THE CONNECTING HIGHWAY
In 1936 the Regional Plan Association recommended the construction of a link between the Gowanus Parkway and the Triborough Bridge. Originally devised as an alternative to the competing plan for a proposed Brooklyn-Battery Bridge (which eventually opened as a tunnel in 1950), it included the reconstruction of the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The "Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway" was proposed as an express bypass through heavily built industrial, commercial and residential areas, and was to provide a link to the East River crossings.
MEET ME AT THE CONNECTING
All the big money runs took place at the Connecting, as we called it. All the real street racers knew this and so did the cops. In addition to holding the record for most street drag races in one night, the Connecting Highway also held the record for the place where the most tickets in any one night were given out and also the record for most arrests of street racers in any one place.
In fact, Fred Mackerodt, managing editor and later editor in chief of Cars magazine, was arrested at the Connecting Highway one night while spectating. He wanted to see the spectacle with his own eyes. He didn't believe it.
Even with all the police hassles, on a good night, you couldn't beat the Connecting for good racing. One of the reasons it was so good is that it was all packed into one little quarter-mile, from one underpass to the other. You could see everything. Granted, it was easier for the cops to see, too. But if you wanted to street race, it was done right at the Connecting.
There are allot of stories about The Connecting. Like the time they towed in a Double A/Fuel Dragster up there, rolled it off the trailer, fired it up, smoked the whole length of the highway, then popped the chute as it went under the second underpass. Right there on a public highway! It was a common sight to see '55 Chevys and Willys gassers being towed into the pits at the Connecting.
The "pits" were the two elevated service roads that flank each side of the highway itself. I saw outlandish things there like transmissions being changed, slicks mounted and shifters adjusted. Tuneups were common and didn't even rate a second look, while a transmission or rear end change usually gathered a crowd, because to change a transmission or rear right out on a public street was a class move.
Spectators looked down onto the highway from the two guard rails that ran along the elevated service roads. The rails kept cars, girls and other debris from falling down onto the highway. It was common to see a bunch of guys standing on the sidewalk along the pits only to be interrupted by the screech of burning slicks and open headers bellowing up from the highway. A run! Everyone immediately ran to the rails to look down at the action taking place on the highway below.
There were always some drive-in poseurs making burnouts in the pits. But this was frowned on by the real racers because it attracted the cops and gave the cops a reckless driving excuse to bust everybody.
A lot of guys used to bring their chicks to the Connecting Highway to watch the races and make out between runs. And there was always a plethora of babes there on their own, looking to pick up guys. This was something the serious racers had to put up with. With so many people around making out, watching and cluttering the pits, it made it a hassle to work on your car. But it was a happening.
At one point, because of the popularity of the Connecting Highway with non-serious racers, the 114th Precinct of the New York City Police Department staged a drive to shut down the Connecting once and for all. The real racers moved to other less intense street racing venues, returning to the Connecting only for the most serious of money runs well after midnight. By that time of night, the hokey people had left and there was money to be made.
"Muscle Car Confidential"
MEET THE SYNCHROMASHERS
Every summer night, and most nights in the winter, a large group of us would meet at the Airline Diner to talk about our cars and to set up races at the Connecting with other groups from around the area. Guys would show up from "Bow Wow" on Cross Bay Boulevard, White Castle on Allerton Ave in the Bronx, Great Neck Diner and from East New York Brooklyn. Many evenings were punctuated by the local 114 precinct cops hassling us and breaking up our "discussion groups". Most of the time it would just cause us to scatter but I do remember an evening where things got a bit heated. It was in late summer of 1961 when a number of us decided that we needed to organize and get ourselves a place to meet where we wouldn’t get harassed. The word got around and one Sunday night a bunch of us met at 19 Ave and 81st near the Marine Air Terminal for the first official meeting of "The Synchromashers". John Gandini came up with the name because so many us ran Chevy 3 speeds and would pop out the synchro rings every other week. Eventually we rented a place where we meet for several years. I can still remember the names of some of our members, all of whom raced at the Connecting from about 1958.
1957 Chevy 283 4 DOOR
1958 Ford 312
1956 CHEV 301
1949 Chevy 265 Conversion
1953 Chevy 265 Conversion
1952 Chevy 265 Conversion
1957 Chevy 283
1955 Chevy 265
1955 Chevy 283
1960 Chevy 348
1955 Chevy 283
1956 Ford 312
1957 Chevy 283
1960 Chevy 348
1959 Chevy 283
DONNY "RED" MOREA
His Girlfriends Ford
1950 Chevy 283
PHOTOS post yours
These are all cars that raced on connecting at some point. We don’t have any pics of the actual racing yet... SO WE NEED YOUR HELP! If you have any photos from connecting, please lets us know! contact us
Charlie Snyder "ASTORIA CHAS" & THE KO-MOTION VETTE
In 1967, in Astoria, New York, Charlie Snyder was 20 and living the American dream. He drove a fast 1967 427-435 Corvette convertible and was a regular at Connecting Highway and other local street-racing haunts. Looking like a cross between James Dean and The Fonz, he was, according to his friends, "the neighborhood babe magnet."
It didn’t take long for Snyder to be taken off the market, how-ever. He became engaged to high school sweetheart Teri Berket, and the couple planned a late 1968 wedding. Then, like tens of thousands of other young men and women in this country, Charlie and Teri’s dream was shattered by the war in Southeast Asia.
His life was cut short on August 27, 1968, just a few months after arriving in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne. His family and friends were devastated; some never recovered from the shock. Everyone who knew Charlie Snyder felt the loss.
No one was more affected than Charlie’s fiancé, who saw him off at the airport for the flight to Vietnam
After the funeral, Charlie’s sister, Sharon, and her husband, John Holdorf, and friends Al Barberio and Jim Palam continued campaigning Ko-Motion in pursuit of Charlie’s dream – a national record. Baldwin Chevrolet’s John Mahler, who placed the original order for the L-88 engines for Joel Rosen and was intimately involved with the Corvette, volunteered his services. Joining them were Rosen and Bill Foster, both experienced and successful drag racers. It would be Foster who set the A/Corvette AHRA world record. Today, Ko-Motion is owned by Glen Spielberg. Charlie Snyder may not be with us anymore, but his dream lives and Spielberg is now the keeper of that dream.
Excerpted from: "Tales of A Muscle Car Builder"
Written by: Martyn L. Schorr
Available at: Amazon.com
STORIES post yours
4 Things I remember
I hung out there every weekend 1975-78, and I can remember four cool things off the top of my head... 1. An El Camino that had the tailgate painted with King Kong and the Empire State Building."The King of Connecting" was its name... 2. A gremlin that someone jammed a 426 Hemi into, Hemi-Gremlin, it hit the wall before the exit, car totaled, driver walked away... 3. A Bricklin that used to drive around the upper deck with the gull wing doors flapping like a bird... 4. Lastly, the cops making everyone get off the rails, only to go right back on them ten seconds later, around and around the cops would go... There were some unbelievable street rods there every weekend. Living in Woodside, we had to cut across St. Michaels Cemetery at night, creeeeeeeeeepy!
I almost won
I was a founding member of the Connecting Rods back in 1957. I drove a 1953 Mercury with a 55 Buick engine, and had a ton of races down at the highway. Tom Kane and his Buick was also a member. He was almost impossible to beat! Finally I installed a supercharger and thought I could finally beat that Buick. So we raced one night, and I lost by almost a car length, about the same as before the blower! When we went back up the highway, I said to Tom "WOW! I thought I could beat you, I just wanted to try you out against my new blower." Tommy smiled and said "I got my blower last week!"
I remeber the days
Back in the day, we would hang out at white castle on Queens Blvd. have a few belly bombers, (a few was like eight) talk cars, set up some races and head to the connectings. That went on for me until Uncle Sam came calling in 1965 and I started racing jeeps for the army. When I think back at those times in my life, they were some of my best memories ever. Long live connecting highway!
I raced my 57 chevy there
I raced my 57 chevy there starting in 57 and untill I was drafted into the army in 59. One of the kings there at that time was Tommy Kane with a blown Buick Century, he was hard to beat! We were also members of the Gauchos Motorcycle Club and ran our bikes there often. When the cops were parked at the cutoff we sent one of the bikers to speed past them so the cops would chase him. Then we knew we could get a few races in before the cops came back. Some of the best times of our young life was spent there.
Sharon and her 1968 Camaro
I remember Sharon and her 1968 Camaro from Deer Park Ave. Her and her entourage came out a couple of times to visit us farmers. I raced her on Rt 109 in the early 80's . I had a Forest Green 1970 Monte with hubcaps. Sorry that I made her cry.
When the motorcycles ran
Some of my best memories of connecting highway was when the motorcycles ran. We had Nicky R. with a 1974 Kaw 900 Z1 blow away a worked Harley Davidson owned by Mitch. He beat him from a hole shot and also on a roll in first gear. Do you remember when they closed the first exit going north, so you had to go all the way to northern blvd. to turn around and come back. I lived a few blocks from the highway so at night I could hear the cars throwing gears and power shifting all the way down the 1/4 mile.
There were a lot of accidents
I was there religiously on Fridays in the mid 70s. There were a lot of accidents, mostly cars bouncing off the wall. There was a real bad accident one night that scared the crap out of everyone. A late 60s Chevelle flipped over and lost its drive train. The car continued until it hit a huge metal pole that supported the overhead signs. With nothing to absorb the impact ,the car was crushed all the way to the trunk!!!! They had to cut him out. He did not make it. Everyone said he tried to brake and make a quick exit at the end of the run. I think soon after they closed off that exit.
A LOT of time spent at the old "Connecting"
Having grown up in Astoria, we spent a LOT of time at the old "Connecting". I seem to remember Thursdays being special, but there were diehards there just about every summer night. During those nights I received many gifts from the boys at the good old 114th for obstructing traffic, no rear plate light... you name it.
My first car was a 64 GTO, a black coupe
My first car was a 64 GTO, a black coupe. The second car was a 68 dodge with a 426 and two 4 quads. Didn’t lose to many with that car. However, I did lose to a gal one night but I cannot remember the car she had. I do remember it was Yellow. I would get to the connecting highway and look for the police car that would be hiding up one of the side streets. If you are 58 or older you remember the first cut off by the BQE Racquetball Club. They would sit there or up the block. I would put my bright lights on the police car so everyone would know they were there. I never got in trouble for this because the police officer was my landlord and his partner was my baseball coach. It was all in good fun and they never really got mad at me. How many remember the police car going by and the night stick hitting our butts as we leaned over the rail and watched the race. How about the night two Vettes hit the wall on the Astoria Blvd. side trying to get off the exit.
Streaking was in
AT 17 years old I knew that the connecting was the place to be!!! But there was a problem, I had to be home at 11PM. Soooo, sneaking out to watch racing at 1 or 2 am became a regular thing. Does anyone remember that streaking was in at that time? my friend lost a bet and had to ride his stingray bike the whole track naked!! That was a night I will never forget... what good times we had back then!
From 1968 to 1970,
My friends from Great Neck were attending the Academy of Aeronautics and had an apartment on 93rd St near Astoria Blvd. We used to go there first for some liquid courage (and the stewardess' downstairs!) and then to Connecting. Winter or summer, there was always a crowd, sometimes lining the whole top from overpass to overpass. Some nights I raced my 68 SS and other nights I would go with my friend Augie who had a 68 Road Runner. One winter night he blew his clutch and I remember pushing it all the way to the Northern Blvd exit (gas station just to the East). I thought my lungs would fall out! Great times! Yes, we were nuts!
I wish I had The Connecting back.
Friday night was the night for racing, then Saturday you went to the Lowes Triboro and sat in the balcony with the girl you picked up the night before at The Connecting. I had 64 and half mustang in forest green with white racing stripes, 289 engine, four on the floor and mystery shifter with a clip to through it into reverse. In 1966 I went into the army; shortly thereafter I received a letter from my Mom. “Son, I had to sell the car, could not afford the payment.” It was $46 per month! I wish I had the car and The Connecting back.
You owe me your car!
My pit boss Richie and I spent many a night down at the Connecting, either up top watching or blowing someone's doors in down below. We ran a 68 GTO and later a 69 396 SS Chevelle. Richie figured how to hook up a screw on the Goat's throttle linkage that opened the quad almost immediately. Between our "miracle screw" and his "1-2-3 GO" count (we were gone by 2 1/2), few stood a chance! I remember Miss(es) Hemi, and the roar of his engine every time he missed 3rd gear! We thought the thing was going to blow every time he raced! When the heat (NYPD!) closed down the highway, we would go to the White Castle on Queens Blvd to cool off! One night in 69 some guy with a 442 raced us for registrations, and needless to say, the Olds got "screwed"! We never saw the guy again, but if you're out there, you owe me your car!
I remember going to the Conectins.
I remember going to the Conectins all the time with my friend Pete from Canada. He raced a 68 RT Charger, and I had a 70 Hemi Cuda. He hit the wall one night when they opened the hydrants. We went there late one Thursday and hacked the tops off the hydrants so they couldn't open them that Friday and Saturday.
Drag racing attracted a crowd of 300.
They're back! Drag racing again attracted a cheering crowd of 300, this time in Astoria. Two police officers from the Youth Squad on routine patrol at 9 PM near the Astoria Connecting Highway saw the group and ordered them to disburse. An hour later, the highway was still empty. But at 10:30 PM, when police made another routine check, the race was going full blast and the crowd was even larger. This time when threatened with arrest there was a mad scramble with people running through fields and side streets Thirteen were grabbed in the melee. There was more to the fifties than Ozzie and Harriet! That’s the way it was in August, 1958!
-From The Long Island Star Journal
-Sent in by Don Morea
We saw some big races.
In the early 60's we watched POSIE's 55 black & white Chevy run BILL BORE's ford, those were exciting times. I'm 67 now and wonder where the time went! Thanks for the memories.
We spent many nights hanging over the rail.
We discussed an idea to hang a traffic light off the bridge or from the rail for a starting light, but were not able to get it together. My small block cars were competitive at the tracks in their class, but were no match for what was at Connecting.
I’m too young to have any stories of my own but my uncle used to race there.
He had a 1967 426 hemi GTX with a 4 speed that he raced on the connecting. One night he was racing when the cops had the fire dept spray down the highway with water, when he hit second gear the ass end spun out and he smashed it up against the guardrail. The car was totaled but the motor and trans were still good. He dropped them into a 1957 Chevy nomad with Cragar’s that he then raced there. When he first put it together he didn’t have money for a shifter, so he raced it for a few months with the 4 speed hooked up to the column shifter. Unfortunately that car was stolen some time later and stripped down.
I was born & raised less than a mile from that place
My brother ran a 64 chevy SS impala with a worked 327. It was gold and had the name "Undertaker" on its fenders. I wish I had pictures of it. Those were good times for sure. Worldwide speedshop over on 77 st & Northern blvd did the motor on that car. Jack Valente & his son Bobby ran that shop . Bobby had a nice 62 vette at the time. Lots of heavy street machines roamed the streets during those years and everyone knew who they were.
They Figured Out How To Stop The Racing
One of the ways cops finally figured out to stop the racing was to turn on the fire hydrants up top which flooded the roadway below, thus making it useless to racers. But before they started that, there was lots of racing. You could get a ticket when the cops were breaking balls, checking for depths of treads on tires and un-muffler cars. I was ticketed for both as my car was loud and I had slicks on, which of course had no treads to measure.
A very special thanks to Jan Parise. His hard work has helped make this site a reality.
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