|Super Stock AMX .com|
|The History of American Motors Factory Super Stock Drag Racing Program.|
Hurst SS/AMX #39
1969 VIN: A9M397X213598
1970 VIN: A0M397X183214 (1970 #6)
Hurst Build #:
Original Color: RWB
1969 Selling Dealer: Peterson Motor Company
15 E 23rd
Kearney, NE 68847
Attn: Wallace Peterson
1970 Selling Dealer: Peterson Motor Company
15 E 23rd
Kearney, NE 68847
Name: Pete's Patriot
Owner: Wallace Eugene "Pete" Peterson (1922-2007)
Driver: Loren "Lou" Downing
Best ET/MPH: 10.7/126.9
Sponsor: Peterson Motor Company
Misc: 1969 Division V Super Stock Champion. Peterson Motor property (1998) is now a city parking lot.
NHRA Events: 1969 Springnationals, Indy Nationals, World Finals, 1970 Winternationals, Indy Nationals, Supernationals, World Nationals, 1971 Indy Nationals, Super Nationals,
1972 Indy Nationals
Name: Pete's Patriot
Owner: Gerald Skoltis
Best ET/MPH: 10.7/126.9
Location: Mechanicsville, MD
39-3 & 5
Name: Pete's Patriot
Owner: Ken Keir
39-4 Name: Pete's Patriot
Name: Pete's Patriot
Owner: Ernie Magraw
NHRA Events: Owner:
Name: Pete's Patriot
Checked the lettering on the rear quarter panel-Virginia!
Here is a neat picture. Was this the truck that transported the car
across the country?
Here is the original Pete's Patriot from 1968 after it was sold to a member of the racing team for the 69 season:
Super Stock Magazine March 1971:
All-American Race Revival
by Story and photos by Geoff Stunkard
D rag racing was the proving ground of the 1960s. There may have been factories
who acted like they had nothing to do with it, but thundering to victory on the
quarter-mile was a fast way to get young lions into the showroom the following
Lou Downing gets some air under the front wheels of the historic race car during
eliminations at Beaver Springs Raceway.
As the sport of acceleration evolved during that turbulent decade, regardless of
what official statements said, every American auto manufacturer had a dog in this
hunt. The restoration you see here is of the most infamous AMC race car from that
By 1969, American Motors Corp. had come a long way since the days its Ramblers
were just utilitarian family cars. By 1967, the company hired noted funny car racer
Hayden Proffitt to campaign a fiberglass replica of the company’s new Rebel SST.
And, there was a new two-door, two-seat sports car called the AMX on the drawing boards.
There were some changes for racing, like this shifter and aftermarket gauges.
Built around the Javelin body, the AMX was reduced to a very small 97-inch
wheelbase, which was an inch shorter than the Corvette. This first-ever AMC sports
car came standard with a 290-cubic-inch, 225-hp V-8 engine, but could be optioned
with the 343-cubic-inch, 280-hp or 390-cubic-inch, 315-hp engines. Both engines had
a single four-barrel, were backed by either a Borg-Warner Torque Command
automatic or Borg-Warner four-speed and a 3.54 ring and pinion.
The success of the AMX prompted AMC to look a little deeper into where it might
compete the following year. The company had Hurst Industries put together a
package that could run with the big dogs in Super Stock drag racing. Like the
Chrysler Hemi A-bodies Hurst had built the year before, these AMXs came with
disclaimers stating they were not for highway or passenger-car use. The cars
received four-speed transmissions complete with a Hurst shifter and linkage. Inside,
they were Spartan; everything that was not necessary was deleted, and lightweight
race seats replaced the factory versions. However, the race-only AMXs were built
without any lightweight sheet-metal body panels.
Looking the part of the bad boy it was, the short-wheelbase Super Stock AMX was a benchmark car of the muscle car era. Less than 60 were built.
Under the scooped hood, the hand-fitted 390-cid engine received 12.2:1 compression forged pistons, larger valves, special head castings, a mechanical camshaft and a cross-ram intake with two Holley four-barrels bolted on. The official horsepower rating was a mere 340 hp by AMC, at 4,800 rpm. AMC released official paperwork to the NHRA stating the cars were delivered in semi-finished form, and the eventual owner/racer would be expected to do the blueprinting and final race prep on their own. The careful selection of parts allowed them to place the cars solidly into the SS/D-SS/E division.
Lou Downing and Mike Pearce stand by the door of the historic car after Lou went six rounds at the York US30 Reunion. Lou had not driven for almost 30 years!
Loren “Lou” Downing, a Division V racer from Kearney, Neb., first campaigned
AMXs under the Pete’s Patriot banner (named for sponsor and car owner Peterson
Motor Co.) in Stock Eliminator. Downing had proven his salt by taking the Division V
crown in 1969 in one of the new SS cars. The Pete’s Patriot AMX became feared in national competition, taking Downing to a national record in the SS/D class and the
finals at Indy. Quite an achievement, since SS/D was where all the new four-speed
1970 Hemi ’Cudas and Challengers raced, as well.
Like so many other race cars, after its glory days, the car was eventually turned
into a bracket car and ended up in a somewhat dilapidated form. The then-owner of
the car decided to bring it out to Cecil County Dragway in Maryland for a special AMX reunion in 2001. There, longtime AMC fan Mike Pearce got a chance to see it and eventually own it.
“That car was, in a word, sad,” admits Pearce. “These guys knew what it was,
but it had been gutted for bracket use; there may have even been a big-block
Chevy under the hood at one time. But it was Lou Downing’s car, which I consider to
be the ultimate Super Stock AMX, and I was able to buy it.”
This was a lot of engine from any manufacturer; twin Holleys on a cross-ram intake
ensured the engine always had enough fuel.
An eight-month thrash to restore it back to glory ensued. Since the original 1969
engine was long gone, a fresh powerplant was built by Dennis Long for the car,
created to run Nostalgia Super Stock competition. From the start, Mike had plans to
see the AMX return to action. Ken Kier did the safety upgrades to the suspension
while maintaining the car’s historical integrity. The engine is backed by an automatic
now, with Keystone wheels back on all four corners. It has recaptured the flavor of
the era with great success.
We first saw the car at the York US30 reunion in York, Pa., in 2003. The following
year, Downing came out to the event and personally drove his old car for the first
time after decades at the one-day race held at Beaver Springs Dragway each year as part of the early July event. Downing eventually went six rounds, all the way to the
finals, after not having driven since the 1970s.
Keystone mags, reissued by Cragar, are on all four corners.
The York Reunion and Nostalgia Nationals is a combined effort of Darwin Doll,
former NHRA division director and Beaver Bob McCardle of Beaver Springs Dragway.
Both are dedicated to the preservation of our performance heritage. This year’s
event will be held July 13-14 at the York County Fairgrounds and July 15 at Beaver Springs Dragway.
Musclecar Review Annual 2004
Hurst SS/AMX Car #39 Pete's Patriot originally owned by Wallace "Pete" Peterson
The Steakmaker and Pete’s Patriot, vintage drag race cars from the 1960s, arrive Thursday at the Classic Car Collection at 3600 E. Highway 30. From left are Pete’s Patriot’s owner Mike Pearce from Elkton, Md.; AMX Team member Loren “Lou” Downing, the driver of Pete’s Patriot; and Steve Mercer, owner of the 1968 AMC AMX Steakmaker,
the car that was the basis for the design for Pete’s Patriot, a 1969 AMC AMX. The cars, which are on loan to the collection, will be in a display at the front of the Classic Car Museum with a drag racing staging starting light known as a Christmas tree.
Forty-three years ago, Pete’s Patriot set the drag-racing world ablaze; today it’s turning heads in Kearney
Pete’s Patriot sits on display
Rick Tucker, Kearney Hub
Pete’s patriot sits on display in the southwest corner of the Classic Car Collection museum, 44 years after it made its way into Peterson Motor Co. in Kearney. The famous drag car’s current owner, Mike Pearce of Elkton, Md., loaned the car to the collection last July on a one-year agreement. He’ll take Pete’s Patriot to his home
following Cruise Nite in July.
Saga of Pete’s Patriot
Today’s story is the first of a three-part series on the 1969 AMX super stock drag car Pete’s Patriot. Four decades ago, the car exploded onto the NHRA scene with a group of determined Kearney teenagers as its pit crew.
Coming Monday: Hello, Indy. Pete’s Patriot and its Cornhusker crew compete at the pinnacle of drag racing. See Pete’s Patriot: Check out the legendary drag racing car at Classic Car Collection from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The collection is located at 3600 E. Highway 30 in Kearney next to Cabela’s.
Peterson Racing team turns Hurst #39 from factory-modified drag car into piece of Kearney, national history
It epitomizes Kearney. It really does. It’s a real serendipity to be able to have it for a year.”
Pete’s Patriot crew member Steve Mercer
We really didn’t think that much of it back then. Yeah, it was a big deal, but now we look back and realize what we were getting to do was a really big deal.”
KEARNEY — J.L. Schmidt took a stroll down his warehouse-turned-museum, going back in time with each passing car.
Each one of the 130 cars on display represents more than a means of transportation. Every vehicle in the Classic Car Collection is a time capsule.
Schmidt stops at the southwest corner of the museum. Before him sits a car that, like others on display, has stood the test of time.
The Model-T Ford takes viewers to a time where the American landscape opened up at the dawn of a new century. The 1923 Buick Roadster symbolizes the Roaring ’20s, when the conclusion of the “War To End All Wars” exuded a luxurious lifestyle that trickled down to common people.
However, this car was not meant for fashion as much as function. The elements under the hood are what made people stop in their tracks and left other cars in clouds of smoke.
Schmidt can talk for hours about Pete’s Patriot. He can recite stories that would make you think he was part of the original pit crew — just regular high school kids with a passion for cars who turned Pete’s Patriot into a Kearney icon.
Schmidt serves as the car’s temporary preserver.
The Classic Car Collection has housed Pete’s Patriot since July 2012, when Mike Pearce, the drag car’s current owner, loaned it to the collection. The one-year loan will end following Cruise Nite in July. The car then will return to Pearce’s home in Elkton, Md.
But it’s Kearney where Pete’s Patriot found a home 44 years ago.
“It epitomizes Kearney. It really does,” Schmidt said. “It’s a real serendipity to be able to have it for a year.”
Eugene “Pete” Peterson was presented with a rare opportunity. In 1968, he was operating Peterson Motor Company in Kearney.
He had a vision — form a car club, buy one of American Motor Co.’s newly built AMXs and tune it for regional drag racing.
The plan was solid at its core. Loren “Lou” Downing would race the car and his high school buddies would keep it in competition trim.
The ’68 AMX stocker became the original Pete’s Patriot. Peterson decided to take the car apart and build it up cost-efficiently. At the time, the AMX stockers were a trial run of sorts for AMC.
Pete’s Patriot competed on local drag strips first. Kearney Dragway, known today as Kearney Raceway Park, was one of the many Nebraska strips where the ’68 Pete’s Patriot competed.
But AMC was thinking bigger and faster.
The automaker wanted to re-invent the drag racing landscape. In 1969, AMC came out with 52 factory-modified super stock drag cars. Hurst Performance rented a warehouse outside of Detroit where the cars underwent a drag-racing makeover.
AMC wrote Peterson and asked him to buy one of the special cars. Initially, Peterson was unsure. It had been only a year since the AMX was introduced to drag racing with the ’68 stocker. He asked his crew members if they were interested.
“We kind of just looked at each other and said, ‘Sure. Let’s take it on,’” said original crew member Steve Mercer of Kearney.
Pete Peterson sold the ’68 AMX stocker to Mercer for $3,500. Mercer campaigned it as “Steakmaker,” a name inspired by his dad’s feedlot.
When the new Pete’s Patriot, a ’69 AMX factory-modified super stocker, arrived at Peterson Motors, crew members were excited, but nobody could have predicted the car that would take the Peterson Racing team across America.
This was the car that would make AMC a trendsetter in the drag racing. This was the car that would put a handful of kids from Kearney on the map.
Hurst #39 went through factory modifications to make it a drag car, but the work was just beginning to make it Pete’s Patriot.
A paint job was needed. The car came red, white and blue, but the pattern was modified to the design that became synonymous with Pete’s Patriot.
Looking the part was a priority for the Peterson Racing team. They were a bunch of high school kids, but that didn’t mean they had to dress like it. They won “best-dressed crew” at multiple races.
Cosmetics fed the mystique that followed Pete’s Patriot, but it was the crew’s work under the hood that elevated the car to compete on the national level.
Peterson had the engine rebuilt in Denver. He upgraded the clutch, transmission, rear end and tires.
AMC paid $6,000 for the parts, but the factory sponsorship didn’t cover all expenses. If there was a job to be done around Kearney, the crew probably did it. They picked garden weeds, pulled tree stumps and shoveled snow. They did whatever it took to cover the expenses of competing across the country.
They would bunk five or six guys in a hotel room. The rest slept in the drag car on its trailer.
“We worked with what we had,” Downing said. “Out in Nebraska, we didn’t have a lot. We just kind of flew by on the seat of our pants, and we were just able to make it work for us.”
Their lives revolved around Pete’s Patriot. During the week, they attended school and worked on the car on weeknights at Peterson Motors.
They left on Friday nights for whatever drag strip was ahead. They raced in qualifiers on Saturdays and competed in the finals on Sundays. They returned to Kearney late on Sunday nights or early Monday mornings and restarted the cycle.
It could be Minnesota, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado or even Canada. They went far and wide for National Hot Rod Association events. If there was an NHRA race to compete in the summer, Pete’s Patriot was likely to make an appearance — and haul home some hardware.
Like it did when the Christmas tree light hit green, Pete’s Patriot took off from the get-go.
With Downing at the wheel, Pete’s Patriot took the Division V crown in 1969. The car became the first American Motors car to win an NHRA points meet. They set a national record with a 10.81-second quarter mile at 127.5 mph.
Pete’s Patriot burst onto the national scene quicker than they ever could’ve imagined. The car even landed on the cover of the July 4, 1969, National Dragster magazine. When Pete’s Patriot arrived, the field took notice.
“That was the car to beat during that period,” Schmidt said.
Pete’s Patriot competed against greats like Judy Lilly, Dick Landy and Sox and Martin.
On weekdays, crew members were high schoolers and college underclassmen. They lived a double life.
“We really didn’t think that much of it back then. Yeah, it was a big deal, but now we look back and realize what we were getting to do was a really big deal,” Mercer said.
Who were these Nebraska teenagers who stormed the NHRA? Were they a flash in the pan, blessed by an exceptional drag car? Could they really sustain their unprecedented success?
All of those questions were answered in the summer of 1970. Pete’s Patriot belonged with the best of them. The Peterson Racing team was ready to prove that on NHRA’s largest stage.
Pete’s Patriot takes Peterson Racing team to Indy drags
By Rick Tucker, Kearney Hub
Pete’s Patriot sits on display in the southwest corner of the Classic Car Collection museum, 44 years after it made its way into Peterson Motor Co. in Kearney. To the left sits a Christmas tree starting light that was used at the Kearney Dragway in the mid 1960s.
When I first saw it in the magazines, it was one of those dreams. I’d love to have that car.”
The march 1971 issue of Super Stock Magazine featured Pete’s Patriot on a two-page spread. The engine photo (middle, right) illustrates the twin Holley 4584 carburetors and the Crane-modified 12.3 heads. The caption for the interior photo (top, right) talked about driver Lu Downing’s desire to keep everything in the car as neat as possible
KEARNEY — J.L. Schmidt has seen his share of out-of-towners at the Classic Car Collection. Many have no idea what they’re getting into when they exit off of Interstate 80.
They have the same gaze on their faces as they scan the museum. Families recite memories of a certain car as Schmidt listens.
A Canadian man entered the collection last summer on a whim. He wore a black jacket that read, “AMXPress.” He walked up to Schmidt at the front desk and asked about the cars in the collection.
Recognizing the jacket, Schmidt told the Canadian they had three AMXs, including Pete’s Patriot.
“You’ve got Pete’s Patriot, eh?”
The man had raced against Pete’s Patriot in Winnipeg, Canada in the summer of 1970. He raced one of the other 52 AMX factory-modified super stocks.
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. What were the chances he’d come across Pete’s Patriot visiting some car museum in central Nebraska? He asked Schmidt to take a photo with the car he raced against in 1970.
The impact of Pete’s Patriot stretched past state borders. The drag car was known internationally and still awed people 42 years later.
“That’s how big this thing has gotten,” Schmidt said.
The Kearney teenagers with the Peterson Racing team were waiting for a call on Labor Day weekend in 1970.
Most of the crew was spending a rare Sunday in Nebraska after racing in Brainerd, Minn. and Winnipeg the previous two weekends. Pete Peterson, Lou Downing and Steve Okeson, however, went straight from Winnipeg to Indianapolis to compete in the National Hot Rod Association Nationals.
The rest of the crew was back in school. They sat in the Peterson house with Pete’s wife, Barb, awaiting an update from Indianapolis.
It was drag racing’s top annual competition. There were no lofty expectations against the sport’s finest. But with Downing behind the wheel of Pete’s Patriot, there was hope.
Sure enough, Peterson had some good news. Pete’s Patriot dominated the super stock Division D and qualified for the finals on Monday.
There was no chance the crew was going to miss out on history.
“We just looked at each other and said, ‘Well, let’s get going,’” crewmember Steve Mercer said.
Within an hour of hanging up the phone, the crew was on the road, adrenaline pumping, on a 12-hour trek to Indianapolis.
When they pulled into the race lot, they got a quick shot of reality. Their pit was stationed between legendary drag racers Sox and Martin and Dick Landy. Mercer admitted the crew was a little star-struck being sandwiched by NHRA royalty.
But no moment was too big for Downing. He wheelied in second gear just to mess with the competition. Pros weren’t about to shake him.
“Because the car was so competitive, we knew we could actually race with these people,” Downing said. “Maybe they had more knowledge than us, but our car was good enough to make us an equal to them. I felt I had as good a chance as anyone.”
Ron Mancini was the only driver who got in the way of a national championship, but Downing drove Pete’s Patriot to a runner-up finish.
It was the crowning achievement for the ever-confident Downing and the Kearney teenagers. Peterson Racing no longer was the meat sandwiched between legends. On that September afternoon, they earned their spot in the lot.
“It got us on the map,” Downing said.
To call Mike Pearce of Elkton, Md., a car enthusiast wouldn’t be doing his passion justice. He buys vintage cars, restores them and takes them to shows around the country. Pearce and his son do a little racing of their own, too.
From an early age, Pearce was fascinated with the AMX super stock. They are collectibles to him. That’s why he owns a half dozen of the rare drag cars.
It was at an AMC event in 2001 when Pearce ran into a man named Ernie McGraw. McGraw had something Pearce wanted — Pete’s Patriot.
Peterson sold the car to a group of D.C.-area car enthusiasts in 1972. Peterson’s team had moved on from racing to focus on their personal lives. They were off starting families and earning college degrees. Guys didn’t have time to spend summers driving across the country.
Plus, the AMC sponsorship ran out. Peterson sold the historic car to the highest bidder.
The car was passed between the D.C. area group members over the years. Little did Pearce know that Pete’s Patriot was 100 miles away from his home in Elkton. It was taken to shows, yet it was hardly the same car that set the NHRA world ablaze 29 years prior.
But to Pearce, Pete’s Patriot was more than another drag car.
“When I first saw it in the magazines, it was one of those dreams. I’d love to have that car,” he said.
A month and a half later, Pearce bought the car from McGraw for $60,000.
It wasn’t the first time he opened his checkbook for a vintage car. This one, however, struck an emotional chord.
“Elation,” Pearce said with a long pause. “I couldn’t have been happier.”
He managed to keep it a secret from his son until he was celebrating a birthday. His son handed him his birthday present. It was a model of Pete’s Patriot. He knew how much his Dad wanted the real car, and to his knowledge,
Pearce hadn’t been able to buy it. The model was a consolation prize.
“Since I couldn’t get you the real one, I got you this,” Pearce’s son said.
Pearce then took his son to the garage, where he opened the door and showed him his $60,000 purchase.
“Here’s the real one.
Pearce brings Pete’s Patriot back to Kearney
KEARNEY — Racing was still a part of Lou Downing’s life. It didn’t matter that Downing wasn’t the same 20-something competing against National Hot Rod Association legends. He attended car shows across the country to recapture memories he had with Pete’s Patriot 30 years earlier.
In July 2002, Downing was at the American Motors Owners Association annual convention in Kenosha, Wis. A man approached him with a stunning photo.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” Downing said. “We thought the car had disappeared and was probably in a junkyard somewhere.”
Downing wasn’t crazy.
Pete’s Patriot probably should’ve been in a junkyard, rotting away like most old cars. Nobody from the original crew kept tabs on it. Here it was, 30 years after Peterson sold the car. By the time Mike Pearce of Elkton, Md., got his hands on the car, it needed a makeover. No, it needed a resurrection. Pearce wanted it to look exactly as it did in the early 1970s. The car needed its original lettering. It needed the same classic hand-painted decals. Pearce had to get custom wheels, too. Much of the mystique of Pete’s Patriot was its custom design. Its uniqueness was the reason a guy from Canada could drop into the Classic Car Collection and recognize the car 42 years later.
Pearce also had to go through what he called a “painstaking effort” just to authenticate the car with the original crew. He eventually did. Through those interactions, a friendship developed. Downing and Pearce had a lot in common. They both traveled the country to nostalgia racing events. They share a love for the AMX super stock model that spanned the better part of half a century. To this day, the two make it a point to visit each other when they venture into one’s side of the country.
Pearce wanted to take Pete’s Patriot to national shows as the same car he idolized in magazines growing up. Downing wanted to do more than take it for a stroll down memory lane. He wanted to race.
Pete’s Patriot had occasionally hit the pavement with Pearce and his son in nostalgia races in the five years following his purchase. But nobody knew that car like Downing, even after decades passed. Nothing had changed.
He and Pearce traveled to York, Pa., for Muscle Car Madness. It was a nostalgia event so it wasn’t on the same level as the NHRA Nationals, where Downing took down all but one in the 1970 field.
The result at Muscle Madness, however, was the same. Only one driver beat Downing in the Beaver Springs Raceway field. He took second place, this after racing the car for just the second time in 35 years.
Neither time nor distance could erase Downing’s bond with Pete’s Patriot.
“When I’m sitting in there, I feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel like I’m right at home.”
Pearce was following his biennial tradition. Every other year since 2002, he has towed Pete’s Patriot from Elkton to Kearney to display the car during Cruise Nite.
July 2012 was a little different for Pearce. He wanted to check out the new Classic Car Collection that opened seven months earlier on the east side of town.
Upon his arrival with Pete’s Patriot, Schmidt half-jokingly told Pearce to pull the car around the back of the collection’s parking lot. That’s where Schmidt told all of his classic car owners to park when they loaned their vehicles to the collection.
Schmidt had seen the response Pete’s Patriot got at Cruise Nite. In the back of his mind, he knew the kind of draw Pete’s Patriot would have in the collection. Why not just float out the suggestion to Pearce?
Schmidt’s shot-in-the-dark turned into negotiations. Pearce, ever the car show traveler, had plans to take Pete’s Patriot to California for a couple of events after Cruise Nite.
He told Schmidt that he could drop it off at the collection on his way back from California in a couple of weeks. True to his word, Pearce returned and the two parties agreed on a one-year loan to keep the car at the Classic Car Collection until he returned for Cruise Nite in July 2013.
“I don’t know anybody like the people there in Kearney who I’d trust that car with,” Pearce said. “I just felt perfectly comfortable leaving it there with them, so I did.”
Displayed with Pete’s Patriot, a ’69 factory-modified super stocker, is the original Pete’s Patriot, a ’68 AMX that campaigned during its second life as Steakmaker.
The car was collecting dust in its garage at Steve Mercer’s feedlot near Kearney, so Schmidt convinced Mercer to loan Steakmaker so it could be displayed alongside its successor.
The impact at the collection is undeniable.
“I’ll tell you what, it brings people in,” Schmidt said. “It’s just incredible to have those people come in and say that they remember that car.”
There’s still a chance Pete’s Patriot could return to Kearney on a more permanent basis. Pearce admitted there’s a possibility that he’ll again leave the car with Schmidt after his California shows.
Brad Kernick, who is the Cruise Nite chairman and the chairman of the board for the Classic Car Collection, has bigger dreams. He’d like the car to stay in Kearney for good. Kernick knows that for a car estimated at $250,000, it would take quite the community effort.“Ideally, it would be nice to secure that car up and have it in Kearney permanently, but that would take some significant fundraising to make that happen,” Kernick said. “That’s still in the back of my mind, but we’ll see what happens.”
A Christmas tree starter’s light stands between Pete’s Patriot and Steakmaker. It’s the light that sent drag cars down the strip in the mid-1960s at Kearney Dragway.
Many of Classic Car Collection visitors weren’t alive to see Pete’s Patriot fire off the starting line on green. They can’t imagine a group of teenagers that reached drag racing’s pinnacle. Visitors don’t know of the hours spent sleeping in the back of the car in hotel parking lots, where they’d try to unwind before another day of racing. As visitors approach the southwest corner of the Classic Car Collection, a motion sensor triggers a classic audio clip.The video transports visitors back to the anticipation of those summer afternoons in the late 1960s. The sound of the revving engine bursts through speakers. Screeching tires echo, growing increasingly louder as the old Christmas tree lights from top to bottom.
Amber, amber, amber, amber … green!
The sound of the car roars for a few seconds until it fades into background noise. As quickly as it takes off, it’s over. Pete’s Patriot is not flying off the starting line as it once did. For now, the Classic Car Collection is a temporary residence. The glory days of sneaking up on professional drag cars have passed.
Pete’s Patriot was resurrected, given a second life by a man halfway across the country. As Downing and Mercer both said, the famous car could have easily been rotting in a junkyard if not for Pearce’s grace. But surprised visitors continue to discover Pete’s Patriot is alive and well — and it’s home.
“It’s a landmark,” Schmidt said. “It just means so much to Kearney.”
This advertisement promoted the legendary Shirley Shahan and her “Drag-On-Lady” car coming to the Kearney Dragway to race against Lou Downing in Pete’s Patriot. Part of Pete’s Patriot’s legacy was bringing in professionals from the NHRA circuit to the Kearney Dragway.