Portfolio 1; Boys and their Toys by the American Hot Rod Foundation

Portfolio 1; Boys and their Toys by the American Hot Rod Foundation
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Review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Steve Memishian and Jim Miller have put together a fun little packet of interesting photo cards called Portfolio 1; Boys and their Toys. There are 16 cards in the set, and while this isn’t a book in any sense, it still provides photographs and text that tells a story of land speed racing at the Dry Lakes and Bonneville. Each of the photo cards measure 8 ½ by 8 ½ inches on high quality heavy stock board. The artwork, graphics and photographs are of the highest quality and suitable for framing and hanging on the wall. The photo cards come in a stock board container that has a nice look to it and a photograph in color that is well done and is of coffee table appeal. The price is a reasonable $14.95 and you can get a packet of the cards at Autobooks/Aerobooks, in Burbank, California, or check out www.ahrf.com for more information. We are all used to books, some which are cheaper paperback quality and some that are hardbound and of a high quality. Having published the material in a card format is unusual, but it opens up the possibility to do things artistically that one cannot do with a book. For example, the packet of cards can be used as a game with children and grandchildren. Or the cards can be mounted in a frame and hung on the wall. They can be displayed all by themselves, perched on a table or leaning against a wall. It’s easy to take the cards with you in their convenient packet carrying case, show the cards at reunions and car shows and then bring them home. You can also give them out as gifts, one at time, without having to incur a great expense of giving the entire packet away. The list of ways in which these cards can be used is numerous and fun. The cards are reasonably priced so that if we should lose a few, they can easily be replaced. They are almost like trading cards which we all had as youth. I hope Memishian and Miller do come up with this idea. How cool would it be to have a deck of 100 land speed racing cars to trade? “I’ll give you a Spurgin/Giovanine roadster card for your Summers Brother’s streamliner card,” what a hoot that would be. Or, the American Hot Rod Foundation could create a list of trading cards with famous old racers, like Don Francisco, Karl and Veda Orr, Wally Parks, Burke LeSage, Bill Burke, Eldon Snapp, Art Tilton, Ed Adams, George Callaway, Thatcher Darwin, Ak Miller and dozens of other colorful characters. 

Well, I better not get too carried away, but you can see that Memishian and Miller have found a nice way of presenting the history of land speed racing to the general public. I’ve never met Steve Memishian, and he doesn’t talk much about himself. He’s the founder and heart behind the American Hot Rod Foundation, see www.ahrf.com, and a huge supporter of hot rodding in general. How he made his fortune and why he decided to put so much of it into this labor of love is not known. Memishian and the American Hot Rod Foundation are located in New York City, New York. We know a little bit more about Jim Miller, but not that much more. Jim’s grandfather raced Duesenberg cars at the dry lakes and was a mechanic. Jim’s father was Eddie Miller, a founding member of the Centuries car club and the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). Jim is a long-time member of the SCTA, a celebrated land speed historian, SCTA official, club representative and talented man. Jim was inducted into the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame for his efforts to preserve the history and heritage of land speed racing and hot rodding. He is also the president of The Society of Land Speed Racing Historians and a member of the 200 MPH Club. He is very talented as an artist, photographer and researcher. His knowledge of land speed racing is vast and his love of the sport is unquestioned. He is always surprising us with the discoveries that he uncovers in the field of land speed history and research. Now it’s important to know who the authors are when you review or buy a book, and Portfolio 1; Boys and their Toys has a set of illustrious and competent authors indeed.

#1 is an introductory card with biographical information on Miller, but very little on Steve Memishian and I would like to know more about this founder of the American Hot Rod Foundation. The reverse side lists sources of photographs and materials. Some of these men are; Dan Warner, Don Cox, Julian Doty, Leslie Long, Jack Underwood, Bob Morton, Mario Baffico, Joe Henning, Robert Wenz, Tony Baron, Don Ferrara, Rex Burnett, Tom Davis, Chet Herbert and the Tromphers car club, among others. These are substantial sources in land speed racing and other automotive forms of racing. Cox has been involved in a project with Robert Genat, another outstanding writer. Bob Morton towers over the field, both figuratively and with a sharp memory of the events that shaped our sport. Joe Henning is a master artist and has seen it all. I owe Henning a great deal and an apology for publishing an obituary, for which he teases me constantly. Chet Herbert on the other hand, did pass away recently and left us all a little poorer. Card #2 shows Tommy Davis’ back yard replete with beautiful roadsters and on the other side a photograph of Fred Lobello’s Ladybug Lakester. The Ronald Sommer/Lohry Class C Comp Coupe is on card #3 with the Ralph Schenck streamliner on the reverse side. Ralph used a Chevy power plant instead of the normal Ford flathead. The Howard’s Cam streamliner is shown on card #4 in 1954 at Bonneville. On the opposite side is a photograph of Fred “Tiger” Baymiller, a member of the Bungholers car club. He nicknamed the car “The Okie Special” as a jibe against the worn out junkers often seen at the dry lakes. The Bungholers themselves represented a club that fought against convention and led a short but exciting existence in the SCTA. Bill Burke and his belly tank grace card #5. Burke was an innovator who adapted discarded fighter fuel wing tanks and turned them into aerodynamic bodies for dry lakes racing. They are still raced today. On the reverse side is the Pierson Brothers 2-D Coupe, one of land speed racing’s more well-recognized cars.

A great photograph is the crew resting in the pits at El Mirage next to the Alger & Starr Class B Modified Roadster. On the reverse side of card #6 is a young Phil Weiand in a Rajo “B” powered T at Muroc Dry Lake in 1933. Muroc was the best dry lake to race on, but in 1942 the Army Air Corp took over all the area and land speed racing moved to El Mirage and other dry lake beds after the war. One of the prettiest land speed cars was the Shadoff Special, which received the Hot Rod Magazine Trophy for the fastest time at Bonneville in 1954. On the opposite side of card #7 is Norm Taylor and Jot Horne’s Modified Roadster. Taylor and Horne had raced a Duesenberg engine in the car, but had poor success and sold the motor to Ron Henderson. Taylor and Horne switched to a Ranger L-440 air-cooled aircraft engine and ran a 142.57mph at Bonneville in 1952. The next card shows Jim Lindsley’s roadster with unique wheel covers and styling. On the reverse of card #8 is Chauncy Crist’s rear-engined roadster, which was originally Eddie “Bud” Meyer’s rear-engined roadster.  Vesco/Dinkins Class B Lakester is on card #9. The Vesco family is still involved in land speed racing. On the opposite side is Gus Rollins’ 1937 Ford V-8, which is shown at Harper Dry Lake in 1942. Because of the large number of land speed racers prior to the war, the surface at Muroc would often become eroded and the need to find other lakes to race on became an imperative. My father would often take my brother and me out to look for dry lakes to race on. As a child I thought he must love deserts very much, but later in life I came to realize that like so many other land speed racers, he was always looking for a good place to race.

Bud Hinds, Tommy Lamon, Tommy Davis of the Bungholers are relaxing against their roadster on card #10. On the reverse is the famous Kenz & Leslie streamliner at Bonneville in 1955. The car was also called the Bob Jones Skyland Ford Special. The Bob Rufi streamliner is shown in card #11. After the car crashed in 1940, Rufi sold the car and it ended up in the hands of six owners. Unfortunately, it ended up in the dumpster and is sorely missed today. On the opposite side is Marvin Lee’s streamliner, which was on the cover of the 1949 Bonneville Speedweek program. Eddie Miller’s lakester graces card #12. It looks like an Indy 500 roadster with a pinstriped M above the grill. It ran a 156.58 mph at Bonneville in 1952. On the reverse is the beautiful Cortopassi Brothers/Davis/Garrett Glass Slipper at Bonneville in 1955. The Glass Slipper is on display at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. The Emil Dietrich/Bill Thomas car is on card #13, with Eddie Hulse as the driver. The car is listed as a streamliner, but looks more like a sprint car of the era. On the reverse side is the Krays Auto Parts Special, which ran at Bonneville in 1957. Card #14 shows the Chet Herbert “Beast” which went 232.350 Mph at Bonneville in 1952. On the other side is the Neumayer/Reed Brothers belly tank. Leroy Neumayer excelled at all forms of auto racing and would drive down from his retirement ranch in Wyoming to see what the new kids were doing each year at Bonneville.  The Centuries car club is mentioned on card #15. In the photo is Jim Travis’ Model A, driven by Charlie Beck. On the reverse is Buck Davis in a roadster at Bonneville in 1951. The last card, number 16, shows Frank English and his roadster. On the opposite is a photo of quarter midget racers, who were active in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. The cards make a great gift, individually or as a group and I certainly hope that Miller and Memishian decide to bring out more portfolios in the future to go with their calendars, which are sought after.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]

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This set of cards can be ordered from Autobooks/Aerobooks.

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