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History Lesson: Ted Harbit vs. Keith Berg

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  • History Lesson: Ted Harbit vs. Keith Berg

    Those of you subscribing to Hemmings Muscle Machines will want to take note of a six-page story in the August 2008 issue, received in your reporter's / subscriber's mail box this morning. You might give the lengthy report on Keith Berg and his 1949/1950 Oldsmobiles only a passing glance...but if you did, you'd be missing out on an important part of Studebaker drag racing history from the 1960s and 1970s.

    You see, Keith Berg and his early Rocket 88s were the arch-rival and long-time nemesis of Ted Harbit and The Chicken Hawk, Ted's 1951 Commander Starlight coupe, when Ted was running it as a stocker on his way to eight National Class championships in the eleven years that spanned 1962-1972.

    To answer the most obvious question first (and the answer is YES: ) Ted Harbit and Keith Berg met once at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the Class Championship race and Ted beat Keith for the National Win in that final race. Ted does not remember the exact year; he thinks it was 1969, give or take a year.

    The reason Ted and Keith did not meet more often was purely geographic and economic: Keith was headquarted in California and Ted, of course, was here in Indiana. Keith dominated he and Ted's class at The Winternationals in California because Ted couldn't afford to go that far west every year. Ted, in turn, dominated The National Drags in Indianapolis because Keith couldn't afford to come to the midwest every year...and Ted was driving a Studebaker, of course. The one year Keith did make the trek, he drove back across the continental divide nursing a second-place loss to Ted Harbit.

    Ted says that, generally, Keith posted the better times in their class early on...but as the rivalry continued on in the late '60s, Ted passed Keith in more ways than one, with The Chicken Hawk generally posting the faster times in their class during the latter half of the decade.

    This was a real treat, opening the new Hemmings Muscle Machines and seeing Harley Keith Berg featured with his 1949/1950 Oldsmobiles. I immediately recognized him and called Ted. (Although HMM refers to him as Harley Berg, he went by his middle name, Keith, back in the 1960s and 1970s.)

    So if you are ever reading an old Hot Rod and come across a reference to the cross-country rivalry between Ted Harbit and Keith Berg, you'll know who it is. (And, as usual, 'way to go, Ted!) BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

    Ayn Rand:
    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

  • #2
    Thanks for the neat history lesson!
    Go Ted!
    Jeff[8D]


    http://community.webshots.com/user/deepnhock
    HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)

    Jeff


    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain



    Note: SDC# 070190 (and earlier...)

    Comment


    • #3
      Neat reading. Speaking of Ted - Bob - when are we gonna see the debut of the Super-Avanti?[]

      Miscreant Studebaker nut in California's central valley.

      1957 Transtar 1/2ton
      1960 Larkvertible V8
      1958 Provincial wagon
      1953 Commander coupe
      1957 President two door

      No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

      Comment


      • #4
        quote:Originally posted by Mr.Biggs

        Neat reading. Speaking of Ted - Bob - when are we gonna see the debut of the Super-Avanti?[]

        Miscreant Studebaker nut in California's central valley.
        It's coming along surprisingly well, Bob. I went with Ted to his buddy Dave Closser's shop a couple months ago to check on it. Dave is doing much of the final fitment and engineering; a real genius and fine workman. Dave has engineered and built many successful drag-racing machines. He and Ted go back to high school daze.

        For a while, I was afraid it would languish and ultimately not get done, but that is no longer true. Excellent progress is being made and it might even see a run down The Muncie Quarter yet this season.

        I'll keep everyone posted here, of course.

        Happy 5th of July. BP
        We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

        Ayn Rand:
        "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

        G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Whao BABY! That's great news!

          Miscreant Studebaker nut in California's central valley.

          1957 Transtar 1/2ton
          1960 Larkvertible V8
          1958 Provincial wagon
          1953 Commander coupe
          1957 President two door

          No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

          Comment


          • #6
            What page is it on, Bob? I have the magazine, but I can't find the article.

            OOPS, I have the July edition. [:0]


            Leonard Shepherd
            http://leonardshepherd.com/

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            • #7
              In recent years I have tslked to two old hot rodders, about those Rocket 88s.They told me that they would just sit up high and scoot. I noticed that The Plain Brown Wrapper and The Stude Tomato both launch like that. I mentioned this to Ted, not knowing about his nemisis or any of that history. He simply said that it was true about those Rocket 88s and he's really not sure what he's done to make the Studes rise up like them.

              Gary Hildebrandt

              Comment


              • #8
                Bob, thanks for the heads up on Ted and the Avanti along with the history lesson. It is always great to hear aboutthese types of things and the success if Studebakers on the track.
                sigpicSee you in the future as I write about our past

                Comment


                • #9
                  Bob P., yes those Rocket 88's would Scoot!
                  In 1957, I owned a 1949 rocket 88 convertible, and I surprised a few 1955/56 Chevy Power Packs with it, on the back streets of Alexandria, Va.

                  I had read how to create an auto-straight shift in a rodding magazine, and had a local welding shop put a shift-bypass tube in my automatic transmission. I could hold it in any gear and use the column shifter to move through the gears, so I could really wind the Olds Rocket engine up.

                  [img=left]http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j259/stude53/studesmall2.jpg[/img=left]Bob Feaganes (stude53)
                  53 Starliner Hardtop
                  Newton Grove, NC

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