Table of Contents DRO Store Classifieds Speed Connections Archives & Search Contact DRO


By Cole Coonce

remember the whine and the zing of the Top Fuel cars. It was the sound of metallic machinery wound-up to the point of breaking into magnesium quarks and positrons. I’ll never forget my Grandmother cursing the sound of the fuel cars on Sunday afternoons in the 1960s, hearing the blowers w-i-n-d up into a glorious glissando and then the reverberation vaporizing instantaneously.

I remember playing in the street in San Fernando, catching footballs tossed by my grandfather, spryly huffing and puffing past park cars and conifer trees, while abruptly pivoting on a buttonhook pattern and catching a spiral in the solar plexus or futilely extending my hands at the denouement of a post pattern in hopes sticking the pigskin on my fingertips, and hearing the WWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAHHHHH - UUNNNNDDTTT every few minutes while I ran back to huddle with my quarterback and we pretended he was Roman Gabriel and I was Jack Snow.

Yes, I knew what all the high-pitched racket was, the din my grandfather tried to ignore and my grandmother cursed. It took me years to marvel at the irony of my grandfather passing mute judgment on the noise pollution from San Fernando Raceway. He was one of Kelly Johnson’s metallurgists at the Skunk Works adjunct at Lockheed in Burbank, and his role in the development and manufacture of various black-budget supersonic spy planes led to all the sliding glass doors windows in the city of San Fernando rattling whenever one of Lockheed’s Cold War babies did one of its faster-than-sound hole punches in the sky....

(These sonic booms would rock the neighborhood fairly frequently... from the kitchen Grandma would curse at them as well as the sounds of the nearby drag races, not really grokking that this noise from above was symbolic of the family’s meal ticket and Grandpa’s employment on classified aircraft. It took her years to realize that some guys parked in the blue Ford sedan who appeared deeply engrossed in the front page section of the L.A. Times were actually G-men spooks and whose surveillance was to ensure that Grandma wasn’t one of them military industrial Rosenberg-types...)

But I digress: even though I was younger than my underwear size, I had been to the drag strip enough to decipher the sound of a Top Fuel car under a load, making traction and attaining maximum velocity of 200 mph or so... we were a couple of tacquerias from San Fernando Raceway – say two or three miles from its entrance on Glenoaks and its “spin out area” beyond the Foothill Boulevard bridge over the Pacoima Arroyo.


Copyright 1999-2005, Drag Racing Online and Autographix