Dick Smothers, of the Tom and Dick Smothers comedy team, was the driving force behind their hit television series and their racing ventures. Willard Wright was credited with helping put Dick behind the wheel of an Oldsmobile in 1968, prior to the brothers going on to compete with this 350-powered SS/F Cutlass. Hurst’s Shifty Doctor, Jack Watson, helped prepare the Smothers’ car. With a cameraman and equipment on board, Dick netted a 12.99 on his third pass in the car. (Photo Courtesy John Eichinger)
George Berejik received a call from the Smothers brothers’ lawyer prior to the 1971 NHRA Nationals, telling him that he had been dropped by the Smothers and that the Smothers name and logo had to come off the car. The Berejik team went to Indy and paid $600 to have the name and logo removed. They finally got to the gates, where the Smothers were waiting and told them that the lawyer was misinformed and to get the lettering back on the car. Berejik then spent $700 to have the name repainted! The Smothers deal lasted until the end of the 1971 season, when Oldsmobile pulled the plug. Loyed “Woody” Woodland, seen here running F/SA at Maple Grove, banged off 11.60s on a 12.20 F/S record. (Photo Courtesy Carl Rubrecht)
As Braintree, Massachusetts’ Brainbeau Olds closed its doors late in 1967, Anthony Berejik was there to pick up the pieces. He purchased the folding dealer’s successful racing team and hired the dealer’s driver, Loyed Woodland, to continue his winning ways. A 1968 442 sports coupe was prepared to run NHRA D/S and Team Berejik briefly held the class record with a 12.39 elapsed time. The Berejik crew took the car to the 4th Annual Super Stock Nationals and defeated Carmen Rotonda’s Corvette with a 12.28 to a losing 12.80. A disappointing class loss at Indy followed. On the return trip, the 442 was written off in a towing accident.
Chasing WCS points, the crew rushed to build a new 442 (from a showroom stocker) and carry on. Generally, either Anthony or the younger George Berejik attended a given race, but not both because one had to stay behind and tend the dealership. A follow-up race with the new car was at Englishtown, New Jersey, where the elder Berejik attended. Eliminated early, Anthony took a walk through the pits where he came across a pair of Oldsmobile racers and asked if they needed a hand. George recalled that his crew wasn’t doing anything and thought it was nice to see another Oldsmobile win.
Berejik failed to realize it at the time but the pair he lent a hand to, and who went on to win the meet, was none other than the comedy team of Tommy and Dick Smothers. The brothers, who enjoyed all forms of motorsport, welcomed the factory support offered by Oldsmobile’s Steve Gerard. With a promise to be in touch with Berejik, the Smothers took their win and went home. Weeks later, George received a call from a woman professing to be actress Goldie Hawn, calling on behalf of the Smothers. It took some doing, but George was finally convinced and took Goldie up on the proposition to fly out to Hollywood, all expenses paid of course, to meet with the brothers.
The Berejiks arrived and found out that guests included representatives from four other Oldsmobile dealers, numerous aftermarket suppliers, and Oldsmobiles Senior Project Engineer, Dale Smith. The Smothers were serious about going racing in 1969 and wanted to form a proper racing team. Prospective team members included Top Fuel cars of Don Garlits and California’s Dwight Salisbury, along with stockers Willard Wright of Los Angeles, Pete Kost of Seattle, Ron Garey of Ohio, Jim Waibel of Florida, and Berejik of Boston.
Oldsmobile provided the stockers fresh off the assembly line, sporting the Smothers brothers’ chosen red and gold colors. Pete Kost, who campaigned an F/SA car recalled, “The cars didn’t come off the assembly line until the first week of January, and with delays in shipping, there was no way we’d be ready for the NHRA Winternationals the first week of February.”
To gain some much needed time, Pete flew to Lansing to pick up his car. Driving across the road to U.S. Royal tires, he had four snow tires installed before driving it back to Washington State. He recalled, “I don’t think the temperature ever got above 18 on the drive back and with the Ram Air, I had to stop numerous times to scrape ice from under the hood. We weren’t in bad shape though, as we had an engine ready to go in when I got home.”
Each of the Smothers’ stockers was prepared to run opposing classes so that one car didn’t eliminate another in class. Berejik ran a W-30, 4-speed coupe in D/S and, like the other dealers, was paid $2,000 by the Smothers for each NHRA National event they attended. Pete Kost recalled the Smothers’ deal, stating Oldsmobile sponsored the brothers’ television show and support (cash) to the racers was funneled through the show, “We’d be at a national event and a gentleman would walk up, hand us an envelope with money, wish us luck, and be on his way.”
With Oldsmobile under the thumb of the General and its no-racing policy, there was no budget for Dale Smith to work with and anything he did want to get out to the racer had to come through the proverbial back door. In 1970, payment dropped to $1,000 as the number of national events increased to seven. Berejik reverted to a burgundy car in 1970; the Smothers left it up to each team to choose their own paint scheme. Each team also chose its own car and combination, with Berejik again settling on a W-30, 4-speed car for F/Stock. Berejik once again grabbed the class record with a 115.97. With Tony Pizzi and his 1968 Z/28 Camaro dominating the class, Berejik switched to an automatic transmission and for a brief period, ran E/SA.
To count points toward the Manufacturers Cup, a person had to run the current-year automobile, something the Berejik’s seemed to have overlooked. They ran their 1970 car into the 1971 season, so the points accumulated were not being counted toward the Manufacturers Cup. George Berejik said, “It was an oversight that no one picked up on; not even Oldsmobile or the Smothers.”
The Smothers deal ended at the close of the 1971 season, as the comedy team took their fleeting interests elsewhere. Berejik Oldsmobile continued to thrive until the marquee folded in 2002. “It was a good time,” recalled George. “The Smothers treated us well and sales went through the roof.” At the height of it all, Berejik Oldsmobile expanded to include a performance center, where it sold high-performance Oldsmobile-related parts and built cars for customers.
George continued, “Berejik was the only high-performance Olds dealer on the East Coast.” Berejik saw his fair share of factory support; “We got calls from Dale Smith, who was a racing nut, asking how we were doing, how was the racing, did we win? Dale asked if we needed any spare parts, engines, transmissions, rear ends, heads, you name it. A week or two later a semi pulled up with complete engines and parts.” Good times indeed.
Full speed ahead for Pete Kost in his Dewey-Griffith/Smothers Brothers–sponsored 442. Pete recalled the Smothers as fine people and he enjoyed his time with the team. His 400 powered Olds enjoyed record performance thanks in part to Precision Engine Specialists located in his home state of Washington. (Photo Courtesy Dino Kost)