Paul VanderLey Wins Hot Rod Title
Sunday, August 8, 1976
(Story By Ken Ernst) Herald Sports Writer (Photo By Gary McCutchan)
Paul VanderLey of Biloxi has claimed the 1976 National Hot Rod Association South Central Division IV Championship.
The popular Biloxian, who runs an automotive shop on Callivet Street amassed a total of 3400 points on the 1976 circuit to outdistance his nearest competitors Ed Wright and Jeff Leininger.
It was not until the final race of the season at Jackson just a few weeks ago that Paul took the crown as he stood in third place entering the Jackson race. But he came on strong to win the competition in his Modified Eliminator and won all the marbles.
What is even more amazing about Paul racing career is that it is strictly a family affair with his wife Kay and his three children Dan, age 19; Cathy, age 16; and Linda age 13 serving as his assistants and his pit crew.
Dan works with his dad on the engine while wife Kay and his two daughters serve as sort of a pit crew for Paul while he is at the race track.
The 1976 season began for VanderLey in March with a big win a LaPlace, La. From there it was on to El Paso, Tex. for a second big win. He went out in the second round at Baton Rouge, La. and Houston, Tex, but then came the big meet at Jackson and the victory that piled him up enough points to claim the title.
In all VanderLey picked up a total of 3400 points and will receive an invitation to the World finals in Ontario, Calif. on October.
VanderLey has competed in organized quarter mile competition since 1949, some 27 years and this is his first time to win a Modified Eliminator crown.
But that certainly doesn't take anything away from VanderLey's reputation as a skilled racer, as he is a man who has virtually raced every type of car, and has done well at it.
His recollections of his early experiences may well serve as an informative history of the quarter-mile sport.
VanderLey established a strong local following running at a track at Hamond, La. once a month with an assorted number of flatheaded-powered entries. But than he moved on to Southern California upon his sisters advice to finish his schooling.
While at Santa Barbara in the early 1950's Paul became acquainted with Bob Joehnck, one of the pioneer's of drag racing. VanderLey campaigned many a car with Joehnck, including a 1932 'high boy' roadster with a blown 358 destroked flathead and a 1923 model T Ford, which was equipped with the first set of commercial injectors produced by Hiborn. That car ran a best of 137 miles per hour at Pomona in 1954, and was the subject of a three page feature in Hot Rod Magazine that year.
In 1956, VanderLey moved back to Biloxi and has been a native ever since. It was then he began his productive dragster era, starting with a 331 Chrysler powered entry, and working up to a 329. By 1959, he had moved into the eight second zone and recorded a speed of 178 miles perhour on gasoline.
In 1961, VanderLey bought the third "Swamp Rat III" of Don Garlits, and switched to fuel. In mid 1962 he turned the driving over to J.L. Payne and later Connie Swingle as he put his own time into the engine building business.
In 1964 he had his first experience with a 'door slammer' when his reputation as a top fueler earned him a chance to campaign one of the 10 factory built Comet A/FX entries. That car recorded legal times of 10.80's, 128 miles per hour by the end of that year.
The mid 1960s were unproductive when a shop fire in 1966 destroyed his cars and stock, but in 1968 VanderLey came back with a Super Stock Hemi-powered 'Cuda', which he ran until 1969.
In 1970, he switched to a 1967 Camaro for the Modified Eliminator and was then he built his first 287 small block Chevrolet engine, a powerplant that is now his specialty.
But that car gave way to his present car, a 1961 Corvette that was formerly owned by Dick Moroso. Not only is this car one of the quickest 12 pound cars in the country, but it had one of the first successful four line suspension systems developed for Modified entry. VanderLey gives credit to fellow racer Bob Callaham for his assistance with the device.
But with all the experience VanderLey had, it is only recently with the Camaro and Corvette that he has competed strongly for National honors.
VanderLey shows no signs of slowing down as he now heads for the World competition.
So after 28 years and just past 40, things are starting to look bright for Paul VanderLey.
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