|Here's your chance to
let the world know
about your Woody,
flivver, hot rod, bucket
of bolts, bike or
whatever you call your
Send several photos,
along with 100 words or
less, telling the story of
your pride and joy
contests won, trips
You will be notified if
you and your ride are
selected to be featured
on an upcoming SENIOR
And if you are selected,
you will receive a
com windbreaker and
the joy of knowing that
you made a lot of
hearts beat faster all
over the world!
BIG DADDY'S PRIDE AND JOY
Few people have impacted racing as profoundly as Don Garlits. He
built the first successful rear-engine top fuel dragster. He was the
first to win three NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) national titles
and three world championships. He broke more "impossible"
quarter-mile speed barriers than anyone, including being the first to
top170, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260, and 270 miles per hour!
But long before he was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame (1977),
the Motorsports Hall of Fame (1989), the International Motorsports
Hall of Fame (1997) and the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2005, he
discovered hot-rodding on the streets of Tampa.
Submit photos (eAttachments) and short tributes (100 words or less)
via email or send printed copies to:
ATTN: SENIOR CLASSICS
PO Box 2630
Grapevine, TX 76051
The best entries each month will be featured in this eFeature. Winners will
be notified in advance and will receive a MyBestYears.com Windbreaker.
No submissions or photos will be returned. All results of MyBestYears.com
judges and editors will be final.
Let's get the legend himself to tell the story of the car that graces the inaugural
MyBestYears.com SENIOR CLASSICS eFeature:
Three special things happened during my senior year at Hillborough High School, class of
1950. Let me give them to you in reverse order.
First, I graduated, which wasn’t always a given, especially during my sophomore year
when I skipped a lot of days. I was able to catch up, but my failing algebra marks
prevented me from enrolling in the advanced mathematics course. It was a stupid mistake,
one I would pay for a thousand times over during the coming years.
One of the next things that happened was a bit prophetic. In the Hillsborean, our high
school yearbook, someone had the idea of likening each of the graduates to an animal. I
wasn’t asked about this, and I certainly wasn’t known for sprinting abilities, the comment
some editor had written under my class photo said this: “A greyhound: then all I’d need to
do was eat, sleep, and chase rabbits.” As I said, it was foretelling, as I would spend most
of my life racing after elusive, symbolic “rabbits.”
The third thing was taking $345 that I had saved from working the two previous years and
buying a car. That money had literally burned a hole in my pocket every time I went past
any used car lot. When I finally spotted a blue 1940 Ford sedan, the money was a good
as gone. It was, to me, the most beautiful car in the whole world, though in truth the
engine was in such awful shape that it used about as much oil as gasoline. Still, it was a
real car, and it was mine.
The next day I drove my car past the school and into the parking lot. The girls actually
waved back. I had arrived!
I quickly became a true-blue “squirrel” (a name back then used for guys who hung junk all
over the car)—mine had a bushy foxtail wired to the radio antenna, white fender flaps
(with red cut stars yet!), noisy dual exhaust and more.
About this time a high school teacher held up a copy of a brand new tabloid from
California, Hot Rod Magazine. I was transfixed. It talked about kids all over and what they
were doing with their cars. Nobody knew then, certainly not me, that I would someday
grace the cover of that magazine countless times.
That `40 Ford sedan began the journey that would take me wherever I wanted to go. Soon
every dime I could afford went into that car as I learned to make it go faster in our late-
night back-street drag races.
Soon after that, I realized that the
sedan wouldn’t make it in the big
leagues, so I looked around and
traded it for a little `40 Ford
convertible bomb, complete with
a hot-rodder’s dream, a `41
Mercury engine. It not only ran
fast, but the flip-top really attracted
the girls. Almost every night my
friends and I would go out racing
on the Tampa streets. I was totally
hooked on hot-rodding.
But the road took a curve. I met a beautiful girl named Pat. It was love at first sight, just
like in the movies. The next year was a courtship as All-American as apple pie. We went
bowling and to the movies. There was swimming and water skiing. I even learned how to
dance! The word went out—the hot-rodder Don Garlits had gone totally square.
We got married, and after a short honeymoon, we settled down to a normal life. As far as I
was concerned, I was a family man. There would be no more hot-rodding for me.
Then one Sunday afternoon, Pat and I took a leisurely drive past the Lake Wales drag
strip which had become a real center of area hot-rodders. I pulled in, intending to only
watch the action for a few minutes, but I ended up entering the Ford in one of the stock
Before the day was over, I raced a number of times and ended up winning
a beautiful eight-inch winged trophy (my first ever!).
Needless to say, I was hooked on drag racing again. I had tried to go square.
I had been sincere. But I knew that afternoon that I had to race again.
I sacrificed my pride and joy, the
`40 Ford convertible, and spent
the coming decades pouring all
my time and energy into
machines that would roar down
the quarter-mile strip.
Now, the `40 Ford convertible
you see is a faithful recreation of
the car with which I won my first
trophy. It has been restored from
the ground up and is one of the
favorites at my museum and car
shows. This beauty is powered
by a 1949 Cadillac engine.