.  Issue #332. August
8, 2014
Editor-in-Chief: Jack and Mary Ann Lawford, www.landspeedracing.com   
President of the Society: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
Assistant Editor: Richard Parks,
Photographic Editor of the Society
: Roger Rohrdanz,
Northern California Reporter:  Spencer Simon, sparklecraftspecial@yahoo.com
Field Reporter/Historian: Bob Falcon, rfalcon279@aol.com
Historians: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Tex Smith

Click On All Images / Link For more Info / Images

GUEST COLUMNIST, by “Dyno” Don Batyi.
     I feel a "mileage based fee" (tax) is outrageous.  Vehicles will be powered by gasoline for many more years, if not forever.  Electrics will not sell as the folks find out the batteries went dead and the replacement batteries are in the thousands.  Just because autos are getting better mileage because of automotive technology is no reason to raise taxes.  The state should adjust their spending accordingly, which they never seem to be able to do.  
DeSaulnier-Democrat) would establish a Mileage-Based Fee (MBF) Task Force within the California Transportation Commission, as specified.  The bill would require the task force to study MBF alternatives to the gas tax and to make recommendations to the Department of Transportation and the commission on the design of a pilot program, as specified.  The bill would also authorize the task force to make recommendations on the criteria to be used to evaluate the pilot program.  The bill would require the task force to consult with specified entities and to consider certain factors in carrying out its duties."  
     Outrageous bill number two is about bicycle infrastructure.   Can you believe that title?  I can't understand why this "special" tax is on motor vehicles?  Why isn't it on bicycles?  I have absolutely no plans to go biking and see no reason for motorists to pay this "special tax" to promote lanes that no one uses.      
     "SB 1183 (DeSaulnier-Democrat) Summary: Would authorize a city, county, or regional park district to impose and collect, as a special tax, a motor vehicle registration surcharge of not more than $5 for bicycle infrastructure purposes until January 1, 2025.  The bill would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer the surcharge and to transmit the net revenues from the surcharge to the local agency.  The bill would require the local agency to use these revenues for improvements to paved and natural surface trails and bikeways, including existing and new trails and bikeways and other bicycle facilities, and for associated maintenance purposes
     Please note that both these bills are sponsored by Senator Mark DeSaulnier-Democrat, District 7, Walnut Creek, California.  I urge you all to contact the Senator with your view points (916) 651-4007).  This state needs a balanced two party system and the CA ARB power reduced dramatically.  Prosperity would return to California all by itself.  "Dyno" Don Batyi

STAFF EDITORIAL; by Richard Parks:   
     We are a volunteer organization.  I spend time receiving correspondence, working with the field reporters and putting the text material together.  That takes about 10 to 20 hours per issue to do.  Roger Rohrdanz is the photographic editor and he is responsible for all the visuals in the newsletter and sometimes that can be even more time consuming.  Mary Ann Lawford is the website owner and the Chief Editor of the newsletter.  I haven’t got a clue how much work and time that can be.  Our writers and reporters spend lots of time going to events and then writing about what they have seen.  To make this work we all have to be considerate of the problems that we face as a group and individually in completing our assignments. 
     One area is photographs and Roger will work with you to help you get it right.  He will help you with the sizing of the photos and the quality.  He also requires that you put a caption “inside the photo,” not ON the photo.  Something about right clicking on the photo which opens a box where you type in the What, When, Who and Where so that this information is available to the Chief Editor to use when she puts the photo into the newsletter.  Roger has one operating system and sometimes that system is not compatible with your system.  Anyone submitting photographs must make an effort to send them in on time, caption them correctly and in a way that Roger can extract them and get them to Mary Ann to post.  He might do the work for you if you rarely contribute and like me are photographically challenged.  He might also just junk the photos, so learn how to submit them the correct way to insure that they are accepted.
     On another issue a reader wrote in to say that the editing of the newsletter is confusing.  He states that sometimes the text is italicized and sometimes it is in bold ink and it makes it difficult to read.  There are also empty spaces within lines and he wonders if something was cut out of the newsletter before publishing.  Sometimes the type goes from one to the other and asks if there is any way to standardize the look of the newsletter.  I edit and review every word about 5 times before I send it to the publisher.  I very rarely italicize anything unless it is a quoted remark and even then I prefer to use “quote” marks.  I use BOLD letters rarely too, most often when addressing someone.  Only once or twice did I forget and leave in a double line indicating a new section.  Then the edited newsletter goes to about 20 reviewers who double check everything that I do and about four of them always reply back to me and so far none of them have seen what you have seen.  It could be that the internet does something to the text and photos once it enters the “netherworld.”  I did check though and you are right, what I sent in was not what went on-line.

G'day Challengers

Over the past couple of weeks Challenge racing took place across the country. Below are a few results from the USFRA Test & Tune at Bonneville. While the Michigan Mile event was cancelled, both the ECTA meet in Ohio and the SCTA meet at El Mirage Dry Lake took place but results have not yet been posted.

Top speed of the VW's at Bonneville was the team of Dewey and Abe Potter at 211.329 miles per hour. This Passat currently holds the title of the fastest four cylinder powered Volkswagen on the planet!

Photo by Integrated Engineering

Wayne Atkinson pulled out his VW Challenge record holding SSS Big Block engine and installed a Big Block 2332cc dual carb motor tuned by Blackline Racing. Wayne hit a high of 124.897 miles per hour but was hampered in further attempts due to handling issues.

Photo by Wes Potter

Dick Simon can claim to be the most prolific racer currently in the 36hp VW Challenge. This year Dick has competed at the Texas Mile (71.5 mph in SSS36Ghia), the Mojave Mile (87.7 mph in SSS36Ghia-a new record and 85.8 mph in SS36Ghia, another new record) and captured another new SSS36Ghia record at the USFRA Test & Tune of 91.321 miles per hour. Dick will also be at the World of Speed with more tuning in hand.

Photo by Dick Simon

Also competing at the USFRA's T&T was the Winder family with their two VW diesel powered racers, a Rabbit Pick-up and their handcrafted streamliner. Unfortunately I have not received word on the top speeds they reached last week.

Photo by Burly Burlile

Photo by Burly Burlile

It is now 50 days to the World of Speed. See you on the salt................................


Burly Burlile
VW 36hp & BB Challenge

Freelance Photo Journalist
Society of Land Speed Racing Historian (SOLSRH)

1 Need OK Dean Lowry 1966 Phtog Unknown Cole - Copy1

10402993_10204188740341379_967029618277998013_n by Wes Potter Need photo OK

11 Manu Emmanuel Thuillier 2013-09-10 15

265 - Copy


Dick Simon 14 T&T scan0002 - Copy


IMG_7505 - Copy

Rivets-Peppertree HVW scan0001_001 (Medium)

Dick Pierson, http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/r-i-p-dick-pierson.934080/.      Mike Kacsala saw this on H.A.M.B. and sent it in.
     Mike Alexander of the famous Alexander Brothers (A-Brothers) Detroit customizing team died last night.  He had been fighting a valiant battle with cancer for several years.  Sent in by Bill Moeller and Scrub Hansen
     Michael P. Alexander, age 80 of Grosse Ile.  Born August 29, 1933 in Detroit Michigan and died July 18, 2014.  Beloved husband of 58 years of Elaine. Loving father of Kim Alexander, Mickey (Jim) Stratton, Michael (Gabrielle) and the late Stacie Fallon. Father-In-Law to Dan Fallon.  Proud grandfather of Courtney (Steve), Steph, Dan, Shannon, Michael, Lauren, Desiree, Sydney, Dylan, Riley, Emily, Patrick and Peter. Also survived by other loving family and friends. Preceded in death by his parents Thomas and Bertha (nee: Vignola) and three brothers Thomas, Patrick and Lorenzo "Larry."
     Mike and Elaine were married on July 28, 1956 at St. Monica Catholic Church in Detroit; he served his country in the United States Army and was one of the Vice Presidents of American Sunroof Corporation.  Mike was best known for customizing cars as one of the legendary Alexander brothers.  He showcased many cars at Detroit Autorama and won several Ridler Awards; in 1965 for the 1956 Chevy Bel Air, in 1967 for the Deora and in 1969 for the Ford T Roadster.  In 2012 he was honored as one of the Pirelli Great 8 for the Vision 33 which was his last car in the Detroit Autorama; this car was also featured on the cover of the Street Rodder Premium.  In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in memory of Michael Alexander at the University of Chicago Medicine



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Congratulations to Danny Thompson.  This run was only 3 miles.  Just wait till he gets to run the full 5 miles.  I am confident he will break the 400 mark at Speed Week.  http://bangshift.com/bangshift1320/ride-along-inside-cockpit-challenger-ii-317-mph-danny-t hompson-super-informative-video/.  Also; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Le6aCV_CRvQ#!.   Sent in by Ron Main
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlVVH8ecm5c.   This is the real "Vanishing Point" Rocket Car, the fastest car l've ever seen go down the 1/4 mile in England and the USA.  Once seen never forgotten.  Sammy Miller in his Rocketcar, American daredevil performing in Zandvoort, The Netherlands in 1984 doing 1/8 Mile in 1.7 Seconds.  John Hutchinson, UK.
The Whygoby Shell station (museum to the Eddie Meyer Garage) is now open until 10:00 PM.  We are a full service station, with complimentary Green Stamps.  Cars must be 1936 or older to enter.  Doug Clem, Sparks, Nevada,
     I wanted to update all my supporters on
http://www.chasing200.com/.   We reached some huge milestones this past weekend at the USFRA Test & Tune meet.  Thursday was my 16th birthday and I was at the DMV at 8:30am ready to take my behind the wheel driving test.  An hour later, the ink not yet dry on my license, my family and my co-producer/director Harry Pallenberg were on the road to the Bonneville Salt flats.  I had a mandatory rookie driver’s meeting scheduled for 6:30am the next morning, so we drove straight through with only a couple of pit stops in Las Vegas (needed a few things from Bass Pro) and Ash Springs, Nevada (my favorite road food--Apple Turnover for my birthday cake).   I took my driving shift early so I could sleep in the car during the later shifts, because we checked into the Wendover Nugget at 1:30am.    
     How do I begin to describe the thrill of my first solo drive being at speed on the Bonneville Salt flats?  It was probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced!   Over the past year I have listened to so many racers tell me what racing is like. They've told me how to drive, how to shift, what it will be like, what to do in various situations and I've listened. When I was on the line waiting to make my first pass I thought about it all, but as soon as I took off I forgot it, and just drove. Everything worked perfectly and felt natural and it was the best feeling ever.  That first pass I clocked in at 136MPH, right where I wanted to be, and earned my D license.    
     While I was on the starting line for my second run, I was still full of adrenaline from my first run, so I didn't feel nervous. When I took off, though, I could feel the nerves kick in. I went to shift to 2nd and something wasn't working right. I made myself take a breath, figured out I was searching for the gear in the wrong place and corrected it.  I didn't panic so everything went smoothly and my second run, at 163MPH, qualified me for my C license.  On my final run I started to get comfortable. I could really focus on the speed and enjoy the ride. After I shifted to 4th gear, I kept pushing to go faster and then pulled the parachute just as I crossed the timing lights. Everyone kept telling me that pulling the chute was the best part and they were right!   At that speed--189MPH for my B license, it felt like the world’s best thrill ride, what a rush.      
     I can’t say thank you enough to Charles Ofner, Bob Hustler and the rest of the 323 team…they were so supportive and encouraging.  They made me feel at home on the salt and in the car--a 750HP Nationwide NASCAR stock car.  Thank you also Wayne Jesel for setting up this opportunity for me and to Valerie Thompson--who also drove the 323 car to her B license this weekend-couldn’t have asked for a better co-driver!  Looking ahead, I am now licensed and ready to drive 200MPH+ at Speed Week in August!  I can’t wait to get out there!  Also, I’m looking forward to meeting some new Lady Drivers out there to talk all things racing for the film--thank you for being my inspiration. 
     Check out pictures from the races this weekend on our Facebook page, and let me know what you think:
     And finally, for my 16th Birthday, Sweety High, a website/blog devoted to helping girls discover their dreams, posted this great article about Chasing 200.  Check it out and give them some support. 
https://blog.sweetyhigh.com/girl-power/kaylin-stewart.   Thank you everyone for all your support.     Kaylin Stewart, kaylinstewart@gmail.com,       www.chasing200.com, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/chasing-200, www.facebook.com/chasing200,  Instagram/Twitter@chasing200.  
RUNS VS SHOWS.  By Le Roi Tex Smith.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands and

      A car show by any name is still, too often, a snore. The rules for a show are simple: You spend all the money and do all the work, and the car has all the fun.  This as opposed to the rod run where the car does the work and you have all the run!
     So, exactly when did a rod run become a car show?  At exactly the same moment when the run presenter decided to charge a spectator admission.  On the calendar, for street rodding, that would be approximately 1969. For me, that would have been the very first Rod & Custom Street Rod Nationals. Yep, I’m fessing up, because I was one of the organizers.
     And we had to charge a spectator admission to help pay the expenses. However, and that is a huge “H”, this very first rod nats was supported almost exclusively by the participants plus a handful of sponsors. Compare this costing to an indoor show where the professional promoter is taking the entire event risk, and is entirely responsible for the venue, the advertising, the awards, the paid personnel…you get the point.
     In the beginning of street rod runs, the idea was to locate and publicize a venue, get the word to like-minded rodders, and then wait to see what turned up. The professional promoter can’t flip that kind of coin. And there is nothing wrong with a good promoter presenting a hot rod show. I use Gary Meadors as an example. Here is a person (family, really) that has really lived up to the term Goodguys. This is an organization that is unabashedly professional, but when you do a good dudes event, you feel like you have just been to a family picnic. Truly, an outdoor car show with some quirky benefits. But they are laid back affairs where Gary and the crew greet everybody the same. That doesn’t hold true in many shows, whether on the grass on in the dome.
     Back in the olden days of hot rodding, the show was an EVENT. Because there were precious few of them. And contrary to popular misconceptions, we had rod runs back then, only we didn’t call them as such. But runs were slightly more common than shows, even if a run might be nothing more than a dozen buddies driving somewhere for the day. You get half a dozen hot rods travelling to El Mirage as spectators, you got a rod run, by any standard. And if those same cars stop off in the canyon for an extended gas fill and burger call, you get a show. In a way, that is what we started with on those earliest of recognized runs with the LA Roadsters, etc.
     Whatever, a car show is not about driving a hot rod or custom car. It is about parking your car wherever someone tells you to. It is about shining the car to please someone else’s fancy. It is about “Lookit mine, it is better than your’s.” In short, a car show is about self-proclaimed elite-ism, and in the end it proves absolutely nothing. A car show is entirely subjective. Unless, of course, you set out to jump into the competition of car showing and go head’s up to win everything there is to win. In this situation, the car show becomes a no holds barred ripper. Which is what Ermie did.
     You remember Ermie? Ermie Immerso, who successfully ran plenty of hot rods in the more traditional forms of automotive competitions. Anyway, he decided a few years back to take on the car show crowd, beaming directly at the old Oakland Roadster Show ne-National Roadster Show. He built a track styled T roadster directly to the car show judging sheets then extant. And he knocked the wheels off other contenders, each season changing the same basic car enough to satisfy the rule books and to keep the spectators interested. Even so, Ermie’s roadster was old hat after that initial Roadster Show debut. One of the problems of car shows (as with magazine coverage) is the notoriously short attention span of the so-called Enthusiast.
     But Immerso proved a point: If you are going to be a car show rod or custom builder, then do it Big Time. That means checking out the game rules, then building to those rules. Which is exactly what changed the early days of drag racing to separate the men from the boys.  You wanna play in the Bigs, you better do the homework, and you better hone your skills, because you go in the Big League you gonna face a whole different class of players.
     Of itself, the car show is not anathema to hot rodding. It is just that the emphasis on glitter has insinuated itself into the hobby/sport so much that even rod enthusiasts have distorted the reason for owning and driving a hot rod or custom car. In this respect, I always remind myself “sticks and stones..”  In the end of it all,  doesn’t matter what I think, only what you, the average hot rodder, think. And do.
Gone Racin’…
Vollstedt; from Track Roadsters to Indy Cars, the Rolla Vollstedt Story, by Rolla Vollstedt with Ralph Zbarsky.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  28 August 2007.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com.  For a photograph of the book go to the website at www.hotrodhotline.com

     Open wheel and track roadster racing fans will welcome a book by Rolla Vollstedt and Ralph Zbarsky titled Vollstedt; from Track Roadsters to Indy Cars, the Rolla Vollstedt Story.   Self published by the authors, this book documents Vollstedt life as a racecar owner and businessman from the 1940’s through the ’80’s, which many fans of auto racing will argue was the heyday of motorsports racing.  Zbarsky encouraged Vollstedt to tell his story, and therefore the story of those he raced with and against for over four decades.  Vollstedt has an easy and informative story telling style and the photos are first class.  1600 books were printed and there are still some copies available from the authors.  The size of the book is 8 by 11 inches, in a hardcover format, published by Zed Engineering and the ISBN number is 0-9733661-0-9.  The price is $34.95 and there is no dust jacket.  The paper quality is excellent and the cover is coffee table quality.  However, purchase a clear dust jacket to protect the book.  There are 160 pages, an introduction, preface and a foreword by Chris Economaki.  There are seven chapters, an appendix and an index.  Most pictorial books leave out an index and I was pleased that the authors took the time to include one.  The appendix includes information on the 14 racecars that Vollstedt built and raced in his time, which is important because so often one car morphs into another and readers get confused as to which car is which.  There is an appendix on Indy Qualifiers, showing the extent of Vollstedt’s influence.  He also has a section dedicated to the Indianapolis track owners and the feud that broke apart the racing league into bitter factions.  Vollstedt makes it very easy for the novice as well as the true open wheel fan to understand and grasp the history of the world’s most famous race.
     There are 139 black and white photos, 57 color photos and 19 miscellaneous posters and other informative displays.  Many of the black and white photos are sepia toned and all of the photos are well done.  Vollstedt allows plenty of space for text and plot development.  His story flows naturally from chapter to chapter and the reader will have trouble putting the book down.  Vollstedt tells how he began working in a speed shop in Portland, Oregon just prior to World War II.  He would be drafted into the war and serve in Europe until he was wounded and sent home to recuperate.  Like so many returning servicemen, who had stared death in the face, Vollstedt came home with a desire to do those things that he had dreamed of for so many years.  He bought his first race car in 1947 for $500, and met Len Sutton, who would be his driver for many years.  Together the team of Vollstedt and Sutton would have success on the track roadster circuit for many years.  1948 proved very successful financially for Vollstedt, who by this time was racing professionally with Sutton.  His net income that year would have bought him two houses at that time.  They raced throughout the Pacific Coast as far down as Gardena and Huntington Beach and north to Seattle.  Track roadster racing is fast and furious but eventually the lure of the big sprint cars proved to be irresistible and in 1952 Vollstedt built his first sprint car.  They won the North West Sprint Car Championship in 1953 through 1955.  Sutton would leave for Indianapolis and race cars back East, while Vollstedt hired Ernie Koch to be his driver.  Vollstedt and Koch would race in the East as well at the end of the ‘50’s.  They raced at Langhorne, DuQuoin, Indianapolis, Trenton, Springfield, Sacramento, Phoenix and other tracks. 
     Chapter three discusses Vollstedt’s rear-engined Indy car, which he built in 1963.  With Len Sutton back as a driver, the rear-engined car was in fourth place halfway through the 1964 Indy 500 when the fuel pump housing broke and slowed the car to a 16
th finish.  Nevertheless, rear-engined cars would take over at Indy and other open wheel racing events, and Rolla’s car would help to make that revolution official.  Other drivers who drove Vollstedt cars were Cale Yarborough, Billy Foster, George Follmer, Jimmy Clark, Larry Dickson, Tom Sneva, John Cannon, Gordon Johncock, Tom Bigelow, Denny Zimmerman, Emerson Fittipaldi and Bob Harkey.  But it was Janet Guthrie who drove for Vollstedt from 1976 through 1978 that garnered the team the most notoriety.  Dick Simon was the primary driver and helped Janet make her entry into the Indy 500.  Simon was instrumental in many other ways and great at finding sponsors for the team.  Janet was new to circle track racing and Simon’s tutoring made all the difference.  Trouble with the car kept Guthrie out of the 1976 Indy 500, but the next year she qualified right in the middle of the pack.  A broken part caused Guthrie to drop out of the 1977 race, but she had impressed the other drivers.  In 1978, Guthrie drove a George Bignotti car and placed ninth overall and gave Vollstedt 10 percent of her purse for all that he had done for her in getting into the Indy 500 program.  Rolla would continue to race at Indy through 1984, and also compete in England during a USAC tour in 1978.  Vollstedt would continue to race his Offy powered cars through 1981, and was the last team owner to do so.  From 1982 other V-8 engines like the Cosworth dominated the field and the storied Offy engines ceased to race at the 500. 
     Although 1984 was to be Vollstedt’s last year to field an entry at the Indianapolis 500, he never really retired.  Active in the racing organizations, he watched as feuds tore apart his beloved sport.  He and his family still work on engines and attend reunions.  He never won Indy but he was always competitive and but for bad luck and equipment breakage, could have had a real chance to have won it all.  Vollstedt; from Track Roadsters to Indy Cars, the Rolla Vollstedt Story, is more than just about Rolla Vollstedt.  It is a fascinating look back in time to an era with mighty characters in oval track racing.  Men and women like Rodger Ward, A.J. Watson, Parnelli Jones, Janet Guthrie and Len Sutton come to life in this well documented book.  A book every oval track fan should have in their library.
Gone Racin’ is at
RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.  The book can be ordered from the author, Rolla Vollstedt at 4525 SW Lee Street, Portland, Oregon  97221.
Gone Racin’… Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy, by Dick Wallen.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  28 August 2007.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com.  For a photograph of the book go to the website at www.hotrodhotline.com

     Dick Wallen produces a line of racing books that have no equal.  His enthusiasm for motorsports racing, along with his editing and photographic skills, allows him to tell a passionate story about car racing.  Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy is another one of his fine books.  This is a hardbound book measuring 11 inches in width and 8 inches in height, which is a little unwieldy for a normal bookshelf and contains 267 pages.  The quality of the book, however, makes it a coffee-table masterpiece and Wallen crafted Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy so that it would take center stage.  The binding is stitched and not glued for extra handling.  The paper is quality bond with a glossy, waxed surface, which makes the photographs stand out.  The book comes with a hard cardboard sleeve and not a regular dust jacket cover.  On both the sleeve and the book cover is an identical painting by renowned racing artist Joe Henning.  There are seven drawings or paintings in the book and they are spectacular.  Some drawings are by Henning and some by Bob McCoy, who is a first class racing artist.  There is one color photograph, 28 reproductions of programs from various racetracks, one map, four miscellaneous pictorials and two pages of photo credits.  The photo credits index the names of the race car drivers to the page where they are shown, but it does not give a comprehensive index of the racers listed in the story and text.  The crowning achievements, besides the artwork by Henning and McCoy, are the 809 black and white photographs from many racers, family and fans. 

     Wallen attends many reunions, races and vintage racing events and he is familiar with the racing scene.  It is easier to find the few old time racers who have not heard of Dick Wallen than the hundreds who do know him.  Wallen also found the results of past races and records them on 8 pages of charts.  Very surprisingly, with all this research, he did not include an index of the people and places listed in the book. Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy is a pictorial and Wallen did not intend to make this into a college text with notes, bibliography and index.  The book stands on its own merits and the captions are quite good.  The text is substantial and tells the story adequately.  The editors were Michael Jordan and Dan Fleisher and the printer is Ben Franklin Press.  The first printing was in 2005 and Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy can be purchased directly from Wallen by calling 623-566-5578.  Wallen also has a website where you can see parts of the book and some of his other fine works at www.racingclassics.com.  The Foreword is written by A.J. Watson and is two pages in length.  Wallen has assembled priceless photos from forty-seven people who were there in the beginning of roadster racing.  Some of these pioneers include; Jack Balch, Don Zabel, Rosie Roussel, Kenny Parks, Don Freeland, Howard and Jack Gardner, Rudy Ramos, Wilda Kindoll, Walt James, Chuck Hulse, Lloyd Stehling, Chuck Leighton and many more.  Wallen interviewed almost 90 people from the heyday of roadster racing in the post World War II era.  Some of these included; Rodger Ward, Clem Tebow, Len Sutton, Allen Heath, Troy Ruttman, Art Bagnall, Dick McClung, Don Blair, Chuck Daigh, Parnelli Jones and many more.

     Wallen wrote the Evolution of the Roadster, which is an introduction and quite thorough.  Auto historian Bob Schilling wrote the next eleven chapters.  I’ve known Schilling for ten years and his research and writing are exemplary.  Another person who needs to be recognized is Walt James.  Walt has been at the forefront of the CRA (California Roadster Association, California Racing Association) from the very beginning.  He organizes the CRA Reunion every January at Knotts Berry Farm, in Buena Park, California.  Walt and his wife, Dottie, keep the racers, their families and fans connected by the reunion and a close-knit communication system.  Wallen would have finished this book without James and the CRA reunion, but it would have been much more difficult.  In fact, those mentioned in the book also attend the reunion and the stories that they tell are reflected in Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy.  Besides Walt James, there are two more people that continue the rich Southern California motorsport racing history alive.  Hila Sweet promotes the California Racers Reunion and Don Weaver puts on the Legends of Ascot Reunion.  Those mentioned in Wallen’s books are often found at all three reunions.  Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy goes back into the 1920’s to show how cars evolved into the roadster that blossomed just after WWII.  Roadsters were lighter than the stock cars of the day.  They vied with Midget racing for fans and prestige.  The roadsters raced on local tracks with Carrell Speedway being one of their favorite venues.  The best roadster racers found rides at the Indy 500 and men such as Troy Ruttman, Rodger Ward and Parnelli Jones won at the brickyard.

     Track roadster racing exploded onto the scene and from 1946 until 1956 enjoyed a great deal of success.  That decade defined some of the best auto racing this country has ever witnessed.  A short decade and then the country and racing moved on into other fields.  NASCAR and NHRA became very successful with stock car and drag racing.  Open wheel racing changed sanctioning bodies and would divide into two racing leagues.  Road course racing would see its golden age parallel that of track roadster racing.  It was a short period of time, but it left an indelible mark on those that drove track roadsters and those that were the fans of this exciting form of racing.  Roaring Roadsters, The Road to Indy captures the excitement and danger of that bygone era.  It is a coffee table style book that is simply too beautiful to put away into a bookshelf.  I found myself thumbing through the pages and remembering some of the drivers, owners and others who I know.  The photographs are fantastic and look even better today than when they were taken.

Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM


Gone Racin'...Wally Parks; Hot Rodding's Hero, by The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).  Book Review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com.  For a photograph of the book go to the website at www.hotrodhotline.com

     A recent work on Wally Parks, founder of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is titled Wally Parks; Hot Rodding's Hero and is currently being sold on the www.NHRA.com website.  It is listed as a book, or more aptly a paperback, though it looks and feels more like a one issue magazine in the quality of Rodder's Journal.  I will review it as a booklet, since that is what the publisher prefers.  I haven't found the booklet to be sold anywhere other than the website and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum does not have it in their gift shop, at least not when I called.  There is no author listed or an ISBN number, so it probably won't go into bookstores.  The booklet measures 8 and 1/2 by 11 inches and is 44 pages in size, counting the front and back covers.  There is a fair amount of text and story development, but the book is really a high class pictorial along the lines of the best photographic magazines that you can buy.  It's on a par with Rodder's Journal, though RJ should be considered the top grade in magazines, which are really books.   There are 44 black and white photographs and 18 color pictures.  The quality of the photographs are extremely good, depending on when they were taken and how they were transposed to the booklet.  There are no graphs, pie charts or any other visual aids.  This is simply a dedicatory coffee table book by the NHRA to their founder, who was a truly remarkable man and a hero to those who followed him in land speed and drag racing. 

     A deeper deconstruction of the book is therefore unnecessary.  As a tribute, it has a purpose and it achieves that, by simply extolling the virtues of a man that the racing community loved.  Wally Parks; Hot Rodding's Hero will not give you the man's beginnings or his family roots, except for a cursory biography.  Some of the information was copied and recopied from prior magazine articles and therefore the style of the work is readily apparent.  A few mistakes are only known to family members, but there aren't many and they are sometimes trivial.  The booklet concerns the professional life of Wally Parks, while his family life is largely left out.  There were a few things that were new, from sources that I haven't seen before.  Overall, it is an adequate, fair and open account as seen by his friends and associates.  What you won't find in Wally Parks; Hot Rodding's Hero is controversy, nor should you expect it in a booklet that was meant to be laudatory.  It will take a bigger work, even larger than Robert Post's High Performance, to adequately explain the birth and growth of drag racing as a major world sport.  Somehow, drag racers feel compelled to take sides, protesting every decision, every argument and every outcome as if it were abnormal.  The story of drag racing has at its very core the life of Wally Parks, a man who always tried to guide a raging beast with the tactful hand of a violinist.  Perhaps drag racers are not supposed to be led anywhere, but like Dylan Thomas' ode to his father, go raging into the dark. 

     I'm not altogether sure that Wally Parks would like to be thought of as anybody's hero.  He never claimed to me that he was the founder of hot rodding or drag racing, though he was proud of being the founder of the NHRA.  Nor was he the founder of the Southern California Timing Association, an organization that prepared him for the task of organizing the sport of drag racing.  As I have pointed out in previous articles, the hot rodding and dry lakes land speed racing was a part of the overall car experience that young men engaged in during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the World War II era of the 1940’s.  Wally Parks was pivotal in helping to gather support towards a lot of racing activities during this period.  The SCTA was founded by seven car clubs in November of 1937, after the collapse of the Muroc Timing Association.  He was uncomfortable in putting forth his presence, but he was everywhere, doing whatever job needed to be done.  He led the security patrols at the dry lakes, organized the newsletter and edited it, but gave the credit to others.  In 1946 he was nominated and elected as the SCTA’s first post-war president and led them to unprecedented growth.  In his field, he was sought after by a number of groups, one of which was the California Roadster Association.  Walt James loves to tell the story about how he asked Parks to be the president of the CRA, but was turned down.  “I’m thinking of creating a national car club group,” was the reply.  Why did James, Robert Petersen and others find this man so beguiling?  There were a number of reasons, but two come to mind.  First, he could lead men when they were at the height of passion.  Two, he accumulated as the secretary of the SCTA a huge list of members and interested parties.  With this list he wove together a network of individuals that he could weld into a group.  As a group, they would strive to protect hot rodding and car racing from the ravages of an angry public that saw hot rodders as gangsters. 

      He was uncomfortable with having the NHRA Motorsports Museum, in Pomona, California named after him.  For all his notoriety, he was a very private and genteel man.  There are probably those that knew him better than I, and those that hold a vastly different view of him.  He allowed himself to stand forth as a symbol, albeit reluctantly, so that people could hurl insults at him and not the sport that he loved.  Everyone has a movie hero that they like to compare themselves and others to.  Wally Parks was a mixture of Gary Cooper's hard luck and Jimmy Stewart's boy next door.  He was loyal to a fault and charismatic.  People simply loved or hated him, but what is love and hate, are they not the passions of the soul.  You can see in the faces of the people in the booklet and their emotions can't be hidden.  That is what I liked the most as a reviewer, the impact that a book has on people and the photographs wonderfully explained Wally Parks as he appeared to others.  He was never threatening and always reassuring.  His eyes and wrinkled little smile said that he cared about you.  His passion seemed restrained, but barely so, for under the surface it boiled with a rage, and that rage was for the protection of his sport.  Wally Parks lived through the worst of times, suffered and fought for that which he believed in, was a true war hero and a generous man.  He readily admitted to his faults and I never knew him to refuse a man's hand.  Wally Parks; Hot Rodding's Hero is not the complete book, but it doesn't have to be.  See www.NHRA.com for more information.

Gone Racin' is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM




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