Harold Brewer in 1967
The Swamp Fox team in
Winning an event at Cordova
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.
Ralipie's Snowball Nationals taped two days
before his passing
Appearances & Awards Since
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
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.
Ralph Kitron and his
Swamp Fox made its Cacklefest debut at the 2003 CHRR.
2004 National Hot Rod
Reunion at Bowling Green, KY
- 1967 R & B Chassis, SEMA
- 1958 392 Chrysler Hemi
- Develops 3,000 HP on Nitromethane
- 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
- 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
In 2004 Kitron was invited to
the NHRA 50th U.S. Nationals, Golden 50th Honoree Cacklefest
at Indianapolis, Indiana.
Cacklefest V - Bakersfield,
Kitron helps original driver
Harold Brewer, in the not so period correct firesuit, with his
helmet before the Indy Cacklefest.
Kitron in the Cacklefest
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!
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
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.
- Winner of Grand Nationals
Roadster Show 2005 : Los Angeles, California
- NHRA Hot Rod Reunion 2003 & 2004 : Bowling Green,
- NHRA 50th U.S. Nationals, Golden 50 Honoree 2004 : Indianapolis,
- 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,
- Winner of Cavalcade of Wheels 2004 & 2005 : South
- NHRA Exhibition at Route 66 Raceway : Joliet, Illinois
- NHRA Exhibition at Gateway International Raceway : St.
- NHRA Exhibition at National Trails Raceway : Columbus,
- NHRA Exhibition at Lane Automotive National Headquarters
- NHRA Exhibition at Pomona Raceway Park : Pomona, California