Once Pontiac set out to become General Motors high-performance division around 1959, it needed a dealer to build racing cars. Ace Wilson’s dealership was near the factory and Jim Wangers talked him into the new job. The whole story about this is in Wangers' must-read book Glory Days.
Royal took factory stock Pontiacs, had mechanics like Milt Schorneck tune them and went to the track to win races. The Hot Chief (later renamed hot Chief No. 3) was a ’59 Pontiac Super-Duty that got the Royal treatment. In 1960, it was followed by the Hot Chief No. 1 and Hot Chief No. 2 Royal team drag cars.
Wangers drove the red Hot Chief No. 1, which had a 389-cid 368-hp Super-Duty V-8 and a four-speed manual transmission. He cleaned house at the NHRA Nationals in the Detroit area taking both class and Top Eliminator titles with a 102.04 mph 114.14 sec. run. Dick Jesse drove the Hot Chief No. 2, a white 363-hp Royal-tuned Super Duty Catalina with automatic transmission.
Bob Knudsen of American Falls, Idaho, owns Hot Chief No. 2 today. It’s the “real deal” and he rarely brings it out to shows. However, he took it to the recent Pontiac Oakland Club International (www.poci.org) Wichita convention and Old Cars Weekly got to see it in the flesh—well in the sheet metal that is! The whereabouts of Hot Chief No. 1 is unknown.
Knudsen has a collection of Royal Pontiac and Super-Duty cars. He invited us to come see them when we are in the neighborhood. It just so happens that we might be going to Bonneville to race again this year and stopping to see my granddaughter in Salt Lake City. With some great Pontiacs close by, a side trip seems very likely.