Just an average Joe

When I lived in Long Beach, Ca during the mid-late 80s, I used Reath Automotive as my local machine shop. At that time I had no idea who Joe Reath was or his long history with drag racing. I thought he was just a nice old guy with a bunch of stories about Hemis.

Joe Reath 1925-2013 & Dellie Reath – Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing

One day Joe was telling me about a customer that dropped off a 426 Hemi for a rebuild. The guy told Joe how much his vehicle weighed, how much horsepower he wanted, and his budget. Joe said it was no problem and they would get started on it right away. Some time later, the guy picked up his engine, paid his bill, and all was right with the world.

A few weeks later, the guy stopped by the shop again. He told Joe that he was having trouble dialing in the engine, and could one of Joe’s guys take a look at it. Joe told him it wasn’t a problem and he told him to drop the car off anytime. The guy told Joe “It’s in the parking lot now“. Joe looked outside and the only car in the lot was a RamCharger 4×4. Sure enough, the Hemi was in the Dodge.

Joe’s guys worked on the truck, rejetting the carbs, recurving the distributor, and overall making it run like a raped ape; because that’s what they do. Joe took the truck for a test drive, stood on it, and that’s when all hell broke loose – the universal flex fan exploded.

Joe pulled a new fan off the display wall and installed it. But when the old fan exploded it sent a few blades into the hood, denting it upwards. Joe dreaded making the call, but he had to let the customer know – his vehicle was damaged. With the customer on the phone, Joe told him of the test drive and the fan coming un-glued. Joe told him that he already took care of the mechanicals, but he was wondering if there was a body shop that he preferred, so that the dented hood could be taken care of. The customer replied “Have you seen he right side of the truck??” Joe put the phone down for a few moments while he walked out to the parking lot. The entire right side of the truck was caved in from rock crawling. Back on the phone, Joe and the customer giggled about the truck; no harm, no problem.

Joe was always a honestly nice, down-to-earth guy, and he loved the engines he built. Looking back, I really wish I had spent more time with him.


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