Monday, May 08, 2006


Ken Linville- Studebaker Dreams

Well, if Studebakers weren't rare in the '50's, they should have been. Ever wonder why they went out of business after the Golden Hawk fell on its ass? They finally decided to 'pack' some power into them but it was too late. And who did they pick to 'pack' some fire in the hole? Packard! Hmm, excuse the pun but I haven't noticed any Packard showrooms around any of the 8 cities I've lived in since I left Seattle in '61, either.

After I finally got rid of my '48 Stude, my dad drives up with a '55 with a big powerful Packard V-8 in it. I'm thinking, at last, I can lay some 2nd gear rubber and whip some ass on the drag strip! Of course, our drag strips were two-lane arterial highways and we didn't care whether we were in the right or left lane as long as we were leaving our competition behind, something I had yet to experience. The trouble was, with all that power under the hood, the designers decided to put a 'soft' clutch in them. So if you popped the clutch in low gear, it just slipped against itself until the friction would finally allow a nice smooth acceleration up to speed but by the time it did, the guy you were racing was half a mile ahead of you. Dick Trisler even beat me in his '52 Olds and Frank Day's '56 Chevy was over the horizon by the time my clutch would allow some forward movement to noticeably take place.

I'll never forget the night a bunch of us were at the 1st Avenue drive-in when Larry Eichler (class of '54) pulled up in a brand new black '55 Chevy coupe. His dad was a GM dealer in Renton so he had a connection the rest of us would have killed for. It was the first time any of us had ever seen one. There was a kid (I can't recall his name ) who drove a sleek little black Austin-Healey and he was presently "Fastest Gun In The West" king of the hill in the rapid acceleration dept. He was there looking for some competition as we were all crowded around the new Chevy looking under the open hood, oohing and awing over this tiny little V-8 engine. It was hardly any bigger than the 6-pack of Oly over in my back seat. Then, the kid with the Healey made his challenge and the race was on! Engines roared as we all headed over to the Blue Ribbon to start the race. The drag started at 1st Ave. and 152nd to head south and whoever got to Five Corners first was the winner. Can you imagine trying this today? There're about 5 stoplights and 800 cars on that route now at any given time. We watched the beginning of the contest from the starting point but it was clear that Eichler's little Chevy was a hundred feet ahead of the Healey practically right out of the gate. So much for that short reign as drag king. Like they say, "There's no such thing as fastest gun in the west". After the excitement died down, we're sitting in my Gutless Wonder breaking open a pack of Marlboros and sucking on a warm 6 pack and wondering how some guys can get so lucky.

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