Drag Illustrated Issue 171, September / October 2021 | Page 63

that car !”
Frankie ’ s first brand-new vehicle was a 1962 Ford that he ordered new , and it took 16 weeks to finally arrive . By this time , Flanagan was hardly satisfied with anything stock . Four days after he took delivery of the brand-new 1962 Ford , his father walked outside and observed the car ’ s engine hanging from the limb of his pecan tree . “ My dad didn ’ t hardly know what to think when he saw that !”
During the same timeframe in the early 1960s , Flanagan also owned and raced a 1937 Chevrolet called “ The Vulture .” “ It was yellow with Hilborn injectors on it , a Muncie 4-speed with a Dana rear end ... made out of junkyard parts , but the car would run !” Flanagan smiles .
There was also the 1962 Chevy II , a straight axle gasser that he raced in practically every gas class there was . “ I raced that car to death !”
By now , Flanagan had long since left his first job at the laundromat and was working at Southern Bakery where his dad worked , but he soon realized the real money was to be made working on cars in his spare time . He owned an Amoco service station for a decade , but he was making a name for himself around Charlotte for working on hot rods inside the station . Flanagan ended up buying another shop in downtown Charlotte in 1968 and stayed at that location 31 years . “ That was the local racing hangout ... everybody knew that shop !” he says .
One of those up-and-coming gearheads was none other than Charlotte racing legend Charles Carpenter . “ Charles is my best friend ,” Flanagan says . “ I built him his first car when he was like 16 years old !”
There was even a five-year stretch when Flanagan went dirt track racing . Among his best memories was the night he hired an unknown young man to drive his car . “ Everyone was wondering who was driving my car , because it wasn ’ t my regular driver .” The young man was none other than Dale Earnhardt ! “ He wasn ’ t but about 17 years old , but man , he could drive a race car !”
Flanagan eventually washed off the red dirt and returned to his first love : drag racing . There ’ s been so many cars he ’ s owned and raced over the last 60 years it ’ s hard to keep track of them all , but if there ’ s one race car so distinct and recognizable that people can ’ t help but associate with the Flanagan family , it ’ s Frankie ’ s 1970 Z28 Camaro that he ’ s owned since 1972 .
Flanagan had a friend who owned a Sunoco station , and one day a wrecker dropped off the Camaro after it was involved in a crash . “ My friend told me that a guy paid cash for the car and his son wrecked it with no insurance ! Everything was there , but the front end was tore up , so I gave him $ 800 and took the car to my garage and covered it up and left it for about a year .”
He debuted the car at the dragstrip in 1974 with a 337ci small block that featured a pair of Gene Fulton-prepped carbs and a Lenco transmission , and it promptly tore the wheelie bars off on its maiden voyage ! “ The car did terrible wheelstands , but I was pulling gears and having fun ! The car ran great , but I still couldn ’ t outrun Fulton . I ran him every Sunday it seems ... he had that white station wagon that everybody hated !” Flanagan laughs .
By the time Rockingham Dragway opened in 1969 , Flanagan was excited to visit other area tracks . “ I was at Rockingham on opening day and didn ’ t miss a race for 18 years !”
By the mid 1970s he had outfitted his beloved Camaro with a 454ci big block bored 60 over . “ I ran big block in that car forever , before eventually returning it to a 355 small block with 6-71 blower .”
There was also a 1954 Chevy truck that ’ s been in the Flanagan family for eons , and it ’ s what Frankie and Miriam ’ s son , Kurt , first learned to race at Shuffletown Dragway , just as his father
September / October 2021 DragIllustrated . com | Drag Illustrated | 63