The “California Flash” Wins with Weiand


Fire burnouts were all the craze in the 1970s until the NHRA put a stop to it. It was common to see a Top Fueler or a Funny Car “heat the hides” with a showy, flame-filled burnout at a match race, but it was not a regular occurrence for a Pro Stocker. Bob McClurg snapped Leal in the act at Orange County International Raceway in 1972.

Californian Larry “Butch” Leal’s illustrious drag race career started about the same time he earned his driver’s license. His career took him from the 1960s Stock and Super Stock (S/S) eliminators to the early nitro-burning altered wheelbase and flip-top funny cars. In 1970, he moved to the new Pro Stock class. After a few years, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) weighed down the Pro Stock Mopars, so to remain relevant, Leal went back to the sportsman categories running Modified Eliminator and Gas classes for several years before re-emerging in Pro Stock in the 1980s.

For almost 90 years, Weiand has been providing racers and street enthusiasts with quality intake manifolds and performance components. This August 1972 Car Craft advertisement mentions the newly introduced Weiand “X-terminator” manifold and depicts the “Hi-Ram” manifold utilized by Butch Leal.

Leal moved from manufacturer to manufacturer as often as he switched classes. He started with Chevrolet, and by the age of 19, he was a factory driver for Ford. Leal made the switch to Chrysler in the mid-1960s and remained with Plymouth until 1970. That year, he moved back to Chevrolet in a Camaro for the new Pro Stock class. Leal soon returned to Plymouth, which led to a series of beautiful orange and white Dusters, such as the 1972 portrayed in this Weiand ad from Car Craft magazine (August 1972).

Although Leal ended his career in 1991 shoeing a 500-cubed Pontiac Pro Stocker, it was the doors of his Mopars that emblazoned his nickname the “California Flash,” a name he earned by whipping the entire S/S class at the 1964 U.S. Nationals (in a Ford). Although many of us were too young to see Leal’s ’72 Duster in action, several of us had an opportunity to “sniff some glue” as we assembled the Duster immortalized in a 1/25th scaled MPC model.

Before retiring, Leal earned twelve NHRA “Wallys” and was named as a Car Craft magazine “All-Star Driver of the Year” four times. While known as an accomplished machinist, engine builder, and starting line leaver, in his retirement, Leal has indulged his other passion: golf. He is a scratch golfer and has participated in the Senior PGA Tour. During his racing days, he rarely lost to any of his drag race competitors on the links at Winston (NHRA sponsor) charity events.

Phil Weiand founded the Weiand Company (say “why-and”) as a performance parts warehouse in the 1930s. Weiand’s first in-house product, produced in 1937, was the original aluminum manifold on the market called the “High Weiand.” After the 2nd World War, Weiand continued its performance product innovation with the introduction of a series of three-deuce and four two-barrel manifolds, aluminum heads for the Ford flatheads, the Weiand “Drag Star” log manifold for the Gen 1 Chrysler Hemis, blower drives for the GMC 6-71 superchargers, the first dual plane, 180° intake, the “Colt,” and the D-port designed “Hi-Ram” manifold.

Butch Leal, the “California Flash,” ran several different brands of vehicles and many classes during his 30+ year career. However, it was his series of beautiful orange and white Plymouth Dusters that were extremely popular with the Mopar fans. So admired was the 1972 Duster that MPC molded it in 1/25th scale plastic.

As presented in the Car Craft ad, the top-rated single-plane manifold series, known as the “X-terminator” series, was launched. Weiand followed the X-terminator with the “X-CELerator” series and then the “Team G” series of 360° race manifolds. Over the years, Weiand has increased its catalog with water pump offerings, superchargers, oil pans, valve covers, and EFI manifolds for several of the late-model manufacturers. Weiand Speed & Racing Equipment, now a Holley Performance company, continues to innovate just like it did almost 90 years ago. If you are looking for speed parts for your Mopar, click over to Weiand for its latest products.

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Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 24 years; the last 19 spent at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. During the day Chris instructs automotive HVAC and electrical/electronic classes, and high-performance classes, which include the usage of a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment. Chris owns a '67 Dart, a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned 33 years.