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Car Repairs For Peanuts; Championships for Charlie Brown

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A customer comes into the shop and asks, “How much?” Mike replies, “I don’t know; I guess $500 will do.” Silence as the customer digests what he’s heard. “I got all the nuts and acorns out of it – left one in there so you’d know it was there,” Mike Boyles, 71, said to the customer that brought his vehicle into Boyles Automotive in King, N.C. just north of Winston-Salem.

The truck hadn’t run in eight years and was full of acorns, leaves and plenty of other stuff. The cost of the repair was only $119, but Mike Boyles is a fixture in King – folks in Stokes County know his game almost as well as they know his name; he’s quick with a one liner or a joke – even if it’s kidding an old friend about what he owes for a repair.

Mike Boyles is also pretty well known around the numerous drag strips in central North Carolina, and that makes perfect sense.  When he’s not running his automotive repair shop, he could easily be found racing his brown Chevrolet station wagon with characters from the popular Peanuts cartoon on the side panels.  The eight-time IHRA World Champion says he’s won well north of 200 races in his driving career – more than “The King,” Richard Petty.

Boyles has been racing in International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) competition for decades.  He won IHRA World Championships in 1975, ’78, ’80, ’82, ’85, ’90, ’91 and ’92.  He won Classic Gear Jammers championships in 1997, ‘98 and 2008 as well as the 1983 Stroh’s Sportsman Cup.  He was inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.

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Despite the countless winner’s circle celebrations and on-track accomplishments, Boyles is most recognizable not by what’s under the hood but by what’s on the side of his car.  Characters from the iconic Peanuts cartoon, created in 1950 by Charles M. Schultz, have made his Super Stock wagon famous, and much to his surprise, he’s never been contacted by the Schultz family or rights owners.

“I’ve had the car painted like five times since I bought it in 1977,” Boyles said.  “Every time I’d have somebody paint it, we put a little bit different design on it.  Nobody’s ever said a word – I’ve always been expecting it, but nobody’s ever said a word.”

Boyles started driving in 1969 and began IHRA competition two years later.  The U.S. Army veteran first raced on a drag strip in East Bend, N.C. that’s no longer around, and things moved quickly after that.

“Over at East Bend, Lyle Everson was running the wagon I run now,” Boyles said recently at his shop in King.  “He had a garage where he did radiators and stuff, and he got some of that acid on his hands; they were all bandaged up so he asked me to drive it.  At the time, it had Charlie Brown and Lucy on it; it said, “Damn You Charlie Brown” on it, but IHRA made me take that off.  He parked it; I started driving it and winning a few races with it.  I ran it a little bit at the first of 71.  Then I won the last race at Rockingham that year, and we won a free entry into Lakeland, Fla.  I turned around and won two races back-to-back.”

Boyles won his first IHRA World Championship in 1975 and bought the Peanuts car in 1977.  The next year, he was fifth in points around mid-season and blew the motor.  He didn’t have enough money to fix it so he raced the rest of the season in a borrowed car and won the IHRA World Championship by five points.  The championship purse was enough to fix his car, and he raced it through the 1986 season.

“In ‘87, ‘88 and ‘89, I only ran local stuff,” Boyles said.  “IHRA didn’t run Super Stock or Stock those years.  Billy Meyer bought IHRA, and they ran strictly brackets: 7.90, 8.90, 9.90, and that wasn’t me so I didn’t go.  In ‘87, I put the car up for sale because I thought there wouldn’t be any more Super Stock.  A bunch of people called me.  I gave $4,500 for it, but I asked $10,000 because I’d upgraded it.  A lot had been done to it, but nobody wanted to buy it for that price. Then in 1990, IHRA changed hands again, and they went back to the old rules and started running Super Stock.  I won the points in ‘90, ‘91 and ‘92.  Everybody called wanting to buy it, but I wouldn’t sell it!”

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While he hasn’t hoisted a championship trophy since 2008, Boyles continues to win races.  He won a Stick Shift Race in Elk Creek, Va., on May 13, 2017 – some 46 years after his first win.  That’s a level of longevity seldom seen in any sport.

“I’m 71; will be 72 in July, and I know it’s crazy to keep running that old car, but we have the best time.  I keep a grill and a tank in my truck, and we cook out at all the races.  We have some fun.  At Norwalk one year in the 80s, we went out on Lake Erie Walleye fishing.  We drank beer – the guy driving the boat didn’t – but the guys fishing did.  We caught Walleye, we caught Perch and some kind of rock bass.  That Perch was really good.  They deep fried them, and it just fell off the bone.  It was white meat – it looked like chicken, but it wasn’t chicken.”

As long as the good times keep rolling, Boyles says he’ll keep driving, “I’ll race as long as my health’s good.  Everything’s paid for.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 May 2017

 

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