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George Rubio
As told by his friends and family
Mar 19, ‘08

Story by Richard Parks and Photographs by Roger Rohrdanz

richardparks roger

Richard   &   Roger

  George Stanley Rubio descended from an old California family. His grandfather, Alturas Rubio, owned an orange grove along the foothills of the mountains near Upland, California. George's father, George Arthur Rubio was born and raised on the orange grove ranch. His mother was Lila Awerkamp. George was born on January 8, 1928 in Los Angeles, California, where he grew up. A younger brother, Robert Rubio was his only sibling. George grew up in Los Angeles and went to Rosemont Elementary School and then graduated to Virgil Junior High, where he took wood and metal shop classes. While he was at Virgil, he became a member of the athletic club and was a timer and timekeeper. He got into racing because of his love of electronics and his participation at track meets. 
  He attended Belmont High School in Los Angeles and signed up for the shop classes that were available. In the 1930's through the early 1960's, shop classes for the boys were plentiful and the schools encouraged young men to learn a trade. Young girls were taught home economics and crafts. Very few students went on to higher education in academic subjects. His friends in high school were Bill Polton, Dave ‘Monk’ Thorman, Tom Sparks and Art Rodriguez. He began racing while attending Belmont. His parent’s house in Los Angeles had garages in the back yard and they allowed George to keep his cars there. George let his high school friends work on their cars and store them there and the name of their car club was the 49'ers. He would drive his car to and from school during the week and on the weekends he would change engines and go racing. Tom Sparks was several years older than George, but his wife Laura was a classmate with Rubio while at Belmont. Tom and George were members of the Autocrats car club, which belonged to the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).
  George met another young man in 1947 by the name of John Chambard and had a great influence on John’s life. John remembers that George had a nice looking ’29 Model-A with a stock Ford engine, which he used as his regular transportation. “We raced on the dry lakes for the fun of it,” said John. George met Esther Felix who went to Belmont High School and introduced her to John, who went to Marshall High School. Esther and John were later married in 1952 and George was the best man at the wedding. While attending Los Angeles City College, Rubio encouraged John to change his major to electrical engineering.  John earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering and went to work for Dupont.  John was in the Bungholers car club and in late 1946 the club decided to form their own Timing Association, which they called the Mojave Timing Association. The by-laws called for five clubs and one hundred members and there were only four clubs at the time, including the Bungholers, Lobers, Rumblers and Four Barrels. “We wanted to keep it small and just have fun with it,” said John. The new group needed a fifth club and John and George joined with others to form the Road Dusters for the 1948 season.  George and John built an improved timing system for the MTA that worked very well. The new association flourished for a few years until the original members lost interest or rejoined the larger timing associations. John was drafted into the Army in 1955 and after his discharge in 1957; he went back to work for Dupont. The Mojave Timing Association disbanded and the members went on to other types of racing.
  Bob Morton and George formed a team and went racing. George was in the Road Dusters Car club at the time and Morton was recovering from a serious accident at the dry lakes resulting from a wheel failure at an MTA meet at Rosamond Dry Lake. Rubio had a '29 Ford Model -A on a '32 Ford frame, using a Flathead engine for the powerplant. Morton and Rubio both drove this car.  They joined the Road Runners Car club for the 1949 SCTA racing season.  They also raced in the Mojave Timing Association. "Our speeds at the SCTA meets were in the 145 mph range and we did a best of 144.16 at the MTA dry lakes meets. Then we took the car to Bonneville for the first Speed Week ever held at the Salt Flats and made 23 runs in 5 days. We took 3rd place in the C Roadster class at 135 mph. We just couldn't compensate for the altitude and nobody had learned very much about Vic Edelbrock's secret of mixing in a bit of nitromethane for more power," added Morton.
  Third place at Bonneville and 145 mph at the dry lakes put the partners at the top of the land speed racing fraternity in those days. That was fast and the car was consistent, but George decided to sell the car at the end of the season and they built a car designed only for Southern California dry lakes racing. It was a '29 body on '32 rails, similar to the previous car but pretty rough looking. At the first MTA meet they were testing the car and running impressively in the 140's, sorting the car out and seeing what improvements needed to be made. At the next SCTA dry lakes meet the competition became fierce with Bill Likes running the Pierson Brothers engine, Pat O'Brien and others all running nearly identical 144-145's. Bob and George had made run after run and they were tired and the car seemed stuck in the mid 140's like all the other drivers in the roadster class. Bob Robinson asked if he could make the last run in the roadster and see if he could do any better. "I think about that decision all the time," said Morton. Robinson was no rookie. He worked for Senter and Andrews at Ansen Automotive and he had driven short track roadsters, midgets and other dry lakes cars and he knew what he was doing, but this was his first ride in the almost new Rubio/Morton car. "It was dusty and the wind was blowing and visibility wasn't all that good out there," said Morton. The announcer read the results from the timer and said, "the Rubio/Morton car has just set a new stock bodied roadster record and is the first car to go over 150 mph at a speed of 151mph." 
  But there was silence on the other end and no one could see the car turn out due to the visibility and the distance. Much of what happened was speculation. It appears that Robinson didn't see the cones and the markers at the end of the timing traps and kept on going on the short dry lake until he hit a sand dune that propelled his car into the air. Sand dunes at the far end of the dry lake form around sagebrush and can be particularly dangerous at high speeds. "The car was breaking loose, the conditions were windy and dusty and Otto Crocker told me that he thought that Robinson may not have seen the markers and felt he was still on the course and didn't shut off his engine," said Bob. "Robinson hit one of the sagebrush mounds and the car went 184 feet in the air before it plummeted nose first into the dirt, broke the seat belt, crumpled into a ball of metal and rolled for about a quarter of a mile before it came to a stop. I got to the end of the track just as Jack Purdy was draping a sheet over Robinson's body. You can see pictures of the car on www.ahrf.com under Bob Morton. That took the wind out of our sails and Rubio and I decided not to build another car for the dry lakes," he added.
  However, Ak Miller lent his dry lakes car to the partners for a couple of meets. It was a '27 Ford T Roadster with a belly tank nose and belly pans for aerodynamic efficiency. The car was built by Kenny Parks, the younger brother of Wally Parks, past president of the SCTA and founder of the NHRA. Ak was a legend in land speed racing and excelled at road rallies and Pikes Peak, but he didn't have much success with this car, although it ran consistently in the 140's at the dry lakes. They raced the car at the SCTA/AMA challenge at the Blimp Base in Tustin, California in 1950. The AMA had challenged the SCTA to a car versus bike drag racing speed contest and the turnout was huge. Morton recalls that the cars beat the bikes consistently that day and the Miller car ran exceptionally well, "beating all comers," he said. "We were turning 10.8 seconds at 115mph in the mile with dry lakes gearing and no quick change rear-end. Drag racing was a new thing to us. George did very well drag racing and drove the car that day," Bob said. Morton borrowed a '32 chopped highboy 3-window coup and raced it at the new Santa Ana Drag Strip that was just opened up by CJ Hart in July of 1950. He went 118 mph in the mile, which was a very good time then. George and Bob returned to Bonneville in August of 1950. Ak Miller borrowed Don Baker's car for them, a rear-engine '27 T roadster. They were sponsored by Ansen Automotive and used Howard Johansen's fuel injection system along with the four carburetors setup. Rubio and Morton shared the driving duties and their best time was 143 mph across the Salt Flats.
  George was too young to serve in World War II, during the fighting, but he joined the Marine Corp during his senior year at Belmont High School. He was allowed to graduate from high school before being inducted. Rubio served in the military from 1946 until he was discharged in 1948. He was stationed in San Diego, California and also served in Hawaii. Rubio had wanted to be a pilot, like so many other hot rodders of the time. Fast cars and faster planes were their fascination. Unfortunately, he had trouble with his hearing and was assigned to electronics. He then attended Los Angeles City College (Kim said California State College at Los Angeles) on the GI Bill after he left the service. George received his two-year AA degree in electronic communications in 1950. Around this time his brother Robert entered the Navy. He worked as a TV and radio repairman for various places, including Doorns in the late 1940's. George also taught radio and TV repairing classes at Baldwin Park High School, Sawyer College in Pomona, California and night school at Citrus College. He was an accomplished ham radio operator and volunteered for the emergency services office of the Sheriff's Department. George met Bertha 'Tommie' Widener, from Abingdon, Virginia and they were married on September 2, 1953. They had three children, Kim Rubio who was born on January 3, 1956, George Michael Rubio on November 7, 1957 and Staci Rubio who came along unexpectedly on October 26, 1969. Tommie didn't go to a lot of races with George, especially after their family began to grow, but she remembers that he went to the dry lakes, Bonneville Salt Flats and a race track over in Phoenix, Arizona. 
  George was employed by Baldwin Park Electronic Supply from 1957 to 1977, and then went to work for U-TEL, which made components for the phone company. He transferred to another phone components making company called CTC and stayed with them until 1985. After retiring from CTC, he got his Real Estate license and sold property. He continued to teach at Sawyer College. Kim Rubio Brekken remembered the following about her father. “I do remember talking to dad about the crash on the dry lake bed. He said he often wondered if the guy just wanted to commit suicide, he said they just didn't know. It really did put a damper on his racing after that. Dad stayed interested in racing of one form or another for the rest of his life. I remember being outside on Memorial Day and listening to the radio with him about the Indy 500 while he weeded. The first time it was televised, I know he watched it but it just wasn't the same he said. Too many commercials I guess. My dad was a horse trader by nature and loved a good deal. One time he had a 1940's Willy's Jeep towed into the driveway. He worked on it for over a year patching it with melted coat hangers and such. My mom had decided that dad was starting a junk yard at the time. He gold metal flaked it, and eventually my brother and he drove it around town for fun. He was always trying to invent things. One of the things he did work on was the helmet communication system between the driver of the car and the pit crew. He said the biggest problem was all the water in the human head, but he continued to tinker with it.” Rubio passed away in 2007 at the age of 79.

Click on Image for Larger Pictures

Mortin-Rubio 11

George Rubio and Bob Morton entered this '29 on '32 rails at the first Bonneville in 1949. Entered as the Ansen Engineering Special, the car qualified at 134.93 mph. The class record at the end of Speedweek was set at 129.69 mph, so George and Bob's car was fast but not reliable enough to put together a two way run. AHRF/Bob Morton Collection.

Morton-Rubio #621

Bob Morton cuts up behind the wheel as George Rubio mugs for the camera in his '29 at El Mirage. AHRF/Bob Morton Collection.

Rubio 21

George Rubio is seen behind the wheel of his daily driver in '49. It would soon become a racer too. AHRF/Bob Morton Collection.

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