A Visit with JD Tone
Biography by JD Tone and Editing By Richard Parks photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

richardparks roger

Richard & Roger

My father, James Irving Tone was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 14, 1913 and my mother, Lorraine Olson, was born in Lindstrom Minnesota, on April 29, 1916. They met in Glendale, California in 1937. Dad was in charge of the auto repair shop of Western Auto, a popular auto parts store that was like our modern Pep Boys today. Western Auto was a hangout for the kids and car guys in those days. Dad was one of the "old" guys back then, at the ripe old age of 24. Julian Doty, Bruce Johnston and Kong Jackson have all told me they remember him there. My father had a Black 1929 Ford Roadster with a Chrysler grille and a Cragar overhead Model B for power. 

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J.D’s father had a Black 1929 Ford Roadster with a Chrysler grille and a Cragar overhead Model B for power. It had twin pipes down the right side exiting over the rear tire. (circa 1938 at Muroc dry lake)

It had twin pipes down the right side exiting over the rear tire. I still have photos that my mom took at Muroc in 1938. I have never found out if he ran it for speed on the dry lake at Muroc. He had many friends who were car club members and I have pictures of a few Sidewinders from that time. My parents conned Bob Wian of Bob's Big Boy fame out of a free wedding dinner and I've heard that was almost impossible. They knew Bob because of the Big Boy restaurant and I think there was only one at the time and it was a hangout for the Glendale hot rodders. My dad had fiery red hair and Wian told my mother that if she could tame and marry him he would give them both a free dinner. They collected the bet on January 20, 1938. Their first date was at the midget races in Southgate, California. My mom worked at the Thrifty Drugstore as a waitress when they met, and I believe she stayed there part time after they were married. 

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J.I. Tone’s 1938 Ryan SCW at Hawthorne Airport in 1960. In front of J.I.Tone's first machine shop & sign.

I was born on June 12, 1944 in Glendale and we moved to Inglewood, California right after. My full name was James Dean Tone. Dad was working in a machine shop in North Hollywood during World War II and right after the war he went to work in El Segundo at the Northrop Aviation plant on the swing shift.  In 1949 he opened his own machine shop, which he called J.I Tone Company. He was a wind tunnel model maker mostly for Northrop and North American Aviation, bidding on contracts for the building of wings and tails. I know he was highly respected in his craft which was self taught. No one ever worked for him. He was a one man operation and

normally worked 12 to 15 hours a day. His first machine shop was located in a section of airplane hangers he constructed on Hawthorne Airport, and it was there that I spent much of my youth. My dad had learned to fly in 1948 and we soon owned airplanes. He had many Piper Cubs and at the time of his death we had a 1938 Ryan SCW. There were only 11 of those planes made. Later he built a new shop in North Inglewood near Ed Iskenderian's shop.  My older brother, Thomas and I, went through the parochial grade and high schools at the insistence of my mother. The grade school was Chapel of Peace Lutheran Day School and from there we advanced to Lutheran High School of Los Angeles. I didn't take any shop classes but I had one of my own every Saturday and all summer at my father's shop. I was pretty good at math and the sciences and as a kid built many model car and planes. In grade school my best friend was a guy named Gene Hayden but we lost touch soon after that. I spent a lot of time at Centinela Park playing baseball in the summers and going swimming in the public pool located there. 

  As with a lot of kids of that era, cars interested me a lot. I started going to Lyons Drag Strip in 1961 with my '49 Chevrolet pickup. My first love was the sounds of a "6" cylinder engine with dual exhaust. I always seemed to have a job through high school. The first place that I worked at was "The Boys," on Crenshaw Blvd and the longest job that I held was at the "Big Donut" at Manchester and the 405 Freeway, which everyone now knows it as Randy's. None of my friends worked at any of these places that we now call fast food places, but they were just food restaurants back then. While I was attending El Camino JC, I started working for Sears & Roebuck, in Inglewood, California in the Auto section, first pumping gas, then changing tires, and finally working in the battery and electrical department. In November, 1963 my father was involved in a one-vehicle accident and lost his life at the age of 50, as he was going to work on his 1939 Indian motorcycle. He had crossed over a poorly repaired trench across Redondo Beach Blvd in Gardena. The gas pipe for the city of Torrance had been replaced but not finished properly. His accident happened on the same morning that President Kennedy was shot, so it took a while for my mother to be notified. My mom was working at the time and after the accident, she continued to work. I kept the Indian and finally restored it in 1999. I changed majors in college to industrial arts and quickly went to work for Standard Oil of California in Baldwin Hills. My first job was in oil well servicing and then I became an electrical apprentice. I have one older brother, Thomas Neal Tone, who was born on March 4, 1943. He is a CPA in North Hollywood and has owned his own business for many years. My mother is still alive at the age of 92, living in Hemet and is still single.  

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The last time J.D. Tone’s 311 cu in GMC powered ’40 Chevy set a record at Bonneville of 137.271mph in 1989. This picture shows JD driving with Starter Bill Taylor at the door, in 1989.

In 1967 I went to work for the Southern California Edison and became a maintenance electrician working in all of their steam power plants along the Pacific coast. In the early 1970's I met and worked with the Young Brothers, Keith and Chandler, and was introduced to land speed racing (LSR). Like everyone of the late '50's, I had read about it in Hot Rod Magazine, but never thought I would be doing it. I went to El Mirage in September of 1973 with the Young's and their roadster and got hooked and I've never been the same since. With Keith's help I purchased a 1940 Chevrolet and converted it to a lakes car from a drag car and went to Bonneville in 1975. I still have that car even

though it no longer holds any records. I sometimes drag race at the Antique Nationals. In 1981 I purchased the Barrious-Minall Austin American Gas Roadster and that car changed my life. All the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) rules became "gray." The rules were written for Fords and having a non-Ford I started by placing the wheels and tires in the stock location for an Austin. This was not smiled upon by the officials, so they changed the rule, and it somehow made me look at the SCTA in a different light. I have rebuilt the roadster 3 times because of rule changes made by the SCTA. Since that time I have served on two SCTA Boards, one as secretary, and spent more hours than I can remember inspecting and certifying engines with my good friend Dan Warner.  The SCTA awarded me their "Sportsmanship" award, named after Pete Dean, a few years back and I will cherish it forever. The Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club, located in Buellton, California voted me into their Dry Lakes Hall of Fame and that was one of the highlights of my racing life. This year I was voted into the Inliners International Hall of Fame; an organization dedicated to the inline engine. It was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. 

  My best friend in racing is Jack Underwood, another Dry Lakes Hall of Fame honoree and SCTA recipient of the Pete Dean Sportsmanship Award. Without Jack and his friendship, I would never have rebuilt my roadster so many times. Jack kept me going and still does. About 8 years ago Mike Cook came to me at a dry lakes meet and asked me if I would take over the job of making the SCTA and Bonneville Timing Tags. I could never have guessed what that job would lead to. I cherish the timing tags that I have earned over the years and it has since become a passion for me. Combining that job with the Record Certifications duty has become nearly a year-around job. With the help of the Timers, now Glen Barrett and Frank Scott, it is a daunting task especially after the Bonneville Speed Week in August and the World Finals in October of each year. With Jack Underwood's help, I have become one of the many historians active in the SCTA. I have spent many hours researching information about people and old cars for those asking for such help. The SCTA does not allow remakes of the timing tags but copies of the results and timed runs are very important especially if you are researching information on your granddad, dad, relatives or friends. I retired from SCE in 1996 at the ripe old age of 52, but it only lasted 3 years. I'm again working in the same Huntington Beach Power Plant where I took my apprenticeship so many years ago; I continue to work as an electrician for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  

 I couldn't have done all this without my wife Jean of 42 years. Her full name is Melba Jean Allen and she is from Torrance, California. She has tolerated my out of town working and LSR all these years. Our son, Patrick James Tone, was born on May 14, 1968 and shares the same birthday as his grandfather. Patrick has become my partner in crime, as the statement goes. He has helped me for years and without his "dream" of going 200 miles per hour (mph), neither of us would have a "Red Hat." You earn a Red Hat by averaging over 200 mph on an existing record or a 200 club minimum and then you can enter the Bonneville 200 MPH club. I was able to convince Joe Fontana to put his 12 Port GMC in our roadster and after 4 years of hard work Patrick was able to average 202 mph during a record setting two-way trial run in 2002, breaking the previous record and earning his "red hat." That was the first GMC Highboy to go over 200 mph. The next year I was able to average 210 mph and break his record. It was nice of my son to have the dream. I'm now helping him with his dirt track Camaro whenever he asks; a small price to pay. We also have a daughter, Danielle Carol Guirado, living in Navarre, Florida with her husband Albert, and we have been blessed with 4 grandchildren. Patrick is married to Nancy and has two boys. They live in Huntington Beach, California, with their son Nick. 

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Son Patrick being buckled into the family American Austin Bantam Roadster by Jack Underwood. (circa 1998)

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In 2003, J.D. Tone and son Patrick point to their 2 Bonneville 200mph decals.


J.D. (l) wins an award, at the June 2008 Antique Nationals at California Dragway, for his Dad’s beautifully restored '39 Indian Sport Scout.

Patrick's oldest son, Tyler, lives in Chandler Arizona. Danielle has two daughters, Jessica and Sarah, who live with their father in La Place, Louisiana. I have been blessed by this sport of Land Speed Racing. I have met more 'heroes' of mine than you could ever imagine: Fritz Voigt, Judy Thompson, George Bentley, Don Vesco, Nolan White, Al Teague, Andy Green and so many more. We should all take a minute to reflect on our good fortune. Slowly the younger members in the SCTA are stepping in and taking over more and more responsibilities and I am giving up some of my jobs, with the 

exception of making the timing tags and doing the certifications. 

 Gone Racin' is at [email protected]

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