The Pontiac Road Runner
A Pontiac Road Runner? That’s what everybody asks. Yes, that’s what I bought in April of 2019 on the auction website Bring-a-Trailer (BAT). I purchased it from collector Billo317, a gentleman from Indiana. When I placed the bid and then won, my wife said I was in wide eyed disbelief! Oh no, I just won a car! A 1960 Pontiac Catalina drag car called the Road Runner (before there were MoPars by that name).
A few days later I was in Indianapolis with my truck and yes, I did “Bring a Trailer”! With the help of Billo317’s mechanic and secretary the transaction was completed and the car was loaded. I headed south toward my home in Louisville, KY. I was elated as I received thumbs up from several drivers as they passed my open trailer. Through some tenacity and hard work by the DMV I was able to get it titled in my name. So technically, I am the second owner. (Billo317 uses a dealer license to help keep him on the right side of the tax man (or tax person these days!))
My 86 year old father, who had owned many Pontiacs in the 60s and 70s, came over the next day. We poured ourselves over the car, checking out the many 1960’s drag race modifications. Two of my discoveries were that the engine had been equipped by the original owner, John Eleazer, with factory Pontiac 421 Super Duty heads and a Pontiac Super Duty dual quad (2x4) aluminum intake along with many period race parts and modifications.
My hope was to make it a “cars and coffee” driver since it ran, steered and stopped. However, after a short drive down the driveway and a short stint on the street, I found that the 4 speed Hydramatic would not shift out of second gear. At the time I was disappointed and knew I would have to trailer it in order to let it be seen by others. I took it to a local cruise where my friends and other car guys loved it!
Later that summer, while still, trying to get more information on the Hydramatic “problem”, I was able to locate the original Road Runner owner 86 year old John Eleazer. We hit it off over the phone! He had many stories and was a fascinating and informative man. He sent me several pictures and even his personal vintage race jacket complete with his name and the car name embroidered.
In August, I took it along with my Pontiac Trans Am to the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville. It was seen and appreciated by many of the attendees.
By the fall I was still trying to glean more information on the car so I reached out to Tim Dye at the Pontiac Oakland Club (POCI) Museum in Pontiac, IL. He was intrigued with the car and its story. Tim invited me to bring it to the Pontiac for a museum fundraiser car show and a chance to display it in the museum. My wife and I made the trip and trailered it to the show. It was a hit.
I left the car in Tim and the museum’s capable hands. While in the Pontiac museum the Road Runner was photographed and featured in the POCI Smoke Signals Magazine.
After about a 2 year stint, I returned to Pontiac to pick up the Catalina Drag Car and through my cousin’s inheritance, drop off their 1960 all original Pontiac Catalina.
Coincidentally this car looks a lot like John’s pull car that he used to tow the Road Runner to the track and occasionally used for spares when something broke during a race!
After getting the Road Runner back to my shop my father and I decided to retune the engine. After new plugs, readjusting the rocker arms/valves and some expert carb tuning by my father Bud, who is a former professional mechanic and has that fine tuning touch, the car seemed to be running at its peak! My new buddy John Eleazer had repeatedly told me that the transmission had been built for racing by his brother, Ralph. He said it would not shift unless at full RPMs. I took him at his word and drove the car down the drive and onto our road. I brought the car to a stop, floored it and hung on! The car bit down and took off, shifting 1,2,3, until I ran out of road! (It’s a very curvy road) Wow! But still no shift to fourth! That led to the Road Runner’s next adventure.
On a beautiful summer evening my son Ian and I loaded the car onto the trailer and hauled it to a nearby 1/8th mile drag strip for test and tune night. I nervously took it off the trailer, through “tech” inspection and into the lane to the lights. Let me first say this: I had only been on a drag strip once in my life. This compounded with being afraid I would break the car, ancient drag slicks and bias ply front ties of unknown age and many other unknowns, I crept up to the line. Needless to say I redlighted, but the old car flew down the track! It shifted 1,2,3! I’m still holding down the pedal for 4th (more on that later). The revs were high and caution won out. I lifted before I got to the finish! My time wasn’t great, but both the car and I survived! Better that than any trophy!
While putting the car back on the trailer a semiprofessional racer came over to check it out. After getting a little history and seeing the many winner stickers, he commented “this guy (John) was practically a pro in order to have this many wins and set a National record!“(1971).
Around this same time, I had been in contact with Tim Dye and the leaders of the POCI 2021 International Convention. It was determined that I would reunite the original owner, John Eleazer, and the Road Runner at the convention in Connecticut (convenient to John’s NJ home). It was a great time! The Road Runner was one of the feature cars along with the Monkeemobile, the Red Baron, and the Pontiac Banshee.
I got to spend a lot of time with John over the next 4 days. People treated him like a rock star! Many remembered him and or the car from his many years of campaigning the car! While we were talking I shared my track experience with John and the no 4th gear shift. He looked at me with a wise smile and said, “Tim, it won’t shift into fourth on the 1/8th mile. It only hits 4th when you’re doing the 1/4 mile.” I believe him. Everything else he’s told me has panned out. (A side note: this was John’s last hurrah. He passed away about three months later. It was my privilege to spend time with him and his car. He will be missed.)
I never knew that winning this car would lead to so many new friends and adventures! Tim Truax
Car: 1960 Pontiac Cataline drag car
Owner: Tim Truax
Note: If you would like to see this piece of history, the Road Runner is currently on loan to the Swope Cars of Yesteryear Museum just minutes from Louisville, KY.
KYANA Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America
3821 Hunsinger Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40220