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: What hot rods did you have when you were growing up?
NF: Wow! I remember most all of the cars from the time I was five years old. My mom and dad were dedicated NHRA Stock Eliminator racers. My mother drove most of the time and for a short period we actually had two cars and they both drove. We won the first Division 4 race in 1965. The car was a '61 409 Impala and it was disqualified in tear-down for one cylinder on the 409 being 0.4 cc too small! As I recall, we came back and kicked their ass at the next race and set the National Record. There were division wins, class records, and semi-final appearances at the World Finals over several years of racing. I cut my teeth on the 409 in my parents’ garage and hanging out at Carroll Caudle’s shop in Amarillo watching him build record-setting small-block Chevrolets that dominated the U.S. Nationals and Winternationals. Carroll did all of our machine work. My father stopped his class racing in 1969 to dedicate his time to building the business at Scoggin-Dickey. However, the garage was always stocked with something!
My favorite time was the summer of 1979. I had a 1975 Camaro. Instead of a new car for graduation, I had opted for ordering a smorgasbord of performance parts from the latest Chevy Power Manual to build my dream small-block for the street. I had a 4-bolt main LT-1 350 short-block as my foundation--forged 11:1 pistons, steel crank, pink rods, etc. You know the drill. I had the latest design “Turbo” heads with some gentle bowl blending. It was coupled with a 3,500 stall converter and 5.14s. She was downright mean between stop signs.
We also had a 1972 Buick GS that was one of the fastest 455 cars in the country. I had run 10.90’s that year at Green Valley in it, a fully street-legal car. It was my dad’s daily driver for a while. Hey! While I was in high school the Friday night drill was that if you outran me and my Camaro, I would go home get my dad and the Buick. Looking back on this it is hilarious to think about. It was always a no brainer! The guy would think this is easy money: little Nicky, his daddy, and the family Buick. I could always tell when that attitude came out from the over-confident challenger and it just rubbed my dad the wrong way. The next line was always, “Sir would you like to use a starter or go on three honks of the horn?” In classic Wendell Fowler rhetoric, “You just take off and we will catch ya!” By 1979, the Buick was more like an NHRA Super Stock car with license plates, and nobody wanted to play anymore!
We had a 1955 Bel Air with a bad-ass Caudle-built small-block, Muncie 4-speed, Dana 60 with a 5.38 gear, and manually-operated exhaust cut-outs for the Friday night cruise. This car was immaculate, deep orange exterior, black interior, and Cragar S/S wheels! It was my favorite car to take to the Sonic on Friday night looking for action. At sea level this car would run 11.60’s all day long. In fact, this was the most consistent car at the drag strip of all the cars we owned! We won several bracket races and drove it to the track. It never rode a trailer.
There was also a 1974 Camaro with an LS7 between the fenders. It had been my best friend’s daily driver and he sold it to my dad because he was getting married. I worked on this car all summer solving little problems--carburetor, ignition, fuel supply, traction, the list goes on. I actually used this Camaro to stake the claim of having the fastest street car in Lubbock. I will never forget a country road on a hot, West Texas Sunday. Probably a hundred souls on the side watching and they were all friends of the current champ. I had told my best friend (I thought he might like to see his old car in action), my dad, my mother, and my girlfriend about the race. It literally felt like five people versus the world. The current champ had a 1966 Chevelle with a Caudle-built big-block 427 and a 4-speed. Hey, I knew if Carroll built the engine then it had to be on kill! The owner was one of those guys who refused to go to the track. He knew his car was fast and he had yet to lose a race. He had held the claim for years. If you thought you were bad enough to out-run the Chevelle, show up with your money and your car.