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Memories of a Hot Rod: 1955 Chevy's Big Night Out in Marked Tree, Arkansas

Updated on July 13, 2016
1955 Chevy Bel-Air Sedan
1955 Chevy Bel-Air Sedan
1965 Mustang
1965 Mustang
406 Ford
406 Ford
409 Chevy
409 Chevy
1957 Ford Fairlane 500
1957 Ford Fairlane 500
1959 Austin Healey Sprite
1959 Austin Healey Sprite
1961 Triumph TR-3
1961 Triumph TR-3
1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass S
1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass S
1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass S
1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass S
1979 Firebird Trans Am
1979 Firebird Trans Am
1981 Mustang Cobra
1981 Mustang Cobra
1982 Pontiac Firebird SE
1982 Pontiac Firebird SE
My latest Firebird was this 1996 Pontiac Formula with an LT-1 Corvette Engine and a manual six-speed transmission.
My latest Firebird was this 1996 Pontiac Formula with an LT-1 Corvette Engine and a manual six-speed transmission.

by Bob Diamond

History

I finished high school in Marked Tree, Arkansas in 1963.

I remember going back for a visit in late 1965. I was going to Memphis State University and living with my sister and her husband in Memphis.

The Wolf Was A 1955 Chevy

My brother-in-law had a 1955 Chevy sedan that looked stock on the outside, but it had a brand new 327 Chevy short block with 350 horsepower. It had a huge four-barrel carburetor and a set of custom exhaust headers. It was running a 4:11 rear end. It was what we called a “sleeper.”

The Sheep's Clothing

The only thing that hinted of anything unusual was the sound of the exhaust, which sounded throaty and powerful, but not raucous, and the “Fiesta” hubcaps. They were big and flashy. They were considered to be cool at the time. It also had a brand new pristine stock two-tone blue paint job.

It was probably a Saturday night. I was sitting around with my sister. My brother-in-law was working. He worked 12-hour night shifts at the morning newspaper, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

I asked her if I could borrow John’s car to run over to Marked Tree to see some friends. She said it was OK, just to be careful because he loved his car. The way I drove back then, it only took about an hour.

The Search

I showed up in Marked Tree just before dark. I stopped by a barbecue place where I used to work called the “Cow Bar”. I ran into an old friend James Brown. Like just about everyone else around there, he worked for E. Ritter & Co. in some capacity.

Sizing it Up

James seemed to know that the car was something special. He asked to look under the hood. We pulled across the street to an auto parts store. I think it was Hart’s. I popped the hood and he noticed the 327 Valve Covers, the Dual Mag-Spark Ignition and the custom exhuast headers. He grinned, like only James could, and asked me if I wanted to have a little fun. I knew better, but I said, “yes” anyway.

A couple of young men noticed us across from the Cow Bar with the hood raised. They drove across the street. I got the hood closed before they got out of their car. I think it was a new 6-cylinder 1965 Mustang. James told them that it was pretty fast for a ’55 Chevy. He asked them if they knew anyone who would like to go down to the Indian Mounds for a couple of runs.

Off to the Races

That’s all it took. We followed the Mustang down to the Indian Mounds just outside of town. We picked up four or five more cars on the way. Somehow these things get out.

A couple of people sat on each of the mounds to look for traffic and for cops. When it was clear, someone would signal the OK and we would run a quarter-mile drag race. I don’t remember who all we raced that night, but we kept beating everyone who showed up.

Word got out and a 409 Chevy and a 406 Ford came to challenge John’s little ’55. Long story short, it wasn’t even close. The 406 Ford even wanted a second chance using a running start because it was to his advantage. We beat him that way too.

After the racing was over we went back to town, had a barbecue and shake and headed back to Memphis about 1 AM.

I filled the car with gas and cleaned it up as well as I could. I slept well.

Facing the Music

Sunday morning John came in the bedroom, woke me up and asked me where I had been in his car. I admitted that I had gone to Marked Tree. He said, “You raced it, didn’t you?” I asked how he knew. He said, “… It was down two quarts of oil, that’s how I knew... Nobody beat you, did they?” John was a little mad at me, but he was proud of his little ’55 Chevy.

That was the last time. Shortly after that I bought a very cool white-over-green 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door hardtop with a V-8.

Disclaimer

I apologize to my young friends who can’t experience this without winding up in jail today. We never ever had an accident or hurt anyone – ourselves or anyone else. There are several drag strips available, including the new one going up in Concord, North Carolina just across from the Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Click here > zMAX Dragway


The Sequel?

My current “sleeper” is a ’96 Firebird Formula with the LT-1 Corvette engine. It has a six-speed manual transmission, z-rated tires that are 255 mm wide, a modified racing suspension and a competition differential (rear end).

Do you think I should bring it back to Marked Tree? I wonder if I can locate James Brown? I’m sure he’s still a good co-pilot.

John Price, you were there! What have you replaced your 1962 Chevy V-8 with?

I had to add these links. Make sure your speakers are turned on and then click on the links below.

If the videos above aren't fun, you're not breathing! They have cool pictures, great sounds and stirring music; it's all about the cars that we love.

I couldn't resist including the pictures of some of the hotter cars I have owned since then.

.......................

International Burnouts - there are several in a row so keep watching

Classic American Car Brochures

Comments

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    • profile image

      Free Windows 7 Themes 

      7 years ago

      Loving your hub, thanks!

    • DiamondRN profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Now that you mention it, Ralph; I didn't notice them when I went back to Marked Tree for our 40th HS Reunion. Bummer!

    • profile image

      captainvideoralph 

      9 years ago

      You know, the farmers got tired of driving their tractors over those mounds and plowed them down flat '66 or '67. So much for Native American heritage.

    • profile image

      barbara tacker crubaugh 

      9 years ago

      you know bob, that was so AWESOME and brought back so many memories. i used to go up on 75 with my brother larry when he was racing with you guys. oh, how i wish we could get some of those days back. i did go down last summer and enjoyed it so much. i don't travel very much since my husband died, if you know what i mean. we was married 30 years and i guess i'll never get over it, it's bee 13 years and some day's it feels like yesterday. how many children do you have? wonder if they race--lol i'm so glad my son got me hooked up with this facebook, so many of my friends and i'm loving it. keep on writing about marked tree--later

    • DiamondRN profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Barbara, I can picture a skinny little redhead jumping up and down rooting for her favorite driver!

    • profile image

      barbarawarfel 

      9 years ago

      Boy does that bring back a lot of memories :) I attended several of those races way back when :) What fun it was with the noise and the crowd, the cars and the drivers. made a lot of female hearts beat a little faster :)

    • Proud Mom profile image

      Proud Mom 

      9 years ago from USA

      Kids these days don't know the difference in raucous and "throaty and powerful". They also don't know the difference in harmless fun and dangerous.

      Great memories. Very cool car!!

    • DiamondRN profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Thank you, Carolyn. It's really good to hear from you. The 409 Chevy was bright red and the 406 Ford was yellow. It might have been a convertible. Give my best to everyone in Marked Tree. I really miss you all. What a great place to live and grow up. Love, Bob

    • profile image

      Carolyn 

      9 years ago

      I know exactly where you were racing. Hwy 75 South by the Indian mounds, one on the Bolton's property and one across the highway on what at one time was Marcus Miller's property. The white lines marking start and the one-quarter mile finish line were painted on the highway. (This is the road to where I lived.)My gang of girlfriends and I loved to watch the drag racing. One of the girls had a boyfriend who drove a 409 Chevy, red, and hot! I just don't remember the year, but it was not one of the "finned" '59 or '60 model. It was later than that. The kind of "square"-looking. My memory isn't what it once was about cars, and now they all look alike basically. By early 1965 I had returned to Marked Tree, separating from a marriage that should have never taken place, pregnant with my daughter, and ever so glad to be back in the sanctuary of my Mother and Daddy's home.Those were the days!Carolyn

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