My Friends...Some have passed from this life, but all have been an inspiration! 

Ak Miller Bob  Herda Bruce Geisler Vesco Brothers Jerry Kugel Bob & Jim Brissette
Burt Munro Gary Cagle Nolan White Al Teague Andy Granatelli Bob & Bill Summers
Art Chrisman Burke LeSage Jim Lindsley

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Ak  Miller was a member of the Road Runner Club in Whittier. He quickly became on my hero list. Ak was always the "life of the party" at club meetings, (or anywhere else he happened to be). He was also a very avid racer, competing in many different venues of the sport. One of Ak's favorite sayings was, "There is no substitute for cubic inches." To him this was not just a saying, but he took it to heart, building engines with displacements that pushed the limits. Because of this attitude and since I have always run in D Class (306 cu .in. limit) he began to call me "Tom Thumb" . The nickname stuck and that is origin of the name ("Tom Thumb Special") my cars have carried since. 

It was because of Ak that I first went to Bonneville. He and Dr. Ostich had built a Chrysler powered Henry "J" Competition Coupe dubbed "The Thing". It was crude and ugly as sin, as many of his cars were, A few other Road Runners and I tagged along with Ak and Doc as they ran the car. It ran in the mid 170 MPH bracket and Ak parked it. I ask him why he didn't try to go faster. His reply was, "I came here to race, not to work on the car". Looking back, I know that he had reached the limit of the car's traction. 

During the week I made a couple of passes in a fellow Road Runner's '57 Chevy.  I was hooked! 

At the 1/4 mile drags, I had been running a '34 Dodge 1/4 ton pickup in C/Gas Class. At San Gabriel, one Saturday Night, I blew the clutch and did great damage to the car. Ak came to the rescue with an offer of a '27 "T" Roadster that he and George Hanson had run at the 1/4 Mile Nationals in Great Bend Kansas a year or so before. I transferred my engine and drive train to this car and ran the 1/4 mile drags, but the car ran as a modified roadster (which was an open fuel class) under SCTA Rules so I had to do something else for our meets. I built a '48 Ford Coupe which I ran at the lakes and at Bonneville for one year while I built a 1930 Roadster for the 1959 Season.

Ak was a true friend and an inspiration to me. I miss him sorely!

  Gone Racin’…With Ak Miller

Written by Richard N. Parks

Ak Miller is a legend among racers. Which means that he doesn’t need to embellish his exploits, for we do that for him. Ak’s done about everything a racer wants to do. He’s raced the dry lakes, Bonneville Salt Flats, Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and road races in Italy and Mexico. Elected President of the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) and Vice President of the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association), and a member of the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame, Ak has his share and more of auto racing honors. Yet he is more than just an award winner, elected official or quick and speedy racer. It’s the twinkle in his eye, entrancing smile, ready wit and charisma that gets you off balance and makes you fair game for this lively and charming fellow. Stories and tales surround him, and grow larger and more complex with the years. This has given rise to a colloquial expression, “that’s Ak”, meaning a story bunyunesque or too far fetched to be true. But those who say this are mistaken for he has never had to create a tale; he has lived a life many of us only dream of.

Born Akton Moeller, in Denmark, eighty-one years ago, his family immigrated to Southern California when he was just a small child. He worked in various garages as a youth and for Hannah Nixon, in their store in Whittier, back in the 1930’s. Ak remembers seeing Richard Nixon studying at the old secretary desk in the store, and asking Ak to bring him a candy bar and to “help yourself as well.” RMN was already a practiced politician! Years later, when visiting the White House as a member of a racing contingent, Ak found himself teased and everyone doubted that he had ever known the President. Nixon strode in and grasped the hand of his old friend and said, “Ak, did you bring me a candy bar?”

He followed his brothers, Lawrence (Old Dad) and Zeke, to the dry lakes in the 1930’s, and began a love affair with racing that lasts to this day. He was a charter member of the Roadrunners, one of the original car clubs that absorbed the remnants of the Muroc Timing Association, and formed it into the storied SCTA, in December of 1937. Ak raced whatever was available, even an old derelict model T that was abandoned in the desert. He would remove the battery after racing the old heap, and was always surprised to find it still there when he returned for the next meet. It didn’t set any records, but it gave his car club valuable points toward the season’s championship trophy.

Ak had wanted to join the Army Air Corp during WWII, but was transferred to the Army and sent to Europe to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Surrounded, in freezing weather, with no support, he was forced to fight merely to stay alive. He came upon a German officer cooking a steak, cut from the flank of a dying cow, and so overcome by hunger, one having food and the other without, that they shot at each other for the food’s sake. Ak was quicker that day, winning the steak and a prisoner. He was less fortunate when frostbite ended his war and sent him back to England, unsure whether they would amputate his feet.

Returning from the war, Ak rejoined the SCTA and served as it’s President, and with his close friend and fellow Roadrunner’s club member, Wally Parks, served as Vice President of the newly formed NHRA. But his heart was in Land Speed Racing and he returned to Bonneville, where over the years, the Miller/Lufkin/Carr team set and reset hundreds of records. In 1953-54, Miller campaigned a modified T-roadster in the Mexican Road Race. Quick on the turns and curves in the mountains, the little roadster would give up its lead in the straight-aways, but still placed 8th in 1953 and 5th in 1954.

Miller left his garage in the 1960’s to work for Ford, and run in the Mobil Economy Runs. He was a terror at the Pike’s Peak Hill Climbs, winning nine times in his class, with Ray Brock as his crew. He and Brock also competed in and won their class in the 1963 Baja 1000 Road Race. Still working at his garage, this legend of a man will stop what he is doing, sit you down, and regale you with another of his amazing stories, and as I’ve said before, they are all remarkably true.

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Bob was not a close friend, but I was on the salt with him several years. I was impressed, as most others were, with his car. It was a beautiful Blue #999 Chrysler powered Streamliner. I am told that each time he went through inspection there was a discussion about the lack of adequate drain holes in the belly pan. He was concerned about the aerodynamics and chose not to heed the inspectors. This was no doubt a factor in his fatal incident. (The explanation is in the following story) 

Bob  Herda - "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over"

 Some of you know me, some of you don't. I run a seriously fast Honda that currently holds two World Land Speed Records. I'll be 58 Monday and have been racing on and off for over 40 years. Until last night, I was beginning to think I had a pretty good grasp on "reality."

This story is to warn you racers to always be the student! Our egos and faster and faster nature are both our wonderful friend and fearsome Master. Be mindful of the game we are all playing! 

I could never have imagined what happened in this story. I always figured I was safe up in the front of the car, a solid steel firewall separating me from the engine and all the mechanical and chemical problems that can occur back there. No way any fires, explosions, or spills could come forward against a 200+mph headwind, right?  And I knew I was really safe when I felt the chute hit. That always meant all was well and I could relax. 

Well, Bob Herda knew all that, too. And he's now dead. A brilliant engineer who built amazing race cars that challenged the barriers of Bonneville Land Speed Records is gone. Just like that.

 Yogi Berra pointed out that, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Last night at the San Diego Roadsters Club (SDRC) meeting I discovered the horrific truth of that statement. Bob wanted a record, and built a car to go after it. Keenly into aerodynamics and widely known as a stunning engineer, he fashioned a high tech frame and wrapped it in a flawless body — no holes, no bumps, no blemishes of any kind. He even installed an on-board breathing system with a high-pressure oxygen bottle so he wouldn't need a parasitic opening for intake air.  He ran it many times, always chasing speed. 

Fast forward to August 1969, the day of his final run. What follows is a somewhat fanciful, although essentially factual, account of what happened. I say "essentially" because I was not there and have only assembled some of the details. I write this so that perhaps you will learn, as I did last night, that, "It ain't over 'til it's over." The story of Bob's death most certainly saved my life, if not directly, then at least by making me more respectful of what we do out there. 

That 1969 event had been a frustrating meet. To get more speed in the car, they had switched from alcohol to nitromethane, but inexplicably the motor would not run right. Seems some kind of gunky stuff kept forming in the fuel lines. They had to keep flushing everything out. Bob was not to be deterred. Once it was all purged, the motor responded eagerly.  So off they went to the starting line. 

Bob suited up and climbed into the car. The motor responded with the erotic cacophony of disjointed explosions that only Pop (nitro methane) can make. Put the hammer down, though, and the confusing mayhem transforms instantly to "orderly" mayhem — that is to say, "hang on!"  Bob left the line that day with a strong burst. Climbing up through the gears, the motor ran cleanly, now free of the strange gunk that had clogged its arteries. The very same gunk that had done such a perfect job of sealing the fuel tank from alcohol leaks. The gunk that was no match for the corrosive temperament of Pop. 

The fuel began to leak. And leak. And leak. And Bob kept his foot into it, hammering his ride toward the 300 range. Unaware of the evolving scene, just four feet back.  Funny things happen to airflow. Unpredictable things, even with the best engineering. The investigation would reveal that pressure under the car had somehow gone negative, pulling the belly pan down from the firewall that separated Bob from the engine compartment behind him. Drain holes in the belly pan, made tiny to lessen wind resistance, were not able to expel the gathering fluid, and it continued to collect. At the back of the car. We're accelerating, remember?  At last, through the final lights. Off the gas.  Like me, Bob probably contemplated the scene for a moment before tossing the laundry. Your car may be fishtailing or bouncing, or it may be wonderfully solid, as if "on rails." Either way, when the chute blossoms, reassuringly slamming you forward into the belts, the release drains every cell of your body.  Phew! It's over. I'm safe! All we do now is wait, as it all slows down.

I'm sure Bob was feeling the same kind of relief as the sudden deceleration sloshed the puddle of nitromethane forward and the fuel ignited on the hot exhaust manifolds. The burning fuel immediately found its way under the firewall and into the driver's compartment. A few seconds later it melted the high pressure oxygen line, only insuring that it would all happen more quickly.  It was over so fast that when the car rolled to a stop moments later, there was no hint that the car was on fire, or had been on fire. Witnesses 50 feet away saw no problems. Until they got closer. 

• • •  Thank you, Bob. And thank you to the men who told me that story. I had been thinking that with a good coat of paint, my half-rusted floor boards would probably be okay for one more season. But after last night, the entire car is coming apart for a complete Magna Flux and re-do. And brand new floor boards, firewall fixtures, and wiring routing. 

This is serious s... And, "It ain't over 'til it's over." 

Always The Student, 


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Bruce and I have been fast friends since I first met him at the San Gabriel Drags in the early sixties. He ran a roadster in the same class that I ran. On the grille shell of his '29 was a caricature of a man and the caption "Ole Man from the Mountain". Bruce was a member of the Rod Rider's Club and ran Russetta Lakes Meets. I believe it was 1962 that the Russetta Association disbanded and the Rod Riders became affiliated with the SCTA. 

I know few people that have as great a love for competition as does Bruce. I suspect that he has set more records at Bonneville than anyone. I know he has the record for the most inspection decals on a car. His Stude's windshield  is completely encircled and then some.

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The Curmudgeon of Bonneville

Bruce Geisler... 40 Years on the Salt

Every Friday evening at different locations throughout Vancouver, Washington, the Slo-Poks Car Club gather for their legendary alley nights, better known as The Alley. The Poks have been around since the early 50's and have been doing this alley deal for as long as anyone can remember. Club members and guests come together to do whatever comes natural when fifty or so car guys are found in one spot surrounded by cars, their adult refreshment of choice and about twenty pounds of shell peanuts. Having hosted an alley a couple of years ago, and having just recently carpeted my gallery with lush green carpet, so I can fully appreciate the lingering presence of the Poks.

Before the peanut gallery thing, I was a guest at another one of these gatherings. Standing in line for a free dog I noticed this guy that wasn’t the normal Slo-Pok, actually I had never seen him before. He appeared older than most members (I was told later that it was because of prolonged exposure to salt), but there he was, pulling duty with the rest of them and considering the amount of smoke he was eating it was a job nobody else wanted. This was Bruce Geisler. As Bruce tucked a dog in my outstretched bun I said thanks Jerry (I knew his name was Geisler, but I got him confused with a car painter in Portland). Never missing a beat or correcting me for my error, Bruce handed over the dog. I would soon learn that this is Bruce’s way.

Through the years I have come to appreciate Bruce’s uniqueness. He is seldom seen out of cut-off Levi’s, drives a pink pick-up and detests getting a haircut or a shave. Although a little different, he is the most loyal and selfless person I know. His passion has been cars since his high school years in Montebello, California during the early 50's, where one of LA’s earliest car clubs, The Chipmunks was formed. The club was actually centered on his parents cabin in Lake Arrowhead in the mountains above Los Angeles, but it was a Montebello group because in East L.A. at the time, clubs had their turf, much as it is today but much less lethal. To avoid the boundary problem, the founders picked a more neutral home base. Years later his club activities would include the Southern California Timing Association where he is the only person to have served three consecutive stints as president; the Rod Riders, a cornerstone dry lakes and Bonneville racing club; and of course the Slo-Poks. His activities were not limited to the social however, it was Geisler Construction that built the old Fontana Drag Strip and of course sponsored many of Bruces racecars. For his ever-present helping attitude he has been honored with numerous awards of appreciation such as the S.C.T.A. Sportsmanship Award and the coveted Meb Healy Award. All this is in addition to a group of friends that would come to his aid without question.

Bruce Geisler’s life is surrounded by cars and car memories. Although he has owned many through the years, the inventory hasn’t changed much in the last twenty odd years. His daily driver is a 48 GMC pick-up that was featured in Rod and Custom in 1953. It was originally built by the Gil Ayala in 1948, and then Bruce acquired it, did it over and hit the show circuit throughout So Cal. After trading the truck for a new ‘58 Chevy he lost track of the Jimmy for 35 years until it surfaced in a wrecking yard in Arizona, surprisingly in tact. Today he has it back, updated it since the early years and now runs a blown Chevrolet small block.

Everything Bruce drives has a blower on it, which includes a chopped 30 Model A closed cab pick-up and a steel 32 hi-boy. Currently in the works is a ‘29 roadster pick-up hi-boy with of course, a blown Chevy in the rails. This same car was on the cover of Street Rodder Magazine in 1975, and the 30 Model A Slo-Poks truck was seen on the cover of Street Rodder in 1987.

Although cars appear to be the center of his world, his family and friends clearly take preference. Bruce’s wife Dianne supports his interests fully; often riding hundreds of miles is a hot rod, sometimes not the most pleasant experience. When friends or grand kids show up, the Geisler house is centered on them. Outside the friendly walls of the house exists a wealth of racing history. In Bruce’s office and in the garage the walls, shelves, cabinets, and all available space is stuffed with keepers. Some people have their stuff, but Bruce’s stuff has heritage. Pictures, plaques, trophies and memorabilia are everywhere. In his attic there is a stack of old jackets and shirts from previous racing years, among them until recently, was a NEW club jacket from the old Chipmunks Car Club dating back to 1952, which now rides around on the back of his race car partner Gary Vail in Washington. For car parts there is a row of GMC blowers, a few quick-change center sections and a complete blown small block in the corner, a spare for the Bonneville car. (The supercharger is named Monica and the engine is Mr. Bill after the infamous Clinton/Lewinsky debacle). And then there is the whimsical. On the refrigerator door among a hundred or so notes, magnets, and decals, is a small toilet that when the handle is pushed it makes the appropriate sounds. Among his toys, are special things he likes to play with, such as the remote operated fart machine (great fun in a museum) or the little black box that emits several prerecorded expressions we have all used from time to time in moments of discontent, none of which can be discussed here. His GMC pick-up is outfitted with one of those heart stopping air horns, a driver education device, as Bruce puts it.

Bruce has a history at Bonneville and El Mirage that goes back into the 50's. He has been land speed racing for over 40 years, not the oldest dog on the salt, but close. His dedication to salt racing is clear and like many of his fellow competitors guards the jealously tradition of Bonneville. He has run a ‘29 roadster, several Corvettes, a '55 Chevy, a lakester, his famous Studebaker and when the racecar couldn’t make the race or broke, the push cars made their share of passes. One of these episodes included a Dodge pick-up, with camper, large camper. He doesn’t remember how fast it went. Bruce’s engines have also powered other cars to records such as the Vern McGee street roadster in 1971, ‘72 and ‘76. Four times he has been S.C.T.A. High Points Champion, is a member of the S.C.T.A.’s Wheels of Fame, the dry lakes Hall of Fame in Buellton, California and is a life member in the 200 M.P.H. Club at Bonneville. Today Bruce still campaigns his 1953 Studebaker coupe, the same car that he first brought to the salt in 1960. This summer of 2000 was to be Bruce’s 42nd year on the salt, and some say the final outing for the venerable Studebaker.

Through all those years, one thing that stayed constant is the ‘53 Studebaker Coupe. Most of the records attributed to Bruce are with this car. Hundreds of fireside stories can be associated with this car, revered by Studebaker aficionados and respected by all who have witnessed its long life and contributions to land speed racing. Originally purchase for $60 from a Southern California wrecking yard (Bruce still has the sales receipt) it was quickly pressed into service as a racecar to run the lakes, Bonneville and the occasional drag event. By the year 2000, the Stude had set 50 records with this car which has also put three people in the prestigious 200 Mile Per Hour Club. 45 additional records have had Bruce’s name attached to them over the years. Records attributed to Bruce were most prolific in 1968 and 1972, garnering four records each year at Bonneville alone, two cars each year, with 1968 and 1989 yielding seven records each year at Bonneville and the dry lakes combined, again with several cars. At the end of the 1974 season, the Geisler name was on 11 active records.

Bruces first land speed racing took place in 1957 with a SR-1 factory race Corvette, of which there were only 6 built. A street able car, the Corvette was sharing duties as a daily driver and a weekend warrior running the quarter mile at Santa Ana and the lakes of El Mirage. This was the car that started the record collection when in 1957 at El Mirage the Corvette set a record in AB Sports Car class going 126 m.p.h.. Still active in the Chipmunks, it was during this period the Chipmunks had purchased a ‘29 Ford roadster as a club racecar. It was about 1959 when the Chipmunks disbanded and Bruce acquired the roadster, and began racing at the old San Gabriel Drag Strip and soon at El Mirage, then setting its first records on its initial outing to Bonneville. Bruce has a picture of the car at Bonneville pitted with the world-class modified roadster of Mardon-Ohly-Bentley. The race number that Bruce uses today as then, is 219 which first appeared on the roadster in 1959. The Mardon-Ohly-Bentley roadster was 229, just a coincidence Bruce says, but for those of us who like to wallow in the romantic, it is clearly providence.

After Bonneville in 1959, Bruce decided to make the roadster a little more show worthy. He disassembled the car, but as the racing season loomed closer he knew the roadster would not be ready in time. It was at this point that the Studebaker came into the picture. The injected Chevrolet small block and trans from the roadster went into the Stude for its first race at El Mirage in early 1960. The roadster was never completed, after doing a lot of chrome work; it was sold and eventually parted out. Considering Bruce’s penchant for saving things you might think that some parts of the roadster are nearby. He did know of the body’s whereabouts for a while, but soon lost track of it. A few months following the acquisition of the Stude another Corvette came to the Geisler stable, which eventually set numerous records and stayed with Bruce until 1983. That car is chronicled in a recent article in Vette Magazine.

Even though the Geisler name has appeared in many magazine features (15 at last count), on the membership lists of some of California’s pioneer car clubs, was President of the Southern California Timing Association, won sportsmanship awards, yearly points championship trophies, endless timing tags as class winner, has been lettered on the sides of Corvettes, a street roadster and a lakester, it is still the Studebaker for which Bruce is most known. Since 1960 it has competed in many classes, run a wide variety of power plants, and has numerous partnerships, including the likes of Mike Cook, Bob Kehoe, Don Stringfellow, and Gale Banks. The relationships that have developed over those years include the who’s who of the speed industry. When Doug Thorley had a muffler shop in East Los Angeles and needed a pit dug, it was Bruce that loaned him the equipment to do the job. Doug’s logo is still on the side of the racecar today. Many of the people who participated with Bruce and his Stude in 1960 are still with him.

In addition to Doug there is Gale Banks. In the early sixties and before the world was aware of Gale, he was also running a Studebaker. Soon Gale and Bruce had decided to share shop space from which they ran the cars. To appreciate this next event you must understand that Bruce is not an unkempt person, but his attention to detail is noticeably more casual than Banks, Gale likes things in their place and extra tidy. Apparently this shop had been a redwood furniture factory, so every time you closed the door a new cloud of redwood dust would appear. Although Bruce is not afraid of a broom, he clearly has the first blank space syndrome. That means that when you have something in your hand, the first empty space you see is where it belongs. We are not sure if it was this or the redwood dust but soon the Bruce and Gale Show made different turns at the corner. They remain lasting friends, but under separate roofs.

Decades later Gale’s operations would spearhead the S-15 pick-up for GMC and a Firebird for Pontiac which would include Bruce. Today when Bruce visits the impossibly busy Mr. Turbo Banks at his complex in Azusa, special considerations are in order. During a recent visit with several of his friends in tow, it was clear that Gale had a full plate that day as he was locked in his office. Shortly after Bruce began beating on his door, Mr. Banks was personally escorting us around his facility on the grand tour. Friendships such as these seem to be routine at Bruce’s garage.

Through the years the Stude has used numerous Chevrolet engines including 258, 296, 300, 302, 304, 327, 355 and 383 displacements, unblown, blown and turbo charged, and later even a V-6 Buick. One of the most powerful of those was a small block Chevrolet from Bank’s shop, 304 cubic inches with twin turbos pushing the car to a 209 M.P.H. record in 1980. Prior to that a one-way pass of 242 had been experienced in 1978, only to blow a tire on a subsequent run nearly destroying the car. In 1981 and again in 1984 the car would make several mid 220 mph passes but would never set a record to exceed the 209 mark.

In 1979 at Bonneville Bruce became acquainted with Bob Sinner of Camas, Washington. Bob had a Studebaker and was there to get some helpful hints on running the car. Bruce and Bob were soon to meet, and in the following months Bruce would offer to loan him an engine. During the trip to deliver the engine to Washington, Bruce was having a little engine trouble with his turbo Pinto powered closed cab ‘29 pick-up. He and Bob went to the local machine shop where Bruce first met Gary Vail. This friendship would flourish through many phone calls and mutual house visits. Before you knew it Gary was visiting Bonneville and crewing on the Studebaker. By 1985 Bruce was involved with Gale Banks and Don Stringfellow in a Pontiac Firebird gas supercharged coupe project, then on to the 206 M.P.H. S-15 pick-up project, Gary crewed on both efforts. During this four-year period Bruce had loaned the Studebaker out, and by the end of the loan, the years on the salt and lack of attention by the last tenant had brought the car to near death.

The historic car was about to start down a road that would be both threatening to its survival and be the key to its salvation. In 1989 a decision had to be made whether to scrap the car or do a complete restoration. Gary Vail and friend Mark Brislawn recovered the car from its storage in up state Washington. Gary looked at the history that sat before him, and being the car romantic that he is, decided that the car must be brought back, it must be saved. Starting in 1990 and continuing over the next two years, Gary nearly single handedly stripped the car to a bare hulk, restoring the old salt warrior to perfection. Bruce gives all the credit to Gary, without his commitment the car would have been crushed long ago he says. As the conclusion of the restoration the car was in the best condition since its showroom days in 1953.

During the restoration Courtney Hizer from Georgia expressed an interest in running one his engines in the car. His involvement would be extremely helpful in bringing the car back to the salt and resurrecting its glory days. The Tomoka Brady built V-6 Buick running gas with a single carburetor similar to the Busch Grand National cars of the day, set a record in 1994 at 188.114. For years Gale Banks had been a supporter of Bruce’s Stude, supplying parts and help from time to time. Since then Gale has re-entered the picture as an active player. The Banks organization built a 258 cubic inch blown small block Chevrolet to run in AE supercharged gas coupe. Although the 1999 effort set another record, the outing was bit by last minute gremlins and overall, was disappointing. For 2000, Mr. Banks had made a significant commitment. Changes to the engine were made, and then had run-in time on the new Bank’s dyno. With the capability and history of the car, along with the talent of the owners and crew, the 200 M.P.H. barrier should again be eclipsed which will but Gary Vail in The 2 Club.

Bob Robe, an engineer in Gale Bank’s R&D Department, has been with the car since 1978. As is the case with all of the crewmembers, Bob volunteers his time and considerable knowledge to the Bonneville efforts. Bobs help, along with the rest of the crew, have made it possible to create this salt history. People like Bob, Roger Miller, JJ Penman, Larry Woodrift, Jeff Sawyer, Gary Hodges, Vern McGee, Lee Hackley, Mike Maris, and Jim the kid Wagner among others, have crewed on the car over the years. Bruce and Gary are very appreciative of their friends, and the front fender of the Stude says it all, don’t leave home without them.

With 50 records attributed to the Studebaker, the first one coming in 1961, hopefully that will not stop soon. Records attributed to Bruce were most prolific in 1968 and 1972, garnering four records each year at Bonneville alone (two cars each year), with 1968 and 1989 yielding seven records each year at Bonneville and the dry lakes combined (again with several cars). At the end of the 1974 season, the Geisler name was on 11 active records.

Although the Studebaker is the star of Bruce’s car life, an experience with one of the former cars is worth telling. In addition to the aforementioned SR-1 Corvette there was another Corvette, a ‘56 which already had a racing history with Jack Lufkin at Daytona and Bonneville, the one Bruce owned for over 20 years. Acquired in 1960 when the Studebaker was beginning life on the salt, it is a unique part of the story, having been street driven and raced continuing to set records until 1968, then stored away to eventually be sold in 1983. But that is not where the story ends. Occasionally Bruce gave the sale of the Corvette a regrettable thought, wishing he had the car back. In 1999 while Bruce was touring a specialty car dealer in Southern California, he happened upon a red 1956 Corvette. Bruce says AI had a Corvette like this one once, hey, this looks like my old car...IT IS MY OLD CAR! He had come upon the car completely by accident. The car still had the roll bar, rear suspension and shortened steering column that was put in the car during the mid sixties, and had given it=s identity away to Bruce. Although completely restored, the provenance was clear. In the early years of the Stude it ran Halibrand wheels, which eventually wound up on the Corvette. While talking about the Corvette with a sales person, he commented that there was a set of wheels that came off of the Corvette upstairs in storage, Awe put billet wheels on it which makes it look much better. Bruce originally gave the wheels to the purchaser of the Corvette, to be put on the car later. So having experienced the reunion with the car, a second was about to take place, after having purchased the wheels in 1961, the wheels and their original owner were once again together. Bruce fondled the wheels like a lost child. Kinda sounds like a strange love affair thing, but you must admit that is a highly unusual happening.

Over the last fifteen years or so, especially helped by the Save the Salt campaign, Bonneville and the original hot rod spirit has been refocused. This is evidenced by the return to traditional hot rods. Most of us seem to change directions within our hobby with the popular. Few have stayed consistent over 40 years. We are fortunate that there are people that have kept Bonneville and the true hot-rodding spirit alive, waiting to be found again.

With the final runs of the famous Studebaker approaching, some might think Bruce’s career is closing too, but he is far from done. There is a hi-boy ‘29 in the works, which will certainly at least see the salt, not to mention any number of hot rods around for him to work on. Recently a ‘32 five-window coupe has joined the stable. Although he is uncertain of his future at Bonneville, his days are still full being a hot rodder, building ‘em and drivin ‘em.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the last run of the last run at Bonneville for the famous Studebaker would be made by the venerable red car, kinda like riding off into the sunset with Hoppy, and Lash and Tom and Gene and Roy. Nope, can’t do that, then the Stude could never run again, and I for one am just are not ready to close that door, not yet.

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The Burt Munro Story

I knew he was on the salt and had heard some talk of his mission. I  was impressed by the sight of his bike and had watched him make a qualifying run. He got my interest early on because of what he was doing and his advanced years...I was 32, he was 63. (In time, I was to understand and see that in a different light.) 

I first talked to Burt  at the nine mile post on record runs in 1962. It was my job at the post  to talk to the drivers/riders and inform them of the proper procedures for making the return run.  When he came rolling in at the end of his first leg of his record run, he got off his bike, his right pant leg was soaked with fuel and his face was full of salt. He smiled and said, "I say , its a might salty out there." 

As was often the case with others, in the excitement surrounding the moment, he did not heed my recommendations for making his return run. In order for him to have his speed in the correct mile on return, he needed to take it easy for the first couple of miles and then lean on it to make his record. He left the nine mile at full throttle and blew the engine before he reached the timing traps. Although he failed on this attempt, he came back later in the week to set the record.

In the coming days and years, I came to know and appreciate this man and his stories. He was indeed a man on a mission, a man short on funds and long on determination.  He was delightful to listen to.  His wit and philosophy of life made an impression on me. His favorite comment was, "Make Do!" I understood what that meant since I was also a person with little funds to pursue my dream and often I had to do with less than I would have liked. "Make do" was often employed in my mission as well.

There is a story told by Rollie Free, Burt's friend and companion on his first trip to the salt. Burt had purchased an old Nash sedan, a 1941, I believe, to tow his motorcycle. (The movie uses a '54 Chevrolet) During the trip to the salt, the transmission broke some gears and punched a hole in the transmission case. Rollie wanted to go to a wrecking yard and find another transmission, but Burt said, we'll Make Do." He pulled the transmission, removed the broken parts, whittled a wooden plug and drove it in the hole in the case. That is the way they continued to use the Nash. This was not an unusual event for Burt. This is the way he lived!

The following was taken from the internet. It is the contents of a couple of letters written by Burt to a friend chronicling his life's pursuit of speed..


H. J 'Bert Munro' 1899-1977'

        Well it is a bit hard to cram a brief history and spec of a bike I bought new in 1920 for 140 pounds cash and have been developing since 1926. it has gone 3 ¼ m.p.h. faster each year for 44 years which is about average for some factory bikes over the same period. I have been riding since 1915 and owned a Clyno v-twin in 1919- 1920 which I sold to a blacksmith and then bought the 1920 Scout, engine number 5OR627. I have made 5 heads for it, countless pistons and conrods, carburetors, magneto parts , scores of cams, fork changes, many wheels built as tyres and rims changed. The last one was for the front wheel last July when I changed from 19" to 18" as I cannot get high speed from 19 x 2.75 tires anymore. This I cut the tread off with a knife then smoothed down to the bottom of the non-skid groove.
        For the first 22 years after 1926 it was weekends and nights getting ready for hill-climbs, trials and standing ¼ and flying ¼ mile events, and 1 mile dirt sidecar races at Penrith Speedway, NSW, Australia. Between 26 and 29 I had records in hill-climbs, standing ¼ and flying ¼, and petrol consumption runs, one of 116 m.p.g.    
      This covers the start of my tuning efforts and has continued up to the present time. I rode second next to Les Weatherby in the world's first mile T T in Chatswood in North Sydney. The track was cut out of the bush with stumps and roots left, and a high jump out of a deep creek. This is now known as a scramble or motocross.
      Then in 1927, solo on Aspendale Speedway, Melbourne, Australia, I jumped off at 90 m.p.h.+ when in a bad speed wobble at the end of straight with one hand on oil pump. We hit a deep gutter and took off on the bend, landed with the bars pulled round a little, and my heavy 29" oversize tire on front just kept the wobble and was heading for the post and rail fence. The 10,000 spectators were told in paper that I was unhurt but I was pretty sick in bed for a week or two with concussion and many bruises. The Saturday before this at Inverloch Beach in Victoria, my flathead Scout won a gold medal at 90.01 mph equal with a 1928 Chicago 61" Harley Davidson ridden by an airforce pilot from point Cook, Victoria, Australia.
       From 1929 I returned to New Zealand after four years in Australia when work finally could not be had (this was the Great Depression). I spent the next 10 years as motor cycle traveler. This was finally given up around 1941 when one of my rare (by this time) crashes put me off for 11 months. When I returned to NZ I was invited to join the local motorcycle club and an now a life member and have been for many years. After joining I just lived for beach races, grass track, mile and also ¼ mile, hill climbs, speed trials, trials, road racing, drags and I think the beach was the greatest in 1940. About seven years ago averaged 83.43 m.p.h. in a six mile race which I won. This was on a championship fancied beach course a few miles from Invercargill. This is where I do most of my testing nowadays.
      In 1948 I decided to give up work and concentrate on getting a good run out of my old bike as by this time I thought I was getting better at designing parts and would go to the Canterbury Speed Trials held each year north of Christchurch. Well I went there for 22 years, this was a 1,000 mile round trip from home. I broke the NZ records more than once, but was only three times satisfied I had gone as good as I could go at the time, and those three times their timer failed for me. The last time was 10 or 11 years ago and the ACU rep said, never mind, next year we will have cable buried in side of the road. Then they could not get it anymore because of increased use of this long straight road known as Tram Road, North Canterbury, NZ.  
       I will try and give you a rough specification of the past and present of engine and cycle. I have and still hold some records in the 37 ci class, under 750 cc class, 55ci class and lastly 61ci class, all with my 1920 flathead Scout. My first major record was the NZ Open Road record established on the Aylesbury straight in 1940 at a mean 120.8m.p.h. This was held for twelve years. The under 750 cc Road record at 143.43 and NZ Open Road record at the same time. Also NZ Beach record in 1957. Although this is still attempted each year it remains unbroken at 132.38 m.p.h. 55 ci AMA world record 1962 at Bonneville, engine was 51ci at this time. 1966 engine 56ci 168.06m.p.h. American 61 ci record 1967 183.6. best run 190.07 qualifying. 1969 record number of runs for a streamliner, 14 in four and a half days. I had magneto and carburetion troubles and finally burned-up pistons when gas tap shut off on last chance of a qualifying run. I have hauled bike or engine to USA eight times in my attempt to get one good run but this has always eluded my greatest efforts.
      The last 22 years has been full-time as I could never get enough hours to do things. After finally getting 94 m.p.h. from the flatheads and running on Borneo Aviation Gas I had a go at making ohv heads. A foundry told me how to go about making patterns and I finally had them finished after a year of work until the first day it ran. Believe it or not the first runs were slower than my best on the sidevalve but over the years I gradually got it going faster till in 1937 I was getting 110 m.p.h. from it, also breaking conrods. About then a mate and I were returning from a distant beach meeting and another pair of rods had broken, and he said why not write to the Indian factory and get special rods. This got me thinking and I acquired a broken Ford truck axle and carved out two rods in five months. These were in it for 20 years and were standing up to over 140 m.p.h. By 1950 I was getting 150 m.p.h unstreamlined.
       I have had many terrific blow-ups, the last two were during this last 11 months. I will describe one I had at Muriwai Beach, Auckland in April 1969. I hauled my Munro Special up there 1130 miles and blew a piston ( I had just made thirteen new ones for 1969), the rod and pin toe up and down, put tram tracks and split both new cylinders, punched large hole in front of case, bent mag armature, broke slip ring and magnets on ML into five pieces. I hauled home and in eight and a half weeks had it running again. Eight more new pistons, two new home made rods, magnets cut form an old Bosch magneto. The brief history is almost impossible to put together but I should give you a rough idea of some of my best crashes.  
       In 1916, out all day after landing on head. 1921, riding standing on seat of Scout waiting for Uncle Alf to get his King Dickgoing. I looked round and woke up that evening after a whole days absence from what was going on. In 1927, jumped off on a dirt track Aspendale Speedway at over 90mph. Concussion and bruising from feet to back of neck. 1932, stopped to get a rider going in Western Southland when on my traveling job. I told the guy I would follow him in case it stopped again. We came to a farmhouse at a cross road. A dog ran at him. I caught it on the rebound and came around later concussed and bloody from a deep scalp wound. 1934, crashed Clifton Gorge, struck a wash-out before could pull-up. Came around concussed. 1937, in 20 mile beach race, doing 110 when Hugh Currie, BSA Special, the last rider I had to catch, turned in front of me. I hit the 6" brake and tried to steer behind him as he banked over to turn. My bike climbed up and over his and sailed 120 feet clear of the beach before landing. He was knocked-out and had broken collar bone. My bash-hat was split from crown to rim in two places. Weeks later he told me what knocked me out and split the hat. The underside of his engine landed square on my head. When he was repairing his bike he found the varnish marks from my hat on the cases. I had all my teeth knocked out and my brother picked up numerous gold filled ones from the sand. This was one of the saddest moments of my life when I found my priceless teeth no more.
 1940, running on home built gas producer. Still traveler for some motorcycle firm and running at top speed of 56 m.p.h. on coal. I hit a ridge of wet gravel and ran off to side of road but regained control on fence line. But before I could let go of bar and shut off gas and air lever I hit an 18" deep cutting into a farmhouse, the bike struck the far bank and shot right up into the air and back to the gravel road. My head hit the road, I was unconscious for one and a half hours and came-to blind from dried blood in eyes. I had hemorrhage of brain for a week and concussed, and was of work for 11 months. I had part concuss - ional headaches for about 15 years form this so I gave up the traveling as I did not care to travel by bus or car to sell bikes. 1959, was in a drag at Teretonga International track when at 110mph the bike got into a sudden fast speed wobble. 
I jumped  off the side and rolled and skidded and bounced 15 feet high they tell me. I finished  up in  the hospital for seven and a half weeks. When I finished the crash I had bash hat still on, waistband of pants, tennis shoes and pieces of socks. I was only slightly concussed. It was missing flesh, and skin took building up again. One finger was ground half way through the bone but still works but one joint is crook. All the other crashes involved just bones or scars or burns and one arm ripped apart at the shoulder. In five and a half months it grew back but still hurts at rest when I lie on it.
         For this year I have made the new cylinders and pistons to the largest bore ever, it is now 3.192 inches x 96mm giving 60.54 ci. For eight years I have carved out new rods, cylinders and pistons and cams, and work full time on either my 1936 Velo or the Indian.
       The man himself on a 101 Scout with his special in the foreground. Note the startling lack of ornamentation! For 10 years I worked 16 hours a day in the shed and was told to slow up a few years ago and now work 7 days and about 70 hours a week. The flywheels I made form 5" axle hammered out under steam hammer. Just finished pistons. I had these eight heat-treated for the first time. Crank in 1928 Scout turned down to ¾" and then sleeved. I made this from oil hardening steel and squeeze on and pull up with standard nuts. I leave the taper with ¾" hole in it to fit drive side flywheel. The rods of course now have bigger eye and smaller rollers. The main shafts right up to about three years ago were standard, about 13/16"; with four sets of caged genuine Indian rollers ¼ x 5/16" running on the shafts. Well, as speed mounted-up over the years I got visions of them breaking and in 1957 I had a new pin, crank-pin that is, given to me in Springfield on a visit to Indian factory. This I fitted to the timing side with big-end bearings. 
     Then the drive side looked so thin. I looked around and had a spare gearbox mainshaft. So I ground the four outside splines off it and made up two drive shafts form it, then had them re-hardened and ground locally. I bored out the taper in flywheel in my three and a half inch Myford lathe. By the way, I completely made my new cylinder heads in the same lathe. The only change is to cut about one and a quarter off gap in bed for flywheels. This probably weakens it a bit but I still work it every day, and have since it was new 22 years ago. I am on my second set of back gears, worn out about 12 years ago, and my third lead screw is now badly worn.
        Cams I made by file and saw since 1926 but now have built a cam grinder and make them in pairs as I spent 800 hours in 1963 making the engine into a four cam set-up. After I time them I pin them to the ¼" hole in the standard cam-wheels on Scout. Cam followers are filed from axle steel and I make a fork to take a ¾" x ¼" roller running on needles, and an oiler to keep a good flow from the 1933 Indian oil pump I had given me in 1956. This I modified to pump the oil to big end, and was when I made my steel flywheels.
       The 1920 Scout frame and my third streamliner shell are still  in USA. The first full shell I built tool me five years to hammer out of sheet aluminum. I could only work at it when I had my bike ready for testing then if it blew-up I would work on the engine until running again, then hammer away at it again, or suddenly think of some new scheme to get more speed. Of course these brainwaves often made it slower or just more blown parts. By the way, I have read of E Fernihough's death and perhaps I can offer a reason for him running off the road that day. I have several times had similar experiences caused by a side wind of only two to three m.p.h. if one is traveling at over 180 as on most occasions with me, the bike steers over to one side but I start to steer it back at once. But I have had it go 12 feet over the outside of the black line before getting it back to the center of track. If this were on a road of course there is no chance of survival.
      The first shell I took with me to Bonneville in 1962 was the second I had built. The first one of aluminum was too hard to ride, too neat a fit and I had great difficulty getting the gears. So I modified it and used it as a mould for number two of fiberglass. I had my first run on it at Bonneville in 1962, and was ordered to have a test run with officials following in a car. It just veered from side to side at all speeds. I said to myself I may as well ship it back home, they will never let me run a thing like this. When they came up with me they said, handles ok. I said, What! They repeated handled good.  
       For the next five or six years I had some of the worst out of control rides on record. The worst was five miles late in 1962 when in an effort to stop wheel-spin at 160 I built a 60lb lead brick and bolted it in front of rear wheel. By the time I got to three mile marker the top of the shell was swerving five feet and wheel marks were five inches wide and snaking thirty inches every 200 yards, measured and lined-up later. Well when you figure you can only die next skid you try anything, so I wound it all on for another one and a half miles and when I found out it would go on that way forever I rolled it back and got it stopped. When the gang arrived and found me laughing and asked me the joke, I said I was happy to still be alive. The cure is to sit-up and let the body strike the air. This shifts center of pressure back behind center of gravity. I learned this the hard way. Lead brick should have been in front of the front wheel and shell higher off the ground. At rear, air packed under tail and lifted weight off rear wheel and thus caused wheel-spin.  
     More specs. I have mods in clutch, the standard Raybestos plates are long gone and I have 17 standard steel plates, hardened and ground. I fit 24 standard clutch springs giving a pressure of 1360lbs on the pressure plate, and the standard thrust race and withdrawal screw haul this free for freeing and gear changing. I have a left hand lever and wire to operating arm and a small foot assist lever on the clutch worm shaft. I only use this for long gear engagement during test runs without shell. Over the years I made four chain drives having finally ground helical teeth off clutch body and filed out 46 half inch pitch teeth by hand and now run a three-row chain on a 22 engine sprocket and still the 46 clutch sprocket. This Reynolds in London told me 15 years ago would be impossible and would never work but it has run in there for the last 35 years or so in 10 SAE oil.
       The gearbox is original, but I was unable to get new sliding dog and was visiting an old acquaintance in Sydney in 1948, he had bought out Mr Bidens stock of Indian parts. I bought a set of 1916 Power Plus Indian gears, lay shaft cluster and sliding dog. The cluster I shortened 3/8" and have run on them this past 22 years.
       Cylinders I usually make from very old city gasworks pipe, cast-iron condemned, because of very large pits. I manage to get short lengths without too deep marks and because of the thickness, about ½-5/8", I can have enough thickness for a base. The barrels are old pistons melted in a small pot on the two gallon can furnace I use for melting-down for making pistons. The muff casting I turn-down in the Myford, bore undersize then heat-up with blow-lamp and drop onto liners. Pistons I redesign every year and make about half a dozen or so and take with me to USA for spares. Some years I have used every one and even welded-up burned-out ones there. When Jim Enz and his wife wanted to help me with fuel, I said I would like to try alcohol and they bought me five gallons of best brand Mickey Thompson alcohol. Boy it sure was the best piston burner! I guess it had Nitro or TNT in it. Every run the pistons vaporized. No alloy heads on my heap.
       Carburetor is 1924 Indian Chief. I have sawn a cut full length on top of it, bent it out and welded piece of brass in gap and run it in normal position with a T shape manifold made from one and three eights steel tubing. I have tuned five carbs for my bike since 1927 when I swapped the Schebler H for a Schebler deluxe, and all others I have tuned and modified have been deluxe Scheblers  fitted to the Indians made later than mine.
      This year since arriving home from USA five months ago, have put in 560 hours on the Munro Special. The main jobs were two new alloy rods- two weeks, two new cylinders and barrels- one week, eight new pistons and much work on old dies for same- three weeks. I am making two new sets of cams for this year. Making a 180 degree Bosch mag into a 42 degree by making new brass cam ring. From old ball race the two cams were made, filed and timed accurately then quenched in oil. As this 0 year old magneto rotated backwards I had to make up a drive different from standard. This I finally got working by taking out the two idler pinions, and fitting a big cam wheel from a late model Indian. This has four teeth more than my engine and by cutting 1/8" off base of mag and cutting into cases a little and jamming it back and boring new holes and tapping-out in same, I finally got the drive fixed. I also made a movable shaft to run the large pinion on and thus get a close tooth adjustment.
      Since finishing the above I have been testing at the beach and have been out 17 times and had 11 blow-ups. This consisted of mostly broken pistons of older designs. I was testing out a steel rod and a new carb I had made these last two or three years. I ran it on 20 to 1 to test the rod, then built better pistons and ran three in it, one after the other, until I had one that should stand-up to 13 to 1. As soon as I lowered the compression to 13, the rod which had stood-up to all the broken pistons finally shattered top end when I was accelerating hard in top at 5,500. I took it down, the new piston was in many pieces, pin broken in half, cylinder scored and split at skirt and hammered out wedge shape and locked in cases. One rocker arm broken, one twisted, one push rod broken, one buckled. Other breaks were cam follower I had made from magnesium four or five years ago, another rocker and pushrods bent and both valves bent.
      Development goes on all the time and has been full-time these last 22 years. I would like to make another DOHC set up. I still have the one I made and ran in quarter-mile grass track races about 1951. This fitted out front cylinder and rear was blanked-off. It was just an exercise as everyone was talking double knockers at the time. It is only lately I have had ideas to try to fit-up one for the rear as well but have so far failed to get time. Pulled the head off this morning and am starting two new rods from DC6 B propeller. I hope to find it strong enough. It was sent to me from Auckland as I cannot get the 70-70 or 20-24 alloy in NZ. I like to improve design every year in cams, carbs (just finished a new one yesterday), con rods, pistons and sometimes valves and guides when they wear a little, and cylinders.
       It is almost impossible for me to give you a true picture of the time I have spent on my cycles. The last 22 years has been full time and for one stretch of 10 years put in 16 hours every day, but on Christmas Day only took the afternoon off.
       I have booked berth on SS P&O Oriana for USA June 15th but will not go if cannot pass the doctor.

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Gary Cagle

Another one of the early pioneers in the sport of drag racing, Gary Cagle was a man of many moods. Most of the time he was a happy go lucky individual but if he was pushed hard he could be about as tough as anyone around. He had a true love affair with racing and didn't limit this love to just working on a car or driving it.

Like most southern California hot rodders, Cagle started out on the dry lake beds of El Mirage & the Bonneville salt flats. His fastest speed on the El Mirage 1 mile dirt course netted a 199 mph time slip, in his Fuel Chrysler belly tank in 1956. The following year at Bonneville, Cagle ran the same car to the tune of 204 mph, etching his name into the Grant piston rings 200 mph Club.

Gary started drag racing almost as soon as the old Santa Ana drag strip opened and in a variety of cars. One of his early rides was a four-banger powered rail job that he campaigned with partner Don Hampton.

While he was known as the driver of many early drag cars, Gary's first real notoriety came while he was driving Chet Herbert's slingshot dragster. This car was one of the very first to be fitted with a 392 Chrysler Hemi engine and a top-mounted blower. The Cagle & Herbert fuel dragster became the first car to top 180 at Bakersfield during the innaugural US Fuel & Gas Championships. The blown fueler was clocked at 180.36 mph two times in a row that day.

Driving for Herbert also gave Gary a tie in with Chet's sister, Doris Herbert who owned and published Drag News. Gary was one of the first drag racers who decided he could make a living as a touring professional drag racer and through Doris, Gary was able to arrange for a tour of Midwestern and Eastern drag strips in the summer of 1959. The California hot-shoe started the tour out on a high note but a horrific crash at Great Bend after a 169 mph run cut short the entire tour. Cagle suffered a lot of physical damage, including one of the first known hip replacements in the U.S. and it was a long time before he recovered enough to begin racing again. When Gary was able to re-enter the drag racing wars in 1961, he did so with a series of home built fuel dragsters utilizing the 300 cubic inch Chrysler Windsor blocks, with hemi heads. A Vernon California police officer by trade, Cagle took his dragsters on the family vacations running match races & setting records in many of the western states such as Pocotello Idaho, Henderson Nev. Salt Lake, Half Moon Bay, Fremont, Houston, & Las Vegas. Gary also test-drove cars for fellow H.O.F. inductees, Tony Waters and Don Alderson. He drove for Mickey Thompson as well as Dean Moon, winning the middle eliminator title at the '62 Winternationals driving the Mooneyes dragster. In early 1963, Gary built one of the most memorable & most photographed machines ever, the bright yellow Newhouse Auto Parts fuel roadster. With its '23 T glass body and 299 cu. in. fuel Chrysler running through a torque converter, the Newhouse/Cagle car really shook up the west coast competitors, setting records at the above mentioned strips and often running heads-up & beating some of the hottest AA/FD teams. The car was very popular in CJ Harts 'competition eliminator' class at Lions, racing against guys like Larry Dixon Sr., Frank Pedregon Sr., & Gary Cochran who also were running modified fuel roadsters & coupes. In early ‘64, Gary also campaigned the gorgeous Briggs & Cagle top fueler, best know for its unique trap-door parachute system. In late 1965, the Briggs & Cagle dragster was fitted with a 23 T body, & won competition eliminator at the Hot Rod Magazine race in Riverside.

It was during this same period that Gary became one of the most outspoken leaders of the United Drag Racers Association, an organization of immense political significance in the history of drag racing. Gary helped the UDRA organization go to battle with many of the strip managers and operators over such things as safety, purses, and any other issue he believed was not in the best interest of the racers. No one ever knew Gary to back away from fighting for his beliefs when it came to racing, especially when it meant sticking up for the "little guys".

Gary Cagle walked away from drag racing cold turkey in 1967, something a lot of drag racers just can’t do. According to P.J. Partridge, Gary "got lost for a couple of years".

While planning on making a return in 1971, Cagle suffered another severe setback. While riding dirt bikes with his son at El Mirage dry lake, Gary crashed & lost the use of his left arm & left eye.

It wasn't until 1975 that Cagle’s Bonneville & dry lakes buddies 'came & got him', putting him to work at the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).

While at UDRA, he had gained experience in producing successful events, and also gained a lot of knowledge while working in hot car staging at some of the AHRA’s major meets. In 1976, Gary became the Chief Timer for SCTA, running the clocks for the worlds fastest speed trials. He was instrumental in keeping El Mirage dry lake open for racers so they could fulfill there speed experiments as he and so many others did in the early 50s. Gary eventually became president of SCTA in '82 & '83, and also became president of ‘s 200 mph Club in 1988. This love affair with the SCTA was Gary’s passion until the end of his life in 1994. Drag & land speed racing never made Gary Cagle a super-celebrity and it certainly never made him monetarily rich, but it did give Gary something money cannot buy, the enjoyment of participating in a sport he loved, and a man who was rich with friends.

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Nolan White
February 26, 1931 - October 20, 2002

(Note:  Much of the following info I acquired from my Bonneville Programs, but some of the dates, etc. are from memory and may be in error. If you should note an error, please notify me so I can correct it.)

I don't really remember when I first had a conversation with Nolan, but I became aware of his presence on the Salt soon after I began attending Speedweek in 1957. Nolan got my attention by his performance in his Modified Sports entry, a highly modified Devin roadster which he converted to a coupe by installing a fiber glass top. His car was powered by a small block Chevrolet with a roller chain driven 4-71 supercharger. Nolan was always a bootstrap racer who designed and made most of his own specialized parts. This, of course presented problems when breakage occurred, but since the word "quit" was not in his vocabulary, he usually managed to make repairs and continue in competition.  In later years he did acquire sponsorship that gave him the ability to compete with a higher level of equipment.

There are not many of pictures of Nolan's cars appearing in the racing publications until the later years. He ran two different sports cars at Bonneville, but to date, I have been unable to acquire pictures of either. He always ran hard, but so far as I can tell he never set a record on the Salt until 1963 when he set two records (A/Sports Racing @ 213.402 mph and B/Sports Racing @ 210.474 mph) which gave him membership in the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. In 1964 he raise the A/Sports Racing record to 224.477 mph and set the D/Sports Racing Record @ 200.595 mph. Then, in 1966 he set the E/Sports Racing record @ 184.284 mph.

I believe it was 1966 that he crashed his Devin and received a broken neck in the process. As is evident, however, he continued to chase speed with a vengeance. After the crash, he built a new more slippery Sports Car and continued in this class for a few more years, but was unsuccessful in setting further records. He had stiff competition from Jack Lufkin who dominated the Sports Racing Classes for a number of years. His entry showed up in B/Gas Streamliner in 1978 & '79 as White & Sons. I am not sure what the car was, but I think that it was the same car that he had been campaigning in Sports Racing, , with further modifications.

Nolan was entered in B/Fuel Streamliner in 1980. This entry is the car that he ran for the rest of his racing career. In 1990, at the World of Speed Nolan became the first hot rodder, running a single engine entry, to be timed in excess of 400 mph. Al Teague also ran 400 mph at the meet, but Nolan preceded Al. I think it was 1999 that Nolan appeared on the Salt with an additional engine in his car. We were both at the nine mile and visited a while. He showed me his new creation and told me of his decision to add the second engine a couple of months before Speedweek. He said that he had always been critical of those who ran multiple engines, but just decided that he would join their ranks.  From that time on he had continual problems with his belt driven 4WD setup. He rarely made a complete run without breaking the drive belt.

At Speedweek 2002 I greeted Nolan on the starting line and asked him if he had been able to cure his belt drive problem. He grabbed my arm and led me inside his trailer to a drawing on the wall and proceeded to tell me about his gear drive setup that he had designed and had built. He said that he might have other problems, but that the drive was the strongest "link in the chain".

The rest is history! His gear box did cure the drive train problem and he qualified @ 404.313 mph and  returned at 422 mph for a BNI AA/FS Record of 413.156 mph. He had accomplished a dream that he had been chasing for twenty years. Now his sights were set on the FIA record. He firmly believed that he could run 450 mph (he had been timed at 442 mph at as private timing after the world finals in 1999) my guess is that he would have succeeded had he not met with the fatal accident.

There were two occasions that gave a hint to how dedicated Nolan was in his search for speed. In 1982 and '83 the Salt was under water so we had no meets. Nolan went to Black Rock Desert and tested his car. Another time a few years later, SCTA/BNI decided not to run the World Finals because of a lack of  entries. Nolan got on the phone and rounded up those who were interested in running and organized his own meet.

On Friday morning, October 18,  Nolan stopped by our pit on his way to the nine mile. He was going to make the first leg of the FIA record attempt after the completion of Record Runs. He ask if I would push him off. I had forgotten, but he said that I had pushed his car off on the run that gained him his 200 MPH Club Membership in 1963. Of course,  I felt honored to be asked and accepted without hesitation. We spent the next hour or so recalling the earlier days, joking and having a great time together. Nolan and I were good friends for more than forty years. We didn't usually get to spend much time together because one or the other, or both of us, were focused on the our own car and problems we faced. We did manage to make contact at every time that we were on the Salt together, however. I will sorely miss him.

Nolan was the "racer's racer".  He did not receive a great amount of publicity, primarily because he didn't set a lot of records..   Most of us identify with Nolan because we fall in that same category.  He did have the respect of his peers, however, and after all, what greater honor can we hope to achieve.

Nolan loved the Salt Flats. There is no better way to honor him than with a donation in his name to...

Save the Salt
c/o Mike Waters

39937 90th West
Leona Valley, CA 93551

The Vesco Brothers

I was first introduced the the Vesco Family in the early 1960s when John Vesco, Don and Rick's father, approached the Southern California Timing Association's Board of Directors for approval to run his new streamliner. I was a member of that board and heard his plea...his streamliner was an extremely narrow car by that era's standard. We finally agreed to allow him to run for time only. The car would become a pattern of things to come. The #444 Streamliner was a very successful car and is still running today under new ownership. The Vescos are the epitome of the land speed racing  families. I have watch Don and Rick continue in their father's footsteps, and I suspect, go beyond anything he could have dreamed. They are true land speed racers...they have done it all! Don Vesco becomes undisputed holder of the "wheel-driven" LSR

     On 18 October 2001 Don Vesco, driving Team Vesco Turbinator, set new FIA International records for turbine automobiles at 458.44390 MPH over the "flying" mile (and 737.39515 Km/H over the "flying" kilo). This is of course the new "wheel-driven land speed record" and will effectively end any discussions as to which is the fastest "automobile" as Vesco's official speed (which is of course the average of two runs in opposite directions, which happened to be at a very similar speed, both over 458 MPH) was faster than any speed previously recorded by a wheel driven vehicle, be it a two-way official record, a one-way run or even an exit speed (with the exception of Vesco's own one-way run at Speed Week last august, which was fractionally faster).
     Of course, Al Teague will still hold the fastest record for a piston engined automobile, and Bob Summers will remain the fastest with a non-supercharged piston engined automobile. The only name that will disappear from the books is that of Donald Campbell, who's record for turbine automobiles is the one that Vesco actually broke.
It is somewhat fitting that this should happen just a month after Donald Campbell had a proper funeral and burial, his body having been found and rescued from Lake Coniston 34 years after his fatal accident.
Don Vesco's achievement truly marks in a very symbolic way the end of an era.


Unfortunately, we lost Don to prostrate cancer before he reached his goal of 500 MPH. I have no doubt that he would have accomplished his goal had he lived another few years.  For the "rest of the story"...go to                                                Return to Top

Al Teague

I first became acquainted with Al in the 1970s at Bonneville when he was running the Sadd, Bentley & Teague Roadster. He had just made a run in the neighborhood of 270 MPH and I approached him, shook his hand and told him that he was my hero!  I have since become aware the he is a very humble person, but on that day he surprised me by saying that I didn't know this, but that I had been his hero in the past. He used to attend the San Gabriel Drags when I ran there in the early 1960s and had been one of my fans. 

It is a great pleasure to call Al a friend. We have not failed to make contact with each other throughout many years each time we were on the salt together. Al retired his streamliner in 2002. I certainly do miss the sound of his car making it thundering run down the salt. Al tops the list of my heroes! Others have gone faster, but Al did it with one piston-engine and two-wheel drive.  His best time of 432 MPH and F.I.A. Record for blown piston engine car @ 409.986 MPH will be difficult to break with similar equipment. For more on Al Teague go to... 

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Jerry and I go back a long way to early 1960s when we were both in the Road Runners Club in Whittier CA. I have witnessed his skill and patience play out in the Land Speed arena. He has always had good, well prepared equipment and his history underscores this.  Jerry teamed up with "Red" Holmes running first a '34 D/Competition Coupe, then a High Boy Roadster and then a Modified Roadster, setting records ever faster with each class change. After the death of "Red" Holmes, Jerry acquired the McDonald-Pitts '92 Firebird in 1997 and teamed with Mike LaFevers to become the first "doorslammer" to exceed 300 MPH. The Kugels, like the Bryants are a racing family with the sons following their fathers into the Bonneville 200 MPH Club, and Joe Kugel into the 300 MPH Chapter. The following story by Gray Baskerville says it better than I ever could. 

The Jerry Kugel Story

Building Rods And Breaking Records                                                                                                           By Gray Baskerville

Early Sunday morning on June 5, 1972, I met Jerry Kugel, a pal of Bud Bryan, Rod & Custom’s editor. We were in China Town (in Los Angeles) to participate in the great Duel of the Deuces. During our day-long drive-a-thon, Koogie and yours truly discovered we had two things in common: an undying love of the salt and our daily drivers (a pair of full-fendered ’32 Ford roadsters).

Although my first salt experience was in 1956 and his was in 1959, we associate one person with inspiring our devotion to the salt—Mickey Thompson. In 1958, my dad sent me back to the salt to cover an event for Motorcyclist magazine, a title that had been in the family since 1919. I don’t remember much about the bikes; I only remember the vision of Thompson cutting away a portion of his ’liner’s cowl. The wind caused the aluminum skin to collapse around his hands during his quest to become the first guy to run 300 at Speed Week. The next year, Jerry received a similar career-altering jolt. He had driven up to Bonneville to watch Thompson’s new Challenger after following its construction in Hot Rod magazine—"My buddies and I drove down to the three-mile so we could get a good view of Thompson’s first full pass," he says. "When he flashed by and shifted into High, the sight and sound that car made hooked me on the salt for life."

However, Jerry’s life actually began 20 years before in Chicago, Illinois. His folks, Joe and Violet Kugel, left the Windy City in 1946 and settled in Montebello, California, a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles. As Jerry says, "Dad opened a paint store in East Los Angeles and Mom stayed home to raise me, my brother, and my sister. I was in the eighth grade and on my way home from Catholic school when I saw my first rod—a chopped ’34 five- window with a wicked candy apple paint job. I was so dazzled that I almost ran my bike into the parked car."

During his junior year in high school, the clan Kugel moved to nearby Whittier, which had been a hot-rodding hot bed since the ’30s. The change of venue was a plus for the 16-year-old Jerry; "There were no shop classes at my old school, but Whittier High had them all, including auto shop. Not only did auto shop look like fun, but I had just bought a Model A and wanted to learn how to work on it." Shortly after Jerry sold his A and bought a ’39 Tudor, the fit hit the shan, or in Jerry’s case, hit papa Joe; "I got pulled over for street racing. The cop kept writing until he filled both sides with equipment violations. Dad drove me to court and the judge took my driver’s license for 30 days and told me to fix my ’39 and bring it back to be signed off. My dad had other ideas. ‘No need to fix it,’ he said, ‘because we’re going to sell it.’"

But being rodless had its advantages. Jerry’s daily bus ride to school took him down Whittier Boulevard and right by Ak Miller’s Garage. Miller—Whittier’s legendary hot rodder, street racer, race car builder, and story spinner—worked on some of the hottest iron in the surrounding area. After a while, Jerry would get off just before Ak’s shop for a closer look at the action. "When I got enough nerve up to ask Ak for a job," Jerry says, "he told me to go away. After I graduated from Whittier High, I went to work for Mark C. Bloome [a Southland tire store chain—GB], entered Fullerton Junior College, joined the Army reserve (the draft was still in place), and bought a ’40 DeLuxe coupe. The ’40 cost me $800 but it was nice, with a small-block and good black paint, and Jerry Eisert [a fabricator for whom Jerry Kugel had just started working—GB] helped me make some additional modifications."

However, Jerry’s career with Eisert came to a screeching halt in 1960 when Uncle Sam selected him for a six-month stint in the Army. Jerry recalls, "After I was discharged, I went by Ak’s again; this time, he gave me a job sweeping the floor." Miller, duly impressed by the various skills that Jerry had acquired from Eisert as well as from the auto shops that he had attended in high school and junior college, quickly promoted him to commission work. Soon, Jerry was doing tune-ups, lube jobs, rebuilds, and performance stuff on any car that came through Miller’s front door.

Meanwhile, Jerry began "legally" racing his ’40, first at the lakes and then at the drags. However, the sight and sound of Thompson making that last shift at the three-mile still haunted him. I’m going to do that, he thought, and in 1962 he did. A guy by the name of Red Holmes had become pals with Jerry, and they decided to go land speed racing together. "We found a chopped ’34 for sale in the classified section of the Los Angeles Times," says Jerry. "It had no engine and no front sheetmetal, but it did have a bitchin’ body and its 4-inch chop was superb. We got a 265ci small-block Chevy and I opened it up to 274 inches, and added a set of aluminum pistons, a cam, and Hilborn injectors. Our first run at El Mirage was around 150 mph, and we upped that to 163 at Bonneville running in the D/Competition class."

One of the many benefits of working for Ak Miller was his relationship with Ford. Miller was able to talk Ford into giving him one of their 260-inch V-8s, which he, in turn, gave to Jerry. Jerry was enchanted. He had an engine that few had bothered to modify. In fact, he got one of the first five port-injectors that Hilborn ever made for the small-block Ford; the other four went to Dan Gurney. Jerry replaced the Chevy with his new injected Ford and went on to break the E/Competition Coupe record in 1963 with a 168-mph pass. But Jerry and Red were getting tired of the coupe. As Jerry says, "It was dark, too confining, and not competitive with the far more aerodynamic Studebakers. In 1964, Red and I sold the ’34, kept the engine, and bought a ’32 coupester—a five-window with the top cut off. The coupester was far more roomy and Big Daddy [Jerry’s name for Holmes—GB], who couldn’t fit in the ’34, could drive it too."

However, the topless coupe purchased from Jerry Tucker was also sans engine and transmission; "I initially put in our 260 and went 165 mph, much to Ford’s delight," Jerry adds. "They showed their appreciation by giving me a 289." Jerry reciprocated by running over 180 mph and then over 200 mph with a Miller throwaway. "Ak loved to race at Pike’s Peak with a big-block Ford in his sports car." Well, Miller blew the Ford and gave the remains to Jerry, who patched it up and built his own injectors. Jerry’s injector was indicative of his growing ability to assemble a part out of unrelated pieces.

Jerry’s home-brewed "squirts" consisted of a stock Ford two four-barrel intake manifold that he modified by drilling and tapping each runner as close to the intake valve as he could. Next, he installed a set of Hilborn nozzles. He then borrowed a three-holed throttle body that came from a helicopter engine and adapted to the * top of the manifold’s plenum chamber. The center hole was blocked off so he could use a Hilborn barrel valve, which he fed with a remote-mounted Gilmer belt-driven (Jerry feels he was one of the first to use a tooth-drive arrangement—GB) No. 420 Hilborn fuel pump. Not only was Jerry’s first komponent eye-tractive [he and his injector were on the Nov. ’67 cover of Popular Hot Rrodding—GB], but it worked. Miller arranged to put the engine on Autolite’s dyno, and a carbureted baseline of 482 hp was recorded. While Ak and dyno-dude Art Chrisman went to dinner, Jerry and Holmes quickly installed the injector and waited for the boys to return. Jerry recalls that both Chrisman and Miller looked at the injector, winked at one another, and then stood back in amazement when the patched-up 427 immediately fired and idled like a stocker. A couple of pulls, a jet change or two, and presto-Koogo—525 hp at 6,500 rpm. The eclectic-empiricist nature of a hot rodder had won again.

The home-brewed injected 427 powering the Holmes-Kugel entry responded in 1968 with a pair of 200-plus mile-per-hour runs, making their highboy the first unblown gas-burning roadster in history to top 200 at the salt, and putting Jerry in the 200-mph club. Jerry then sold the car and found himself driving Autolite’s Lead Wedge, a battery-powered electric car that set a land speed record of 134 mph. Jerry’s fee was a well-used 427-inch SOHC motor that was prepared by Chrisman for an LSR pickup truck driven by Mario Andretti.

So here was Jerry with a fuel-injected cammer and nothing to put it in. The answer was simple: Build a modified. The modified was essentially a fiberglass replica ’27 T placed on a Peek Brothers–built chassis and powered by the injected 427ci "sock" motor that Ford gave him. It also became a Rod & Custom multi-segment project car in 1969. The project went swimmingly until its shakedown tests at the salt flats. When Jerry reached speeds over 240 mph, the modified wanted to drive itself off the course. Jerry fought the problem, even allowing other veteran salt-flat drivers to take a ride, but they too lost control. It wasn’t until a chance look at the car while it sat on blocks at Jerry’s garage that he noticed the body wasn’t square to the world. By then Jerry had sold the cammer to Jim Lattin and the rest to Gordon Hoyt, one of his coworkers at Miller’s Garage.

The reason the modified became chopping-block material was that Jerry’s nine-year career at Miller’s had come to an end. The "kid," as Miller called him, decided to go out on his own, and opened a general repair shop in Whittier doing tune-ups, brake jobs, and overhauls. Although business was good, his association with Bryan soon led to a career-altering roadster project. "I wanted a fill-in between jobs so I began asking around about the availability of a Deuce," he says. "One of the LA Roadsters guys—I think it was Neil East—knew of a basket case for sale. First, he cleared it with his fellow club members before he gave me the name of its owner." The ’32 was one of those "take-aparts" that never got * reassembled, and Jerry bought it for $1,000—a princely sum 33 years ago. To better illustrate how small the world really is, the guy from whom Jerry bought the car came up to him at last year’s Hot Rod Reunion, reintroduced himself, and then said, "I sold that car too cheap."

Jerry’s gennie had all the cherry sheetmetal and brightwork, but his newly acquired Deuce’s buggy-sprung suspension—like that of his old ’40—didn’t wow him. So the ever-eclectic Jerry borrowed a leaf from Joe Cardoza’s suspension book and adapted a set of XKE Jaguar front and rear suspenders to his roadster’s framerails. It took him a year, but by 1972, Jerry was pussy-footing around Whittier in what would become a test bed for his new komponents. Although it was lost on management, we at R&C could see that street rodding was becoming increasingly popular. So, against a backdrop of gas lines, rising insurance rates, and tightening emissions standards, we created Chevy Up—a 283 that was the brainchild of one of our lunchtime rap sessions. It was an attempt to build a low-cost, low-emission, flat-torque engine by combining both OEM and aftermarket parts. But we needed a wrench—and flat-rating Jerry knew how to twist them Snap-ons.

The motomorphasis of Chevy Up started as an untrained junkyard dog that dirtied Edelbrock’s pristine dyno. As time went on, the mongrel became a purebred and ultimately found a home under the hood of another roadster, my old thirty-shoe. But its finest hour was at El Mirage in 1975, making beer runs in Jerry’s latest race car. As Jerry says, "My modified wasn’t a traditional hot rod; it didn’t have that nostalgic look." This project featured a experience had come to the rescue and the beer tasted even better than last month’s.

But Jerry felt times were changing. "Frankly, I made my money doing tune-ups, brake jobs, and general repairs—the street rod thing was strictly a sideline, something to occupy my brain between turning rotors or charging a battery. I liked to make the engines run well, but to do so began to violate the smog laws, and I really couldn’t afford all the new diagnostic devices that were coming on the market." So Jerry reluctantly phased himself out of the general-repair garage business and moved into the now-popular street rod movement.

It was during 1976 that Jerry began a multi-part series with HRM titled "How To Build a Street Rod," featuring a 50/50 mix of OEM and aftermarket reproduction parts, followed by a similar project employing all reproduction parts. From these and other projects, Jerry started to offer an ever-widening line of komponents that ran the gamut from shortened Ford water pumps and frame-horn repair kits to complete adapter kits that mated XKE Jaguar front and rear suspensions to early Ford frames.

Meanwhile, Jerry also solved another problem affecting his new highboy. He was having difficulties ducting fresh * air to the injected Chevy that powered the little roadster. Jerry’s answer was simple; "I’ll just make my own air." So, like his former boss Ak Miller and Miller’s employees Big "Bull" Edwards and Jack Lufkin, Jerry made the switch to a pair of hairdryers blowing into a set of Hilborn injectors, and the rest is history. The first time out, Jerry ran 221 on a 200-mph record. Over the ensuing years—until he retired the car in 1995—his roadster would reach the 250-mph mark, getting both of his sons, Joe and Jeff, into the 200-mph club, and it did so without ever spinning out or becoming uncontrollable. The roadster’s place was eventually taken by Lionel Pitts and Dave McDonald’s ’92 Pontiac Trans Am, which the Kugels bought and upgraded in 1997. The Pontiac ultimately became the first American-built passenger car to exceed 300 mph.

In 1985, 14 years after he went into the general-repair business for himself, Jerry said adios to working on stockers. He opened a new shop in La Habra, California, brought his wife Judy and their kids into the business, and began a full-time involvement with the cars that had been only a sideline just nine years before. As street rodding evolved from T-buckets and resto rods to trad rads and handbuilt smoothies riding on aftermarket suspension systems, the "kid" followed suit by designing and assembling many of the cars and components that have become street rodding trend setters.

Like M/T’s shift into High, Jerry hasn’t forgotten an old dream he and I shared: to drive a car to the flats on pump gas, run 200, and then drive home. Today, he’s building Deuce-like specials that he calls "Murocs." The last Muroc may be slated for a turbo transplant and a round-tripper to Bonneville with a 250-mph boogie in between. Then there’s old 265. It’s neither gone nor forgotten—just on display at the NHRA Motosports Museum. Plus there is a new and vastly improved turbocharged Chevy on hand. Jerry, Joe, and Jeff Kugel were the first to run three bills in their door-slammer. Jerry Kugel loves new projects, and three bills in the family hairblower has got the "kid" thinking all over again.

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I first met Andy when I was president of the SCTA in 1961. During the two years I served as president, the SCTA did several timing events for the Granatelli Brothers, Andy, Joe and Vince,  who were promoting their Paxton Superchargers to Chrysler and finally Studebaker Corporations. It seemed that I was on the phone with Andy almost weekly attending to details surrounding these events. 

We timed the Chrysler "300 at the Palm Springs Airport and again at Riverside Raceway. The '62 Plymouth was timed at Jean NV, south of Las Vegas on the old highway at 182 MPH. 

The Granatellis were successful in getting Studebaker to use their Supercharger on their new  Avanti. We did a timing event for Andy and Studebaker for the Pre-Release Publicity of the Avanti. This was also staged at Jean NV  on the old highway.  The stock Avanti was timed at 172 MPH.

Of course, Andy also ran our Bonneville Events, generally rounding up his speeds for greater impact. He became president of STP, which was owned by Studerbaker at the time, and found many ways to promote the STP Products at various race events. Andy was many things, but in my opinion, his greatest asset was his ability to promote. The following article is proof of that!

Granatelli resigns chairmanship of Sheriff's Council

10/13/05                                                                                               By HILDY MEDINA, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER

Andy Granatelli announced Wednesday that he was stepping down as chairman of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Council, which he co-founded. He was also one of itsleading fundraisers.

The race car legend delivered the news at the close of the Sheriff's Council's board meeting, where he hand-delivered his resignation. 

"Not many people realize what a gigantic effort I have put into the Sheriff's Council," Mr. Granatelli wrote in an e-mail sent out shortly after his announcement. "I really need to recuperate and get my health and affairs back in good order and most of all, get to spend more time enjoying my family and friends."

His sudden departure surprised some of his fellow board members.

"We're all reeling at this point," said Helen Jepsen, president-elect. "We're all deeply saddened with this news. However, I believe that we need to understand where Andy's coming from; he said it's time he put his family first. We're eternally grateful for Andy's years of service."

Mr. Granatelli co-founded the council in 1993 with then-Sheriff Jim Thomas to raise money for safety equipment and state-of-the-art devices that budget-strapped public agencies cannot afford. His departure will leave the council without one of its top money-raisers. Last month's dinner and auction gala drew 700 people -- some paying $8,000 a plate and whom Mr. Granatelli was instrumental in drawing to the event.

The original council fundraiser, a barbecue in Santa Ynez, collected enough money to buy one squad car. In comparison, the Sept. 24 gala at Bacara Resort & Spa raised more than $2.4 million -- quadruple what the event raised even two years ago. It wasn't always possible to get people to hand over an amount equal to a monthly mortgage payment.

"When I got to Santa Barbara in 1988, they wouldn't pay $100 for (dinner). Nobody wanted to give anything; nobody outside of a few guys like Pierre Claeyssens would give anything," said Mr. Granatelli. "It was very hard to break down this town."

"Andy taught us to dream the impossible," said Ms. Jepsen. "He challenged us a few years back to charge $2,500 for a table and people thought he was crazy." Tables at this year's event went for $125,000 each. "He has been a tremendous asset in all of the fundraising, and it's Andy's leadership that has greatly benefited the community," said Sheriff Jim Anderson. Using some of the money raised this year, the council hopes to buy equipment for a Huey helicopter or put the funds toward purchasing a new aircraft, Sheriff Anderson said.

Mr. Granatelli, who sits on various nonprofit boards throughout the state, said he will no longer raise funds for Santa Barbara charities.

"I've been there and done that," said Mr. Granatelli. "What else can I do? I've broken every record for the past four years; I'm worn out."

Before he left Wednesday's meeting, the 82-year-old challenged board members to raise $3 million for next year's gala. "You know, we're all visionaries," said Ms. Jepsen. "I think in his honor we will continue to do it. It would be a huge sin to drop the ball after all the hard work."

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Art Chrisman

I first knew Art as the Autolite Spark Plug Representative at Bonneville. We have remain friends to this day. I always admired Art for his performance at the drags with the "Hustler". I considered him to be one of the best drivers of his day. While most were disappearing in tire smoke while proceeding down the 1/4 mile, Art usually had just a whisp of smoke encompassing the tires as he applied just enough throttle to keep the tires loose and still propel the car down the course. 

Published Date: 10/31/05

At the ancient Famoso drag strip near Bakersfield, fans flock to the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, America’s oldest and largest vintage drag event. Here they celebrate drag racing as it used to be, before sponsors, big purses and TV.

Caught between orchards and oil fields, there are some of the most famous cars in drag racing’s 60-year history here, restored and ready to race, many still driven by their original shoes. The cars have come from as far away as Vermont and Rhode Island. The Glass Slipper, the Speed Sport roadsters, the twin-engined Freight Train and Dragmasters Two-Thing, Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat III and many more. And then there is Hustler I.

One of the earliest streamlined dragsters, the Chrisman Brothers & Cannon Hustler I is here because 75-year-old Art Chrisman, drag racing dervish, is here. Chrisman’s Hustler III, a modern fuel dragster built by Chrisman and son Mike, is also on hand, the other bookend in a race career as old as drag racing itself.

Chrisman is as comfortable working on a flathead as he is a Chrysler Hemi, an Offy, a Ford Indy engine or Chevy small-block.

In 1944 Art Chrisman moved from Arkansas to California, where his dad Everett worked in shipyards. Everett had built tankers for moonshiners, and sons Art and Lloyd learned cars, mechanics and welding at their father’s knee. They set up shop in Compton, racing at El Mirage and Bonneville before settling on short-course drag racing.

Chrisman’s chopped, rear-engined Model A coupe topped 200 mph at Bonneville before the prestigious 200-mph Club was established. He still has the car (it took third in the hot rod class at Pebble Beach in 2001).

Chrisman’s first serious drag car, a well-used Model T sprint, was the first to break 140 mph, at Santa Ana in 1953. In 1955 it ran in the first NHRA Nationals at Great Bend in Kansas. Chrisman repeated that feat for the 25th, 40th and 50th annual Nationals with the car, which has been restored to mint condition.

But Hustler I, a fuel-injected, supercharged Chrysler Hemi on nitro, was the breakthrough car. It was named Best Engin-eered Car at the 1958 Nationals in Oklahoma, was the first dragster to top 180 mph, and won the Top Fuel title at the first Bakersfield March Meet in 1959. The Model A Bonneville coupe, the No. 25 Model T and the Hustler I have been Hot Rod cover cars. NHRA’s Wally Parks Museum in Pomona, California, presented Chrisman with the Preservation Award in 2004 because he has kept his race cars running for so long.

In 1962 Chrisman’s vast abilities were tapped by spark plug maker Autolite, and he spent the next decade helping racers at Bonneville, Daytona, Indy and just about everywhere in between.

Chrisman opened his own shop—Chrisman Auto Rod Specialties—in Santa Ana in 1980. He and Mike build some of the most beautifully detailed street rods and street machines in the business, with 40 complete cars made in the last 20 years, the latest a 1956 Chevy Nomad wagon that has won 10 trophies in seven outings.

At the California Hot Rod Reunion fans eagerly anticipated the Saturday night Cacklefest—and they weren’t disappointed. As they used to do before port- able electric starters, the nitro cars push-start down the side road, fire up, then park, running, on the centerline until the last car is in place. If you have ever heard a nitro car run, you know why they call it cackling.

This year’s Cacklefest featured 40 nitro-burners, cackling, blipping and sending staccato music and flames into the night at Famoso. One of the greatest spectacles in motorsports, the cars were noisy enough to peg the world’s loudest dB meter and raise every hair on the back of your neck. Is that burning in your eyes from the nitro, or is it nostalgia?

As a measure of the respect and affection the NHRA has for Chrisman and the fabled Hustler I, Art always fires up and comes down last, because, as one spectator said, "This weekend Art Chrisman is the mayor of Bakersfield."

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Bob & Jim Brissette

When I started running at the lakes, Bob and Jim were already veterans. Jim was a teenager with a Desoto powered '40 Ford Coupe and Bob had a Fuel '29 Roadster and a Belly Tank. Jim was still in High School and Bob was single, putting most of his resources into going fast. Bob drove the roadster and Howard Eichenhofer drove the tank. The  Eichenhofer and Brissette tank was the fastest open wheel car for a number of years and the roadster was the fastest highboy also. Bob would go to Bonneville with five Chrysler Windsor short blocks and was generally out of motors before the meet was complete. He was always looking for "just one good run".

Jim also drove the roadster and had a crankcase fire at the lakes that resulted in badly burned arms. I don't believe he drove after that, but has become a well known as a 1/4 mile top fuel tuner, working for most of the big name teams at one time or another. Bob married and disappeared from the racing scene for many years. He is back, however, with just as much zeal as ever.

Other drivers for Bob's tank were Burke LeSage, Bob Summers and Bob Funk who crashed the tank at the lakes resulting in his death. The car was not rebuilt. The roadster was also driven by Paul Dearth who had a one way pass at almost 230 MPH in the early sixties, the fastest for any roadster until Al Teague came on the scene with the Sadd Bentley and Teague car. I believe Bob's roadster is still running under different ownership.

Bob also was well know in the 1/4 mile circuit running the roadster and in later years a dual-engine Chevy powered dragster. 

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The Summers Brothers 

The Summers first got my attention in 1959, (I think that Bob was 19 and Bill 21 yrs. of age) when Bob crashed his modified roadster and came back in a couple of days and set the record with the same car. The roadster’s design was such that the only damage as a result of going upside down was a scuffed roll bar and a bent wheel. With the needed repairs the car was back and set a record at 225.078 MPH that stood for years. Since several rear-engined modified roadsters crashed that year, the rear-engine design was banned until just recently when, do to popular demand, they are back with a change in the aerodynamic package. 

Bob’s next car was a front-wheel drive streamliner. This car had its rear wheels mounted inline and appeared to be swimming until it reached about 200 MPH when it stabilized resulting in being dubbed the “Pollywog”. After doing a tour in the Navy, Bob began his last project. Everyone knows about the “Goldenrod” and its record of 409.065 MPH set in November, 1965. The record still stands today. Bob succumbed to a heart attack several years ago. Since Bob was the driver of several cars, I knew him better than his brother Bill. I have become better acquainted with Bill in recent years, as he is a regular at Bonneville with his "Speed for Rent" Lakester. For more about the Summers Brothers Click here  

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Art Chrisman
Chrisman-Cannon HustlerI  first came to know Art in the sixties when he was the Autolite Spark Plug's Representative at Bonneville. We became friends through his reading and furnishing spark plugs. Of course, I admired his expertise as a Dragster Pilot when he was running the Christman-Cannon "Hustler". In my opinion, he was the best driver of the day. Hardly ever did you see more than a wisp of smoke coming off his tires as he left tire marks the whole of the ¼ mile. Most of the competition was hidden in smoke as they left the line. Art won his share of the races in those days.

I visited with Art at the 2006 Bonneville 200 MPH Banquet. He is very interesting to talk with about the early days of drag racing. He is still one of my heroes!

Published Date: 10/31/05

At the ancient Famoso drag strip near Bakersfield, fans flock to the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, America's oldest and largest vintage drag event. Here they celebrate drag racing as it used to be, before sponsors, big purses and TV.

Caught between orchards and oil fields, there are some of the most famous cars in drag racing's 60-year history here, restored and ready to race, many still driven by their original shoes. The cars have come from as far away as Vermont and Rhode Island. The Glass Slipper, the Speed Sport roadsters, the twin-engined Freight Train and Dragmasters Two-Thing, Don Garlits' Swamp Rat III and many more. And then there is Hustler I.

One of the earliest streamlined dragsters, the Chrisman Brothers & Cannon Hustler I is here because 75-year-old Art Chrisman, drag racing dervish, is here. Chrisman's Hustler III, a modern fuel dragster built by Chrisman and son Mike, is also on hand, the other bookend in a race career as old as drag racing itself.
Chrisman is as comfortable working on a flathead as he is a Chrysler Hemi, an Offy, a Ford Indy engine or Chevy small-block.

In 1944 Art Chrisman moved from Arkansas to California, where his dad Everett worked in shipyards. Everett had built tankers for moonshiners, and sons Art and Lloyd learned cars, mechanics and welding at their father's knee. They set up shop in Compton, racing at El Mirage and Bonneville before settling on short-course drag racing.

Chrisman's chopped, rear-engined Model A coupe topped 200 mph at Bonneville before the prestigious 200-mph Club was established. He still has the car (it took third in the hot rod class at Pebble Beach in 2001).

Chrisman's first serious drag car, a well-used Model T sprint, was the first to break 140 mph, at Santa Ana in 1953. In 1955 it ran in the first NHRA Nationals at Great Bend in Kansas. Chrisman repeated that feat for the 25th, 40th and 50th annual Nationals with the car, which has been restored to mint condition.

But Hustler I, a fuel-injected, supercharged Chrysler Hemi on nitro, was the breakthrough car. It was named Best Engin-eered Car at the 1958 Nationals in Oklahoma, was the first dragster to top 180 mph, and won the Top Fuel title at the first Bakersfield March Meet in 1959. The Model A Bonneville coupe, the No. 25 Model T and the Hustler I have been Hot Rod cover cars. NHRA's Wally Parks Museum in Pomona, California, presented Chrisman with the Preservation Award in 2004 because he has kept his race cars running for so long.

In 1962 Chrisman's vast abilities were tapped by spark plug maker Autolite, and he spent the next decade helping racers at Bonneville, Daytona, Indy and just about everywhere in between.

Chrisman opened his own shop—Chrisman Auto Rod Specialties—in Santa Ana in 1980. He and Mike build some of the most beautifully detailed street rods and street machines in the business, with 40 complete cars made in the last 20 years, the latest a 1956 Chevy Nomad wagon that has won 10 trophies in seven outings.

At the California Hot Rod Reunion fans eagerly anticipated the Saturday night Cacklefest—and they weren't disappointed. As they used to do before port- able electric starters, the nitro cars push-start down the side road, fire up, then park, running, on the centerline until the last car is in place. If you have ever heard a nitro car run, you know why they call it cackling.

This year's Cacklefest featured 40 nitro-burners, cackling, blipping and sending staccato music and flames into the night at Famoso. One of the greatest spectacles in motorsports, the cars were noisy enough to peg the world's loudest dB meter and raise every hair on the back of your neck. Is that burning in your eyes from the nitro, or is it nostalgia?

As a measure of the respect and affection the NHRA has for Chrisman and the fabled Hustler I, Art always fires up and comes down last, because, as one spectator said, "This weekend Art Chrisman is the mayor of Bakersfield."

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Jim Lindsley

I became acquainted with Jim in the late 50's while running at the Lakes. I really came to know him after I joined the Gear Grinder's Club in 1963. Jim was one of, if not the greatest ,friends that SCTA has had. He was always on the front lines when work was to be done. He could be a bit cantankerous at times, and was not appreciated by everyone, but if you knew Jim you ignored his harsh moments.  Jim loved the sport and served in just about every capacity of leadership. (Jim served as president of the SCTA twice.)  He almost single-handedly saved the SCTA from financial  destruction by selling off the tires that SCTA owned and were paying storage on and introducing the tee-shirt and souvenir sales. He served as treasurer for several years and  was retired as treasurer because he could not cope with the computer age.  More to come....

Jim Lindsley tribute
Racing series OBITUARIES LSR
Date 2005-04-24

As we start the 2005 racing season, full of expectations and hopes for new records and new stars to emerge, we should stop for a moment and think about all those stars in the racing firmament who have left us. Men and women who made a great impact on American Motorsports, and whose absence will make our sport just a bit poorer for their passing. We mourn the passing of James L. Lindsley. Jim was born in 1917, in Santa Monica, California, and grew up during the depression. Contracting polio, Jim forced himself by sheer will power to overcome that dreaded disease and walk, though his legs always remained weak. Fathers of that era had a difficult time finding work to support their families, and children often earned as much as the parents. Jim was very creative and worked as a paperboy and gardener. Hobos and desperate men of that era would target paperboys, who had a pocketful of nickels, enough to feed a man for a week.

Jim was no pushover. He would fill a sock with ball bearings and tie the sock around his wrist. Anyone trying to rob him of those precious nickels would receive an arm-breaking blow. He would knock on a neighbor's door and ask if he could mow the lawn. With a leg in a metal brace and a wheelchair nearby, the neighbors would feel great emotion for him and offer to pay him extra, wondering how he would manage to do the job. Jim had hired other boys in the neighborhood to do the work. His job was to find them the work and split the money with them. His inventiveness and drive spilled over into his future vocation as an electrician, and as a land speed racer.

Since the 1930's, Jim Lindsley's passion was going to the Dry Lakes in Southern California, and later to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to race land speed cars. Jim showed me his car plaques that he had received for each time that he went racing, and these thin metal tags filled two shoeboxes. Jim was a dynamic man, but he also had a dynamic family. His wife Phyllis volunteered to handle the records for the SCTA, or the Southern California Timing Association, and faithfully did so for many decades. Jim also volunteered to work in the SCTA, in whatever capacity he was asked to do. Many times he would stop by and ask Ak Miller, Bozzy Willis, Wally Parks and other officials if they needed help, especially with the electrical work, lights or timing equipment. Jim's land speed racing and volunteerism earned him the respect of the racing community, many awards and induction into the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame, at the Gas-Up Party held at Jack Mendenhall's Gas Pump Museum, in Buellton, California. Burke LeSage organized and spoke at the funeral service. LeSage, a protégé and self-appointed adopted son of Jim, spoke with deep respect for the man he always called his mentor. LeSage said that Jim always strove for excellence, and was a person of class, as was his wife Phyllis. LeSage called others up to the podium to speak. Les Leggitt lauded Lindsley for his hard work, honesty and knowledge. "If you want something done," said Leggitt, "ask Jim."

John Helash came to the podium and told the congregation that you could trust Jim's word in all things. Both Helash and Leggitt are past presidents of SCTA, as was Lindsley. Al Teague said that a person may not like what Lindsley said at the time, but it was frank and honest advice. Jim treated him like his own son. Jim's granddaughter, Heather, said that the Lindsley family helps each other, a legacy from her grandfather. Neil Thompson added that if you needed help, there was no one better to turn to than Jim Lindsley. Jim Travis told us how much Jim put into SCTA. Without Jim, and his sons, Larry, Gary and Fred, and his wife Phyllis, there wouldn't have been a Bonneville Nationals in 1952. Travis restarted the Gear Grinders club after many of the original members had left. He went to Jim, who gave him all the records and a great deal of encouragement. Travis said there is no family in racing as efficient in getting a car ready to run as the Lindsley's. They function like clockwork. Travis said that Phyllis Lindsley needs to be recognized by the car clubs as well, for whatever Jim achieved, his love of his life was there at his side, working just as hard for their family, landspeed racing and the SCTA.

LeSage brought the service to an end by commenting how Jim would always stop and help other people. Once Jim stopped and helped a young Alex Xydias change a flat tire, beginning a friendship with the man who would go on to found the famous So-Cal Speedshop. "Jim Lindsley, said LeSage, "is equal to Unser, Petty, Foyt and others in the racing world, and three generations of the family have been involved in the SCTA." Wally Parks, an original member of the Road Runners car club, SCTA, and President of the SCTA in 1946, could not make the services, but said that there was no one in the organization that was more trustworthy and hardworking that Jim Lindsley, or more honest. Jim received many honors from the organization. He was a member of the 200 MPH (Mile per Hour) club, and twice selected as the Man of the Year in that club. For all of his achievements and accolades, the greatest honor to the man was the respect shown by those who came to pay their last respects and by the family that he left behind, who will continue to race in that unique sport of land speed racing.

-Gone Racin'

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Last Updated: 10/20/2010                                 



Webmaster - Tom Bryant, to make comments Click here   

Last Updated: 09/09/2010