Unlimited modifieds still amaze race fans

Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 11:11 am

By Odell Suttle


 Joel Lindler has a race shop that is different to any other, one that old race fans would love, one new race fans should be required to visit.

Lindler never drove race cars but was a car owner for several years in the days when flat-head engines ruled stock car racing. Lindler owned cars that raced at many tracks in Upstate South Carolina, and they won their share of races. He thinks he owned the last flathead to race on a regular basis.

 Inside Lindler's shop is not just flatheads you will find. He has a collection of 10 of the most powerful race cars to ever circle a track – the unlimited modifieds that were years ahead of themselves in terms of technology.

 The cars are mostly 1936 Chevrolet coupes, but they are far from what they were when they rolled off the assembly line. In the 1960s the coupes were torn apart and rebuilt into a high tech race cars. They had 327-350 cubic inch Chevrolet engines for the most part – some were much bigger and all had been bored to increase the size –but some did use Ford or Pontiac. This was before GM standardized everything. They all had fuel injection and ran very exotic racing fuel rather than gasoline.

 There were no rules saying what the cars had to weigh, therefore the owners made them as light as they possibly could. To be short and to the point, the cars were like little missiles hurdling around the track at speeds greater than what is turned by today's late models. Greenwood on Thursday night, Anderson on Friday night and Westminister on Saturday were the only three tracks in South Carolina that ever ran this class, where the only thing written in the rule book was one line: "Run what you brung." Westminister didn't have the cars as a weekly deal because they went "home" to Georgia on Saturday, but they did make appearances at Westminister.

 Among the 10 cars in Lindler's shop is the one Bud Lunsford drove to 15 consecutive wins at Anderson in 1963. Others include the cars driven by Buck Simmons, Tootle Estes, Doug Kennimer and Herman Wise. Now 62 years old, Lindler said he will not buy any more cars.

 "This is my collection. I don't want any more race cars," Lindler said. "The cars I have were actually driven by these men, and they were built by the owners. This is mostly for people my age. The young people can't relate to them because they never saw them run. I don't mind people looking at them but I have other priorities – much more important – and seldom have time to open the shop to show them."

 The modifieds were a totally different car to those raced at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and the Golden Strip Speedway in Fountain Inn. The modifieds were for the wealthy who didn't think about how much something cost, in many cases, only if it would make the car go faster. The soaring cost led to the down fall of the modifieds because by the mid to late 1960s no one could afford them. They were gone and those who are old enough to have seen them race feel fortunate because it was a special time in racing history.

 "They were truly a different breed of drivers, no doubt about that," Lindler said. "I don't think anybody has ever been able to drive like Buck Simmons, Bud Lunsford and Tootle Estes. They were the three best with a race car that I have ever seen at any level of racing."

 Thanks to Lindler it is still possible to see the cars.