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RTTTTed On November - 29 - 2010

Your Attitude:  Winner or Loser

By Ted Hlokoff


Sometimes the smallest things make the difference between winners and losers.

During the summer of 1982 while I was enjoying the glory of a ten year winning streak Street-racing in the Vancouver, B.C. area, but I may have met my ‘match.’

I was racing a successful combination of a 440 engine in a lightened 1972 Charger SE.  Without the money required to build an extremely fast engine, I’d learned how to port heads and all the little tricks that add a few horsepower.  A few hp here and a few hp there, added to a car that I’d lightened by a thousand pounds meant that my car was a force to be reckoned with.  Street racing meant that there were two classes of racing.  Slicked and street tired.  Slicked meant that many race cars were faster than mine.  But, street tires were the great equalizer back then.  With only 1 choice of traction design for our tires too much power meant slower, unless you were an expert on the launch.  Overpowered meant less throttle and short shifting at lower speeds to maintain traction. 

By August I had won every race I entered everywhere I had gone.  Only four vehicles were within two car lengths of catching me and friends of mine owned them all.  Supported by cousins, a wife and my two children, life was great. 

The strongest competition I found that year was a twenty thousand-dollar LS7 engine in a 1972 Chev pick-up.  The owner was from Washington and we became friends within minutes of meeting.  When I raced against a primer brown pick-up I only beat him by one car length, and losing didn’t bother him any.  The pick-up was sold to my cousin Joe Delehay later that year.  Within two years Joe redesigned and rebuilt the pick-up into the “World’s Fastest Pick-up” and raced professionally.  But in1982 it was merely one of the fastest on the street.

I raced many times each night that summer’s weekends.  Many of the new people came to Latimer Road to race and make friends.  Some people didn’t take losing well and not only didn’t become friends but also didn’t come back.

The night I met Joe Delehay’s friend John and his pick-up was warm and clear.  I was driving the eight miles from my house to our unofficial quarter mile strip when I was stopped by my cousin Darren Hassell and two other cousins.  They informed me that a pick-up awaited me to race for ‘Pinks’ or money.  I immediately asked what kind of pick-up to see if I was interested in owning it.  “Piece of Junk” did not entice me to wish ownership.  I parked my Charger on the side of Latimer Road and walked back to the only primer brown pick-up there.

Upon finding the owner of the pick-up I asked him, “So, you want to race for pink slips?”

To which he replied, “No, I only race for fun.”

After a short conversation he opened his hood and showed me the engine.  It was impressive; a Holley Dominator Carb sat atop a bored out LS7.  The biggest, fastest race-only engine ever built by General Motors.  Seeing the 2 1/4” Hooker headers hanging below the pick-up’s frame I knew this engine was a “force to be reckoned with.”  It was obvious that a large amount of money had been spent on the engine in this seemingly one hundred-dollar pick-up body.  Racing it should be interesting.  We spoke for a few minutes and the pick-up’s owner John, agreed to race.  I offered to help him remove the shovels, picks and wheelbarrow for the duration of the race.

“That is my traction,” John informed me, “Without the extra weight I wouldn’t have a chance of winning.”

With a greater respect for him, I went to my car and got ready to race.  We both warmed our tires and pulled up to the starting line.  My cousin Darren dropped his arms signaling us to go and jumped into the ditch for safety.  Side by side our two big blocks screamed as they tortured the smoldering tires trying to find traction and launch us down the road.  Our tires looked to be on fire at the one-hundred foot mark still leaving clouds of smoke behind us.  My Charger starteded pulling ahead of the mighty Chev as I gained traction.  Inch by inch I pulled away from the pick-up until I was completely ahead of the opposition.  One of the closest races I had during the thousands of races I had won.  The feeling crossing the finish line was sweet indeed.  John and I became quite good friends and enjoyed each other’s company often during that summer and fall.

One evening in September a metallic Green 1968 ‘Cuda came out to Latimer Road while I was there with my friends.  Straight body and clean lines, this ‘Cuda looked good.  The driver parked his car across the street from me.  I moved from my car to look at this potential threat to my being the “King of the Street-racers.”  I recognized the sweet sound of a big block as the ‘Cuda parked.

The driver got out of his car and yelled, “Where’s the owner of this piece of junk?  I came to blow his doors off.”

I do not allow people to treat me with disrespect so I ignored him while I checked out his car.  The wheel wells had been enlarged to allow installation of tires the size of mine.  A deep sump oil pan and 2” Hooker headers hung below the car’s frame.  Masking tape was on the shifter with the forward gears marked backwards, a sure sign that a Cheetah Valve Body, like mine, was installed in his automatic transmission.  I knew that this car had been built by someone who knew what he was doing.

The owner had been yelling and frustrated, was near his car yelling again, “Who owns this piece of junk?” while he pointed at my car.

“I own that car,” I answered from two feet behind him.

“Why didn’t you answer me?” he asked.

“Because you were insulting.”

“Go start that piece of junk because I’m going to beat you bad,” he said to my face.

“Thanks, but I’ve raced ten times tonight and I don’t feel like racing anymore,” I told him, with a poker face.

He was stunned!  “Uh, you can’t do that.  I spent two years building this car just to kick your ass,” he finally stammered.

Did I take pity on this poor pathetic individual?  Hell no, I decided to give him a taste of the worst kind of humiliation…

I let the realization that I didn’t have to race him sink in.  Finally, I figured he knew the situation.  “All you have to do for me to race you is beat that junky looking pick-up over there and then I’ll race.”

He got really upset again.  “I didn’t come here to embarrass myself racing any junk but yours…”  He went on and on.  I was insistent that if he couldn’t even beat a Junker pick-up with a wheelbarrow in the back, I certainly couldn’t be bothered to race him.

Finally, and ungraciously, the driver of the ‘Cuda agreed to race.

At the start of the race the ‘Cuda’s driver used first gear.  As I had expected the overpowered ‘Cuda could not get any traction.  The pick-up of John’s spun his tires for a hundred and thirty feet and then drove to the finish line.  The ‘Cuda had just passed the halfway point of the quarter mile with smoke still coming from his tires as John became the winner.

The ‘Cuda driver, now totally humiliated by the “Junky pick-up,” took his foot from the accelerator and quietly went on his way without stopping.  He didn’t return that year.

I installed highway gears in all my big blocks to decrease the torque and enhance the traction of all my “overpowered” Street Machines.  Had the ‘Cuda driver been friendly, I would have told him of this and suggested he start in second gear because he had a manual shift valve body in his transmission.  Starting off  in second gear was 4 car lengths faster out of the hole!  Instead I responded to his bad attitude with my own.  Older and wiser now, I would handle that situation differently.  However, if he would have presented himself as an equal instead of my better, I would have tried to help him win races.  I would have explained that the looks of the pick-up had absolutely nothing to do with the shiny 20K engine under the hood.

The people who have earned their titles and always win usually do so for good reasons.  Usually they love what they do and often that allows them to be the best—even if they don’t have as much money as the other guys.  Most of the time intelligence, devotion and desire figure a way to overcome such minor inconveniences as money shortages.  And … there is always skills needed for every driving contest.  We learn to be better, none of us is ‘born’ fastest, its a skill that we learn.

-the end-


Before getting sideswiped by a guy running a stop sign and painting the BEAST, I received a ticket for Bald Tires.  These tires aren’t bald!  Here I am warming them up just before spanking a 440 ‘Cuda.  


Categories: Non Viper Stories

2 Responses so far.

  1. Leslie says:

    Wow great story Ted!

    You are one amazing individual.


  2. Trevor Cameron says:

    Hey Ted,
    this is a great story with a great moral to it. All of us have been “humbled” at one time or another and it is all about learning to be a bit humble all of the time.


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