Bob Keith, Maurice Williamson and
Bruce Ropner for all their help in the compilation of this
Dedicated to the memory of Gary Goodnight who first got me interested in the cars history & to Norman Barclay, the Father Of Extreme Sports
Click on the photos for a larger view
The Dos Palmos Story
The Goodnight/Keith & Williamson AA/GD made it first appearance in the UK in 1964. Known as the Dos Palmos Gas Dragster it became the first American Dragster to be imported into the UK the following year. It carried its drivers to some important milestones and set various records before returning to its homeland. I became interested in the history of the car when one of its former owners, Gary Goodnight, contacted me with his memories of his visits to the UK. They made great reading and I published them on this website (see the Anecdotes page). Gary was keen to find out what had happened to the car after it had been sold to the UK so I set about providing him with all the information I could find. Some months later Maurice Williamson, one of Garys partners from those early days, wrote to tell me that Gary had sadly passed away. He gave me the e mail address of Bob Keith, the third member of the team, and between us we set about putting this profile of the car together. Later I managed to speak to Bruce Ropner who was part of the UK consortium that purchased the car. I am very grateful to all of them for their help with this article.
Bob Keith has very kindly provided the first part of the story, the origins of the car.
"My two partners Gary Goodnight and Maurice Williamson and I became partners in 1964 and stayed together until I retired. We both miss Gary very much he was a great guy. By the way did you know that during all this racing he became very ill with kidney failure and was the very first male kidney transplant person in the US. He lived for another 30 years thanks to his moms kidney.
The Dos Palmos car was built by TV Tommy Ivo and the body was built by Jack Hageman. It was the second car Tommy built out of a total of 6 cars. Jack had built several drag car bodies but his main interest was midgets and Indy cars. The man was a real artist. The engine was a small block Chev which we bored and stroked out to 400 cu. in. which was unheard of in those days.
The machine work was done by Arnold Chaves of Dos Palmos Machine Shop hence the name of the car. (Dos Palmas or Palmos means 'Two Palms'. Arnold's shop was on his father in laws big dairy farm. It was named the Dos Palmas Dairy due to 2 large Palm trees at entrance to the property and the family being Portuguese).
I only did some tests with the car before it was shipped to the UK for the US Drag Team Festival. The trip came about through the efforts of myself and Sir Sydney Allard. We wrote and talked by phone for several months until we finally got Wally Parks of NHRA interested in the trip. We shipped the car on the USS United States along with several other cars in 1964 for the Festival. Sydney was a real gentleman and I enjoyed being with him for both our trips. If it wasn't for him I don't think the Festival would have ever happened.
After we got back from the UK in 64 we ran the car for about 8 months having very good success. It set a Nat Record at Riverside that year for ET. I can't remember the exact times but I think the best was around 8.0 sec et at 180 mph. Before our second trip to the UK we sold the car to a team in the UK and shipped the car to them.
I built a new Kent Fuller car for the second trip using a Chrysler engine this time. The small block chev just couldn't keep up with the big Chrysler engines. All the cars 8 in all that we took to the UK in 65 were top fuel cars. No one but a select few knew that our car was a gas car. The only thing we did was switch the nozzles and run it on alky. Not like the Nitro route but wanting to compete in the second Festival we told everyone it was a top fuel car. As you may or may not know we ran as good as most to the nitro burners running on straight alky.
After that trip we went to Australia in 1966 with the same car but this time with a Big Block Chev engine. It was the very first Blown Big Block Chevrolet ever built and again we only did some testing at Pomona Drag Strip before it was shipped down under. The engine ran great. We had no breakdowns the whole time we were there. We ran the car most every weekend for 2 months. It was on the very last run down under that it spun a bearing which we did not discover until our return to the US.
I would very much like to find the old Dos Palmos car and restore it. I understand that the last time it was seen was in Arizona somewhere. If anyone has any info please let me know."
Trakbytes contributor Cliff Watts, now a US resident, recently travelled to meet Bob and wrote to me with some more of Bobs memories of the car. Click here to read them.
September the 15th 1964 saw the S.S. United States arrive at Southampton with, among others the Dos Palmos car on board to take part in the Drag Festivals. The dates were Blackbushe September 19th, Chelveston September 20th, Woodvale September 26th, Church Fenton September 27th, Kemble October 3rd and back to Blackbushe on the 4th. The impact of these meetings on the UK competitors and fans who were there should not be under-estimated.
The pre-Drag Festival literature gave the cars spec as follows;
At the first meeting at Blackbushe Bob Keith ran 9.37 and 161mph. He went on to take the car to a best of 9.01 in the series with most of his runs being in the order of 9.25 seconds. The Drag Festivals were a great success. Thousands of spectators came to see the action and the Americans returned home having changed the face of British Drag racing forever.