Kroona & Sandberg
Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, the team of Bruce Crandall, Dave Sandberg, and Dave Kroona took their drag racing seriously. Crandall and Sandberg partnered in the early 1960s and campaigned a number of Modifi ed Production Chevys before Kroona joined the show. It wasn’t until 1967 that the guys really got serious about their racing and built themselves an A/Gas Anglia. It was a beautiful car that featured one of the category’s fi rst tube chassis.
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Dave Kroona recalls, “Actually, we had just completed building the car using the stock frame when the NHRA changed the rules allowing the tube chassis. This set us back a few months while we fabricated a 2 x 3 frame.” Driven by Bruce, the big-block Chevy–powered Anglia took class at its fi rst Indy appearance in 1969. It set the A/G record during the early 1970s before Bruce left the team; he sold the Anglia to build himself a Pro Stocker.
Kroona and Sandberg carried on with a second Anglia, which they debuted in 1969. Like the fi rst Anglia, the car pictured here was purpose-built with the intent to do battle in AA/GS. Jim Oddy’s blown Austin was a big infl uence and Kroona notes that, like the fi rst Anglia, the guys had a game plan and stuck to it. A 2 x 3 chassis was built and fashioned with a Don Long front axle and ladder-bar rear suspension. Nestled between the rails was a 30-over 354 Hemi built by the legendary Jack Wheeler.
Located in Blaine, Minnesota, Jack has had his hands in more national event winners and record holders than most and was a mentor of sorts to Division 5 racers. He stuffed the Hemi with ForgedTrue pistons, Howards rods, Airfl ow Research heads, and topped it off with a Donavon-prepped underdriven GMC 6-71 blower. A Hilborn four-port injection fed the fuel while a magneto fed the spark. Numerous grinds of the camshaft were trialed before the guys settled on a Norris shaft.
Backing the engine initially was a B&M ClutchFlite. However, the car seemed to go through these on a regular basis. They tried a B&M Hydro and, fi nally, in 1973, a 4-speed Lenco. The Lenco did the trick, and driver Kroona recalls that it was a handful. “Steering the short-wheelbase car, watching the track, and pulling levers; after the fi rst run I was ready to pull the transmission.” That was before he saw his time slip. The transmission had dropped .3 off of his elapsed time. Rounding out what proved to be a bulletproof drivetrain was a Dana 60 rear end.
Supporting the 2,700-pound Anglia were American five-spoke rims up front and 16-inch Halibrands out back. Even though these gave way to Super Tricks later on, the car was restored using the original rims and tires, which had been stored in Sandberg’s garage.
The guys made it to many national events with the car; the final one was Indy in 1974. They met Bob Panella there; Bob happens to have a soft spot for the Anglia. Until a couple years before, Bob campaigned an Anglia of his own and with Ken Dondero behind the wheel and had won Super Eliminator at the 1969 NHRA Winternationals. Bob was now fielding a sleek little Opel Gasser. He had dominated with a controversial turbo setup in the Opel before rules forced him to switch to a blower.
With Kroona and Sandberg looking to build a lower car, Bob and driver Phil Featherston hastened the decision when they laid down a blistering 8.88. At the time, the Kroona & Sandberg Anglia was hitting a best of 9.02. Shortly after Indy, they sold the Anglia as a rolling chassis to someone in Ohio while the short-block went to Jim Oddy in New York. The two Daves found themselves an Opel and started the build early in 1975. While thumbing through a copy of the National Dragster they came across Bob’s “The Chance of a Lifetime” Opel for-sale advertisement.
Unable to say no to a proven winning combination, a deal was struck to buy Bob’s car and their project went on the block. Once the guys had the Opel home in Minnesota, they immediately started stripping the Fiberglass Trends body and repainting it their signature black while Jack Wheeler went through the destroked 354 Hemi. Before reassembly, the Ron Scrima chassis was sandblasted and every nut and bolt was replaced.
Bob suggested they bring the car west for the 1976 NHRA Winternationals, something Kroona and Sandberg were reluctant to do as Kroona had yet to drive the car. Bob suggested that Phil drive for them. Phil had some pretty good luck with the Opel; he played runner-up in Comp Eliminator at the 1974 Winternationals and returned in 1975 to run CC/A and win it all. The Daves agreed, and Phil won the meet again.
The basic Panella engine and drivetrain combination remained the same, and why not? Bob had the car cranking out a best of 8.30 times. Kroona and Sandberg ran the car into 1978 before selling the rolling chassis; they had thoughts of building an alcohol Funny Car. They followed the sport and attended the big meets, but the alcohol Funny Car just never materialized.
That’s what has happened to many of us. Priorities take over and things like building a race car move into the back seat. “Before you know it, 40 years have passed.” That’s exactly what happened in the case of Kroona and Sandberg. During those years, the Anglia was always in the back of their minds and they wondered what became of it.
Unbeknownst to Kroona, his good friend Boyd Harlan had placed ads in trade papers and posted flyers at every track he visited in search of the Anglia. Finally, a response was received from a gentleman in Nebraska. Recalls Kroona, “Boyd called me up one night and told me he had found the car. I say, ‘What car?’ ‘The Anglia,’ he says. He was a bit of a prankster and I thought he was pulling my leg so I threatened to hang up on him.” Boyd finally convinced Dave that he was telling the truth and gave him the current owner’s phone number.
How did the owner know it was the old Kroona & Sandberg Anglia? Easy. It still carried the original paint, decals, and the majority of its original parts. As was told to Kroona, the fellow had grown up in Iowa; he and his dad used to watch the car race when it came to town. His dad was in love with the car and bought it when it went up for sale.
The Anglia was nearly complete but it now sported a small-block Chevy. With a family to raise, the gentleman was prepared to sell and Kroona was eager to buy. The car came “home” in the early 1990s where it sat for the next dozen or so years before he found the motivation to restore it. The Anglia was missing a few parts and needed a fresh hemi and 4-speed Lenco. The previous owner retained all the parts he had removed from the car and that included the original plexiglass windows (with stickers), which he had replaced years before with glass.
The car came with all the original spare parts it was sold with, including extra headers, track bars, and a bent tube axle. Kroona must have caught some serious air back in the early 1970s and the team had to replace the axle after he came down hard. The original black lacquer was showing its age so the car was taken down to bare metal by Larry Dahl who prepped the body before Ron Gorrell of Unique Body and Paint laid on a fresh coat of black. Kroona & Sandberg debuted the Anglia at the GSTA Car Show in 2006. An invitation to Indy the same year brought the car plenty of accolades along with a number of “Where’s the Opel?” from knowing fans.
The pair hadn’t given much thought to the Opel; they last saw the car in the 1990s on the West Coast where it had been running Super Gas. To their surprise, they found out while at Indy that the Opel had just sold on eBay. This really piqued the pair’s interest so they contacted the buyer. Yes, he was willing to sell them the car but at an overinflated asking price. The pair decided to hang on to their money and passed on the car. Kroona kept in touch with the owner and in 2009, he was ready to sell at a more realistic price.
Unlike the Anglia, the Opel was in pretty rough shape. At some point the flip-up body was cut off at the firewall and the main body permanently attached to the chassis. A hood opening was cut into the front end that was now removable. Thankfully the chassis, roll cage, and the majority of the Tom Hanna tinwork remained intact.
Again, as with the Anglia, Kroona purchased the Opel as a rolling chassis so a fresh 301 Hemi had to be built. Instead of the original 3-speed Lenco, a 4-speed was found and bolted in. Larry Dahl and Ron Gorrell were once again called upon to piece together the body and lay on the fresh paint. With the restoration complete in 2012, Kroona and Sandberg debuted the Opel at the Bowling Green Hot Rod Reunion, finally putting to rest the question, What about the Opel?
Written by Pat Ganahl and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks