went to Indy and there was a note attached to my Credentials.
It read "SEE ME" and was signed Denny Darnell---NHRA
Director of Communications. He wanted to confront me on the issue.
He too, beat around the bush but blustered about it not being
good for racing to raise such questions and my replay was to
simply ask for an answer to the question regarding the disparity
of the money---They still haven't answered the question and probably
After Lewis was essentially fired, he confided in me that he
shouldn't have responded to me especially since the NHRA corporate
policy was/is to stonewall the question but he enjoyed the discourse.
When I discussed the above issue with Ralph Guldahl and about
the stink I raised, he replied; Way to go, Wavemaker".
The current politics at Drag Racer Magazine will not let me write
anything controversial---especially about the much feared NHRA---I'm
limited to writing what I think to this group and others.
I'm sure that those of you who have experienced my sarcasm regarding
NHRA and other issues, already know from where I come. To the
newcomers and youngsters, I suggest you read it in the vein that
I present it and don't take me too seriously.
After a stint at Hot Rod Industry
News, I was hired by Lou Baney (Managing Director) and Vic Edelbrock
(Chairman of the Board) to work at SEMA as Director of Communications.
I was there about 2 weeks and we got a call from a SEMA member
in Wisconsin. He reported that the Wisconsin legislature was
attempting to pass a law that would outlaw any modifications
to a cars suspension including changing wheels.
Baney called me in and said: "I just talked to Vic and he
wants me to send you to Wisconsin and fixed this deal".
I swallowed hard and said Okay! but we will have to get some
information before I go or I'll look like a fool.
Enter SEMA lawyer Dale Hogue, a recent hire, to assist in legislative
matters in Washington DC. I called Dale and he laid out a plan
which included the facts that " a state can't make a law
that overrides federal statute (Interstate Commerce Act) and
that accepted OEM standards cannot be overruled by rulesmakers
to solve an enforcement problem.
The state wanted to prevent kids from jacking the cars up in
the rear like a drag car of the period, and they also didn't
like the rear tires hanging out of the fender well---very prevalent
in the early seventies.
Armed with this and some California "know-it-all" arrogance
I went to Wisconsin and dazzled the legislature with my knowledge
of the law and my ever present line of bull shit.
We won handily as the SEMA member that originally called to complain
had some allies in the legislature who took up the cause as soon
as they were confident the answers and explanation were sustainable.
Baney and I had a field day with the enthusiast press on that
one....to the degree that even National Dragster published our
When ex dragster driver Dick Martin has a similar problem in
Oregon, I enlisted Jim Kavanagh of Appliance Plating (chrome
wheels) to come along with me and again we dazzled 'em with BS
and facts. We won again.
Other SEMA matters that came up during our tenure were the Dragster
chassis specs, the 5-1 Wheel spec program, the firesuit spec,
the wheel adapter spec and others. I headed the committee to
solve the wheel problem but I has some real competent help in
the form of Roy Richter, Cragar, Ray Brown Superior, Art Chrisman
Appliance/Gasket Jim Kavanagh, American Racing, to name a few.
We set the Spec Program in stone which formed the basis for SFI
that is the current body of record for drag racing cert programs.
We had a noise committee consisting of muffler manufacturing
companies to deal with street vehicle noise and Baney and I had
help from Brigham Young University. they loaned us the sound
measuring equipment and we took it to Englishtown and measured
the drag races from 50ft away. The decibel readings measured
some 150 at 50 feet---90 is the threshold of pain. We never had
the opportunity to use the info---the regulators have no idea
how loud dragsters and funny cars are---and we didn't tell them.
When the California Air Resources Board (CARB) started to close
in on engine modifications, Baney and I convinced Vic and the
board to sanction a round robin test. We took three cars, a 69
Chevy with small block, a 69 Charger with big block, and a Ford
Fairlane with a small block. We had all three cars baseline tested
on Vics emission test equipment and then we had 3 engines rebuilt
of factory specs---baselined again.
The modifications to be made to these engines intake manifold,
exhaust headers, and ignition. One from each manufacturer and
one for each engine family.
Vic supplied Edelbrock manifolds, Weiand and Offenhauser also
supplied manifolds with Ollie Morris coming with the package.
Headers came from Paul Escoe of Doug Thorley headers with Brad
Anderson overseeing---Hooker with Jim Hairston and Hedman with
Bill Million looking over. The ignitions came from Bob Wyman,
Accel, and Hayes as part of Mr. Gasket.
We would mount a set of headers, an ignition and a manifold,
tune to spec and test. The next week we would mount a different
combination of the same three parts and retest until we had tested
every possible combination. We used Vics facility for all testing---imagine
nowadays letting your competitor come test his stuff in his facility---Vic
was very smart and very generous. I must mention that the tests
were done by Vic but the cars and all related rebuilds and installations
were funded by all six of the manufacturers as equal partners.
The testing went even better than we expected. Jim MacFarland
and I deciphered the test results and prepared a paper for the
CARB---stopped 'em cold. That test and subsequent tests by Vic
and others led to the current exemption status from smog laws
by speed equipment manufactures and allowed the industry to flourish.
After three years of SEMA and a belly full of Els Lohn who was
the treasurer and cheaper than Alex Xydias and Nick (siamese
Pismo Clam) Arias put together, I accepted an offer to go to
Washington DC and lobby for MEMA. The Motor Equipment Manufacturers
Association consisted of people like Champion, TRW, Echlin etc.
Baney hires Carl Olsen to replace
me and they kept on rolling---Parks pirated Olsen for the NHRA---Baney
did not like that---of course he wasn't fond of Parks from the
In Washington, I spent a great deal of time with the staff of
the Interstate and Foreign Commerce committee on the House side
and with the Senate Committee on the environment (lLloyd Bentsen
and Richartd Russell). Even went to the White House to meet President
Ford. Other than that, It was boring as hell and I hated it.
The only redeeming feature was being around all of that power.
The parties, the women, (groupies) the deals, in other words
the PERKS, otherwise I never got anything done. I was in charge
of writing the rules that mfgs would have to meet to certify
their parts as equal to the OEM component. I spent three years
doing it and turned it in the day I left to return to California---that
was 1977 and they still haven't enacted that Title II portion
of the clean air act.
While in Washington, I had done a lot of radio talk shows where
again I dazzled them with BS on network shows like Bob Grant,
and others. While I was in New york for one of the shows, Dick
Bauer took me to lunch at the MASCADACS---MADISON AVENUE SPORTS
CAR DRIVING AND CHOWDER SOCIETY. I was invited to speak to them
at a later date and when I was finished, the attendance threw
dinner rolls at me. At first I was appalled---but I later found
out that they only threw stuff if they liked what you said.
There I met Earl Gandel, an ad agency guy who drove a Ferrari.
He liked me and asked me if I would like to move to California
to work on the Toyota Advertising account as the product guy.
That meant that I would have to keep the commercial makers from
doing something dumb.I lept at the chance and gave my 2 weeks
When I returned to LA, I called Baney and he put me up while
I shopped for a house. I spent 6 great weeks living with Lou
and Millie and we had a lot of fun.
As a side note, after Lou died and Millie was in poor health
and all of the money had run out, I was able to convince SEMA
to help Millie with some of the medical bills and some grocery
money. They kicked in without hesitation. It was the least I
could do for a pair of individuals that helped me so much along
the way. Baney was always there for me and many others when he
was "bucks UP". The people that made my life so memorable
to me included Lou, Donovan, Don Madden, Al Barnes, Liz Howard,
Pete Ogden, Art Chrisman, Frank Cannon and Doug Kruse.
Next chapter: Wavemaker returns!