Dave & Marcia Lamar | 2017
Dave & Marcia Lamar | 2017
For our next Pulling Hall of Fame inductees, love of the motorsport manifested itself in the making and strengthening of connections. Promoter to crew. Sponsor to team. Competitor to fan. Message to child. And in a career covering 20 years, friend to lifelong friend.
Dave and Marcia Lamar of Holland, Michigan started on their pulling journey when he agreed to sell his drag car engine to competitor Hank Balder and joined his crew, and she enlisted with the western Michigan pulling club as its secretary. Both were soon confronted with their new positions’ challenges.
For Marcia, she saw that there were often no personnel to staff events, arrange for advertising, or counsel promoters. So she formed Damar & Company. “It gave me a closer watch on the money,” she explained. “It made sure the promoters paid the help.” Through Damar, Marcia also did promotional work away from the track at car shows and grand openings. Her side job as a photographer got her in touch with The Puller, the NTPA's magazine, to which she contributed photos, event coverage, and a regular column called “Potpourri.”
For Dave, this novel way of channeling his motor’s muscle appealed: “I just kind of got hooked on the horsepower part of it rather than the speed.” He helped with Balder’s “Bad Habit” and “Coyote” teams for over a decade. But the wrenching involved in a multi-engine machine seemed like a lot more work than hobby to this owner of a masonry business.
Then, during one fateful trip to Louisville, Dave witnessed an exhibition pass by a Two-Wheel-Drive Truck and decided he had to have one. Dave and Marcia made two trips to North Carolina—--“I think I talked him into it,” she admits—--before taking the plunge with a 1976 El Camino which they promptly renamed “Dirt Track Cadillac.”
“We made it our dream,” said Marcia of their 1987 foray into competition, which also benefited the magazine’s readership as the subject of the 1991 article, “How to Build a TWD.” There, Dave described sizing up and welding together the truck’s redesigned frame, setting the engine’s timing, and painting the body.
The time consumed by maintaining the vehicle reduced Marcia’s involvement in club operations but resulted in the discovery of a new interest of her own: “I’m kind of a hot-rodder—I enjoyed working on the motor...We just did it all together. Our kids were married and out of the house...I didn’t want to sit in the house while [Dave] was out there working.”
The Lamars’ early years of competition were enjoyable with some solid performances in their home state, but it took awhile “before we got to where we could compete on the Grand National level,” noted Marcia. “There weren’t a lot of trucks in Michigan, but quite a few in Indiana, and they were further along the chain than we were, as far as learning and knowing what to do.” Advancements were going to require dollars, and that revealed another of their strengths when the sharp-looking El Camino assumed the colors of the Parts Plus sponsorship.
“Dave and Marcia were among the very first with the professional team look,” said Pat Vandenburg, who alongside husband Steve provided behind-the-scenes support for the Lamars in their pull production days. “They have a passion for promoting the sport of pulling.”
It eventually became time to kick their program up a notch, and that move in 1995 to the GN circuit was accompanied by a Banter chassis and the iconic 1930 Chevrolet cab. It is this version that most will instantly recognize as the definitive “Dirt Track Cadillac” with its sly take on a familiar slogan in script on the grille: “Yesterday’s Chevy Truck.”
But it initially had Dave longing for the truck he had the year before. Electrical issues--—bad connections—--bedeviled the new rag-top ride. The truck would fire right up for a warmup, but as Marcia recalls, once it got near the line, “that sucker wouldn’t start. It coughed, backfired, and quit.” After one stressful session of sputtering, an announcer exclaimed, “Boy, Dave, that thing is enough to make a preacher cuss!”
And then came August in Lexington, Alabama, when a 270’ run in a four-way pull-off erased a season of frustration and earned Dave Lamar his first Grand National win. “Then we went whole-hog,” says Marcia. “And we put on lots and lots of miles, we criss-crossed the country, and it was a wonderful life.”
Dave notes that there was still one piece missing—--durability. “I was really trying to get a championship with a Chevy and Pontiac heads...[But] I knew I wasn’t going to be able to push that Chevy that hard; there just wasn’t enough bearing surface...It ended up, I bought John Hileman’s Hemi, a five-inch stroker motor.” Fuel shutoff problems resulted in two sets of torched heads early in the 1999 campaign. But that Hemi and its memorable run—--well, let’s let Dave finish the story.
“That year, I ended up winning six of the last seven events. Going into [Essex Junction,] Vermont, I was six points down, in third place. I was first hook. I took it out the end pretty easy. I didn’t have to touch the brake. We had a big pull-off...and I pulled it to 280-some feet, and Greer Hamilton...went about 17’, and everything went on the ground underneath. Roland Barr came up, and he was at about maybe 100’, and the throttle cable broke. So I ended up winning [and] I won the national championship.”
“It’s a good thing the season was over,” Dave continues, “because the intake on my Hemi looked like an eggshell ... I’m surprised it stayed together. I never used it again.”
Fittingly, after such a strong end-of-season push, Dave won the NTPA’s 1999 Hard Charger Award. “To top it off, Copenhagen/Skoal had Harry Gant, one of my NASCAR heroes, there to give me the award. That was really an honor.”
Dave and Marcia would have to wait through seasons of fourth-, third-, second-, and sixth-place finishes before again drinking from the championship chalice in 2004 in a season with a lone GN win in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. “Fortunately I was able to get a bunch of seconds and thirds to make up the difference,” Dave explained at the time.
Meanwhile, Marcia continued to make connections with friends from across the circuit. “We have wonderful friends from all over--—the Knoxes...LaRues...and Cindy Lamping out in Minnesota, along with the Christensens, and L.D. and Ruth Nation in Missouri.”
“Marcia is a dear friend and a true friend,” stated Ruth. The ladies had common interests not only in how their husbands performed in the Two Wheel Drive class--—they regularly compared photos and point calculations—--but also in craft projects. “We shared a few meals together in the pits and our sewing tips. We love to see each other’s latest projects.” Ruth is thankful that “today’s gadgets” keep them in contact with one another.
And from way out in California, the Lamars got to know Kent Enderle. “I met Kent when he first came on as a sponsor, and over the years we just became good friends,” said Marcia. As it happened, the Enderle Pull-Off would be the site of Dave’s greatest pulling accomplishment: Four consecutive wins in Two Wheel Drive from 1999 through 2002. It is a record unmatched within that division and only surpassed in any Enderle class by Terry Blackbourn two years ago.
Of their retirement after the 2006 season, Dave says simply, “We finally won Tomah, and it was time to slow down.” In fact, health issues demanded the Lamars step away from the sport in which they had made so many connections. “We had our ups and our downs,” says Marcia, “but that was our whole life...I’m still finding it difficult to have a different kind of life.”
Throughout their rise from state to GN competition, the Lamars served as the sport’s ambassadors in many ways but none more importantly than within the Race Against Drugs program, which lives on today as Pullers Against Drugs. “We went to different schools on the circuit,” says Dave, “and I’d roll the truck out, and we’d have some classrooms come right out and gather around the truck.”
Vandenburg remembered, “Kids’ eyes would get big and they would ask Dave, ‘Do you drive this?’ The parents would be the ones to say, ‘Wow—--where do you pull and what do you pull?’.”
“We’d tell them, you never could get into a competition if you’re on drugs,” concludes Dave. “You’ve got to be a clear thinker.
“And if we just kept one of them from getting into it, it was a success.”