~ Byron's Gasser Madness! ~

~ Rest in Peace ~

~ Don Gay ~

For those who don't recognize the name Don Gay, may I humbly add a few lines...

Don Gay's parents owned Gay Pontiac, in Dickinson, TX, near Houston. At age 15 Don (legal driving age in Texas) he began driving stockers - Pontiacs, of course - from the Gay Pontiac dealership. These cars were prepared and tuned by a line mechanic and weekend drag racer, James Osteen. He would be the Gay racing family's chief wrench for as long as they raced. (I believe James died a few years ago)

Early on, young Don Gay showed the ability to drive hard. He won A/Stock class (runnning a '61 Pontiac with the 421 engine option) at events across the country, including the Nationals, and took Stock Eliminator at a number of events. When the Funny Car concept took off Gay Pontiac fielded a Pontiac GTO, with Don Gay driving. That first '66 GTO featured a James Osteen built and tuned, blown 421 Pontiac running on a big percentage of nitro. Behind that was a Turbo 350 and later a TH-400. The car was home built right there in the dealership, and was mostly steel with fiberglass components wherever possible. In spite of this it ran really hard, and won plenty of match races and open competition Funny Car meets. It was - because it was truly "all Pontiac" - a big crowd favorite for those legions of fans who loved the GTO "Goats". Osteen knew how to put one together, and his motors made loads of power with surprising un-Pontiac reliability.

Another local teenage driver, Hank Taylor, had equally "connected" parents, and they bought him a "brand new, shiny red, Super Stock" '64 Plymouth with a 426 Hemi for power. Taylor traveled with the Gay racing group, and his car was carried on a semi car hauler along with the early Gay Pontiac cars. (They were also friends with another Houston drag racer, a guy named Roy Head. Head (no relation to Ohio's Jim Head) had a hit record in the 60's called "Treat Her Right", with lots of horns and that "Houston sound".)

By the late 60's the loyalist Gay racing family (Don had a brother, Roy Gay, who was also a drag racer) had to face the fact that Hemi engines were the only answer for fuel racing, and the Poncho's were replaced with 426 Hemi power. The "rainbow" colored GTO ('69 or 70?) was both fast and quick and a headliner wherever it went.

By the end of the 70's Don had hung up his firesuit and focused on running the family dealership. By then he had a family and a son, Don Gay, Jr., who would later become a competitive force in FC racing until a major fire nearly killed him and he retired from the seat.

I flew from Hollywood, Florida with Harvey Crane, in his Beechcraft Bonanza, up to Palm Beach International Raceway (now Moroso), to see Don Gay run that '66 GTO against Tom Sturm's "Just 4 Chevy Lovers", unblown big-block, injected nitro powered Chevelle. Gay's blown Pontiac was way out of Sturm's league, but it was a great match race just the same. I recall that both Don Gay and James Osteen, who traveled with the car most of the time, were all very friendly, acutely polite gentlemen who were a pleasure to talk with. I shot some photos for use in Crane ads that same afternoon and they were all too happy to pose with the car and do anything I requested of them.

It's such a shame that we lose the folks who are really good people.

May God bless, and rest in peace, Don Gay and James Osteen.

-Jim Hill