Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Karl Richter - Racing Stud

by Bret Dula

My favorite story involving Karl doesn’t include flying or even the military. It takes place at UPT - - Craig AFB, AL. Todd Jagerson and I were restoring a 1929 Model A Ford downtown in a dirt-floor, single-stall garage and we were using the base auto hobby shop quite a bit for piece-part work. Karl, had a mid-60’s Super Stock Plymouth of some kind that I can’t recall just now - - a real hot rod that he, Karl, had personally built, modified, worried over, shined, polished and caressed. He was so successful at the local area drag strips that he was being billed in the FEATURE races!! My gawd - - there, in the Big Print on the single-page, cardboard ads that were plastered in and around the Selma speed shops and auto parts stores (both of them) was a small photo of Karl and his car; on the other side of the poster was Bubba Donkeybreath and HIS car and they were going to meet Next Weekend to decide the all-time champion of Whatever Drag Strip.

One night I’m returning from our Model A project and I see a dim light in the base auto hobby shop. I stop and peek in the window and there’s Karl and his car. It’s Friday night; he’s tuning it up for The Big Race on Saturday. He was particularly proud of his radiator which he’d stripped of paint and shined the brass top brighter than any shoes any of us ever had at USAFA. The hobby shop had long closed and the NCOs who ran the thing simply gave Karl a key to use it whenever he wanted because he was so gifted with all the tools and diagnostic machinery they had (at the time, probably a voltmeter and a temperature probe).

Anyway, I knock on the door; Karl has a worried look on his face and he says, “I think I have a problem with the hucker-pucker valve.” It could have been a kavardon rod problem - - in any case, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about and didn’t particularly care: it was late Friday night; we’re in Hooterville, Alabama; neither of had a prayer of having a date since both the eligible girls in town were already taken; and it’s past 2200 hours. Karl, says, “Listen to this!” He starts the car and sticks his head about four inches from the twin four-barrel carbs he has mounted atop the intake manifold and motions me to assume the same position. Karl grabs the throttle linkage and the darned engine jumps to about 6500 rpm. It sounds about the same as if we’d stuck our heads in a T-37 inlet. I mean, the sounds of Creation are all about us to a point well beyond pain in our ears!

Karl lets off the throttle and yells, “Hear that?” I shake my head, “No!” Big mistake. He repeats the procedure and I wonder whether the man hasn’t lost his mind; that perhaps boxing class those four years ago hadn’t loosened something inside his head. We repeat this several times and all I want to do is leave him to his misery. Karl shuts off the engine and, muttering to himself, says he’s got to rip the darned thing apart and fix the offending noise. I exit as quickly as I can because now it’s well past 2300 and he’s grabbing sockets and impact wrenches as if they were free beer bottles at Happy Hour.

Karl Richter stayed up all night; removed the engine from the car; “fixed” (?) the offending hucker-pucker valve; re-assembled the engine; installed the engine and drove it to the track just in time to win the race and be declared Champion! What a stud he was.

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