The Roadster Years
Ak, and partner George Hansen, had last run the car at the National
Drags in Great Bend Kansas. He told a story of failing inspection at
the Great Bend Meet because he had no scatter shield for the
clutch/flywheel area. He proceeded to manufacture one, on site, out of
a old tire casing and
was allowed to run.
My first roadster was a 1927 "T" which was given to me by Ak
Miller. I had previously been running a 1934 Dodge 1/4 ton pickup at
the Drags and Dry Lakes. At a Saturday night race at San Gabriel (later
Irwindale) during a "C" Gas meet, I set the record at 102 Plus
MPH and at the end of the backup run, the clutch
came apart inflicting considerable damage to the chassis. When Ak
the roadster to me, I decided to accept and transferred the engine and
to the roadster.
Ak was known for running on the edge of the rules, just short of
illegal, which gave me some problems at the Drags at times. The rules
said that you could use a '32 Ford radiator shell if it had the square
inches of a stock '29. At Long Beach, one Saturday night, I was
while going through tech inspection. The shell was just slightly short
of the required area. They let me move the aluminum shell insert down a
couple of inches giving the shell sufficient area. We ran the car at
first Bakersfield National Meet in 1959. Our first pair up was with
Muffler Roadster, out of the San Bernardino area. I was quickly
and relegated to spectating.
This was also Don Garlit's first trip to the West Coast. He was also
quickly eliminated. The car, at that time, was on '27 Chevy frame rails
and fueled by eight carburetors. The West Coast competitors were
running superchargers. According to Don Garlit's book, after he meet,
went to Iskenderians shop and the car was fitted with a
He went to Seattle the next weekend and won Top Eliminator.
I found later that another problem with the car was that under
SCTA rules the '27 had to run in the Modified Roadster Class. At that
time the modified roadster class was an open fuel class which put me a great disadvantage, so found it necessary to look to other classes to
be competitive. Because of this, we ran the car only a few months at
1/4 and 1/2 mile drags.
I had made my first trip to Bonneville as a "hanger on" with Ak Miller
and Dr. Nathan Ostich, along with several other members of the Road
Runners Club. Ak had installed a blown Chrysler (behind the
driver) in a
highly modified Henry "J" and dubbed it "The Thing". To say it was ugly
was a kindness! Ak made two or three runs in the high 170s and parked
in the pits. I didn't understand why he didn't try to make it go
When I asked him, he said, "I came here to race, not work on the car".
Actually, I think the car had gone as fast as the available traction
During that week I had the opportunity to make a few runs down the
course in a friends 1955 Chevrolet Station Wagon, running in the low
MPH range. I was definitely hooked by the Salt and began planning to
a car, in 1958, to compete. During next few months, I acquired a
1948 Ford Coupe and readied it for the 1958 Lakes and Bonneville
I ran the car, powered by the 300 cu. in. Desoto I had run in the '34
pickup and the '27 "T" roadster, at El Mirage and also entered it in
at Bonneville. Our best time was 138+ MPH. The C/GC class was dominated
by Karol Miller out of Beaumont Texas. He had run over 150 MPH the
previous year and set the record at 151.997 MPH in 1958. I had completed my first week at Bonneville in competition. If I
had never returned, I would have accomplished a feat that many only
dream about. But, after having competed at Bonneville, I have since
gone to great lengths to make it happen again year after year.
Having missed only two years of competition since being introduced to
the "Great White Dyno" in 1957.
- I determined that I was going back
in 1959, but C/GC certainly was not a class where I saw a future for me.
Which led me to start construction a 1930 Ford roadster for the 1959
Season. We ran this roadster through July 1964. From 1960 into 1967
we were "King of the Hill" at El Mirage, setting, and raising
the record numerous times. Our only problem was that we ran almost as fast
at El Mirage as we did at Bonneville. I just couldn't seem to get things
right for the long run.
We were also very successful at the ¼ mile drags throughout
Southern California, holding the National Record for top speed a couple
of times and at
- every strip we ran, (Riverside, Santa Ana, Colton,
San Gabriel, San Fernando, Santa Maria [we made one trip there claiming
the record and Top Eliminator for our trouble]), except Long Beach where
I had exceeded the record but never tore down to claim the record.
We had been introduced to the longer runs at El Mirage through joining
the Road Runners (SCTA) in 1956. As time went on, I lost interest in
the ¼ mile drags and focused on El Mirage and Bonneville, except
the winter months when SCTA held ¼ mile (and later ½
drag races to keep the membership tuned and ready for the coming season.
- In 1959 our best time was 154.37 MPH at El Mirage. At Bonneville, we
burned a piston on the first run, worked all night making repairs.
After richening the mixture and retarding the timing, next morning
run of 154.63 MPH, qualifying for record runs. The following morning we
warmed up the engine and because it seemed a bit flat, I advance the
a couple of degrees. The down run ended short of the quarter with two
in the pan. This was a 300 cu. in. Desoto that was fueled by six
"97s" on a home made Crower log manifold. We broke lots of rods (stock
rods) during the time we ran the Desoto. After getting together enough
money to buy a set of Don's Boxed Rods the rod problem was corrected.
at the Colton Drag Strip one Saturday evening, it was revealed to me
primary cause for the rod failure that we had experience in the past.
As I have already said, we ran six carburetors and we ran a pressure
system, which was the popular method of delivering the fuel in those
days. That night, while waiting to make a run, the starter gave me a
get ready to go signal two or three times, only to hold me for another
car to run. Each time I got the signal, I pumped up the pressure in the
fuel tank and waited for the OK to push off. Once I finally was pushed
off the line, when I released the clutch to fire the engine, it
shuddered and then fired.
It didn't sound quite right so I shut the engine off and returned to
pits. It became obvious that we had internal engine problems so we
up and went home.
When I disassembled the engine, I found that we had pulverize a piston,
the rod, however was good as gold. It seemed evident that our rod
breakage in the past had been because fuel leaked into the cylinders
and since liquid doesn't compress the rod would bend, causing it to
break at RPM. This
was revealed at a time when I already had the four cylinders in the
sleeved. The fifth sleeve was installed.
In 1960 we ran 156.79 MPH at El Mirage. I don't have any record of
our speed at Bonneville that year, but I suspect that we ran about the
same speed. 1961 saw a bit better performance at El Mirage with a time
163.33 MPH. Our speed at Bonneville was 162.45 MPH. After
because the last sleeve we had installed was leaking water into the
and since we were using the 292 Desoto block which was very difficult
find, I had to make a decision. Either I scour the wrecking yards
trying to find another block, or yield to the suggestion that I install
a Chevrolet engine that had been stored in my shop for a couple of
It didn't take too long for me to realize that the Chevrolet parts were
more readily available and much cheaper also. So I said good-bye to the
Desoto that had served me so well at the Drags and the Lakes and
the Chevy. In 1962 the El Mirage speed down a bit at 162.45 MPH, but the
Bonneville speed was up to 170.13 MPH, the best yet by almost 8 MPH. In
1963 we ran a best of 166.66 MPH at El Mirage and 168.85 at Bonneville.
Still not taking advantage of the long runs. 1964 at El Mirage 166.66 MPH
again and 152.54 MPH at Bonneville.
||Speedweek 1964 was the debut of our new 1929 roadster
sporting a VW front axle and improved aero package. Not that
too much can be done to improve a roadster, but in this car the bottom
clean, the engine was mounted higher and there was nothing protruding
the front axle line. 1964 was not a good year speed wise, at
because of suspension problems that had to be redone once we returned
We did get the car sorted out and determined improvements needed. After
repairs, we came
back to the Lakes in October and post our best time
at 172.74 MPH.
Our new car was finally sorted out making 1965 a good year for
us. We ran 173.41 MPH at El Mirage and set a new D/GR record at
Bonneville at 176.774 MPH and a best one-way run of 178.92 MPH.
At the first Lakes of the season in 1966, we decided to try the D/FR
class. We had been running 33% nitro at the half-mile drags at the
Riverside Raceway with great success and having a ball. We had posted a
run of 166.66 MPH in the half-mile, running for Top Eliminator at each meet
the top spot on one occasion. At El Mirage we ran 176.12 MPH which was
OK, but the engine kept running for a ½ mile or so after shut
We went back to the D/GR class for the rest of the season posting a
of 173.74 MPH at El Mirage and 177.51 MPH at Bonneville which qualified
our own record, but we were unable to make the two-way average above
During the 1967 season, we ran both D/FR (188.67 MPH) and D/GR (172.41
MPH) at El Mirage. We ran both classes at Bonneville as well. I had the
grand idea that I would setup a dual fuel system where I could run up
speed on straight alcohol and switch tanks using a nitro mix for the
run. The Idea was a good one, but I overlooked a problem that caused us
hydraulic both engines before I found the error. When I plumbed in the
I had a three-way valve on both the suction and the return (jet box)
Of course, I always shut off the fuel when not running, but I had not
that one fuel tank's return line was allowing fuel to leak back to the
because it was mounted higher than the engine and the return line was
far down the side of the tank. I eventually took what was left of the
motors and put together an engine that was one of the better performing
that I ran in those days. The D/GR speed was 172.42 MPH and the D/FR
was 171.75 MPH. At Bonneville, I was never able to keep the engine
on all cylinders through the lights while running nitro. I did have
exciting short rides, however.
We moved to Redding (Northern) CA in May of 1968. Opening a new
business, and a burglary of our shop on Labor Day Weekend 1968, set
us back a
couple of years in our racing efforts. The Hilborn Fuel Injection,
distributor and cylinder heads were stolen during the burglary. It was
another trip to Bonneville was made. That trip turned out to be a
I had borrowed an fuel injection from a friend and ended up breaking
engine in the warm-up area, trying to get things sorted out, before I
made run down the course. Believe me when I say that absence from the
scene for a couple of years is difficult to overcome. We had lost our Lakes record to Harold Johansen in 1967 and then the
Bonneville record in 1969. I never again held a record with the
roadster. For the next few years, we ran speeds from 187.891 MPH to
running both the D/GR and D/FR (running alcohol only) classes. I had
the Pierson Coupe and ran it as well as the roadster at Speedweek in
and '81. We retired the roadster after the 1981 season.