Bruce Lindstrom: A Man and His Goldfish

ray and bruce

This man can check into a hotel without declaring a pet. His goldfish is one of a dozen or so Plymouths produced to nurture interest in drag racing — the “Golden Commandos.” Eleven were big blocks sent around the country to various Chrysler Corporation racing teams. One, the Goldfish, had a 273 CID engine, and was placed in the hands of several Chrysler engineers and technicians at the Highland Park Complex. The car with the small engine played very hard, winning 90% of the races. When these cars were retired from racing some were sold and some were to be crushed. The “Goldfish” was to be crushed but it simply vanished before the jaws could get a grip on it.

1964 Golden Commando Goldfish - hot Plymouth

Bruce was looking for a chassis for his supercharged big block engine. Ray Kobe was on the list to be called after Bruce had a line on a suitable chassis that he thought was a “Golden Commandos” car. When the chips settle Bruce is the owner of the “Goldfish”. Bruce dropped his big block blown engine in mid-stride and began buying more “Cracker Jacks”, hoping for a small engine.

When the car arrived Bruce realized the enormity of the project. It had been in a cow pasture with no wheels so the floor-pan was in direct contact with the dirt. Being settled in the dirt probably prevented the floor-pan from rusting. He would need to get a trade school to do the body restoration. In 2002 he took the car to Southwest Kansas Area Tech School, but by 2006 nothing had been done to the car. Then the school was taken over by Seward County Community College and Tech School, and Dr. Bud Smithson, El Budro, was placed in charge. It then took some time to get large enough class to tackle the project. Once started, it was completed rather quickly giving Bruce little opportunity to consult. Some details are different but it strongly resembles the car as it was manufactured.

Plymouth Barracuda racing car

The first thing we did was to go look at the car. Bruce had done a lot of research on these Golden Commando cars and he tells me the Chrysler engineers didn’t play fair, but I suspect the competition was of the same mindset. These engineers scraped out the body putty and removed some other useless items, totalling around 150 pounds. The 150 pounds was replaced with water in the spare tire and lead was added to the divider plate between the back seat and trunk. The car weighs the same, but 150 pounds is now placed directly over the drive wheels.

The tires on the car are about an inch outside the fender. That is likely to present a problem at the strip. Bruce is on a strict budget and is doing everything in his power to get the car on track this year. So if you have some slicks that have a few passes left and will fit a Plymouth here is a good home. Bruce has a personal goal to get the car to the strip in 2011.

Interview with Bruce Lindstrom

Allpar is in Kearney, Nebraska in late May of 2011 to interview Bruce Lindstrom, the owner of the "Goldfish." Ray Alexander conducted the interview.

Bruce, can you give us a little history on the Golden Commandos and specifics for your car?

In the 1960s Plymouth wanted to showcase some of their power cars to the public and chose to do this by dedicating cars to drag racing under the guidance of the Golden Commandos. The Golden Commandos were people with backgrounds as automotive engineers, technicians, lawyers, truck drivers and college students. The requirements to becoming a commando were a desire to race, willing to work long hours, and bleeding oil.1968 Golden Commandos funny car- Plymouth

Some of the Commandos and their automotive disciplines were:

  • Ray Kobe, Fuels and Lubrications also CEO/President and Chief Historian of the “Golden Commandos”
  • Troy Simonsen, Engines
  • Ken Heatlie, Dynamometers
  • Forrest Pitcock, Dynamometers
  • Don Ernst, Carburetion and airflow
  • Walt Ulrick, Engines
  • John Dallafior, Transmissions and driver of the “Goldfish”
  • Bob Wellbaum, Paint and Finishes
  • Gene Carrico, Manual and Auto Transmissions and Torque applications
  • Marty Pikaliokas, Liason with Hamilton Motors the offsite sponsor of the “Golden Commandos”
  • John Michalowicz, student at Chrysler Engineering School
  • Larry Knowlton, Specialist with the Airflow and turbine group, he worked on intake manifold and head flow
  • Dennis Geary, the golden wrench of the Commandos 1967 Golden Commandos

The Commandos held their first reunion at the Chrysler museum during the 2007 CEMA show. Bruce and his family were invited to attend and while there met all of the Commandos in attendance. Sometime later Bruce was added to the roster of the Golden Commandos. They are anxious to see the “Goldfish” back in action. The “Goldfish” was produced in 1965 as a Plymouth Barracuda with a 273 CID engine. After acid dipping the hood, doors, and front fenders and adding a fresh paint scheme the car was ready. The purpose was to demonstrate racing on a budget.

The car broke the F Stock record in AHRA the first time it ran. In 1965, the car won the NHRA National F stock class and set the F stock record.

registration

What is your history in drag racing?

hot rod magazineWhen I was 18 or 19 I bought a Dodge 340 Demon and rebuilt it. I engaged in some street racing before moving to El Paso and running at the El Paso International Raceway. There I won the Stock Street bracket the first year I ran and was third the second year. I quit drag racing when my 12-second car was beat .01 of a second by a 22-second Chevette. Since that time I have not had a suitable car, so this will be my re-entry into drag racing.

How do you plan to campaign the car? If sponsorship cam pouring in would that plan change?

I would start at a national level. This car is not bashful. There are several tracks/events where Ray Kobe wants me to appear. Events such as Carlisle would be a natural. I would love to work with Hot Rod Magazine or Mopar Muscle Magazine to promote races from the era or do a demonstration run and show the car.

In the spring, Chrysler sponsors an event for LX cars in Los Angeles, then a week later the west coast event "Mopars at the Strip" takes place, would you be interested in that?

Certainly but, for events like that I would need big sponsorship. I believe that nostalgia Mopar events will be big and I would like to attend all of them but again sponsors are needed.

Everyone is battling the same set of givens; air temperature, altitude, humidity, track surface temperature, and track preparation. Is there anything you do to gain an advantage?

Well, if I tell you the cat is out of the bag. Okay, here it is. I put bleach in the window washer reservoir and route lines to the rear tires. During burnout I spray the tires, this makes them very sticky.

1965 Goldfish

Drag racing is a long event, very different from watching four runs in 30 seconds on TV. The adhesion between drive rubber and the track changes over the hours. How do you decide if grip increasing or decreasing and what changes would you make for increasing grip, as an example?

I don’t know, I have one set of tires and I am not going to make that many runs. I might run against four different cars in a day. I will not be bracket racing so it is not really critical.

I am the product of an era that had almost no legal drag racing. The public reacted slowly to the need for sanctioned racing. Do you think drag racing has peaked?

I don't think that it has. Now we have the very high horsepower cars and that is always a draw. More people are getting into nostalgia drags. I see that segment growing.

The words of a song (the cars keep going faster every year) was addressing the horsepower race of the 1960s and early 1970s. Today there is a much quieter race going on, where do you think that will lead us.

I don't know, all the cars now must be street legal. A guy can't change a cam like we did. Do they need gears or do they have enough torque to get out of the hole. Can the ordinary guy even work on these cars?

Let's say you are the average American male with 1.7 kids, a huge mortgage and an understanding wife. You buy a new 392 CID Challenger with the intent of modifying it for drag racing. Would it be stick or automatic? Under budget constraints of doing one modification at a time lead us step by step to a nine second car.

It would be a stick shift. First I would change the gearing, I think that is very important. Next I would go for tuning the exhaust path. I don’t know what is done to tune the intake on a fuel-injected car but that would get attention. Then I would look at taking out weight.

Goldfish at Michigan Dragway

You dyno your car to quantify horsepower and torque at the drive wheels relative to RPM if you were driving a manual transmission with equally spaced gearing how do you pick your shift points?

I will shift over the peak of the horsepower. I will run a couple of hundred RPMs above peak before shifting. I will probably run the Goldfish to 7,200 before I shift.

At the point you are staged are you calm or a bundle of nervous energy? Do you ever think of something you didn’t do?

I have looked at the way you write with subtle humor so of course I will be a bundle of nerves driving this car, as a past National Champion I have a continuing nightmare of dumping the clutch, red lighting, and killing the engine. And for the other part of the question I wonder if I turned off the curling irons at home.

In your opinion, why do so many people think drag racing is as simple as pointing the car down the track and matting the gas?

Simply because they have never done it. They may have done some rolling start stuff on the street and think they can drag but it does not compare. Also racing in front of a crowd will make a difference even if you are capable of drag racing.

Is the Challenger Drag-Pak a good strategy for Chrysler?

Yes, they have the right idea. They are taking full advantage of current technology. I like what they are doing.

Do you believe, “it’s over at 60 feet?”

I don’t know if it is 60’ but any time I can see the other car in the rearview mirror he is going to have a difficult time catching me. If you are quick out of the hole they will never catch you.

What influenced you to choose Mopar?

I had a brother-in-law and when I was thirteen he took me for a ride in a 1971 Duster. It was automatic but he was manually shifting it, he shifted to third at 90 MPH and it was still spinning the wheels. That’s it, I was sold.

golden commandos

In your experience what has been the most prone to failure?

Transmission.

What is the best piece of advice you could give someone just starting to drag race?

Save a lot of money. Spend your money cost-effectively. Don’t spend money on looks.

Do you play mind games with your opponent?

I do not, I act as if they didn’t exist. I am the only one that matters. Perhaps that is a mind game.

Bruce, I thank you for your time and hospitality. I fear that every bottle of Clorox that I see will remind me of you and the Goldfish.

Note: Bruce consulted Ray Kobe to verify the historic authenticity of his statements. See more of the Goldfish [link].

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