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Guest Columnist:


by Terry Cook


I'm Terry Cook. You young guys never heard of me but you older fans of 1320 racing might remember I wrote a column called NEW JERSEY NEWS by "Broomfoot" from 1961-63 in DRAG NEWS, telling what was going on in the East. From the start I was influenced to tell the truth in print by controversial Drag News columnists Al Caldwell (Northern CA) and Ben Brown (Chicago).

I moved from New Jersey to California in 1963 when I was offered a job at DRAG WORLD. DRAG WORLD Newspaper, circa 1963-1966, was published in North Hollywood, California. The original owner of DRAG WORLD was millionaire Brainard Mellinger, who then sold it to Gil Kohn of Detroit Dragway fame circa 1964-65 when it wasn't making a profit. Then Gil sold it to Jim Tice of AHRA circa 1966 and the paper was moved to Kansas City to become the AHRA house organ, an attempted "answer" to NATIONAL DRAGSTER. I stayed in California and went to work for CAR CRAFT circa 1966.

DRAG WORLD was meant to be an independent competitor with Doris Herbert's weekly paper DRAG NEWS and NHRA's NATIONAL DRAGSTER, which I think was originally called Tie Rod, or something like that. DRAG WORLD's editor, Mike Doherty, had a tremendous impact upon me journalistically (and on all of drag racing journalism for that matter) because that was back in the 60's during the "tell it like it is" era, where (unlike DRAG NEWS or DRAGSTER), when someone got killed in an accident at a drag strip, we would report it. Our first issue had a photo of Richard Petty's drag race 'Cuda that got sideways and went off into the crowd at some southern strip. We were immediately branded a "scandal sheet" (because we told the truth).

After moving to CAR CRAFT I worked as a staff writer there for several years. For at least the preceding decade CAR CRAFT had floundered around Petersen Publishing Co. without identity or direction. It was about Go Karts and Model Cars and Customs, and it was a loser. Luckily for me, I happened to come on board just as CAR CRAFT shed all the other aimless subject matter and decided to: 1) Focus on Drag Racing and 2) Focus on all the neat street performance muscle cars Detroit started belching out.

Suddenly CAR CRAFT was on an up elevator circulation-wise. When I joined the staff I think the circulation was about 180,000 monthly, total. During the next few years CAR CRAFT managed to shed some of the old dinosaur staff and replace them with an energetic young crew of guys that were nuts about drag racing. The chemistry of this staff was pure electric. In our own little corner of the world we made publishing history. Sales climbed.

When John Raffa became editor things got better, and then in '68 or so, when I became Editor, things really got nuts (I've always been known as a loud, outspoken, extrovert wacko who liked to have a lot of fun with the magazine, often treading on sacred cows like NHRA or advertisers). We never got on NHRA's case because we were out to get them, we were just presenting the racer's viewpoint that you never saw (and probably never will) in National Dragster, or elsewhere for that matter. John Raffa was bumped up to the Publisher's chair and provided an umbrella for the staff to keep the ad guys off the back of the editorial staff (a constant pressure in all of publishing that unfortunately dominates virtually all auto print publications today.)

Steve Collison seated at far left with the staff of Car Craft in a 1972 Christmas photo.

Along about the end of 1969 we were looking for a new staff writer and I ran an ad in the LA Times Help Wanted Section (If I recall). Many people applied, and one of them was a 22 year old "kid" named Steve Collison, who I hired. He had no prior experience in writing or working for any publication, but I think he worked for a car dealer or was a mechanic. In any case he had greasy hands and an intense gleam in his eye and a winning smile. Steve came onboard circa 1970 and stepped into the incredible, magic environment of "tell it like it is, have fun" drag racing journalism that existed at CAR CRAFT (only) during those magic years.

CAR CRAFT was locked in the vortex of politics of drag racing for perhaps 8-10 years (1966-1976?). I left in 1972 to go across the hall and become Editor of HOT ROD, and CAR CRAFT continued under the editorship of Ro McGonegal. Unfortunately, when Raffa left in 1970 and ad sales guy Sal Fish replaced him as publisher of CAR CRAFT, the 7th floor started tightening the screws on the wild and crazy, seemingly out of control editorial staff at CAR CRAFT, and consequently circulation (which had reached an amazing 350,000+ by the time I left it at the end of 1971) started to trend downward. But the environment, education, and baptism of "tell it like it is" drag racing journalism was forever imprinted deep in Stevie's mind.

Because my wife hated earthquakes and I had succeeded in raising the circulation of drooping HOT ROD magazine in my two years there from 1972-74 (my personal challenge), the Cook family returned to New Jersey where we now live. I got very bummed out on drag racing after seeing a number of guys I knew and loved (John Mulligan, Jimmy Riley, Mike Sorokin, and especially Sneaky Pete Robinson) die in front of me on the drag strip. I dropped out of drag racing and hot rodding journalism and started a T-shirt trade magazine. I also started a big lead sled event, LEAD EAST, that takes place every Labor Day Weekend at the Parsippany, NJ Hilton. This year is our 19th year.

Stevie moved from one drag mag to another and eventually he moved to south Jersey. On a few rare occasions I got together with him. It was obvious he was still fighting the "good fight," telling it like it is in drag racing journalism.

You have no idea of the constant pressures that were exerted on Stevie from magazine management, from certain racing organizations, etc., because he insisted on telling what he perceived to be the truth, and standing up for the racer. Usually he was David fighting Goliath. Steve had integrity, and persisted despite the constant pressures that were put on him.

Just before Christmas, Stevie succumbed to a heart attack while sitting at his computer. He was 54. Drag Racing has lost a true champion of the people, and because I have been so far out of drag racing for so long, I don't know if there is anyone out there today who has picked up the banner he carried. Like most people who knew him, I loved and respected Stevie. Hopefully he has influenced others to carry on, fighting the good fight, telling it like it is within drag racing journalism. Sadly, he may have been the last of a dying breed.

Editor's note: If you want to contact Terry you can do so at

April 13-15
ADRA West Coast Reunion
Fallon, NV
May 18-20
ADRA Ole South Reunion
Jackson, MS
June 1-3
ADRA Dixie Hot Rod Reunion
Darlington, SC
June 16-17
ADRA East Coast Hot Rod Reunion
Maple Grove, PA
June 29-July 1
ADRA Mid America Reunion
Great Bend, KS
July 13-15
ADRA Heartland Reunion
Noble, OK
Aug 3-5
ADRA Southern California Reunion
Banning, CA
Sept 1-3
ADRA Texas Shootout
San Antonio, TX
Sept 28-30
ADRA All American Reunion
Banning, CA



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