I’ve loved smoke shows ever since I was a kid.
We used to live in the country and there was a well-oiled gravel road in front of the acreage so the local kids used to talk the local hoodlums into smoking the tires on this beat-up old road.
It was magic.
One of the best smoke show memories from my youth came from a friend of my older brother’s. Richard was a spoiled kid and he had a brand new ’67 Cougar with an insanely built 302 under the hood.
Richard was always obliging, even in the winter when he’d do a studded tire burnout complete with shredded road, a lot of smoke and a very cool spark show.
He’d even rip it up with his dad’s ’64 Chrysler New Yorker—you’d be amazed at how much smoke Richard could generate with that 413 and a brake stand. It defied every law of physics but none of us were that studious. We just liked results.
There was another guy who was a friend of another older brother (Bruce) and he drove a brand new ’68 Road Runner. This car was magic because it represented the Holy Grail to a Mopar-obsessed kid.
Doug was smart enough to order his Runner with a 4-speed so he could light up the tires on a whim. He’d play games with us impressionable kids so he’d build up the revs like he was going to do a big “hazer” then he drop them down and idle away like he was a 65-year-old librarian.
There was a life lesson in there somewhere about expectations versus reality but we wrote Doug off as a flake every time he did that to a bunch of unsuspecting kids. In kid world, no self respecting Mopar guy would not drop the hammer when asked—Doug was a traitor to the cause.
Bruce had another buddy who was always willing to do a smoke show but he had a big liability. He tried to do it with his dad’s tired old Studebaker. It’s the old story—the spirit was willing but the humble little Studey was weak.
This was an equal opportunity world so there were a few female draftees into the smoke show army back then.
One of them drove her dad’s ’64 Pontiac. It was a Canadian model so it had a 327 Chevy 4-barrel under the hood. Margaret was always obliging but the problem was she didn’t know how to do a brake stand so at best she’d get a chirp out of the tires.
We gave her an A for effort but the results were pretty uninspiring—we always hoped she’d get a dude like my brother Bruce behind the wheel to get that Poncho up to speed.
The other female driver only did a smoke show once in her dad’s Ford wagon. Dianne was a very conservative bookish type so she ignored our requests for a smoke show. This was a 390 4-barrel wagon and she caught the road on a smoking hot summer day so Dianne lit up the back tires like they were on fire.
It was magic, her kid brother bragged about it for weeks but she never repeated it.
That’s my early history with smoke shows and like every car guy on the planet—I never got over the magic.
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