Arnie Beswick

Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick

Times Nominated: 1
Year Inducted: 2018
Nominated Year(s): 2018
Category: Pontiac Ambassador

Arnie began drag racing Pontiacs more than forty years ago and still can be seen at various Nostalgic Racing events around the country.

“I will keep going for as long as I’m physically able,” the die-hard racer said a few years back.


Looking back at his successful racing career and countless wins, Beswick certainly has nothing to prove, he has literally “done it all,” from winning NHRA national events, to surviving horrendous crashes. If it’s a Pontiac, he’s driven it, from factory stockers to supercharged funnycars.

Beswick started racing back in 1955 and teamed up with Pontiac in 1958, purchasing an ultrarare 1958 T-395A Tri-Power Chieftain, which quickly established his winning ways. The next year, he was piloting a “Wide-Track” 1959 Catalina and his winning streak continued.

For 1960, Beswick took the wheel of his first purpose-built racecar, a 1960 Catalina equipped with Super Duty race components. With it he won the 1960 NASCAR/NHRA Winter Nationals Super Stock Award.

During the 1961 season, Arnie raced a Bristol Blue 1961 Catalina that was upgraded with Super Duty cylinder heads and camshaft. As he had before, Beswick went on to clean house at the 1961 Daytona Speed Weeks, winning the Super Stock Award. Following the win, the engine failed a teardown inspection. Though the engine was factory stock, the cylinder bore size was found to be .001-inches over spec, because it was still hot. Nevertheless, he was disqualified. Never one to dwell on any setbacks, Arnie went on and finished off another successful year.

Arnie did well in 1962 as well, benefitting from a new 421 Super Duty V-8 in his 1962 Catalina lightweight. In 1963, he campaigned three Super Duty Pontiacs, all of which were built before GM’s January, 1963 ban on factory-sponsored racing. Though this edict sent most teams looking to Ford and Chrysler for factory race deals, Arnie remained loyal to Pontiac and soldiered on as an independent, without any factory backing. On his own, he ran a ‘63 421 Super Duty Catalina lightweight, nicknamed the “Passionate Poncho,” a ‘63 421 SD Tempest Wagon known as “Mrs. B’s Grocery Getter” and a ‘63 421 SD LeMans coupe. Even without support, Beswick was on fire that year, winning all over the country and securing his name as a Pontiac racing legend.

With the Super Duty program gone, Arnie bought a new ‘64 GTO, which he built into a supercharged Factory Experimental. It was known as the “Mystery Tornado,” and it struck fear in the hearts of its competitors. Later, Beswick put his 1963 LeMans coupe back in service as an altered- wheelbase Factory Experimental. Trading the original white paint for bright orange with black tiger stripes, the LeMans became the “Tameless Tiger,” an early ancestor of the modern “funny cars.”

As an independent, Beswick continued racing, moving primarily into the funny car ranks in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He ran a series of successful GTO and Firebird-bodied floppers with such names as “Star of the Circuit,” “Super Judge” and “Boss Bird.”

Then disaster struck. In 1972, Arnie’s farm was destroyed by a devastating fire, which also leveled his newly-constructed shop facility. Beswick lost all of his racecars and parts, putting him on the sidelines for several years.

In those years when Arìnie returned to farming full-time, a funny thing happened. The good will that he had fostered over the years began paying dividends. Though he sat out the rest of the 1970s and much of the 1980s, he was still a well-remembered and popular figure. A new opportunity was quietly coming together for him.

Newly-emerging nostalgia racing classes began popping up in the late 1980s, giving many stars of yesteryear a chance to get back to the track in the cars that made them famous, or at least one that looked like the original. With this new venue quickly gaining in popularity, many hoped “The Farmer” would return to racing. That was exactly what he did.

Actually, Arnie was warming up to the idea of returning to racing for quite some time. In 1987, he built a “new” 1963 LeMans racecar with a modified 455 Pontiac V-8 and began a new chapter in his racing career. The fans went wild when Morrison, Illinois’ most famous son once again got behind the wheel of a Pontiac. Magazines began covering nostalgia events and demand steadily increased. The cover of the April, 1990 issue of High Performance Pontiac Magazine showed Arnie and his ‘63 LeMans performing a raging burnouts, with the tag line reading “When There’s Smoke There’s a Tiger- Arnie Beswick’s Tameless Tiger: Nostalgia drag racing at its hottest!” Truer words were never spoken.

Soon other racing legends like “Dyno” Don Nicholson, Phil Bonner, Dick Brannan, Ronnie Sox and Malcolm Durham began touring with Beswick,cand a whole new generation of Arnie Beswick fans have been cheering him on ever since.

In 1991, Beswick built another ‘63 LeMans racecar, one that looked like his old “Tameless Tiger” funny car, but featuring a modern Pro-Stock-style FORMTEXT chassis and a 500+ cubic-inch Pontiac “Big Chief” V-8. Oddly enough, “The Farmer” was even one of the most popular attractions at the annual “Super Chevy” shows, where he match raced against “Dyno” Don Nicholson and other Chevy drivers. Even Chevy fans enjoyed the Pontiac racer’s showmanship.

Around the turn of the century, Beswick started campaigning his 1200+ horsepower 1964 "Tameless Tiger” GTO, delighting fans with his signature half-track burnouts and "never lift" driving style. Even though most guys his age were well into retirement, at over 80 years old, he was still a fierce competitor, with gasoline in his veins and ETs in the low seven second range at over 190 mph.

A very tragic car fire set Arnie back again. After a successful run, he was getting ready to get out of his car and it caught fire and he was quickly engulfed in flames. His Face, hands and feet were badly burned. He had to undergo many painful surgeries and never did regain full use of his hands and had trouble gripping the steering wheel. Yet after only a partial recovery, he was back out at the track performing for fans.

Now in his late 80's, he still maintains an annual presence at the National Pontiac conventions and several Nostaglia race events. Chatting to fans and signing autographs all day long.

He’s living proof that you’re only as old as you act. His passion and showmanship for racing Pontiacs is unmatched. Arnie Beswick is literally a living Pontiac Legend, with the tag line reading “When There’s Smoke There’s a Tiger- Arnie Beswick’s Tameless Tiger: Nostalgia drag racing at its hottest!” Truer words were never spoken.

The following BIO has been brought to you by:
Poncho Perfection


Our Mission At The PPA

The mission of the Pontiac Preservation Association is to provide a vehicle for all clubs, associations, individual hobbyists, web sites and groups, parts manufacturers, parts businesses, restoration shops, car dealers, event promoters, publishers-everyone associated with the Pontiac automobile to come together for the express purpose of better coordinating all energies and resources to preserve and promote the Pontiac hobby and to improve the Pontiac industry for the betterment of all involved.