Getting Flighty!

October 1, 2012

As you know we’ve been snowed lately trying to organize tons of new shots that have come the Foundations way. That also means that some of our older stuff is yelling in the wings hey, how about me. This week in between the new old stuff we attacked some of old new stuff for you.

We presented I.P. Fetterman awhile back on the boards of Pennsylvania to show you what a Champ car looked like back in the day. As you know trying to identify big time racers at big time events is a lot easier that trying to figure out some of our lakes guys from programs but not always. Our first shot from a new batch of Chet Knox scans illustrates the point.

Louis Schneider is seen in his Bowes Seal Fast car (CKC_1614). We know Myron Stevens built the chassis and it was powered by a Miller straight-8. Our problem was trying to figure out where and when this shot was taken. Seems Louis ran the number 23 for two years in a row, 1930 and 1931 so that made our job easier. But then it was try and hone in on more specifics. Jack Fox’s The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 is our bible when it comes to old Champ cars even though it only covers the one race. For the most part it shows every finisher from day one until whatever revised copy of it you’re looking at. The pictures in it are pretty small and if you try to look at them with a magnifying glass good luck as all you see are black dots and not much detail. Since the car was pretty much the same both years it was a lot of looking back and forth to try and figure out any changes from one year to the next. Our big clue was so obvious that one has to bonk ones self on the head for not seeing it right off the bat. Our clue was the color of the frame rails. In ‘30 they were most likely white just like the body. In ‘31 they were dark so that means they were either red or black to match the Bowes graphics. Thanks again to Fox’s book for this info.

Since we have a year pegged it was time to look at the races he ran that year. When you look at the AAA politics of the day you were only allowed to run in a AAA sanctioned race or you would get a heavy fine. That led us to a possible seven races he could of run in 1931. If you look close at the shot you will see he’s on a dirt track so that’s our next clue. When you take the brickyard and four board track venues out of the equation that leaves only two tracks that this shot could of been taken at, Detroit in June and Syracuse in September. Not having shots of either track as a reference it becomes guess time. Thanks to our hi-res scans we can zoom in and check out the background for clues. Upon close examination we find that most of the folks in the grandstand are bundled up pretty good. We kinda doubt that you would have to dress that way in June in Detroit so our guess is this is Syracuse, New York on September 12. If so, Louis started the 100 mile race down in 14th. He managed to complete only eight of the hundred laps and pulled out due to dust. Because of his win that year at Indy in May and the gazillion points he made there Louis ended up as the AAA National Champion that year. It’s a lot of work to research every shot but that’s what were here for.

You would think our next shot of unknown driver George Randall would be a lot harder to figure out but it was actually easier (AJC_039). Starting with the number on the Model A door and the other pictures with it from the Al Jerauld Collection we pinned down the shot as taken sometime during the 1940 S.C.T.A. lakes season. After running through all that years programs that year our number match turned out to be George. We also discovered he was a member of the Hollywood Throttlers. A Riley 4-port supplied the oomph and we have him running 100.00 mph, 100.67 mph and 103.80 at the August 18th meet. Piece-O-Cake.

Our next shot is also from Al’s group of shots (AJC_027). One look at the car and we knew right off the bat who ran it, and it also helped us determine the 1940 date. Another clue we already knew is that the number 76 and the graphics on the back of the car, Chevrolet, were a bookmatch to his partner in this car’s other car, a Streamliner that ran number 77. This shot shows ol “Bailin Wire” Chuck Spurgin in his white T-shirt behind the strip shirted dude in this shot. Chuck ran the Chevy 4 powered car at four meets during the season with its best speed of 122.44 mph being recorded at the November 17th meet. His partner in this car was none other than Bob Rufi. He and Chuck had originally built the car as a two man and were going to drive it up to Oregon but that never happened. They then built a wooden tail and covered it with canvas and were the first to run in the new S.C.T.A. Streaminer class in early ‘39. The tail gave way to what you see in this shot. In ‘40 Bob in the Streamlined, also powered by a Chevy 4, was the first car to go 140 mph at the lakes, crash and become Season Champion. Chuck was a busy boy that year. In front of the car is an unknown Pacemakers member’s Deuce.

While we’re digging out old stuff lets look at a couple of Kay Kimes’s great shots. Clutchers member Jack Morgan’s beautiful ’34 Ford roadster is seen before a run at the likes in 1947 (KKC_056). His Class B ride was powered by a Ford flattie fitted with Eddie Meyer heads and a Barney Navarro intake manifold. At the first meet of the year on May 25 he turned 109.63 mph and way down the finishing list. Fast man in the class was Doug Hartelt at 126.05 mph. To the car’s right is Albata man Charles Pepper in his Class C Deuce powered by a Merc fitted with Offy heads and a Weiand intake. Chas ran 113.63 mph and was also down the list too against fast man Frank Coon at 125.52 mph.

We’re constantly amazed at lakes competitors and their longevity once their hooked ion the dirt. This shot shows one hooked puppy, Charley Reno, who was still running at Bonneville in 2012 (KKC_034). In 1951 the Class C Roadster class at Bonneville had 32 participants in it and one of those was the Stain Brothers & Charlie Reno entry. Made up of a ’29 body on Deuce rails and a 296″ ’40 Merc the boys from Long Beach put together a lap at 132.357 mph for an 18th place finish. Top dog in the class ran 162.162 mph and the slow-poke ran 113.924 mph.

Yea we also live in the modern world, kinda, if you can call Pomona on June 7, 1964 recent (AND_008). Bill Anderson lent us this great shot of the Stellings & Hampshire rail at Pomona. They are staging in about the same spot as they do now but as you can see the Pomona facility has undergone a few changes. They were winners of the 2nd & 3rd race against Frank Cannon. The car featured a Kent Fuller chassis and Tony Nancy stitching. Wish I had the ‘61 Poncho push car.

Talking about the modern world we took the next two shots this last Saturday, September 29, 2012 at Flabob Airport, Roubidoux, CA. None of the names or places have been changed just like Jack Webb would of said although they do sound a little cartoony. First up we see a Curtiss Airplane Company JN-4H that was called the “Jenny” (JMC_3840). There are only about 50 of the original 6,813 Jenny’s surviving today and this one of a handful of faithful reproduction. Originally the Jens were powered by Curtiss built OX5 engines, then the famous Liberty engine and still later a 150 hp Hispano-Suiza V8. This is the Hisso version because it has a larger rounded bottomed radiator. You’re probably asking yourself what does this rat-trap have to do with racecars, well let me tell you.

Lets start with the original motor, the OX5. This was a pretty hot motor for the day and had a few unique features that the race boys glommed on to. Seems the connecting rods were about 3/4” longer than what was used in old Chevy 4-bangers. They were also tubular and strong as hades. The race boys used these rods with new alloy pistons with pin’s close to the top that changed rod angles, reduced piston slap and gave more torque. They were also a lot lighter. Ever heard of a half-a-Hisso. They use to take the V8’s and make them into fours and kick butt in the roundy round world. Rex Mays made Paul Fromm’s car famous before it was banned. Last up is this shot will for all time I hope help me debunk the false statement that Bob Rufi’s Streamlined ran Jenny wheel covers. Jenny covers were made of canvas and had a big hole in them so you could check tire air pressure. Rufi ran washing machine lids. Period.

A little pre-history on our next shot (JMC_3839). Roscoe Turner won his first Thompson Trophy Air Race in 1934. In mid 1936 Roscoe contacted the Lawrence Brown Aircraft Company to build him a new toy. Turner and engineer Howard Barlow put together a sleek job that needed a little finessing to work. Turner turned to Matty Laird to solve the problems and they called the finished aircraft the LTR-14 or Laird-Turner Meteor. The fix was larger wings and flaps and it flew like a champ. In the Thompson Trophy race at the National Air Races in ’37 Turner finished third in the revised aircraft and went on to win the ’39 and ’39 contests to become the only three time winner of the event. In the ’39 race the craft was sponsored by Champion Spark Plugs and was called Miss Champion. It was powered by a Pratt & Whitney 1,000 hp Twin Wasp. Our photo shows Tom Wathen’s fantastic 2003 reproduction of the original that resides in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. This one resides at Flabob. In the ‘30 there were three heros of the air, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and our man Roscoe. If you’re really into this stuff check out Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in Test Pilot, Bill Campbell in Rocketeer and Air Racer, Chasing the Dream. If you’re really serious take a trip up to Reno and take in the real thing.

Jim’s Hot Rodding News

You can contact Jim Miller at (818) 846-5139.