NEWSLETTER 191 - February 11, 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]

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Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:
 President's Corner, Editorials,      My name is Tom Killian I retired from a 30 year career with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Willie Buchta came into Land Speed racing late in life, This is my favorite story to tell about Willie Buchta whom I considered one of my favorite people, I noticed that this little paragraph in the club history was missing, This now forces me to write a bio, Sidewinders car club was established 1934 and is the oldest Hot Rod Club in America, Restoring Europe's first dragster, Just a note to let you know that I've added a section to my website on the "Infinity" jet car in which Glenn Leasher was killed in 1962, I thought this might make an interesting addition to your "Remembering Connie Swingle" biography on www.HotrodHotline.com, Would you have a phone number or an Email for Mr. Jack Underwood, Road Runner Meeting Notes - Tuesday, February 8th 7pm at Ed Martin Garage, WHAT’S NEXT FOR SYDNEY ALLARD’S 1961 ALLARD CHRYSLER DRAGSTER, Moldy Marvin's 11th Annual Rat Fink Party & Kustom Kulture Extravaganza! July 29-31 2011, I was recently retained by Valerie Thompson to obtain sponsor funding for the 2011 NHRA racing season, 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, I will be displaying work and running a painting demonstration this coming weekend Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th February 2011 at The Footman James 2nd Great Western Autojumble, The following interview was conducted by Sam Hawley for his book.


President's Corner:  
Jim Miller is on assignment and will return next week.


   The Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club did not have a reunion, party and Hall of Fame in 2010. That was due to a change of dates. They wanted to try moving their event to a spring date before all the racing and cruising events got started. Holding their event in September created a lot of conflicts for them and sometimes the weather proved a problem. Their hope is that an April date will work out better for more people. The downside of the move is that there was no party in 2010 and that meant no Hall of Fame inductees.  The 2011 honorees are: Mormon Meteor (Historical Race Vehicle), Ferguson Streamliner (Presently Running Race Vehicle), and ACK Attack (Motorcycle). People who have contributed category; Alan Fogliadini, Harry Hoffman Sr, Joyce Jensen, Judy Sights, Chuck Small, and Larry Volk. People from the past category; Ed Adams, Gene Burkland, Jack Calori, and Art Tilton. Manufacturer; JAZ Products. Historian; Ed Safarik.  I hope in future editions that we can expand and tell you more about these individuals, teams and businesses that are being honored. We will also weigh in and tell you about individuals, like Randy Shinn and Mel Leighton, who deserve to be recognized as well. But it’s important to credit the GCR&R Club; for they began the process of honoring people and even if they overlook someone now, they can correct that fact later. They are trying to do what is right.
   Roger Rohrdanz, one of the SLSRH reviewers, found an error in one of the documents submitted by the 200 MPH Club. The issue was the date of the first meeting for the new club. The writer gave the month as September, but not the year. It is very important when submitting a document or email to the SLSRH that you proofread your work and make sure that all facts are correct and that it reads well and is understandable. If it isn’t then I have to spend a lot of my time to research the event or contact the parties and make sure that they update their records and resubmit. In some cases that means that I have to bother Anita at www.hotrodhotline.com and www.landspeedracing.com and have her redo the newsletter. The owners of the website spend a lot of time in helping us and I hate to make their workload greater. So be sure that your facts are correct the first time. Corrections create a lot of work for us. I found out from one of the members that the date for the founding of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club was in September 1953.
   The following letter was sent in by Betty Packard. She received it from a friend.  “I saw the following story in National Speed Sport News and I wanted to pass it on. I thought you might find it interesting. As we all know Racing isn't Baseball and the risks can be enormous. Our sport has become so safe that safety is a subject seldom discussed anymore. There is a large legion of fans who probably don’t realize how dangerous racing was. In doing research for the 100th Indianapolis 500, I discovered some eye opening facts. Ninety-eight drivers competed in the ten 500”s from 1950-1959. Thirty-nine of them gave their lives to racing; a staggering amount (40%). Various people have made the cars safer and the track's, too. The drivers seem to be burdened with a lot of protective gear, but I guess they don't mind that much. A big factor is that fire is mostly out of accident equations. We sure love our 1950’s racing, but we didn’t get to love the drivers that long. Six drivers; Chuck Weyant, born in 1923, the eldest, Eddie Russo, Don Edmunds, Jim Rathmann, Paul Goldsmith, and A.J. Foyt are the last survivors of the 1950’s Indy 500 drivers. Rathmann actually drove in the 1949 500 Mile Race. Hopefully most all of them will be able to accept the IMS invitation along with all of the past living drivers “
   The reason for posting this anonymous letter is to compare the records of oval track racing with that of land speed test trials. The first conclusion to be drawn is that professional oval track racing has a different purpose to it than LSR. The second is the huge number of accidents and casualties in one form of racing versus the other. I won’t claim that sponsorship money does not exist in land speed racing. The first land speed racers were rich nobles who spent their fortunes in trying to best one another for the sheer ego of being the fastest person on earth. Later on it was military men who had access to equipment that gave them an advantage. Hot rodders joined the battle to push the speeds higher and then came the advent of the jet engine. Today there are men and women who compete in dozens of categories and in two, three, four and more wheeled vehicles. They range from stock to wild and weird shapes and the focus is on increasing speeds. Some time trial participants are wholly funded by their businesses or their jobs. Many receive some form of cash or speed equipment from businesses in return for sporting decals or names on the cars. The money needed to run a car on the dry lakes, Bonneville or any other flat surface can run from a few thousands to the estimated $35 million that the Brits spent in 1997. 
   Frankly, this is small peanuts compared to the money that is spent on a major NASCAR or Formula I team today. I would wager that John Force Racing spends as much on his stable of cars as all of the land speeders in the world spend on their cars combined in a given year. LSR racers and fans take a strange liking to going faster and faster on less and less money. Innovation and creativity seem to be the motivating factor for LSR, not money. Not that sponsorship money is not important, for most LSR racing teams would not turn down any offer that comes their way. Another issue is that money brings problems. Most land speed racing associations use volunteers to run their organizations. There is one example of a racing organization that started out as a voluntary organization and turned into a professional one; the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). It did so due to the complexity of the new sport of drag racing that evolved out of land speed racing. The need to regulate and control drag racing forced this group to become a professional one and this required an increased amount of money to keep the group going. No volunteer group could have accomplished this, because drag racing flourished closer to population centers and that required a sophisticated level of political and economic power and influence. Land speed racing thrived on just the opposite model. LSR did better far from crowds, on places few people wished to travel to and where there was a lack of money to fund it; hence it remained a volunteer led sport. 
   There are pros and cons to having either a professionally run or a voluntary led organization. There are times when they work together to achieve their own goals; but more often these two management style groups flourish separately from one another. The voluntary groups do receive support from businesses and sponsors, but it is an exception to the rule. There is a fine balance between how much a volunteer group can receive in sponsorship before it tilts over into becoming a professionally led organization. The many demands on an NHRA-style business is unbelievable. Such pressures would utterly destroy a volunteer group; thus the need for more financial resources for the professional group and a leaner and easier set of problems for the volunteer group. In this context, to ask a volunteer land speed association to increase its publicity, public relations, crowds and proximity to population centers makes no sense. Such a group would have to increase their sponsorship and financial contacts. They would have to hire professional staffs to handle the complexity and increase in legal and political problems. They would also end up competing with the professional associations already in existence. The bottom line is that professional groups have a useful purpose and so do voluntary organizations like the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). My father recognized that right from the beginning. He often said that both the SCTA and the NHRA have vital roles to play; but not necessarily the same roles.
   Besides money, we must also consider the subject of safety. There are far more deaths and injuries in the professional sports than in the amateur ones. You would think that it would be just the opposite. One reason is that the words amateur and professional do not always mean that one is knowledgeable and competent and the other is not. The amateur racer is simply a person who competes for non-monetary rewards. The amateur racer is often a very competent and skilled individual. Secondly, LSR racers do not go as far, race as much, make turns and have to deal with other racers trying to cut in front of them. Everything that an LSR racer does is calculated and planned risk. Accidents do happen in LSR as they happen in all motorsports racing, but they are lessened by exacting planning and execution. The same is true with drag and oval track racing and huge staffs of professional people work on making those sports as safe as possible. But these professional, money-making sports inject more unpredictability into their racing because the crowds demand it. They want to see action and action creates more instability in risk taking. The question is not whether the risk should be a part of sports, but what degree of risk is acceptable. We could remove a large percent of risk and therefore injuries and deaths from racing if we changed the rules. Instead of an oval course, promoters could change the shape to one 500 mile long straight track. Instead of sending off 33 cars all at one time, they could stagger the starts and time the cars as they left and finished. Such changes would reduce the risk and brings down the accidents, but stop the fans from coming. Motorsports racing evolved just as it should have over time. If we were to start all over again, the same groups would emerge and separate into amateur and professional associations.


     My name is Tom Killian.  I retired from a 30 year career with the California Highway Patrol (CHP).  I first met "Willie" (Buchta) in 1985 when I transferred from the Bay Area to the Modesto CHP Office.  I was a young Officer who loved to work the graveyard shift.  There was basically one place to eat on graveyard and that was Denny's on Orangeburg Avenue.  It was my first introduction to a man who will be missed by all.  You can imagine "Willie" and his wrench turning buddies sitting in a booth.  They had been working on cars all evening and were taking a dinner break.  Yes "Willie" looked the same with his long beard looking like he had just finished a ZZ TOP concert and tattoos covering his arms.  This was not a typical representation of a person who would have many friends in Law Enforcement.  I quickly discovered the true meaning of "Never judge a book by its cover."   This was the beginning of a friendship with "Willie" and his family which lasts to this day.  The best story I can tell you about "Willie" is his enjoyment of messing with people.  "Willie" would be asked by cops for his name and his reply would be "Willie."  The cops would reply, "Willie what?"  He would answer "Willie."  The cops would get a little pissed and ask again, "What is your name, your full name?"  Willie would reply very politely "Willie."   The cops, as you could imagine, would think they had a real smart ass.  The questioning would continue and Willie would answer each time very politely that his name was "Willie, no last name just Willie."   Finally Willie would present a California Driver's License and for the name on the DL it was just…WILLIE.  How he got this issued with only one name is a mystery.  It was in my opinion this was his way of reminding cops to relax and don't be so uptight.  I will miss him dearly, RIP my friend. 
   Tom: Thank you for the story.  Some of the best stories ever told have to do with the interaction of the hot rodders and the cops.  There were a lot of them on both sides who had a great respect for each other and what they went through.  My father leaned heavily on Chief Parker, Bud Coons, Ezra Earhart, Gordon Browning and others in law enforcement.  Without their support, hot rodding and drag racing would have stayed an outlaw sport.  Write your stories down and share them, with your family and friends.  These are the stories that make a huge difference in how we view our bike and car world. 


Willie Buchta came into Land Speed racing late in life.  Willie reveled in the idea of having a 1000cc record listed alongside Bert Munro’s.  So when Team McLeish set our first 1000cc, Willie was concerned that we had beaten him to the listing.  As it turns out Willie left us after having set two records now listed with Bert’s.  God Speed Willie.   Derek McLeish
     Derek: More.  Tell us more.  We also want to hear about your life and that of your family and race team.  We are getting some great stories on Willie and that leads me to the conclusion that land speeders have a wealth of untold stories yet to tell.


      This is my favorite story to tell about Willie Buchta whom I considered one of my favorite people.  Willie and I rookied together at El Mirage and Bonneville in 2007.  He was quite the character – a foot long beard, tattooed Harley riding fabricator that looked like he was born on a motorcycle and created from the sands of the desert.  I had just enough money for my entry fee and enough gas to get me to the lakebed, El Mirage.  Before leaving on the 1,000 mile round trip, I had enough money left to buy food or something to use for shade.  I bought food and for some reason it didn’t register that I was going to the Mojave Desert without a provision for shade.  This was a mistake.  After finishing tech inspection, we looked for a place to setup camp and were welcomed to the lakebed by Willie and Sherri Buchta.  Willie saw us sitting on the dirt under the truck’s tailgate trying desperately to stay out of the sun and wondering what in the world we were thinking coming here without shade.  Willie said “hey you guys don’t have an EZup?” and after I explained about the money vs. shade mistake, he disappeared into his bike trailer and came out with an assortment of poles, spikes, and other gadgets.   
     While we fought off heat stroke, Willie assembled a makeshift shelter that covered us from the sun and Sherri made us dinner while we wondered how in the heck we would make it to nightfall.  At this point I had known Willie a total of about an hour.  Visually, we were two different people – Willie, the surly biker type and me, the newbie guy fresh from the suburbs.  We have since camped with Willie and Sherri at LSR events from SoCal to Utah and our children and grandchildren have become friends.  It’s a testament to the salt of his soul that I am only one of many people Willie selflessly helped and welcomed to his desert home away from home.  I have many of these stories and cherish every one and I will miss him dearly.  Shane San Miguel, Bonneville 200MPH club, Suzuki Hayabusa P-P 1350 209MPH
     Shane: Thank you for the great story.  Now sit down and type out every story you can think of and send them in.  Willie and the others that you recall in your stories will continue to live in our memories with every story that you tell.  I will post every story that you send to me.


I noticed that this little paragraph in the club history was missing.  Please publish this in the newsletter; I think it shows how progress in land speed racing has moved the records into areas we never dreamed of in the 1960's.  "The addition of new classes, improved technology and changes in record setting format over the years has increased the number of new members from an average of five in the 60s to 26 per year in the first decade of this century."  Dan Warner
     Dan: Consider it added and thank you for your contributions on the history of the 200 MPH Clubs.


 “This now forces me to write a bio.  Oh shucks.  I'll send you a copy.”  Ed Safarik
     Readers: This email from Ed Safarik was in regards to his selection to receive the Historians Award and induction into the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame, at the Gas-UP Party, held at the Mendenhall Petroleum Museum in Buellton, California.  The event is sponsored and run by the Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club.  This email is being published so that Ed, who is a very quiet guy, will have no excuses now for not doing his biography.  I intend to send it back to him on a constant basis until I get at least 3000 words out of him.  We also intend to hound him until he tells us his stories and the things he has seen over the years; the real nitty-gritty, behind the scenes stuff that make editors glow.


Sidewinders car club was established 1934 and is the oldest Hot Rod Club in America.   Our awards banquet will be held on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, located at 1101 W. McKinley Avenue, Pomona, California.  See http://museum.nhra.com.  Please help make our banquet a success.  We need door prizes for our banquet.  Even if you can’t attend our banquet have your company’s products and services be recognized by providing a door prize.  An announcement will be made for each prize.  Any leftover, out of stock item or white elephant that’s been gathering dust would be appreciated.  We’re running out of time so don’t delay.  What a journey, The Sidewinders is the oldest hot rod club in America and still going strong.  Car clubs began to form in the mid-thirties and 1934 the Glendale Sidewinders was established.  On November 7, 1937, the Glendale Sidewinders and the Hollywood Throttlers proposed a merger of all the car clubs in the Los Angeles area.  The meeting was held on November 29, 1937 and the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) was born.  The charter members were: The Sidewinders, Throttlers, Idlers, Ramblers, 90 MPH Club, Road Runners and the Knight Riders.  The rest is history.  As we start our 78th year as a club, I want to thank all of you again for giving the opportunity to serve as your president again this year.  This club is number one because of all of you, the racers, crew members, sponsors, club members along with our Hot Ron Pioneers.  It’s not just the records or trophies, but it’s the fellowship of all of us working together that makes our club number one.  Please I want all of you to be at our banquet!  We will even put you on our E Z payment plan.  Don’t forget February 19, 2011 at the NHRA Museum.  Next club meeting will be March 1 and March 15, 2011.  Call me at 818-998-7848 so we can arrange to have your donations delivered or have them picked up.  10108 Canoga Avenue, Chatsworth, California, 91311.  Sincerely Ron Main, president 


Restoring Europe's first dragster.  I hope you find the attached of interest. It is available as a word doc with attached jpg pics.  More info about the restoration of Europe’s first dragster – Sydney Allard’s 1961 Allard Chrysler – can be found on www.allardchrysler.org.  Other photos are available.  Brian Taylor, Chairman, Allard Chrysler Action Group
     Brian: Thank you for the history.  I wasn't able to copy and paste it into the SLSRH Newsletter, so I will just leave the link in for others to use.


Just a note to let you know that I've added a section to my website on the "Infinity" jet car, in which Glenn Leasher was killed in 1962. Go to www.samuelhawley.com and click on "Land Speed Record." For "Infinity" I've posted a lengthy e-mail I received from Vic Elischer, one of the four principals in the project, a selection of "Infinity" photos, and two sections of e-mails from Tom Fukuya, one of the main volunteers on the project (the only one to have his name painted on the car along with the four co-owners: Romeo Palamides, Glenn Leasher, Vic Elischer and Harry Burgh).  All the best, Sam Hawley


I thought this might make an interesting addition to your, "Remembering Connie Swingle" biography, on www.HotrodHotline.com.  This was an e-mail that I sent to Phil Burgess, the editor of National Dragster, primarily discussing the merits and unique qualities of nitro.  I had read the Swingle article and thought about this story.   Jeff Foulk 
Phil: I don't know what made me think of this.  I can't figure myself out, let alone expect anyone else to.  I got to thinking that to the average fan and spectator, the power output of nitro is obvious.  But I never have really heard a driver describe it.  Even a tuner would not have a real feel for this, since it is real seat of the pants.  My comparison is drawn from the transition we made to fuel in my '66 Mustang.  The engine and chassis were well sorted out and performing well, but everyone was switching to fuel, so when in Rome ("do as the Romans do").  The first runs were on only 10% and jetted way rich at that.  The difference was unbelievable.  The whole dynamics of the car changed.  It left so much harder and was so violently inclined from a handling standpoint.  I guarantee that anyone taking that first ride on nitro could run slower than they were running on gas and swear it was by far the quickest run they ever made.  I know my first one was, because it was all over the track.  I am sure the phenomenon is similar between TAFC and AAFC.  The old, full suspensions, with all their movement and wheel-dangling characteristics made it even more pronounced, even though we were going way slower. This brings me to the second and reinforcing part of the story.  This may seem unrelated, but you will see when we get there.  As happens in life and racing you cross paths with some colorful characters.
    One of those for me was Connie Swingle.  I only met him once in 1966.  He was going to drive Dick Belfati's Teleflex Trick Truck wheelstander, which had been built in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, by Carliss & Schall; the same guys that did our Mustang and Cougar.  Connie was there to pick it up and leave on tour.  Swingle and Belfati probably came together by having both raced Top Fuel cars.  We were putting the finishing touches on our Mustang and didn't know how to pack the 'chute.  It didn't come with instructions.  Somebody said, "This guy Swingle is next door, maybe he'll show you."  Connie came over and zip-zip-zip, in about 15 seconds, packed the chute and then, more slowly, showed us how.  We got to talking and he proceeded to regale us with some stories.  One piece of advice he offered was if you are out on tour you want to keep a big wad of cash [flashing a horse-choker roll] in your pocket and in case of emergency, a Grover Cleveland [$1000 dollar bill, which he showed us] in your wallet.  He told us he got started in racing driving tankers [moonshine runners] back home in Oklahoma.
     Somehow the subject turned to nitro and he related the story about touring and how he used to pester Joe Schubeck about trying nitro.  Schubeck was one of the top dragster drivers, when Top Gas eliminator was a meaningful enterprise.  Joe was a died-in-the-wool blackie carbon guy [bet you haven't heard that term much lately] meaning he was dedicated to gasoline powered diggers.  One summer Swingle pestered him so persistently that Joe finally gave in.  Connie set up the motor for nitro and Schubeck made a pass.  They drove down to pick him up in the shutdown area and the car had oil all over everything.  Joe's fire suit, helmet and goggles were soaked.  He climbed out, took off his helmet and mask and said, "Shoot, gas ain't fit for washin' parts!"  That's exactly how it was told to me.  It's a great line and if it isn't true, I didn't make it up.  I'll never forget that one brush with Swingle.  He was quite a character and I thought you might like to hear the story.  I am sorry to relate that my loyal crewman, Charlie Gilmore, passed away on December 26, 2010.  He was a great guy and a pioneering character in his own right.  I miss him greatly.  Jeff Foulk


Would you have a phone number or an Email for Mr. Jack Underwood.  I was referred to you from Mike Stewart.  My name is Phil Henny, I am a former Shelby American employee.  I need info on El Mirage, Al Bartz's run at 130mph in the late fifties.  Thank you, Phil Henny ([email protected])
     Phil: I called and spoke to Jack and he has changed his format concerning his records.  He no longer takes requests due to the volume and the loss of original records which were stolen from his garage a few years ago.  That theft created a huge hole in the research that we do at his garage.  Our President, Jim Miller, of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians (SLSRH) has been making copies of the remaining files in Jack Underwood's collection and is trying to make those records public.  He uses the SLSRH Newsletter and the American Hot Rod Foundation as his outlets.  You can find these reports at www.landspeedracing.com and www.AHRF.com.  Also, Jim's phone number is listed on the websites and he prefers phone calls to that of email communication.  As editor of the SLSRH newsletter, I will be glad to publish your letter requesting information on Al Bartz and El Mirage and I will use your email address as your contact information point should any of our readers wish to respond to you.  My suggestion though, is that you start a phone tree going, because responses are often meager.  People simply do not respond to email messages as they do when there is person to person contact either in person or by phone.  Another suggestion is to google the internet for Al Bartz and look up HAMB and other early LSR websites.
     I found a few sites on the internet about Al Bartz and hundreds of sites concerning Bonneville, El Mirage and other land speed racing venue sites.  Write down all that you know about Al Bartz and the subjects that you are trying to research and send them to me to publish in the SLSRH newsletter.  The more information that you provide the more likely you are to jog the memories of our readers.  I have seen many people whom I interviewed tell me that they can't remember anything about an event, but if I keep giving them new questions and bits of information that eventually something will trigger their memories.  We are losing more and more of our old timers and thus you have to be very aggressive in finding and locating them before we lose our early racers.  When you talk to people, be sure to ask them for additional phone numbers and people to call.


Road Runner Meeting Notes - Tuesday, February 8th, 7pm at Ed Martin Garage - Dale Wester's son, Shannon Dale Wester, from Opelika, Alabama, joined the Road Runners Club as an Associate Member. Shannon made his Rookie Run at Bonneville in the Harris & Wester Camaro/GMC in 2009. Last SpeedWeek he qualified for his C and B License at Bonneville. Even though he will not be racing at El Mirage, Shannon wanted to support the Road Runners by becoming an Associate Member. We had four guests at our meeting: Delia Riley, prospective member attended her second meeting; John Carroll, prospective member attended his first meeting (John was a member of the Rod Riders in the early 60's. He now lives in Riverside and plans to get re-involved with racing after many years of being away from the lakes.); Jeff Clauson, member of the Ferguson & Martin Race Team; and Gary McGavin who is reactivating his Road Runners/SCTA membership. Welcome all!
   Reminder that our Road Runners Annual Banquet is coming up on March 5th, 4:00pm, at Flabob Airport. (See posting from Jan 11th below for links to maps.) The deadline for reservations has been extended to February 15th. This event will be at a unique venue and there are many, many great raffle prizes to be handed out. You won't want to miss this! If you are coming in from out of town and are looking for a campground, the Rancho Jurupa Park (County) Campground is adjacent to the Flabob Airport and is a nice camping site in a wooded area next to the Santa Ana River. We will be looking into the possibility of holding one of our monthly meetings at Pole Position (Kart) Raceway in Corona. After a short meeting we plan to conduct the First Annual (??) Coupe Guys vs. Roadster Guys Road Race Challenge. (The Bike Guys will have to decide which camp the will join.) Could be great fun or total mayhem.... which ever!? Should be lots of fun with a years worth of "braggin' rights" for the winners! More details will follow.
   Road Runners Club Duty assignments for the 2011 racing season were discussed. If you have not already contacted Vice President Dale Wester to request a specific duty or time, please do so ASAP. See the minutes of the Feb 8th meeting for more information. If you would like a copy of the complete meeting minutes, just drop me a request: [email protected]. Next Road Runners meeting is March 8, 2011, 7PM at the Ed Martin Garage, Riverside. (posted Feb 9, 2010) Jerry Cornelison, Road Runners - SCTA (est. 1937) http://www.ussarcherfish.com/roadrunners.


WHAT’S NEXT FOR SYDNEY ALLARD’S 1961 ALLARD CHRYSLER DRAGSTER.   The prestige and glamour of Autosport International is over. The Booth-Arons re-created 354 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi engine prepared for the restoration of Europe’s first dragster [managed by the Allard Chrysler Action Group (ACAG)] was revealed by Sydney Allard’s son Alan who drove the car in its last racing season – 1964. There was lots of interest and photos taken with a video made by one of the ACAG’s backers, insurance company Performance Direct who also supplied a bit of glamour to the reveal proceedings. British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Chairman Stuart Bradbury even had the 1964 Drag Festival starter’s jacket and flags to add a bit more nostalgia. During the show the car attracted some interesting visitors including Land Speed Record breaker Richard Noble.  Allard J2X racer Jim Tiller sat in the dragster that he last drove back in 1962/63. Jim took his Chevy Big Block powered orange J2X to Bonneville in 2000 and ran 197 mph; and it covers the bumpy Madeira Drive at the Brighton Speed Trials in the low 10s. It was mentioned to him that he might like to attend the Dragstalgia event at Santa Pod in July.  His J2X should run quicker on a prepared track once it’s dialed in and he is certainly part of UK drag racing history.  What a treat it would be to see him run a 9 at Santa Pod! But what’s next for the Allard Chrysler restoration project. ACAG Chairman Brian Taylor said, “Getting the engine has been an important milestone for the project. But it’s now back to the grindstone.  Raising more funds and preparing the rolling chassis mechanics to receive the engine.  ACAG member Bob Roberts is arranging a meeting of all those ACAG supporters who have indicated their interest in working on the car. This will enable us to more accurately plan and cost the work with a time scale that lines up with our cash-flow capability and the museum’s display requirements. If someone gave me a cheque for �20,000 it could probably be ready in two months.”  But that’s not going to be easy. So who owns Chrysler these days? Fiat Group isn’t it? I wonder whether they know about Sydney Allard and drag racing in Turin? I wonder whether they know about the Chrysler heritage of which they are now guardians?  This project would appear to be just the job for helping them appeal to motoring enthusiasts across Europe and throughout the USA. Europe’s first dragster. The prestigious and much respected classic European sports car manufacturer Sydney Allard aligned with the Chrysler name that has provided the blueprint for today’s Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car power units, and has been the backbone of the sport since the early 1960’s. Surely they should be interested - shouldn’t they?  Sent in by Brian Taylor


Moldy Marvin's 11th Annual Rat Fink Party & Kustom Kulture Extravaganza! July 29-31, 2011.  Main event Saturday July 30, 2011 10:00am until Dusk!   KOA Acton,  7601 Soledad Canyon Rd, Acton, CA 93510.  Celebrating the Life and Times of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.  Vendors, Live Entertainment, Swimming, Family Games, Camping, Food Fun for Everyone!  Open to pre-1973, Kustoms, Classics, Hot Rods, Muscle Cars, Lowriders, Vans, VW's, Motorcycles, Trikes, Trailers, Teardrops, Bicycles, MiniBikes & What Ever Else You May Have!  For More Information & Pre-Registration Forms Please Visit: www.RatFinkParty.com.  Live Entertainment by: Danny Dean, Rattle Trap, Cash Prophets, Phantom Pomps, Blue Collar Combo, Luck Of The Draw, the Resistors, the Bloozamps & Wumbloozo.   Questions?  Call (800) 880-6567 or (661) 944-2299.  Ask for Moldy.    
     Moldy: Be sure to send me periodic updates to add to www.landspeedracing.com.


I was recently retained by Valerie Thompson to obtain sponsor funding for the 2011 NHRA racing season.  Valerie is a NHRA Pro Motorcycle Team Owner/Driver, Two-time Bonneville Land Speed record holder, and spokeswoman for the world’s largest auto auction company, Barrett-Jackson.  Our plans for 2011 include for running the full NHRA season, new record attempts at the Bonneville Speed Trials, and racing the Texas Mile.  Attached is our "Racing for Results" overview detailing the many opportunities and benefits available through sponsorship of Valerie Thompson Racing.  VTR offers numerous alternatives to help organizations achieve their marketing and sales goals in a challenging economic environment.  We can quickly customize an effective year-long marketing campaign based on the sponsors needs and budget.  Thank you for taking the time to review our proposal. If you know of anyone who would benefit through a partnership with VTR, I would appreciate the opportunity to follow up with them.  Eric Studer for Valerie Thompson Racing (NHRA, Bonneville, Texas Mile) www.ValerieThomsponRacing.com, [email protected], 214-676-3860


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.  The telephone number is; 805-245-8519.  Sent in by Don Oaks 


I will be displaying work and running a painting demonstration this coming weekend, Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th February 2011 at The Footman James 2nd Great Western Autojumble: Stall 28 Royal Bath and West Showground BA4 6QN Open 9.30 - 4.00 each day.  On sale will be original artwork as well as prints and postcards.  10% discount will also be offered on commissions taken on the day.  The show’s centrepiece is a special display in the main hall, focusing on 100 years of Ford.  It will feature some 20 clubs, showing more than 50 Fords; from an early Model T through to Fiestas and a GT40 replica.  More info can bee seen here: http://www.bccsl.co.uk/.   Martin Squires


The following interview was conducted by Sam Hawley for his book. It is reprised here for the benefit of the members of the SLSRH by the direction of Sam. For the rest of the interview, go to www.Samuelhawley.com.
SPIRIT OF AMERICA: MIKE FREEBAIRN INTERVIEW.  Mike Freebairn was a friend of Craig Breedlove's from the early days and was involved in the first "Spirit of America" jet car, the three-wheeler.  I interviewed him over the phone at his home in Les Vegas on June 2, 2009.
Craig Breedlove and I went to rival high schools, but we grew up at the same drive-in [Mike means a drive-in diner, not a movie theater] and we had similar car clubs and we knew each other from those days when we were teenagers. And then I went into the military service and Craig got a job with the fire department in Costa Mesa and we didn’t see each other for a while, until I got out from pilot training and was flying as a fighter pilot. I ran into him while I was looking for a stolen car. [Laughs] He was in a barber shop that I was at, and we renewed our friendship from high school and I found out he was looking to build a car that would break John Cobb’s record. He was going to take two Allison aircraft engines, lay them down on their sides and drive one through the front wheels and one through the rear wheels. And I asked him if he’d ever thought of using a jet engine, and he said no he hadn’t. I worked with him right up through the breaking of the speed record.

Why did you suggest the jet idea to Craig? Were you aware of other jet cars?

I was aware that there were people who were starting to play around with them, but nobody had really taken it serious. And I was also aware that after the Korean War there were a lot of jet engines coming out of surplus, and I was very familiar with jet engines, being a fighter pilot. And I actually physically went out and found a jet engine for Craig to use, and we got it down to Costa Mesa.

[I mention hearing from Vic Elischer that back in the early 1960s the military would remove key components from J-47s they were selling off as surplus, and that it was thus a challenge getting the working again.] Do you have a recollection of that?

Well now, we had quite a conversation with Romeo...

Way back then?

Oh yeah. Before that. We got involved with aerodynamics and he didn’t, and of course Glenn Leasher was killed in Romeo’s car. We told him basically what would happen and they didn’t want to believe us. We also did that with Dr. Nathan Ostich. It was Ostich’s wheels that we were able to get a hold of; that’s what put us into those 48-inch wheels that he had.

Those were Ostich’s wheels?

They were built for Ostich’s car, yeah.

But Ostich used Firestone wheels and I thought Craig was a Goodyear guy.

Well, Firestone may have dropped the forgings for the wheels, but we had Goodyear build our tires. The wheels were designed for Ostich’s car and they were being hand laid-up for Ostich’s car.

What did you see as wrong with the Infinity jet car? I know it didn’t have a tail, but neither did Spirit of America in its initial design.

That’s true. We were relying on a design concept with a canard fin under the nose of the car to steer the car. The first year we went up there we didn’t have much control over it, the steering wasn’t sufficient aerodynamically and the car would drift off course. That’s when we took it back to California and developed the steering ratio between the canard fin and the front wheel. We also found out those big wheels were a detriment to our situation because it would tweak the frame so hard; even on a three-knot crosswind the car would drift off course. So there were some design characteristics that played a big part in what we did. We were the first car to go in a wind tunnel and actually get data against a ground plane. That’s why we knew Romeo’s car wasn’t going to work very well, because of the aerodynamic design. There were a lot of other things too. Craig could give you better information on that because he actually talked to him. And then Dr. Nathan Ostich didn’t pay much attention to air duct design, and we knew a lot about that too. That’s why he collapsed his air ducts and pulled out of the racing.
   The GE engine that we procured I actually got at Northrop Institute in El Segundo. They put the engine together after tearing it down and ran it on their test stand before we got the engine from them. So we knew we had a working engine. And when Craig took the engine down to his house in Costa Mesa, he actually laid out a frame on the floor of the garage to cradle the engine in, which is still, to my knowledge, painted on the garage floor of that house. We became very excited about it. I basically promoted the car and got all the technical people together to build the car, and we put together quite a team, from aerodynamicists to engineers all the way down to the mechanic who worked on the vehicle.

Were you on the salt that first season in 1962, when the car wasn’t handling well?

Yes and no. I was up there but I couldn’t stay because of commitments I had with the Air National Guard. But I was there and I knew what was going on and I even told them that I thought the crosswind was causing the gyroscopic action on the front wheel that was twisting the frame and causing the car to go off course.

[I mention the tensions that arose in the team during that first season, when the car wasn’t handling.] Do you recall any of those tensions?

Well, Rod Schapel...I was at the meeting with Shell and Goodyear and Craig and the whole team. And Rod Schapel said that, because of my experience flying, I’m the one that should drive the car and see if the canard fin would work or not.

This was after things hadn’t gone well that first trip up to the salt.


How did you feel about the idea of driving the car?

Oh, I’d have loved to have driven it. But it took me completely off guard, and it was Craig’s project. It was never my project. When big business bought in, it became Craig’s project completely. It was no longer a group project, if you understand what I’m saying. Because I even have a tape recording of the night we created the name “Spirit of America.”

An audio tape? Why did you tape that?

It was the only thing we could do. It was at Craig’s home on Sepulveda Boulevard, where he built the first mock-up. He kicked out the back wall to make the garage big enough to hold this mock-up, which was very interesting.

So it was a few of you guys kicking around ideas, and you came up with this name?

We had an engineer from Hughes Aircraft who was there, and Bill Moore, and just the whole group of us. And I had the idea that this was something that I ought to record for history purposes, and I did.

Do you still have that tape?

I think so. But I’ve moved enough times and I’ve got enough stuff in storage that I would be a hard time to find it. But I do have a tape that I made.

What were you calling the car before that?

It was just “Craig Breedlove’s car.” The name “Spirit of America” just came up, I can’t remember if it was Bill Moore or which of the guys it was. But because it was all of us, quote “late teenagers” you might say, we thought we’d caught the spirit of America. We thought that was a great name for the car.

You mentioned you used to hang out at the drive-in with Craig. Was that the Clock Drive-in?

Yeah, the Clock, and Scrivener’s. Scrivener’s is no longer...it’s a gas station. I don’t know if the Clock has changed names, but that was at Venice and Sepulveda. Craig lived just up the street, up Sepulveda, with his dad. He had a ‘34 coupe. It was a neat little car. We’d congregate at the drive-in before we’d go down and drag race.

Back then, when you were teens, did you all race your hot rods on the street and things like that, that you weren’t supposed to do?

Oh certainly. There was a law against showing expediency of speed. We used to go out and race at night. We had a black eye, basically. When you were called a hot rodder, you were a rebel. We all had our own little car clubs. But there was a police officer in Culver City that helped put a stop to things. We stopped 80 percent of the street racing by forming the Bay City Timing Association. I’ve got a copy of a newspaper article showing a lot of the clubs standing there with their club names on their T-shirts. Howard Hughes was going to help build us a drag strip. But because of the military security they wouldn’t allow it, so we went back to street racing. But no, we had a black eye in those days. As a matter of fact, Wally Parks came to those meetings, and it was shortly after that that he formed the National Hot Rod Association. So we had a lot to do with street racing.

Am I correct to say, then, that you were involved in street racing, but would have preferred to run on drag strips, but they just didn’t exist at that time?

That’s right...Well, it was a chore. If you went up to Saugus you ran on an old abandoned runway, just a little over a quarter mile long, and rather dangerous. This was before we had any real drag races. The old Saugus strip was one of the ones around LA, and they finally got one at Santa Ana Airport, the Santa Ana drags, and those were the two basic drag strips we had.

[I ask if Mike recalls the use of the derogatory term “squirrel” to refer to someone who was an outlaw, not part of a hot rod club, breaking the law and giving hot rodders a bad name.] Did you ever hear that expression?

Oh sure. There were a lot of kids we used to call squirrels because they were just a little too extreme, or they didn’t want to obey any law, you might say. Or they would cheat. We’d call them squirrels.

Do you remember when Nye Frank entered the picture?

Yeah. Nye got involved I think during the building stage [of Spirit 1]. Of course he was a great crew chief, very knowledgeable and very talented, and did a lot for Craig.

What kind of guy was Rod Schapel?

Oh, a great guy. He was very knowledgeable, a great engineer, very talented mechanically. He was working for Task Corporation, which was developing these little motors for wind tunnels. He got us into wind tunnels and opened a lot of doors for us. I still keep in touch with him periodically.

Is he still alive?

Oh yeah. I could probably find him. I don’t have a current list on him now. But we have mutual friends that we keep in touch with.

You mentioned that Craig’s initial idea for the racer was to use two Allison engines. Had that ever been done before, to put two Allisons in a car?

No...well, I think it had been done a couple of times, but more for drag racing. The way Craig wanted to do it was to lay them down on their sides so he could get a lower profile and drive one through the front wheels and one through the rear wheels. At that time he had the sponsorship of Ed Perkins and that was the way he was thinking because he had more knowledge of that mechanical work. When I suggested the jet engine he said, “Well I don’t have any real knowledge of jet engines.” And I said, “Well I do, so let’s see what we can do.” That’s when I started bringing people onto the project who knew and understood it. And I got him into the wind tunnels at North American Aviation, to visit with the wind tunnel engineers to talk about the machine. They’re the ones who helped us create the design for the car, along with the engineer from Hughes Aircraft.

[I contrast the other LSR guys, building their cars on their own, with Craig going out to find sponsors, and ask Mike where this idea came from.] Did Craig just figure it out? Or was his dad or somebody telling him what he needed to do to win a sponsor?

Yeah, most of the guys were working in their backyards. You get people like Arfons, Arfons got the same basic vision we did. What we found out in the wind tunnel was that you could either take an aerodynamic shape and do it with little horsepower, or you could take brute horsepower and no aerodynamic shape and do the same thing. We chose to do the aerodynamics. As far as sponsorship was concerned, Craig already had a sponsor, Ed Perkins, but he could only spend so much money on the project. And that’s when we started looking for other sponsors. Craig was able to open a door at Shell Oil, and I got Alcoa Aluminum to do the drop forgings, I got Goodyear to build the tires, and they all started coming on as sponsors. And then they had corporate rifts between Goodyear and Shell and Alcoa and Alcoa dropped out of the picture, even though they did the drop forgings for the wheels. But we realized that sponsorship was something we needed if we were going to do this type of car. Because the original budget we had was $300,000, and it ended up costing over $3 million. But when Shell Oil bought in, that was when things really took off.

Editor’s notes: The rest of the interview can be viewed at www.Samuelhawley.com







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