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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beach Boy With More Muscle Than a Little Deuce Coupe


In this Sunday’s Automobiles section, Rex Roy writes about the ’32 Ford hot rod immortalized on the cover of the 1963 Beach Boys album, “Little Deuce Coupe.” The coupe, customized first in Detroit and later treated to a top-chop by the legendary George Barris, has been restored to its cover-model glory and is in the hands of the original owner’s son. Earlier this year, Brian Wilson, the leader of the Beach Boys, told AutoWeek that he didn’t recall any of his brothers and bandmates being heavily involved in cars or drag racing, as one might suppose from the numerous Beach Boys hits. But as many people have documented, Mr. Wilson’s memory may not be what it used to be. His brother Dennis used to bring not one but two Shelby Cobras to San Fernando Raceway in California in 1963-64. One was a A/Sport 427-cubic-inch roadster that he power-shifted on the strip, the other was a matching yellow 289 Cobra. At the time, I was a kid working the pit gate for 50 cents an hour. My dad was the track’s reporter, photographer, record-keeper and trophy man. I remember Dennis politely asking our small crew that his name not be announced over the P.A. system, nor mentioned in race reports. And he was referred to only as “Mister X,” an identity that would occasionally appear on the list of class winners that my father typed each week for local and racing newspapers. Though regular racers and spectators knew the mystery man’s secret, they left him alone. I only witnessed one request for an autograph — from my father, late one Sunday, on behalf of my younger sister. Dennis asked for her name, personalized the signature on one of the day’s timing slips, collected his cheap trophy and hit the road with his pair of yellow Cobras.

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