July 12, 2013
Dragway’s ‘Fame’ induction a pleasant Crandall surprise
The phone call came in late May, and closed a time gap.
Roy Crandall of Homer was informed by the caller that he would be inducted into the old Tri-City Dragway’s Hall of Fame.
“I was very surprised after 45 years,” said the 83-year-old Homer resident, who has run Crandall Automotive Service and Sales since 1953 and last competed at the now-defunct Endicott facility in 1968. “I was inducted June 2 as part of their third annual reunion, and given a trophy, plaque and shirt with my name embroidered on it.”
Crandall didn’t just compete at Tri-City, and elsewhere, he also won..... with a bit of an advantage. Running a 1964 Cobra Dragonsnake he bought from famed Los Angeles car builder Carroll Shelby in 1965, he won his class at Tri-City from 1965-67. In formulating the limited-edition Dragonsnake Shelby had started with the General Motors AC “Ace” chassis, installed a small-block Ford engine and adjusted the car to handle the additional power, creating a formidable racing machine.
“I always won with the Cobra,” Crandall said. “They (Shelby American) had raced it before I bought it, and it was a world-record holder. I went out there and picked it up. It was the only one with a removable hard top and American mag wheels. Jack Kampney of Cortland did the “Dragonsnake” lettering for me. I ran it at area strips like Cicero and Bear Creek near Scranton, and in 1966 I won my class at the NASCAR Winternationals in Florida and at Indianapolis Raceway Park.”
However, it wasn’t just the car but the driver as well that spelled the formula for Crandall’s success. Running a 1951 Packard, he won his class at both the Glen Aubrey and Ithaca-Dryden Speedways in 1966, and was also successful at Skyline and Weedsport.
After selling the Cobra in 1967, Crandall took a year off from racing, then bought a new 1969 AMX from Hurst Performance, one of just 53 built for racing, in late 1968. “After the 1969 season they sent me the parts to upgrade it and make it into a 1970; they had to have a minimum of 50 cars to race as 1970 models,” he said. “I replaced the steering column, the hood and a few other things, and kept on racing.”
With the AMX, Crandall competed at Cicero and Bear Creek — “and probably Tri-Cities, I’m not positive,” he said — and won his class at Spruce Creek Airport, near Daytona, before finally getting out of racing after the 1970 season.
Crandall first got into racing after getting out of the army in 1951, thanks to a friend, the late Dick Cooper from Homer. “Dick had a ‘38 Ford coupe that he was racing at LaFayette, and I was always interested in cars so I helped him with it,” he said. “I ended up driving it, but we didn’t win anything. Then I began racing at Ithaca-Dryden, started building my own cars and started winning.
“I ran circle-track cars, stock class, for 14 years, with a ‘53 Dodge, a ‘49 Oldsmobile and the ‘51 Packard, which I won the most with — it had the biggest engine. I also raced snowmobiles. My wife Mary (who passed away 14 years ago) went to all the races with me.”
As noted, Crandall ended up selling his Cobra Dragonsnake, in 1967. “A kid came up to me one Sunday, his girlfriend on his arm, and asked me how much I wanted for it,” he recalled. “I just pulled up a figure, $5,000 — I’d paid $14,000 for it — and he surprised me, saying that he’d see if he could get the money. The next day he called and said he had the money, so I sold it to him. I was talking at the induction ceremony to someone who knew the kid, and he told me that the kid had sold it because he couldn’t drive it like I did.”
And what became of the car? “It sold at auction around five years ago for $1,525,000,” Crandall said. “But I had a lot of fun with it. It was worth it.”
Crandall said that he still works seven days a week, and added with a laugh that “I can’t get it through my head that I’m 83.”
He noted that he plans to move to Tennessee, where there’s less bureaucracy for business owners to endure, in the near future.
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