The Roadster Years
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 offered the roadster to me, I decided to accept and transferred the engine and transmission to the roadster.
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.

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 challenged 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 the first Bakersfield National Meet in 1959. Our first pair up was with Scotty's Muffler Roadster, out of the San Bernardino area. I was quickly eliminated 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, he went to Iskenderians shop and  the car was fitted with a supercharger. 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 the 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 it in the pits. I didn't understand why he didn't try to make it go faster. 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 would allow.

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 120 MPH range. I was definitely hooked by the Salt and began planning to bring 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 Season.  I ran the car, powered by the 300 cu. in. Desoto I had run in the '34 Dodge pickup and the '27 "T" roadster, at El Mirage and also entered it in C/GC 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, Fontana, 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 in the winter months when SCTA held ¼ mile (and later ½ mile) 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 posted a 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 timing a couple of degrees. The down run ended short of the quarter with two rods in the pan. This was a 300 cu. in. Desoto that was fueled by six Stromberg "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. However, at the Colton Drag Strip one Saturday evening, it was revealed to me the 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 the pits. It became obvious that we had internal engine problems so we loaded 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 motor 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 of 163.33 MPH.  Our speed at Bonneville was 162.45 MPH. After Bonneville, because the last sleeve we had installed was leaking water into the crankcase and since we were using the 292 Desoto block which was very difficult to 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 years. 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 installed 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 was clean, the engine was mounted higher and there was nothing protruding below the front axle line. 1964 was not a good year speed wise, at Bonneville, because of suspension problems that had to be redone once we returned home. We did get the car sorted out and determined improvements needed. After the repairs, we came 

 back to the Lakes in October and post our best time yet 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 and winning 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 down. We went back to the D/GR class for the rest of the season posting a best of 173.74 MPH at El Mirage and 177.51 MPH at Bonneville which qualified on our own record, but we were unable to make the two-way average above the record.

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 to speed on straight alcohol and switch tanks using a nitro mix for the remaining run. The Idea was a good one, but I overlooked a problem that caused us to hydraulic both engines before I found the error. When I plumbed in the tanks, I had a three-way valve on both the suction and the return (jet box) line. Of course, I always shut off the fuel when not running, but I had not noticed that one fuel tank's return line was allowing fuel to leak back to the engine because it was mounted higher than the engine and the return line was too far down the side of the tank. I eventually took what was left of the two motors and put together an engine that was one of the better performing engines that I ran in those days. The D/GR speed was 172.42 MPH and the D/FR best was 171.75 MPH. At Bonneville, I was never able to keep the engine running on all cylinders through the lights while running nitro. I did have some 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 1970 before another trip to Bonneville was made. That trip turned out to be a disaster. I had borrowed an fuel injection from a friend and ended up breaking the 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 racing 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 199.137 MPH running both the D/GR and D/FR (running alcohol only) classes. I had purchased the Pierson Coupe and ran it as well as the roadster at Speedweek in 1980 and '81. We retired the roadster after the 1981 season.


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Last Updated: 09/09/2010