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Exactly 50 Years Ago This Weekend....

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  • Exactly 50 Years Ago This Weekend....

    ....it was my privilege to meet the famous Ted Harbit for the first time.

    As many of you know, our home is 3 miles WNW of Indianapolis Raceway Park, home of the NHRA National Drags every Labor Day weekend. Because it is flat farm land, we hear (and feel!) the thunder of the bigger rails and dragsters running during the event, even inside our home!

    And happy memories of 1962 return, when Studebakers were still in production and Studebaker's future looked bright to this then-16-year old. After all, the fresh new Lark Daytona had just paced The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Avanti production was finally underway, and rumors of Avanti engines being available across the entire 1963 Studebaker V8 lineup were coming to fruition. (Ignorance is bliss, as they say.)

    Further, my folks had just moved the family to northeast Indianapolis...and even though I was a fish out of water in a big new metropolitan high school, there were three Studebakers dealers in Indianapolis to pester with frequent regularity! Woo-Hoo!

    But my biggest Studebaker treat from the move east would come over Labor Day weekend 1962. Then, I got to drive the family's 1957 President 2-door, Coppertone and White, across Indianapolis to a drag strip "out west" by Clermont and go to The National Drags at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

    There, over Labor Day weekend 1962, exactly 50 years ago, I would meet a young Studebaker drag racer I had only read a little about but nonetheless wanted to meet: One Ted Harbit, then of Frankton IN. And I got to see his new Studebaker drag race car, The Chicken Hawk, make its inaugural appearance of what would be many at The NHRA National Drags!

    Ted remembers better than I, for some odd reason, this nutty 16-year-old running across the Raceway Park pit area toward Ted's second-series, two-tone blue, 1955 Commander 4-door tow car and the then-beige Chicken Hawk. I can't say it was 50 years ago today (September 1), because it might have been a day or two before, but it was just before "The Big Go 1962," the final eliminations at the 1962 NHRA National Drags during the 1962 Labor Day weekend.

    Ted and The Chicken Hawk would prevail in those 1962 Labor Day eliminations, so this famous photo of them (upper left) was legitimately taken a week or two after I met him. He was 27 at the time:



    (Add exactly 50 to my 16 and his 27 as of Labor Day 1962 and you'll know how old we are today.)

    At the other end of The Chicken Hawk's reign at Indianapolis Raceway Park was this wonderful photograph taken over Labor Day weekend 2004. Courtesy of photographer Jack Bleil of Mentor OH, it was published with the appropriate story in the May 2011 Turning Wheels:



    The Chicken Hawk would never return to Indianapolis Raceway Park after the above photograph was taken.

    It's been a terrific privilege to know this fine American and dedicated Studebaker racer for what is now a full half-century, so Happy Meeting Day, Ted, and best wishes for another 50! BP
    Last edited by BobPalma; 09-02-2012, 11:12 AM. Reason: punctuation
    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
    Ted Harbit..........truly a Studebaker legend AND hero!

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    • #3
      Great story! Thanks for sharing Bob. Ted is indeed a Studebaker institution. I sure enjoyed meeting him at the International last month.

      Pat
      Pat Dilling
      Olivehurst, CA
      Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL


      LS1 Engine Swap Journal: http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/jour...ournalid=33611

      Comment


      • #4



        Bob; I was there too but the Studebaker bug had not bit me just yet. A few weeks after the 1962 Nationals I bought a '40 Champion two door for $312 and the rest is history. I attended all the National Drag Races from 1959 (Detroit) thru the early 1980s (at Indy) and saw Ted run numerous times though never met him until many years later. I still have some of my Indy Nationals programs. The 1962 program is shown above (interestingly they did not put the year on the front cover). On page 32 Ted’s Chicken Hawk is listed as entry number 648 as a ’54 Studebaker. Was that the year of the engine?
        Richard Quinn
        Editor emeritus: Antique Studebaker Review

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Studebaker Wheel View Post

          Bob; I was there too but the Studebaker bug had not bit me just yet. A few weeks after the 1962 Nationals I bought a '40 Champion two door for $312 and the rest is history. I attended all the National Drag Races from 1959 (Detroit) thru the early 1980s (at Indy) and saw Ted run numerous times though never met him until many years later. I still have some of my Indy Nationals programs.

          The 1962 program is shown above (interestingly they did not put the year on the front cover). On page 32 Ted’s Chicken Hawk is listed as entry number 648 as a ’54 Studebaker. Was that the year of the engine?
          No, Dick; it was not. The car's original engine powered it through the 1964 campaign, as a matter of fact. Ted had to convert it to a stick, though; when he drug The Chicken Hawk out of a field in the fall of 1961 upon purchase, it had Automatic Drive.

          I know you'll find this hard to believe (you'd better sit down for this one), but that was a simple error that was further perpetuated in the report of the 1962 National Drags in Hot Rod magazine; an issue I have here but can't put my finger on just now.

          The caption below a picture of Ted and the '51 in that issue contains the approximate words, "Ted Harbit swooped down in his 1954 Studebaker, called The Chicken Hawk, to win his class..."

          Can you imagine anyone at Hot Rod allowing 1954 to go to print in a caption below a photo of a 1951 Chevrolet? Neither can I; somebody would have caught it.
          But Studebaker? They were all alike back then as now, right? 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


          • #6
            Thanks Bob for the post, and the pictures also pictures from Dick. where would we be with out the two of you? always coming up with items of interest that many of us don't know and really enjoy. Yes Ted is one of a kind and top notch driver on the track and it doesn't mater what he is driving he does great at it. I have had the pleasure of racing Ted at a few of the International meets just for fun and have always enjoyed seeing the tail lights of what ever he was driving at the time. At this last International I was cruising around the swap area in my wife's HC scooter and when I came to the area where Ted was set up he got up and came out to the path way to inquire what had happened to me I said nothing that I was just using the scooter because I could but just the feeling that Ted got up to check me out made me feel good and that is the Ted we all know. Keep the good info coming our way Bob always a pleasure to read from one BP to another BP
            Candbstudebakers
            Castro Valley,
            California


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            • #7
              You're welcome, Bob.

              In central Indiana right now, though, BP initials are not good to have. As you may have heard, BP Petroleum shipped a lot of badly-formulated gasoline from the Whiting (NW Indiana) Refinery about three weeks ago, and it was distrbuted over a wider field than they originally thought.

              Talk about irony: Here in the Indianapolis market, the only grades affected were mid-range and premium! 'Poor folks paid more for the better grades and got stuck with the potential for engine trouble! Ouch. 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

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