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Publisher's Note: Duplicate issues of most 1966 drag rags & mags are now available from the Wallace Family Archives ( ). hr [email protected]
A.J. Routt Photo
The Golden Age of Drag Racing Publishing that our series celebrates was not without its casualties. This second half of 1966 dealt deadly, back-to-back blows to fully two-thirds of the independent, national weeklies featured in recent installments. In July, Drag Sport Illustrated, the longest-running competitor to Drag News, was shut down by the U.S. Treasury Department after nearly three-and-a-half years of weekly publishing. No less shocking came Drag World's August sale to Jim Tice, who moved headquarters to AHRA's Kansas City office and hired all-new staff. Only the logo and layout design remained the same. In one month's time, thousands of readers lost a combined 100 issues a year of independent reporting and opinion columns.
Had these two dead tabloids managed to hang on a little longer, there might've briefly been six independent drag weeklies coming out of L.A. simultanously in mid-1966! One weekend after Drag Sport disappeared, something called Drag Digest was handed out free at SoCal strips, bravely promising better coverage of Western events than Drag News had been providing since 1955. Doris Herbert, the powerful Drag News publisher (since 1959), retaliated with Drag West, a separate weekly devoted to five Western states. Both battling tabloids wholeheartedly embraced Funny Cars, whereas all of their newsprint predecessors favored traditional open-wheel favorites: competition coupes, modified roadsters, altereds, and especially dragsters. Drag News additionally spotlighted the gas coupes and sedans responsible for generating a disproportionately-large number of advertising dollars during the "Gasser Wars" fought primarily on its pages.
While Funny Cars had earned grudging acceptance out west by their third season, women were still fighting for the right to drive serious drag cars. The accompanying clippings reveal that even in progressive southern California, where women had been successfully and safely competing against men literally since drag racing began, veteran Paula Murphy's intentions to wrap her pretty legs around a blown-fuel 392 Chrysler lit off the biggest controversy of this second half of 1966. Prominent male competitors, sanctioning officials, journalists and editors took sides in print that some may regret rereading onscreen. Murphy's cool professionalism both inside and outside of all types of fast race cars ultimately prevailed, setting a professional example for all those who followed in fuel cars, jet cars, rocket cars, stock cars, etc. — females and males alike.
Because this was such a significant season for drag-racing journalism, we're gonna give 1966 a bonus third installment when Drag Rags returns. Tune back in for the inside story of a sad and sudden end to one popular drag rag, as told in 2018 by Drag Sport Illustrated founder Phil Bellomy and his final editor, Forrest Bond (since deceased). Our interviews turned out to be each man's first on the subject since arriving for work one Monday morning and finding a Treasury Department lock on the door, 56 years ago.
Fifty-seven years after this ad ran in Drag World, Linda Vaughn is still upset about the black eye that she says was graphically applied without her knowledge or permission. Hurst's newest "shifter girl" had made the mistake of posing in a Spirit Safety shirt as a favor for the fledgling company founded by Craig Breedlove and Jack Carter. Mature readers will recall a long-running ad campaign by Tareyton Cigarettes (whose filters were encircled by a distinctive white band) featuring black-eyed smokers who insisted that getting punched in the face was preferable to changing brands.
Drag World's editorial column sounded the earliest alarm we've found in the automotive press (Aug. 8) about potential financial impacts of America’s rapidly-escalating involvement in a "conflict" that many politicians were still minimizing as a mere "police action" (not unlike, in 2023 terminology, a "special military operation"). Mike Doherty could not have guessed that Vietnam would continue draining working-class teenagers and young adults for seven more years.
We dunno whether this "history-making" couple ever won anything driving such slowish race cars, but the "Dolly" and her hubby were suddenly getting more tabloid ink than Top Fuel stars in their San Diego area. Drag World was all too happy to present a pretty blonde in this July 29 issue (and too distracted for fact-checking?).
The same week that Drag World ran the preceding item, Drag Sport Illustrated printed a different photo above this shameless, selfserving press release presented as legitimate news. Someone named "Corey Stepek" (or not?) was apparently responsible for promoting the "blonde bundle of feminine pulchritude" who supposedly held one of only three licenses issued to females nationally.
Eighteen-year-old Billy Scott earned Drag Sport Illustrated's final cover for topping 201 mph in just his third weekend wheeling his father's Chevy-powered fueler, the Scotty's Muffler Service Special. Tim Marshall got the shot. A half-century later, faithful DSI subscriber Bill Dunlap—a slingshot driver in both the original and nostalgia eras—generously donated this final issue of the title for sharing with readers. [When the Drag Rags series resumes, DSI's rise and fall are described in archived interviews with editor Forrest Bond (since deceased) and publisher Phil Bellomy. —DWjr]
Funny Car pioneer Paula Murphy obviously retained a sense of humor during her bitter battle for acceptance by influential male peers and many journalists. This item appeared in columnist Dave "The Hook" Ayling's contribution to the last DSI. (Elsewhere in that July 30 edition came fresh news of Murphy's historic—if underwhelming—defeat of Bob Davis's troubled Jolly Green Giant Impala at Irwindale. Shutting off early, she took two straight matches with identical e.t.s of 12.08 seconds at 113.20 and 134.12 mph, respectively.)
Differing reports of an infamous Detroit burndown, published simultaneously in the same week's editions of Drag World (printed with file photo) and Drag Sport Illustrated (single column), serve as a reminder to readers and writers alike that mileage and accounts may vary. As if Joe Schubeck's ejection at speed from the flaming race car that ran over his foot wasn't sensational enough, whoever wrote DW's version sure plugged the car’s sponsor a lot (we suspect a Hurst ghostwriter). DSI's version performed a sex change on the gun-toting (male) farmer and euthanized a (surviving) farm pet that truly was run over by the speeding push car, insists Gentleman Joe to this day.
Unbeknownst to most readers of the era, Eastern promoter Gil Kohn quietly purchased L.A.-based Drag World near the end of its Mar. '65-Sept. '66 run of independent, weekly publication. It seemed the same as before because it was, according to the associate editor for every issue: "Gil let [Mike] Doherty do his thing," Terry Cook told us—with one impactful exception. "One Monday, though, Kohn calls Doherty and tells him what the headline was gonna be that week: 'Detroit Drops NHRA.' Sometimes, after a strip would switch away from NHRA sanction, a story would appear in National Dragster about Burning Stump Dragway being dropped because, suddenly, the strip was too short, or some other bullshit. The strip owner didn’t have a newspaper like Dragster to tell his side, of course. The drag rags all went to bed on Tuesday night and shipped to readers Wednesday. So, Thursday morning, Gil Kohn sends Wally a telegram or whatever announcing that he is dropping NHRA sanctioning. Then that week’s issue of Drag World arrives at the NHRA office, and Wally sees the headline. Mike Donnell, who worked for him at the time, told me years later that Wally went into a total, screaming rage, jumping up and down on the Drag World he'd thrown on his office floor, and that his face and neck turned purple. It's nice to know that, at least once, somebody got a lick in on that vindictive [fellow]." This summer, the paper was sold again, becoming AHRA's weekly house organ while continuing limited coverage of other sanctioning bodies and independent operations.
The first female destined to become an NHRA world champ, also the earliest to repeat (twice!), was as yet unknown out West, where women drivers had been accepted at least since Peggy Hart raced a fast Willys at hubby C.J.'s pioneering Santa Ana Drags in the early 1950s.
Just one week after Drag Sport Illustrated vanished, Drag Digest appeared, utilizing many of the same freelancers. The early action shot of "Fat" Jack Bynum's 392-powered, RCS-built Mustang in the premier issue (Sept. 9) displayed the STP support that helped Paula Murphy persuade sanctioning organizations to reconsider, and ultimately recognize, females on fuel.
Cartoon evidence of those misogynistic times was printed, ironically, by Ms. Doris Herbert, the powerful female owner of Drag News and (biweekly) Boat News. This unknown artist's parody of a Playboy cartoon appeared in the introductory edition of a third Herbert tabloid. Drag West was a regional version of Drag News created in response to a brash new competitor, West Coast-oriented Drag Digest.
This brief item from Don Prieto's Oct. 21 Drag Digest column is the first and only mention of Drag Sport Illustrated's sudden July disappearance that we've found in print. Sure enough, then-22-year-old-publisher Phil Bellomy had found the feds' padlock on the door of the apartment that was both his office and home, then literally walked away from possessions including his and ex-partner Jim Kelly's extraordinary photography. [There's much more to their 1963-66 story; so much more that we'll devote the next installment of Drag Rags to the the longest-lasting independent challenger to Drag News. —DWjr]
Once a reader got past this new Herbert tabloid's full-width, horizontal cover treatment—doubtlessly inspired by the style established by recently-departed pictorial Drag Sport—the cheap newsprint and outdated typography and graphics inside were as familiar as the pages of big-sister Drag News. Indeed, much of its content was picked up from the current Drag News, expanded by photo outtakes. This short-lived title was Herbert's response to feisty Drag Digest, which vowed to overtake her "Drag Racer's Bible," billing itself as "The Drag Racer's New Testament." (Tune in next time to learn how that worked out.) Herbert's tag line for this tabloid was "Breaking Into The Picture With Freeform News," whatever that meant. We dunno how many issues were published beyond the first three in your author's collection, if any.
Arguably the West's hottest Top Fueler this second half of '66 was a brand-new Roy Fjasted (Speed Products Engineering) creation owned by veteran Don "Spendo" Johnson (second from left) and driven by the mysterious Floyd Lippencott Jr. A combination of Bob Muravez's ever-present fire mask and sympathetic editors successfully delayed his controlling employer-father from discovering drag racing's best-hidden secret for one more season. (Watch for 1967's Drag Rags to learn the unhappy conclusion.)
Battles of the sexes became the latest match-race rage. This show's manly "villain," here proclaimed the sport's "biggest star" (in terms of body weight, maybe!), acquired the affectionate, appropriate handle of "Wall-To-Wall Driver." Richard Schroeder went on to more-successful careers as an exhibition wheelstander, event announcer and Argus Publishers ad salesman.
As Drag News upgraded from all-B&W printing to a so-called second color (i.e., besides black), Doris Herbert offered advertisers the extra-cost option of enhancing her premium, back-cover positioning with alternating "spot" colors of the week. An outdated photo shows the prior season's quickest doorslammer (8.63 at Lions), an original factory A/FXer that Gary Dyer converted to blown fuel for owner Norm Kraus.
Typesetter and rookie-publisher Jerry Sutton sought to fill back-to-back vacancies created by Drag World's recent sale to AHRA and the Treasury Department's shutdown of Drag Sport Illustrated five weeks later. Drag Digest picked up many of DSI's freelance photographers as well as editor Forrest Bond. Despite promises of four different, weekly versions specifically tailored to geographical regions, we've found evidence of only the so-called Western Edition that targeted southern California racers, fans, and L.A.-based advertisers. Unprecedented numbers of large action photos pumped up impressive packages numbering as many as 64 pages this first year.
Teenaged artist Bob Thompson (a.k.a. "Big Bah") drew this full-page tribute to a hospitalized pal. Billy Scott's clutch and brakes had failed during qualifying for Mickey Thompson's second 200-Mile-An-Hour Invitational, sending his dad's fueler—sporting not Scotty's traditional Chevy, but the first Chrysler Hemi that Billy himself assembled—off the end of Lions Drag Strip. Bouncing through the rough "sandbox" cracked four vertebrae, idling "The Kid" until mid-1967.
Ironically, a new breed of "funny-looking cars" lacking any standardized class or dedicated eliminator category made the biggest news all season. This eclectic quartet ranged from Tom McCourry's rebodied, 1961-vintage slingshot and Steve Bovan's production-line Nova to such aftermarket oddities as AMT's plastic Piranha and the replica Jeep scratch-built by Ed Lenarth and Roger Wolford. Powered by a Top Fuel 392, the crude Secret Weapon's match-race numbers outshone even factory-backed Mopars and flip-top Comets—possibly influencing NHRA's subsequent exclusion of topless bodies from its original Funny Car Eliminator rules the next year.
There's more than one way to intentionally hide a handsome winner's mug from photographers, as demonstrated by pretty Patty Prieto (foreground) and lucky Bob Muravez (seated) at "Mickey's Meet." Identifiable helpers and hangers-on include Crag Breedlove, not-yet-"Famous" Amos Satterlee, John Seagraves, Jack Carter, chassis-builder Roy Fjasted, and photojournalist Tom Senter.
PREVIOUS DRAG RAGS
THE EARLIEST EDITIONS
BANS WERE BIG IN '57
ISKY STIRS THE POT
DRAG RAGS OF 1960 – TRAGEDY, POPCORN SPEEDS AND A CAMSHAFT RIVALRY
DRAG RAGS OF 1961: CONTROVERSY STALKS NHRA
DRAG RAGS: 1959 - GARLITS GOES FROM ZERO TO HERO, TURNS PRO
DRAG RAGS: 1959, PART 2 — HOW THE SMOKERS BEAT THE FUEL BAN
DRAG RAGS OF 1962: GARLITS IS NO. 1, WALLY IS ALL GAS
DRAG RAGS OF 1963: FUEL IS BACK - OR IS IT? JETS RUN WILD
DRAG RAGS OF JAN.-JUNE 1964: INNOVATION WITHOUT LIMITATION
DRAG RAGS OF JULY-DEC. 1964: ZOOMIES PUSH THROUGH THE 200-MPH BARRIER
DRAG RAGS OF EARLY '65: EXPLOSION OF WEEKLY PUBLICATIONS
DRAG RAGS OF JULY-DEC 1965: FUELERS, FUNNIES AND GASSERS APLENTY
DRAG RAGS 1965: TERRY COOK TELLS HOW THE WEEKLY SAUSAGE GOT MADE
DRAG RAGS: DRAG RAGS OF EARLY 1966: FUNNY CARS FLIP OUT, "SURFERS" STAR
DRAG RAGS: DRAG RAGS OF EARLY 1966: FUNNY CARS FLIP OUT, "SURFERS" STAR