My Mentors


When I was growing up I got interested in cars when I was about twelve years old. It happened because I asked my Dad how an internal combustion engine worked one night when he came upstairs to say goodnight to me. Parents used to do that sort of thing when I was young. I asked him about it and he spent about half an hour explaining to me how the engine worked. When he was done I totally understood it, or at least what he told me. Amazing!  Dad had a good way of expressing himself like that. So that got me off and running as a gear head. Then I discovered Hot Rod Magazine up at the Drug Store in Willamette. For a princely sum of $.35 cents you could buy a magazine that was full of either green tone or black and white pictures of drag racing, Bonneville Salt Flat machines and street rods and customs. Yeah all of these vehicles featured monthly within the covers of the best car magazine in the world at the time. Sorry I can’t say that about Hot Rod Magazine any longer. So I used to take my allowance which was twenty five cents every two weeks and save it up and buy one of two copies of Hot Rod Magazine up at the drug Store. The nice lady behind the counter started pulling one copy of HRM for me and keeping it in what also used be the town post office. That way I had a sort of pay as you go subscription.

     Later on when I grew up some more, and became friends with lots of other folks that liked cars as much as I did, I was introduced to more people. Car people just sort of snow ball that away. One of my oldest friends Greg Rice’s Brother Ron was another gear head. He and Dennis McFall (my next door neighborhood hot rod maniac) used to pal around together a little. Dennis was a bit unstable because of his home life situation but was a damn good mechanic and I learned a ton about the basics of pulling transmissions from him. My association with Ron Rice produced my introduction to the Weldon’s in Oregon City. Ron used to speak of the Weldon’s with great reverence as if they were car gods. Actually they were.  I have to laugh here but I can’t really argue the point at all. Everybody that built hot rods knew who the Weldon’s were. At least everyone in Oregon City did.  Both of them used to work at Publisher’s Paper Company in Oregon City, and so did Mike Hagadorn who used to drive around a 426 wedge powered 64 Sport Fury.

     The first time I spoke to Verle was from a phone call. I got his telephone number from Ron Rice. I remember his wife answered the phone. When I asked for him the timbre in her voice got this steely coldness to it and she said, “Well I’ll see if he’s even here.” I don’t know what this was all about, was none of my business and still isn’t. Verle answered the phone so I introduced myself to him. He told me that Ron had told him I was gonna call so I felt better about the call. I asked him about a four speed transmission for one of my tri five cars. I don’t’ remember whether it was for my 55 or my 56. He said he had a few lying around, said he had a close ratio Muncie, a couple of Saginaw wide ratios. When I asked him if they were the aluminum case models he said “Well sure!” Stupid question Dave! He didn’t take offense at the question either. He told me he wanted $120.00 for any of them. Brand new parts inside, he’d rebuilt them all. I had no qualms about any of them either. So I drive up to his house up on the hill in Oregon City. He told me he’d be downstairs. He had a shop underneath his house. I had a sidekick with me at the time. Don’t remember who it was either, might have even been Sonny Tiedeman. The light comes on and this guy about 5’8” tall with curly dark hair comes out with a smile on his face showing off a set of perfect teeth. Verle has these piercing green eyes that sparkle with all sorts of intellect behind them. Looking at this guy you can tell you are about 1 click away from meeting the Albert Einstein of the car world. No doubting his smarts here. He is a soft spoken man with a perpetual smile on his face. The best part of being in the audience of Verle Weldon was asking him a question pertaining to something technical about Chevrolets. He’d start one of his lectures about some camshaft profile and who developed it, complete with the GM part number attached to it which usually contained seven digits. Verle must spend his time when he’s not working at Publisher’s reading old GM parts manuals that he rescued from Weiler Chevrolet methinks. He’d go on about how something affected everything else in an engine. The best part was that it was not boring in the least!  What should have taken a hour round trip to complete often turned into a classroom session in Verle’s basement. That’s no kidding either. Little wonder Mrs. Weldon was pissed. Once Verle was done with his dissertation, back came the smile again. He had the ability to make you want to talk with him. A virtual fountain of information and wisdom about hot rods of almost any make. He didn’t charge for it either. Asking him another question and Verle’s eyebrows would sort of tilt upward kinda like a guitar player reaching for a note. This would trip some sort of information file in Verle’s mind and you almost had to be sitting down when he dumped it on you. I had to back him up several times to comprehend what he was saying. I think Verle is German by ancestry. He looked it to a t.  The quintessential Werner Von Braun of the hot rod world. Seriously.

       It’s one thing to talk a good line and completely another to put your hands where your mouth is. I got a chance to see that for myself on a trip up to Vern’s house on the very top of Oregon City. Verle and Vern had built this MG drag car. Okay all you purists can stop reading now because you don’t want to know what they did to the running gear of this classic British sports car. Yeah it was gone. Everything that had anything to do with the steering, suspension, drive train all gone. I think this car has an Olds rear end under it. This was before the days of nine inch Ford in everything. It sat hooked onto a pair of semi elliptical springs (don’t ask me to explain this here). All the engineering and fabrication on this car looked like something that rolled right out of some famous southern California speed shop. Indeed it was an impressive car. I remember it had a 327 Chev small block in it with an Isky 550 Super LeGerra roller in it. Just about the wildest small block Chev roller cam for the day. They had built a set of what looked like tuned headers for the car that terminated into an oval shaped collector. It had a pair of dual quads on the motor on a dual plane manifold. Were no such things as single planes in those days. They rolled this thing out of Vern’s garage onto the concrete pad in front. It had a nose high attitude to it because of the straight axle under the front end. Nothing too high, the Weldon’s were blessed with about the same amount of common sense as their IQ’s which were considerable. In fact I felt like an idiot around these guys but they had a way of making you feel like you were smart too.  

    So Verle gets inside the car and I hear this ticking of an electric fuel pump and then the cranking of a Chevrolet starter motor. The motor cranks over a few times and erupts into this 1250 rpm super rough idle, then promptly dies. Verle hits the starter again after goosing both carbs several times. The car fires back up and shoots a bit of black smoke out the collectors. Verle holds the throttle up off idle and the motor is clearing it’s self out at about 2000 rpm. Right out of the headers, music to any gear head. God I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Small block Chev’s sound so good with lots of camshaft in them and straight exhaust. The rear end of the car was shod with a pair of M & H Racemaster slicks that stuck out of the naturally radiused fenderwells a couple of inches. The wheels were probably some sort of Oldsmobile variety that got replaced by some American Racing Torque Thrust D’s of the day later on. The car was a cream white color if I remember correctly.

    Verle revved it up a few times which on a small block Chev is akin to hearing a small explosion nearby. Its sort like turning the switch on and off on an electric motor. You can’t hear the motor ramp up and down in rpm. It just goes up instantly and back down again to where ever the cam and carbs want it to idle. An amazing little engine by anyone’s standards. The Weldon’s did magical stuff with these things. I’d like to see what they could do with big block Chevs.

     I watched this car run down at Woodburn Drag strip a long time ago and it was really fun. Bob and Clarence Rohrs had their 57 D/Gas Chev down there too. Weldon’s MG had a B & M hydromatic in it. The Rohrs brother’s gasser had a four speed. Bob is big enough to row that four speed car down the track. You have never heard anyone shift a four speed car like Bob Rohrs, I guarantee this. Loved watching both cars go down the track. Verle used to do double duty between his drag cars, (there was more than one) and a little tuning on Bob’s 57 too. Verle is never too busy to help anyone. Always willing to spread himself to the point of transparency if need be. Perhaps that was a failing on his part but I never saw it like that. I admired him for it. He makes all the “Shell Answer Men” that I’ve met who stand around with their arms crossed in front of them with a shitty attitude look like the morons they really are. So I have always patterned myself after Verle Weldon, and one of my other mentor Guy Mitchell.

    I have to say a few words here about Guy Mitchell. Guy possesses a lot of the same characteristics as the Weldon’s. He’s a well of information about Chevrolets and just about any other engine on the planet. He has even more knowledge of racing than the Weldon’s. He also has lots of the same personality traits too. He’s never too busy to talk with someone that’s willing to listen, who doesn’t argue with his answers. He’s also soft spoken, has an engaging smile and a great sense of humor. I remember one night Guy took the time to drive out to my house from where he lives in Oak Grove to look at a suspension problem I was having on my 55 race car. Never charged me for it and spent the better part of a couple of hours underneath the car, and bringing me up to speed on what he thought the car needed. Far be it from me to argue with him. I always figured Guy knew a hell of a lot more than I did about any of this stuff. So my best advice around these people is to shut up and listen to them when they are talking. You might not like what they tell you because it’s not really validating what you wanted to do. So unless you really do know more than the Weldon’s or the Mitchell’s listen to them, be respectful and don’t argue. If you ask a question then argue with the answer why bother posing the question in the first place? It’s one thing to ask them to explain their answer a little further so you really “Get” what they are telling you, but it’s rude and disrespectful to just denounce their answer and go on about your business. Their information in most circles should have a dollar value attached to it. They learned this information from doing it.

    So I say thank you to Verle Weldon and his bro Vern whom I never knew well at all and to Guy Mitchell for being my mentors all these years.

    Someone needs to speak up about these milestones in my life so I did.

Dave

Bought Not Built


I’m the guy at the cruise ins
Whose parts have never been
Installed by me
Something I don’t want you to see.

I sit back in my folding chair.
Sixty Five years with yellow-silver braided hair.
Underneath my official hot rod hat.
I’m  much too short and a little too fat.

I have the most expensive hot rod here.
It has all the best parts never fear.
A Vee Twelve Ferrari motor in a highboy duce.
This Italian-American hybrid goose.

I sign the checks that build the car.
A process from me done afar.
I can’t tell you it’s camshaft specifications.
To meet your expectations.

 

One guy built the frame
I paid him lots of money just the same.
Certainly not my claim to fame
Another guy did the exhaust in this assembly game.

 

I stand around in front of my car
Like some sort of hot rod rock star.
With my arms folded in front of me
I got all the answers you see.

 

At least that’s what I want you to think.
The real car guys know I’m  just a dink.
With a bottomless pocket book.
When turned upside down and shook.

 

Pukes credit cards and rod shop phone numbers.
Their prowess to my knowledge outnumbers.
My abilities with any sort of hand tools.
Which to me are only used by blue collar fools.

 

I’ve never held a TIG torch in my hand.
Couldn’t tell the difference between chrome moly and
Stainless steel, by the look or the feel.
Doesn’t really matter because I’m not the real deal.

 

You’ll never know unless you press me in conversation.
Something I shun with extreme reservation.
I just stand there and shake my head yes or no.
Your words come in bounce around and go.

 

Yeah I’m one smug son-of-a-bitch.
Hey not my fault that I’m rich.
And I happen to like cars.
You should hear my spiel in the bars.

 

I got a baseball hat that says “Faux”
My favorite one don’t you know.
I don’t know what it means.
It just looks cool with my jeans.

 

I like wearing it makes people laugh.
They think I’m the “Golden Calf.”
Gold chains around my neck.
With a Ferrari emblem to spec

 

A guy in an old Oldsmobile called me an asshole
He said my car smokes like a fumarole
Whatever that is, the motor is Italian you know.
Motor oil out the exhaust pipes does blow.

 

 So I’m the king of the cruise ins.
Even though no one talks to me that’s been.
Parked next to me for the day.
I tell them not to blow dust my way.

 

When parking next to me.
It’s my way you see.
Unless you are the guy in the Oldsmobile.
Who told me to fuck off for a while.

When his car blew dust all over my high boy.
My pristine Italian-American toy.
My dust broom stuff I had to employ.
Someone  told me my car wasn’t the real McCoy?

 

Dave Proffitt
4/7/2013
11:01 am.

Hot Rod Heaven


   My hot rod lady pal Missie White told a friend of hers on Face Book, I’ll see you in Hot Rod Heaven. So I started thinking what that would be like.

   Here’s my take on that. We get up to the pearly gates and St. Peter says, “Yeah hath done well in the eyes of the Lord with thy hot rod. Ye hath done thy best to maketh your hot rod as fast as it could be.”  “Go forth unto the kingdom of heaven for I have prepared a place for thee in thine shop, and at thy track so that ye may dwell at the drag strip of the Lord forever. Ye shall become legendary even unto heaven!” 

   Boy with a greeting like that I can’t wait to get into heaven! So the first day I get there, here’s my Cutlass! Yep it never got sold it went right up here with me! Cool!  I walk into my shop and it’s neat and clean for a change. There’s a note on my argon bottle on my welder that says “forever full, no charge.”  There are 240 vdc outlets anywhere I want them in the shop. There are a double row of engines sitting on engine stands, waiting to be put back together. Of course all the machine work is done to them and it’s all perfect to be sure.  This line up of engines includes 455 Olds, 454 & up Big Block Chevs, there’s a few Chrysler hemis there, and one of the “shop angles” says that the last to in line are 392’s!!!   There’s a double decker shelf full of 6-71 thru 14-71 blowers sitting there and next to them are racks of Enderle and Hillborne hats. I even notice a couple of old square two hole Enderle injectors sitting there “just because.”  There’s a whole box full of Sid Waterman and Hillborne fuel pumps. I see a box of old Vertex Scintilla Magnetos and there’s half a dozen Schiefer magnetos there too, all brand new of course. In the back of the shop there’s a lineup of every possible Goodyear Drag slick ever made, and a complete line of Goodyear front runners too. Right next to that are rows upon rows of American Racing Mags, Weld Wheels Cragars, you name it.  I asked the shop angle why there were not “manure spreader” 21-24 inch wheels in here and he said “well we even have limits in Heaven Dave.” Good enough for me.

   There were three paint booths on the front side of the shop and they all were stocked with a full supply of House of Kolor paints and notes on all the cans that said “never empty ever!”  There were at least a hundred different spray guns hanging up most were DeVillbis or Satas. These were all new as well. There was several apprentice shop angles working around the shop making sure it was clean enough to eat off of.  The main shop angles Name was Pete. I asked him about that and he said” I suppose you were thinking something like Gabriel then?” “We’re pretty down home here.”  So Pete said to me, “Hey I gotta show you something!” So we went around to the back side of the shop and here was another building that I never even knew existed. He opened the door and here was a 60’s era front engine top fuel dragster! It had a blown 392 Chrysler hemi in it Enderle bug catcher on top and ran on 98%!  He said “The Lord wants to see you run this car tomorrow!”  “Don’t worry you can’t die doing it you already did that! “ Then he laughed.  He also said “even though you never drove one while you were alive you can drive this like your name is Don Prudehomme up here!”  Well this put a smile on my face.

    So by now I was a little tired. Yeah you get tired in heaven too but it’s not the same you still feel like a million bucks and your feet don’t hurt.  It’s just a nice way of going from day to day in heaven.  Pete told me it’s an easy way to live for eternity up here.

  So I woke up and here’s Ziggy standing over me licking my face!

I can understand him too! He’s asking me what’s on the agenda for today. So I told him that the Lord want us to run a top fuel car all day!  Ziggs thought that would be fun but was concerned the noisy thing would hurt his dog ears.  Pete said “Hey I heard that, nope it won’t hurt your ears and there’s a back seat for Zeph in the car too!”  Wow!  Next thing I know Zeph and I are sitting at a table at the Zigg Zag Inn!  They serve dogs in heaven right alongside humans. Ziggy’s having left overs and Iams Minnie Chunks. I have hotcakes and whip cream and some perfect bandannas on top. I’m sipping a cup of Kona Coffee that is 100% fresh and it’s perfect, whip cream on top of it too. No cholesterol or fat worried up here.  I get done and we’re at the track. I see Pete pull in with my dually with the digger on a trailer. There are lots of new top fuel cars here and tons of expensive corporate trailers and trucks. Seems like the high dollar guys got into heaven after all. Pete sees me looking at this and says, “Don’t worry about this, Dave this is part of the fun here. God does have a sense of humor.”  I still didn’t know what he was talking about.  I help Pete roll the digger off the trailer.  There’s a drum of nitro on the trailer that also has a sign on it that says “never empty.” We fuel up the digger and I get into the car. A couple of crew angles come over and fiddle with the hat and barrel valve. They stick a starter motor on the blower drive and Pete says “flip the mag switch on Dave, and don’t touch the throttle.” So I do. The starter motor rolls the big Chrysler over with no trouble pumping its low compression pistons up and down like there’s no spark plug in it.  One of the other crew angles is spraying something into the hat out of a funky looking plastic bottle that looks for all the world like a ketchup bottle. All of the sudden the car rocks back and forth the the motor is running!  Wow this is great!  Pete yells at me, it’s just on gasoline right now I’m gonna switch it over to Nitro.  The car is vibrating and shaking pretty good and it’s idling at about 1850 rpm.  Pete does something up on the barrel valve and the motor starts sounding like a series of explosions!  It’s really shaking now. Pete says “wing it a couple of times Dave.” I give the throttle a quick stab with my right foot and it explodes in front of me then returns to a semi-reasonable idle. The rpm climb in these motors is fantastic!  Pete changes something again that the motor goes back to being Dr. Jekyll instead of Mr. Hyde. Pete gives me the “slit your throat “gesture which means shut the engine down.  I kill the magneto and the motor quits.

    An NHRA dude is walking over to me. He says I get to be the first one down the track this morning. This doesn’t sit too well with the guy standing there with a big Al Anabi logo on his shirt and Energy drink baseball hat on. He says to the NHRA dude, “no he’s not we’re first we have to do a test run to see if our tune up is right.”  The NHRA guy smiles at him and says, “go back to your car and sit down. When all the rest of these guys are done maybe I’ll let you corporate guys run, maybe.”” If you give me any trouble about it I’ll send you downstairs and you can polish the red cars that get real hot and smell like sulphur.”  The corporate driver goes back over and pops the top on one of his energy drinks.   Gee this is fun! 

    We fire the digger back up and Ziggy is led over to the car. He’s got a special doggy fire suit on and a helmet with ear holes cut in the top. He looks cute in his get up. He’s panting and telling everyone how much fun he’s having.  Pete lifts him up and puts him in the seat behind me. The car is running good and making lots of racket. The crew rolls it up to the starting line. Pete says they got some sort of throttle stop on it for the burn out. He says all I gotta do is line it up, let the clutch all way out and hammer it for a second or two. Then push the clutch back in and hit the hand brake. Simple enough. The car looks like it’s a mile long. The motor is so huge it’s hard to see over. Actually all I can see is the magneto, rear of the blower case and the back end of the hat. I can see two tiny motorcycle wheels on the front axle of the car and in between them is a small aluminum wing.  The front wheels roll thru some Holy Water.  I wait till the slicks get wet and I let the clutch out. The car lurches forward a bit. I hammer the throttle and the whole back end of the car goes into white tire smoke instantly. It literally throws me into the seat so hard I feel like I’m gonna puke, but then you can’t puke in heaven it’s impossible.  I let up on throttle the same time I shove the clutch in and grab the hand brake. The motor goes to idle and the car slows down nicely.  I shift the reverser in and wait till the smoke clears.  Pete is standing in front of the car and backs me up in my own tire tracks with hand signals. Wow! Never thought I’d be doing this ever! I guess it pays to be nice while you’re alive.  So I get back to the starting pad and now they are inching me up to the Christmas Tree.  Actually the Christmas Tree is highly revered up here in heaven due to its name. God is pleased that we named this piece of eq        uipment after his Son’s birth, so you see drag racing is a fairly Holy sport.  The stage lights come on. Pete tells me to hold the clutch in and when the light goes green dump it and floor the throttle. I’m a little apprehensive about doing that even if I am in heaven. Old habits die hard I guess.  The second stage light comes on. All the crew angels are gone and its just me, the Christmas tree 1320 feet of immaculate asphalt and God as the spectator and Ziggy as my back up. 

   Oops here comes the first yellow light. I pick the rpms up anyway despite what Pete said, like I said “Old habit die hard.”  At last the last yellow goes out and dump the clutch and nail the throttle.  The car leaps forward and the front wheels go up into this nice slow wheel stand.  The car is going forward at warp speed and is accelerating so hard I’ve lost my breath. The front wheels come down gently and the car is like a cruise missile by now. It’s easy to control the long wheel base makes it as stable as a yuppie’s BMW.  The blower is whining like crazy, the exhaust is a deep roar that’s vibrating all the air in my lungs. The nitro stings my eyes but that gets fixed instantly we are in heaven after all. This motor is singing to me and I love it. We go thru the last MPH clock and I pull the fuel valve shut, pull the parachute and cautiously hit the hand brake. I’m letting the motor run out under compression to flush the nitro out of it. Later on Pete will tell me I didn’t have to do that because motors don’t’ blow up in heaven unless you have a corporate sponsor then they blow up quite routinely, much to the chagrin of the crew chiefs.

   Ziggy is laughing and panting like a locomotive! He tells me he’s never has so much fun!  Digger doggie, I like that a lot.

   I see my friend Missie has pulled into the pits with a brand new Chev dually. She’s got her Olds on a nice trailer and it’s sporting a brand new paint job and some huge slicks that Pete and his crew put underneath her car one evening while she was asleep. They helped Missie do some major engine work to her car because I was busy.

    “Hi Dave!” Missie says in her cute Tennessean drawl. “Thet was a really cool pass you made, you ever driven one of them things before?”  “nope I never did!” I tell her and I then explain that you can drive whatever you want to up here. This makes her giggle and laugh. Boy I wonder what thoughts went thru that pretty head of hers?”  Makes me laugh too. Pete says that God wants us to give the corporate people a lecture on manners tomorrow.  Sounds like fun to me I can’t wait. God told me that he wants Ziggy to talk to them too. This should really be fun!

 

Dave

 

Missie


A high compression young gal.
An Oldsmobile Pal.
A special woman in her own way.
Big Block Oldsmobile’s her way to say.

How she feels about her daily driver.
A front loaded four fifty fiver.
Does all of her own work.
Her modifications she doesn’t shirk.

Grease under her fingernails.
Tells the world her tales.
Of hard-fought work with a smile.
Cuts and scars give her style.

On the backs of her pretty hands.
She bleeds Royal Purple into the sands.
In her driveway shop.
In her heart nonstop.

Like a Magaflow Pro Star 500.
Guys in her rearview mirror wondered.
What the hell just blew by them.
Oldsmobile Rhapsody in the key of RPM.

 Bear witness to the Beauty and the Beast.
This Lady from the Southeast.
Bewitching in her tilted smiles.
An enchantress she beguiles.

All those who come up against her.
She vanishes in a stop light blur.
Most of us Olds guys know it’s her car.
To most of us Olds guys she’s our star.

 She’s the real deal alright.
Talking to Missie is a delight.
Her southern drawl is dear to your soul.
She makes us all feel whole.

Would rather go to a drag race than watch football.
Which puts her at the head of my class call.
Likes the smell of race gas and tire smoke.
Would wear it as a perfume and that’s no joke.

 Lives and breathes drag cars and hot rods.
Likes the songs of ringing dual quads.
Addicted to big inch hard leavers.
I believe she’s got a bad case of Olds Fever.

 This damsel in an Oldsmobile.
This beautiful little lady who’s heart feels.
Everything that’s going thru her ride.
Vehicular gremlins from her cannot hide.

 I’m honored to know her.
Your opinion of her I will not defer.
She will always be my friend.
A woman to the very end.

I salute you Missie our Southern Belle.
Your story to my friends I like to tell.
Women like her are rare on a logarithmic scale.
She’s the beauty in this Oldsmobile Tale.

Dave Proffitt
11/30/2012
12:08 AM.