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Those Wild Fuel Altereds: Drag Racing in the Sixties by Don Montgomery

Those Wild Fuel Altereds: Drag Racing in the Sixties by Don Montgomery
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Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz


Don Montgomery’s book Those Wild Fuel Altered: Drag Racing in the Sixties, is his sixth book in a series on hot rodding, dry lakes and drag racing. All the books have the same format and high quality in research and book layout. Don has become an assembly line for the 1930’s through the 1970’s on this style of history, and the reader can expect a similarity of authorship. The writing is clear and crisp, the photographs are outstanding and well documented and the books are sturdy and well made. Nothing fancy, just filled with everything that a hot rodder wants. Those Wild Fuel Altered: Drag Racing in the Sixties is a hard cover book that measures 8 ¾ inches in width, by 11 ¼ inches in height, and is 192 pages. A perfect size to put two 5x7-inch photos on one page or an 8x10 single page photo. Some would call Montgomery’s work a pictorial, some a coffee table book and others a history. The author subtly melds all three styles into a work of art that combines all three. Don is a perfectionist and he knows his history due to his extensive friendships with those that raced and because Don has participated himself. He works extremely hard at his research and in making contacts with those who have collections of photographs. The one thing Don doesn’t do is add indexes to his books. He says that the books are meant to be read straight through and indexes aren’t that important to hot rodders. Perhaps he is right and hot rodders are satisfied with the books just as they are. Don Montgomery’s books are always popular sellers.

Here’s what you get for forty bucks. 345 well chosen black and white photographs, accurately captioned, five pages of fuel altereds competitors lists and text that is well written, historical and accurate. It doesn’t get any better than that. There are no color photographs. The pages are of a high-quality, heavy bond, waxed paper that shows off the clarity of the photographs to a high degree. The pages are bound to the spine of the book and not simply glued in, another sign of quality. The cover is the famed red and gold preferred by the author, but it is the signature dust cover jacket that you should preserve and keep with the book that is important. Dust cover jackets or book sleeves protect books from damage over time. They are the publisher’s first effort to grab your attention and entice you to pick up the book and thumb through it. If the dust cover jacket is drab, the reader may never pick up the book to begin with, much less purchase it. Montgomery picked out a winning combination on his first book and eight books later, he still uses the striking red, white and black dust covers. I purchased my copy at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, in Pomona, California. You can call the museum and they will ship you a copy for the purchase price, plus shipping and handling. Their number is 909-622-2133, or you can contact the author or any bookstore and give them the name of the book and the author. If they are in doubt, the ISBN number is 0-9626454-5-1. Montgomery is his own publisher.

The book starts out with a dedication, introduction and acknowledgments, all written by the author. There are seven chapters; How and Why, the Fuel Ban, the Lean Years, Alive and Well, the Best Years, After the Best Years and Technical Details. He follows with a list of competitors and a brief recap of his career in hot rodding and racing. Those that he contacted for photos, and help with the text, tells us a great deal about the quality of the book. They included Rich Campos, Leroy Chadderton, Leon Fitzgerald, Don Green, Bob McClurg, Steve McElroy, Al ‘Mousie’ Marcellus, Joe Mondello, Joe Reath, Joy Summers, Don Tuttle, Don Wilson and many others who participated in Fuel Altered racing. Joe Reath has recently retired, but I still call him frequently when I need an answer to a vexing question. He has never let me down. Steve McElroy is another one of those ‘been there, done that’ kind of friend who is always willing to help. Steve still travels around the country on business and he keeps his contacts fresh. Marcellus has one of the clearest and sharpest minds and his knowledge of drag racing is invaluable. Joe and Mary Mondello have moved back east, but they are still in business and they know the history of the sport. The photographers who provided Montgomery with his treasure trove of photos include; Jim Miles, Rod Hynes, Jere Alhadeff, Bob McClurg, Richard Shute and Match Race Madness photography. The total number of photographs (345) are slightly lower than normal for other books in the Montgomery series, but still more than most books provide. They represent a wide range of fuel altered race cars and more than adequately tell the story of this exciting sport.

In the back is a list of the names of the fuel altereds, the names of the teams, when they began to race and where they originated. That’s the kind of pain staking research that Montgomery puts into his books. There are nine teams that started their racing careers in the fuel altered category from 1957 through 1959. A steady growth in numbers occurs in 1960 and ’61. From 1962 through 1967 the growth is even larger. By the end of the decade this class is expanding rapidly. The decline of the fuel altered class begins in 1972 and by 1981 there are no new fuel altereds being built for this class. Today, only a handful of nostalgic fuel altereds tour the drag strips or race against each other. Pure Heaven, Pure Hell, Winged Express, Nanook, Rat Trap, Beaver Hunter and other wonderful sounding F/A names are in museums or wrecked. A few, like the Winged Express and Rat Trap, make tours, receive appearance money or race in nostalgic meets. The majority of fuel altereds came from Southern California, but they found popularity across the country. This was a class of racing that reinvented itself after the fuel ban of 1957. The short wheelbase and wild power of these cars as they slipped and slided across the track, excited the fans and gave an unpredictable performance for the drivers. The cars never really went away, but changing rules in the sanctioning bodies and the rise of the funny car class ended the reign of the fuel altered class. Don Montgomery has written a compelling book on a class of cars that will always remain in our hearts.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].