DryLakes Hall of Fame
SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS NEWSLETTER #40. Websites posting the newsletter are: www.oilstick.com,
President's Corner: By Jim Miller.
In the last newsletter I referred to digging into some old '30's magazines for info on land speed race cars. Well, let's not forget that cars were not the only things that can set records. Motorcycles aren't usually on a car guys mind, but today they are along with some other speed machines. Last Friday was an S.C.T.A. board meeting and I go as a representative of my car club, the Sidewinders. I was sitting with Dan Warner, head of impound and car certification at Bonneville and El Mirage when up walks Bruce Vaughan. Bruce inspects cars at both events and also is a good friend (he also has a bottle of Tequila that's real good) and crews for Sam Wheeler, the fastest man on the planet on two wheels with a speed of 355.303 mph.
He handed me a copy of John Stein's great new book "World's Fastest Motorcycle." I opened it and inside is an inscription to me from Sam, needless to say I was blown away. Thanks Sam! All this is a lead-up to my digging for Eyston info last weekend from my library and the web and running across some other things that might be of interest to you. I'm a sucker for great Magazine covers, especially if they have things speed related on them and there is usually something inside that justifies buying them. Here is a sampling of some covers that are really cool.
Now back to Sam and the motorcycles. In the February '32 issue is a concept drawing of Joe Wright's proposed Excelsior racer that would look right at home on the salt today. There was only one problem and that was called the depression. Seems Excelsior-Henderson was owned by Bicycle Magnate Ignaz Schwinn and he wasn't making any money off the motorcycles so he shut the company down before the bike was built. Back in the 1930's, bike owner/builder Claude Temple had chosen Wright to ride for a record.
climbed on and set the
World Motorcycle Record
on November 6 at Cork,
Ireland on a Zenith-J.A.P.
after his OEC/Temple-J.A.P.
developed a problem. A
(James A. Prestwich)
engine powered the bike
to 150.736 mph so
predicting a 170 mph
speed on his new
creation was quite
something. For the
record, Ernst Henne took
the record from Joe on a
factory prepped BMW at
151.86 mph on November
2, 1932. The predicted
170 speed was finally
eclipsed in October of
1937 by none other than
Piero Taruffi riding a
Gilera and setting a
World record at 170.37
mph. It's also fitting
that the cover of the
January '52 Mechanics
shows Taruffi's "Tarf"
after breaking Goldie
Gardner's MG EX 135
What's more incredible is Piero did it on a section of ancient Roman roadway through the Pontine Marshes southeast of Rome.
Continuing the Motorcycle theme, get a load of Fred Luther's wild machine from July '35 predicting 300 mph speeds that didn't happen until Don Vesco did it in 1975 at 302.66 mph. Seems Luther worked for Chrysler and talked them out of a '34 PF six along with a tranny and dropped them into a much modified Henderson X chassis fitted with skidplates to keep the thing upright as well as for braking.
Firestone antied up the 30x5"8-ply tires with special tread. Luther then talked Harry Miller (that took some money) into doing the motor and raised its stock 77 hp @ 3,600 rpm to 125 ponies @ 4,500. On the salt in 1935 and going after a $10K prize, (later found to be a hoax), the first lap was run at 140 mph. On the return run at an estimated 180 mph in second gear a con-rod let go ending his dream.
Editor's notes: Several members have mentioned to me that the size of the Newsletter could be a problem and that some members might not read it. That's always a possibility, but you know me by now and terseness is a habit that my father and brother possess, and a character trait that I did not inherit. The newsletter is always changing and perhaps one day the look will be cleaner, shorter and neater, but not very likely as long as I'm the editor. I do try and keep the length of the newsletter to under 8 computer screens in size, but that sometimes means that I have to put out 2 or more newsletters a week. Some members have said more than one newsletter a week is confusing.
There is a way out of this problem now that we have the newsletter on several websites and especially on our home website at www.landspeedracing.com. Those members that feel overwhelmed can go back to archived newsletters when they have more time and view the past issues. We have a purpose and that is to record all the facts and figures that we can find about land speed racing and hot rodding. To do that means that I can't be a trim and svelte editor. I intend to fill the newsletter up with news and events on land speed racing and associated topics that tie into LSR so that we can build up a repository of knowledge that we can leave behind us as our legacy. Keep feeding me information as fast as you can. On another note; who has control of the records from land speed racing? Who has the FIA/MIA, SCTA, ETA, Russetta, Australian, Muroc TA, Bell TA, Western TA, Mansell's race of 1927 and all the Bonneville records from the 1890's to the present? If no one is the repository of all the records up to this time, then perhaps we should consider trying to find them and keep an official record.
This would call for a SLSRH Recorder, a volunteer who would accumulate and maintain lists of all the records from the beginning of land speed racing. If not us, then which sanctioning organization will do it?
1) I am writing a Fuel For Thought column on the SLSRH and letting folks know they can join our merry band – which email address should I publish as a contact for you? Speedy Regards, "LandSpeed" Louise Ann Noeth
It is public record and
anyone in the group may
pass that on to others.
As the editor, I have to
be available to answer
questions. None of the
members of the SLSRH
will have their email
addresses or phone
numbers divulged unless
they tell me that it is
okay to give out that
2) My job at the Post Office is processing bad-addressed mail. In the course of a month I see hundreds of different magazines. Today I saw the February Hot Rod magazine with your father on the cover. I could not read the whole story, but was able to skim over it. What a story. What a tribute. Another thought - poor Steve Fossett. We will never know what he might have done with the Breedlove car. Best regards for a Happy and Healthy New Year. Bob Senior
Bob: Thank you for the nice words. Wally Parks will be missed.
3) Passing this along in hopes that you may know someone who fits the need. It is a fun job. Speedy Regards, "LandSpeed" Louise Ann Noeth "MPG is seeking a new administrator. The Request for a Quotation has been designed to offer prospective bidders a variety of options so that our administrative needs might be performed by either one or two persons, depending on the applicants' skill set and experience.
This person or persons will manage MPG's administrative needs, everything from processing mail and fielding member phone calls to bookkeeping and overseeing suppliers, attention to detail is imperative. Please download the RFQ for the details. Deadline for bids is February 1, 2008. The job begins approximately March 1, 2008. To download a PDF or Word document of the Request for Statements of Qualifications, go to www.motorpressguild.org/news.
4) Thought you would like to see this report concerning conditions at El Mirage Dry Lakes that I received from George Callaway. You might want to run it in the Land Speed Historians Newsletter...if you do choose to run it, please credit George. Thanks, Bob Falcon
5) It's time for me to come clean, and inform you how much I've been enjoying your web-site. I've been reading the newsletters, enjoying the vibe that comes from being in such great company of the members of this society. Living in Australia, I have little to contribute to the Society, but my enthusiasm, and moral support for what you are doing. I've never been to Bonneville, El mirage, or even the US, and have only been to Lake Gairdner the once, in 1994. I ran 113mph in a friend's E/GR, after he told be to be easy on it.
My DLRA number is 101, so I've taken the first step to racing, be it long ago. I'm building a Chev 6 powered 29 Model A coupe for the street, and have a bunch of parts for a roadster that I intend to run at the salt, 'One day at a time, so it's the coupe first. Thanks again for taking the steps to document the stories of the racers of days gone. Long live their stories, and by appreciating the past, we can look forward into the future. Cheers, Mark Plunkett
Mark: We love to get letters like this. Why? Because land speed racing and hot rodding is a creation of man against nature and not man against man. It is the most egalitarian and equilizing sport ever invented. Yes, our list is filled with people who are either the originators or the second and third generation, but none of us feel superior in any way to anyone else. We look upon our cousins in Australia as equals and we doff our hats to the Aussies, Kiwis, Swedes, Germans and especially the British for what they have helped to achieve in land speed racing and hot rodding.
You are one of us, not simply an outsider enjoying a foreign sport. As we go through our personal archives and memories and add these stories and articles to the public domain, it will become clear that many people from many countries contributed to hot rodding and land speed racing. We look at your Lake Gairdner with awe and respect, wishing we could race on the lake bed more frequently. We admire the perseverance of Kiwis, Aussies and others who come from half way across the world to race at El Mirage or Bonneville. Our Society of Land Speed Racing Historians is not simply a site or a free membership organization that exists to compete with the other websites or blogs.
Each and every member and prospective members who joins must be interested in preserving the history and heritage of land speed racing and hot rodding. We do not specify how our members are to do that and we now consider you to be an official member of the Society. Welcome aboard. How are you and our other members going to carry out the tasks required of preserving and saving our heritage and history? Members can be interested, read, study and learn.
We can find libraries, museums or other foundations that will receive, save, restore and exhibit photos, stories and memorabilia. We can write articles or books on the subjects. We can photograph or acquire and save photographs and equally important, write captions for the photos. We can save memorabilia wherever possible. We can get other people interested in this endeavor. For the importance of what we do affects history. The story WE tell will become the official story for all time. Do we want other, disinterested parties, telling our story or do we want to make sure that we tell the story as we saw it. We are as happy to invite you to our group as you are to join.
There are no fees, dues, duties or responsibilities other than what you want to do. The first step is to write down your history. Be as thorough as possible, then record the stories of those you know around you so that their history is not lost. Then share that with us.
6) Our automated newsletter system is required to have a link at the bottom of any emailing that allows people to "unsubscribe" from any email list we have. We got this "removal" notice from the Land Speed Racing list and I wanted to pass it along to you as sometimes people accidentally remove themselves from lists and I don't want anyone to miss this newsletter. I thought you would know who this is and might want to double check and see if they removed themselves by accident and if we need to put them back on.
We have a few people adding themselves each week and I think this only serves to expand the people we reach and thus the material we may receive in the future. I am leaving on Friday a.m. for an Easy Rider show in Sacramento and then we will drive from there to Pomona for GNRS so I will not be in the office but will check email once or twice a day. See you soon. Mary Ann Lawford
Dear Mary Ann and the Members: I'm not sending out the newsletter anymore. After I edit the material, do research and add the mail that I receive to the newsletter, it goes to Mary Ann at www.landspeedracing.com and is sent out on a LIST OF SUBSCRIBERS. Not that anyone has to pay anything as we normally think of a subscribers list, but sometimes people hit the unsubscribe by mistake. I've done that myself. If you do that and think that you're going to get the newsletter directly from me, then you won't get it. I have to lessen the workload since I have five newsletters that I edit and send out and the volume keeps me busy all week long.
However, you don't have to get the newsletter as an email. We set up the process so that you can get an email version or go to the website or both. Some people live on websites and you can't pry them off with a crowbar. Others like your editor will hardly ever go to a website and the only way to keep them informed is to send them an email to read. Some will never open an attachment, thus it has to be a long email. The Newsletter is purposely made easy so that the computer literate and the 'puter dummies can all get the news. The Grand National Roadster Show will be at Pomona, California on January 25-27, 2008. John Buck is the promoter and he is hot rod and land speed friendly and will expand coverage for our type of cars. If you don't go and make your presence felt, then we can't complain later.
I'll be there for most of the weekend and try to spend as much time in the www.hotrodhotline.com booth as possible so that you can come up and visit us for awhile. Remember to check with the following websites: www.oilstick.com,
7) RACING SCENE Column - By Tim Kennedy, Los Angeles, California. (Edited) "City of Speed - Los Angeles and the Rise of American
Racing" by Joe Scalzo. The publisher is Motorbooks, an imprint of MBI Publishing Co, Galtier Plaza, Suite 200, 380 Jackson St,
St Paul, MN 55101-3885. This 2007 book covers the Los Angeles area as an early and still vital base for all types of motor racing disciplines.
11 chapter, 190-page
book is an
interesting read and
contains 259 photos,
many in color and
many photos that
have not been
prose details the
erupting right along
the Pacific shore.
In his own words, he
talks about go-fast
There are doll faces, sirens, divas, pinups, mobster molls and more.
The first chapter highlights the origins and genius of Harry Miller, who came from Prussian stock, and changed from a surname Mueller. His 1920s shop on Long Beach Avenue produced sleek Miller race-cars that made an indelible imprint at the Indianapolis 500, including the first Miller car victory by Jimmy Murphy in 1922. The "junk formula" during the Depression hurt Miller finances and the closing of Miller's shop in 1933 led him to relocate to Detroit.
He died in 1943. Riding mechanics, such as Chickie Hirashima, are covered on page 74. Interesting information in this chapter included the rate of pay for riding mechanics being 3 to 5% of race winnings. The book shows Los Angeles as home to racing engine development. It covers the transition of the Miller engine to Offenhauser, to Meyer-Drake, to turbo-charged Drake, Drake-Goosen-Sparks that dethroned Ford, to Cosworth.
Now in the seventh decade of racing engine development we have the Honda and TRD (Toyota) engines in the greater Los Angeles megalopolis providing engines to competitors in major league racing circuits. The numerous Indy 500 victories by Miller engines are listed on page 31. Millers and its successors won six of ten Indy 500s in the 1920s, eight of ten in the 30s, four of five in the 40s, ten of ten in the 50s, four of ten in the 60s and five of ten in the 70s. During one span the Miller-based engine won 18 Indianapolis 500s in a row.
Los Angeles area engine-builders and suppliers of the modern era are shown on page 33. They include Bartz, Unser, Faulkner, Traco (Travers & Coon), Donovan, Moroso, Cosworth, Ron Shaver, Manley, Brodex, Mondello, Iskenderian, Brownfield and Carillo. Scalzo presents considerable information about the Ed Winfield engine that conquered the Millers at Legion Ascot Speedway in eastern Los Angles during the 1930s. Ed's brother Bud is highlighted as well for his role in developing the powerful Novi engine. Keith Black and Ed Pink also receive praise for their innovative engine work.
Another chapter covers playboy Lance Reventlow, the son of Woolworth heir Barbara Hutton. Reventlow's Can-Am Scarab sports cars from Venice, near the Pacific Ocean, won eight times in 13 races in 1958 with Chuck Daigh the star and Lance the driver of a second Scarab. The famous Troutman-Barnes, 1960 Scarab Formula One cars, Ol' Yeller cars of Max Balchowsky and his wife Ina,
receive major, interesting attention and photo coverage. Chaparral (1961), Cobra and King Cobra sports cars get well-deserved coverage as well.
Reventlow's manufacturing site later became Carroll Shelby's Cobra manufacturing plant. All greater Los Angeles Indianapolis 500 roadster constructors/designers are profiled starting on page 70. The book repeats the affectionate roadster nickname "big cucumbers." Great LA Indy roadster constructors/builders covered are Frank Kurtis, Eddie Kuzma, Quin Epperly, Lujie Lesovsky and A. J. Watson. The book describes how frames were constructed from chalk outlines on the floor. Indy car owner J. C. Agajanian, painter Dean Jeffries and Von Dutch striping receive coverage, as do Joe Hunt Magnetos, and Ted Halibrand Engineering center sections and wheels.
The book covers the change from roadsters to the rear engine Lotus, to Lotus-copies by car builders in the USA to well-received later rear-engine cars such as Vel's-Parnelli Jones Johnny Lightning cars (two-time Indy 500 winner in 1970-71) and Dan Gurney Eagles from Santa Ana in the 1970s. Scalzo states the Indianapolis 500 had not been a Los Angeles-dominated race for almost 40 years. The 1950s Carrera Pan-Americana (Mexican Road Race) receives detailed coverage, as do the Clay Smith and Bill Stroppe Lincoln Team that won the Baja California long-distance race four times in five years.
Stroppe employed 1950s Indianapolis 500 drivers Manuel Ayulo, Jack McGrath, Walt Faulkner, Johnny Mantz, Chuck Stevenson and 1953-54 Indy 500 winner Bill Vukovich to race his Lincolns through Mexico. The So Cal-based Stroppe/Parnelli Jones "Big Oly" (Olympia Beer) Ford Bronco exploits in off-road racing and in the record-breaking Baja 1,000 are covered prominently in words and photos.
Chapter 4, titled "Battlegrounds," covers famous So Cal race-tracks, such as Ascot Park in Gardena. Ascot ("where the Harbor, San Diego and 91 Freeways collide") hosted 170 promotions/races a year and was the self-proclaimed "busiest race track in America." Weekly races on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights were common. Ascot operated from 1957-90, as did Riverside
International Raceway ironically. Ontario Motor Speedway (the 2.5-mile copy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) opened to 180,000 spectators in 1970 and closed after 1980 when it defaulted on a $25.5 million bond. Scalzo wrote that of the more than 100 race-tracks in So Cal only three survive today. The book covers So Cal jalopy derbies and racing sugar-daddies who provided sponsorship or cars for talented, upcoming race drivers.
These benefactors in sports car racing included Tony Parravano, Frank Arciero and Johnny von Neumann. Some of the stories in this section are among the most interesting in the book. Scalzo relates numerous stories about the tough, fighting breed of So Cal race drivers, such as Rufus "Parnelli" Jones, Ralph "Scotty" Cain, Dick Rathmann, Dave MacDonald, Ronnie Bucknum and the early era African-American driver Rajo Jack (real name Dewey Gatson) from Watts in south-central Los Angeles. MacDonald's rise to prominence and his role in the ill-fated 1964 Indianapolis 500 fiery turn four crash that claimed the lives of Eddie Sachs and MacDonald is a compelling part of the book.
Chapter 7, titled "Salt Shakers," covers the land speed record attempts from Florida, to California and Utah. LSR daredevil drivers Frank Lockhart, Craig Breedlove, Mickey Thompson, Art Arfons, Gary Gabelich and Kitty O'Neil receive ample coverage about their daring speed runs and mishaps. Bob "Hurricane" Hannah and moto-cross stars get their recognition too. Author Scalzo even describes his motorcycle racer experience in his younger days and he relates his travels with racing participants. So Cal racing promoters J. C. Agajanian, Ascot's Harry Schooler, plus stadium racing pioneers Mike Goodwin and Mickey Thompson are profiled. Scalzo, a resident of nearby Sierra Madre, relates the fact that Thompson and his wife Trudy were murdered at their Bradbury, CA home in the San Gabriel Valley during 1988.
In a pre-production entry he updated the fact that Goodwin was in jail charged with the Thompson double murders. A couple of corrections are needed if the book goes into a second printing. Mark Dees, a So Cal lawyer and biographer of Harry Miller, died in 1994 in a head-on auto accident as noted. However, the site was on Highway 126 (the dangerous Fillmore-Santa Paula highway, not Highway 118 (the northern San Fernando Valley-Simi Valley highway). Dees served a term as a member of the CRA sprint car board of directors.
Page 121 makes reference to Italian actress Sophia Loren as Sophia Lauren. On page 122 F.1 driver Luigi Muss should be Musso. Performance houses in So Cal, such as Edelbrock, So Cal Speed Shop, Grant Piston Rings, Bell Auto Parts, Blair's Speed Shop and Iskenderian Racing Cams, plus Andy Granatelli's shop (STP and gas turbine engine of the 1970's) in Santa Monica are covered in the book. Other coverage and photos went to Eddie Meyer Engineering, A. J. Watson, Frank Kurtis and Louie Unser Racing Engines. Stories about Pasadena racing personalities Cal Bailey and versatile driver George Follmer and the "Gilmore (Stadium) Roars Again" annual parties conclude the interesting read. Some racing people consider Daytona Beach or Indianapolis the premier birthplaces of speed. In his latest effort, author Scalzo makes a strong case for inclusion of greater Los Angeles as a worthy challenger for that lofty honor.
The $40 book is available at major bookstore chains and Amazon.com. Tim Kennedy