the Rest of the story

.......go watch some racing.  That car, That Car, THAT CAR!!!  I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.  Ya know, if it was between this number and this number, maybe, just maybe I COULD do this…NAW!  Ya know, let’s just see.  I mean, what do those things cost anyway?  JUST FORGET IT!!  Ok, let’s just see what they’re asking.

What?!?  It’s right in the middle of my price range!  Ok, let’s think about this.  Can I do it?  I think so.  If I do this and this, then I CAN do it!  OK, let’s ask the boss.

“Honey.  I want to buy this car.”

“I don’t care.”

“No, really, I want to buy this car.”

“I really don’t care.  I am going to sit down over there.  Let me know when you are ready to go.”

After talking to the owner for about an hour, looking over the car, and exchanging numbers, I decide I’m going to think about it overnight.  ***A personal rule—Before spending a substantial amount of money, sleep on it!  AND make sure you’re wife really doesn’t mind!!

Over dinner, I confirmed that Natalie really didn’t mind.  She comes from a racing background and enjoys the sport as much as I do.  I’m still trying to make sure I want to make the jump.  We’re doing some remodeling and still building an office in my shop and I don’t want to over-extend myself.

All of that was put on the back burner when Don Trasin and Pat Foster lit the Jade Grenade in the hotel parking lot!!  WOW!!  That’s one BEAUTIFUL car!  That’s it, I want the car!  Like Don told me, They ain’t making 1960 and 1970 racecar’s any more. 

I had Donnie’s phone number in my pocket but I didn’t want to call him at 10:00 p.m.  If it’s meant to be, it will be there in the a.m.  After breakfast and waiting in line for the track to open, we make a beeline to the car. 

“Ok Donnie, I’m ready to buy this car.”

“Sorry man, a guy knocked on my motor home at 7:00 a.m. this morning and bought the car.”

WHAT?!?  Let the pouting begin!

I was one hurt puppy.  After all of this, I let the deal slip through my hands!  Yep, I moped around like…well, like a big kid that just had his favorite car taken away!!  That is until my wife gave me a “tune up” and told me to GET OVER IT!!  If it was meant to be, it would have happened.  It wasn’t so, GROW UP! You know things always work out for the best.  My reaction, Yeah, but..  Her reaction, No “buts”, get over it!  (Input from wife—I don’t think I sounded that mean.  Rip heard me that way because his feelings were already hurt.) 

She was right things do work out for the best.  After lunch, I had made peace with my wife and myself.  Then we got back to enjoying the reunion.

Later that afternoon Bob and Donnie came up to us and asked if we were enjoying the event. I told them I was now that I had received my “tune up”!  Bob was surprised at how much I had wanted that car and informed me that he had one he might sell, if I was really that serious.  Tell me about it!!

It’s a longer car than Donnie’s (nothing personal), about 205 inches, full body with a serpent nose and it’s in excellent shape.  I want it!! I WANT IT!!

Bob lives about 90 miles north of Saint Louis and the guy never sits still!  We kept in touch here and there and on 9/4/03 Bob sent me the first pictures of the car below.





It was just as he had described it.  Bob also knew where an old digger-style trailer was.  I want to take a couple of lines here to thank Bob and Glenda.  They have been really good to us and are really good people.  Thanks Bob!  Thanks Glenda!  I met Bob and Glenda about 10:00 p.m. on 9/17/03 at an East Memphis hotel and we did the deal!  I was a PROUD PAPPA!!  The next day Natalie and I pulled our new car out of the box and made room for her new home.




Ok girl, who are you? Where have you been?  What have you done?  I would sit in the shop and just look at the car and wonder these things.  This car was in great shape.  Had she been raced or was she a back-up car?  She was long.  This and a few other things indicated she was built in the late 60’s or early 70’s.  Was she built and put aside when the rear engine cars came along?  She had a couple of updates—kidney bars and a foot brake had been added; as well as, another roll bar and battery box.  Had she just been raced as a bracket car?

Bob never told me where he got the car but, he had been told it was an Al Swindahl car and it had a “Don’t Mess With Texas” sticker on it. 

For those that might not know, Al Swindahl was a noted chassis builder from the Pacific Northwest.  He has since passed away but, will always be held in high esteem by those in the drag racing community.  Thank you, Mr. Swindahl, for your contribution to the sport.

After a few phone calls, I had Carl Swindahl’s (Al’s brother) phone number and e-mail address.  It ain’t one of Al’s cars!  That was kind of a shocker!  I had sent Carl some pictures to confirm it was their car and that’s what I got.  It wasn’t!  We had always thought it was a Swindahl car and now that we knew it wasn’t, I had to go back to square one—the SEMA tag!  I removed the paint from the SEMA tag and found a small 2 dash big 2, “EM” and the number 719.  I got on the phone and PC.  I talked to Don Ewald, Greg Sharp, Eddie Wilbanks, Ray Godman, Preston Davis, Lowery Kiihnl, Pat Foster, Don Garlits……Well, you get the idea.  I talked and followed lead after lead and they all hit dead ends.  It wasn’t until Dave Tuttle suggested I talk to Ed Mabry that we made any progress.  Mr. Mabry had built and inspected a number of cars and motorcycles (and still does) in the Texas area.  After Don Ewald located him for me, I gave him a call and sent him some pictures. 

“I inspected the car in 1970 and 71 and still have the paperwork to prove it.  That was Steve Stephens and Dick Venables car built by Lester Guillory.”

Ed made the connection! 

After a couple of weeks I had tracked down Mr. Venables.  Dickie Jr. is Tony Pedregon’s crew chief. He was easy to find!  I got his Dad’s number from him!  After I sent Mr. Venables some pictures he replied with the e-mail below:

I don’t think there is any question that that car was ours. I recognized the boxed radius arm brackets on the front axle, the boxed bell crank on the steering and the swing out steering gear to facilitate clutch can removal etc. That is the Stephens and Venables dragster that you see on Don Ewald's web site, "We did it for love".
The car was built by the late Lester Guillory, here in Houston in 69, I think. We raced it in top fuel class mostly around here in division 4 and were very successful. I remember working long hours into the night prodding Lester all the time and helping him build brackets etc. Not knowing he had kidney disease at that time. He had 2 transplants and finally succumbed to the disease. He built every piece of the chassis and did all of the aluminum work. He also had done work for Garlits, Karamesines and some others. Ed Mabry built our next car, our first rear engine car. In 1975 Sid Tarter came in partnership with Steve Stephens and myself and Lester built us another beautiful rear engine car. This car was named "Quicksilver Too". We had a Vega funny car built by Romeo Palamides at the time named "Quicksilver".
I had no idea where that car was. It sure is good to see it in such remarkable condition. Maybe I can find some other pictures or see if Sid or Steve have any.

Dick Venables, Sr.

the Restoration









This picture and the ones below were received February 27, 2004
with a few additions to the car as parts are beginning to arrive. The
new injector is in place along with the headers and valve covers.








Click here to what the car looked like over 30 years ago