When doing research, one cannot
stop if reports conflict.
I feel a little like Howard Carter the
guy that discovered Tutankhamun's tomb back in the 20s. Well not
To research a dilapidated funny car body
some thirty years after it last ran may not seem as elusive as finding a
tomb hidden in The Valley of the Kings for four millennia. But, it sure
has felt like it.
As I wrote in earlier chapters, I have
the feeling the body once belonged to Bobby Wood. The fact that like
Wood, Ernie Duckett hailed from Alabama is just too much of a
coincidence to overlook.
Actually, when I began to place inquiries
on the web, I received several responses. Even a few forwards. Several
people that really like to document these things historically, exchanged
messages in my regard.
One of the first was this one from David
Dilbeck who runs a fun site called GeorgiaDragRacing.com. It is filled
with heroes from the 60s and early 70s that toured through the strips in
Georgia, and most shot at Southeastern Dragway in Dallas, just outside
of Atlanta. He'd heard from Dennis Doubleday, who seems to do little
else but post photos on several sites. Some are scans out of old
magazines and papers covering dragracing. He said:
Phil, I just got this response off one of
Just got some papers with the
Mahaffey/Campbell Golden Rod Nova. Looks a lot like the Ernie Duckett
car Flyin' Phil's trying to track down. I'm leaning more towards it than
Maybe this will help. David
Thanx David. Are there photos? I would
have to say that the bottom layer of paint is a dark red like Wood's car
A photo returned.
And do you know what is weird? I cried.
No not one of those blubbery deals when you miss your momma. This was
more of a joyful feeling than anything, that here was proof that the
body I was gonna run had once been what I thought – a really truly
fueler. There it was tilted up over a 392 Chrysler and mounted on what
is most certainly a Don Hardy chassis. The Halibrand wheels glisten in
what I believe is Georgia sunshine, and the body has a
"lovely" lace paint job, so typical of the times.
Had I ever heard of the Super Golden Rod?
No, but that didn't matter one hoot.
Instantly, I knew it was the body I had
because of one identifying thing. The radiused rear wheel wells that I
have disliked since the start have a funky notch where somebody had
gotten jigsaw happy 33 years ago. If you look closely almost directly
under the two As in AA/FC, there is that funky notch.
But wait, the back window is cut out?!
More searching was necessary.
Here's another picture that Doubleday
sent, showing all the particulars involved in the Golden Rod, racing
each other on a much earlier occasion. I guess you already know I am
enamored with early-day funny cars, and both of those are indeed
Click photo to see larger version.
Another suggestion came from photographer
Louis Kimery, suggesting I contact Bobby Wood himself. He presently
This is the body I have always believed
mine to be, Bobby Wood's all-red Nova, the Kendall GT-1 Rebel,
pictured at Indy in 1969. The other picture is earlier in the year
before all the stickers and lettering are applied. I have included it
here to show a comparison between it and the Golden Rod.
When a few points are matched up, the two
cars appear to be one and the same. The rear spoilers are very similar,
the chute mounts, wheelie bars and tin look to be identical. So, I've
concluded that Bobby Wood's 1969 Nova became the Mahaffey/Campbell
Super Golden Rod.
I also received this picture from Atlanta
in 1970. That's Houston Platt's 70-1/2 Camaro in the far lane. This
is the first time I remember seeing a Wood Nova with (poorly) radiused
rear wheel wells. From this bit of evidence, I'm still betting my body
was this car, which became the Golden Rod, then went to Ernie Duckett. I'm
still perplexed about the rear window but that'll work itself out.
Click photo to see larger version.
I wrote to Wood in October:
We've never met though I followed your
race career long ago.
I am a drag racer writer, photographer
and historian. I've always wanted a nitro FC of my own so a few years
ago, I began searching for just the right components -- I wanted a 69
Nova. I found a body in Missouri that said Ernie Duckett on the side.
After procuring it, I began to research. I keep thinking it is one of
your two Novas. This body is narrowed about a foot.
For pix and info, check out my website,
either flyinphil.com or nitronova.com.
Thanx. Would love to meet you in person
Phil R. Elliott
I received an almost immediate reply. I
could tell Bobby had been to the site:
I can't say for sure on that body but I
would like a drawing of exactly where ALABAMA was painted on it. The
Nova I had was the only Chevrolet powered funny car that held the NHRA
National ET Record. I set it at Memphis TN in 1969 - Copy of this meet
is on the net. Let me know about paint.
Thanks, Bobby Wood
So I wrote back. I was not sure why he
wanted to know about the word Alabama since there were at least two
paint jobs over his:
Yes, I'm quite familiar with your record.
As I said, I was a fan and over the years have become a drag race
I fell in love with your second FC, the
66 Chevelle, through magazine articles, and also give you a great deal
of credit for being able to "shoe" the previous car, the VERY
short 65 Chevelle. Wow!
I never saw another narrowed Nova besides
your second body so I keep thinking there is a tie-in. This body was
definitely narrowed after it came from the mold. Recently, I was sent a
few pix of your second Nova and it was the first time I noticed your car
had a plexi back window. The one I have has fiberglass but I will look
carefully to see if that was put back in later.
My theory has been that you rebodied the
second Nova as a Vega and this body was separated from its chassis. But,
the cages on the second Nova and the Vega are not similar at all. I
believe your first Nova, second Nova and Vega were all Don Hardy built.
Again, an almost immediate response:
All my cars after 1968 were Hardy built.
Still need to know where ALABAMA was on car. All my cars had plexi rear
windows. Thanks Bob Wood"
I sent a picture of Alabama on shield
along with the Golden Rod:
Here is a pic of a car run by JC
Sizemore. The rear wheelwells and a few other features are identical to
my body. It too has plexi in the back window area. It is quite possible
my back window was filled at a later time. This is the only pic I have
of Goldenrod. Could this be the earlier of your two Novas? This car I
believe became the Ernie Duckett machine.
Wood's response was rapid yet again:
J.C. Sizemore built my 1st 1965 Chevelle
- This Nova body is probably one of mine, as J.C. was a good friend of
mine! I'll try to call him soon if he is still with us. Thanks Bob Wood
That would be great. The way the rear
wheelwell is cut out is an absolute dupe of my body. I hope to have
gained enuf space inboard to put stock shaped wheel wells back in. Never
liked the radiused look except on short track stock cars.
Do you think that would be your whole
first Nova or is that body on a different chassis? And were both of your
And he did too:
Don't know - it will take some time to
figure out - I'll let you know.
About the same time this dialogue was
happening, I received two Emails from Dennis Doubleday
Hi Phil, great to see you back. I'm
researching funny car stats for Pratt, and as I get to them, will scan
photos/results of Duckett's car. Unfortunately, they are black &
white drag paper shots. A while back, a question came up on fuelcoupes
about your car prior to Duckett. Initially I thought it was an ex-Woods
car, but now I think it looks a LOT like the Golden Rod, another south
funny car. Will scan photos of that too. See what you think. Take care.
Phil, it'd be good if you could contact
Bill Campbell or Wayne Mahaffey. Duckett drove Campbell's Vega in 72, Mahaffey
drove it also, and borrowed Bobby Wood's Chevy II body when
the Vega got ruined. So Campbell is a link between Duckett AND the Woods
Chevy II. I have newspaper shots of Duckett's car and at least one of
the Golden Rod Chevy II but can't recall if Sizemore drove it or not.
Click photo to see larger version.
And there it is with the exact lettering
the way I got it.
Here's another photo that Chris Stinson
scanned out of a 1974 Drag News. It's a bit grainy but you get the
Even though I do not yet have a
definitive answer on the where, when and who of the Nova body, I feel
like I'm much closer.