By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — MORIAH — The Flying Farmer — one of the most famous drag-race cars in the North Country — is back.
Seventy-five-year-old Norman Monette of Moriah has owned the Flying Farmer, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, for 52 years, but he only put it back on the road in the last five years.
“It sat parked in my yard for 40 years,” he said. “It was one of the fastest cars at the dragway. It holds the 1/8th-mile class record at North Hudson, 6.81 seconds.”
North Hudson Dragway closed in the 1970s, so that record is unlikely to be broken, he said.
At Fonda drag strip, he once held the class record at 6.74 seconds in the 1/8th mile.
“I used to drag her to six or seven tracks in the ’60s,” Monette said. “I’d taken it to Glenn Moorby; he was the guy to take your engine to. It really took off after that. I won more than 300 races.”
Monette was a farmer, so he named his racer the Flying Farmer. He bought the four-door hardtop for $1,100 in 1960. It had a 283-cubic-inch engine with an automatic transmission.
After about 10 years of racing, Monette dropped out to run his business and raise a family.
It was after his daughter, Starla Monette, now 42, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 that he decided to bring back the Flying Farmer to raise money and awareness for breast-cancer treatment.
He took it to a shop to have the engine restored, the floor replaced and its original Sierra Gold color changed to Anniversary Gold.
Now the only racing he does is to get his show car to parades and car shows in New York and Vermont. He sponsored the recent classic car show in Port Henry, which raised about $2,000 and drew 34 entries.
“Any money that I make I donate to the FitzPatrick Cancer Center,” he said. “We were in 13 parades this year. If they pay me anything I give it to the center.”
The Cancer Center is located at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, where his daughter was treated.
CAR’S LAST HURRAH
Starla has recovered.
“She got cancer, but she’s good now,” said Monette’s wife, Shirley.
The Town of Moriah and the Essex County Board of Supervisors recently presented the Monettes with an award for their community service.
“Norm and Shirley are an asset to our community,” Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said. “We are very proud for all that they do.”
Mr. Monette said his car is the only one he knows of still running among those he competed against in the 1960s.
“It’s still set up from its racing days. But I don’t race anymore. It’s too hard for the old girl. This is its last hurrah.”
He’s just bought a second 1957 Chevy to restore.
“This new car is 100 percent original equipment. It’s the original block but tuned up. We’ll see how that goes.”
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