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Story by Terry Denomme
Photos by Kevin Roberts

When Bob Dixon sold his B/Gas ’57 Ford in 1971 it was with a great deal of reluctance. “I had actually blown the engine a few years before but rented space, a women’s garage, and it sat there for two years because I struggled with selling it,” says Dixon of Cottam, ON. He gave up drag racing at the end of the 1960s just as most of his friends did. He doesn’t really remember why but it brought to an end an almost decade long devotion to quarter-mile competition. Selling the Ford might not have been so traumatic if he had known he would end up with it again decades later. Most people aren’t so lucky. Old race cars often end up so chopped, hacked, bashed and abused that the best thing for them is a trip to the smelter. Luckily, Dixon’s car survived and we get to tell the story of how it made its way back into his garage.

Like many guys his age back in the late 1950s and early 1960s Bob Dixon wanted to go drag racing. A lot of his buddies already were and watching from the grandstand wasn’t going to cut it. So, Dixon started looking for a car and in 1961 he found the perfect candidate on a used car lot in Windsor, ON. It was a pedestrian Willow Green/Colonial White 1957 Ford Custom 300 2-door sedan with a 6 cylinder and 3-speed standard transmission with a 3-on-the- tree shifter. Dixon paid $700 and became the car’s second owner. “I really liked that style of car,” says Dixon. “I was already driving a 1955 Ford and just liked the ’57 Fords. I wasn’t thinking about any specific class or anything.” Over the next year he started turning it into a purpose built drag car, radiusing the quarters for slicks and purchasing a 352ci FE block, which he promptly bored and stroked to 397ci.

“At the time the 352 was the most practical engine to get because you could bore them out and they weren’t a really heavy block,” says Dixon. As a machinist working in a tool and mould shop he did all the engine work himself and by 1963 he was racing at all the nearby drag strips. Dixon and five of his racing buddies formed a club called the Street Kleaners, which 50 years later is still going strong with original members. Back in ’63 this group was passionate about their quarter-mile pursuits and sometimes raced at two or three strips a weekend. “We raced as much as we could, sometimes we would go to St. Thomas, then Grand Bend and maybe over the border to Michigan and Milan Dragway in one weekend,” says Dixon.

Right out of the gate the ’57 Ford stroker 352/3-speed standard with stock front suspension was a potent combo, running consistent high 11-second ETs but Dixon wasn’t satisfied with that. In 1964 he installed a 427ci with high riser heads and high riser dual quad intake, dual 4-barrel carbs and a 4-speed transmission. The 427ci FE motor had just been introduced in 1963 so this was a fairly state-of-the-art combo and it immediately had the Ford running low 11-second ETs. “I was really good friends with Blackie in the parts department at Bob Ford in Dearborn, MI so he kept us up to date on new parts,” says Dixon.

It was with this new combo that Dixon had one of his more memorable race wins. Dixon thinks it was 1965 at St.Thomas Dragway in Sparta, ON and that he was facing London, ON’s Pete Wouters in the B/Gas final. Wouters’ SBC-powered ’41 Willys was dominating the class at the time. “He was pretty well king of the strip there and that race we beat him,” says Dixon. Dixon said he was told even the tower crew was pulling for him on this day as they bellowed over the loud speakers during the race “Come on Mr. Dixon.” As for the date of the event, East London Timing Association member Mark Rogerson did a little sleuthing and found out from George Gray, of Ontario George ’33 Willys fame, that it was likely in 1965 because in 1966 Gray began a racing partnership with Wouters and pulled the supercharged SBC out of his A/Gas dragster to put in Wouters’ Willys so it could run in the A/Gas class. Later in ’65 the front A-arm suspension was ditched in favour of a 1948 Ford pickup straight axle and parallel leaf springs.

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