by Bob Wilkiewicz
Nostalgia Super Stock Staff
Revised by Mark Mullarky to reflect new owners
Photo by Peter Ores Ores Action Photography
In any human activity, there are leaders and there are followers. However, in some endeavors the leaders are true pioneers. Dave Campbell is one of those few true and rare pioneers for Nostalgia Super Stock racing.
Growing up on a farm, he was taught by his father to always finish the job. “This is just the way I am. Cleaning and putting the equipment up at night, bringing it into the barn was just expected,” he said. “My dad saw no sense in leaving things outside to rust and fall apart. I learned to do a complete job.”
In his younger years, Campbell also worked at various off-farm jobs, earning about a dollar an hour. Then in 1957, General Motors needed more line workers at its Kansas City MO (Leeds) assembly plant. “When we heard about that, we got ourselves down to the employment office fast,” he said. He was hired at $2.65 an hour. “We thought it was a fabulous rate,” he said.
For that, he helped originally assemble all the various performance machines of the time, up to the now famous 409 Super Stockers. But Campbell earned his money. “The line moved at 60 cars per hour and it didn’t stop,” he said, his discrete way of saying there were no bathroom breaks. “We had to work together, make sure to cover for each other in case we had to be away.” But for car guys, the landscape was OK. “There were about 2,500 guys at the plant and of course not all of them drove GM products,” he said. So that obviously lead to rivalries, all kinds of talk and occasionally action about which manufacturer had the superior product. In other words, the foundation of Super Stock racing.
Eventually, Campbell owned what he built, a 409 4-speed Super Sport in 1963. But in time that was let go in favor of more family-friendly transportation. However, in the mid and late 1960’s, Campbell did a lot of class racing with a Nova in the old American Hot Rod Association, perhaps a story to do in more detail in the future.
The story of the ‘Faded Memories’ Nostalgia Super Stock car is documented in the following media sheet and in Campbell’s web site blogs, the name coming from the work of remembering the historically accurate way of assembling the machine. However, before any formal organization, there is usually a period of pick-up games, which is what NSS was in the mid to late 1980’s. That time is documented in a history I wrote from multiple sources and also by Campbell’s more recent blogs on the club’s website.
After completing the construction of ‘Faded Memories’, Campbell went on to be one of the founders of the Midwest Nostalgia Super Stock Association, the original formal NSS organization (1989). In addition, he had the foresight and fortitude to document and archive all the activities of the early years, serving as club secretary, so they would be preserved for history. These archives include all the club’s meeting minutes and also a newsletter which was published monthly during the racing season.
Now in the club’s vault, the records along with Campbell’s memories tell the fascinating story of how NSS racing was born and grew during its infancy and teenage years. At one event in 1989, Campbell recalled that he was running in the 12’s and Arnie Beswick was in the 10’s. The story also includes the club’s early back-and-forth with come-and-go promoters, the cooperative work with the National Muscle Car Association and The Goodguys Association; how the original MWNSSA club survived a rebellion, a taking of the name and how the club went on to rename itself and not only just survive but to also to prosper after the rebels fell to the long, hard road.
Although this is primarily the story of ‘Faded Memories’ and Campbell, being the way he is, Campbell also wants to credit specific club supporters from the early years. These include Doug Marion, who was the editor of Super Chevy Magazine, a car owner, driver, and promoter of the Super Chevy Series and who invited Campbell to his first big-stage event in 1988. Others were Len Greco, a promoter who offered the club its first professional-level appearance; Russ Smieltnicks, an early sole owner of NMCA; Gary Meadors, the owner of Goodguys and later his son, Mark Meadors.
Rick Johnson, who ran the ‘No Sponsor’ Pontiac, was the MWNSSA’s first president. “He worked very hard at it and did an outstanding job,” said Campbell. “We raced from Michigan to Texas,” he continued. “There were only a few of us willing to go. It’s a long way from KC to Norwalk (Ohio). It wasn’t easy.”
It also wasn’t certain what the future of the category would be. “I remember saying to (fellow charter club member) John Rousset in 1993 that if it lasted another five years it would be surprising,” said Campbell. In hindsight, however, the years 1990 and 1994 proved to be a pivotal time for the sport.
One of the problems was establishing a handicapping format to account for each car’s performance potential. Another was ownership of NMCA, which eventually went from single proprietary to corporate, initially Petersen Publishing. “We had been getting some good press in magazines and we had our newsletter but the thing just went bananas when we went with NMCA,” said Campbell. “They liked what we were doing, especially the quality of the cars, the old-time look and lettering. “The combination was a benefit for both our groups. We helped NMCA get going and they provided us increased and quality coverage.”
During the early 1990’s, the cars were run heads-up but under a somewhat vague cubic inches to weight to special exceptions format and under an eliminator system. One example of the format difficulties was an event at US 36 Raceway in Osborn MO, a long-time and still current venue for NSS Inc. “They wanted to see a winner, so we ran eliminations,” said Campbell. “We started with 12 cars and the next session had six and so on. But the fans wanted to see more. “The purpose of the club is to give the fans a complete package of how it was in the 1960’s, complete fields in every session, along with pit access to the drivers and cars.”
In 1994 NMCA instituted an eliminator index system while the MWNSSA remained committed to a heads-up format. “They wanted to go in a different direction,” said Campbell. So the MWNSSA and successor organization Nostalgia Super Stock Inc. took on more self-promotion work and moved closer to Goodguys, including a string of 21 consecutive annual appearances at its Indianapolis event. For Campbell, few people have the long-term vision to see the value and fewer still have the marathon willpower it takes to maintain the effort it takes to accomplish such a body of work.
Three full-time jobs – earning a food-and-shelter living, running a race car and writing documentation for the sport. Together, these accomplishments are just one reason he is one of the first to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. Vision, honesty and motivation are three others. “I’ve thought about what’s happened a lot but never dreamed it would grow into what it is now,” he said. “We had no idea and I’m still a little surprised. I’m happy it’s lasted this long. And I think it will continue as long as it’s family-orientated and there continues to be the respect for others, the people and their property.” Well done, sir.
People such as Dave Campbell don’t ever stop producing. Now he serves as the club’s historian and maintains an active blog on the website. The blog is an interesting blend of history and commentary on current racing. “I am a racing fan, of all types, always have been,” he said. “Now I have a little more time to read and I’m always looking for information and much more is available. There is always something more to know.”
Nostalgia Super Stock
Combining life-long familiarity with General Motors’ Chevrolet products and many years experience in drag racing, Dave Campbell is one of the pioneers and continuing guiding forces in NSS racing with his administrative skills and technical know-how powering the ‘Faded Memories’ 1963 Chevrolet Bel-Air Tudor sedan.
Former Owners and Sponsors
The husband and wife team of Dave and Emma Campbell of Kearney, Missouri
Tom & Mary Kowal, Michigan
Dave Campbell is retired from the General Motors Leeds Assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri. Racing a Chevy II in the American Hot Rod Association from 1968 through 1971, Campbell chalked up class wins at national events in Green Valley, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma in addition to consistent class victories at his home track, Kansas City International Raceway. Then later, a little critter left some teeth marks. “The racing bug bit me again so I built the 409 and we still are racing,” he said.
Campbell is also one of the founders of the Midwest Nostalgia Super Stock Association, the original club to organize the NSS format. The first meeting took place at Campbell’s residence in Kearney, Missouri in 1990. In 2007, Campbell retired as secretary and newsletter editor for Nostalgia Super Stock Inc., positions he held for many years.
Tom & Mary Kowal live in Michigan and race with their 2 son’s, Chris and Tom Jr. “We try to make racing a family affair with Chris doing most of the driving of Faded Memories. Tom Jr. also races a 1962 dragmaster front engine dragster. We were lucky enough to buy the car from Tim Griffin, who bought it from Bob. He bought it from Dave Campbell. Here’s some history that Dave sent me last week–he raced the car from 1988 to 2008 in 12 states and 26 tracks, to me quite an accomplishment. Dave found the car back in 86 with less than 44,000 miles on it and built a great car–it has held up well. We all are proud to own a car with such history and hope to attend quite a few events this year with the NSS.”
The Campbells are well experienced with ‘Golden Era’ Chevys, having owned a 1958 Bel-Air 348 and a Super Sport 409 4-speed car new in 1963. “The ‘W’ engine was always fascinating because of its design,” said Dave Campbell.
On vacation in Tennessee in 1986, they came across a 1963 Chevrolet Bel-Air Tudor sedan, a 6-cyclinder Powerglide car with 44, 000 miles. “We finally put together a 409 based on our memories of how we assembled them at the plant in 1963,” Dave Campbell said. “From that point on, NSS racing and ‘Faded Memories’ became a reality.”
In 2009, Campbell sold ‘Faded Memories’ to Bob Cattelino, a car dealer, collector and racer who runs in several categories, including NSS and Gas. Cattelino had been a casual drag racing fan, attributing his initial interest to good old time 1960‘s rock-and-roll radio. “I can put the blame on WLS (Chicago); the signal reached all the way up to Hurley WI, where I could see Lake Superior from my kitchen window,” said Cattelino. “I liked the Sunday, Sunday, Sunday ads, even though it’s more than 300 miles to GLD (Great Lakes Dragaway).” After moving south to Fort Atkinson WI, establishing his business and taking a ’68 Chevrolet Nova in trade, Cattelino started seriously racing at Great Lakes approximately 10 years ago.
Also a member of the Midwest Gassers, Cattelino has a wide interest in race cars, owning several. Fellow NSS Inc. member John Grinwald told Cattelino of the possible availability of ‘Faded Memories’ and the purchasing process developed from that. “It took some persistence but I stuck with it and we were able to make the deal,” said Cattelino, who prefers GM products in general and Chevrolets in particular.
Looking to keep ‘Faded Memories’ at its current performance level (mid 10’s), Cattelino is mindful of the history he now holds. “I have no desire to go faster,” he said. “It’s a very consistent car and to keep it going in that style, I think that’s pretty good. “Dave built a tremendous car. It’s an honor to keep it going.”
Bob Cattelino sold the car to Tim Griffin, who sold it to Tom and Mary Kowal in 2019. Look for it at NSS events once again!
Chevrolet factory cast iron 409 ‘W’ block with stroker crankshaft / now displaces 482 cubic inches / Turbo 400 automatic transmission with transbrake / Chevrolet 12-bolt rear end with aftermarket spool and axles / 4.56 ratio / 9×30 rear slicks.
For ¼-mile, consistently runs mid 10‘s at 122 mph; all-time best of 10.42 at 127 mph / for 1/8-mile, 6.60’s at just over 100 mph; all-time best of 6.54 at 102 mph / The car consistently posts 60-foot times in the low 1.40’s with a best of 1.39.
‘Faded Memories’ debuted at Super Chevy Sunday at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1988 and has competed at many major events throughout the Midwest and South since then. In addition, the car has been featured in numerous magazines, including Super Chevy, Super Street Machines, Chevy High Performance, Hot Rod, Muscle Car Review, Muscle Cars, National Muscle Car Association Magazine, Midwest Drag Racing Magazine and on the 1994 event schedule for Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Copyright 2014, 2019 by Nostalgia Super Stock Inc.