By Eddie Samples
Posted in Feature Stories 9/17/10
Young Bruce Brantley, known to friends as Pat, spent childhood moments wondering how things worked.
“Ever since he could walk, Pat was always under a truck or tractor, or at the garage in town watching men stick weld. It all fascinated the little fellow,” said an old time family member.
And so it was for the Wrightsville, Georgia country boy. Even though his family had a successful logging business out of nearby Blackeye, they, like so many others after the war, decided a move to the city might lead to an easier life.
So, in 1951 Mr. Brantley loaded them up and headed to Chamblee, Georgia, and, in essence, jump-started the career of the twelve-year old wonder mechanic.
While still in grade school, Bruce flat-footed a paper route until he earned enough for a motor scooter.
“That is one of the ways I learned about motors,” Bruce told us recently. “I would take the thing apart a dozen times, learning to shave the head, bore the cylinder and other things to make it one of the fastest scooters in town.”
At age 16, while attending Chamblee High School, he got a job at a local service station and drove a wrecker at night, then traded the scooter and bought a 1940 Ford.
“While working and making service calls I met people that proved very helpful in my automotive education,” Brantley said. “A fellow by the name of Bill Wright had a tune up shop in Chamblee and could do just about anything to a car, specializing in carburetion. He designed and patented such things as flat carbs and scales used to weigh and balance the floats. What I learned helped immensely with my racing.”
And Bruce’s first love was drag racing.
“In high school, that’s what everyone did, and of course everyone wanted to be the fastest, including me. Around 1957, I bought me a 1954 Ford with a police interceptor engine and headed to the Dallas Dragstrip. I got beat on a regular basis, so I went to a friend in Buckhead (Georgia) who put in a crank and pistons for a 312 c.i. engine, bought an Isky cam, used a set of Buick valve springs and three carburetors. It still wasn’t right but now I had a chance. Later I figured how to work with different gearing and bought me a set of those new Gordy Tire slicks and started winning.”
Which was something he learned to grow familiar with over the next decade.