By Greg Burrow
In my research for this tribute to an old friend , Wally Bell , I realized there have been too many tributes in the last couple of years . We are losing good people and it is really tough to experience this . Everyone , please take time to stay in touch with family and friends , because we do not know when our time will be here . That said , it is truly an honor for me to share a few memories from years past of one of the great pioneers in doorslammer racing .
From the time Wally was a young man growing up in New York in the ‘ 60s , he was attracted to the beginnings of muscle cars , but he was particularly drawn to cars like the Z11 Chevrolet , which he acquired and was successful with all over the Northeast .
In doing research on Wally , I found that he actually came all the way down to Piedmont Dragway in the mid ‘ 60s for match racing . It was this type of racing that led to a series of Chevelles for that very type of competition , similar to the Malcolm Durham Chevelles of that time . Although we associate Wally with a long series of Chevrolets , there was even a Mercury , similar to the Ford Thunderbolt , thrown in for good measure .
But after a hiatus from our sport , upon the birth of daughter Vicki , Wally got the desire to go back to racing and was drawn to the Carolinas in the early ‘ 80s , where the partnership with Walter Henry led to a lightweight ’ 66 Chevelle for Wally and a Corvette for Walter , thus the Denver Fever Racing Team was born . Housed in Mooresville , North Carolina , Wally and Walter found themselves in the thick of drag racing competition that existed in the South , particularly the Carolinas and Virginia . It was only a tragic accident that took the life of Walter that broke up the team .
During this time there was another young man
up and coming in the sport with a “ Shoebox ” ’ 55 Chevrolet named Charles Carpenter . The two became fast friends and even resulted in the naming of Wally and his wife , Beverly , as godparents for Charles ’ daughter , Katie . In describing Wally , Charles said , “ Wally was the friendliest person you ever met at the track , but if he lined up beside of you , he was as tough a competitor as there was .”
It was during this time , though , that Wally ’ s drag racing got serious and drew him to competing in events such as the Nostalgia Days events that Bill Blair held at Farmington Dragway for several years in a row . But it was the Super Chevy events that were the top of competition for Wally , Charles Carpenter , Rob Vandergriff , and several others .
That led to a series of very competitive Chevrolets that started with the Chevelle , reaching a best of 7.91 seconds in the quarter . This was followed by a very successful Beretta , reaching a best of 7.31 , and the ’ 69 Camaro , running an all-time best of 7.16 at 189 MPH .
As is always the case , sponsors played a huge part in this , with Karl Chevrolet and Harmon ’ s supporting Wally and his team throughout his career . Wally ’ s team consisted mostly of his wife and constant companion of 39 years , Beverly .
Accolades came in from groups such as the National Nostalgia Drag Racing Association in 2007 and at the 25th anniversary reunion , put together by Frank Spittle , Wally was honored along with such names as Arnie Beswick , Lamar Walden , Charles Carpenter , Floyd Garrett , Randy Delisio , and others .
Retiring from active competition in 2001 , Wally spent the recent years traveling to various nostalgia events , where he could always be found with old friends telling stories of racing events from “ back in the day .”
Wally is survived by his wife , Beverly , their daughter , Vicki , and son , Paul . He ’ s also survived by his extended family in the sport he loved , drag racing . Rest easy , my friend . See you soon . DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG BURROW
56 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 177