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Sun, 2 Jan 2005, 02:15 PM

Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals Photo Essay
By Jim Luikens
Photo copyright 2004 Jim Luikens

The following is a photo essay of the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals earlier this year at Norwalk Raceway Park.

Rodney Butler in John Welter’s Firebird

Last August Rodney Butler drove John Welter’s single turbocharged Firebird, near lane, to the all-time top speed record for a true Pontiac-powered doorslammer. Rodney’s run of 209.20 miles-per-hour, at the 13th Annual Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals, exceeded the old record by nearly ten miles an hour. Please click below for a look at other significant drag cars and Pontiac personalities that attended the event at Norwalk Raceway Park.

Ray Nichels, Paul Goldsmith and Arnie Beswick

The guests of honor at this year’s Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals were Ray Nichels, Paul Goldsmith and Arnie Beswick. Ray is a legendary stock car racing team owner while Paul was the driver of choice for several of Ray’s most notable wins. Arnie Beswick was back at the Ames Pontiac Performance Nationals after having to miss last year’s event due to his racing fire.

Arnie Beswick

Arnie is not driving this year while he continues to recover from the burns he suffered last year. Jeff Sams was driving here and Arnie received an overwhelming ovation when he went out to back Jeff up after the burn-out. The noise from the crowd could clearly be heard over the race car. Arnie continues to rebuild the car that was in the fire and expects to be back behind the wheel of that car next year.

Nostalgia Super Stockers

A full field of nostalgia Pontiac Super/Stockers were on hand including these two 421 Super Duty Catalinas. The car on the left is a 1963 post sedan while the car on the right is a 1962 hardtop. All of the nostalgia cars put on a great show.

Royal Pontiac Tempest

Another of the nostalgia Super/Stockers was this great looking clone of the Royal Pontiac 1963 Tempest 421 Super Duty coupe. It was being driven here by its new owner, Nay Russo of Medina, Ohio.

Steve Snyder’s Surprise

Steve Snyder of Elkhart, Indiana was racing the 1962 Catalina Super Duty that he bought brand new 42 years ago. He originally raced it at midwestern strips like Martin Dragway (now US 131 Motorsports Park) and Osceola, Indiana. Now retired, Steve still enjoys participating at Pontiac events. The car carries the name of his long time employer, the Vernon M. Ball Plymouth agency, also of Elkhart.

Dave Johnson’s 1963 Tempest

Long time nostalgia racer Dave Johnson has replaced the V8 in his 1963 Tempest with a four cylinder Pontiac racing engine. Dave’s goal is to have the fastest four cylinder Tempest in existence. He was sidelined here early with engine problems in the car’s debut with four cylinder power.

1970 Magnum 400

A dealer-built 1970 Pontiac Magnum 400 was competing here in “Stock” Eliminator. The Magnum 400 was conceived as a low-dollar muscle car to compete against cars like the Plymouth Road Runner. Note the 11.97-second dial-in on the windshield, a very impressive time for a car on legitimate street tires.

Rob Bruce and The Zombie Funny Car

Rob Bruce and the Zombie team were here with their nitro-powered Firebird funny car. Rob recorded a shut-off 6.03 at 187 miles-per-hour on 85% nitro during Saturday’s first exhibition session.

Race The Tiger

Just like in the old days, fans here could race the GeeTo Tiger. The Tiger won this round in his 1966 GTO when he ran just .03 over his dial after giving up a giant head start to the 1968 Firebird. The street Firebird lost with a .25 over time.

The Quarter Warrior Grand Am

Dan Sweeney from Groton, Massachusetts was here putting some runs on his new Quarter Warrior IHRA Pro Stocker. Dan hopes to make his IHRA national event debut later this year, possibly at Budds Creek or Rockingham. His car was formerly the personal race car of noted chassis builder Wally Stroupe.

Front Wheel Drive Racing

It wasn’t all nostalgia race cars at the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals. Check out this lineup of front wheel drive Pontiac Grand Prix racers.

Beautiful Judge

Among the vehicles in the Bill Klaus Pontiac exhibit was this pristine 1969 GTO Judge. It was resplendent in the most popular of the 1969 Judge color combinations, Carousel Red with a Black interior.

Prototype Fiero Convertible

The American Sunroof Corporation (ASC) originally constructed this Fiero convertible as an exercise to show GM what ASC could do to help broaden the Fiero product line. Unfortunately, it never went into production.

Milt Schornack’s Ram Air V GTO

This GTO is one of two that were ever constructed with a Ram Air V engine. Milt had built both cars as an engineering exercise for Pontiac but the Ram Air V program was never approved. This car had been stored for more than 30 years before Milt was able to purchase it from the original owner just last year. It is unrestored and a true survivor.

1969 Grand Prix Steamer

Another interesting engineering test exercise was this lightly customized 1969 Grand Prix. It is powered by a steam engine. The program never went forward because the steam engine was twice as heavy as the stock V8 but produced only half as much power as the conventional internal combustion engine.

GP Steamer Gauges

An interesting touch on the steam-powered Grand Prix was a molded-in hood tach housing. The gutted housing allowed the driver to monitor his steam pressure, when the hood was closed, via the two gauges that could be seen inside the tach housing.

1963 Street Tempest Wagon

One of the more interesting show cars was the 1963 Tempest Station Wagon of Wally Abela from New Boston, Michigan. Wally has constructed this car to look like one of the 421 Super Duty Tempest Station Wagons that GM built in late 1962.

Pontiac Enthusiast Magazine Editor’s Choice

The winners of the Editor’s Choice award from Pontiac Enthusiasts Magazine were Orville and Shirley Osche from Saxonburg, Pennsylvania. Orville and Shirley restored their Tri-Power 1965 GTO themselves. In this picture Pontiac Nationals founder Pete Woodruff (center) poses with the Osches and their winning car.

Ames Performance Dinner

Ames Performance again sponsored a buffet dinner on Saturday evening. Every person who purchased a race permit, show car entry or swap meet space received two coupons that could be exchanged at the Ames trailer for two dinner tickets.

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