Edsel camper and American Graffiti weekend
Q: Greg, I enjoyed your article on the 1959 Ford Country Squire Wagon camper immensely. It was very fascinating indeed.
Being a 1958 Edsel owner, I’ve attached some photos for you. I thought you would enjoy seeing that they kind of relate to the Ford Squire Camper article. It seems Edsel was experimenting in the camping field, too, back in 1958. I’m off to Ocean City, Md. in a week for the “American Graffiti 50th Anniversary” event, as my Edsel has been invited to be displayed as a tribute car to the movie, along with a few others.
I’m from Sunbury, Pa., but I work in Bloomsburg and read you each week in the Press Enterprise newspaper. Attached is a photo of my ‘58 Corsair that will be going to the movie event. I share your columns with a friend in Selinsgrove who owns Studebakers.
Thanks for putting together such cool car stories. I always look forward to reading them each week and also enjoy the photos. Ken Dye, Sunbury, Pa.
A: Ken, that’s great news hearing your car will be used in the American Graffiti movie get together in Ocean City. That movie dates back to 1973 and was directed by George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola (talk about soon to become big names in Hollywood).
It was actually a low-budget effort that turned into a huge box office hit thanks to its music, car crazy boulevard crusin’ scenes, and “coming of age” teenager drama all set in one night during the last day of high school in 1962 with a Modesto, California backdrop.
In the movie, Cindy Williams, who plays Ron Howard’s girlfriend (Laurie and Steve, respectively), drives a 1958 Edsel Corsair that gets almost as much movie time as Paul LeMat (John Milner) and his hot yellow 32 Ford five-window coupe hot rod that had yet to lose a drag race.
As for the cast that would go on to be stars, included are the aforementioned Howard and Williams joined by Richard Dreyfus, Sally Struthers, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack, Bo Hopkins and Harrison Ford, the latter as John Milner’s nemesis Bob Falfa in a hot ’55 Chevy.
As for the Edsel camper photos, these are much appreciated although unlike the ’59 Ford Country Squire Camper, which was an undertaking by Ford in-house. The Edsel camper photos are of aftermarket variety as there was no Ford / Edsel camper option available back then. There was a company in California called “Kozy Kar Kamper” that made a camper style unit that fit into the Edsel trunk and then over the roof of the car, but only 24 were ever produced. They were similar to the pickup truck slide in campers.
Thanks for your letter Ken, enjoy Ocean City and keep that Edsel looking great.
Mickey Thompson memories: good and bad
Q: Greg, I enjoyed your article that featured Danny Ongais and Mickey Thompson that I saw in Auto Round-Up recently. I’m interested in hearing more about Mickey Thompson as I’m aware he is the one behind the great M/T slicks I have on my street class racer Chevelle 396. Thanks very much, John L., Lancaster, Pa.
A: John, you are correct that the M/T slick race tires are that of the original Mickey Thompson legend. Sadly two hit men, who have not been identified to this very day, murdered him and his wife. Michael Goodwin, his partner in numerous off-road racing events, was found guilty of arranging the double murder hit in 1988 of Thompson and his wife Trudy, but the actual hit men escaped on bicycles. Thompson had won a $531,000 judgment from Goodwin prior to his murder.
Those close to Mickey and Trudy, including the couple’s immediate family, pointed quickly to Mickey’s hotheaded former business partner Michael Goodwin as the mastermind behind the tragedy. Nearly 20 years later, Goodwin was found guilty by a Pasadena Superior Court jury in 2006 of two counts of first-degree murder. The actual gunmen were never identified or apprehended.
I received pre-publish book drafts on a book about Mickey Thompson titled “Mickey Thompson: The fast life and tragic death of a racing legend” written by Eric Arneson back in 2008. He published some of the most extensive information available on Thompson in his book, including both the famous and infamous details of his life and death.
He skillfully called on all who could help tell the story in this, the first, true account of what really prior to and after unknown hooded gunmen rode into a gated Southern California community on bicycles in March of 1988, ambushed Thompson and his wife, and brutally ended their lives while neighbors read the morning paper. Arneson points to the fact that the killers left behind more than $70,000 in jewelry, thus the obvious “hit” intentions. This book is still available on Amazon Kindle or in used formats.
John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted” and Robert Stack of “Unsolved Mysteries” featured the murders on their respective TV shows as did CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery.
The scandalous details of the crime, which Arneson explains in detail, and the years of legal wrangling that followed made for hundreds of splashy headlines and television sound bytes.
Personally I was always a fan of Mickey Thompson, although I never got the opportunity to talk to him in person. Thompson was, and always will be, one of my all-time heroes. He competed in every form of racing imaginable, although he might best be remembered for his 406.60 miles-per-hour land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1960 in his famed 4-engine Challenger I. Even today, Thompson’s line of off road and Baja aftermarket racing pieces and performance tires are popular aftermarket offerings.
However, Mickey Thompson gave much more to motor sports of all disciplines.
Thompson was an innovator at everything he did, and especially at Indianapolis. I held him in the same esteem as my late friend Smokey Yunick, especially when it came to pioneering designs that appeared at the brickyard. Sadly it was one of Thompson’s cars, which after much USAC “rule and tire height regulation changing” that made them too twitchy, started Indy’s double fatal crash in 1964 that took the life of Thompson’s driver, Dave MacDonald, and the popular Eddie Sachs. It was indeed a grim day in racing.
As you note in your question, Thompson always found time for drag racing. He fielded numerous top drag cars, including a twin-engine rail and a Pontiac Hemi dragster for legendary Jack Chrisman. Thompson’s funny cars soon made the scene, the top two being the dominating 1969 Ford Mustangs driven by the late Pat Foster and soon to be IndyCar star Danny Ongais that I wrote about.
Thompson later turned to Off Road racing, where he built a huge business that keeps growing to this day. Thanks for your letter John.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader input of collector cars, auto nostalgia and motorsports at email@example.com).
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