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During the researching of this story, I was luck enough to become friends with Roy Steffey. Roy was one the most mechinical gifted men I ever met and we spoke for hours going back over the early days. I have hours of tape that I cherish. Roy and his nephew John Marsh shared all the photos here and many more that I will be putting into an album on the site soon.
We lost Roy on April 24, 2017 and I miss talking with him and seeing him at the reunions RIP Roy

George Crittenden

Drag Racing Innovators



Roy Steffey - Logghe, Marsh & Steffey

IIn the late 1950’s two high school friends, Roy Steffey and Jim Marsh made the decision to give up street racing and go drag racing. Since Jim’s father was the local Justice of the Peace, this seemed the smartest way to continue to race. What follows is the story of how they progressed to Top Fuel and how Roy Steffey continued on to build the 1965 World Finals winner and go on to build and run some of the first of the flip-top Funny Cars.
 Roy Steffey was always a very innovative and calculating mechanic and fabricator. His accomplishments over his years in drag racing are proof positive of that so let’s take a look at how it all came about.
 Both Roy and Jim Marsh, who were to become brother-in-laws, worked for Logghe Stamping Company which did metal stampings for the Big 3 auto manufactures from their plant in Fraser, Michigan. The Logghe Co also started to manufacture dragster chassis and made quite a reputation in the business. Connie Kalitta won the 1962 March Meet using one of their chassis. It was well over a year old at the time of the big win and was the first car to hit 180 MPH.
Marsh & Steffey started what would become record setting careers with a D/Gas ’56 Chevy convertible. They modified the 265 engine, added three 2bbl. Carbs and homemade headers along with a homemade floor shift and went racing at the newly opened New Baltimore drag strip near their home in Michigan. With the help and advice from a friend at the GM Tech Center the car was quite competitive and took top honors with both Jim and Roy behind the wheel.
After racing the Chevy for a while Roy and Jim decided to build built their first dragster in 1959. Though certainly not state of the art it was the beginning of many great accomplishments to come. The first car was a homebuilt car as most were at that time; using 1934 Chevy rails for the chassis and a 265 C.I. Chevy for power. They started with a two-carburetor set up with a hand pump to pressurize thwhile still keepine fuel tank. They backed it up with a Chevy milk truck transmission using only second and high gears. Later they add a blower to the Chevy g it on gasoline.
Since money to race on was in short supply, they worked out a deal with their local friendly GM dealer to get access to the engines changed out in warrantee work. They would look for the ones with rod bearing problems that would most likely have a good block and then search for another with piston or cylinder wall troubles that should have a good crank. With two or three of these they had the makings of a race engine. They had a fair amount of success on the local Michigan strips with this car but like most drag racers wanted something faster and quicker.
The next step was a twin Chevy engine car still running on gas. They again built the chassis for the twin and with very short wheelbase the car never lived up to its expectations.

Their next dragster was a Logghe chassis car using a one of their very early design chassis that was referred to as the “square roll bar” type. The car-started life with an aluminum nosepiece but it was done away with after the first outing. In the beginning the dragster had a blown Chevy on gas for power that was later changed to a injected on nitro set up. It was while they were running the blower that their friend Connie Kalitta came by the shop with a visiting Don Garlits. He suggested they go to the injected nitro combo and he just happened to have a Hilborn injector and pump that he would sell them. After scrounging up enough money to buy the injector from Garlits, they proceeded to put it on a stock 327 Chevy block and put 70% in the tank. Although the stock Chevy did just fine for 5 runs on fuel, when Roy tore it down it was just about ready give it up. It did hold together long enough though for Roy to assemble another Chevy that was much better suited for the job with M/T pistons and rods and a Moldex ¾” stroker crank. This car and engine combination garnered them a number of Top Eliminator honors at surrounding tracks.
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The next car was the one that brought the Logghe, Marsh and Steffey team into the drag racing headlines. The car, known as the "Slot Racer" was unique in many ways with so many innovations that is hard to point them all out. The car was a lightweight design and while it was not the lightest car out there, the 140” wheelbase and a dry weight of 870# made for a very quick combo. The engine was again a small block Chevy but by punching the bore to 4 1/16” and stretching the stroke to 3 ¾”, Roy was able to make 389 cubic inches, making it one of the “biggest” little Chevy’s out there. The ¾” stroker crank was just one of the unique things about this Roy Steffey built Chevy. It was a Moldex forged crank made by the Dearborn Crankshaft Co. in Dearborn, MI. The advantages of a forged crank over the more conventional “welded” stroker’s are lightweight and strength. The crank was held in place by special Logghe built main caps and while running 12:1 piston on 90% nitro, the bottom end needs all the support it can get. Another unique innovation for a dragster at the time was the dry sump oiling system. The system used a Cummings Tri-Drive from the Sprint Car ranks, mounted on the front of the engine not only to drive the two oil pumps but also the fuel pump and the mount for the magneto to keep it out of the drivers line of sight. Roy went with an Isky cam and springs but used Pete Robinson rockers. Toped off with some very special Mondello heads and stainless steel headers, this is just a few of the innovations that earned the car the title of the “Worlds Quickest & Fastest Chevy in 1964.
While virtually unknown on the West Coast, the team was making headline with the unblown Chevy in their area with time and speeds in the 8.13 range and 185+ mph. The West Coast racers dismissed the times as not being accurate but after backing them up at West Salem, Ohio they were entered into the 1320 official records. While most of the West Coast guys were still non-believers, they were about to be proven wrong.
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CLICK Any Photo for a More Photos snd a Larger View

In February of 1964 the team loaded up and headed west for the annual march Meet at Bakersfield where hundreds of dragsters would be on hand from around the country. They wanted to get there a few weeks early to shake the winter cobwebs from the car that had been parked during the cold Michigan winter. Their first stop was at Long Beach, but with a track so slick that no one, including Don Garlits could get a bite of it, they were not able to do much more than impress everyone with the way the little Chevy could smoke the tires. (Editors Note; Wayne King who was racing on the So-Cal. tracks at the time told me that people would say, “that thing even smokes the front tires”
The "Slot Racer" making one of it's first runs on the west coast with the scoop that didn't
 work out because it siphoned fuel from the injectors.

 
You will notice that Roy tried a number of configurations on the injector tubes to try and get
the most from the small block Chevy


The next weekend they showed up at Pomona and proceeded to drop some jaws, when the fist run off the trailer was a scorching 8.17 / 183.66. On the next run the car slowed both in speed and e.t.  The problem was traced to the newly designed scoop atop the injectors that Pete Jackson at Enderle had warned them would not work. After removing the scoop and reinstalling the ram tubes the last run of the day was an 8.19 @ 180.
The next weekend was the March Meet and Jim Marsh qualified the car well up in the 32 car field for Top Eliminator with an 8.14 @ 185.05. They were the only C/Fuel Dragster to qualify against a field of 165 A & B/Fuel cars.

The "Slot Racer" on a qualifying run at Bakersfield
 
OK George,
  I will take you back to the spring of 1965 at the Bristol Spring Nationals and on Sat.
  and the last round coming up . We had burned a piston defeating Connie Kalitta
  and there wasn't time to replace it before the next round.
  Connie the great sportsman that he was came over and said what’s wrong.
  We immediately hit on a plan to pull both push rods from that Cly.and close the gap
  in the spark plug and swore the whole crew to secrecy that we had a problem.
  So the news wouldn't get to the Karamesines crew that we were crippled.
  This worked like charm as Maynard the great driver that he was got a hole shot
  on Chris and when he saw him out there I think he hit the panic button and his
  Eng. blew right after that. Maynard evidently knew this and had the chute out
  before the lights turning 7.99 and 142.40
  When it was all over the next day Connie came to us and said the Ford factory guys
  are all over me as they can't fig. out how a little 354 Chry. can outrun a 427
  SOHC Ford .
  I told Connie the trick was we had a 3.90 gear in the back and was turning that
   354 at 11000 rpm and Connie said yeah the Ford guys said to use a 3.23 gear
  so the Ford would turn a big mph.
  The way we managed to turn that rpm was Dave Schneider of Schneider Racing Cams
  had ground us a special cam that was designed to make horsepower at that rpm and he
  sent us a set of mouse trap springs for the exhaust rockers on the Chrysler that were on the heavy side. To give you a idea how strong the mouse trap springs were I had made a special tool of 3/4" steel that was over 24" long and had a old wrist pin welded on the end and you still had to pull hard to hook the spring on to the steel loop on the rocker arm.
  The other part of setup was to go to a junk yard and get the stock valves from a 354 Chrysler and regrind them use them instead of the oversize racing valves that most everyone else was using.
  The way we knew the rpm that we were turning was a fellow my the name of Jim Talbot came to the races one day and asked us if we would run a Jones Motrola tach with a minder hand.
  We agreed on 1 condition that the face would be covered with duck tape at all times and he was never to tell the number that he saw.
  George how much of this you would like to use is up to your editing. This was a race that you were at but I suppose you never knew how much intrigue was going on in the pits.


  Roy
 
In Roy’s own words
 
Hi George,
   I will take you forward to late in 1965 when Lincoln Mercury offered me a funny
   car to race and also a contract to build race Eng. for them .
   They started by shipping some of the 427 SOHC Engine's that were used in the 1965
   season by members of there race teams.
   These were to be torn down and salvaged for parts, it soon became apparent that the
   Engine's were having rod bearing problems.
   Some had spun bearings and some had the bearings pinned and were had egg shaped
   the pin holes to the point where they were ready to spin and the cranks were rough looking.
   When I called my boss at Lincoln Mercury he said that I was exaggerating that they never had bearing problems, so I figured , well I wasn't there when they ran these engines so maybe they ran them out of oil or over rev. them.
   They shipped me two brand new engines to modify to run on Nitro so Don Nicholson could test them in Florida, as he was to get the first new Logghe car.
 
   I assembled them and they shipped the car to Florida for testing with 70% as their engineers said that's all that was necessary to run and not to go over it.
   On the first run the engine kicked a rod out in the lights so they said it was just a fluke and lets put the spare engine in, on the next run it went thru the 1/4 OK but on the next burn out for a second run the oil pressure fell off and you could hear the squealing over the exhaust. I said thought you didn't have a bearing problem and they said you must have not assembled the engines right.
   So now they had a new parts flown in to rebuild a engine and Al Turner and Don Nicholson was the only  one allowed to work on it and I was just allowed to watch .
   Out of ear shot of them I said to one of my mechanic's I bet that one won't make it thru the 1/4 mile as I new there was still a problem.
   Sure enough the next day on the second burn out with out even making a run, it thru a rod out the side.
   As soon as I got back to Michigan I went to my friend Connie Kalitta and told him of this problem as he had  been running the Ford cammer for some time.
   He said you can't run the narrow Ford bearings as they won't hold the load and will spin.
   If you go to Bob Gillan at Moldex Tool he will cut the Ford crank for the wider and .060 smaller Chrysler bearings that will cure your problem.
   So now I drove to Dearborn to Fran Hernandez office ( the head of Lincoln Mercury's Racing ) and told him
   the Ford guys are using crank's with Chrysler rod bearings and he looked at me like I was swearing in church and said they are not.
   I said why don't you call Charley Grey ( the head of Ford racing ) and ask him and he called right then and Charley told him he had never heard of such a thing.
    So I stormed out and went straight to Moldex and when I walked in there was a Ford crank laying there with a tag hold for Charley Grey with the wide bearing all done.
    I asked Bob if I could borrow it for 1 hour and he said sure.
    Now I am back in the Mercury parking garage and hot under the collar and I put that crank over my shoulder and up to the 7Th floor by elevator and brought the crank in sat it on his desk.
   From then on we got all our cranks from Moldex and the bearing problem was gone .
   That was racing for the factory in 1965 and how the 2 divisions got along.
 
    Roy

 
In Roy's Own Words
Hi George,
  I have another story for you from the old days, I will take you back to 1966
  and I was racing a 1966 Mercury Comet funny car at The Indy Nationals and we went through the rounds of eliminations and for the last round the only car left was Don Nicholson with the other factory Comet and we blew his doors off and won the funny car class at the nationals. To win any class at that event is probably the greatest achievement in drag racing and a funny car win is almost like winning top fuel.
  So a day or two later when I went to Fran Hernandez office at Lincoln Mercury and expected to be congratulated on the win at Indy .
  Fran said to me come hear and look what is wrong with your car, and he showed me a photo of my Comet and Nicholson's ( leaving the starting line about 20' out ) and he said see look at  the front of your car its all twisted with the left front tire is about 3' in the air and the right about 18" up.
  Now look at Nicholson's its level and both front tires are only up about a foot
and I said BUT Fran who won .  
 
  He said but that is beside the point and I left and on the way down in the elevator I thought if he only knew the reason for the twist was my car had about 150 more H.P. that Nicholson's due to a few hand made parts that Lincoln Mercury didn't know anything about.
  Later in Nov. of 1966 we beat Don 2 straight in California for the Drag Racing number 1 spot.
 
  Take care of your self George.

  Roy






 Hi George,
  We won the championship in 1965 and I started working for Mercury in the
  fall of 1965 building motors and getting Nicholson car ready for testing in
  Fla.
  Later they sent us to California to watch Nicholson run at the Winter
  Nationals as my car was waiting on a body to be made and Al Berglar
  to do the tin work inside the body.
  Nicholson proceeded to lose the body near the finish line as one of his crew
  didn't fasten the latch at the front right.
  The factory guys proceeded to make it worse as they burned the fiberglass
   body near the end of the strip and there was a column of black smoke
  hundreds of feet in the air.
  What were they thinking?
  When I returned to Logghe’s shop the first thing I did was design a secondary
  spring loaded latch to hold to body down in case the main latch wasn't hooked.
 
  We quit running the Prussian in 1965 and it went to Logghes as they actually
  Owen the car and we just raced it and I am not sure what happened to it after
  that.
  I saw the car recently in a garage near Waterford Mi. and the owner is planning
  to restore it.
 
  One of the things that I invented for the 1966 Comet was a ratchet type shifter,
  even though we were using a auto Tran. we shifted it manually.
  The shifter that Mercury gave us the driver had to look at it to get the next gear
  and this resulted in a swerve at each shift.
  A straight line is always faster .
   So I came up with a shifter that all the driver had to was hit it forward 1" and
   it went to second and 1 more push forward was hi gear.
   This used ratchet to do this and you didn't need to look down , no more swerving.
   Logghe's started using them on there funny cars and later I made one for
   Mickey Thomson and went to Detroit Dragway to install it on the funny car that
  Danny Ongais was testing.
  The 1966 Comet was painted by the factory reps.a chrome yellow to start with
  and the two tone paint was the drivers idea and was hated by me and Lincoln-Mercury.
  Yes Schartman was the driver.
   The hi lite of the Comet was winning the funny car class at the Indy Nationals
   and taking the # 1 spot away from Nicholson for the Drag Racing Magazine
   list.
   Yes in 1967 Maynard Rupp joined back up with me and I was glad to have
   him back as we made a good team.
   In the 1967 season Dick Day from Car Craft Magazine set up a interview for
   us with Eastman Kodak to sponsor the Cougar and they were to build a
   body for us out of a new clear plastic that they were developing at that time.
   This is the clear type that is rigid and when its dented will spring back to
   it original shape, that why there is a cover of Car Craft Mag. with the Cougar
  on it with a see thru body.
  This whole thing fell thru due to politics at Eastman Kodak.
   Next Dick Day arranged for the car to be sponsored by S.T.P., the deal was
   $25,000 to build the car and all the spare parts and at the end of the season
  we had to bring it to Andy Grandotelli and he installed it in his museum.
  This car ran well and we won lots of race's with it and set some records.
  But by the end of the season at Indy the blown cars had inproved to the
  point ware the unblown cars not competitive.
  At the end of 1967 I was running a race garage and was building motors
  and Maynard decided to start flying for a living as he had a full pilots lic.
  At this point I was burned out from all the traveling and when I totaled the
  hours spent working ,racing and traveling it avg. 90 to 100 hr. per week.
  So I was making a lot of money but the hourly rate was less that $5.00
  Later my father talked me into going into bus. with him using my shop.
  I did this for quite a few years and the bus. still know as RSE is still
  in existence.
  In 1992 I started working for T.D.M. as a tool maker and later as a tool
  designer.
  We were building the tools that were used on the assembly lines in
  Detroit and other places to build cars.
  Later I worked for G.M. luxury division as a contract engineer .
  Today I am partly retired but still work part time for a friend in a tool shop
  mostly doing Quality control and when I find something that made isn't right
  fix it.
  The other thing is occasionally a fishing guide and a big part of my time is
  looking after my stock portfolio mostly on line.
  This seem to be a place for some of my competitive energy and I have done
  well over the years.
  I have some stocks that I have owned for 25 years and I could see this oil
  problem coming 4 or 5 years ago by talking with some of the G.M. and Chry.
  Engineers.
  The thing right now is coal, natural gas and oil.
 ( Things are kind of jumbled up and if you need help to strighten something out
  lit me know.)
  Roy









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