Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Hot Rod History; Book Two – The Glory Years, is written by esteemed Hot Rod Cartoonist Tom Medley, from Tex Smith’s Hot Rod Library Publishing Company. This book is a soft-covered edition and measures a standard 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches in height. The book is 182 pages in length with one color photo, 34 program and magazine covers, 27 drawings and 432 black and white photos. The cover has a ‘how-to’ look to it, but it otherwise pleasing. The paper is non-glossy heavy bond acid free, which will last a lifetime. Tex Smith’s Hot Rod Library is famous for the quality of the hot rodding and mechanical books that they publish. They seek out well-known hot rod writers and photographers and commission them to produce a book or ‘how-to’ manual that is first class in quality. Tom Medley is a renowned writer, photographer and cartoonist for auto magazines and he has a natural and easy to read style. The format of the book is a question and answer style, so Medley is more of an editor in the compilation of Hot Rod History; Book Two – The Glory Years. Tex Smith’s Hot Rod Library has a large selection of books of interest to car enthusiasts.
Tex Smith writes the Foreword and introduces the story, explaining that this is book two in the series. The chapters are broken down into interviews with 7 exceptional hot rod legends. The first chapter is about Chuck Abbott, or ‘Red’ to his friends. Medley, who knows these men well, asks questions and the hot rodders answer. Abbott raced on the dry lakes prior to World War II. I met Abbott up at the land speed record trials at Black Rock in Northern Nevada in 1997 and he was surprised that anyone remembered him from the dry lakes era. Abbott’s stories and photos are crucial to understanding the hot rodding craze of the 1930’s and an active member of the Glendale Sidewinders. Likable and dedicated to his sport, Abbott is still active today in the Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club. Chapter Two is on Stan Betz, the nephew of Dick Kraft, and one of the best paint mixers around. Betz works in the sun and can match paint to an exactness that defies even the computers. He began going to the dry lakes just after World War II and was affiliated with the Lancers of Hollywood. Stan was also involved in oval track and drag racing. Chapter Three is on Don Francisco, the Technical Editor for many years at Hot Rod Magazine. Francisco was laconic until he started talking about his hot rodding past then his sense of humor came to the forefront. An accomplished pilot, Don would fly into events all over the country. In later years he would travel with his good friend, Jim Travis and the two of them would play hilarious pranks on each other. Francisco was honored by the Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club at the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame for his contributions to land speed racing. He was a partner with Bill Burke and their famous Bonneville Belly Tank car was driven by their good friend, Wally Parks.
Chapter Four is about Duffy Livingston who raced at the Dry Lakes just after his discharge from the Navy after World War II. Duffy was involved with road course racing in his car, which he called ‘Eliminator’ and which he always placed high in his class. Duffy built go-karts that captured world championships in go-kart racing. Chapter Five interviews Ak Miller who was famous for his Millerisms. These were stories that constantly changed over time with each retelling but which kept the listener spellbound. Miller and his older brothers were pioneers in the sport and he was a close friend with Wally Parks. Parks would return from the war to rebuild the SCTA as president, with Miller as his vice-president. Then Miller became president of the SCTA for two terms and followed Parks into the new NHRA (National Hot Rod Association). Miller was simply irrepressible. He raced the Pan-American Mexican Road Race, the Mil Miglia, Pike’s Peak, the Baja 1000, Bonneville and the Dry Lakes with Jack Lufkin and Leonard Carr as his partners. Ak knew everyone and forgot more stories and events than there were people and races. He was the heart and soul of hot rodding. Chapter Six is about Johnny Price, a good friend and employee of Harry Weber of Weber Cams and Flywheels. Johnny was a member of the Gopher’s Car Club and this legendary car club included Johnny Ryan, Nellie Taylor, the Weber Brothers, Harry and Bill, Bill Zaring and many others. They were known for their competition in racing and partying, much of it having passed into legend and myth. Price raced at the Dry Lakes in the 1930’s, flew P-38’s in WWII, raced at Bonneville, went to the Indy 500 with Mickey Thompson, drag raced in the early days and built the Volksrod.
Chapter Seven concerns Bob Rufi. Rufi and his partner Charlie Spurgin raced at the Dry Lakes in the 1930’s. Hammering out an aerodynamic aluminum body, Rufi created a streamlined car that went over 140mph pre-war and shocked the land speed racing community. Leading the championship points race in 1940, Rufi’s car crashed and he almost lost his life. He retired soon after that. A short career but a reputation for design and horsepower that would be remembered by land speed racers to this day. His record would last for 10 years, an amazingly long time, until Stu Hilborn broke it in 1950. Following the interviews there is a section on Wes Cooper’s collection of rare four-cylinder racing heads. Medley includes chapters on street rodding, dry lakes racing, a scrapbook of his photos, program covers, and hot rod art. The artists include Gus Maanum, Dick Teague and Bob Stender and their work is exceptional. Medley ends the book with short sections on car clubs and early drag racing tracks. The book is highly recommended to those who enjoy hot rodding and its history and heritage. Tex Smith’s Hot Rod Library is at P.O. Box 726, Driggs, Idaho 83422 or call 800-513-8133.
This book can be purchased online at www.hotrodlibrary.com. Pick one up today!!
From the Book