As the owner of an automobile dealership on Long Island, my father-in-law Frank Holz (1924-1995) must have driven thousands of cars during his lifetime. His greatest car, however, was one that he never drove. During the summer of 1967, the Holz Motors Super Jeep dominated drag strips on Long Island and said a lot about both Frank and the beloved CJ-5.
Like many men of his generation, Frank’s life was shaped by his participation in World War II. In 1943 he enlisted in the Army Air Corp and joined the 345th Bombardment Group of the 5th Air Force known as the “Air Apaches.” Stationed in the Pacific, he became the flight engineer and turret gunner of the B-25J Mitchell bomber named Toofie’s Taxi. The B-25J had a “strafer” nose with eight heavy-duty machine guns that were used in low-level attack runs. Frank served with this unit until the war ended. In the picture above, Frank is on the left with two other members of the plane’s crew.
Returning stateside, Frank married Mildred DiDonato (1924-1984) in 1946; the photo shows Frank on his honeymoon in front of his 1934 Buick. Frank and Millie ran a luncheonette and started a family, but eventually Frank gravitated towards automobiles, first as a salesman (at one point selling Edsels) and then as the owner of a used car lot.
In the early 1960s, Frank and a partner opened their own dealership. Holz Motors carried Jeeps and Volvos and in 1963 built this beautiful new showroom in Patchogue, NY. They advertised extensively in the local newspaper, but were always looking for new ways to get their products noticed.
Together with the mechanics in his service department, Frank hatched the wild idea of transforming a new Jeep into a drag racer. The sight of a rugged CJ-5 speeding down the track would be bound to draw attention, and if the Holz Motors vehicle actually beat some of the competition, that would probably create positive publicity for the dealership. Besides, it would be a ton of fun.
I took this photo in 1967 at the Islip Speedway Drag Strip, a 1/8 mile track that used a straight section of the Speedway’s oval for drag racing. Super Jeep also competed at New York National Speedway in Center Moriches, a more prestigious quarter mile track. Notice who is in the lead; the laughter at the sight of a drag racing Jeep quickly faded as Super Jeep won race after race.
Frank’s driver was Eddie Kiefer, one of the shop mechanics shown here changing the plugs on the motor. An article in the February 1968 issue of Hot Rod Magazine listed some of the mechanical
features that made Super Jeep a potent competitor. The 225 CID V-6 engine that Kaiser had recently purchased from Buick for their stock Jeeps was modified with a Crane H 292 hydraulic camshaft, a 3255 Holley carburetor and an Offenhauser manifold. The dragster also featured a Muncie 4-speed with a Hurst shifter, a 4.88 Chevy rear end and a Mallory ignition, among other goodies.
Here’s Eddie posing with the team’s equipment and some of the prizes they won. This photo was featured in the June 15, 1967 issue of the Long Island Advance that highlighted Super Jeep’s latest victories at National Speedway. On June 4th it won its class (“H” Hot Rod), then went on to defeat all comers in three additional classes, eventually winning the highest award of the day, the “Street Eliminator Trophy.” On June 6th Super Jeep tied the National Hot Rod Association record in the “H” gas class at an elapsed time of 13.21 seconds for the quarter mile. For a shining moment, the Holz Motors Super Jeep stood at the top of the drag strip world.
Frank knew how to milk the publicity to increase sales. When it wasn’t being worked on back in the shop or displayed in the dealership showroom, Super Jeep made the rounds of shopping malls and other public areas, always drawing interest from people who might become potential customers. But like all good things, Super Jeep had to come to an end. Rising costs, personnel changes in the service department and the eventual sale of the Jeep franchise ended her glory days nearly as quickly as she had risen to prominence.
And eventually Frank’s interests moved in other directions. In addition to his dealership, his involvement in boats and fishing led him to the purchase of a marina on the Patchogue River. When Frank retired in 1978 he moved to Florida and immersed himself in golf. But I think his love of cars never ended, and this picture of Frank laying slot car racing track for his grandson Matt reminds me of the Summer of ’67 and the speed of the great Super Jeep.