A passion for speed | The river reporter

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By TED WADDELL

KAUNEONGA LAKE, NY – Tom Crompton of Amherst, NH has a passion for vintage Ford-based race cars with indomitable four-cylinder engines, as well as old racing motorcycles.

As a member of the Atlantic Coast Old Timers (ACOT), he showed up at Bethel Speedway on Saturday, July 24 during the local track’s Danbury RaceArena Night, in homage to the famous Connecticut track. It used to be a focal point of the Great Danbury State Fair.

So come back with us now to the days of yesteryear, as Crompton and a group of die-hard collectors and curators of old racing cars show off their faithfully restored rides to fans in the stands at one of the world’s most famous events. popular track.

For Crompton, 67, it all started when he was about 6, after his father took him to a sprint car race in Pennsylvania. There he saw legendary modified car and sprint driver Louis George “Lou” Blaney (1940-2009), a member of the Pittsburgh Circle Track Hall of Famer, burn the asphalt.

“I still remember that first sprint car race,” he recalls, adding, “It was the driver that got me hooked … I was just fascinated, and when I was old enough , we would go into the pits and talk to the drivers. “

Today, those early pit experiences continue with Crompton. When he shows off his vintage rides or classic era motorcycles, he says he never turns down a kid who wants to learn more about the sport, have the chance to sit in one of his cars. racing or perching on a racing motorcycle.

When asked if he felt a connection to the past with the racing machines of yesteryear, he replied, “Absolutely. He noted that vintage car racing is more about preservation than wheel-to-wheel competition, as opposed to racing old bikes, where “once the green flag goes down, it’s” let’s go bro. “, you are in it with both feet the whole way.

For Crompton, the worlds of racing cars and vintage motorcycles are closely linked, as he has a stable made up of the two steel mounts. When not competing in ACOT events, he speeds up motorcycle racing as a member of the United States Classic Racing Association (USCRA), the nation’s oldest vintage motorcycle racing club.

In 1971 or so, he started racing motorcycles in motorcycle hare races, “and the hook was fixed, there was no turning back … I was just that. a child, but once you’ve tasted it, that’s it. “

Crompton started out on a stripped-down Suzuki PS185, “kind of an endurance bike,” then moved on to a Penton motorcycle, a full-fledged racing machine built by John “Jack” Penton. It was one of the most important motorcycles on the international circuit in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“Then life comes, a real job, stuff like that,” he said. His motorcycle racing days were put on hold for a while, and his thoughts on old racing cars were always a dream come true.

“I decided to get back to it, land sprint racing, road racing and motocross, all of the above,” he said, adding that he was interested in the old ones. racing cars especially when attending motorcycle racing events.

“We were racing motorcycles, and the old car guys came in… I got to see the cars, and [I thought], ‘Wow, these are the kind of cars I used to watch as a kid, I have to get into this.’ “

These days he rides a 1938 Indian, a 1978 Yamaha and a 1949 Indian which he used during Laconia Motorcycle Week, heralded as the “oldest motorcycle rally in the world” at the time. ascent of Tower Hill. from Weirs beach.

While his daily ride is a 1940 Harley Davidson, along the motorcycle path, Crompton picked up a 1917 Indian with sidecar, a former State Police bicycle.

When not attending vintage car events, he participates in bike races.

No one ever said bike racing was easy as a greased pig, no offense to Harleys. In a race five years ago, Crompton lost it on lap six and passed the handlebars at around 70 miles an hour.

“It was a bad fall … I don’t get up as fast as I used to,” he said.

Let’s go back to Tom Crompton’s garage to some of what he said were known as “Big Cars,” now called sprint cars, which date back to the 1930s.

At Bethel Speedway in late July, Crompton drove the local quarter-mile oval with his No. 10, a late 1930s Ford racing car. It was built by Louie D’Amore, who was inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2011. First raced in 1939 at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut, the car was “rebuilt, restored and recreated” by Louie and his two sons. in the 1990s.

On September 3, 2020, the No.10 set a land speed record for vintage four-cylinder oval cars, posing at 92.22 mph over one mile.

A few specs: B-block flat-head four-cylinder engine, Aries forged pistons, lightweight flywheel, Crowler rods, Stromberg 97 dual carburetor, Ford 1937 tubular axle and the list goes on.

His No. 27, the Tomahawk Special, a 1930s sprint car, could make an appearance on the local circuit in October. It was built in Maine by Pappy Woods, a Native American well known for building and driving “Big Cars”.

Woods’ team was called “Mohawk Racing”, and the No. 27 raced all over New England on dirt tracks as well as asphalt; he also recorded time as an ice runner.

“Pappy Woods was a very colorful guy; he was really proud of his heritage, ”said Crompton.

His first reaction when he laid eyes on the former runner was, “I’m way over my head”, but after much research and the help of the runners, he was saved from decades of dusty oversight in a storage container.

Specifications, the shortlist: 1932 Ford Model B, Zephyr manifold, single Stromberg 97, Silverstein head, Briley cam, plus a few extras.

“Big Cars” # 10 and # 27 share more than the passage of time, as both were handwritten by Alex Olivera who, at the time, was a contemporary of the iconic Ed “Big Daddy” Roth , by renowned Rat Fink, and Von Dutch (Kenneth Howard), one of America’s most famous motorcycle mechanics, builder of the Von Dutch Falcone, 1929 Super Squirrel, among many other notable motorcycles.

“It was a class act,” said Olivera’s Crompton, adding that freehand lettering is a “lost art”.

His take on Bethel Speedway?

“The fans, other runners and the speedway make the 260 mile drive from New Hampshire, five hours each way, it’s worth it.”

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