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Little Red Wagon Wheelstander - Trivia

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Old 10-28-2009, 01:42 PM   #1  
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Thumbs up Little Red Wagon Wheelstander - Trivia

Prior to striking out on his own, though, Howell worked for Dick Branstner at Branstner Enterprises in Troy, Mich. Branstner and driver Roger Lindamood had just won Top Stock at the 1964 Nationals with their Color Me Gone Dodge, and Branstner hired Howell to run the operation, which built engines and did chassis work for Super Stock and A/FX cars.

Among the company's major contributions to drag racing lore was the refinement of the Little Red Wagon wheelstander, which didnít actually begin life as a wheelstander; Howell's contribution is that he took it on one of its groundbreaking "flights."

"The Little Red Wagon was conceived and built by two engineers at Dodge Truck, Jim Schaeffer and John Collins," recalled Howell. "It was powered by a 426 Hemi on gas and carburetors, with a rigid rear suspension. We were playing around doing neutral starts -- transmission in neutral, go to wide open throttle, and punch the Drive button! -- and it would pick the front wheels up maybe a foot or two. Spectators loved it. The truck was more or less being passed around to various teams, and it ended up at Branstner's after the rear suspension had been improved. It was assigned to me for some 'development work.' I ordered a roll cage to be installed and replaced the stock 426 engine with an injected engine on nitromethane.

"It was late '64, and we were at Motor City Dragway outside of Detroit. I pulled up to the starting line to make a pass, and in the right lane was my friend Tony Knieper in his GTO. The injected nitro motor didnít require a neutral start to pick the wheels up, but this time, it went up and kept going! The truck always had a tendency to drift right, and, true to form, it proceeded to do its thing. Iím now on the tailgate, and somewhere underneath the front wheels is my buddy Tony. I stayed in it until I saw him drive out from underneath me. I lifted, and it came down like a ton of bricks. It was quite a day. Dodge PR had a photographer there, and one of the local TV stations got it all on film. It made the 11 oíclock news. The rest is history -- well, almost."

According to Howell, the truck was funded by Dodge PR, and Frank Wylie assigned the truck to Bill "Maverick" Golden to campaign nationally.

Continued Howell, " 'Maverick' arrived in town for 'driving lessons' about the time I finished the install of a nitro-fueled, supercharged 426. It was late fall when we all returned to Motor City, and it was cold. I made a couple passes but couldnít get it anywhere near hooking up. Late in the day, I made a pretty good pass and mentioned to Branstner, 'I think itís carrying the front end in the lights.' We had a rather vigorous discussion, which I concluded by saying something stupid like, 'Fine, I wonít lift, and weíll see whoís right!' Next pass, straight up, 147 in the lights. 'Maverick' opted not to drive it that day. I reinstalled the injected engine, and 'Maverick' went on his way.

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