Cars have always been a big part
of the landscape in Southern California and thats why so
many car dealers sponsored race cars or races back in the 1960s
which was, of course, the era of the muscle car. One such dealer
was the Yeakel Plymouth Center, who's General Manager was the
late Lou Baney, which made a living by smashing prices
and sponsoring some of the great drag race cars in the area.
One of the most famous cars that they ever put their name on
was the Yeakel Plymouth Special Top Fuel dragster
that was owned by Lou Baney and driven by a young man by the
name of Tom McEwen. And of course Vince Rossi was the creator
and the one who bled sweat day in and day out to run this car.
In 1965 there were only four
national events on the race schedule but there were Top Fuel
races at almost every track in Southern California almost every
week. Among the biggest attractions in those days were Top Fuel
match races and one of the key ingredients to any successful
match was Tom The Mongoose McEwen. Driving Lou Baney's
beautiful Yeakel Plymouth car the Goose highlighted
races at Lions Drag Strip in which he faced Chris Karamesines
and Don Prudhomme among others and, more often than not, he came
out the winner. Prior to his much-hyped race with Don Prudhomme,
Tom proclaimed that I am the greatest, and then he
went out and proved it. A 7.82 in round one coupled with a patented
Mongoose holeshot easily beat Prudhommes much
quicker 7.56. After dropping the round two encounter Tom came
back to beat the Snake again in round three to take
the win and again he did it on a holeshot.
While Toms driving was
a big part of the cars success even he had to admit that
he was at the controls of a pretty impressive race car. With
a specially built Woody Gilmore chassis and a strong 392 Chrysler
engine this car was destined for fame and fortune. Throw in the
impeccable tuning capabilities of Vince Rossi and John Garrison
and its easy to see why the folks at Yeakel Plymouth decided
to get on board. In addition to the series of match race victories
Tom also took the car to several wins on the UDRA circuit and
he was the top qualifier at the 1965 Hot Rod Magazine meet at
Riverside Raceway. At that race, the beautiful car with the hot
young driver clocked a stunning 7.52 at a speed of 211.76, good
for low elapsed time and top speed at one of the biggest races
of the year. So, in 1965, while the Yeakel Plymouth Center was
smashing prices, the car that they sponsored was busy smashing
the competition and earning a spot for itself in the history
of drag racing.
Although Jim Ward was the first
driver of the Yeakel car, it was Tom McEwen who people remember
being "the driver". Other recognizable names involved
were Don Prieto crew (worked for Baney) and John Garrison who
was the engine builder.
The car was built in November
of 1964 by Woody Gilmore, Paul Sutherland & Pete Ogden (Race
Car Engineering). This was only the 10th car out of Woody's shop
and has the first type of front axle mountings Woody used. The
body was the work of Doug Kruse.
Baney pulling the spark
John Garrison and The
McEwen and his patented
'V' for victory sign.
McEwen with the car in
front of Yeakel Plymouth Center in Downey.
No ID, Marge Yeakel and
Vince Rossi, Mark Christ, Chris
Young, Chuck Goebel, Wayne Long, Lou Baney, Paul Rossi, Jim Ward,
Frank Baney and Tom McEwen at Fontana.
A rare shot of the car with a
rear wing attached to the top of the roll bar. This was a good
idea in theory but was short lived when the car did a giant wheelstand
in the lights. The wing later appeared on Jim Ward's (Imperial)
In mid 1966 Baney changed camps
and teamed up with Brand Motors Ford the turn the Yeakel Plymouth
car into the Brand Ford Special. A full body was added and an
Ed Pink Ford SOHC "cammer" replaced the Chrysler hemi.
McEwen remaind in the seat until he was replaced with Kelly Brown.
The staging lanes at Lions: Tom
McEwen in the seat with Chuck Johnson standing behind the tire.
Lou walking toward Vince Rossi. Next to them is the Rossi Rapp
and Maldanado car with Gary Gabelich in the seat. Ronnie Rapp
in the wagon and Chayo Maldanado in the white pants.
Ed Pink, Kelly Brown,
Lou Baney, Frank Baney, Jerry Bivens, Kenny Miller and Chris'
In 1967this car was sold and
shipped to Hawaii. Baney built a new car with the Brand Motors
colors to house his Ford SOHC engine.
The last photo of the car, re-named
"Bad Jose", in action from 1974 at Hawaii Raceway Park
A Family Affair
What got the project rolling
was when Dugan Yeakel signed a release for his family name to
be used on the car. Chris Baney and Chuck Goebel were witnesses.
In the 1950s through the 70s,
Lou Baney was the prime mover in the SoCal automotive and drag
racing scene. Among his many duties: GM of Yeakel Plymouth, connected
to the 1950 Saugus drag strip, SoCal Plymouth Dealers Association,
UDRA president, founder of SEMA, Baney Motors, Brand Ford, etc.
Vince Rossi (who worked for Baney) was the driving force that
put together this car and a string of other intertwined dragsters
The late Lou Baney and crew (with
family & friends) posing with his Brand Motors Special AA/FD.
From LtoR: Frank Baney, Paul Maders, Wayne Long (Tom's chute
packer from Carter Chutes), Lou Baney, Chuck Johnson, John Garrison,
Mark Christ and Chris Young.
Prior to this Yeakel Plymouth
dragster was a fueler known as the Baney Rapp Lisa Rossi purple
Kent Fuller car with a rather round nose and awkward chute pack
tail section. After this effort Baney turned the Yeakel Plymouth
car into the SOHC Ford powered fueler known as the Brand Ford
Special with both Tom McEwen, Kelly Brown and then then Don "The
Snake" Prudhomme in the seat. Ed Pink oversaw the engines.
Rapp also was again in the picture
with Rossi Rapp and Maldanado with Gary Gabelich and at the helm.
Rossi later teamed with Tommy
Lisa to build the Lisa & Rossi "Door stop wedge"
rear engine dragster with Billy Tidwell and eventually Danny
Ongais at the helm.
While the combinations of people changed, this was a big happy
family of drag racers that raced because it was fun and it was
by far the greatest time for dragster racing. Partners shared
parts and race one another and guys like Donovan, Brissette,
Madden Leland Kolb, the Surfers all had a great time racing.
And so, in the memory of Lou,
Vince and others who came before them, the Baney, Rossi and Goebel
bunch set out in 2004 to find the Yeakel Plymouth car and if
they did - restore it. As luck would have it, in 2005 the car
was found in Maui, Hawaii (below).
03.22.05 - Frank Baney paid for
and picked up the with the help of Paul Schavrien's friend, Dwayne
Jacento. Dwayne dismantled the car, cut off the roll bar, built
the crate and shipped it by sea after Baney left Maui.
Saturday, April 22, 2005 was
designated the "Grand Opening" of the crate-full of
memories. And what an event it was with nearly 100 people, cacklecars,
current nostalgia dragsters, hot rods enough bench racing to
fill a book. Everyone there had there own special relationship
to Lou Baney, who was often at the center of converging forces
and changing directions. And so began the Yeakel Plymouth AA/FDs
The players preparing
to open the crate: L to R: Frank Baney, Tom McEwen, Paul Rossi,
Chuck Goebel, Chris Young, Tyler Baney, Jimmy Rossi, and Cameron
Ron Johnson, Marc and
The irrepressible Ronnie
Baney, Jerry Bivens and Tom McEwen
The restoration was entrusted
to master craftsman Steve Davis who, along with original crewman
Chuck Johnson, got their first look at the car.
The chassis was sandblasted
then dropped off at Davis' shop.
05.20.05 - On the jig.
First Davis cut off all
the brackets that had been added over the years.
Davis fabricating the
end plate for the fuel tank.
A new front axle and
tubing was used with the original spindels and rod ends.
Bent header tubing (above)
and finished headers below.
Doug Upton did the "Yeakel"
engraving on the Donovan valve covers.
The fuel burning 329
was done by Mike Kuhl.
The brake calipers and
handle are exactly as original.
Davis started the tail
piece at the top.
Manny Maldonado shows
off the highly polised rear wheels.
Steve Davis likes to be involved
in every aspect of his restorations. He donated a pair of period
correct M&H tires and insisted on mounting them himself.
The tin for the bottom
of the tail sits under the one piece seat pattern.
Jim Rossi, Steve Davis,
Frank Baney, Tyler
Baney and Paul Rossi (in the car).
Davis with the "roller".
Engine waiting for its
The 1965 Mongoose helmet
was perfectly recreated.
Period correct push truck for
a not so period correct trailer. How sweet would it have been
to tow that sucker around in 1965.
seat for the Cacklefest Parade was Frank Baney's son, Tyler.
by Robin Millar
With Paul Rossi in the seat,
the car made its official Cacklefest debut as a featured car
at the Double Tree Hotel in October of 2007. Following the Friday
night CHRR Honorees Awards inside, there was a mini-cacklefest
outside. The purple car performed flawlessly.
At the track on Saturday, Jerry
Bivens had to do the obligatory practice push start prior to
Cacklefest. Above, Mike Kuhl made the final checks of the engine.
In the seat for the Yeakel Plymouth
Special debut was Jerry Bivens who is Lou Baney's son-in-law
and ex-top fuel driver. The push start was no problem for the
The icing on the cake for a perfect
weekend was the Rossi & Baney clan, Chuck Gobel, Tom McEwen
and friends winning the "Cacklefest 2007 Outstanding Presentation"
Paul Rossi (owner), Jerry
Bivens (Lou's son-in-law), Frank Baney (owner), Chuck Goebel
(engine), Jimmy Rossi and Chris Young.