More Match Bashers

By Danny White
Chuck Conway photos courtesy of Bob Gibson

We have previously featured Phil Bonner and his Falcon. This photo shows one of the extra shows that Match Bashers put on for the fans: the rosin dry hop followed by the open door backup. Note that Bonner did this by himself — having a crew member back you up came later. Phil raced this little Falcon from sea to shining sea, successfully making the transition from gas-burning A/FX to full-on nitro-burning match basher. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info files)

Don Gay’s first entry into match bash funny cars was this ’65 GTO. Don got backing from his father’s Pontiac dealership in Dickinson, Texas. James Osteen oversaw the mechanical side of the Gay’s racing operation. The Gays became the top Pontiac racers in the country, next to Arnie Beswick. Don Gay did not race this car on fuel for long. Jay Howell built a new ’66 GTO for Don and the ’65 was turned over to Don’s brother Roy to drive. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from files)

Gene Snow’s first match basher was this injected Dart. Snow had raced Super Stockers before making the jump to injected nitro engines. T-Bar chassis did the first conversion of the car, which included altering the wheelbase and gutting the car of dead weight. Ted DeTar built the injected nitro Hemi engine. The car got Gene into the nine-second range. Snow also put on wheelstanding exhibitions for fans when he was not racing. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from files)

Kelly Chadwick had this lightweight Chevy II built by Don Hardy in 1966. The little car replaced the 1965 Chevelle A/FX that Chadwick had match raced the previous year. The big change from 1965 to 1966 was the addition of nitro. The car made it in the nines with this setup. In 1967, the car was rebuilt into a longer wheelbase machine. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from files)

Snow and Chadwick are backing up their altered wheelbase match bashers at “The Valley.” Green Valley Raceway was the place for match racing in Texas. Gene and Kelly faced off countless times over the years. The infamous “broiler” seats are in the background. These stands were known for catching the sound and smell of a nitromethane engine like no other place on earth. The problem was that they also radiated the Texas heat. The spectator side tower was torn down in the early seventies. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from files)

Gene Snow is taking on an outsider at the Valley. Pete Seaton brought the “Seaton’s Shaker” Chevelle down from Michigan, with Del Heinelt behind the wheel at this race. The Chevelle ran low tens and high nines at best. The pictured 396 Chevy Chevelle was replaced in 1966 by another Chevelle. Heinelt and Seaton split up, and Heinelt later died in an accident. The Green Valley track owner can be seen at the left holding the Brownie Camera. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from Bob Gibson and files)

Clester Andrews won many, many races with this little Mustang. The car began life as a Holman & Moody A/Factory Experimental machine. This was probably the best match basher in Texas during the 1965 season. In order to keep up with the other racers, the Mustang had to be updated. The car was gutted, windows were removed, the hood was taken off, injectors were added, and the yellow stuff was poured into the tank liberally. Times dropped from the tens to the nine-second zone overnight. Andrews is seen racing here at Pel State Drag Strip in Opelousas, Louisiana, a convertible airport/drag strip. The track tower (atop a panel truck) can be seen behind the Mustang. Pel State was the site of several NHRA points races. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info files)

Chuck Grimsley was the announcer at Wichita Drag Strip in Kansas. Tired of just watching the action, Chuck decided to build a match basher. Grimsley had T-Bar Chassis build the car and Ted DeTar build the engine. Pasadena Dodge out of Texas sponsored the Rebel Rouser. This was probably the reason Grimsley was a regular at the Gay’s Houston International Raceway. Chuck only raced the car for a short period. Brent Hajek now has the restored machine in his collection. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info files)

Fresh off his NHRA Nationals victory, Gene Snow faces Joe Davis at the NHRA World Finals at Tulsa. Snow’s Dodge Dart had been rebuilt by T-Bar and was much longer and lighter than before.  The Davis & Ingram “Colt 45” Mustang had been converted from an AA/Altered to an early funny car. The “Colt 45” ran on gas or low levels of nitro. Davis & Ingram eventually sold the Mustang to the Oklahoma based Martin Bros., who ran the car with many updates into the early seventies. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from files and Ezra Boggs)

Here is the “Kansas Badman” himself, Ted DeTar. DeTar was a great engine builder as well as a great racer. Ted raced this steel-bodied machine out of his shop, personally doing the conversion from factory driver to a full-on race car. DeTar’s success on the AHRA circuit earned him the number one ranking from AHRA’s Drag World newspaper. Ted got the little orange car to run eights. DeTar built a new Ford Torino but sold it before getting any real track time. Ted later died as a result of a racing accident in Florida. (Chuck Conway photo courtesy of Bob Gibson; info from Steve DeTar)