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SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 190 - February 4, 2011
Editor: Richard Parks [email protected]
President's Corner: By Jim Miller (1-818-846-5139)
Photographic Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, [email protected]
 

Click On All Images / Link For more Info / Images

Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:
 President's Corner, Editorials, In the last issue of the newsletter I gave you this website, This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnI7L_l8Byc was posted on the HAMB and I thought this would be enjoyable for all to see on the Landspeed Racing page, I read in the recent issue of the newsletter a question from a gentleman asking for info regarding 200 MPH clubs, Bonneville 200 MPH Club History, I was recently reading an article you wrote in regards to the 2008 Grand National Roadster show, I have just been contacted by Rich Kimball from Hot VW's magazine and Periscope Productions regarding this year’s 36th Bug-In, This months Aussie Invader 5R newsletter is now available to read online, To see more of Martin Squire’s work go to, The member list runs to 13 pages, 6 point font, The Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club announces the 18th Annual Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame and ‘GAS-UP’ Party will be held in Buellton California on Saturday April 30 2011, Editor’s comments: The following interview comes from Sam Hawley’s website, Readers: Two weeks ago a letter from an attorney representing an unknown client was filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

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President's Corner:  
     This last weekend was the Grand National Roadster Show. It was held at the Pomona Fairgrounds and there were cars everywhere. There were even some Land Speed cars hiding around the place. A couple of cars that really stood out and a couple were there that you wouldn't have known that they had ever raced. The obvious ones were the pre-war Tommy Lee car that was Offy powered and the post-war Al Dal Porto roadster, the Pierson Brothers chopped '34 coupe, Doug Rice's custom '39 Ford from '54 and the Sandy Belond pre-WWII roadster. All these cars were jaw droppers. The not so obvious ones were the Pierson Coupe that was on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in August '48 that was painted red. You wouldn't have known its heritage without the show cards showing its heritage. Another sleeper was a Harry Westgard custom. Same deal, a photo of it at b-ville in '52 behind the Post Liner with a number on the side of it that said it was a racecar. The best part is talking to the owners of these cars today and seeing how stocked they are over them.    
     Besides the cars in the show one can't forget the Wally Parks NHRA Museum the next building over from the show. This place is jam packed with historical cars and a lot of them happen to be land speed cars. As if looking at all the cars was enough, on Saturday afternoon the Museum had a special event honoring the S.C.T.A. Low Flyers Club. What would a gathering be without some of the club members? Tony Thacker and Greg Sharp worked their magic and had four of the original members on site telling stories. They were Stu Hilborn, Phil Remington, Bob Wenz and Dick "Magoo" Megugorac. They even talked Alex Xydias and myself into being moderators. It was the greatest. Getting stories first hand from the legends of the sport was the best. Dan Webb brought his incredible re-creation of Phil Remington's dry lakes car. Phil talked about it and his journey of working on the leading edge of race cars of the last half century like the Edwards Sports Car, Reventlow's Scarab, Shelby's Cobra and GT40's and Gurney's Eagles. Stu Talked about his early days as a chemist and basically discovering a new racing fuel called Nitro. His Fuel Injection setup in a flattie was in the first dry lakes car to go over 150 mph and he made carbs obsolete at a place called Indy. Bob went from running a front engined roadster to a rear engined one before he went CRA roadster racing. He couldn't convince his neighbor Phil Hill into becoming a dry lakes racer but Phil swayed Bob to become a Road Racer so he built the first American made F III. Magoo was the first to build and run what we call a T-Bucket and that was years before a guy called Norm Grabowski built the Kookie-T. He even built a winning AMBR car with a Ferrari engine in it for
Hot Rod magazine illustrator Rex Burnette's son.      
     The audience was filled with celebs soaking up every word and at the end Linda Vaughn presented Phil with a scantily clad cut-out photo of herself before the cake was cut to celebrate his 90th birthday. What an evening. You should have been there.  While on the subject of LSR, the S.C.T.A. Awards Banquet took place across town the same evening. Videos of the year’s racing were shown, prizes were raffled off, food and drink were consumed and then Trophies were presented to racers. Even David Freiburger showed up to present the Hot Rod Magazine Trophy for fastest speed of the meet to George Poteet and Ron Main. George gave a little speech on what the S.C.T.A. means to him and it left everyone in awe. Bravo George. Again you should have been there.
     This last weekend was the Grand National Roadster Show. It was held at the Pomona Fairgrounds and there were cars everywhere. There were even some Land Speed cars hiding around the place. A couple of cars that really stood out and a couple were there that you wouldn't have known that they had ever raced. The obvious ones were the pre-war Tommy Lee car that was Offy powered and the post-war Al Dal Porto roadster, the Pierson Brothers chopped '34 coupe, Doug Rice's custom '39 Ford from '54 and the Sandy Belond pre-WWII roadster. All these cars were jaw droppers. The not so obvious ones were the Pierson Coupe that was on the cover of
Hot Rod magazine in August '48 that was painted red. You wouldn't have known its heritage without the show cards showing its heritage. Another sleeper was a Harry Westgard custom. Same deal, a photo of it at b-ville in '52 behind the Post Liner with a number on the side of it that said it was a racecar. The best part is talking to the owners of these cars today and seeing how stocked they are over them.  
     Besides the cars in the show one can't forget the Wally Parks NHRA Museum the next building over from the show. This place is jam packed with historical cars and a lot of them happen to be land speed cars. As if looking at all the cars was enough, on Saturday afternoon the Museum had a special event honoring the S.C.T.A. Low Flyers Club. What would a gathering be without some of the club members? Tony Thacker and Greg Sharp worked their magic and had four of the original members on site telling stories. They were Stu Hilborn, Phil Remington, Bob Wenz and Dick "Magoo" Megugorac. They even talked Alex Xydias and myself into being moderators. It was the greatest. Getting stories first hand from the legends of the sport was the best. Dan Webb brought his incredible re-creation of Phil Remington's dry lakes car. Phil talked about it and his journey of working on the leading edge of race cars of the last half century like the Edwards Sports Car, Reventlow's Scarab, Shelby's Cobra and GT40's and Gurney's Eagles. Stu Talked about his early days as a chemist and basically discovering a new racing fuel called Nitro. His Fuel Injection setup in a flattie was in the first dry lakes car to go over 150 mph and he made carbs obsolete at a place called Indy. Bob went from running a front engined roadster to a rear engined one before he went CRA roadster racing. He couldn't convince his neighbor Phil Hill into becoming a dry lakes racer but Phil swayed Bob to become a Road Racer so he built the first American made F III. Magoo was the first to build and run what we call a T-Bucket and that was years before a guy called Norm Grabowski built the Kookie-T. He even built a winning AMBR car with a Ferrari engine in it for
Hot Rod magazine illustrator Rex Burnette's son.      
     The audience was filled with celebs soaking up every word and at the end Linda Vaughn presented Phil with a scantily clad cut-out photo of herself before the cake was cut to celebrate his 90th birthday. What an evening. You should have been there.  While on the subject of LSR, the S.C.T.A. Awards Banquet took place across town the same evening. Videos of the year’s racing were shown, prizes were raffled off, food and drink were consumed and then Trophies were presented to racers. Even David Freiburger showed up to present the Hot Rod Magazine Trophy for fastest speed of the meet to George Poteet and Ron Main. George gave a little speech on what the S.C.T.A. means to him and it left everyone in awe. Bravo George. Again you should have been there.

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Editorial:   
   There is a man in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians (SLSRH) group that I’ve always admired. He is a very unassuming, quiet person who has dedicated himself to the preservation of LSR history. He is also a man who is a 3rd generation racer, which is something few of us can lay claim to. He is the type of guy who we always turn to whenever we have questions. His name is Jim Miller and he is the President of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians. He holds that position because of the respect that we have for him. It is an elected post only in that the early members gave a nod and a wink and “elected” him to the post. He did not want nor request it and I suppose he just ignores us when we call him the “Prez.” I’m sure that he is looking forward to the day when someone else wants to run for the post and we can hold an election and turn it over to the new guy. I am looking forward to the new editor of the SLSRH coming along and taking over my spot. Even the name; Society of Land Speed Racing Historians is a strange one. My father and brother winced visibly when I mentioned it to them. They told me, “Couldn’t you think of something shorter?” Well, in the three or four years that we have been around, no one has thought of something better. Or at least a name that tells people exactly what and who we are. We could have used “Group,” or “Association,” or “Confederation,” or “Federation” instead of Society. We could have used “Straight-line Racing” instead of “Land Speed Racing.”
  Then we could have used “Fans” instead of “Historians. We have tried to rack the old grey matter and we still cannot find another name that is more suitable. Nor, it seems, have we been successful at finding a better substitute for Jim Miller as our Society’s President. I do get complaints about Jim. It turns out that he can be a pretty stubborn guy at times. He can also be very opinionated when he wants to be; which is very rare. His qualities include a love for LSR, a passion for racing and a zealous need to find, preserve and share the history and heritage of hot rodding and the car culture. Jim does not stop with land speed racing. His grandfather was a great mechanic at the Indy 500 and a riding mechanic back around WWI. Now many of you youngsters under the age of 70 are asking, “What do you need with a riding mechanic when the race is over in an hour or two?” But in those long ago days when cars sped along at 100 mph the race could last 5 hours and breakdowns were common and few cars lasted the entire race without some mechanical failure. Those riding mechanics could fix some things while the car was still moving and you could pit stop anywhere, even on the track if you were daring enough. Jim’s father raced at Muroc and on the dry lakes and passed that passion on to Jim who also raced on the dry lakes and at Bonneville, becoming the proud possessor of those hats that make your head swell. Jim also has uncles and other relatives who were racers. Everywhere you look in his family there is a rich racing heritage.
  Jim didn’t stop there though; he continued to volunteer his time to help others, especially his club and the SCTA. He has held many positions; inspector, club rep, SCTA official and more. He has a special relationship with the American Hot Rod Foundation (AHRF), based in New York City, New York. He is one of their main researchers and field interviewers and Jim spends hour after hour interviewing hot rodders and racers and then scanning their photo albums and writing reports. Then the copied material is sent back to the AHRF where it is put on-line for everyone to see. He is constantly busy and over the years I have found that the best time to call him is after mid-night. He knows that I am up because he receives my emails after mid-night and I know that he is up that late because of his zeal to keep after history. When or if he even sleeps is not really known. What I can say is that Jim Miller is just about everywhere, for I bump into him all the time. On occasion he gets in his beat up old crate and drives down from Burbank to Orange County to see his friends at the Donut Derelict cruise and then goes over to Jack’s Garage where the local hot rodders hang out. Then he’ll stop by my house and we’ll go road tripping. Maybe we’ll drive by Chip Foose, Yoder, Fiddy Alvarez, Bruce Geisler, Steve Davis, Eric Hansen, Stewart Van Dyne’s, or any number of interesting shops in the area. Road tripping is in Jim’s blood. I love that car of his; it is as messy and filled with treasures that he has been collecting as all the other hot rodders that I know.
  Perhaps you all have a Jim Miller story to tell. I’ve got plenty. Usually it is about a mild mannered young man who has a passion for auto racing history. No matter how loud people yell at him, he never loses his temper. He’s one of the easiest guys I know to work with. He reviews what I write and he adds his own take on things to keep us mellow and going in the right direction. He sets standards long before we had a Society to discuss these issues. Sometimes that sets him apart and gets him into arguments with others; but we work them out. He can be a real bulldog when he feels that he is right; but it’s hard to argue with him because he never yells or loses his self-control. I’m the one who feels like a fool for losing my temper. We make a good team and then we have Roger Rohrdanz to offer his help and that makes things so much easier. What you may not be aware of is that we have about 12 members who make up the review team; including Jim Miller and Roger Rohrdanz. These special reviewers check out everything in the newsletter before it gets published and if they spot something that is amiss they let me know and I can contact Anita at www.hotrodhotline.com and www.landspeedracing.com and ask her to correct it. That is a process that you don’t often see at other magazines, newspapers and blogs and is a big reason why we get so few complaints; maybe two in the last four years. 
  We take complaints seriously and we review each and every one. These cases are resolved fairly and quickly and we add a retraction and apology. We have a good record because we are a group and we work hard to maintain the quality of the Newsletter. We aren’t perfect and we don’t claim to be, but our product bears the test of time and we are proud of the SLSRH and our members. Often Jim Miller and I have to tell a story that has only a few facts and we have to extrapolate over the gaps in the story by subjecture, or what we think might have happened. That is especially true when we are trying to explain why we think the parties to an incident were thinking when they did what they did. But it isn’t too hard to do that if you know the age and era of the people involved. So we study history as well as the people we are writing and reporting about. We try and put ourselves back in time to understand how they thought and felt then, not how people think today. A very good example is race relationships in racing and how today we barely even consider what a driver or race team’s race is like. But during the 1930’s and the 1940’s the times were completely different than they are today. Then when we talk about Mel Leighton being a black man and also a treasurer for the SCTA, we explain what people were thinking and feeling at that time and not in our more modern time. History is about more than just facts and figures; it is also about the hearts, souls and feelings of a people. The history of land speed racing is special and Jim and I feel proud to be able to bring you that story.
The SCTA Banquet and the Grand National Roadster Show is over and Jim Miller and I will do a report on these events for you. I want to offer a public apology to a very respected gentleman in the SCTA; Bob Sights. My teasing gesture at the banquet was rude and inconsiderate and I apologize to Bob for that. The land racing community often jokes and teases each other, but sometimes we cross the line. I did and I apologize to Bob for my inconsiderate actions.

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Passion for some things are fueled by the passion of others and I'd say Willie Buchta was a man of this sort of passion.  I met Willie from a phone call when I was told he was the one to build a header system for the spirit of Modesto Lakester.  He did a perfect job and gave me lengths to work out on the dyno. He helped us accomplish our goal of a record at El Mirage and Bonneville with a flathead Ford.  Brian Canal gave us his number and worked with him for us.  I can't be sure whether our success fueled his passion or his perfect work on our project fueled ours.  We have three 200 club hats in Tracer Racing and Willie helped us toward that goal at the beginning.  Thanks Willie and God speed.  Our prayers and sympathy go out to Sheri and Willie's family. Tracer Racing in Modesto, Terry L. Lucas

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In the last issue of the newsletter I gave you this website. If you don’t go to www.samuelhawley.com, and see what Sam Hawley has accumulated there, then you are missing out on some tremendous land speed racing research that he has compiled.  Take the time to go to his website; that’s an order.

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This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnI7L_l8Byc was posted on the HAMB and I thought this would be enjoyable for all to see on the Landspeed Racing page.  I'll bet you know most everyone pictured in the video.  Michael Kacsala
     Michael: Thank you.  I will post this on the website and encourage our readers to go there and look at the photographs.  I don't know them all, but I did recognize Ak Miller, Veda Orr, Hank Negley and other people and cars of the era.

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I read in the recent issue of the newsletter a question from a gentleman asking for info regarding 200 MPH clubs.  I will take a leap here and guess he is researching the Bonneville club.  As the recently elected President of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club I will be happy to answer any questions he may have regarding membership, history, members, etc.  He did ask about woman members and I can say, off the top of my head, that we now have a total of 15 women who have made the club; this is out of approximately 630 total members.  Please forward or publish my email address so that Eric or anyone else who is interested in the club may contact me, Dan Warner, Bonneville 200 MPH Club, [email protected].
     Dan: Would you write a history of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club and send it to me so that I can post it for all our readers to see?  Besides the original writer, I and many other people are interested in the history of the club.  We are also interested in learning more about the other 2 clubs that exist around the country and overseas. 

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Bonneville 200 MPH Club History  - LINKS IN A CHAIN                         
     When the Dry Lakes racers of the SCTA first ventured to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949 they had no idea what they were starting.  This pioneering group of land speed racers laid the foundation for what has turned into one of the largest and certainly fastest motor sports events in the world. The original idea for the formation of a club to recognize the accomplishments of drivers setting speed records over 200 mph on the Salt Flats was the brain child of So-Cal Special driver Dean Batchelor and Hop Up magazine editor Lou Kimsey. The go ahead and support came from Hop Up magazine publisher Bill Quinn in 1953.
      The drivers inducted that first year were: 1)    Willie Young with the Kenz-Leslie Twin-Ford from 1950,’51 and ’52 at a fastest speed of 255.411 mph. Young was the first American to exceed 250 mph. 2)    Art Chrisman driving the Chet Herbert “Beast III” to 239.991 mph in 1952. 3)    George Hill with the Hill-Davis “City of Burbank” at 230.16 mph in 1952. 4) John “Sonny” Rogers ran 224.144 mph in Lee Chapel’s “Tornado Special” in 1952. 5) Otto Ryssman in the “Post Special” averaging 222.57 mph in 1952.
      The first meeting of the 200 MPH Club was held in September at that year’s Bonneville Nationals. The five charter members voted at that time to include foreign drivers who met the Club’s requirements. With this, three more names were added to the exclusive membership: Captain G.E.T. Eyston of England, a three time holder of the land speed record with a fastest two-way average of 357.5 with his “Thunderbolt” streamliner in 1938. Rudolph Caracciola, a Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix driver, setting an International Class “B” record at 268.9 in 1938. Colonel Goldie Gardner of England, holder of many records, with the MG “EX-135” streamliner at 204.3 in 1939.
      Attending the Club’s banquet that first year (1953), Captain Eyston was elected the Bonneville 200 MPH Club’s first President. During his remarks that evening, he predicted that if the Land Speed Record was to be broken by an American, it would fall to a hot rodder who gained his experience at the Bonneville Nationals.  A review of the Club’s membership will find some of the most famous names in racing. From Malcolm and Donald Campbell, to Sir Stirling Moss, to Mickey Thompson, Art Arfons, Craig Breedlove and now Andy Green. The Land Speed Racing form of motorsports is truly a family affair. The club has a tradition of families continuing on in the footsteps of racers who step foot on the salt and gain club membership. Brothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, husbands and wives all share the exclusivity of the club. A look at the membership roster finds family names like Burkland, Burkdoll, Campbell, Lindsley, Immerso, Clark and many others.
      The personal satisfaction that comes with joining these pioneers with membership in a club that celebrates the history of our chosen sport cannot be duplicated. Many of our men and women members have raced for decades before achieving their goal of the certified record over 200 MPH necessary to receive what has become our club’s trademark – the Red Hat of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club.   By way of honoring drivers gaining a 300+ mph record, a 300 MPH Chapter was formed with a Blue Hat to mark the accomplishment. That is a strong chain of history going back over 60 years. The chain continues to stretch ahead with a link added with every new induction into the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. Pat Kinne, 3rd version 4 November 2009)

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I was recently reading an article you wrote in regards to the 2008 Grand National Roadster show.  In the article is a photo and information about a vehicle, Bruce Poor's 33 Ford Roadster.  Actually, I'm interested in the wheels on this vehicle, as I'm building a 35' Ford.  Would you be able to get me any contact information on Bruce Poor from Scotts Valley, California.  Please let me know, I would really appreciate it.  Thank You.  Steve Rodgers, [email protected]
     Steve: I checked the article and the black and red roadster was mentioned in the captions for the photograph taken by Roger Rohrdanz.  There was no other mention of the car or Bruce Poor from Scotts Valley, California.  I sent a copy of this email to Roger to see if he remembers anything more than what was in the photograph.  I checked www.whitepages.com and www.anyhoo.com and could not locate a phone number in that area.  I will publish your letter and email address in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter and see if anyone there knows anything.  The car was prominently displayed and so it may have been an AMBR car.  Check with John Buck, promoter of the Grand National Roadster Show at www.rodshows.com.  He might have kept a record of the address for Bruce.  Also, check with car restorers Blackie Gejeian and Steve Moal (www.moal.com).

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I have just been contacted by Rich Kimball from Hot VW's magazine and Periscope Productions regarding this year’s 36th Bug-In.  He would like to have a display of Volkswagen's at the Bug-In who have raced at (or are under construction for) land speed racing at Bonneville, El Mirage, Maxton, Texas Mile, Mojave Mile or Maine.  Both air and water-cooled VW powered LSR and 36hp Challenge cars are welcome for this special land speed racing display!  He invited us in 2005 and those who participated enjoyed a great day.  The event is held the California Speedway in Fontana.  Any SLSRH readers who have present or past VW racers and who might like to participate or who know of a past historical land speed VW can contact Rich through his site at: http://www.bugin.com/buginshow.htm.  Special consideration will be extended to those bringing their VW racers for this special land speed racing display. Burly Burlile
     Burly: Keep us posted on the event at Fontana. 

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This months Aussie Invader 5R newsletter is now available to read online. http://www.aussieinvader.com/newsletters/aussieinvader_feb11.pdf.  To view more information about the project, please visit our website www.aussieinvader.com. Best wishes Rosco McGlashan

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To see more of Martin Squire’s work go to;  http://martinsquiresautomotiveillustration.blogspot.com/. If you are interested in any of Martin’s work or even ordering a personal commission please contact him at [email protected].  Click on the images below for larger view

            Esau THun's (Albata) 1932 pre war roadster in 1941 POST                    Ken Lindley (Lancers) modified 1946 POST

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The member list runs to 13 pages, 6 point font.  How about a link to the website: http://bonneville200mph.org/images//memberlistbyname.pdf   Dan Warner
     Dan: I'm running the link as you suggest.  I tried to copy and paste the entire list to the newsletter, because volume is no problem, but I could not copy and paste a pdf file.  So our readers will have to google the link and read the material on the website.  I usually copy and paste rather than use a link, because 90% of the readership will not open a link, but if the material is placed right in front of them they will read it; or at least scan through it.  The next step is to get the members of the 200 MPH Club to write their bios; or find family members or friends to do it.  We need a history on every single land speed racer, otherwise all that future generations will have is a name and a speed.  The more information that we have on an individual the better for future historians to work with.

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The Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club announces the 18th Annual Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame and ‘GAS-UP’ Party will be held in Buellton, California on Saturday, April 30, 2011.  The Club is excited about the new Spring date which will kick-off the racing season and expects an exceptional turn-out.  The event begins at 9:00 am, and includes a Buellton-style Barbeque lunch followed by the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony and then concludes with raffle prizes until 5:00 pm.  Land Speed and Dry Lakes racers, hot-rodders and other interested enthusiasts inclined to bench race with famous, and infamous, racers are invited to attend this entertaining and memorable event.  Photos of past events, a list of Hall of Fame Members, (like Al Teague, Vic Edelbrock, Sr. & Jr., Ed Iskenderian, Art Arfons, Craig Breedlove, Wally Parks, Mickey Thompson, Alex Xydias, Ak Miller, Nick Arias, Jr., Don Vesco, Ab Jenkins, Paula Murphy, Gale Banks, Eddie Meyer and so many more).  Space has always been limited and veteran attendees know that pre-registration is highly recommended.  Tickets purchased early are $42, (a limited number will be available at the door for $55). 
     The 2011 inductees are: Historical Race Vehicle; Mormon Meteor, Presently Running Race Vehicle; Ferguson Streamliner, Motorcycle; ACK Attack, People Who Have Contributed; Alan Fogliadini, Harry Hoffman Sr., Joyce Jensen, Judy Sights, Chuck Small, Larry Volk, People from the Past; Ed Adams, Gene Burkland, Jack Calori, Art Tilton, Manufacturer; JAZ Products, Historian; Ed Safarik.  The Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame began in 1992 as a one-time event of the Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club to honor a few people thought to have made a difference in hot-rodding and dry lakes racing.  The party was such a success that the following year the first official “Gas-Up” event was held at club member Jack Mendenhall’s Petroleum Museum in Buellton, and evolved into this much-anticipated annual event.  Each year the GCR&R Club solicits votes from all 12 SCTA Clubs, current Hall of Fame members, the Bonneville and El Mirage 200 MPH Clubs, USFRA and ECTA to recognize and honor those outstanding individuals who have contributed significantly to the sport of land speed racing on the dry lake beds, past and present – car owners, drivers, builders, manufacturers, sponsors, event volunteers, and the media who preserve the history for everyone.  In addition, and of equal importance, is to honor outstanding vehicles that have been created by these talented people.  To put your name on the mailing list for a registration packet which will include a map and local hotel listings (mailed in March), or for information on how to advertise in the award-winning ‘Keepsake’ program please call or write the Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club at the address or phone number listed below or email the Club Secretary at [email protected]  Mailing Address; P.O. Box 1234, Buellton, CA 93427.  Telephone number; 805-245-8519.  Sent in by Don Oaks 

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Editor’s comments: The following interview comes from Sam Hawley’s website; http://www.samuelhawley.com/breedlove1.html. If you want to read the whole interview you have to go to Sam’s website. I was given permission to use his material, but I think that you really need to go to his site and look at the material that he has accumulated there. 
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SPIRIT OF AMERICA: CRAIG BREEDLOVE INTERVIEW
Here is the transcript of my first over-the-phone interview with Craig Breedlove, July 21, 2009. [I ask about what his step-dad Ken Bowman did when Craig was growing up.]

He was involved in ornamental horticulture at UCLA. Later in his life he was a language professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu. But during the time I was growing up he worked for the ornamental horticulture division, and he also worked at a place, his employment before UCLA, he worked for a nursery in Inglewood, California, which was Inglewood Nurseries. He worked there and then he got a job at UCLA. And then later my mom and he had a business in Malibu. They sold African violets. And then when he retired from that he went to work for Pepperdine, I think teaching Spanish.

I understand that your real dad, Norman, was a cameraman before going into special effects. Do you remember, growing up, any of the movies he worked on?

He did a lot of the John Wayne movies, with Glenn Ford, and they did a lot of the Tarzan movies. I used to like to go over to the sets in Culver City because I got to play with Cheetah--who recently I saw on television was still alive, which blew me away. [Laughs] But anyway, that was fun as a kid. Then over at Fox he did one movie about Sinbad. They used to have a big tank over there with all of the water front, of course done in miniature, and they had ships and stuff like that and I used to get to swim in the tank.

Was that what he was, a cameraman, a cinematographer?

Yeah, he did that and—most of his time at the studio, when I went with him, he was in special effects. He actually tried to get me a job as an assistant cameraman during the time I worked for Douglas Aircraft. He and I lived together for a period of time in a little house in Culver City. And anyway, he had some friends and he was trying to get me in as an assistant cameraman. At the time I was working for Material and Processing at Douglas. But that [the cameraman job] didn’t work out. I moved my family to a home I bought in Costa Mesa, then I applied for the fire department and passed the test and got hired. So four a year or so I worked as a fireman for the city of Costa Mesa, just prior to the time I started building the first land speed car.

Your mom told me that when you were a kid you went through a wrestling stage and for a time wanted to be Gorgeous George.

Oh yeah. Bill Moore and I, the guy that helped me with the artwork and stuff like that, he was the Golden Terror and I was Courageous Craig. We had a wrestling ring in the back yard. Jimmy Lennon the announcer—I went to school with Michael Lennon. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jimmy Lennon [a top wrestling and boxing announcer back in the day; wore a tuxedo]. Jimmy Lennon Jr. is a pretty prominent announcer now in the fight game. Anyway, his father, Jimmy Lennon Sr., was Michael’s father, who I went to school with. Friday nights were visitation nights for Jimmy. Jimmy was divorced from Michael’s mother. So every Friday night was his time to come and pick Michael up and spend some time with his son, and Michael would always want to bring me with him to the Ocean Park Arena where Jimmy announced the wrestling matches on Friday nights. So anyway, we got really into the wrestlers.

How old would you have been?

Oh, I was going to grammar school, probably nine or ten.

[I ask about a mention in an old LA Times sports column about Craig being involved in “bootleg races” back in the day, and read the quote: “Craig also won a few uncertified events, like at 2 in the morning on Culver Blvd., where first you had to eliminate the competition, and then, the cops. On one of these impromptu races, Craig left the car vertically and came down like an incomplete pass on the pavement. It ended his career on the bootleg tracks and very nearly his career, period. It was several weeks before he could part his hair without saying ‘ouch.’” I ask Craig if this story is true.]

Yeah, I flipped a ’32 coupe on Culver Boulevard. It was not my car. It belonged to Stan Burnelay [?]. Stan wanted me to test his car. I had done some of the engine work for him, a flathead, and so he wanted me to race it. That was the local pastime at the Clock Drive-in, was to race on Culver Blvd. So anyway, he asked if I would drive his car and race this other guy and I did. And sadly, he had neglected to put shock absorbers on the front of the car and when I hit the railroad tracks at well over a hundred, the thing went right out from under me. I ended up in a flip crash and came through the soft top, you know the ’32 coupe had the soft patch in the center, and I was thrown out of there. It had a ’44 steering wheel that I wrapped into kind of a pretzel design as I departed the vehicle. It knocked me out of my shoes and split my head wide open, and I also broke my neck. I didn’t find out about the neck fracture until years later, when I started having trouble with it. But anyway, my step-dad Ken got me out of the hospital. They stitched up my head but figured I was okay and kicked me in the butt and put me back on the road again.

How old would you have been?

I would have been 16.

Was your step-dad pretty pissed off at you?

Yeah.

How well did you get along with your step-dad?

Not really well, because he had absolutely no mechanical intuition or desire or anything whatsoever. Pretty much he was kind of an intellectual kind of guy. I mean he played nothing but classical music. To be really honest, when you’re in a home with a step-father and he’s married to the mother and he has his own child by the mother—you know, I was sleeping in the den and kind of felt like a third wheel there. That’s kind of why I got into hot rods. I sort of gravitated to the older kids who lived across the street who had a bunch of hot rods and stuff. I used to go over there and hang out because I really didn’t have any companionship, you know, basically I didn’t have a male role model in the home so I sort of hung out with these older guys across the street with the hot rods and that’s what kind of got me interested in it.

[I ask about his earliest conception of the land speed car.] Was it something involving an Allison engine?

At that time there were a lot of war surplus military hardware places in Los Angeles down on Alameda Boulevard. There were a number of them down there. There was a big Pally Surplus and some Airmotive Equipment company. So anyway, they had some V-12 Allison engines, Mustang WW2 vintage. And right at the end of the Korean War they had a bunch of surplus jet engines that started hitting the market. Basically we bought surplus fuel tanks to make belly-tank lakesters out of. And they had all kinds of aircraft nuts and bolts, surplus aircraft safety belts, just all kinds of stuff. So that’s where we used to buy parts cheap to build hot rods out of.

Would it be correct to say that your first conception of the land speed car arose from what you were seeing in the surplus shops that you could buy for cheap?

Yeah, basically that’s—excuse me for one second. [He answers his cell phone. It’s his wife. He tells her he’ll call her back when he’s done with me.]

Rod Schapel told me that when you first came to him you had this model of the car, a supersonic thing with a pointed nose, he told you, “I’ll help you build the car, but not that one.”

Yeah, I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment.

What were your feelings about the steering-with-rear-brakes idea he came up with?

It seemed like a very strange concept to me, but at the time Rod was a real mentor to me. I really looked up to Rod. Rod had done some other Bonneville streamliner projects. He’d done the wind tunnel testing. Essentially I needed to get through some wind tunnel testing and I needed some expert advice on how to do certain things that were basically above my pay grade at that point. And so I looked Rod up because I was aware of his background with the Chet Herbert streamliner that he had done the wind tunnel work on. So I called him up and he agreed to meet with me and I brought the concept model, the one that you’ve seen with the pointy rear fairings and stuff, that was the configuration at that point that we’d worked to. But I knew I needed some more expertise and I respected Rod from the work he’d done for Chet Herbert. They’d done some magazine articles on it when they wind tunnel tested those cars. I didn’t know Rod and I called him up out of the blue and told him what I was trying to do and he agreed to meet with me and I met with him at his home.

We got pretty far into the project before Rod actually settled on that rear brake thing. The first part of it was basically—Art Russell and I built the wind tunnel model. Rod took the concept of the car, which he liked, he liked the outboard wheel thing and stuff. But for the speed range we were looking at, the record was just under 400 mph, and so Rod thought the aerodynamics should go more sub-sonic. And that was correct. That was a professional assessment. That’s the reason I sought him out, because I needed that kind of input and advise.

So Art Russell and I built the wind tunnel model and we did a really nice job on it. Both of us are really good with our hands. We built that, built all the ground plane, the instrumentation pieces, everything that was necessary for the tunnel. When we had things done we would take them to Rod or he would stop by and check on how we were doing and if we needed to do something different he would say, “No, no, do it this way,” or something. So anyway, we learned a lot building that. Rod was able to arrange to use the wind tunnel at the Naval Post-Graduate School up in Monterey, California. We could use it on weekends by paying the technicians that normally worked in the tunnel basically spare money. The navy was okay with them kind of gee-jobbing on the weekends to make some extra money. Rod’s company, the Task Corporation that he worked for, did a lot of work on that particular tunnel and also built the tunnel instrumentation, the balance system that measured all of the loads on the model, so Rod was very familiar with the tunnel and its workings. He had spent months and months in Monterey working on that project for his company. So it really worked out well. And Stan Goldstein had gone into the military at that point and he was stationed in Monterey, working out of Fort Ord. So Stan was there to help out on the weekends and he got to know Ron Burthoff who was the technician there. So anyway we went up there numerous weekends doing wind tunnel work on the car and we made different configurations or fairings and noses and stuff like that to test in the tunnel and that’s how we refined the configuration. [Continues to talk about tunnel testing.]

Anyway, we got down to where we were actually building the car and we still hadn’t come up with a design to steer the front wheel. And I remember the first time that this thing with the rear brakes came up, the car was well under construction in my dad’s garage behind the house in West LA and I visited Rod at his house and he said, “You know, I really haven’t been able to come up with a suitable way to steer the front wheel. It’s turning out to be a complex mechanical problem to solve. I’ve been giving this thing some thought and I really think we ought to steer the car with a fin and leave all the wheels in a fixed, rigid position and steer it with the rear brakes until we’re up to speed.” And God, it seemed like really a far-out kind of concept. And I really looked up to Rod and his expertise. He’s a real sharp guy. So I just sort of acquiesced to that. I said, “Well, I don’t know, Rod. I’ve obviously never driven anything like that. I’ll just accept your word that this is gonna work like this and this is gonna work like this.” [Laughs]

But it didn’t.

But it didn’t. We had a lot of problems. It was kind of a brilliant concept. There was really nothing wrong with it. It’s just that to get it all working in a short period of time, and there were some absolute complications, and then—You get up there under pressure and you’ve got huge companies, Shell Oil and Goodyear and all of this stuff and you’ve got a lot of pressure to deliver. And Rod had a lot of his personal reputation at stake—at least he viewed it that way—in this system working. The big problem was that there were sub-systems that were not functioning properly. We had some spherical bearings that held the wheel yoke that we didn’t have restrained adequately enough within the housing. These were just development bugs and stuff. They were actually sliding inside the housing and the damn car was sort of steering off on its own. It was going different places because unbeknownst to us these bearings were moving in—and they had broken their restraints because we had not adequately secured them for the loads that were being placed on them. And so that was moving around. And then another mistake that was made was somehow, in the rush to get everything ready to go and loaded, whoever on the crew had replaced the steering linkage up to the fin had put it at its absolute lowest ratio in the bell crank system that provided adjustable steering ratios to the fin, and the damn fin was moving through like a quarter of an inch to the right and a quarter of an inch to the left. And so we were not getting the aerodynamic steering that was supposed to be happening and I’m in there going 300 mph trying to steer right and steer left and I turn right and the car goes left. It seemed to have its own mind where it wants to go and it was pretty unnerving.

And then Rod for some reason started it as a personal affront to his brainchild as a system to steer the car. And his system was fine. But the mechanics within the car, and everybody got so emotionally involved that no one was checking the basics like how, far was the fin moving? Stuff like that. And it just became this horrible conflict within the crew and the sponsors and we were burning money like it was bad toast.

And then on the very absolute last day Quinn Epperly and Nye found where the steering linkage was. And I came out, it was literally at sunset, climbed in the car and made a run and got the fin to work. It was our last day on the salt at about 8:15 pm. I made a run and actually got the thing to steer with that fin. But we were out of time and we had to leave. And of course by then everybody emotionally was in a shambles.

And so we got back and Shell’s position was: Wait a minute. We need to pull back. Let’s get some consultant engineers in here and see what the hell is going on. So that’s what happened. We ended up adding the tail fin to the car. It wasn’t that Rod’s system couldn’t be made workable, but for the sake of having something we absolutely knew worked. We had one engineer who came on board as one of the consultants from Hughes, a guy named Bob Heacock, who was familiar with designing helicopter controls, and he said, “Well, it’s real easy to make the front wheel steer. Why don’t you just put it in on a focusing link.” And everybody in the room turned around and looked at each other and said, “What’s a focusing link?” And he said, “Oh, this,” and he sketched it on a piece of paper and it was this brilliant solution that was just slam-dunk simple. Something that I guess Rod wasn’t familiar with. And so we ended up making the front wheel steer along with making the fin turn, and the next year went on to take the record. And so everything worked fine.

And then, sadly, Schapel sued me.

I wanted to ask you about that lawsuit. What was Schapel’s complaint?

Well, the complaint was that Rod—in the beginning of course we had no money. I think I was on unemployment when I first sought out Rod’s help. And he very benevolently agreed to help us out, you know, after work and on a part-time basis, as a hot rod hobby. I mean, hot rodding is an amateur thing that people do as a hobby. Basically no one ever gets paid. Rod knew that. But he sued me for the time he had put into the car prior to us getting sponsored. Once we got sponsored he was paid very well. But in the initial work, when we did the initial wind tunnel tests and what have you, and I paid for all the expenses and stuff to Rod, and Rod volunteered his time. He didn’t charge me for his hourly work on the car. The problem was that it was a substantial sum. I’m trying to remember, it was so many years ago, I think the lawsuit was for $350,000 or something, and also 30 percent of my income for the rest of my life. That was on the theory that he had taught me things that, without his mentoring, I would never have been smart enough to design the Sonic 1 car, which is probably true. I mean everybody goes to school, everybody learns from somebody. We’re not born with the knowledge.

(Editor…go to www.samuelhawley.com for the rest of the interview.)

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Readers: Two weeks ago a letter from an attorney representing an unknown client was filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The website is at: http://www.dragracingonline.com/analysis/images/nhra%20complaint%201-13-11.pdf.   The gist of the legal matter concerns the tax-exempt status of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).  Someday this may become a historical topic to be discussed in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter (SLSRH).  At the present time it is a matter being resolved between interested parties.  For the record, no one connected to the SLSRH, myself, or any of my family members have anything to do with this issue, or the IRS and the NHRA.  Sincerely, Richard Parks, editor of the SLSRH Newsletter.

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