Dick Brannan Glory Days
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"The Glory Days"
Dick Brannan and
Legendary Dick Brannan was Mr. Ford in the 1960s and '70s. Brannan is THE man who got Ford heavily involved in drag racing, through the original factory Ford Drag Council, which he helped create. He ran everything from early Super Stockers to injected fuel Funny Cars to Pro Stockers in 1970, when the class was invented, and won a slew of AHRA and NHRA championships. Brannan stopped racing in 1972 because Ford got out of racing. "They pulled the cars," he says. He recently retired from selling airplanes, his other profession.
Brannan's racing career is neatly biographied in a new CD titled "The Glory Days, Dick Brannan and The Ford Motor Company, 1962 to 1972 ($19.95, www.DickBrannan.com)." In it, you'll see his first hot rod, a flathead-powered '32 coupe that he built as a kid, his '62 Galaxie, his first Thunderbolt (and one of the first 11 that came directly from the factory), and his forays into early Funny Car racing (remember his "Lively One" and "Bronco" stretched Mustangs?), the great match race days of Ford vs. Mopars vs. Chevys and Ponchos, and his last racing exploits that saw the birth of multi-class Super Stockers and Pro Stockers. Also presented are photos, notes, magazine and drag paper stories, many from Brannan's own private files and many never seen before.
In between, you'll learn that Brannan was a fierce competitor at a time when drag racing was on par in nationwide popularity with its counterpart in racing, NASCAR, and a Saturday night win at a local track might be heralded in a hometown Sunday paper's sports section. One example of Brannan's mechanical/racing acumen: it was no accident that Dick beat two Ford factory guys in his '62 Galaxie at Detroit Dragway in 1962 (a race that set his name in the drag racing books as legendary), because he had earlier torn the entire car down to its frame and set it up for drag racing, with correct chassis-weighing on all four corners. He also made his own traction bars and even used a "hill holder" as an early line lock, to hold the car on the starting line until the clutch pedal was side-stepped.
Through the CD, we learn that Brannan blueprinted his 406 engine to factory specs --- all book-legal at the time, as the practice still is today (just ask any good NHRA or IHRA Stock Eliminator racer) --- and even beefed up and reworked the Galaxie's shift linkage and clutch system, plus degreed in the engine's camshaft and changed the stock valve lash for added horsepower. Those two Ford "hired drivers" didn't have a chance on that March night in Detroit in 1962. "I wasn't a better driver, I was just ready," Dick says on the CD.
We follow Brannan through his "lightweight" days, racing out of the Romy Hammes' dealership sponsorship in South Bend, Indiana, to the birth of the fabulous Ford Thunderbolt, the factory's serious entry into the Super Stock/A/Factory Experimental wars against Chrysler and "the General's" drag racing entries; the early Mustang Funny Cars that were mandated by Ford honchos to look less "Funny" than their competitors'; through Modifieds and Super Stockers (Brannan had the factory's only Modified Maverick, although Georgia buddy and teammate Phil Bonner built one himself, thus making only two of the unique race cars) and into modern Super Stockers and Pro Stockers.
Sure, Brannan was the first to get the best stuff that Ford had to offer, but he passed it on to others. And one wonders, after perusing "The Glory Days" CD what it would have been like for him (and us) if the factory hadn't pulled out of racing in '72. But we still come away from its viewing with a great respect for the man who rightly could be called the Godfather of Super Stock racing.
(DRO note: See also Dale Wilson's column, Mr. Wilson's People, for more information about Dick Brannan and Jake Bonner, his young protégé.)