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Dave Friedman/ Inside Shelby American
John Morton, author of Inside Shelby American, describes a hair-raising experience loading GT 40s in 1964.
Carroll Smith felt that much progress had been made on the GT 40s.
Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, and Richie Ginther had done a considerable amount of testing at Riverside. The modifications done at Shelby American seemed to be paying off. It was mid-February and time to load the cars for the 1965 Daytona Continental.
Unlike 1964, the race would include prototypes as well as GT cars. The race length would remain the same, 2,000 kilometers—approximately 1,220 miles. The coupes would be driven by Jo Schlesser/Harold Keck, Rick Muther/John Timanus, Bob Johnson/Tom Payne, and Allen Grant/Ed Leslie. The GT 40s would be handled by Ken Miles, paired with Indy car driver Lloyd Ruby, in one car; Richie Ginther with Bob Bondurant in the other.
The open car hauler was parked near the Carter Street building just beyond the vacant dirt lot across from the Princeton Drive headquarters. The truck driver, who I recall was Bill Gene, was not present. He was getting some rest before the long trip to Florida. Normally the truck driver is responsible for loading the cars, but in his absence, I was chosen to do the job.
The cars had to be driven up the ramp, which was really no problem for the cars on the bottom. But the cars that had to go on the upper level presented a bit of a challenge because they were geared for the high-speed Daytona tri-oval with a 2.88:1 rear-end ratio. They had to be driven up the steep ramp without slipping the clutch.
A damaged clutch would prove disastrous and require a change in Daytona before the race.
I lined the front wheels up with the bottom of the ramp and then accelerated hard without slipping the clutch. It was pretty scary but I successfully loaded two cars on the top level. There was only one car to go, and it would be a tough one because as soon as it crested the top of the ramp, it had to stop immediately to keep from rear-ending the car in front of it.
That car was Allen Grant's. It was running a little late because unlike the other three coupes, it was receiving a color sanding and final polish. When it finally emerged from the Carter Street paint shop, it was beautiful. Dennis Gragg and Allen had succeeded in putting the other three Daytona Coupes to shame.
The car was positioned for loading.
I said, "Allen, I'm not going to load your car."
"Why not?" Allen responded.
"Because if I screw it up, you'll kill me."
I'd known Allen for two years, even roomed with him in 1963. We were good friends, but he could be volatile.
"OK," Allen said. "I'll load it myself."
He removed one work shoe to reach the pedals more easily. He hadn't watched the loading because he had been in the paint shop putting the finishing touches to his car. I told him, "Line the front wheels up with the bottom of the ramp, then really gas it. Don't slip the clutch, but be ready to brake hard at the top or you'll hit the car in front."
Several of us watched as Allen lined the front wheels up with the ramp. But then he inexplicably backed up about 10 feet before charging forward. He hit the ramp hard but his alignment was off . The right side wheels rode up on the outer edge of the right ramp and about halfway up, the left wheels ran off the inside of the left ramp. The car fell between the two ramps and was prevented from falling to the ground by the half-inch rod that crossed between the two ramps to keep them parallel.
Phil Remington yelled to Allen, "Don't get out of the car!" He feared that if the rod holding it up broke as Allen was exiting the car, he would be seriously injured. Allen was in a state of shock. He jumped out of the car and in a frenzy ran in circles in the vacant damp dirt lot, one shoe on, one shoe off , kicking up a rooster tail of mud. Even as I envied his Daytona ride, at that moment, I was glad I was me.
The shop emptied. Everyone helped or at least watched as a forklift was pressed into service to rescue the poor car. Damage was minimal. The nose was quickly repaired and then sprayed in gray primer. The color would have to be applied at the track. When it was ready to travel, I loaded it successfully, a very small consolation prize.
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