Swamp Fox AA/FD

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History

 

As were most dragsters of the era, Tthe Swamp Fox was built on a tight budget by the late Mel Hoyh out of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Budget or not, the car lacked none of the vital parts that made fuelers so unique. Hoyh ordered the 170 inch wheelbase chassis from R&B Race Cars in Kenosha in 1967 and when he took delivery he had a superbly crafted race car, complete with a keenly sculpted full aluminum body.

Hoyh and crew built a blown 392 Chrysler for power using a multiple disc clutch direct drive and an early Oldsmobile rear end - all pretty much standard top fuel fare in the sixties. The car competed throughout the Midwest. With Chicagoan Harold Brewer as driver, the Swamp Fox enjoyed a moderately successful career, winning its share of UDRA events and eventually making several six-second passes at better than 220 miles per hour. By 1972, the sport of Top Fuel drag racing had undergone some major changes. Don Garlits' near-disaster with a transmission explosion in what would be his last front-engine car prompted him to design a rear-engine chassis. This chassis configuration soon became the new standard for Top Fuel cars, rendering the front-engine designs obsolete. No longer competitive, the Swamp Fox was retired and eventually sold.

 

Harold Brewer in 1967

 

The Swamp Fox team in 1967

 

 

 

 

Winning an event at Cordova in 1968

 

Orangeline

 


Ralipie's Snowball Nationals taped two days before his passing

 

Restoration

 

When Mel Hoyh sold the car, it was converted to an alcohol dragster and raced for several years before being sold to Battle Creek railroad engineer, racer and engine builder, George Pierce, who installed a carbureted big block Chevrolet and bracket raced the car as the Razz Ma Tazz dragster. George kept his engine and sold the car to Frank Crist of Portland, Michigan in the late 1980's. Frank installed a Ford engine, but never finished the project. The old "Fox" found yet another lair when Art Owsiany and John McLellan came along with the cash and hauled the old dragster home with plans of building a bracket and nostalgia racer.

The year was 1991 and, while Owsiany and McLellan made some serious strides toward completing the car, the project stalled a few years later. Enter Ralph Kitron, a longtime friend of Mel Hoyh's, and an old front engine drag racer himself. Ralph had a yen to find and restore an old time front engine dragster, and was actually in the thick of negotiating for the purchase of Gary Cochran's "Mister C" car from a guy in Florida. The guy kept jacking Ralph around on price while continuing to remove more and more of the original pieces of the car. First, the guy said the M&H Racemasters and Halibrand did not go with the car. Later, the cowl section of the body, complete with the original "Mister C" graphics, was excluded. Kitron had almost completed a deal on the Cochran car when he heard that the original "Swamp Fox" might be for sale.

Ralph quickly followed up on that lead and was soon the proud owner of a pretty much intact survivor of nearly thirty years of hard racing. The restoration of the "Swamp Fox" started in 2001. Ralph was fortunate to enlist the aid of David Hoyh, Mel's son, who was able to supply many photos and even the layout sketches of the original graphics. The original aluminum bodywork was in pretty fair shape for its age, but the pieces did need some "de-wrinkling" and Ralph called on Bob DeLong to handle the straightening and painting processes. Former St. Joseph speed shop owner, Don Adams, played an instrumental part in the restoration also.

The car had three different paint jobs during its tenure with Mel, but Kitron chose to return it to its very first paint scheme: dark metallic blue with gold leaf lettering. Ralph chose the new 12.00-16 M&H Racemasters which were mounted on the original 10"x16" Halibrand magnesium wheels. The roll bar has been changed back to a single bend hoop, raked back at the proper angle, and the front suspension pieces were replated. Jack Miller of Firehouse Machine and the VanderMolen brothers at Alloy Foundry expertly recast and machined some of the original brackets and other pieces that had come up missing over the years. Ralph searched far and wide with the assistance of New York nostalgia racer, Dick Gaylord, and unearthed enough vintage 392 Hemi pieces to assemble a running engine. The car will not be raced, but is capable of being fired up (either push or remote starter), run a healthy dose of nitro and taking part in "Cacklefest" activities at nostalgia events. The icing on this beautiful cake is the period perfect lettering and artwork masterfully applied by Perry Ortlieb of Anchor Signs. ).

    • 1967 R & B Chassis, SEMA #354
    • 1958 392 Chrysler Hemi
    • Develops 3,000 HP on Nitromethane fuel
    • Quickest 1/4 mile : ET: 6.57 seconds on Sept. 8, 1968, U.S. 30, Gary, Indiana
    • Top speed : 219 mph on Sept. 15, 1968 at Dragway 42, West Salem, Ohio
    • Winner : "World Series of Drag Racing" August 25, 1968, Cordova, Illinois
    • Original Owner : Mel Hoyh, Benton Harbor, Michigan
    • Original Driver : Harold Brewer
    • Current Owners : Ralph Kitron and the David Hoyh family.
    • It has been restored to it present condition using the same parts from the late sixties and early seventies.

 

Ralph Kitron and his Swamp Fox made its Cacklefest debut at the 2003 CHRR.

 

 

 

 

 

2004 National Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green, KY

 

 

In 2004 Kitron was invited to the NHRA 50th U.S. Nationals, Golden 50th Honoree Cacklefest at Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Kitron helps original driver Harold Brewer, in the not so period correct firesuit, with his helmet before the Indy Cacklefest.

 

 

 

 

 

Cacklefest V - Bakersfield, CA

 

 

 

Ralph Kitron's last appearance was the 2005 CHRR. Here he and partner David Hoyh warm the car in the pits.

*Although Mel Hoyh passed away a few years ago his family presented Ralph with a file folder of the actual receipts for the car and every component, as well as a listing by Mel of all the races attended and other detailed information. Ralph has assembled it in a binder and has it on display with the car. If you see the car, ask to see the book!

 

Kitron in the Cacklefest VI Parade

 

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

Postcript by Vic Cooke:  I guess we're never too old to find new friends and "heroes," and that's a fine thing. I just found a new one in the fellow pictured in the attachment, who is Ralph Kitron, owner of the "Swamp Fox" resto/cackledigger.

This machine has been around a while. I think I first saw it at Indy-Goodguys a few years ago, then again at the past couple of NHRR's and CHRR's. I have many nice "pit site" photos of it as well as on-track photos from Cacklefest. I'd chatted briefly with Kitron and his partner David Hoyh, but never got to talking with them in any depth.

You might recall this was the "penultimate" Buttera FED, built just before the "BankAmericar" ended the line.

I was looking to get some quality "beauty shots" of a few cars at CHRR away from the pit congestion, and Ralph agreed to haul the Swamp Fox out onto the track late Thursday afternoon to allow me to do that. That's where this photo was taken.

"Would you like me to suit up like I'm driving it?" he asked me. I had planned on just empty-car shots, but this would be something different, so I said "sure" if he was agreeable. So we're out in the 95-degree heat doing this with him in firesuit and helmet and goggles, while moving the car around for different shadow angles and backgrounds. Had to be suffocating, and I could hear him panting in the fire mask breathers, but we was happy to co-operate.

When we got all done he tells me how this is likely his last event, at least for the foreseeable future. He has a brain tumor that has affected his vision and is beginning to affect the use of his arms. His partner, young David Hoyh (son of the original owner) isn't quite up to handling the car for Cacklefest yet, although soon will be. So Ralph did this one last time at the 2005 CHRR while he still could. However he is anticipating some surgery over the winter to hopefully resolve the problem.

All this weighing on his mind and still more than happy to co-operate with a comparative "stranger" he scarcely knows and go the extra mile of the personal discomfort endured.....geez, when I heard all this I felt like 2 cents. But he made it sound like I was doing him a favor! The entire experience elevates him from just an acquaintance to hero status in my book! Cool guy, and believe me, one of the nicest fellows you'd ever want to meet.

Wish I had known all this before CHRR, and I might have encouraged more of you to stop by and meet Ralph, but the least I can do is introduce my newest "hero" to you via this post.

Orangeline

 

Appearances & Awards Since Restoration

- Winner of Grand Nationals Roadster Show 2005 : Los Angeles, California
- NHRA Hot Rod Reunion 2003 & 2004 : Bowling Green, Kentucky
- NHRA 50th U.S. Nationals, Golden 50 Honoree 2004 : Indianapolis, Indiana
- Feature Car at 50th Anniversary World Series of Drag Racing 2003 : Cordova, Illinois
- Displayed at and featured on the flyer for the NHRA Museum : Pomona, California
- Hot Rod Reunion 2003, 2004 & 2005 : Bakersfield, California
- Winner of Cavalcade of Wheels 2004 & 2005 : South Bend, Indiana
- NHRA Exhibition at Route 66 Raceway : Joliet, Illinois
- NHRA Exhibition at Gateway International Raceway : St. Louis, Missouri
- NHRA Exhibition at National Trails Raceway : Columbus, Ohio
- NHRA Exhibition at Lane Automotive National Headquarters : Michigan
- NHRA Exhibition at Pomona Raceway Park : Pomona, California

 

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