There are some combinations that
were always an institution in drag racing. For instance, we could
always automatically assume that Bill Jenkins was a Chevrolet man.
The talented “Dyno Don” Nicholson was pretty much a
Ford man at heart, and we always picture Ronnie Sox in a Mopar.
In the same vein, we could always associate Bob Glidden with a Ford-powered
entry. Sure there were the flirtations with a Chevrolet in 1976
at Indy, and the record-setting season of 1979 in a Mopar, but for
the most part the cagey veteran from Whiteland, Ind., was always
a dyed-in-the-wool Blue Oval man.
|Glidden is pleased with his career’s outcome and
admits that he was very close to being an Oldsmobile driver.
However, a little over two decades ago, unbeknownst to many Pro
Stock aficionados, the Hoosier nearly ended up in an Oldsmobile
as part of a revered Hurst/Olds project. Just what changed his path
at the last minute? That answer may never be fully revealed on the
record, but the word on the streets is that the folks at Ford objected
and at contract time flexed their muscles by strongly suggesting
that their star driver “cease and desist.”
Taking a ride in the time machine back to the storied season of
1982, the Pro Stock division was in a transitional stage. Gone was
the pounds-per-cubic inch formula that had enabled Glidden to dominate
so ruthlessly with his Fairmont-bodied machines. In was a standard
500-inch ceiling and the trend was to go for smaller compact vehicles
such as the Ford EXP that Glidden debuted. It’s no secret
that that year was one of those that Glidden would just as soon
It wasn’t that Glidden was unhappy with Ford; he just didn’t
have a good season.
|“All I know
is what Dick Chrysler told me. I’d have to believe if
it happened that way that it would have been unlawful. Here
again, I have no regrets and the people that I met at Ford were
good to me. If it happened, it happened. That’s the way
the world turns.” – Bob Glidden
It was during that particular season that one of Glidden’s
friends had the brainstorm to include him on a project that he was
indirectly involved with. Former Super Modified racer Arlen Fadely
was employed by Batten Heads, and from time to time ran into Glidden
both in business and at the racetrack. Fadely also did some prototype
work for General Motors as well, and had close ties to the Hurst
Fadely caught wind of an upcoming Hurst/Olds project and immediately
sought to prepare a proposal for a Competition Eliminator program.
“At first, I wanted them to do a Hurst/Olds Comp car,”
Fadely confided. “Jim Cozzie and I convinced Olds to put X
amount of dollars on each Hurst/Olds project within the race program.
It was going down the path real well, but the more we talked, the
more we realized that Pro Stock had taken off and was the place
that we needed to be. I really got thinking about the deal and I
knew I couldn’t do Pro Stock and race full-time the way such
a project would demand.”
|Warren Johnson gained the deal that some have felt was
Glidden’s. Jim Cozzie, who was with Hurst at the time
of the Hurst/Olds project, says the program worked out great
and that WJ is one of the hardest working men in Pro Stock.
Cozzie was the Director of Marketing at Hurst Performance at the
time and was supportive of whatever suggestions that Fadely made.
Fadely openly suggested Glidden and the idea of getting the multi-time
World Champion to join the project, and those involved with the
project were excited at the prospect. The former Super Modified
racer turned corporate executive then decided to pursue the idea
of putting Glidden in a GM car.
“I asked Bob if he was interested because I knew he wasn’t
getting a lot of money from Ford,” added Fadely. “I
was sure he was really interested. I talked to Tom Erb and Ed Korner
and we decided to go down that path and start putting things together.
The three of us went down to Glidden’s place in the Spring
Part of the proposal called for Batten to develop a head for the
Glidden project, and they came up with a concept. It was shortly
after that when a gentleman named Dick Chrysler, who owned Cars
& Concepts, which in turn owned Hurst, met with the Glidden
family as well as Erb and Korner. With the contract scheduled to
be signed on the Friday of Indy, which is held on Labor Day weekend,
the project looked like a sure thing until early August. That was
when things ceased traveling on the normal path.
Glidden liked the proposal of running the Hurst/Olds as he’s
later admitted, but always felt it was something that was too good
to be true. Glidden stood to receive a substantial payday from the
deal. So why did Glidden consider leaving Ford?
“I loved the Ford stuff and I enjoyed running their product,
but this happened during a point and time in my career when I was
trying to earn a living in drag racing,” Glidden recalled.
“It wasn’t going to be an easy decision to make. But,
we had to look at our future and how money would have affected the
way we raced. We just were fortunate to have had success over the
years and because of that we managed to always end up in the right
place at the right time. I think this is what happened with this
|Glidden enjoyed two good seasons in a Ford Fairmont with
one Chrysler endeavor in the middle. In 1982, he had a less
than spectacular experience with a Ford EXP.
“When they first approached me, it seemed like a deal that
was too good to be true,” confided Glidden. “I couldn’t
think of a better way to describe it. C.J. Batten and I had been
working on some programs of development and one day I was informed
that the program was going to go to Warren. A drag racer can deal
with just about anything that comes along so I didn’t think
much of the deal going away. I was shocked that it didn’t
happen because it would have impacted us financially.”
For no apparent reason, C&C, who produced the special Hurst/Olds
project, decided to withdraw their pursuit of Glidden. They signed
Warren Johnson shortly after that.
Sources indicate that upper management at Ford vetoed the move
and reportedly used their “connections” to ensure it
didn’t come to fruition. Apparently, Cars and Concepts was
scheduled to produce the Mustang Convertibles for Ford and that
was reportedly the ammo they used to negate the deal. An unnamed
source revealed that the warning actually came from Edsel Ford himself
for the parties involved to “stop screwing around with Glidden”
or the contract for the Mustangs would be pulled.
Make no bones about it; snagging Glidden would have created a lot
of publicity for the relative Pro Stock newcomer.
“It would have stolen a lot of thunder,” admitted Fadely,
who later went on to become the Motorsports Director for Oldsmobile.
“Needless to say that it would have sparked a lot of interest
in Oldsmobile and that was exactly what we wanted.”
The attempted coup evidently worked because the following season
Glidden returned with an apparent increased involvement with Motorcraft,
the parts marketing arm for the Ford Motor Company.
|The Hurst/Olds project first made it to the forefront in
The subject was kept tight-lipped among the parties involved because
of obvious reasons, but the most evident was their desire to surprise
the racing world with the new project. Fadely had developed a relationship
with Glidden when the two were “teammates” in the Chrysler
family in 1979.
Cozzie was disappointed that things soured in their bid, but didn’t
lose a lot of sleep over it. He tried to keep speculation to a minimum
as well. The scenario still remains fresh in his mind after all
of these years.
“We actually started the project in the middle of 1982,”
recalled Cozzie. “It solidified during the U.S. Nationals
that season. The whole deal was boiled down to Glidden and Warren
Johnson. For the life of the program as long as Cars and Concepts
was involved Glidden would have been there. Beyond that would have
So what was Cars & Concept? Cars & Concepts was a company
owned by Dick Chrysler. He started with Hurst Performance when they
had offices in Detroit. At the time, Hurst had an operation that
installed t-tops on F-Bodied cars. In those early days, if you purchased
a car from GM and wanted t-tops in it, Hurst actually did the work.
Oldsmobile provided a lot of jobs for Hurst.
|Glidden’s career went on to some fruitful ventures
with Motorcraft and in this instance, Chief Auto Parts.
In another example, when the Chrysler Corporation came out with
the K-Cars, C&C also created these innovative vehicles of the
era. Shortly after that, Ford came out with the Mustang convertibles
and they were fabricated by C&C. When the idea for the Hurst/Olds
creation came along, it was only a natural that they were selected
for the job.
The cars were to be a production line Cutlass that was to be sent
to C&C for the installation of the Hurst/Olds package. It is
a common process for the major manufacturers to farm out these specialty
cars under 5,000 in production to other second party suppliers.
Contracts such as the Mustang convertible were crucial to a company
like C&C, which ironically is no longer in business. It was
sold off to a company called Masco.
“You have to understand that these companies know that once
they start this project that one day it is inevitably going to end,”
explained Cozzie. “With that said, you want to be in good
standing with that company when the next project comes along. In
a situation like that, they could have shelved the project plus
Reportedly, C&C was a $100 million dollar company and in all
likelihood, the loss of Ford contracts would have not bankrupted
the company. In good business, however, the move would not have
One can’t help but wonder, though. If destiny had followed
through and the Oldsmobile and Glidden alliance had come to fruition,
Fadely believes the veteran’s resume would have been even
more impressive with the GM involvement.
“There’s no question that he could have brought the
same thunder and enthusiasm that he displayed on the track with
Ford,” Fadely speculated. “You had an intense competitor
like Glidden and a company like Oldsmobile that was up and coming
in the class and looking to make a name. Ford didn’t really
care about Pro Stock back then any more than they do now.”
With everything seemingly all sewn up and then to inexplicably
fall apart, speculation runs rampant, especially amongst Fadely
and Cozzie. Fadely will always be convinced that something was said
or done to alter the course of these actions from taking place.
“I suspected that there were some things going on behind
the scenes that I wasn’t included on,” confided Fadely.
“I was really disappointed that this didn’t work out
because the deal had so much potential. I was not high up enough
on the ladder to really know all the details of what went on to
kill the deal. To be honest, I don’t think that Glidden really
knew all of the details. I can’t say who cut the strings,
but the contract got pulled out at the last minute.”
|Proof of the staying power of this project, the Hurst/Olds
was converted to a Buick Regal in which Buddy Ingersoll ran
in IHRA Pro Stock and NHRA Competition eliminator.
“All I know is what Dick Chrysler told me,” explained
Glidden. “I’d have to believe if it happened that way
that it would have been unlawful. Here again, I have no regrets
and the people that I met at Ford were good to me. If it happened,
it happened. That’s the way the world turns.”
“I could never confirm nor deny as to why the deal fell through,”
added Cozzie. “I do know the cost was high. It was much higher
than it was in the early days with WJ. I can’t sit here and
say that I didn’t think that there was a Ford issue. I’m
sure there was. It’s like anything in the business world.
Something like that has to tie together in about four different
places to work.”
Glidden says it is hard to speculate on what could have been.
“I really can’t say whether it would have turned out
any better,” Glidden admitted. “When you look at it,
my racing career was already like a storybook. If I had sat down
and wrote one, I don’t think I could have written it to turn
out as good as it did. I refuse to look back with any regrets with
anything I have done in my career.”
Cozzie does feel that everything turned out for the best when all
things are weighed in.
“I think when we look at the ultimate outcome of this situation,
I believe two things,” confided Cozzie. “I strongly
feel that it made Glidden strong in the Ford camp because no one
had really made a run at him. It also brought Warren into the deal
solidly. He already had notoriety on his own, but it made him a
“WJ is one of the hardest working men I have ever known.
I think everything turned out fine and because WJ already had Oldsmobile
ties, it was a natural. When you look at the outcome, it couldn’t
have been scripted any better. I’m not saying that on a personal
basis because at the time we were running both Fords and Oldsmobiles
down the line at the same time.”
In the end, it became apparent that Ford saw Glidden as a valuable
commodity. He was hesitant to agree to that.
“I can’t really say yes or no as to whether Ford ever
really saw us as a valuable asset,” explained Glidden. “I
can tell you that in all my years at Ford, I acquired a lot of friends
within the company. I do have to say from the bottom of my heart
that I appreciated the support that Ford gave me over the years.
I do have to admit that the people in charge at Ford didn’t
always see drag racing as a priority.”
Evidently they did in this situation. History will always offer
the question, what if?