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October 11, 2016


(Originally appeared in Elapsed Times)

by Cole Coonce

The Magic Muffler Pop Art Iconography

During the 1960s, there were a dozen “Magic Muffler” stores across Southern California, mostly in Northeast Los Angeles across the basin to the San Fernando Valley.

It was “the friendly purple place,” according to Howard Hudson, its owner, “doing it right” since he founded the company in 1956. An “honest automotive family repair shop,” Magic Muffler epitomized California’s version of the American Dream. Free enterprise, fueled by sweat equity, resourcefulness and a wry sense of humor. Hudson died in 2007. In his wake, there is one store left, out in Simi Valley.

Hudson’s sense of humor came across in his store’s eye-catching signage. The Magic Muffler’s Pop-Art logo featured a wispy but muscular Malaysian Sultan with his herculean arms folded, escaping out of a tailpipe into some Arabian night. The message? The Genie’s out of the muffler. The Genie is here to grant your wish.

The logo is iconic and, by extension, memorable. It had to be. It had to pop. Along any boulevard in Los Angeles, Magic Muffler’s genie fought for space and attention from motorists distracted by huge signs like Western Exterminator’s cartoon of a dapper man hiding a mallet to be used on an imminent assault of an unsuspecting rat, or a twenty-foot Big Donut or Madman Muntz, a larger-than-life huckster hawking his car stereos with a caricature of himself as some twisted-but-towering Napoleon. The skyline was filled with similar creative cartoons. Hudson trademarked his Genie and even the style of lettering.

Times change and free enterprise is malleable. Many of those businesses with the gargantuan kitschy signage died. Somehow, Magic Muffler survived and, even if it is down to one store, the memory of that image with the Smiling Genie will last forever. The logo is eternal.

And one second of one night at Lions Drag Strip in 1965 made the Magic Muffler brand even more unforgettable. Read more…

Small-Block Chevy-Powered Champion Speed Shop Mouse Saws Through the Elephant Jungle

October 11, 2016

photo by Ted Soqui

The Champion Speed Shop dragster is a front-engine Top Fuel car out of South San Francisco, California, that features a couple of distinctions: first, a bulbous cockpit canopy from an outer-space movie buttressed by a swoopy, streamlined body with sumptuous, saucy red paint thicker than marinara; and secondly, a small-block Chevy replica that gulps and pukes nitromethane like Beelzebub on a bender.


Frying The Baloneys Off of Danica Patrick at the Smog Cutter

November 1, 2014
The Smog Cutter

The Smog Cutter

My friend Myron and I were sipping good, smoky whiskey at the Smog Cutter in the Thai Town section of East Hollywood, while listening to various Burmese chanteuses chirp out ballads on the jukebox. We began the night by bench racing, but ended it by arguing about IndyCar sensation Danica Patrick and female racecar drivers.

Myron is a drag racing writer and is a geeky, greasy-haired academic type with Clark Kent-type cheaters. His goofball nerdiness is mitigated by penchant for pop art t-shirts. Tonight he was wearing a white cotton t-shirt featuring a photo of a vintage Barracuda Funny Car doing a burnout. Through the copious clouds of smoke, the garment is emblazoned with the motto: “I’d Rather Be Frying the Baloneys.”

Read more…

Top Fuel Wormhole, Volume 2

October 25, 2014
Potential cover for Top Fuel Wormhole, Volume 2

Top Fuel Wormhole, Volume 2: The Post-Millennial Cole Coonce Dragstrip Reader

With his second collection of musings on all things nitro, drag-strip journalist Cole Coonce pulls no punches in his mind-warping analysis of the greatest sport in the history of western civilization, drag racing.

Volume 2 of Cole Coonce’s “Top Fuel Wormhole” features in-depth conversations with the luminaries of drag racing, including Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Don Garlits, Chris Karamesines, Roland Leong, Dean Skuza, Brent Fanning, Clay Millican and Austin Coil! Only $10.99 at


The Ketamine Sun, Chapter 1: Toshiro Hits the Beach

September 29, 2014

“The sun didn’t care about stink. It didn’t care about money. It didn’t care about beauty. It didn’t care about tranquility. It was oblivious to its own reflection glimmering off the placid water, even if the ocean was the only element that could salve an otherwise stifling atomic fury that spoke of the new, inexorable radiation. I drove in to see Toshiro Kamiokande at his post-opulence palace in the Palisades, on an October Tuesday before noon in the heat of an all too obligatory Indian Summer. The planet was melting. The yellow fireball in the sky hadn’t yet crested, yet its sting cracked paint and melted the molded faces of gorgeous people stuck in traffic in West Los Angeles. When beauty gets sticky, it gets macabre and smells of chemicals and decaying flesh. The sun didn’t care about pulchritude either.”

Chapter 1 of Cole Coonce’s “The Ketamine Sun” is here:

Remembering Lions Drag Strip Last Drag Race … And the Night the Music Died

September 24, 2014
The Last Drag Race

The Last Drag Race

“Remembering Lions Drag Strip Last Drag Race …And the Night the Music Died.” Drag-strip journalist Cole Coonce collates the thoughts and memories of drag racing superstars who partied as hard as they raced on the night Lions Drag Strip was shuttered.

Among those quoted are luminaries like Don “the Snake’ Prudhomme, Tom “the Mongoo$e” McEwen, “TV” Tommy Ivo and Ed Pink.

From the article: “Lions Drag Strip’s undoing was that America changed in the ’70s, and too much was no longer enough for some people. Hip capitalism was passé, and the new ethos became making as much money as you can—and who gives a damn about the neighbors and what they think? No more free lunches, ma’am. Like Mike Kuhl was to his Top Fuel engine: Just flog it until it dies. You’ll either win or leave a trail of absolute carnage. Or both. ‘Who cares? It’s behind you!’ Yes, 1960s drag racing, if not the 1960s in totum, died that bleary-eyed night in December, 1972. Cold and stoned.”

Read the article here:

Elapsed Times: Embed with The NHRA’s Bakersfield Cacklefest

September 24, 2014
(photo by Ted Soqui)

(photo by Ted Soqui)

Drag-strip journalist Cole Coonce grabs a ride and chases the greatest spectacle in nitro-burning: the Bakersfield Cacklefest. Top Fuelers and AA/Fuel Altered galore!

Read “Night of the Living Nitromaniacs” in Car Craft’s Elapsed Times: