NEWSLETTER 195 - March 10, 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]
Northern California Reporter: Spencer Simon

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Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:
 President's Corner, Editorials, The Main Street Malt Shop and Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip Reunion is set for Saturday, May 7, 2011 in Santiago Park, I found this biography below on Bob Sweikert, We'll send pictures and a short write-up (concerning the Mojave Mile LSR) after the event, The Sam Auxier Jr Show Monday, March 7 2011, I'm Tommy Smith the just-turned-19 year old that was laying prone on the 650cc Triumph in my bathing suit Clymer helmet and tennis shoes, The following biography and story comes from Tom Smith who raced his motorcycle at Bonneville back in the 1950’s, Road Runner Meeting Notes, I have been holding up this tribute to Greg Falconer in order to receive more information, Here is a continuation of the interviews conducted by Sam Hawley for his book.


President's Corner:  
   Last Saturday afternoon I had their pleasure of going to the Annual Gear Grinders Car Club Awards Banquet Party. These events are fun because you actually get to sit around and talk to people unlike when you're at the track with your race faces on. Every club has its own set of awards that is different from the S.C.T.A. and it was nice to get a different perspective from one of the original early day clubs. The trophies and plaques were presented in between raffling off great prizes, food and drink and a lot of bench racing. What a great time I had. The Black Family hosted the party again this year at their digs that consisted of a house and a garage/race shop that we mere mortals would die for. The best part is that you're free to snoop around your guest's race shop and check out all the hot rides that show up for a sort of mini car show. Inside the shop was Craig Black's black Mustang (what other color could it be) that he has turned into one monster of a race car (See picture attached). It's an Altered which basically means you can't mess with the body for the most part but inside its open season. He's got a small motor in it (373" to 439") so he can sort out the chassis before he steps up with a real race motor. At El Mirage last year on a shakedown run he ran 169.664 mph so this year look out record of 204.978 mph.
   Another car parked on the lawn that I couldn't resist shooting was William Boelcke's old '50 Buick (
See picture attached). At first I thought is was just an old beater until one looked a little closer. Seems back in October 1991 then owner Tom Vandenberg actually raced the car at El Mirage as a guest and zipped through the lights at a speed of 114.38 mph. Not bad for an old barge. William uses the car these days as a street driver and has a late model clip and a healthy V8 under the hood. With its still in the works rust patina this one is a real sleeper. On the other side of the yard up by the house sat one fine looking 5-Window Deuce (See picture attached). After quite a bit of work to cherry out the steel body the owner had his kids use a lot of elbow grease sanding it down to the red primer in spots to give it that well used look. This one really brought back that old time feeling. So much so that it was time to dig out something that reminded me of this car from days gone by. That something was a fifties model kit made by a then fairly new company named Revell (See picture attached). Back in the day I must have built around a dozen of these rods that cost the princely sum of seventy-nine cents each. I've still got two of these puppies in unopened boxes and it makes you want to put one together right not. Let's see, a trip to the hobby shop, $20 bucks for paint, brushes etc., about twenty hours of work and, oh wait, I'd have to get a bicycle first, cards for the spokes, then a transistor radio tuned to KFWB, a flat top with wings, loose twenty pounds (or more) and about 55 years and then get rid of this computer. Cool. Enjoy the box art. Thank you Gear Grinders.


 Recently I received a letter that asked some very good questions, but it was personal and I didn’t think that it was appropriate to share that letter with the readers. It is a judgment call on Jim’s and my part as to what goes into the newsletter and what doesn’t. The SLSRH exists to put as much historical narrative in it as possible. In other words, the SLSRH is like an encyclopedia in that it absorbs data that we have discovered and that our members have sent in to us. We are not an entertainment publication with neat stories and photographs. If the members and readers are entertained then that is a plus; but it isn’t our goal. We do learn a lot doing this for others, but that is also a side benefit. What the writer said was, “How can I send in material, can I send it to you by post office mail and will others write in to attack me personally as has happened in other blogs and websites?” Most of you know the answers already; I prefer email and no one is allowed to post items that defame or denigrate another individual. 
   Now as soon as I say that someone will write in and tell me that indeed I have done both things. There are always exceptions to the rule. There are times when Jim and I have to receive things in a form other than digital messages. How can I do book, magazine and movie reviews without the objects themselves? Also, how can we report on history if we don’t report on the good and bad that has happened. Sometimes we have to report on negative things or the history doesn’t make any sense. How can I tell you about Mel Leighton if I can’t tell you that he was black and swore like a sailor? He was also one of the most honest of men and a good friend of the family. He was elected treasurer of the SCTA and served with distinction. All of the stereotypes fly out the window and what we are left with are facts. But the normal procedures are that we receive digital messages and that we eschew any form of “blogging negativity.”
   I ask that racers and fans send computer messages that I can easily edit, copy and paste and then send to the newsletter.  But it all depends on what it is that others wish to share.  I'm on the computer 12 hours a day as it is with 5 newsletters.  I do rework press releases, but I advise people to avoid the words "press releases," and simply send out an email as if it were a short and informative news item between friends.  Most people and especially editors will delete releases unread.  We simply don't have the time to read most of them and edit the releases.  Every editor has his own biases and we can't help but change what you send into something that we think is more appropriate.  That takes time, so the information has to be compact, to the point and short on adjectives.  Just news, old or recent, is what we want.  The Society of Land Speed Racing Historians is more history related, so I want bios and captioned photos of straight-line events and people.  Then, after that is done, please send me stories of events that you have witnessed. 
   Normally I would just reprint this person’s letter and my response, but it seemed somewhat personal, so I won't do it this time.  The writer did bring up good points and I'll editorialize them for the benefit of other readers, especially how to present the best news in the best light.  That person’s project is important and for two reasons; his attempts at land speed racing and two, he actually wrote to me.  There are a lot of good stories out there, but land speeders just won't write.  So that person had two good qualities that made what he did so important to Jim Miller and me.  He raced and he wrote in to tell us about it. Our only goal is to save and record straight-line racing and you help me do that.  No one is paid at the SLSRH and it's totally free and voluntary.  It's a hobby that is all time-consuming and fun for us.  But we are doing this in a professional way and we do have the backgrounds to do it.  We want to know everything that goes on about the people and events in straight-line racing and what you are doing.  Bear in mind that when you write in I will post it, so write as if you were leaving a historical record for the future.  We do not allow personal attacks in the newsletter and if they do get in, it is a mistake and we will remove them and apologize.


  The Main Street Malt Shop and Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip Reunion is set for Saturday, May 7, 2011 in Santiago Park.  The event will start at 10 AM and end around 3 PM.  The park is located on the border of Santa Ana and the City of Orange.  Directions: From Main Street, go east on East Memory Lane for two street lights, or about 1000 feet.  At the second light, turn to your right and go down into the paved parking lot at the bottom of the creek.  The reunion is next to the parking lot in plain sight.  The reunion and parking are free.  This reunion celebrates the early drag racers and hot rodders who raced at the Santa Ana Airport drag strip in the 1950's.  Photographs and scrapbooks will be available to look at.  From Leslie Long


I found this biography below on Bob Sweikert.  I think he went back and forth between the Bay Area and LA.  I checked out the BCRA (Bay Cities Racing Association) book and Bob is listed all over the place in it.  There are a bunch of pictures in it courtesy of Dorie Sweikert.  Bob Sweikert was born on May 20, 1926.  Right after the war he was living in Los Angeles and was a parking lot attendant.  I still can't find a dry lakes connection. It's possible that he ran Russetta events before they became a timing association.  He was still running midgets in the bay area when he was doing the early AAA races.   Jim Miller

BCRA results
1947 No results
1948-52 races, 14th in standings
1949-115 races that year.  Sweikert was the Outdoor- champ.  Indoor- tied for fifth.
1950-52 (?) races.  Outdoor-16th place.  Indoor- 7th place.
Nothing after 1950.
AAA non-championship races driven by Bob Sweikert.
1-15-50 Oakland Speedway
3-12-50 Carrell Speedway
4-2-50   Oakland Speedway
4-30-50 Arlington Downs, Texas- Drove for car owner Karl Orr on 5-30-52
5-30-52 Indy- First race he qualified for, finished 26th.
This URL gives complete listing of all AAA Champ races. 
races; http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/racelist2.php?uniqid=1622


     Biography; Bob Sweikert was born in 1925 and grew up in pre-war Los Angeles.  His mother had married his stepfather, an electrician for the state of California, when Bob was an infant.  Bob was raised through his early teen years with his older step-brother, Ed, who enlisted in the US Navy, and then soon died in 1942, at the onset of World War II. That year the family moved briefly to San Francisco, then across the bay to the rural town of Hayward, California.  From age 16 Sweikert worked after school as a mechanic at the local Ford dealership in Hayward. A naturally gifted mechanic, he frequently won street races throughout the East Bay. One of his frequent local competitors on the streets was Ed Elisian, a teenage boy from nearby Oakland, California.  A dozen years later, Elisian and Sweikert were engaged in the racing duel that led to Sweikert's fatal crash at Salem Speedway.  In late 1944, Sweikert enrolled in the US Army Air Force, but suffered a severe knee injury while training at Lowry Field in Colorado. With months to heal and the war over, he was honorably discharged in September 1945. In 1947, he met his first wife, Marion Edwards, at a party at UCLA. During 1947 Sweikert began mailing monthly accounts of his life to Veda Orr, and continued to do so until April 1956. Karl and Veda Orr built & operated their own race cars. Veda wrote many racing articles. 
     Sweikert returned to Hayward and opened his own small business, Sweikert Automotive, an automotive repair shop based out of his parents' garage. There over the next couple years he built his own track roadster. On Memorial Day, May 26, 1947 Sweikert ran his first race for prize money at the Oakland Speedway, and finished second.  Sweikert then quit automotive repair, and became a full time driver. He gained his first racing sponsorship in July 1947, when he became a track roadster race driver for Hubbard Auto Parts of Oakland.  In early 1948, he married Marion. They had a large family wedding in West L.A. The same year, Sweikert moved up to midget cars, and won his first training race with the Bay Cities Racing Association.  He ran seventy-two races that first BCRA season, finishing 14th out of 130 active members in the annual point standings.  On February 12, 1949 he won the first BCRA Indoor Midget Race Track Championship, in Oakland, on the new oval track.  Sweikert's first chance at driving a sprint car came next in 1949. He drove in northern California that year and later in Los Angeles.  Sweikert was one of the race drivers in the Clark Gable movie To Please a Lady, according to a family member.
     Around 1952 Sweikert became close friends with Johnny Boyd of Fresno, California when he met him on the California racing circuit. The two often raced together, and Boyd qualified for entry in the 1955 Indianapolis 500 when Sweikert helped him overcome mechanical handling problems in Boyd's car.  In May 1952, Sweikert ran his first "Indy 500" race. He entered at the 32nd starting position and ran for 77 laps in the McNamara Special car.  Bob and Marion separated in late 1952.  In January 1953, Sweikert married for a second time to Dorie, who had two children from a previous marriage. They settled in Indiana, to be close to the Speedway.  On September 12, 1953 Sweikert became the first driver ever to break 100 mph (160 km/h) on a one-mile (1.6 km) oval track, at the Eastern Speed Dome in Syracuse, New York.  On September 26, 1953 Sweikert won the Hoosier Hundred, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, a race which is chronicled by many as "the greatest race ever" run.  On September 11, 1954 Sweikert became the first driver ever to average 90 mph (140 km/h) in a 100-mile (160 km) race, with his win in the Lutes Truck Parts Special #17 car at the Eastern Speed Dome in Syracuse. 
     On May 30, 1955 he finally won the Indianapolis 500 race, from the 14th starting position in the Zink Kurtis roadster #6.  That car now resides in the Museum at the Indianapolis racetrack.  In the winner's circle, he and Dorie celebrated with singer-actress Dinah Shore.  In September 1955 he became the only driver in history to win the original American motor sports Triple Crown, by sweeping the Indianapolis 500, the AAA Big Car National Championship, and the Midwest sprint car championship.  In May 1956, at his final return to the Indianapolis 500, he began in the 10th starting position and came in for a 6th place finish, with the team's D-A Lubricant roadster.  Sweikert's fatal sprint car crash occurred on June 17, 1956, at Salem Speedway.  While completing the third lap, Sweikert was running near the outside wall in 4th place, side by side with his past teenage East Bay street rival, Ed Elisian, in 5th.  Coming out of the 4th turn, the two cars started down the straightaway in front of the grandstand.  Running close to the wall, Sweikert's right rear wheel clipped a steel beam sticking out onto the track from the wall at the end of the stands.  The sprint car flew over the edge of the track, down the embankment, and landed a hundred feet below, where it briefly burst into flames. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Washington County Hospital.  He is buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Hayward, California.   
(Editor-The biography appears to have come from Dorie Sweikert, second wife of Bob Sweikert. I edited some parts that appeared to be redundant or unnecessary and added more information as it became available.)


We'll send pictures and a short write-up (concerning the Mojave Mile LSR) after the events.  Yes, it appears that The Texas Mile will have to either find a new venue, or the end has come.  The ECTA Maxton Mile can't run after this year at the location they currently run at, but they have found more than one new location.  This brings us to something that is actually very upsetting to more Land Speed Racers than most know.  As the Texas Mile, The Mile Marker 1 Florida event, and even the changes with the Maxton Mile have become known, many on other LSR websites have attacked these venues, and hope that Land Speed Racing on paved surfaces ends forever.  This is shortsighted, and proves nothing.  Everyone involved in this sport enjoys the past, a past that has built this very following, and to see these attacks now is something that is putting a 'Bad Taste' in the mouths of a large group. You may see a major split in LSR sooner that you think, and you and I know that at least one major name in LSR is looking to form their own organizations. Unfortunately, all of auto racing is being affected more than anyone ever thought because of the economic climate.  We are not particularly great fans of NASCAR over the past few years, having enjoyed that form of racing in its earlier years. They can't even begin to fill the stands anymore, are giving away tickets, and now there are major announcements that the drivers are going to take a 'Big' hit in their wallets, beginning this year.  Same with any other forms of sports, but most feel these professionals are overpaid anyway.  Richard and Judy White, MAXX2RACING
     Richard and Judy: I am sorry to hear that these LSR races are being cancelled or delayed. As for the creation of new racing organizations, that has been going on since the very first races and will most likely continue into the future. The FIA in Paris claims the earliest pedigree for certifying the records in auto racing. There are also groups that predated the FIA in boat racing, which goes way back to the early 1800’s with riverboat racing along the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. The Muroc Timing Association (MTA) was founded by George Wight and George Riley to promote their own businesses and to give young racers in southern California a place to legally race for time. When the MTA ceased to operate in 1937, many of the volunteers reorganized as the SCTA. That organization has remained the largest and most influential of the timing associations, but they are far from being the only one. At around the same time the Western Timing Association (WTA) formed to provide an alternate to the rules and regulations adopted by the SCTA. A short time later we have the Russetta Timing Association (RTA) and the Bell Timing Association (BTA) forming to provide an alternative to the SCTA, which held to a roadster racing format. 
   Coupes and sedans were often excluded by the SCTA and so other timing associations formed to meet the needs of a particular racing group. Many young men belonged to more than one group. They often synchronized their rules, such as having an ambulance on hand to treat the injured. The BTA, however, refused to spend the money to hire an ambulance and simply held their events the same day that the SCTA or RTA held their meets. These timing associations were both competitors and friends at the same time. Some people chose to form smaller associations so that they could time their own meets and yet they weren’t so crowded that they had to wait all day to make just one run. Being a smaller group gave them more opportunities to race, but also meant that there were fewer volunteers to count on to put the meet on. With the coming of drag racing in the 1950’s, these LSR groups began to lose their members to this new sport. It was much more convenient to run near urban areas and avoid the long trip to the desert. In addition, drag racers could run their cars several nights a week instead of only six or eight times a year on the dry lakes. One by one the LSR groups merged or simply went out of business. Luckily the SCTA managed to stay in business, but just barely. Today there has been a resurgence in land speed racing worldwide and the SCTA now has a hundred or more applicants at El Mirage and several hundred at Bonneville. That is still a far cry from the numbers they had back in the late 1940’s.


The Sam Auxier Jr Show, Monday, March 7, 2011. www.automotiveradionetwork.com. Call in number is 1-303-834-9200. Coming soon will air 3 times a week Monday and Wednesday at 7-9 PM EST and Thursday 7-9 PM, Pacific Standard Time. Interviewing The greatest names in racing.


I'm Tommy Smith, the just-turned-19 year old that was laying prone on the 650cc Triumph in my bathing suit, Clymer helmet and tennis shoes.  The picture of me was taken in August 1952 (at Bonneville).  I also have to admit that I am (ir)responsible for the rule that requires motorcycle riders to wear leathers at Bonneville.  A day or two after the picture was taken I got into a wobble and got off at about 150mph.  I wished at that point that I had leathers on.  I did mostly drop out of racing, went back to college and switched to computers for about 40 years.  I saw the Ack Attack book (page 129) last Wednesday at our monthly old racers dinner, held under the auspices of Sam Wheeler and bunch of other guys including Dick Lague (who had couple of copies of the book, so I got a preview  look).  It looks very professionally done, and I plan to buy a copy to show my wife and kids.  Regards, Tom Smith (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)
     Tom: That was a classic photograph; and I believe that I've seen it published elsewhere.  I'm sending a copy of this email to our Society's president, Jim Miller and ask him if he recalls seeing the photograph in some other publication.  Would you write your story on this event so that we can print it in our newsletter?  I would be glad to help edit your story for you.  Also, we would like to have your bio and will help you with that. 


Editor’s notes: The following biography and story comes from Tom Smith, who raced his motorcycle at Bonneville back in the 1950’s. (Click for Story with pictures)
   I raced motorcycles in a variety of venues: half mile dirt track, TT, � mile dirt track, scrambles, desert, dry lakes speed trials and drag races. I was a pro dirt track racer for two years, riding my BSA Gold Star and a K-Model Harley. I normally rode a knucklehead Harley fueler owned by Joe Fernandez at drags. I used to save data on my racing, and remember that I averaged 50 races per year when I was 17 and 18. I started racing desert when I was 15. I totaled about 4,000 miles of actual racing. In mid 1952 Joe Fernandez decided to increase the displacement of his knucklehead from 80 cu in to around 96 cubic inches. No aftermarket cylinders were available so Joe had to have some custom made. Since I now didn’t have a drag strip ride, Joe asked his friend Henry “Blackie” Bernal to let me ride his 650cc Triumph. I rode Blackie’s Triumph three times. The first time was at the Pomona drags in July 1952 where I was top eliminator, racing against the fastest car. The second time was at Rosamond dry lake, where I ran a little over 134mph and was the fastest 650cc bike. The third time was at Bonneville. When I went to Bonneville, I took my desert/half-mile flat track leathers with me. I didn’t wear them because it was difficult to maneuver while riding the Triumph. In retrospect, maybe I should have. Then again, I got my draft notice for the Korean War two weeks after the accident. Maybe I was lucky after all. My accident happened six weeks after I turned 19, so I was prime draft material.
   At Bonneville the bike, which was built by Bud Hare, had lots of ignition trouble. Bud had brought a box full of magnetos; most of the time a magneto lasted only one run. I qualified for the record two or three times, and never made a successful return run due to mag failure. Bud brought two motors to Bonneville; he said that the one I used had 65hp. The other one developed 70hp. I don’t know if the 70hp motor was ever used. I made one qualifying run taching 7,200 rpm and backed off the throttle to keep the rpm down. 7,200rpm was indicated 165mph and the timed speed was 147.78, so I had a lot of wheel spin. I drifted side to side and it generally felt like I was floating. On a later run it felt like I was getting into a wobble. We discussed it and one theory was lack of weight. It turned out that we were right, but we didn’t do anything. I was making another qualifying run when I got into a big wobble about when I was entering the first timing trap. This happened very fast and then next thing I knew I was going down on the left side. I remember pushing the handlebars away from me as I was hitting the ground, and the Triumph apparently straightened up and just got warped front forks and a dented gas tank. Next, I started bouncing, landing flat on my back three times. I was trying to “tuck in” and roll, but spectators said they saw the bounces and then I was all arms and legs flailing around. I came to a stop near the timing stand, where the ambulance was parked. I got loaded into the ambulance in just a couple of minutes, which was the best possible outcome. I think I was making another run close to 150mph since I was clocked at 139mph average sliding through the first 1/10 mile timing trap.
   After the accident, the Triumph was repaired and Blackie Bernal rode it. Since I weighed 124 pounds and Blackie weighed a lot more his added weight apparently stabilized it so he had no speed wobble problems. He made a one-way run at 148.08mph and a two-way record of a little over 144mph. I don’t know if he used the 70hp motor. It’s too bad I backed off the throttle on my 147mph run – I think would have easily beaten Blackie’s best time. It looks like I’ll never know. When my accident happened, the ambulance crew (Scotty’s Muffler Shop sponsored the ambulance which had a nifty picture of a muffler on the doors) was under the impression that the nearest emergency room was in Wells, Nevada. So we headed there. In Wells, they said that the closest emergency room was in Elko, Nevada so off we went again. Joe Fernandez, whose fuel dragster was my regular ride, followed in his car. Joe said that his speedometer read about 110mph so I had a fast ride. I was put in the Elko hospital for five days. At the close of the Bonneville meet, the Scotty’s muffler ambulance crew came by and offered to take me to Corcoran, California where my parents and I lived. I don’t remember much about the trip, but it was uneventful and worrisome to the ambulance crew (which I think was just the driver/owner at that point). All in all, I totaled up 755 miles laying flat on my back in the rear of the ambulance.
   I stayed in bed in my home for about 18 months. I forget just how long it was. My mother, who was a MD, arranged for day care for me. I was covered with bandages except from my knuckles down, my ankles and feet, my neck up and my crotch. After my mother got home from work, she changed my bandages. We changed half each day and it took four hours. The problem was that back then, Vaseline and gauze bandages were used and they tended to stick to areas that had no skin. This was 20-35% of me. After a few months my mother arranged for a skin graft. The guy who did the graft was head of the California Medical Association. My father didn’t think I was in good enough shape for the operation, and he was right. Instead of improving, my raw areas ulcerated and got a lot worse. My weight went to about 85 pounds and my blood pressure dropped to 85 over almost nothing. My mother put me on intravenous feeding. This had to be done in the back of my right hand and took 3 hours and 45 minutes each feeding. Since my right arm was the only thing I could move, life was miserable for a few weeks. I could use only my right arm for the first 16 months. If the skin graft had been delayed 6 months or so, I probably would have recovered a lot sooner. By the way, I lost gauze bandages a couple of times. The bandages would sink into the raw flesh and I had to use tweezers to fish out the strands one at a time. I think there is still one lost in my left thigh.
   Strangely, once I started getting better I recovered very rapidly. I went from flat on my back to walking in about a month. Note that the primary reason for my long recovery was the technology used to treat burn victims back then. Luckily I had abrasive burns instead of fire. Incidentally, in 1993 I worked four months at the Army Burn Center in San Antonio, Texas. I met the elderly guy who ran the place once, but I worked in a remote lab doing computer networking and never saw any patients. The lab did experiment on me a bit, since the Major running it was doing a survey. Near the end of my recovery, my mother (who liked to do research) bought some experimental artificial skin she had found in medical literature. It was a plastic resembling thick Saran Wrap perforated with tiny holes for ventilation. We put a layer of this directly over the missing skin and then put gauze. As soon as we tried this, I started getting noticeably better and the bandage change dropped to about an hour a day. If the artificial skin had been available to start with, my recovery would have been much faster, but that is the way things go. Luckily for me my mother was a very smart doctor or I would have probably died. In her career as a general practitioner she delivered about 5,000 babies. Her infant death rate was about 1/3 the rate of the other local doctors. She also discovered that massive doses of Penicillin would cure the most common venereal diseases. This was before it was an approved treatment, and some doctors in town said she didn’t know what she was doing. She also invented an IUD that Abbot Labs wanted the rights to manufacture. She had 255 semester units of college before starting medical school, graduating with a triple major and two minors. A bachelor’s degree usually requires 134 semester units. I just wish I was as smart and had as much common sense.
   After recovery, I started back to college. I had 2 � years at Pasadena City College as a pre-med major prior to my accident, and changed to math when I returned (to Fresno State). As a result of the change, I essentially started college all over. I was a graduate student with two classes to go for a Masters degree when I got fed up and bailed out. I got a job at Edwards AFB as a mathematician, which really meant computer programmer, in 1959 and stayed with computers until I retired in 2001. That’s it. I won’t bore you with my computer story. It turned out better than my Bonneville escapade. Below are some pictures of the Triumph. The Bonneville pictures were published before in other books (one was in John Stein’s book). Cycle magazine provided the Bonneville picture to me and I happily provide copies to anyone that wants to see or use them in publications. Since they were taken in 1952, there is no copyright that I know of. I don’t know the status of the picture of my back. The Rosamond picture was made by one of our friends. The picture of Blackie’s bike in drag race configuration was given to me by Blackie.  (This story is the abbreviated version, the longer version will appear in www.hotrodhotline.com in the near future)


Editor’s notes: The following was sent in by Jerry Cornelison.
   Road Runner Meeting Notes - Tuesday, March 8th, 7pm at Ed Martin Garage - At our Tuesday meeting, guests Delia Riley (prospective member - third meeting), John Carroll (prospective member - 2nd meeting), and Bill Claybaugh, member of the Claybaugh Racing Team joined us.  It was very nice to see Bill back following his recent illness.  Delia Riley submitted her application for membership.  She has been a Team Member of Riley Racing since Pat has been racing his '38 Coupe. She is and has been very active in SCTA and BNI activities at El Mirage and Bonneville.  Delia was voted into the Club by members. Welcome Delia.  We just held our annual banquet and it was a very successful and fun event. See details and pictures on the 2011 Banquet Page on our website.  Many thanks to Bridget and Dale Wester for getting some really great raffle items!  The April regular membership meeting will be moved from our normal venue, the Ed Martin Garage, to Pole Position Raceway in Corona. We will be meeting at 6:30 to hold the Coupe VS Roadster Kart Race Challenge.  Our Motorcycle guys say they can't identify with either so this may become the Coupe VS Roadster VS Motorcycle Kart Race Challenge!  So far, 20 members have signed up to race.  This should be a fun event.  Pole Position Raceway is located at 1594 E. Bentley Dr, Corona, CA.  Willy Martin says that the Road Runners have been invited to display our race vehicles at the 5th annual Over the Hill Gang Car Show to be held in San Bernardino on June 4th.  The event organizers want to have some cars and motorcycles that people don't normally see at Cruise Nights and local Car Shows.  More details will be available at our April and May Club meetings.  Secretary-Road Runners  Next Road Runners meeting is April 12, 2011, 6:30PM at Pole Position Raceway, Corona (posted Mar 9, 2011) 
Road Runners 2011 Annual Banquet - Hope you were there! If not, you missed a wonderful time. Around 60 Road Runners and guests enjoyed good company and great food at a historic venue. There were many, many outstanding raffle and auction items donated by over 5 dozen businesses. Please visit the 2011 Banquet page for pictures and information. (posted Mar 9, 2011) 
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 they will join.  Could be great fun or total mayhem.... whichever?  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.  Secretary-Road Runners  Next Road Runners meeting is March 8, 2011, 7PM at the Ed Martin Garage, Riverside. (posted Feb 9, 2011) 


Editor’s notes: I have been holding up this tribute to Greg Falconer in order to receive more information. I need to publish this as it is becoming quite old. If further information comes in I will add that later.
Gone Racin'...To say our goodbyes to Greg Falconer.  Story by Richard Parks, with Dr Tom Scherer
     On August 7, 2010, a group of boat racers gathered at Marine Stadium in Long Beach, California to say goodbye to Greg Falconer.  I've met Greg on many occasions and have been invited to his home and shop, where he was always the gracious host.  He was a crackerbox racer and teamed up with Dr Tom Scherer.  They were always in the running though they chose to race for the love of boat racing, eschewing the big dollars necessary to dominate in their division.  They also served as officials and crackerbox club members and volunteers, assisting other racers even if it meant at the risk of promoting a competitor.  Greg and Tom made a great team.  I never heard any dissension or arguments.  One of their biggest supporter and a crew member was Greg's son, who went with them every chance that he could.  The father, son and good friend set a gracious tone for the other boat racers and for spectators.  There was none of the individualistic bravado that is often found among boat racers. Perhaps the reason for the great patience and kindness was due to the arthritis that ravaged his body.  To most people who met Greg Falconer for the first time the feeling was one of pity, but he would have none of that.  Although his hands and body were twisted and every movement caused him pain, Greg accepted no favors and competed head to head with life.  After a while those who knew him offered no Mulligans, no do-overs.  They knew that Greg wanted to challenge his disability and the other boat racers without a handicap.
     In a way, this made him a stronger and better man, and every moment to him was precious and dear.  I marveled at the way he and his son interacted.  I've never seen a father and son so close to each other.  I've also rarely seen a man so respected and admired among his peers.  Greg had his faults, like any other human being, but frankly it was hard to see them because we were so fixated on how hard he struggled and fought for everything in life.  Falconer and Scherer loved racing at Marine Stadium and other racing sites.  It wasn't easy, not for them or any other boat racer, as venue racing sites are rare nowadays and the racers have to go a long ways to compete.  It was a long time ago, during the 1932 Olympics, that Marine Stadium was constructed to allow a racing site for sailing and motorboat racing.  Over the years some famous boat racers have won trophies and championships there.  Then as the area developed and housing filled in around the race site, it became difficult to hold races there and eventually Marine Stadium grew quiet and boat racing came to an end.  That is, until someone looked into the legal charter and found that boat racers couldn't be excluded from the site.  Once again the venerable old channel welcomed boat racing on its wide expanse and Greg and Tom were there with their boat.  
     The crackerbox club has about 25 members in Southern California, with chapters around the country.  A crackerbox is a shortened version of a longer race boat, sort of stubby in a way and built wide enough to accommodate two men.  Because of the size of the engines and the aerodynamics of the boat, a crackerbox won't reach the speeds of some of the faster classes in boat racing.  But don't be deceived, for even if the cracker tops out at 100 mph, it is a slip-sliding, sometimes sideways, jumping, roaring ride for the stout of heart.  It's a physically demanding ride, similar to those death defying roller coaster rides; the E rides of our youth.  It is a heart-pounding, hair raising trip that takes courage and skill; two things that Greg Falconer had a great deal of.  He's left us now and no longer suffers the daily pain, but for those of us fortunate enough to know him, we've been blessed with a gift.  We know what is real and what is fake, after being around him.  We know what priorities are after seeing him use every minute of his time wisely.  We know what true pain and loss can be, but also what true joy and success can be.  Greg didn't win a lot of races, but he won our hearts and he set the example for us to follow.  He's my ideal of what a true racer is all about.
Gone Racin' is at [email protected]


Editor’s Notes: Here is a continuation of the interviews conducted by Sam Hawley for his book, Speed Duel. I am only printing half of the interviews so that you will have to go to Sam’s website www.samuelhawley.com to read the rest of it. I am doing it this way because Hawley’s website is worth visiting. For you history buffs who love more than cars you should see what Sam has written on. He has a very sharp and incisive mind and he is one of the best interviewers that I have read.
: Ted Groff is the son of Bud Groff, a long-time friend of Art Arfons' who was on the "Green Monster" crew for all Art's LSR runs at Bonneville in 1964, 1965 and 1966. Ted was himself a grown man at the time and has his own memories of Art as well.  I interviewed him over the phone at his winter home in Florida on July 9, 2009.

[Ted says that he has “all kinds of literature and stuff, but it’s in Ohio.” Newspaper articles, photos, movies from out on the salt flats. “Some guy in an airplane took one.”] Art dumped that car at 600 mile an hour in [1966], and they went up to get it. And the funny thing of it was that this one guy, it sounds almost like he’s crying, and it’s Ed Snyder. And my dad, you’d have to know him, but his voice changed about three octaves. And he says, “Well, we’re here. We better get out.” But he never talked that way. It was very deep, and very serious. 

Sam Hawley: So this was all caught on film, with sound.

Ted Groff: Oh yeah.

Sam Hawley: So your dad and Ed Snyder are in a car, they’ve driven down the salt...

Ted Groff: Well, I think they’re in the bus, or the big truck or something, there were 3 or 4 of them there. And so when they brought it [the smashed racer] home my dad called me, because my dad and I used to go to Indianapolis all the time and we would take movies and we would bring them home, especially after an accident, and we would try to dissect it to figure out why and how this guy got hurt. And so my dad called me when he got home and he said, “If you want to see the car you’d better come over here. We’re going to get rid of it.” So I went over and I crawled up on the bed of the trailer and I’m crawling around underneath there looking, and I whistled, and my dad came out of the garage and he says, “What!” And I said, “Did Art hit a hole?” He said, “No.” I said, “Did he hit a pole?” He said, “No! Why?” I said, “Slide up under the front of this thing and look.” Art had a Packard, about 4-inch solid steel axle in the front. From left to center it was perfect, but from center over it looked like somebody had cut it with a razor and it was twisted up like a corkscrew. And so Pappy got out from under it real quick and he run in there and he says, “Art! Come look what Ted found!” And Art comes out and says, “What’d you find now?” And I say, “Look here. What the hell did this?” And he crawls up under there and looks and he says, “I’ll be damned. I wondered what that sound was.” Do you know what a wheel bearing sounds like when it goes out? Well, when you’re going down the road in your car it’’ go, chit-chit...chit. And then finally it’ll bite, it’ll go eeeeee. Art says, “I was doing right around 600 mile an hour, a little over, and I heard a cheeeuuu, and I’m upside down.” And I said, “You shittin’.” And he said “No.” And I said, “The damn bearing froze and welded to the spindle.” That’s what rolled him over.

Sam Hawley: [I ask about Bug Groff’s background.] Had be retired as a painter when he started helping out Art?

Ted Groff: No, he kept the business. When they weren’t out running he’d still run the business. My dad was a little short guy, five-four, and he had a temper like dynamite. A very short fuse. [Goes on to relate how Bud got into trouble touring in Europe with Art’s car. He was driving the truck in Italy, hauling the Green Monster, and was stopped and the flares he was carrying for emergencies the authorities mistook for dynamite. Bud was arrested and taken to the station and had to explain that these things were really flares, and that you needed to carry them in America when you were driving a truck. They let him go.]

Sam Hawley: When was this?

Ted Groff: I...jeez, I don’t know....They wanted him to run it on the Autobahn, but he wouldn’t do it.

Sam Hawley: Was Art with your dad?

Ted Groff: Oh yeah. Him and Art took the car over there.

Sam Hawley: [I verify that Bud’s real name was Nyles Groff. I ask about his nicknames.]

Ted Groff: The guys in the motorcycle bunch called him “Red,” the painters called him “Bud,” and all the guys that knew me and run in our crowd, including Art, called him “Pappy.” And the painters called him “Jerry.” But his name was Nyles. [Ted later mentions that he’d heard lots of stories of the stuff his dad did on motorcycles when he was young.]

Sam Hawley: So Art called him Pappy?

Ted Groff: Yeah, Art and them called him that.

Sam Hawley: And he was kind of short and had a big mustache, right?

Ted Groff: He was five foot four and had a handlebar, yeah. As long as I knew him he had a handlebar mustache.

Sam Hawley: And just to make sure, your dad was a house painter, right?

Ted Groff: Yes sir. He helped start the union.

[I ask whether Bud was in WW2. Ted says that he was; that he was drafted despite his age, having just one good eye, two bad knees and a bad back.] So they took him into the army and he totally refused to shoot a gun. For the reason that, when he was a kid, a couple of his uncles had him out and one uncle loaded up a gun and said to him, “Shoot that thing right down there,” and he shot at it and it went over and almost hit his other uncle. And it turned out the barrel was bent.” Ted says he had a shotgun, but he had to break it down totally to take it into the house. “That’s how much Pappy was against guns. He would always say that no one would ever attack the United States because everyone had a gun, and the guy that did had enough to give everybody on the block one. Well I love guns, but he didn’t. Well anyway, after getting drafted they put him in the medics. His whole company was getting ready to go overseas, and when they took their last physical to go this doctor looked at him and said, “My God man, how did you get into the army?” And Pappy said, “Oh don’t know. They just drafted me. I told them I was screwed up.” And the doctor said, “Well, with your knees and your back and you got only one eye to see with, that ain’t right.” So they kept him in California, and they put him into I guess you’d call it the motor pool, but in the paint shop. I told you he was a little short guy and a character. Well, one day the inspecting general was inspecting the base and he walked into the paint shop, and he says, “How do you know what’s in these cans? There are no labels on them.” And Pappy says, “I know. I can smell ‘em and I can tell you what’s in every one of ‘em.” And that’s the way he done stuff.

Sam Hawley: So your dad had only one good eye. Did he have a glass eye?

Ted Groff: No. The other eye was there and it was a normal eye. [It was Bud’s left eye that didn’t work.] He finally went to a specialist in Cleveland because he was going blind in his good eye and the doctor asked him what happened to his bad eye. Bud said he could see light with it and maybe the odd shadow with it, and that it had been like that since he was a kid. [Bud couldn’t remember what had happened to damage his eye when he was a kid. Ted asked his uncle what had happened to Bud’s eye and got the story. He said that when they were kids and playing baseball a line drive or something hit Bud in the left eye and that this could have been what damaged it.]

[I ask whether Bud had a background in racing. Ted says that his experience had been mainly on motorcycles. He’d also had a cut-down Model T, all souped up, when he was young. I ask where Bud was living in the early 1960s and how he got associated with Art Arfons. Ted says he was living in Akron, and had known the Arfons going way back. “My dad used to go to the Arfons Mill and get grain and stuff. And so he knew Art’s dad real well, and he knew Art from seeing him there.”]

Sam Hawley: What kind of guy was Ed Snyder?

Ted Groff: He was a good guy, a character. He done everything and anything. He was a good guy. Well, his wife lives right there by Art’s shop.

Sam Hawley: Did your dad accompany Art on all his Bonneville trips?

Ted Groff: Those three [Art, Ed and Bud] were together all the time. And then there was Charlie [Mayenschein], who got killed, car hit him head on. Charlie was a hell of a nice guy. And there was a tall skinny guy who wore glasses and I can’t remember his name to save my life [Henry Butkiewicz]. But I remember Charlie because he really impressed me. When one of the wheels [i.e. a big wheel] from Firestone came out to see Art, he asked if he should send an engineer out to make some blueprints for the car. And Art looked at him and said, “For what?” And the guy said, “Well, so you can build the car.” And Art says, “I only got one guy on my crew that can read blueprints. None of the rest of us can.” And that was my dad.

Sam Hawley: So your dad could read blueprints.

Ted Groff: Oh yeah. See, he was a paint contractor.

Editor: The rest of the interview can be seen at www.samuelhawley.com







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