Arnie "the Farmer" Beswick. This is the famous drag racer from a small farming town in
Illinois, whose extraordinary success in drag racing has made him a legend in his own time
to four generations of fans. Not only is Arnie the most well known Pontiac drag racer in
the world, but his continuous series of Pontiac super stocks, funny cars and nostalgia door
slammers, has made him an undisputed fan favorite from coast to coast for over forty
years. In this condensed biography, we'll take a close look at the man, and his climb to
the top in a fiercely competitive sport.
IN THE BEGINNING...Arnie Beswick grew up on the family farm in Morrison, Illinois,
where he developed a passion for things mechanical at a very early age. No matter what
the device or machine, Arnie just had to work on it. As soon as he was old enough to
own a car, he began to focus all of his attention to making it faster. Regardless of the
vehicle, he was determined to improve upon its performance.
By the mid fifties, he was racing Oldsmobiles and Dodges. Always in search of the
ultimate performance machine, in 1958 he purchased a new Pontiac Chieftain, and a
tradition was started. His continued successes behind the wheel of Pontiacs became
nothing short of legend, and in race after race around the country, he showed competitors
that he was the man to beat.
He was so impressed by his immediate wins and performance of the 1958 Chieftain, that
he had his '59 ordered as soon as it was made available. While his '58 and '59 were not
any different than what you or I could buy, the 1960 Ventura was his first "specialty built"
Pontiac. It was factory rated at 348 HP, however optionally included in the package was
a set of heads and camshaft that raised the horsepower to 363. These parts were covertly
shipped in the trunk of the car. It also came with what is believed to be the first factory
installed 4 speed transmission in a Pontiac. Arnie, shortly after getting the car, drove to
Daytona Beach, Florida for the NHRA/NASCAR Winternationals. The best in the land
were here, so competition would be fierce. The window sticker was purposely left on the
car to prove that it was not modified. The car was still protested, even by other prominent
Pontiac racers. Additional build sheet confirmation had to be sent from Pontiac before he
could receive the overall S/S award for the weeklong competition.
By 1961, he was racing a new Pontiac that was absolutely unbeatable. He started out the
year by traveling to Daytona Beach for the weeklong competition for the second time.
He again won his class as well as going on to win the overall S/S eliminator title. In what
was later another high point of the year, he successfully raced one of the most highly
publicized Pontiac teams in the country. This was the Royal Pontiac crew from the
famous factory supported dealer in Royal Oak, Michigan. It was a best of five match race.
In spite of being an independent with no sponsorship, Arnie defeated the highly favored
Royal team three straight times. He ended up the season going to Indianapolis for the
NHRA nationals. He won in the S/S class, beating out everyone including Mickey
Thompson, who was driving his personal SD421 Catalina. He complied too quickly to the
automatic teardown of all class winners, and was disqualified for being a mere thousandth
overbore on one cylinder as the engine hadn't cooled sufficiently yet.
STEPPING UP TO PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION ...By 1962 the Super Stock wars
were in full swing and Arnie was in the forefront, racing a 1962 Super Duty 421 Pontiac.
At events all over the country, his name became synonymous with both Pontiac and
winning. A tough competitor, he would travel for hours on end to get to the next track in
time to compete in another race. As an independent, he struggled to rise to the top in a
sport that became the playground of the factory teams. Undaunted, he never lamented his
situation, and time and time again put the high dollar, factory sponsored cars on the trailer.
In 1963, he achieved more success. He took delivery, early in the year, of two specially
factory built cars. They were a "Swiss cheese" Catalina and a Tempest station wagon. Both were
equipped with 421 Super duty motors and aluminum front ends. Later in the year he also
purchased one of the new 421 LeMans Tempest coupes, first shipped to Mickey
Thompson. Armed with these three phenomenal vehicles, he went on a rampage,
defeating opponents all over the country. The competition continued to heat up, and in
1964 he started out the year again in Daytona. This year Arnie's cars were the only
Pontiac entry amongst a sea of Ford Thunderbolts and a spattering of Mopar hemi's and
426 wedges. He was protested by Ford Motor Company after the completion of the
week’s event and forced to completely tear down the motor. Upon inspection by
NASCAR officials, he was declared legal and then awarded the overall championship for
the week's competition. After total domination of Daytona, he headed across country to
the west coast, where his winning ways continued in almost unbelievable fashion. While
hitting the popular tracks up and down the coast, the two cars at times ended up in the
finals, pitted against each other. He often found he had to pinch himself to make sure he
wasn't dreaming with what the cars were accomplishing.
With the release of the new GTO's in 1964, Arnie again had his name on an order form
for one of these powerhouse muscle cars. This new GTO escaped Pontiac, the only
known car to leave those confines with an aluminum front end and no sound deadener.
Shortly after taking delivery, Arnie immediately removed the 389 in favor of one of his
trusty SD421's. Factory Experimental action was red hot, with the aluminum Dodge 426
hemi Rams and Ford 427 Thunderbolts blazing trails everywhere. Arnie was a feared
competitor regardless, and no opponent ever underestimated the reserved "Farmer" and
his now legendary Pontiacs.
ALWAYS THE INNOVATOR...If 1964 wasn't intense enough, "65 just plain got out of
hand. Chrysler Corporation unleashed its factory altered wheelbase cars on the strip and
things have never been the same since. These cars quickly became known as "funny cars",
because of their strange look. The name stuck, and today's professional category is the
result. Arnie decided that to remain competitive in an increasingly outrageous category
where virtually anything goes, he put a supercharger on his GTO and soon began running
nitro methane. This car, and what became a regular competitor, the supercharged, nitro
burning "65 S/FX Coronet of "Mr. Norm", were the true progenitors of "heads up",
exhibition match racing. This trend quickly caught on, and Arnie's GTO became a feared
competitor on this new "match race" circuit where fans would either cheer or jeer the cars,
depending on their brand loyalty.
One of his most famous and remembered cars was also raced at this time. His 1963
Tempest coupe had suffered some major body damage while being transported. Arnie
elected to rebuild the car using the Mopar philosophy. He moved both the front and rear
wheels almost a foot. Its wild tiger striped paint matched its performance. This
supercharged crowd pleaser astounded fans as it ran the quarter mile usually on its back
bumper, doing wheel stands to half track.
By 1966, the funny car category was in full swing and the supporting technology advanced
at a rapid rate. Fiberglass bodies on tube chassis' rather than production based cars
relegated the previously dominant cars to the back of the pack. Arnie needed to stay
competitive, but lacked the resources that sponsorship provided. After borrowing the
majority of the frame from the '64 GTO and adding to it a tube axle, he built a fiberglass
bodied 1966 GTO. Always the competitor, the new car was colorfully painted and it was
a crowd pleaser everywhere it went. The trends became firmly established by this time
and with improvements notwithstanding, the funny car category continued to gain in
popularity. After several appearances at various track locations early that year, an
announcer attached the moniker of "Star of the Circuit" to the multi-colored, eye catching
GTO. Arnie continued to develop these cars with the same enthusiasm as the super
stockers of just a few years earlier, and remained a dominant force in this quickly changing
Through a series of GTO's and later Trans Ams, Arnie Beswick always remained a force
to be reckoned with, anytime and any place. Disaster struck though, in April of 1972. A
terrible fire started in a new shop he had built at the farm specifically for the racing effort.
It consumed all of his engines, parts, cars, tools and trucks, as well as the majority of his
farm equipment. He had no sponsorship and no insurance to cover the loss of any race
related items, and only a token of coverage was received on his farm machinery loss,
compared to the cost of replacement. Arnie was devastated beyond words and was out of
the picture as far as any further racing effort. He knew that what few dollars he could
muster would have to go to the replacement of some kind of equipment for his farming
operation and his livelihood.
CAN'T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN...A lesser man might have given it all up, but not
Arnie Beswick. After an extended period of regrouping, he heeded the Siren's call and
put another car and team together to keep the legend alive. The difference was, this time
he was back in the seat of a car similar to the one he ran back in 1963, the 421SD
Tempest. He was unable to return to the funny car wars as costs had skyrocketed out of
hand. He saw another opportunity to make a difference in this great sport, and went back
to exhibition match racing and competition with what is now termed, a nostalgia car.
While it employs all of the modern safety and performance modifications that are used on
the race cars of today, it remains true to the era it originally raced in, and it once debuted.
It again has become a fan favorite everywhere, with shades of its bygone antics of the
sixties. It sports the familiar tiger striped paint and traditional quarter mile performances.
Since he started this trend, several other familiar names from the Super Stock and funny
car era have joined Arnie in this special fan oriented category. With "Dyno" Don
Nicholson and his bubble top Chevrolet, Phil Bonner's "Daddy Warbucks" '65 427
Falcon, Dick Brannon's "Hi-riser" Thunderbolt and Malcolm Durham's "Strip Blazer"
Chevelle as his most consistent opponents, Arnie continues to blaze a trail across this vast
country, entertaining fans everywhere. He combines the unique blend of pro-stock style
performance with a nostalgia look....bringing back the excitement of days gone by, with
his great LeMans and most recently a 1964 GTO, also reminiscent of the first "Tameless
Tiger" that started the match race phenomenon so many years ago.
WORLD FAMOUS AND RECOGNIZED AS A CHAMPION......Arnie Beswick's
accomplishments have left an indelible mark in the largest spectator sport in the United
States, that of drag racing. The list of accolades that he has been showered with include:
Induction into the Super Stock, A/FX and Funny Car Hall of Fame in 1995; the
prestigious, Driver of the Year Award in 1996; and induction into the NHRA Division 3
Hall of Fame. As an innovator and leader in the automotive racing arena, Arnie Beswick
has achieved unparalleled success in the high profile sport of drag racing. Today he is
recognized by fans the world over as not only a legendary racing figure, but the man we all
know as Arnie "the Farmer" Beswick.
Unlike many professional drivers, Arnie is never too busy to talk to the fans whether
you've met him several times before or not, You'll undoubtedly get a story or two of
yesteryear, but it's an experience you'll most likely long remember. Today Arnie is busy
as ever with many irons in the fire, as if his cross country, nine month race schedule is not
enough, he still finds time for car and trade show appearances as well as getting other
projects off the ground. Expect to see the Beswick tribe campaigning a few more Indians
in future days.