This Week We’re The New Discovery Channel!

April 16, 2012

If we could get away with it we would probably rename ourselves the discovery Channel because with every new picture we discover some little detail that we’ve never seen before on a car that we thought we knew. Take for example Karl Orr’s Modified that he won the S.C.T.A. Championship with back in the dark ages. We’ve got a couple dozen shots of the car originally built by Bill Warth and it hit us that our first shot for this week shows us something we had never seen before. At first glance DOT_594 was just another shot of the number one car but a closer look revealed an interesting treatment not seen before, The wraparound body work surrounding the rear end. It’s so unique that it makes us wonder why we’ve never seen it before. We’ve dated this shot as being taken at the August 18, 1946 S.C.T.A. meet at El Mirage. He was running as an Albata member at this meet and turned 124.48 mph for second quickest in his class behind Doug Caruthers at 127.29 mph. We’ll have to revisit the other shots we have of the car to see if this was a one time experiment. As an interesting side note I just got off the phone with 92 year old Johnny Johnson who was partners with Doug on his car. Small world. Not ones to be distracted by a new find, take a gander at the ‘37 Ford Roadster or possibly Cabriolet to the left of Orr’s ride. Note the running boards are history and the side hood panels lack vents. For those with really sharp eyes will note the front of the hood is maybe an inch lower than stock and I bet the car has a different grill shell to boot. Looks like additional pictures will again help us out on this one too.

With the above shot we went a little overboard (no pun intended) when we spied what looks like Labor Day Speedboat Races at Long Beach Marine Stadium. That gives us a perfect lead-in to our next image courtesy of David Erazo (DEZ_032). This cool illustration was on the cover of Volume 2, Number 42, or the October 10, 1952 issue of Motor Sports World, a weekly newspaper of the day. Inside was a story on the demise of land speed racing hero John Cobb. After setting the World Land Speed Record at Bonneville at 394.196 mph in 1947 he turned his attention to becoming the fastest man in the world on water and break the existing record of 178.4 mph held by American Stanley Sayres in Slo-Mo-Shun IV. Cobb had taken his radically designed Jet powered boat called Crusader to Loch Ness, the home of the imaginary monster of the deep, in Scotland to have a go. After hitting 206.8 mph on his first run, the boat leaped into the air several times and then disintegrated on his backup run taking the pilot with it. It’s designer was Reid Ralton who also designed Cobb’s streamliner. If you look close you’ll discover this craft was powered by a De Havilland Ghost Jet Engine and the hull was made of Birch Plywood covered with doped fabric. No wonder it broke apart at those speeds.

The newspaper is interesting too because it was published by one Robert Barsky. If the name sounds familiar that’s because he was President of Hollywood Associates, Inc. The group that was behind the First Hot Rod Expo at the Los Angeles Armory back in 1948. At that time a young Robert E. Petersen was Hollywood Associates Secretary and in charge of Sales and the show’s program. Is it a coincidence that the first issue of Hot Rod Magazine was also sold at the show?

Our next shot (DOT_575) shows the Larsen-Cummins Class A Modified Roadster at Bonneville sans hood in 1963 sporting it’s Ed Roth flame job. After studying the shot we’ve come to the conclusion that the cars in it are about to be measured and certified after completing their return record runs. Fred Larsen was chasing his year old 228.353 mph record and drove the 445″ Supercharged Chrysler ride to a first in class at 237.62 mph. After the measure he had a new record at 240.642 mph. Behind is the Markley Brothers Class D tank minus supercharger that ran 280.15 mph for a first in class and 2-wayed for a new record at 258.439 mph. Behind him is Norm Thatcher’s Class A Production Plymouth. He bumped his old record of 168.264 mph to 177.859 mph.

Next up is Robert Sutton from Roseville, CA who has a good reason to be happy. His MGA had just grabbed a first in Class G Sports Racing with a speed of 143.76 mph. A little later he got some frosting to go with it when he two-wayed for a record at 137.261 mph. A little back story to the car says it’s pure hot rod. The MG was fitted with a little 122″ Ferrari engine that almost didn’t happen. When Robert got the motor the crank bearings were fried so he trotted down to the local Ferrari store to get a set of new bearings. A surprise lay in store in that no two stock crank journals were the same size and that they only had one pair for hole number two and that the Vandervell thin-wall’s would set them back something like $64 bucks each. The other good news was they would have to wait about six months to get the others shipped in from Italy and it required cash up front. Naturally they said the heck with that, grabbed some beer. A look through their bearing book revealed a little line bore, a crank grind and some Volvo bearings would have them back in business in no time and under $150. Isn’t research wonderful with the help of a 12 oz. can.

Next up we see Joie Chitwood behind the wheel of Fred Peters Noc-Out Hose Clamp Special in Gasoline Alley at the 1946 Indy 500 mile race (CKC_799). The Curley Wetteroth built car was pure art and powered by a 270″ Offy 4-Banger. It was painted red and light blue and featured a chromed chassis. Joey started the race in 12th spot after qualifying at a speed of 119.816 mph and came home in fifth place. For a little added fun how many of you know that he was also called “Chief Wahoo” and touted as a full blooded Cherokee Indian by some slick press agent. After Joie quit racing (right) he became the King of the Thrill Show Drivers and his team of cars appeared all over the U.S. for years. He even held a record for driving farther than anybody on the planet in his Chevy balancing on just two wheels. Our next image (DOT_595) shows a rare un-used Wynn’s Friction Proofing decal of Joie flying his ‘58. Wow!

Since were in the putting random pieces together mode check out this surviving Mojave Timing Association Certificate declaring one Arnold Birner as a first place winner in Class A Streamliner at Rosamond Dry Lake on May 15, 1949 that we received last year (DOT_596). I don’t know what’s best to do, jump up or down, yell news flash or get some movie search lights waving in the sky but we just received Arnold’s Mojave Timing Tag from the very same event as his certificate. It’s the first time these two pieces of history have ever been seen together (DOT_597).

Talk about strange stuff happening, this Saturday I went down to Leslie Long’s annual gathering of Santa Ana Drag Racers and ran into 94-year-old John Ryan. Needless to say we had a nice little chat. When I got home and was paging through the Motor Sports World Newspaper for some Cobb boat info what do I find on page six but a Taylor and Ryan Racing Engines advertisement. Scary.

Jim’s Hot Rodding News

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