Header__ARTICLEShorter1
line12
slsrh-logo1

SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 305 -  February 3 , 2014
Editor-in-Chief: Mary Ann Lawford www.landspeedracing.com
President of the Society: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139.
Assistant Editor: Richard Parks, Rnparks1@Juno.com
Photographic Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, beachtruck@juno.com
Northern California Reporter:  Spencer Simon, sparklecraftspecial@yahoo.com
Field Reporter/Historian: Bob Falcon, RFalcon500@aol.com

Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:
Richard Parks,  Bob Falcon,  Tex Smith, Bruce Silkett, Gary & Ellen Wilkinson, Don Garlits, Gary & Ellen Wilkinson, Landspeed Louise Noeth,

STAFF EDITORIAL, by Richard Parks: 
     You probably have noticed that there are more issues of the Newsletter lately and that is due to a rule that we publish whenever a week has gone by or the word count has reached 10,000.  Another change is that we have been going back to our archives and pulling out stories, reviews and biographies to run.  There is no sense in writing a story, bio or review if we aren’t going to run it for people to read.  As of today I have a rather large backlog.  Roger Rohrdanz has already advised me that 10,000 word issues create problems, because our readers simply may stop reading.  The only way to keep the newsletters at or below that word count is to ask the publisher to publish one issue a week and sometimes two issues per week.  This puts pressure on not only the readership, but on the editors and the publisher to get everything on line and on time.  Since this is all a volunteer project, we are asking a lot.
     If it seems like we are complaining, well yes and no.  Having this much information is a blessing, not a curse.  Certainly not all that we publish is going to interest everyone, but in the end what we publish will find people who are interested in what we do.  Not only do we have a backlog of biographies, stories and reviews, but we also have a huge backlog of articles by Tex Smith and Anna Marco.  We want to credit and to thank Internet Brands and Koolhouse Publishing for allowing us to republish their work.  We are certainly blessed to have Tex and Anna sending us material.  Tex Smith has been a longtime friend of the family and worked for my father in various projects. He also worked for my step-mother, Barbara L. Parks, when they were trying to get the ICCA project at NHRA going.  Tex was always there, willing to help, even if it was just a voluntary project.  Anna Marco is like that too.  If there is a car project, race, reunion or car show then she is there to help out wherever she can.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     DJ Bruce Silkett of Runaway Productions has passed away.
If you've attended car shows in the Willamette Valley area and beyond, chances are you have enjoyed the tunes of Runaway Production's "DJ" Bruce Silkett.  Bruce's passing was on December 21, 2013. Bruce had an immeasurable talent for sharing stories, telling jokes and playing the perfect songs that took us back to our days of youth.  Bruce will be greatly missed by all who knew him.  Read more about Bruce and the "Celebration of Life" gathering to be held on January 19th in Silverton, Oregon.  For more information go to; http://www.northwestclassicautomall.com/Weve_Lost_One_Of_The_Good_Ones_.html.  Bob Choisser
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Richard, are any of these videos available on DVD?  Gary Webb
     GARY: Call the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at 909-622-2133, or Autobooks/Aerobooks at 818-845-0707 to see if they have SNAKE & MONGOO$E movie and Pallenberg's WHERE THEY RACED.  The museum also has a lot of great hot rodding movies and videos.  Www.hotrodhotline.com has a movie review section.  Don't forget DEUCE OF SPADES and THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN.  One of the best is HEART LIKE A WHEEL, about Shirley Muldowney.  Other books at Autobooks/Aerobooks are;
     GEORGE FOLLMER AMERICAN WHEELMAN... Can Am, Trans Am, Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR, Formula 500, IROC, World Manufacturers Championship, Le Mans.     
     JOHN MORTON - INSIDE SHELBY AMERICAN... Wrenching and Racing with Carroll Shelby in the 1960's.  In the late 1950's, a young John Morton was transfixed with sports car racing.    
     HARD LUCK LLOYD - The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Lloyd Ruby. Some remember him for his ever-present cowboy hat. Others remember him for his laidback nature and slow, measured speech, the direct opposite of his intense competitive nature behind the wheel of a race. 
     THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SPEED... Beautiful hardback book - A Design Manual for the World's Fastest Car - charts the story of the design of Bloodhound SSC. 138 pages, full color pictures and illustrations throughout.
     THE BONNEVILLE SLAT FLATS SIGNED... Peter Vincent is arguably the most experienced photographer of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Every year for more than two decades he has visited this unique American landscape with camera in hand.  
     CUNNINGHAM; THE PASSION, THE CARS, THE LEGACY... Having been granted unprecedented access to hitherto unpublished archive material by the Cunningham family and the families of the team members, author Richard Harman has been able to trace the history.
     PETER BROCK - CORVETTE STINGRAY; GENESIS OF AN AMERICAN ICON STING RAY... Even the word has a special quality that transcends the popular image of America's best known sports car.  Who created it and how?  What was the unusual combination of personalities and events.       
     SO-CAL COUPE... The So-Cal Speed Shop is legendary in hot-rodding circles, and the So-Cal Coupe is a big reason why.  Built to compete in drag racing and top-speed contests...chopped '34 Ford coupe. 
     1964 WATSON SHERATON-THOMPSON SPECIAL... When this car took the checkered flag at the 1964 Indianapolis 500, it was to be the last triumph for a front-engined car in the world's most famous race.    
     THE CARS OF VEL MILATICH AND PARNELLI JONES... From the original sponsorship of Parnelli Jones' humble early racing career, to the pinnacle of motorsports – back to-back Indianapolis 500 race wins and three consecutive United States Auto Club National Championships.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 


Scan1 - Copy
1453496_10201098372282970_1876909775_n[1] - Copy

G'day Challengers and friends of the Challenge
 
In 1966 Dean Lowry brought the EMPI Inch Pincher to Bonneville and raced down the long black line. This is the very same VW Bug the great Formula 1 driver Dan Gurney raced at Nassau under the EMPI banner and the same VW Bug that Darrell Vittone drag raced to NHRA records in the late sixties.
 

Dean and the Inch Pincher in 1966. Tom Bruch's 36hp powered Porsche 356 is also shown in this copywrite photo by Carter Kudrle.
 
The original Inch Pincher has long ago disappeared but Scottish VW enthusiast Russell Ritchie created a clone of Inch Pincher 1 and shipped it to the U.S. this year for the cars original driver, Darrel Vittone, to compete in special match races being held in southern California with the Schley Brothers original Lightning Bug (also restored by Russell)  .
 

This photo by Darrell shows Russell's Inch Pincher 1 currently in his Oregon shop awaiting the 36hp Denzel engine. In the background is Darrell's recently acquired 1943 Schwimmenwagen.
 
Darrell recently contacted me to let me know that after the match races this spring his plan is to bring the Inch Pincher to the World of Speed at Bonneville this coming September to compete in the 36hp Challenge. The VW Big Block drag race engine will be removed and replaced by a special 36hp engine which Darrell is currently assembling using rare Denzel dual port cylinder heads. Of course, Dean Kirsten of Hot VW's Magazine plans to be at Bonneville covering this historic return of the Inch Pincher along with all of the other VW Challengers, 36hp, Big Block and Water Cooled, who make the annual trek to the salt.
 
After last years rainout, many of you have 36hp and VW Big Block Challenge racers ready to go but nine months to wait. Maybe knowing you will be at Bonneville as part of this very special Challenge event will make your wait a little shorter. And those without race cars that have always wanted to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats, mark September on your calendar and come join us as spectators!
 
May the Speed be with you.............................
 
Burly


Burly Burlile
VW 36hp & BB CHALLENGE
Volkswagen Land Speed Racing Historian
Society of Land Speed Racing Historians
www.burlyb.com

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     The USFRA is announcing a new event for 2014; July 11th thru 13th of this year.  We will be hosting a "Test and Tune" get together on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The track layout will be a 3 mile run with a 132' trap at the end of the third mile.  This will be a bare bones type of meet. There will be no record certifications, licensing passes, impound, food vendors, or fuel truck.  There will be an ambulance, fire truck, tech inspection and Honey Bucket.  This is meant for LSR vehicles only; we are not inviting 130-150 vehicles.  We are putting this together for those that want to be better prepared for the upcoming regularly scheduled meets.  The entry fee is yet to be determined as it will depend on the number of participants.  We will need to have commitments from those interested in coming by April 1st.  We are excited to offer this opportunity to those that can take advantage of it.  More information will be made available in the next few months.  We look forward to a great year of racing.  The pumping is scheduled to start in the next couple of days.  Gary & Ellen Wilkinson, Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, World of Speed September 6-9, 2014,
www.saltflats.com.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Donna Garlits, General Manager of the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum (Ocala, Florida) has announced tickets for the 24th Annual International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Induction Banquet presented by Lucas Oil Products on Thursday, March 13, 2014 are now available.  The induction ceremony will take place in Gainesville, Florida at the Paramount Plaza Hotel & Suites, and again will be a major event of the 2014 drag racing season, honoring seven legends of the sport for their contributions and accomplishments.  The Museum is offering two levels of participation for attendees -- Corporate Partner tables and individual seating tickets.  The Corporate Partner Table program provides seating for ten with company logo on the table, a banquet program listing and inclusion in the 2015 banquet’s marketing brochures.  Table partners also receive a DVD of the evening’s event, with each partner being recognized from the stage during the televised portion of the event, logo placement on the banquet DVD credits, plus a pair of free passes to the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum.  Corporate Partner Tables are priced at $1000 per table.  Individuals can purchase single seating tickets at $100 each.  The banquet is preceded by a cocktail reception which starts at 6:00 PM. The banquet dinner will be served at 7:00 PM (Eastern), with the awards ceremony, hosted by Master of Ceremonies Bob Frey, beginning at 8:00 PM.  The event will be filmed for later broadcast by Masters Entertainment of Bristol, Tennessee.    Additional information is available by calling or emailing Donna Garlits at: (352) 245- 8661 or (877) 271-3278 toll free, fax (352) 245- 6895, email: donna@garlits.com.  The Don Garlits Drag Racing Hall of Fame is recognized as a 501(c)3 educational not-for-profit organization.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Nancy and I will be headquartered (in building 9 at the Grand National Roadster Show) for
www.landracing.com.   The World's Fastest Indian will be to our left and we'll be directly across from the City of Burbank.  Please feel free to tell your other co-respondents that they're welcome to stop by for a visit.  We'll be there in an effort to raise the public awareness of the site and we sincerely hope to raise some long-term sponsorships for the site, too.  Perhaps we'll see you there.  Jon Wennerberg, jonwennerberg@nancyandjon.org


streamliner

     Here is a picture of the Howard Keck Streamliner that was designed by Norm Timbs for the 1955 "500."  The car was never completed in time for the race due to a schedule slip associated with the supercharged V8 engine that was being developed.  The unassembled car, including the bodywork, was sold to the guy who owns the catering service that provides those lip-smacking airline meals.  He contracted with Jimmy Robbins to accomplish the final assembly on the car in Robbins Brownsburg, Indiana restoration shop.  The finished car was equipped with a 270 Offy so the new owner could participate in Vintage Racing.

     Quinn Epperly and I used to visit with Jimmy at his shop while the work was being done on the car.  I have many photos of them discussing the project when just the tube frame was assembled on the floor.  The attached photo is of the completed car sitting in the drive outside Jimmy's shop and was used as his 1993 Christmas card.  If you want I will scan the back of the picture that contains Jimmy's personal message to me.  This was the first Indy Car that was wind tunnel proved to have a wind driven negative pressure area on the underside of the bodywork.  The target qualification speed was in excess of 150 MPH in 1955.   Bob Falcon
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fuel For Thought, Comfortable at Speed, written by LandSpeed Louise Ann Noeth for Goodguys Gazette, February 2014.  Republished courtesy of LandSpeed Louise Ann Noeth and Goodguys Gazette.

     There was silver lining in the epic storm clouds that dashed world record hopes last September. While the fastest of the fast waited uselessly for the salt to dry out I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with the two fastest motorcycle jocks on the planet: Rocky Robinson and Chris Carr. Over pizza and beer we spent a few hours talking speed. A lot of who, how, what and why; it was an easy, flowing conversation. Both are, in the best sense of the words, friendly competitors, each with an abiding respect and genuine admiration for the other’s accomplishments while unflinchingly determined to keep, or regain the two-wheeled bragging rights. Both admit that while they are rather comfortable drifting at high speeds – as in plus 200MPH – they recognize any new world record hopes demand they constantly chase traction.
     Robinson riding the Ack Attack and Carr riding the BUB 7, have swapped the World title of “fastest on two wheels” since 2006. Robinson, 52, and Carr, 46, both understand what it takes to set a world record, lose a world record and regain it. To put them into perspective: Robinson has ridden in excess of 300MPH a couple dozen times while Carr has 11 runs faster than 300MPH. Both have another five runs each beyond 350MPH. “Not a bad place to be, eh,?” said Robinson with a mischievous grin as Carr leaned back, nodded with closed eyes as he laughed in agreement.
     Robinson has ridden both top contenders – Denis Manning’s “BUB 7” as well as Mike Akatiff’s “Ack Attack.” Carr came to the speed party by answering a cryptic Cycle News ad Manning placed: “Have bike; need rider” back in 2005. At the time, Bonneville wasn’t anywhere on the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer and seven-time AMA Grand National Champion’s radar. “I checked into Manning’s background and discovered he had credibility,” said Carr, “the next thing you know I am making a rookie pass at 354MPH in his bike. It took six more to set my first record.” Understand what Carr did was akin to taking seven flying lessons and safely piloting a F22 fighter jet. Motorcycle streamliners are the most difficult of all land speed machines to control.
     Robinson, a speedway champion, is a former employee of Manning’s. Boss man Manning introduced the world champ to the sport in 1996 later asking him to be the rider of record on Tenacious II and then BUB 7. “I came in on the ground floor and was involved with all the development work for both bikes including running” explained Robinson who cranked out 297MPH down in Australia dodging kangaroos on the race course, “after nearly a decade of development work we parted ways.”  Carr credits Robinson for making it easy for him to step into safe, fast bike. “Rocky had helped work out most of the bugs before I ever took a ride,” he said without hesitation. “I’m no daredevil” Carr confessed, “Riding the BUB 7 was an easier than convincing my wife that land speed racing was no more dangerous than flat track racing.”
     It was the second run of his land speed career that was the most frightening because once he got the bike safely stopped and was congratulating himself for a job well done it suddenly hit him that he had to do again. “Playtime was over,” he explained about the coolest moment of his life, “anxiety set in as the crew turned the bike and I quickly tried to study the course to pick out landmarks. The wind picked up just as they closed the cockpit so I hugged the right side of the course as the bike tilted, gradually intensifying all the way through the run. I kept it in the torque curve despite the lean. When parachute failed to deploy at 120MPH and I needed the full 11-mile track to get the bike stopped – a quarter-mile from the end of the prepared course.”
     This time it was Robinson who nodded in agreement with his rival adding, “I’ve got nothing but respect for Chris.” Carr continued, “Anyone who has ever strapped into one of these machines has my respect. This is very difficult; it is not for everyone, if it was the records would be much higher.” Robinson easily satisfied his first two Ack Attack licensing runs and then deftly knocked out a 309MPH run. “The crew was ecstatic,” recalled Rocky, “but I was a bit sad, I knew right away that the bike had much more in it and I was just cruising.”
     Both agree that 2006 will forever be a highlight of their high speed adventures: when three motorcycle streamliners were in the hunt. Sam Wheeler and his petite, lime-green EZHook machine hit 355MPH earning both riders’ everlasting admiration. “We had the luxury of competition,” noted Robinson, “It had to be harder for Don Vesco; he didn’t have any competition. Having Sam on the salt changed how we rode.” said Robinson. Carr quickly added, “It was always about focusing on the numbers, about the speed, never about beating each other. Although Jason DiSalvo is the youngest of all of us; he’ll soon find out that experience sure helps out on the salt.”
     The 2010 Cook Shootout will forever resonate with Robinson because it unfolded problematically day after vexing day affecting tires, transmission, gear box and beating down team spirit rapaciously. “In the 11th hour I had the ‘Hail Mary’ idea to re-gear the bike down to four from our normal six,” revealed Robinson, “Mike and guys figured it was worth a try and also turned up the boost. Both were frank and direct about the dangers involved. “When it all goes wrong, you don’t know if your ticket is punched,” said Carr.  “The crew was ecstatic,” recalled Rocky, “but I was a bit sad, I knew right away that the bike had much more in it and I was just cruising.”  “The speeds that we deal with are the fastest but also safer than a pack of bikes in the Springfield Mile. There is no one to pass you, wreck you or cut you off. And there is no wall to hit. I’ve never crashed on the salt; if I do I might change my mind.”
     Robinson’s considerable familiarity shaped his reply: “I believe we can do this safely and I say this after crashing out over 300 and tumbling at 287MPH. The team asked me and my wife, Tricia, to consider coming back after those events. She supported my decision to stay on the team. Crashing is something you have to be OK with because it is always a possibility when you are pushing the limits. If you are hesitant, or fearless, you don’t belong in the seat.” Carr capped the thought process with: “Big balls just get in your way and would probably get you killed.”
     So what about Wheeler and his new speed machine, or the new Castrol Rocket? “The Castrol Rocket sure is pretty, but show me the timing ticket through the measured mile. You can’t go to the prom unless you have a ticket. It looks easy on paper but putting that paper on the salt is a different deal,” said Carr.
     “Rocky and I would like to see Sam have the success he has been chasing for so long. The BUB 7 speeds have been going up with each run I make. My ultimate goal is to go home with the number.” “You bet,” Robinson chimed in, “Just as long as Sam is the second bike over 400MPH.” Note: Photojournalist Louise Ann Noeth is the authoress of the critically acclaimed, “Bonneville: The Fastest Place on Earth.” A massive update is underway to chronicle the first century of speed on the salt. A noted expert on the sport of land speed racing, she consults with industry, government and media on a variety of levels and disciplines. For more details on her fast self go to: www.landspeedproductions.biz.
WWW.GOOD-GUYS.COM.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

Mothers Newsletter sends us the following car events;

Mar 8-10     Goodguys Spring Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ,
www.good-guys.com.  
Mar 15-16   Autogeek Detail Fest & Car Show, Stuart, FL,
www.autogeek.net.  
Mar 22-23   Street Machine & Muscle Car Nationals, Pomona, CA,
                   
www.streetmachinenationals.net.  
Apr 11-13    Barrett-Jackson, West Palm Beach, FL,
www.barrett-jackson.com.  
Apr 11-13    Grand Prix of Long Beach, CA,
www.gplb.com.  
May 2-4       TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Salinas, CA,
                    
www.mazdaraceway.com.  
May 31         Rods, Customs and Rats in the Park, Huntington Beach, CA,
                    
www.hbconcours.org.  
Jun 1            Huntington Beach Concours d'Elegance, CA,
www.hbconcours.org.  
Jun 7-13       Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour - Cruise Nights, Sat - zMAX Dragway at
                     Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC  Sun - Chillhowee Park,
                     Knoxville, TN  Mon - Downtown, Charleston, WV  Tue – Summit
                     Motorsports Park, Norwalk, OH  Wed - Lake County Fairgrounds, Crown
                     Point, IN  Thu - The Isle Casino, Bettendorf, IA  Fri - Chula Vista Resort,
                     Wisconsin Dells, WI,
www.hotrod.com, www.powertour.net
Jun 20-22    The Classic at Pismo Beach, CA,
www.theclassicatpismobeach.com.  
Jul 11-13      Goodguys Nationals, Columbus, OH,
www.good-guys.com.  
Jul 18-20      Syracuse Nationals, Syracuse, NY,
www.rightcoastcars.com.  
Jul 31-Aug 2  Hot August Nights Auction, Reno, NV,
www.barrett-jackson.com.  
Aug 14-17     Monterey Motorsports, Salinas, CA,
www.mazdaraceway.com.  
Sep 25-27    Barrett-Jackson, Las Vegas, NV,
www.barrett-jackson.com.  
Nov 4-7         SEMA Show (Trade Only), Las Vegas, NV,
www.semashow.com.
Nov 19-23     SKUSA SuperNationals, Las Vegas, NV
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tain't No Classic!  By Le Roi Tex Smith.  Reprinted courtesy of
www.hotrodhotline.com and Internet Brands.

     If it looks like a hot rod, sounds like a hot rod, goes like a hot rod, then by damn, to me, it ain’t no Classic Car. No way, bub!  But maybe I’m missing something here, something important that has been happening behind my back. And maybe it is on purpose.  Calling any old car a Classic, I mean.  Maybe it has something to do with misdirecting official condemnation of hot rodding.  Or something.  The guys into preserving original sins have come together in calling groupings of older cars Antiques, Historical, Special Interest. They call hot rods an abomination.
     This kind of misinformation is often created on purpose, for a specific purpose. Instance: The first several years of the Street Rod Nationals, it was often very difficult to get in the door of potential cities that were considered big enough, or centrally located, or whatever if we even murmured the words Hot Rods. Steep learning curve here, me lads, so we stopped calling them hot rods, and instead quietly inserted Street Rods. When this description was met with a blank stare by potential hosts, we adroitly began to explain that such vehicles were simply “fixed up old cars.” Absolute truth, the city officials would sign off on this, and we would cement the matter by pointing out how much money such an event with “old car enthusiasts” would bring into town. Money they understood. Money they loved.
     So, is the term Classic being inserted into the hot rod lingo to placate some easily disturbed community leaders?  All this is a kind of virus that slips into the vernacular unnoticed. Example: The term Classic Car was coined by the old car hobby years ago. At the time it was used as a distinction for the really high tone uptown vehicles that roamed American roadways during the Twenties and Thirties. These were the top of the line makes from the ilk of Cadillac, Lincoln, Marmon, etc. Interestingly, when they burst onto the scene as Classics, such old used cars were not all that expensive.
     Immediately after World War Twice (we didn’t learn from the first one!) those old metallic juggernauts were being hauled out of barns and fields by entrepreneurs wanting to feed America’s insatiable need for transportation. Not as collectable timepieces, just as usable old cars.  No new vehicles from Detroit yet. I was working at Albany Motors, a Ford dealer in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we had a razzle-dazzle car salesman who hit on the idea of grabbing a train to the east coast and buying up these battleships for around one Benny each. He would pick up a couple dozen, flatcar them to our California dealership, and we metal benders and painters got to make them presentable again. Interestingly, we couldn’t move that sheet iron most of the bodies were made of using our normal body/fender hammers. We had to use sledges! They usually ran fine, so the mechanics escaped forced labor.
      I had a shirt tail relative name of Buddy Butler down in Bakersfield who found that he could pick up these old heavyweights immediately after War Twice for as little a five bucks. “Just get it out of my shed!” kind of thing.  So he drove a scad of what would later come to be known as irreplaceable Classics. Usually, he would offload one of his treasures for the princely profit of another fiver. It was all interesting, and little else. Hot rods, which we had in spades around southern California, were a lot more fun.
     Now, if you were to come to me with one of those same-era hot rods and claim it to be a Classic, I’d laugh you out of town. Clear out to Buttonwillow.  Just because a Hollywood Star once owned a Cord is not foundation for a Classic claim. Just because a certain A-V8 once ran at Harper Dry Lake does not make it a Classic, under the most liberal of interpretations. So, for the sake of sanity, let’s agree to call older hot rods, and new hot rods made to look old, something like Historic. But, even that kind of moniker is misleading. To me, something Historic should have performed a historic feat, and that would mean more than just racing a horse on a country road once upon a time.
     So, let’s get some dialogue on this subject going. Let’s set some parameters here and now so that all this doesn’t seep into the bowels of the Net and become a kind of defacto truism. Already I am reading claims of hot rodding history that simply did not exist. I know so because I was around when some of these claims were said to have happened! Like a plethora of hot rods that were supposedly once owned by me, which somehow is supposed to make them more valuable. Horse pucky on all this stuff. Well, that is unless the horse that made the pucky is a Classic!  No, give me a nicely powered, fenderless, top-down roadster anytime. You know, something with that Classic hot rod styling!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Drag Strip Blues: The Career of Gene Schwartz.  Story by Nick Mazmanian, photographs from the Gene Schwartz archives, DC Imagery and Anna Marco.  Photographic Assistant Wild Bill Dowhaniuk.  Model: Michelle.  Reprinted courtesy of Koolhouse Publishing. 

     Just as the vibrations of the bass strings hum through his fingers as he changes notes, Gene slams the accelerator into the floor, making his 52’ Chevy sing as it rises nose first into the sky. Throwing the gears through their paces, he keeps the revs high, maintaining his run down the strip at what looks like a 25-degree angle. As he lowers the car across the finish line, his mind floats back to the bass cords he was strumming not too long ago with Robert Lockwood Jr. Killing the engine, he stands next to his black beast. This is Gene Schwartz; he’s not only a racer, but also a veteran blues bassist. Are you ready?
     As a child Gene dreamed of burning rubber and tearing up the strip. He would get his chance when his father gave him a ’52 Chevy at the age of fifteen. He did what any fifteen year old would do: he went to the local junkyard, picked up a transmission for $8, souped up the stock 235 engine, and took it out to the track. Taking the car out on the blacktop became a regular thing with Gene as he began to travel more and more with the car. Upgrading was an expensive business in racing, as it is today, and one of Gene’s first sponsors and longtime friends was Joe Hrudka, founder and owner of Mr. Gasket Racing Parts. Gene was one of the first Gassers that ran the Mr. Gasket logo on the side of the car. Building up the car meant a faster engine, better transmission, and therefore granting the ability to perform his patented move: making the car run nose up as he raced the entire length of the track. He did this by keeping his revs at 10,000 RPM and a steady hand, of course. He is still the only one who can drive this chained monster.
     Improving his car was very important to Gene, and another passion also began to take root: the blues bass guitar. While he was out hitting the track during the day, his brother Glenn was playing the guitar and thought that Gene should it learn it as well. Gene liked the idea, but since his brother was already playing lead guitar, he thought that the bass would be the better move. Right he was.  As Gene traveled the country with his car, his brother did the same, only with his guitar.  Though they traveled different paths, they would eventually meet again.
     Taking his father’s car, Gene, was beginning to get noticed for his driving skill and his signature move.  His hard work was beginning to pay off as he set the NHRA record in Muncie, Indiana in 1964.  Even going as far as taking on Costilow and Larson’s infamous Drag and Snake Cobra at the NASCAR Nationals in 1965; winning the title ‘Street Eliminator.’  That would be the peak of that car’s racing career as tragedy struck in the form of a towing accident.  As the car was being towed in between meets, the car and truck were hit and pushed off the road, taking the beloved car from the 10,000-RPM scream machine to a 3,000-pound paperweight.  All of this happened just two weeks before the Indy Nationals.  With luck running out as fast as the oil from the now wreaked car, Gene quickly grabbed what he could and in those two weeks created The Roach.
     The Roach earned its name for a reason—it looked just about as good as one.  A beater he bought for little more than pocket change, Gene threw what he could at the ‘52.  Taking it out on the track, he felt that everything had gone wrong- until that beater began beating the competition.  The Roach would come out the winner from the Indy meet, taking home the championship from the Indy Nationals in1966.  The car’s name would change as well, going from The Roach to The First Psychedelic Car in ‘67.

Running during the prime time of the Gassers, the 1960’s, had brought some great joy to Gene; but as he put it, “I saw the writing on the wall,” and he knew that Gassers were going to fade out soon. Gene garaged his racing for the next thirty years.
     That is not to say that he stood idle during those thirty years; Gene had been playing his bass and kept at it. He eventually crossed paths with Robert Lockwood Jr., and the two hit it off with strums and fades.  Gene began to tour with Lockwood, and would do so during his three decade sabbatical from racing; and like a rolling stone, he gathered no moss.  His brother had gone out to California and helped form the band Pacific Gas and Electric, then had played with Joe Walsh.  The two brothers had taken different paths, but had eventually reunited in the realm of music, culminating in playing Jimi Hendrix’s birthday party in Greenwich Village, “There was a lot of turkey, because his birthday was in November,” said Schwartz to which he added, “Hendrix said that my brother was probably one of the best guitarists he’d ever seen.”  Through his brother and Lockwood, Gene, would go on to tour with legends B.B. King and Ray Charles. His blues career would take him from the U.S., around the world, and far beyond the realm of Gassers and racing.  But like any man who has left his home, he began to miss the world of speed and machines.
     He had taken the wrecked ‘52 Chevy back home, where it sat for a good long time waiting for him to return.  And return he did.  Seeing as the car had been destroyed, Gene purchased a new chassis and body. Taking parts from the old and merging them with the new, he has faithfully recreated the car that brought him such joy.  Gene thanks his sponsors Keith & Bob Landies, Ron Hutter of Hutterperformance.com, Chase Knight at Crane Cams, and Jim Puskas from Mr. Gasket Co., Roy Story from Hay's Clutches Advance Paint Tech, Advanced Auto Parts of Painesville, Ohio, Rocky Bellino, and Ray Jordan at Jordan Metal Products of Columbus, Ohio for their continual contributions stating, “without you guys the car wouldn’t run!”  Also, a special thanks to Jim Somrak, Dan Curik, Tom Gozelinchick, Ken Yamamoto, Denny Frohwerk, Dan Rdhricht, Howie Davis, Dave Meal, and Ken Edgar for their help on the track, with the car, and for their friendship over the years.

     He is still driving his car. Perfecting it like a musician with his instrument, Gene is still tweaking and adding to the ‘52 Chevy that his father had given him. Still hauling the machine at a rear-bumper-scraping angle down the track. He is a rambling man and a rolling stone.  And while he is a person of many passions, he is still a blues bassist and a Gasser racer at heart.
Car Tech;
1952 Chevrolet Fleetline
-Hutter 300 cubic inch small block
-W-S Fiber Glass front end
-Fuel Injection by Engler Machine and Tool
-Crane Cam
-G-Force Force Clutch assist 5 speed
-Hays clutch and Flywheel
-Strange Engineering Rear end
-Gesel Valve Train

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MAKING HASTE AT THE SALT,  by Le Roi Tex Smith    
     I first heard about the Bonneville Salt Flats well before the hot rod world considered it the Place Of Places.  Back about a million years or so, when I was a tadpole, I read about some pioneers people heading to California, and they had to make sure they went north of the Great Salt Lake to avoid a place like until hell on earth. They were walking or on horseback or riding in wagons.  I first connected the salt flats with cars when Ab Jenkins started using the flats for land speed racing, and that was before there was much of a road between Salt Lake City and what would become Wendover, a train service place on the Nevada border. For more on the Jenkins era, check out a really good documentary called The Boys Of Bonneville.  Buy that DVD! 
     Then I moved from the insular confines of windblown Santa Cruz, California to eastern Idaho. The salt was just a hop-skip to the south.  And there were still pioneer wagon wheel ruts on the flats north edge. I got word from the car guys on the left coast that Wally Parks and some other SCTA wigs were going to look at the salt as a better place to run than the dry mud flats around southern California.  So was born the best damn land speed racing in the world.  Not the best surface, that is in Australia, just the best racing.  Which was born out this past August at the annual Speedweek.      
     Simply put, if you consider yourself a sure-nuff hot rodder, you gotta put the annual salt Mecca on your bucket list. In years recent an adjacent potash mining company has been (illegally) relocating much of the salt flats surface as they flushed the potash from the underlying mud. Those of us around from the first of salt racing raised concerns about the salt going away every year, and finally an organization came about called Save The Salt (look 'em up on the net, and join their struggle).
     When I went to the first rod event in l949, the salt was so thick, and so hard, that you had to drill a hole in it to set a tent spike.  Now you can just scuff the thin salt surface to expose mud. Year after year, the hot rods ran east of Wendover. Following in the footsteps of Jenkins and Malcolm Campbell, et al.  Some years the salt condition was great, other years it was atrocious, but it became the yearly trek of preference for a hardy bunch. Not enough accommodations, hot, a long way from much of anything...absolutely perfect for high speed automobile and motorcycle timed racing. But only racing against one's self.  This year may have been the very best ever. 
     Last I heard there were over 500 entries, many of them introduced to the salt flats legends by car magazines.  A growing percentage of this growing entry list is motorcycles.  And all this has put pressure on the SCTA/Bonneville Nationals Incorporated to continually upgrade the operation.  The pits are now huge, sometimes the trackside lineup of parked spectator vehicles stretches the full two miles from pits to starting line(s), and two more straightaway tracks were added this year (four total). This last has markedly increased the number of runs a racer can make, while dramatically reducing the clog of spectators at the starting line(s).  And this year, the weather was much cooler, the speeds were therefore higher, the records were falling helter-skelter, and the course downtimes were minimal.  In short, you shudda been there!  You cudda had you got off your duff and started plans a year ago. 
     There are a number of big bombers over 400 mph now, and the efforts in the under 200 classes are getting intense, as more and more performance is coming from the imported four banger engines. For me, watching the tater-bug of Ron Main and George Poteet seem to effortlessly lay down a 440mph pass was the highlight. For a decade, Al Teague ran a single hemi engine to Herculean feats over 400 during the Eighties and Nineties, now comes Poteet to good-ol'-boy the mystical four bill as if it is just another run to the market. And serious talk of 500 is commonplace. 
     At the same time the racer crews are scrabbling for just one more mph, the street rod crowd is growing exponentially and their convergence on the (Stateline) Nugget casino parking lot has expanded from a half-dozen back a handful of years to now include Friday through Monday evenings. There are early arrivals for Thursday banter, and many streeters are beginning to arrive as late as Wednesday. This evening bash event has become an activity unto itself, and the badge of honor coating of salt is worn by the streeters all the way back to east overshoe by zealous hot rodders eager to proclaim their participation to the greatest racing event in the world. 
     This is a very magical time for hot rods in the land of speed, so start setting aside some plunder now for the 2014 activity. Just remember that accommodations can still be scarce during Speedweek and you may want to look at motorhomes or travel trailers, or the trusty old tipi.  Or just hop a jet to Salt Lake City and get a tarp and sleeping bag. If you miss out in this era, you (and your posterity) will never forgive your oversight.  Be forewarned!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gone Racin’… FIFTIES FLASHBACK: A NOSTALGIA TRIP, written by Albert Drake.  Book Review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.

     FIFTIES FLASHBACK: A NOSTALGIA TRIP is a book by Albert Drake, a hot rodder from the Portland, Oregon area.  The book is in paperback format, covering a multitude of subjects in 256 pages.  The size of the book is 8 by 11 inches, with a nice looking cover with the only photograph in the book in color. It makes a nice coffee table book.  Drake has a style of writing which is easy to read and hard to stop.  It’s a book that one can pick up, read for a few minutes and put down without losing one’s concentration on the various subjects.  FIFTIES FLASHBACK: A NOSTALGIA TRIP is published by Bill’s Automotive Handbooks and you can call them at 1-520-547-2462 to order a copy.  The ISBN code is 1-931128-17-0.  There are approximately 281 black and white photographs in the book and most of them are quite clear, but since the sources of the photos are often in poor quality the reproductions sometimes are not the best.  The paper quality is adequate, but not the high gloss waxed paper that you see in higher quality photographic works.  In addition to the photographs, there are 20 drawings and cutaways, 67 advertisements from old magazines and newspapers, 40 magazine covers, 19 cartoons, one poster and six additional visual presentations.  It’s a literal smorgasbord of topics that will keep your interest going.

     Drake divides the subject matter into 53 interesting chapters.  Here are a few chapter descriptions; Hub caps, Vintage Tin, Car clubs, NHRA, Track roadsters, Street racing, Magazines, Books, Novels (Henry Gregor Felsen), ’53 Oakland Roadster Show, The Drive-In, Bonneville 1955, James Dean, Drive-In theaters, Girls & Rods, Blue dots, Dice & Flames, Service stations and much more.  Each chapter is short and easy to read.  Drake’s area of strength and knowledge is in the Pacific Northwest and I particularly liked the chapters on Track roadsters, Len Sutton and Rolla Vollstedt.  I’ve reviewed several of Drake’s books and hope that he will continue to write more on hot rodding, the car culture and auto racing.  Drake has a zeal that isn’t often matched by writers.  This leads him to write books that fill a needed niche and his interests are often eclectic, taking him into areas of the sport of hot rodding that many writers avoid.  Drake also has a feel for the subject that opens up new horizons for those who love the often overlooked aspects of the car culture. 

     Drake has his supporters and his detractors, but he writes and he researches when others would simply avoid a subject.  He does make some historical mistakes, such as stating that Wally Parks is the current president of the NHRA or was the editor of HONK.  Sometimes it is an error in attributing the facts in the right sequence.  More often it is a minor problem like getting the pagination wrong in the index.  For example, Hal Miller is mentioned on page 98, but in the index it says Ak Miller.  I have to give Drake credit for having an index; which is four pages long.  Many fine historians and writers simply avoid adding an index to their books, which is troublesome for historians and researchers.  Some historians in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians say that any mistake in a print medium is unacceptable.  They are wrong, for I don’t know of a single writer, researcher or historian who is perfect.  Drake impresses me with his overall knowledge and his enthusiasm for a subject and if there are a few mistakes here and there it doesn’t detract from the story that he tells.  I rate FIFTIES FLASHBACK: A NOSTALGIA TRIP a 6 out of a possible 8 spark plugs and suggest that you add it to your library.   
Gone Racin’ is at
RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gone Racin'...Flat Out, by Albert Drake.  Book review and photographs by Bud Lang.  Edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.     

     Flat Out is a compilation of exciting stories of early day hot rodders who abandoned the streets of Los Angeles for the dry lake beds of Southern California, where they could virtually “put the pedal to the metal,” in their quest for all out speed.  The author, Albert Drake, a Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University, and hot rodder for most of his life, spent untold hours, weeks and years, gathering the information and photographs that make up this fantastic book.  Proof that he is one of us lies in the fact he still drives a fine ’29 A-V8 roadster, a car he built many years ago.  Over the years he has published a number of books on street rods and lakes machines, and has been published in many automotive magazines here and abroad, all dealing with “our” type of machinery.  Featured in this book are just about every car built to compete on the dry lakes of Southern California between the years 1930 and 1950, as well as their owners. Many youngsters in that era engaged in street racing, which wasn’t too safe as we all know. Somehow, some of those early day hot rodders discovered Muroc Dry Lake, a place where they could drive their cars to the limit, and not be cited by police, nor risk being involved in an accident.             

     In those early days on the lakes, car owners removed fenders, windshields, just about anything that might adversely affect the top speed of their cars. As you might expect, some of these gents began developing custom cylinder heads, better ignition systems, improved camshafts, and more. Thus was born a new industry; speed equipment manufacturing.  Virtually all of the cars running on the dry lakes in those early years were “four bangers.”  And it wasn’t long before many were equipped with Riley or Chapel cylinder heads, modified camshafts, exhaust headers instead of mufflers, and more.  Many of these “race cars” were Fords or Chevys, most likely because the young owners couldn’t afford big Buicks and Packards.  While some of the guys ran on the salt just to see how fast they could go, many began competing against one another.  Soon, “timing clocks” were created, and the cars were timed in the final quarter-mile of a three mile course.  Most of this activity took place in the early morning, as temperatures would rise as high as 115-120 degrees in the afternoon.  Worse, there were no trees to stand under to avoid the searing heat.  The people visiting the lakes brought thermos bottles of cool water, which didn’t last very long in the searing heat.  But, the guys racing across the flats felt it was worth it. 

     The author discusses a number of racers we are all familiar with. He states that Wally Parks credited a vocational automotive shop class with getting him directly involved with cars.  While attending (David Starr Jordan-corrected by the editor) High School in Los Angeles, Wally discovered a couple of classmates were modifying their Model T’s, and he, too, was soon doing the same to his car.  Ak Miller remembers going over to Bell Auto Parts, where one could buy polished Cragar heads, intake manifolds, and more. Like many of the racers of that era, Ed Iskenderian was running Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels on his ’25 T-V8 roadster. Ed would later become “famous” for his line of racing camshafts, for all types of engines.  Another racer of that era was Sandy Belond, who was running a flathead V8 in his little Ford roadster. Sandy later developed a successful business selling mufflers and custom exhaust systems for all types of engines.  A number of pages are dedicated to quotes and stories about the hundreds of young men who engaged in street racing in the Los Angeles area, simply because there was no place for them to “test” their cars, no place to race safely. 

     Drag racing as we know it today wasn’t too far away, but it wasn’t available to the young men in the ‘30s and during WWII.  Ernie McAfee ran a Winfield flathead in his street rod, and almost lost his life when his brakes failed to stop his car one day.  Phil Weiand was crippled when he was involved in a crash, and later gained nationwide fame with the introduction of a full line of finned aluminum cylinder heads, intake manifolds and other accessories. Another early day hot rodder who would go on to make a “name” for himself was Vic Edelbrock, who drove a full-fendered ’32 Ford roadster in the late ‘30s-early ‘40s.  It was in the mid-30s and later that many early hot rodders formed “car clubs in their own neighborhoods.  One such club was the Road Rebels, formed in 1938.  Some of its members were Bill Burke, Joe and Bill Hunt, Joe Reath and Jack Peters, all of whom attended high school together.  Burke would go on to build the first “streamliner” using an aircraft fuel tank.  Joe Hunt would go on to develop a line of magnetos.  Because so many of their members were not only getting cited for street racing, but getting injured and killed in accidents, some of these clubs banded together to form a single organization that would change the whole world for them. 

     So it was, in the Fall of 1937 the Southern California Timing Association became a reality, and took over responsibility of organizing racing activities on the dry lakes, as well as introducing their members to the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. A couple of the groups had timing lights, and these systems were improved over the years, too.  The SCTA set out to make activities on the lakes not only faster, but safer.  Racers appearing with their cars for an outing on the dry lakes now underwent thorough inspections, to guarantee the cars were safe to compete. After each car made two qualifying runs, they were assigned to Classes, designated by the type of “body” they had, stock or modified, and by their qualifying speeds.  Unlike modern day drag races, the SCTA members would run three and four cars at a time.  After all, they had miles of surface to run on.  After a day of racing, the first place winners received beautiful trophies, and the runner-ups received merchandise awards.  As you can see, the drivers were not just competing for trophies; they were “street racing” to prove who had the fastest car.  But they were doing so under much safer conditions.  One thing that we today might believe is “funny,” but in the late ‘30s they weren’t.

     As the author points out in his book, rodders in that time frame believed there were two obvious ways of making a car go faster. One was to make the car “more streamlined,” and the best way to do that was to remove the fenders and running boards.  If the car was a convertible, then remove the windshield, too.  The other method was to hop up the engine.  Most of the car owners in the late thirties didn’t know much about modifying engines, and there were virtually no speed shops selling manifolds, cams, carburetors, stroker kits, custom clutches, etc.  So, many of the guys in that era simply had their cylinder heads milled a few thousandths to boost compression, changed carburetors, and built some simple exhaust headers.  In the late ‘30s there was some speed equipment available for the Model T Ford engines, but not a lot.  As the author points out, “An owner might install a Ruxtell two-speed axle for better gearing, Rocky Mountain brakes and a set of Buffalo or Houk wire wheels.  He might equip the engine with a set of Kant-Score pistons, a Bosch magneto and a Winfield carburetor on a special manifold.  He might remove the magnets from the flywheel to lighten it, or he could go a step further and have that reciprocating mass trimmed down; he might be able to have it statically balanced.  And if he had the bucks, he could go all out and buy a Frontenac OHV conversion kit.” 

     Of all the people involved in producing high performance parts for engines in the late thirties, Ed Winfield has to be “Number 1” on anybody’s list. When Winfield was only 11 years old (in the year 1912), he acquired his first car, a Model T Ford.  He immediately stripped it down to its bare essentials, rebuilt the engine, and soon his “hot rod” could reach 60 mph.  Two years later, at the age of 13, he was hired by Harry A. Miller, who owned a race car shop, and was soon working in the carburetor department.  A year later, at age 14, he was grinding camshafts so they would lift the valves higher and hold them open longer.  Five years later, at age 19, Winfield began work on “his” carburetor design, as he felt the Miller carburetor had inherent problems.  It was at this time in his life that Winfield was racing a flathead Model T on local circle tracks, a car that proved to be one of the fastest on the West coast.  By the year 1925 Winfield carbs were on most of the Indy cars, they were that good.  All of this from a young man barely 24 years old.  A couple of years later, Winfield retired from racing, devoting the rest of his life to engineering better carburetors, cams and high compression cylinder heads for the Model T, A/B, V8, and true race car engines, such as the Offenhauser. 

     What with America’s entrance into World War II, all activity on the dry lakes ceased. Many of the young car owners were either drafted or they volunteered for active duty. The SCTA Racing News, edited by Wally Parks and Eldon Snapp, ceased publication. All during the ‘40s, there wasn’t one magazine aimed at car owners, or hot rodders, if you wish. A year after the SCTA was formed, that group did publish a simple newsletter.   With the end of the war in 1945, hot rodders in Southern California, and elsewhere, began to “work on their cars,” and racing soon took hold again.  Finally, in January 1948, two young men, Robert Petersen and Robert Lindsay, introduced Hot Rod magazine to the world. They appeared at local circle tracks, hawking the magazine to racers and spectators alike.  Within a few years Wally Parks would become Editor of Hot Rod magazine.  Whereas SCTA’s newsletter kept their members informed about activities on the dry lakes, Hot Rod magazine would soon be spreading the word to the entire nation.  In the process, auto parts stores in other cities and states soon became known nationwide, both through their advertising and being featured in the magazine. Honest Charley, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is one such person who became famous overnight.

     Before Hot Rod magazine became a reality, “speed shops” per se, didn’t exist. Auto parts stores around the country sold glass-pack mufflers, chromed “echo cans” that guys attached to their exhaust pipes, etc.  And, it wasn’t too long afterwards, that Wally Parks would join Bob Petersen and his Hot Rod magazine.  One guy who really made an impression on a lot of hot rodders was Bill Burke, who built the first belly tank race car.  He used a Model T frame and early Ford running gear, with ’34 Ford 17-inch wheels and street tires. His engine was a ’34 Ford V-8 mounted up front, with a Thickstun dual intake manifold, milled heads and a Harmon-Collins cam.  Bill turned in a very respectable 137 mph in this machine on the lakes.  The next year, Burke found and used a larger 365-gallon belly tank (from a P-38) and built a rear-engined belly tank. Don Francisco built a 276-inch ’42 Merc flathead, running a Harmon-Collins cam, Potvin ignition, Grant rings, and dual Stromberg 48 carbs.  He ran this car for a few years, and by 1949 had realized a top time of 164.83 mph.  Not bad for a little flathead engine.   One situation that these serious hot rodders were facing was illegal street racing.

     A lot of street racing was still going on, and some individuals and groups were engaged in shutting it down.  Many of the drivers/cars involved in street racing were not owned or driven by serious hot rodders, but were stripped down jalopies.  So it was in late 1948 that all Southern California Timing Association clubs became associate members of the National Safety Council.  It was also in this period of time that SCTA members established the First Annual Hot Rod Exposition, a three-day event, at the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles.  This car show attracted thousands of visitors, many of whom knew little about what hot rods or custom cars were really about.  To show the public what really goes into building a hot rod, a ’32 Ford roadster was assembled from scratch during the three-day show, and was given away to a lucky ticket holder.  It was in 1949 that the Santa Barbara Acceleration Association held the earliest legal drag races on a half-mile long private road, followed by drag races at the Orange County Airport, near Santa Ana, California, put on by Frank Stillwell and C.J. Hart (and Creighton Hunter-editor), beginning in 1950.  Needless to say, racing on paved drag strips soon took over the entire nation, as hot rodders everywhere began building and racing their cars.  The dry lakes are still there, but it’s a whole new world today.   
Gone Racin’ is at
RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.  Bud Lang can be reached at budlang@comcast.net.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gone Racin’…Hot Rodder!  From Lakes to Street, an oral history, by Albert Drake.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.

     I don’t believe that I’ve ever spoken or seen Albert Drake, but in talking with tried and true hot rodders they all tell me that he exists.  I even called Glenn Freudenberger, the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame member and hot rodding historian and he doesn’t know who Albert is.  Today’s review is on Drake’s book Hot Rodder!  From Lakes to Street, and it is a real gem.  Now Albert self publishes his books from Flat Out Press and his books are not in the same class as Motorbooks, which spends a great deal of money and effort to make their books look spectacular.  But where Albert’s book lack that coffee table feel they more than make up for it in the quality of the text, research, photographs and sheer exuberance in loving the sport of hot rodding and land speed racing.  Drake is first and foremost a fan of motorsports and it is his love and loyalty that shines through loud and clear.  There is nothing fancy or fussy with any of Albert Drake’s books, just a delight in the writing of it that makes us all want to see what Drake sees.  Sometimes the crafting of the books that Drake creates can be exasperating. 

     Let’s look at the construction of the book and its positive and negative points before I tell you why you have to have Albert Drake’s books in your library.  Hot Rodder is a paperback book with a glued spine and matte paper.  The matte paper is not the type that you would use for high quality photographs and indeed the photos for the most part are grainy.  They are clear and precise photographs, but just not of the quality that you normally find in books of this type.  Most of the captions are thorough and professional, but some have little or no detail.  There is no index and with all the text, nouns and data in the book, that makes it hard to find what you are looking for.  It also makes historians cringe.  Hot Rodder is 8 by 11 inches, with 176 pages and 187 black and white photographs.  There are no color photographs, but there were two programs, two logos, one timing tag, two time slips, three business cards and six magazine covers.  The book was published in 1993 and the author may have copies for sale.  You can reach Flat Out Press at 9727 SE Reedway Street, Portland, Oregon 97266.

     Now that you know the drawbacks in Hot Rodder, let’s look at the positives.  Albert Drake is a true hot rodder and he understands hot rodders of all kinds and skills.  He knows how to interview people and draw out the best material.  He is zealous about his hobby.  He finds people to interview who have been overlooked, but who made huge impacts on hot rodding and motor racing.  Hot Rodder has a simple but effective Table of Contents, an introduction actually worth reading and then he jumps right into the subject matter.  The interviews are simply great.  He makes the interviewees feel comfortable and they reward us with fantastic stories of the past.  I have to admit that the material is so fresh that I have heard very little of what is in this book before.  Drake finds people who have been overlooked by other writers.  But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. 

     It’s surprising how we tend to overlook great people simply because they have grown old and those people that knew them well are gone.  It is possible to outlive one’s fame.  Young people today have no idea who these men were and yet they see them at car shows, reunions and races.  I admit to this same error.  For all the people that I think that I know, there are a hundred more whom I have never met nor have the slightest inkling who they might be.  The rule of thumb is this, if they have white hair at a race or a car show, they were probably an active hot rodder in their youth.  Here are the hot rodders that Drake portrayed in his book; Eldon Snapp, Dick Ford, Big Bill Edwards, William Kenz, Karl and Veda Orr, John Riley, Vern Houle, Jack Henry, Ken Jones, Rolla Vollstedt, Len Sutton, Burke LeSage, Joe Bailon, Bob Kaiser, Roger Huntington, Peter Sukalac, Henry Gregor Felsen, Keith Peters, Larry Purcell, Dee Wescott, Dave Juhl and Stan Ochs.

     The young hot rodders probably can’t name a single one of these pioneers.  The older hot rodders, like myself know who Snapp, the Orr’s, Edwards, Riley, Henry, Vollstedt, LeSage, Sutton, Kenz and Wescott were.  It simply makes my heart sing to know that Drake found Snapp and got his history down before it was too late.  Eldon Snapp was a sign painter by trade, during the Great Depression when one took any job and excelled at it, or starved.  Eldon and my father were close friends and his wife Betty and my mother Mary often went out together socially.  Eldon was also an artist, cartoonist and designed the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) logo.  He was also the co-editor with my father on the Road Runners club newsletter that morphed into the SCTA Racing News.  Most of the cartoons and ads were designed by Snapp and signed Snappe.  My father did some of the cartooning, but Eldon did the majority of them. 

     Eldon was a constant, but often silent voice in the SCTA and a loyal friend to my father.  Few people know how important Eldon was to the well being of the SCTA and how it was an effective force in curtailing illegal street racing.  I have some of Eldon’s paintings and treasure them.  Karl and Veda Orr are perhaps somewhat known among land speed racers and a few even remember going to his speed shop and buying some of the best equipment available at the time.  A few more people remember how Veda Orr took over the SCTA Racing News or what was left of it after Parks and Snapp went into the military.  Veda sent the newsletter to as many of the dry lakes racers as she could, with news of home and whatever racing related information that she could find.  Receiving those newsletters kept the morale up and many racers today covet those little sheets of yellowed paper.  Karl was also known for the roadster that he built and maintained and let Veda drive at the dry lakes in the 1940’s, when no other women were allowed to race.  She was a special lady and Karl, as crusty as he could be, had a loyal following of younger men who idolized him. 

     John Riley was an original member of the Road Runners and was there when the SCTA was formed in 1937.  He was the treasurer of the club when Snapp, Parks, my mother Mary and a friend of Eldon’s “borrowed” the club treasury, all $6 of it and took off for a two day vacation to Yosemite National Park in the 1930’s.  Gas, food and a tent for the group cost just $6 in those days, though they made my mother sleep in the car.  That brings us to Jack Henry, the Road Runner’s club President and sometimes Sergeant of Arms for the SCTA.  When on dates, my mother and father would go with Jack in his roadster.  It wasn’t that they needed a chaperone; it was that they needed a car.  This was the Great Depression and you went on a date in the most unusual manner or you didn’t go at all.  Drake didn’t overlook Burke LeSage, a person who is always helping others, but who gets very little recognition in return.  LeSage was racing before he could legally drive and he’s been at it since the early 1950’s.  His memory is still sharp and when we want to know something, we go to Burke. 

     I can’t tell you, because no one has that good a memory, how many times Burke LeSage officiated at a memorial service, or helped a fellow racer or lobbied on their behalf.  He is a member of the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame and he was elected for his kindness to other racers as well as for his outstanding dry lakes records.  Drake doesn’t forget the men from the Pacific Northwest either.  It is a region that often gets overlooked as fans of motor racing look towards the great oval tracks in the mid-west or east coast states and the drags in Southern California and stock car racing in the south.  Washington state and Oregon produced their fair share of racing legends and two of them in this book are Rolla Vollstedt and Len Sutton.  Both Sutton and Vollstedt wrote books detailing their lives in motor racing and their reviews are listed on the web under my Gone Racin’ by-line.  Sutton was a hard-driving and successful oval track open wheel racer who ran at the Indy 500 when roadsters roared.  Rolla was a car builder and owner who gave many an aspiring driver a seat in his cars.  Vollstedt also placed cars at the Indy 500.  I just loved the stories.  This alone makes the book worth adding to your library.  Contact Albert Drake and see if he has a copy left.  I rate this book a 6 on the stories alone, out of a possible 8 spark plugs.

Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.  ********************************************************************************************

line12
[Email Land Speed Racing]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Members:

Jonathan Amo, Brett Arena, Henry Astor, Gale Banks, Glen Barrett, Mike Bastian, Lee Blaisdell, Jim Bremner, Warren Bullis, Burly Burlile, George Callaway, Gary Carmichael, John Backus, John Chambard, Jerry Cornelison, G. Thatcher Darwin, Jack Dolan, Ugo Fadini, Bob Falcon, Rich Fox, Glenn Freudenberger, Don Garlits, Bruce Geisler, Stan Goldstein, Andy Granatelli, Walt James, Wendy Jeffries, Ken Kelley, Mike Kelly, Bret Kepner, Kay Kimes, Jim Lattin, Mary Ann and Jack Lawford, Fred Lobello, Eric Loe, Dick Martin, Ron Martinez, Tom McIntyre, Don McMeekin, Bob McMillian, Tom Medley, Jim Miller, Don Montgomery, Bob Morton, Mark Morton, Paula Murphy, Landspeed Louise Ann Noeth, Frank Oddo, David Parks, Richard Parks, Wally Parks (in memoriam), Eric Rickman, Willard Ritchie, Roger Rohrdanz, Evelyn Roth, Ed Safarik, Frank Salzberg, Dave Seely, Charles Shaffer, Mike Stanton, David Steele, Doug Stokes, Bob Storck, Zach Suhr, Maggie Summers, Gary Svoboda, Pat Swanson, Al Teague, JD Tone, Jim Travis, Randy Travis, Jack Underwood and Tina Van Curen, Richard Venza.
 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 1999 - 2014 Land Speed Racing Newsletter All Rights Reserved
No Portion May Be Used Without Our Written Permission
Contact Mary Ann Lawford: 208-362-1010
Email: maryann@lawfordmedia.com