Graham Douglas (left) and Ed Forys pose proudly with their 1960 Pontiac after taking Winternationals gold. The forethought these two put into their racing venture was like no other and was reflected in the percentage of wins during their brief career. Dyno-tuned by Geraghty in Glendale, California, the 389 showed 247 rear-wheel horsepower. Support came from Reynolds Speed Shop, Art Carr, and the Crankshaft Company. (Photo Courtesy Graham Douglas)
Winternationals winners Graham Douglas and Ed Forys were street racers who realized they knew little about what was involved in quarter-mile drag racing. A technician at the company where the pair worked as aerospace engineers introduced Graham to Ron Mandella.
“Ron was a likable fellow and we quickly became friends. Ron had just returned from the East Coast with his 426-powered Plymouth wagon, and he let Ed and me drive the car,” Douglas recalled. “We were hooked.”
Douglas and Forys spent the next year or so attending races, learning what it took to set up and drive a race car. They trekked to events within driving distance of Pasadena, California, observed track conditions, and kept notes on who won. Thinking like true engineers, nothing was done without forethought and everything was documented. As a way of eliminating variables, they focused attention on the NHRA stock car classes, which allowed minimal modifications.
“We followed the NHRA races for a year and in between watching, we ran some experiments on Ed’s 427-powered 1958 Thunderbird out on little-used highways in the high desert. We’d stay late at work and utilize an analog computer, simulating a crude combination, inputting engine, transmission, rear end, and car mass,” Douglas recounted. After a year of observing and collecting data, the two determined that their best hope of winning was to run a station wagon equipped with an automatic transmission and a higher pound-per-horsepower rating. “My street car was powered by a Pontiac V-8 and they had a good history of building well-machined engines with many horsepower options. Since a station wagon has more weight on the rear tires; that seemed like a good starting point,” Douglas said.
Graphing out the automatic stock-class elapsed-time records versus class pounds-per-horsepower revealed to the pair whether a class was competitive or not. They consulted with a number of Division Seven NHRA personnel and, over time, they compiled a list of Pontiac station wagons and available horsepower options.
Douglas continued, “We settled on the 1960 Pontiac station wagon and put an ad in one of the major newspapers. A used-car dealer from Santa Monica called us up; he had a 318-hp station wagon that sounded good to us. The wagon fell near the bottom of the 14-pound, H/SA class break at 14.02.” Graham and Forys ran the car from 1966 through 1967, won H/SA class at the Winternationals in 1966, were runners-up in class at the Springnationals, won the AHRA and the NHRA Winternationals in 1967, and held the class MPH record at 100.0.
“We could run .32 second below our class elapsed time record, which we never bumped,” Douglas said. “Support came from the likes of Art Carr, who assisted with tricking out the Jetaway transmission. We removed the fluid coupler to reduce inertia, essentially making the transmission a standard shift. The shifts were pretty harsh and, not wanting to continuously spend the money on broken axles, this idea was dropped. We had two levers, one for shifting, the other to change the line pressure. When it came time to race you’d pull the lever to full pressure.”
Shift points varied based on data gained from information input into the analog computer. Rear suspension modifications included Air Lift bags and their own unique traction device, which essentially consisted of three traction arms tied into one. Leaving the line was solid and with a g-meter in place to measure gravitational pull, the wagon recorded .7 g on the launch. The onslaught of Chevy sedan deliveries, when combined with an increasing workload, proved to be the death knell for the winning wagon. “In the end, we had answered some of our own questions and figured out what it took to be winners,” concluded Douglas.