Book Review: “Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick”

“Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick” by Author Dean Fait

by Paul Gohde

In the early1960’s drag racers were often known by nicknames designed to put fear into the hearts of their opponents. The “Snake”, “Dyno Don” and “The Judge” were also part of racing entertainment (somewhat like wrestling…think, “The Crusher”). But Arnie Beswick, a mild-mannered Pontiac racer from Morrison, Illinois, and a third-generation farmer, adopted a less imposing moniker becoming “The Farmer” throughout his 65-year quarter-mile career; a name that he dreaded at first.

Beswick’s early driving career moved from farm tractors to Oldsmobile and Dodge before switching to Pontiac in 1958; a brand that stayed with him and his team even today, though production-based models have now ceased production.

Author Dean Fait was born the grandson of a South Dakota Chevrolet/Pontiac dealer and later moved to Illinois where he met Beswick at a local Pontiac club. That fateful meeting, (no pun intended), led to Fait producing a two-and-a-half-hour documentary about “The Farmer” and later wrote various articles about him; becoming as Arnie noted, his “Historian”.

The book takes a 184–page, six-chapter trip through Beswick’s career, moving from his early days in the 50’s with Dodge to his switch to Pontiac; a move that was given impetus by Pontiac’s success in NASCAR 500-mile races.

Fait notes that Beswick’s new racer was ordered through a local Illinois dealership and was partially paid for by trading in his daily-driver 1950 Oldsmobile, and from helping neighbors bale hay. How times have changed!

From those early days of racing on Sunday at Illinois tracks like Cordova, Beswick eventually branched out, taking his Chieftain to Florida in 1960 for the Winter Nationals that were the one and only joint venture to that point with the NHRA and NASCAR.

The book follows Beswick and his beloved Pontiacs through the Super Stock era, his A/FX years and the popular wheel-standing Funny Cars of the later 1960’s and 70’s. Match races along the way often exposed drag racing to an entirely different audience, one that came to the track as much for entertainment as for the racing.

Fait also touches on some unhappy times, too. There were fires in Arnie’s shop, crashes on the dragstrip, and creeping old age that finally allowed “The Farmer” to turn over the driving chores to Anthony Layne in 2018.

The 184–page book, published in 2020, is filled with 450 photos that show how drag racing has changed radically from those early 1950’s to today’s business of racing on tracks shortened to less than a quarter–mile due to ever-climbing speeds.

Fait chooses to follow Beswick’s career in great detail which, for true drag racing enthusiasts, is what they will enjoy most about the book. For the casual fan, the photos will help to move through the remarkable 65–year career of that once–young farmer from Illinois who wound up in many drag racing halls of fame and brought with him legions of loyal fans.

The book is now available through Car Tech Auto Books and Manuals……1-800-551-4754.


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