KNOXVILLE, IOWA SUPERBIRD PACE CAR
by Sue George
Thanks to my good friend (and fellow member) Gregg Williams for bringing this story to fruition. Gregg and I were visiting one afternoon when he told me about a Superbird that had been used as a pace car at the Knoxville raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, southeast of Des Moines. This track, famously known as the “Sprint Car Capital of the World”, is a half-mile oval dirt track that was originally a horse racing track. Gregg gave me the contact number for Forrest “Frosty” Harrington, who grew up in the Knoxville area and is very familiar with the track and its history as he spent a lot of time at the races there. He witnessed the early NASCAR race held at Knoxville that Tiny Lund, Ramo Stott, Ernie Derr and the rest of the Keokuk gang competed in. Frosty is a car guy also, and owns a ’32 Ford Coupe.
One afternoon, I gave Frosty a call and we talked for nearly an hour. Frosty worked for a sign shop for seventeen years but was never satisfied with the way vinyl lettering and decals looked. He has spent 51 years of his life hand-lettering and striping collector cars, drag cars that raced at nearby Eddyville racetrack, and countless sprint cars. Some of his customers brought their car to him, but when a race car was in the process of being built and was sitting on jack stands, he was happy to travel to the owner’s garage and do the work there. I asked him what the most elaborate lettering job he’d ever done was and he replied that it was lettering and numbering with gold leaf that he did on Bob Weuve’s race car. He used the gold leaf for the sponsor name and numbers on the body and wing. It was very tedious and took an entire day. The car was black, framed in red with the gold leaf. He remembers quite a bit about the Superbird pace car and I took notes as fast as I could. Lou Job was president of Iowa State Bank at that time, and he decided it would be good public relations to purchase a Superbird and sponsor it for a season as a pace car at Knoxville Speedway, and then raffle it off. Mr Job got the Superbird from Roy Long. I actually knew Roy, who went by RC back in the day; he was also a member of this club throughout the 1980s. Roy owned a business called “Phoenix Motors” and he bought, rebuilt, restored and resold a lot of old Mopars back in those days. Along with his shop business, he also had a Mopar heaven junkyard where he got a lot of the parts to do the rebuilding. RC also sponsored sprint cars and built drag bikes, which his daughter, Tammy raced. Frosty did the lettering and numbering on Roy’s sprint cars and pin striping on the motorcycles. Back to the Superbird….since no one remembers for sure, I’m guessing it likely began as a Road Runner, but I’ll refer to it as the Superbird for this story. Frosty told me the car had been sitting behind Roy’s shop and had a 318 engine in it. Bill Moyer, who owned car lots in Des Moines and raced cars himself, provided the Superbird wing and nosecone. Learning that was a surprise to me as the Moyer family, with their race cars, car lots and dealerships, have always been famously very General Motors oriented. After acquiring the parts, Roy, Quintin Douthit and John Brown built the car into a Superbird. Frosty did the lettering and graphics on the car. Wally Price, Knoxville’s pace car driver for many years, drove the Superbird pace car. When asked if it had a light bar or other equipment had been installed on the Bird, Frosty replied that they just turned the car’s flashers on when it was pacing the track. The vinyl top was removed and the car was painted TorRed, including the rear bumper. The graphics were done in blue, black, white and metallic silver. Officials had white satin race jackets with an orange round patch with a black outlined Superbird silhouette and white “Knoxville Raceway” and “Iowa State Bank” lettering around it on a black background. Throughout the season, while it paced the races, raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win the Bird. Frosty said much as he can remember, the tickets would probably have been $10 each. He remembers that there was never a lot of interest in the Superbird and only about $2,000 worth of tickets were sold! During the week, the Superbird sat in one of the buildings where the track equipment was stored. It apparently didn’t get any special treatment at the track. At the end of the season, Frosty was sitting in the stands when the winning raffle ticket was pulled. Ironically, the winner was a Mopar collector from Montezuma, Iowa. We don’t know if the lucky winner is still with us or where the car is at this time. Thanks to Frosty for sharing these pictures!
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