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Dick Landy Passes 01-11-07


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Old 01-13-2007, 01:02 AM
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Dick Landy Passes 01-11-07

Mopar: When did you get started in drag racing?



DL: I got started drag racing in 1956. I was racing one of the four-letter word cars -- Ford - up until 62’. But in the middle of 1962 Chrysler came out with the 413 cube dual quad crossram wedge, what’s come to be known as the “Max Wedge”. At that time we were doing pretty well with our Ford but it was obviously not going to be competitive for much longer, we could see the handwriting on the wall - and the Mopar’s times! In the middle of the year as soon as they came out with the car I switched over to Mopars.



Mopar: Interesting! Can you explain a little more?



DL: In 1962 people from Chrysler, like Bob McDaniels and Ronnie Householder saw that I was doing pretty good here on the west coast and offered me a car and parts and pieces, to race their Chrysler because not many people were racing them. I said ‘Well, let’s try it out, let’s see what the deal is.’ I had heard a lot about it. They brought a car out and I ran it, and I realized that in dead-stock tune it was going almost as fast as we were going with our highly modified "stock" cars at that time. I was just shocked. I had to switch. The performance is what I liked. At that time, I said ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So, they furnished me with a Plymouth, and I raced that all through ’62. Then in ‘63, I got the 426" Wedge, I believe they called it the Stage 2 at that time. I raced that all through that season. Then Dodge came along in ‘64 and wanted me too, because I had mainly raced on the west coast, so the Dodge dealers up here in Orange County wanted to sponsor me and they switched me over to a Dodge. I raced the Dodge Wedge that whole year. It was just fabulous. We were doing great! We were just kind of whipping everybody, you know, it was just remarkable. Chevys and Fords were dead meat, you might say… it was great.



Then, in February 1964, they pop up with this Hemi® engine, a creation of Tom Hoover and the boys - they have always been my heroes through the years. The things I’ve learned from them is just unbelievable and we had a good relationship at that point going over to the Hemi. By mid-year, we switched over to the Hemi two-door sedan with the aluminum front-end. It was fabulous. You know, we really, really dominated out here on the coast and it worked out really well. We went back east once with it, ran a few exhibition match races, raced at Indianapolis and we qualified, and did really well.



Soon, they came back to me and said we’re going to build these real odd-ball cars. They had looked at my car and already noticed some of the things I had been doing such as moving the wheelbase around a little bit. The rules weren’t very strict at that time; they didn’t watch very closely for the wheel-base. They decided to build a radical A/FX type style car. We didn’t call it an A/FX but the sanctioning bodies did. We raced a ‘65 Dodge, and man, that was just a killer car. We just totally dominated everything that was out here. Unfortunately, NHRA decided that they had no stock class for it -- we’d have to run it in a class they’d created called A/FX. The people there at Chrysler said they didn’t want me to race, they wanted me to go out and go across the country. We’d get exposure for the vehicle and not worry about running the NHRA because it wasn’t getting enough exposure that way. We could get a lot more exposure with these cars, get a lot more exposure for the dealers and their parts program at the time. So, we took the car out and did match racing, just up and down everywhere. Racing AHRA, which was far more lenient with their rules or left the rules the way they were, they didn’t change them when they saw the car. Because it was highly modified, it had some 15” wheelbase adjustment. So we raced all through that circuit there. It was probably the best car I had. Probably the most profitable car because of all the match racing we could do with it. It was such a wild looking car, everybody wanted to see it.



In ‘66, they built a Hemi powered Dart and of course it was lighter. We had the wheels moved around too, and we raced that. We did real good with it, but along came the flipper-body Mercury cars, with their overhead cam engine. On the Dart, we were making so much power at this time, the chassis and hadlinge became a very serious problem. Still, we did some experimenting with a supercharged engine that the Ramchargers built. They actually built a couple of them for me. Then Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin got working on a tube-framed deal like the Mercury and Ford guys were using. This was the route we were going to go for the following year.



These cars had become exotically funny at the time. There was no real category for them in any of the racing associations. They were mainly exhibition cars. But they were good cars for us because we could make a lot of money match racing them. But then Mr. Cahill and the other Chrysler bigwigs finally decided that we needed to go back to something more like what our customers buy. At that point they called me, Buddy Martin and Ronnie Sox in, and we sat down and talked. "You know, we have a plan here, and what do you think of it? We’d like to take you guys and schedule some performance clinics at dealerships".



Well, it all sounded pretty good to us. We really thought, boy, this could really turn into something a little more professional and a lot more credibility going to the dealer showrooms. So, I went along with it and of course Ronnie and Buddy went along with it. We did all the dealer clinic programs and we called ours the "Dodge Performance Clinic." The dealership we‘d go to generally was in the area where we had a race coming up. At this time, we went back to racing with all the sanctioning bodies, NHRA, IHRA, and AHRA. We had the fullest schedule possible. There were so many races, we couldn’t possibly participate in all of them. Then, they started a little bit of handicapping on us, but it was expected because we just dominated!



By this time, the Mopar Performance Parts thing was rolling along. Back then, it was called Chrysler Special Parts and then it was Direct Connection. And then finally it became known as Mopar Performance Parts. They really started a brand new business for Mopar with the Mopar products - a tremendous amount of business. And I believe the dealer programs we did were just tremendous because we’d get a thousand people into a dealership. The showrooms were very small. They were just packed outside. And we’d sit there with these display boards all stacked up and laid out with the good high performance parts attached to them so we could show and explain it to them. We even gave away some jackets for participating and had them fill out cards, which was all beneficial to the parts program. We did this for three years. The street guys loved it.



In 1970 we were still running those cars. But in '68 they had released the factory-built Hemi Dart and Hemi ‘Cuda and they became another match race style car. Back then, we had no idea that it was the quickest factory car that would ever be built, anywhere, anytime.



When you weren’t busy doing the clinics or racing at one of the meets you’d go out to the little-teeny race tracks, where they still got maybe 5,000-6,000 people out. Some of them 10,000 and at the big tracks up to 20,000 people come out watching; there were big crowds for those days. It was grassroots exposure for Mopar and Chrysler. It my case it was Dodge then and Ronnie and Buddy were Plymouth. It didn’t cost us much money because you had a little income from the dealers in the match racing. Then you’d run the national meets. So it worked out great. In ‘70 we stopped that and the clinic program just kind of faded away. The insurance, safety, and emission stuff was starting.



We kept racing, and finally they created Pro Stock in 1970, which was a class where all these type of cars that we had been match racing could all get together and race. So, we actually fought and and lobbied to get them to create this class and they finally agreed. Then we ran that class and we were whipping everybody, the Chevrolets and the Fords and pretty soon they were letting small blocks race big blocks, you know, 500, 426 cubic inch motors racing a little small block 327 Chevrolets and small block Fords. But they had to handicap, they kept handicapping these cars continually. Literally, it almost put us out of racing at that time. It was pretty disappointing. At that point, which was about '74, we wound up having to go back to match racing to make things work, to still get exposure for Mopar Performance, which those people were helping pay, helping us race. So we went back to doing the match racing. Then it appeared that they were trying to handicap the Hemis so badly that we decided to go back to the small block. They experimented with Bob Glidden, and fixed him up. In fact the car they used was the car I was building and they gave it to him to build a small block. They furnished a motor and got the whole program started. So, for a year he raced a small block. Fortunately, he did very well. In fact, after he’d run the car a few months he was winning a lot. So, at that time I decided I was going to build another car, a Charger with a small block. Well, again they started handicapping and pushing weight here, pushing weight there. This all sounds like sour grapes but it’s really what happened, NASCAR was no different. Everybody knew what was happening, GM had the money, and it was bad for Chrysler.



It evolved to the point where there was no sense even going out to race. We just couldn’t even afford to pay our crews and the fuel costs to go to the races and race under those conditions. We'd just start to get dialed in and, 6 months later, they'd change the rules -- put an extra half a pound per cubic inch, or what have you. It ended up where we were coming to the starting line with a little 318 cubic incher, and there’s a 396 Chevy sitting there and we have a small block Mopar, which were excellent running engines, a lot of good parts Mopar built for them . But we were carrying so much weight it was just difficult to accelerate all that weight. And they had the advantage, there was just no where to go. Six months later they would change it again. I basically quit racing at that time and got involved with the Mopar Performance guys, and their engineering people, development people. I continued on just doing some development work, testing, and writing magazine articles out here on the west coast. They’d come out with a new product and we’d try to get it exposed. So, we did that for quite a few years. It kind of evolved. It was a lot of good cooperation. Bob Cahill had set-up a system originally and everyone followed through with it, even after he retired. They tried to get the fuel people, the manifold people, the suspension and transmission people all organized in a group and had meetings to keep everything organized so that, if they’re going to make a part, they’re going to make a part that’s needed, not just an idea that one individual had. It worked out really great. They came up with some fabulous parts that people are using today. I thank them a lot for supporting me all through the year. But, I stayed with them also, a lot of people switched and went on with someone else.



Mopar: How did you learn about drag racing?



DL: A friend of mine owned this ‘56 Ford pick-up. And the local tracks created a pick-up class because so many people out here, this was farming country, had pick-ups and they had it at about six or seven tracks. They were all individual track records, they weren’t really organized together. Some of them were AHRA, NHRA. The other ones we used to name them “outlaw tracks.” If the guy had an old airport they’d have races every weekend. We would go out there, they had this class, and we’d run it. I just learned the hard way, by breaking gear boxes, losing clutches, and breaking rear ends. Fortunately, the rule everyone agreed on was if it had a truck part number you could use it. The Ford did quite well until Chevrolet showed up with their fuel-injection. At that time, we weren’t competitive because that was, a true, complete high-performance engine. We could take the four-barrel carburetor put it on the truck Ford V8 engine but that was about all we could really do. You could put a cheater cam shaft in there (they didn’t know how to measure them in those days). Different heads raised the compression up. It was just a lot of fun. The whole thing…how to be ingenious or find a way to get by the rules and it put a lot of fun into the whole thing. I mean, you’d go home and try to create some way you could get by the rules to run faster, without them throwing you out for it.



Mopar: When you first started racing was it just for pride?



DL: Sure. Pride or the trophies. There was no money involved. We’d work all day, get off work, and go work on the truck. That’s all the guy that owned the car and myself did every night. Then we took it out to test it with our Mickey Mouse stop watch on an old street in Northridge, just to feel how it ran, and whether it was going to break or not. We’d race somebody else all the time. The beginning was out at an industrial park that had a nice paved road. There was nobody on it, it was brand-new, no buildings on it, it was just street. Then my brother bought a ‘60 Ford high-performance when it first came out, the fast-back job…and I got involved with that. I was noticed by a guy who had a dealership, Andy Andrews. He had a car dealership where he sold Chevrolets and Fords, and later on Mopars when they came out. He hired me to come in and try to sell a few cars, then go out and work on the car, and eventually, go to the races with him where he’d drive it. He had a tremendous problem with driving, especially coordinating the column shifts that were really difficult to shift. So, he put me in there. In fact, he used to smoke these big cigars. He would come over and give me one for good luck. I got used to it, and felt that every time I went somewhere, like the starting line of a race or working on the car, I felt naked without one. So, it became a habit. I never smoked them. Once in a while I’d light one up when somebody gave me one, but I couldn’t stand to smoke them.



Mopar: Do a lot of people give you cigars?



DL: Yeah, that’s the number one thing they’ll give me. They want me to sign another one or a couple for themselves, you know.



Mopar: Do they know that you don’t smoke them?



DL: Yeah, pretty much a lot of the people do. What they’ll say is, “I never see you light it.”



Mopar: Now, throughout your life it sounds like you made a living off racing in some way, or being involved with racing. Is that correct?



DL: In 1961 I went completely into racing. I had owned a dyno tuner shop with a chassis dyno. I was the first one out here in the West Valley, the whole west city of L.A., that had one. Mine was designed and built for high-performance engines. Most of the dynos around here were for big diesel trucks, so they could set their fuel-injections on them. I used that, and raced it and, it worked out really well. I had a lot of business. Racing was like a bug that you caught. When I was getting so busy with the racing, I just closed the shop one day. I kept it to work on my car, but I stopped doing outside business. That was back in 1964. 1965 is actually when I really began traveling farther east. That’s when I was working 100 percent, full-time for Chrysler. But, that’s kind of how I got involved, the original fun and enjoyment of trying to beat the other guy, knowing the rules, and pushing them right to the end.Both the cars I raced were very, very, competitive. There was always the challenge there to try and make more power. In those days we did everything, you ended up driving and doing the engine work, too. You couldn’t afford a mechanic and a driver. There wasn’t enough money in the beginning. Of course when television came it just opened things right up for sponsorship funds.



Mopar: Did you ever think you could make a living racing?



DL: Not at first. I didn’t think so but I took a chance. I didn’t really close my shop up totally, I just closed for the summer – just put a sign on it! I had a match race set up and I raced three times a week at three different tracks. I’d only race one NHRA track. But the rest of the time I was out match racing. And you got paid money to do that. Then in those days you could sell your pictures. As it got more professional they would make what they call Hello Cards and posters. You couldn’t sell them because your sponsor was giving them to you just to give out to people. They wanted a lot more exposure. And signing autographs, in those days an autographed picture you got paid for it since there was no competition. You’d make as much selling your pictures and T-shirts as you would racing. Many times a lot more. It got to the point where I had to have one guy come along and that’s all he did. He drove the truck or rode in the truck all the time and stayed in the hotels. I paid all the expenses and all he did was collect and I’d just give him a small percentage. He’d just sit there while I was racing the car, he’d be selling pictures. You could make thousands of dollars doing that.



Mopar: So they call you “Dandy” Dick Landy, is that correct?



DL: Yeah, Eric Belcore from Hot Rod Magazine nicknamed me that because I was very meticulous with my dress. Most the guys out on those cars looked like grease monkeys - they looked like the guys working in sewers. These days, guys are pretty clean in the workshops, but years ago guys used to just let all the grease sorta hang on their clothes. They never took a rag up and wiped their hands off, but I wore white tennis shoes, matching shirts and pants. And we had fancy shirts with our name on it. Like golf shirts, not T-shirts. I guess we were pretty dapper Dan looking. And they nicknamed me that when they did an article on one of my cars back in '64. Most people had a nickname on their cars. You know, Don Purdell and “the Snake”, like that. They all had kind of a little nickname and soon mine was “Dandy” Dick.



Mopar: How did you feel about that?



DL: It sounded a little crude to me being from a real staunch catholic family. And using the word “Dick,” you know. My parent’s would never use that name. Everybody else nicknamed me “Dick,” I didn’t. But I was always Richard to my family and still my good friends still called me “Richard.” But some days it sounded like a dirty word or something.


Last edited by ViperJeff; 01-19-2007 at 03:53 AM.
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Old 01-13-2007, 01:41 AM
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The passing of a legend............RIP D.L.....

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Old 01-13-2007, 01:43 AM
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He had a very large part in the early part of my dad's career. I got to know his grandaughter a few years ago. Great people.
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Old 01-13-2007, 02:06 AM
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He had a very large part in the early part of my dad's career. I got to know his grandaughter a few years ago. Great people.
1Fast, do you Barry Connor

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Old 01-13-2007, 03:17 AM
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IIRC, one of Mr. Landy's rides was featured at the Mopar Nats. last year. I remember seeing it from a distance and saying, "Wow...look at that goofy ride.". When I got closer and read the details, and saw the numbers, I quickly changed my mind.

R.I.P. Mr. Landy.
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Old 01-13-2007, 06:19 AM
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i cant believe it... he lives a block from me I've known him my whole life.... his grandson and I grew up together. my prayers are with him and his family... i'm in total disbelief.
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Old 01-13-2007, 08:35 AM
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R.I.P. Dandy Dick Landy.......
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Old 01-14-2007, 02:41 PM
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Dick Landy was a legend. I plan to make my '67 Coronet a HEMI car similar to his SS/B car which was blue with a white vinyl top. A white hat special if you remember the adds. Our prayers go out to his family. He and Ronnie Sox were pioneers of Chrysler drag racing.
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:24 PM
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Just had to bring this back. He was a real drag racer.


And look at some of the guys that replied!!
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:58 PM
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Just had to bring this back. He was a real drag racer.


And look at some of the guys that replied!!

yep

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