I probably haven't yet shared this story about my days at the Magic Kingdom, which is located in Anaheim, California (a town founded by the Germans back in 1857 as an experiment in communal living). Well, times have changed and since 1955 Anaheim has been home to arguably one of the most famous entertainment spots in the world--Disneyland! And, for a short time in the '60s, it was home to a great 1/8-mile dragstrip.
For starters, did you know that some the fastest cars in Orange County ran the 1/8-mile drags in the south parking lot that was nestled between West St. on (you guessed it) the west, Katella Blvd. on the south, Harbor Blvd. on the east, and the Santa Ana freeway (bordering the "friendliest place on earth") on the north? Nowadays, however, the parking lot doesn't exist in the fashion it did in my heyday from 1966-71. Today the very spot where I fine-tuned my automotive skills is now the "home" of Disney's California Adventure.
It should be noted that this wasn't an officially sanctioned dragstrip. No, the NHRA had nothing to do with this blacktop. And, for that matter, neither did the powers that be at the Magic Kingdom. This was a bit more clandestine in nature! There were a number of us who were on occasion considered socially unacceptable, but three in particular really enjoyed their adolescence and V-8 engines. I have no qualms about throwing the three of us under the "bus." That would be Dain Gingerelli, Marc Bahner, and, of course, myself. In deference to the others who have "real" jobs, with "real" responsibilities and families, I will only use first names. So, to Tom, Tom #2, Paul, Bill, Ron, Ron #2, and for the two that didn't make it back from Vietnam, this one is for you.
Marc, if your wife Candi hadn't sent that e-mail a few months back asking, "Is this the Brian of Disneyland sweeper fame?" you would not be undergoing this embarrassment. (As for Dain, well, he knows that I take liberties with his persona on occasion.) The e-mail awakened memories most good, some scary, a few best forgotten, but all of them part of the grand scheme. It should be noted that most of the trouble I got into that involved cars and teenage girls was because of Marc!
In our Disneyland days Marc fancied himself as a fabricator, mechanic, painter, and smooth operator. The fact is, he was, and is, a hot rodder. All of us had it in our "blood," complete with grease embedded into the pores of our skin and under our fingernails. (Knowing what we now know about solvents I am surprised all of us are alive and reasonably healthy!) I can't remember a day that didn't involve something automotive.
For instance, there was the time we painted Marc's Cobra. The effort took place in his parents' garage where the paint booth (minus any ventilation) consisted of clear plastic stapled to the garage walls--the car lost somewhere in the fog of spray. It was days before the paint thinner-induced high subsided for either one of us.
To further put things into perspective, Dain was referred to as "Dain Gurney." He saw himself as a sporty car driver of renowned capabilities (in the spirit of great driver of the time, Dan Gurney). Very late one night he rolled his VW while exiting the Newport freeway right in front of my apartment. It wasn't a bad accident as rollover's go and with a phone call here and a friend there Dain had the VW shiny side up in no time. Without missing a beat he was on his way and almost no worse for the excitement.
As for myself, I was a drag racer through and through; I had raced a '56 Corvette, a '65 big-block El Camino, and my Chevy II. (The team of Warfield/Guild/Brennan experienced modest success winning the AHRA Winternationals at Beeline Dragway in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964-66 with our 327-powered '56 'Vette.)
Okay, what about Disneyland and drag racing? Marc had his Cobra, what more need be said?; Dain had his VW (oh, well); Tom had is '68 Firebird with small-block and auto; Tom #2 rode shotgun in one or another's car; and Paul had a Canary yellow '63 Chevy Impala SS complete with a 327 with headers, the obligatory Muncie four-speed replete with a Hurst Competition-Plus shifter, a Hays clutch, and 4:56 gears. Ron always had motorcycles and he especially seemed in love with English bikes, like twin-cylinder Triumphs, etc...Ron #2 had a '67 Chevy Malibu with a 327 and four-barrel, four-speed, Vibrasonic stereo (bet you haven't heard that in sometime) and, of course, headers. As for me, I had my '67 Chevy II SS with a 327 fed by '62 'Vette fuel injection, a Duntov 30/30 solid lifter cam, 3:55 gears, Muncie four-speed, the always-present Hurst Competition-Plus shifter, and Casler "cheater" slicks.
Here's how the racing worked. Several of us had Disneyland parking lot attendant jackets (orange/red in color) and would go out into the lot after the park had closed, anywhere from midnight to 1 a.m., and redistribute the traffic lane cones. When completed, these cones would signify to us a starting line, center line, finish line, and a "holy crap, lock up the brakes 'cause the West St. fence is approaching rapidly line!" When late-night park security would come out to see what was going on they made the "assumption" we were parking lot attendants setting up for the next day. It worked well, at least for a time.
It wasn't uncommon in those days to run side by side and get into third gear, see speeds in the high twin digits, lock up the brakes, downshift, and turn abruptly to the "outside," bringing the run to an end. Ninety-nine percent of the time we ran through the mufflers. Every now and then we would treat ourselves to a "free flowing" pass, tire smoking acceleration, while the backfires upon deceleration were invigorating.
By now I am sure you have figured out it really didn't matter how fast any of us went but rather that we "went." The thrill of that oncoming fence more than made up for any lack of acceleration adrenaline rush shortcoming. All of us ended our days at the Magic Kingdom on an upbeat note. Marc is currently building a '33 Ford Tudor and his Formula 1 and Can Am restoration shop is going well. Dain is editing a Harley motorcycle magazine entitled, Iron Works, and yours truly is, well, enjoying life to the fullest. Those were the days.