Story by Chris Ralph. Pics John Lemm and Phil Wisewould
The HTCAV was abuzz recently with the news that President Les Walmsley sold his magnificent race and Championship-winning Charger to younger MoPar peddler Ben Dahlstrom whose efforts in the push button auto S Series Valiant had been raising cheers trackside.
When the news broke on social media Les had to field hundreds of calls demanding to know who, why, how etc. Why didn’t you sell it to me? Was it a spur of the moment sale to some random?
Far from it, the story goes back to 2008. Les had met Ben when both worked in the building trade and soon started talking race cars. Becoming the young man’s motoring mentor he helped in the 2009 purchase of the S Series from Michael Holloway by Ben and his father. As told in a previous JUST CARS story, Black Saturday, his father’s passing and kids put racing off for a decade or so. When Ben got to the track Les was always there with advice.
Les fielded offers for years but wanted it to go where he could keep an eye on it and foster the driving career of a keen young driver. Ben had always known that racing life would not end with the S Series. The conversation began as ‘what if’ and ended as ‘why not?’.
Les rates Ben as a driver. “He’ll get there, mate,” he said, “just needs to take it nice and slow at the beginning, not set the bar too high or listen to too much smart advice. It’ll come, they’re a pretty easy car to drive.”
“But which button do I push? And what about this thing?” Ben jokes, wiggling his left foot. He knows he’s got big shoes to fill but can’t contain his excitement. What will happen to the blue Val? “I’ll run it a bit to keep it interested and I’ve got a son who’s only a few years off licence age,” he says, “we’ll see what happens then.”
What’s next for Les? The Silver Fox is as wily on that as he is on the track. “Got a few options, mate. Y’never know.” A farewell drive in the famous Charger is likely, and he’s now the custodian of the ex-John Mann Camaro bought by Keith Kassulke who remains stuck in Papua New Guinea. “Might give that a bit of a run…” Smile.