NORTH DINWIDDIE, VA — Some people get the rare chance to fulfill a dream once in their life but Ayersville resident Tracy Grim hasn’t done it once, nor twice but now three times.
Grim has not only competed but has earned the award for quickest Oldsmobile now three years in-a-row at the annual Hot Rod Drag Week.
The car painter and his now legendary car ‘Aunt Bee’ have got the attention of Northwest Ohio but also car buffs around the nation and the world after a strong showing in North Dinwiddie, VA at Virginia Motorsports Park in September.
The Hot Rod Drag Week, sponsored by Hot Rod magazine, is a week long test of endurance and speed for car enthusiasts from all over America. The premise of the event is for racers to drive nearly 250 miles a day in street legal setups to a predetermined drag raceway, switch to a drag setup, make at least two runs as fast as possible down the drag strip and repeat for five-straight days.
In his third attempt, Grim again turned heads with his 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 averaging just over 10 seconds per quarter mile and again earning the fastest Olds title, this time in the Big Block Modified Class.
Grim first competed in 2017 in the Street Eliminator class in Cordova, Ill. and again a year ago when the event was in Virgina. This year’s course took Grim and navigator Todd Vandenberghe through Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and back to Virginia, a roundtrip of nearly 900 miles.
“There’s so much going on, you don’t have time to think about stuff, you just do it,” explained Grim. “You’ve got to get there first thing in the morning, get the car turned over into a racecar, get down the track and get it to do the best number it will go. And then load it back up and do it again.”
Aside from the stress of travel and setting up the car, sleep is on the back burner during the event as other issues become more pressing.
“We don’t sleep, so what, we got the rest of the year to catch up on that,” joked Grim. “But it’s just human nature to want to help somebody get get moving. So if somebody breaks, everybody’s onboard.”
Grim and Vandenberghe had their own share of troubles on the final day when a routine maintenance stop turned disastrous for ‘Aunt Bee’.
“I saw the car drop and the hood flop down and I ran up there hoping Todd was okay,” recalled Grim “The jack slid out from underneath it and goes right into the oil pan. We didn’t know what it did until we started it and the crank was hitting the pan.
“Todd was disturbed and I pulled him aside and said, ‘We got parts, we got people, we can do this.’ We pulled together and here’s a guy dragging off the old oil. The other guys bring in tools and everybody’s there to get that car down the track. We banged the oil pan out, put it back on and it started right up. So that was just cool.”
The Olds made two trips down the track after the near-miss recording runs of 10.03 and then 9.95.
Grim’s perseverance and the legacy of ‘Aunt Bee’ has garnered interest not only on social media but also from Hot Rod’s editor-in-chief, David Freiburger. After a checkpoint stop, the world-renowned car guru himself stopped to checkout the Oldsmobile that wouldn’t quit that he had heard so much about. ”I’m not even over the bar yet and here’s Freiburger walking up to the front of my car,” added Grim. “He says ‘is that really an Olds motor?.” And I said, ‘Yeah’, as I pop up the hood. So he says, ‘how are you keeping that car alive?’ And I told him about the oil restrictors and playing with the timing and he says, ‘I just can’t believe it.’ After that, he left. I mean, he was waiting there for me to roll in. He’s just a cool, dude.”
After three times as quickest Olds, Grim and his car are starting to become a matter of legend, even earning a spot in the top 10 cars of drag week by Street Eliminator Machine, a group of Australian car buffs that keep their eye on Drag Week.
“The car got crazy attention this year, crazy attention,” admitted Grim. “And I don’t know why...I mean, it’s quicker. And it’s pulling the wheels up a little higher but we could tame that down and go a little faster. It’s kind of fun for the show and I like the old school race cars that really did that.”
Over three trips through Drag Week, Grim and ‘Aunt Bee’ have gotten quicker which is extraordinary on two levels. First because, Oldsmobile engines, aside from LS engines, are nearly impossible to keep running in the long term. But secondly, Grim has done almost nothing besides maintenance to his non LS engine since it was built by Terry Smith in Cincinnati.
“The motor’s really been just maintenance other than you know a little bit but the motors not been out,” stated Grim. “The trans hasn’t been out. It’s more about setting the chassis up, getting the car so it reacts right. Changing and playing with the tires, playing tire pressure games, tightening the shocks, loosening the shocks and changing the shocks. We replaced a couple parts with a little bit lighter pieces so we probably took one hundred pounds out of it this year, thanks to Ken at Advanced Chassis in Antwerp. It’s just making sure, more or less, that the motor and the chassis become really good friends.”
Grim knows a motor that has been run that hard, especially an Olds is living on borrowed time.
“We make sure it’s not eating itself up all the time,” he said. “The car is due if we stay with the same motor for next year. It’s time to pull the motor out, replace bearings and rings because it has thousands of miles on it. For a race car motor it’s crazy, especially an Olds, nobody can keep an Olds running.”
While Grim and his car get the bulk of the attention, so many people are involved in his dream including Vandenberghe and Grim’s wife Jeannie just to name a few.
“It takes people to do this,” he explained. “I’ve got friends that hang out and help out. My wife’s super supportive. She knows that that car and me get along. I molded that car into our life too.”
In the future, Grim would like for Jeannie to play a bigger role in his hobby, something he’s easing her into slowly for now.
“She’s not a big car girl, but she likes the old cars,” he said. “So as long as I keep it simple for her, she’ll have fun. I’ve taken her for a hit down the track at 132 MPH and she says ‘that’s the craziest thing twice over from Cedar Point’. We get up at the top end of the track and she’s giggling and I’m laughing and she says ‘that’s a lot of fun’. I said, ‘this is why we do this.’”