Bob Keith sets the scene for the rebuild of his 1965 dragster
As readers may have gathered from the news section, we feel honoured and delighted to be able to bring you the step-by-step rebuild of Bob Keith’s 1965 AA/GD Courtesy Chevrolet dragster, which took part in the US Drag Fests that toured the UK throughout the 1960s.Thanks to Bob, he’ll be updating us as the project gathers momentum, but in the meantime, has provided some very useful history about the car which sets the scene for future updates.In Bob’s own words, here’s what he has to say.
“In 1964 I built a small block Chevy dragster using a Tommy Ivo chassis for the first Drag Fest in England. That was a wonderful trip and I met so many great people. I am very proud to have been a part of getting drag racing started in the UK.
Bob's Dos Palmos car which was sold on in the UK in 1964
As you know I sold the car to some Englishmen and when NHRA's Wally Parks asked me to return in ‘65 as team captain I had to hurry and build a new car. I contacted famed chassis builder Kent Fuller and he agreed to hurry along and build me a car. This time I would use a 392 Chrysler as I found the small block Chevy just didn't have the power to compete.
The new car for '65 had more power thanks to this 392 cu. in. Hemi
When Kent was done I had Gene Hageman build the body. He was a master with aluminum and turned out some really nice bodies. Not only for dragsters but Indy and Midget cars. I really had to burn a lot of oil to get the car ready in time. In fact I only made 3 runs with the car before it was shipped to England. It ran well but I was not use to the extra power running on fuel. I therefore had some problems with the handling of the car. On my return I found that the front end was too light and that steering was the main problem. I ran the car the rest of the year and with great success.
Outside the Schaller Cams shop
Then the call came again from Wally that the Australians wanted me to come down under as part of the U. S Drag Team. So I had to find a sponsor for the car. One of my partners in the car worked for Courtesy Chevrolet and the owner wanted to help us with the car. His only objection was he wanted a Chevy engine in the car. I explained to him that the small block Chevy engine did not have the power to compete with the big Chryslers. His answer was how about the new 396 Big Block Chevy that had just come out? I told him the engine had potential but that no one yet made speed parts for it. He asked can they be made? I said yes for a price to which he answered, that's no problem! So began my quest for the things I would need to install a blower on this new engine.
I contacted Mickey Thompson and he was happy to help me. He produced a set of valve covers and some other items. Next and most important was the blower manifold. I talked with Cragar and they agreed to cast it and provide the blower drive. Next I went to Dean Moon who had helped me with my other car. He made the timing cover and a lot of other things I needed. If it wasn't for these people I could have never got the engine done in time. Dos Palmas Machine again did the engine work. Arnold Chaves took the 396 engine and when it was done it boasted 502 cu.in.
The Courtesy Chevrolet Spl. AA/GD as raced in Australia
Howard cams made the aluminum rods, Schaller cams was also my sponsor and he provided the cam and a lot of knowledge. When it was done we took it to Pomona for some test runs but did not compete at the meet. I shipped it off to AussieLand where we ran it for 3 months and had no problems what so ever. That was a great trip and the Aussies treated us like rock stars.
I met and married an Aussie in ‘67 and have made many trips down under over the years. About a year ago I met Lex Swayn of Willowbank Raceway in Queensland. I told him I still had the body and some other parts of the car I ran there so many years ago and he was very excited. He asked if I had ever thought of rebuilding the car and I said yes but the cost would be too great for this old man. He said he was willing to help with the project. Upon hearing this I consulted with my partner Maurice Williamson and we decided to donate the car to him. So we shipped what we had down under thinking we would restore the car there. When I got back from Australia I contacted Kent Fuller and he agreed to build a new chassis for me. So that's where we are now. When he is done I will ship it to Lex and then fly down to assemble the car. If and when they get their drag racing museum done, the car will reside there for all time."