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SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 196 - March 18, 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

Click On All Images / Link For more Info / Images

Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:
 President's Corner, Editorials, I wanted to give you an update on Charlie Gilmore, Editor’s notes: I have received new information on Karl and Veda Orr, I have E-mailed several people to hopefully get some biographies, The Main Street Malt Shop and Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip Reunion is set for Saturday May 7 2011 in Santiago Park, Am I still on your list I don't get much from you anymore, I was talking to Bill Summers yesterday, Hello Spencer: We do have some interesting LSR stuff, There is news regarding the DSS36 dual carburetor class participants running in the 36hp Challenge at the World of Speed event on the Bonneville Salt Flats this coming September, I am working on an article (and eventual book) about the first Palm Springs race held in April 1950, I just thought this might be of interest to you, I would like to introduce you to a great woman when it comes to land speed on a bike, 11x14 print of the first lap photograph of the start of the 1961 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen is available, Editor’s Notes: Here is a continuation of the interviews conducted by Sam Hawley for his book - Speed Duel, Karl & Veda Orr photos

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President's Corner:  
   I am sitting here thinking about what to get on the soapbox this week about and it occurred to me that the land speed community has been going through a lot of changes these days. Starting this May we have a bunch of new safety rules that are going to help protect the driver. We're also looking at our racetracks as of now because El Mirage is still not dried out and our beloved salt flats are shrinking. We can also say that hi-tech has also caught up with the hot rod boys big time. Let’s look at each one separately. In the safety department the big news is everybody is going to have to run a head and neck restraint system starting in May at El Mirage because they work. Hopefully everyone got a chance to see the Danny Thompson crash that's been playing on YouTube and how the system saved his life. As you know the S.C.T.A. has always been big on safety and was lucky to be close with the manufacturers that make our safety gear. At our Sidewinders meeting on Wednesday Joe Hansen of DJ Safety (he is also a member of our club) showed us the latest in his new safety gear. He also gave us a lot of insight on something that most racers don't think about, and that's our bodies. If you look at us, basically we are like a race car, a chassis with parts hung all over it. Our skeletal system is our chassis. Unlike a real car that has a stiff chassis, the human body is a flexible flyer. Visualize yourself belted in a car real tight and then running into a brick wall. What happens is the belts stretch a little and our bodies stretch a lot, arms go flying, feet go flying and your head wants to pull itself off your body.
   Sled tests and in car telemetry reveals 60 G's is not unreasonable in a crash. Imagine your head weighs 10 pounds in the static position but when you times that by sixty there is no way our muscle system can keep it in place. Add to that a helmet that weights say two pounds and that would be like strapping say a 4-banger crank to your head. See what I’m getting at. If you're over 150 pounds and have more than 6-8% body fat, consider yourself jelly and fat and not a good crash survival candidate.
About our racetracks; Mother Nature rained out our last two events last year at the El Mirage dry lake. The winter wasn't kind in that more water turned our dry lake into a real lake. Cold weather and freezing didn't help in the evaporation department either. But on the other hand that's probably the best thing that could have happened as the water is bonding the soil together like it hasn't been in years due to too little rainfall. After small rains the last few years the dry soil sucks the water off the surface so fast that our crews were constantly repairing sink holes that are definitely not a speeding car’s friend. If we’re lucky then warmer temperatures, wind and slow evaporation are going to give us a great track. Prospects at our other track, Bonneville aren't so bright these days. The last few years the chemical company has been pumping brine back on the race surface from the other side of the highway at the mining operation and this has helped, especially in the dry years to give us a good track surface, but isn't helping another problem. The next time you go into a big box store see if they have big bags of salt. If you look real close you'll probably find that they came from Utah and that means our race track. It looks like our National Treasure isn't being treated like one. Things are underway to help solve this problem in a nice way but if that doesn't work we'll be coming back to you with the whole truth and nothing but the truth so we can start a massive campaign to prang on the bad guys.
   If you've noticed, in the past few years speed records are being bumped big time and in big ways thanks to technology. The big player in this area is electronic engine management control. In the old days the really smart players would have their barometer to check air density for a quick jet change before their run and hope they got it right and ran a tad fat so they didn't hole a piston. These days you'll see the laptops doing the same right before a run. You can't say everything is in just the electronics department though. I like to think a small bock Chevy is basically the same design as the day it came on line back in '55. The big difference these days is the oils, machining tolerances, metallurgy and hot rod smarts. You used to use your Sears drill and port your heads and hope you’ve got them somewhat the same. These days it's CNC to the thousandths of an inch. Who would have ever thought a flathead of a GMC would of run over 300 mph. We're living in a little golden age these days so join us as a spectator or participant in the greatest show on earth. This coming weekend is the Bakersfield March Meet followed by the S.C.T.A inspectors meeting followed by the Gas Up followed by El Mirage a few times and then B-Ville, then more El Mirage and B-ville again. It's going to be a busy and fun time. Hope you join in.

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Editorial:   
   A reader and contributor to the SLSRH newsletter wrote the following. “Is NHRA trying to mask this, or is it an oversight? Near the end of the 2008 NHRA racing season, for safety reasons, the fuel cars were racing a 1000 foot long track.  This skews all previous runs, so you can’t compare Top Fuel & Funny Car to anything that has happened in the past.  Tony Schumacher & Larry Dixon each have only 1 Championship at 1000 feet.  Does Force have 14 or 15 Championships?  Force’s 15th Championship came in 2010.  So, technically he has 14 at ¼ mile and 1 at 1000 feet.  The NHRA website lists Larry Dixon as the current TF National Record holder at 3.770et & 327.03mph.  That was a 1000’ record.  NHRA does not list the ¼ mile record or holder?  Should National & World records be categorized into ¼ mile & 1000 feet?  What about 1/8 mile records?  Who keeps those statistics?”
   This is an excellent question and one that impacts us directly. If we are historians of the sport then statistics are the language that we speak. The sports of football, soccer, baseball, tennis and basketball codified their rules fairly early. In Basketball the sport developed rules as early as the 1890’s; Football in the 1870’s and baseball about three decades earlier. Golf has remained basically unchanged for hundreds of years. The problem with all of motorsports, including drag racing, is that the rules keep changing based on safety factors or new technology. These rules and regulations must keep changing or the sport will become too dangerous and face banishment. But every time that you change a factor, such as distance or new technology, you change the basis by which you determine a record. If you remember, at one time there was only ONE component in land speed time trials; the size of the engine or displacement. Going back to the dry lakes racing in the 1920’s, basically non-sanctioned stop watch racing, there were NO categories. The only rule was that there were no rules. You simply showed up with a car and someone timed you. 
   Then as the cars became faster and more complex the need for sanctioning and safety organizations caused a change in how cars were categorized. In the 1930’s you had stock roadsters, streamliners and modified. This was pretty simple and though racers complained that some were cheating in the classes, most everyone could tell the difference between a roadster, a modified car and a streamliner. That didn’t stop a few people from banning a 16 O.V. motor as being outside all the known classes at the time. After the Second World War the cars began a huge expansion in diversity, especially with all the technology developed for the Army Air Corp. Those in charge of determining classes began to see the need for more categories in order to keep the racing fair. I believe that expansion, according to Jim Miller, has created a system today where there are over 600 possible classes. Actually, there are probably only a fourth of that number, but there are varieties within a class. Once you establish a class then you can multiply it by whether it is supercharged, runs on fuel or gas or is modified, stock or altered. My brother set a record in his Camaro, then put aluminum plates over the headlights and ran the same car for another record as an altered. 
   Maybe you can see the difference between these categories and maybe you can’t. Perhaps you are in agreement with these rules, and then maybe you think that they are silly and foolish. Some people believe in the simplistic approach; if the engine is big you run in the big class. These are all opinions and everyone is entitled to their opinions. The bottom line is that the sanctioning organizations have every right to set the rules as to the category that a person competes in. That is not in question. If enough people hate those rules then they are free to establish their own sanctioning body and see if their systems and programs work better. That’s why we had the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) founded in 1951, followed a few years later by the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). Likewise the Muroc Timing Association (MTA) was formed in the early 1930’s and morphed into the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) in late 1937. Shortly after that the Western Timing Association (WTA) and the Mojave Timing Association (also MTA) came into existence. Also prior to WWII came the Russetta Timing Association (RTA) and after the war the Bell Timing Association (BTA), among others.
   The SCTA only wanted to sanction roadster racing and thus the RTA formed to allow sedans, coupes and bikes to race. Each dry lake that they raced on had slightly different surfaces and lengths. This affected the records. In early drag racing there were different lengths and surfaces as well. Some raced on dirt, some on concrete and some on asphalt. Some of the tracks were perfectly level, while others slanted uphill or downhill. The famed Pomona drag strip has a very noticeable downhill slope. Not only can you see it, but if you were confined to a wheelchair like I was one year you would notice how fast you could go in one direction and how utterly difficult it was to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Then there are natural conditions like wind. The old records required two runs in opposite directions, but that wasn’t always fair either as perhaps the wind blew on one run and was calm on the return run. The condition of the race course is another problem. The first cars to run found a great surface to get traction on, but the cars that ran last had a beat up course to try and set records on. There are so many factors to consider in motorcar racing. Even paved oval tracks have their problems, with crashes, oil downs and debris on the course.
   The ball sports have fields or surfaces that are normally the same all the time and the rules hardly ever change. Weather and technology do interfere with their games too and thus the sports have been categorized as pre-modern and modern. Sometimes the statistics are presented in various classes; classic, antique, pre-modern and post modern. The important aspect here is not that sports are evolving; because they are. Motorsports evolve because car builders and engineers come up with better mechanical ways to go fast and do it safer. Ball games evolve and change because athletes find ways to train muscles and coordination so that today they are bigger, stronger, faster and more talented than those that came before. Therefore the record books have to be changed and a new system of computing apples and oranges has to created. The real problem is that sanctioning bodies in motorsports are notoriously lax in keeping their old records. Where are the old Russetta records for example? They’re gone; because the organization is gone. Where are the SCTA records? They too are missing; can anyone tell me who has all the timing runs for 1946, the greatest season ever? What about the times and class champions at the Santa Ana drags? Who has those records? What about Lions, Saugus, Samoa, Bakersfield, Pomona, Irwindale, Goleta, Santa Maria, Paradise Mesa, Carlsbad, San Gabriel, Orange County Raceway, Ontario and thousands of tracks throughout the nation and the world? Who has these records? 
   I haven’t found such a treasure trove at the NHRA or the IHRA. Maybe the AHRA has their records stored away in some attic or basement, except that they no longer are in existence. People write in all the time and they ask, “Do you have the records for my uncle’s runs at Muroc in 1940?” Unless Jim or I have a program where someone marked down such a time the answer is no. Shouldn’t a sanctioning body like NASCAR, IHRA, USAC, AAA, IRL, NHRA, SCTA, RTA, MTA and thousands of other groups have kept some sort of archives? After all, a timed run or a race is important to fans and racers. Baseball fans can tell you every at-bat, hit, error, stolen base that ever took place from the very first professional baseball season to today. They can quote you statistics on what every player has ever done. Fans can tell you whether Pitcher A should pitch to Batter B, or walk him to try and strike out Batter C. But can we tell who raced in the slower brackets of a major race, what their times were and who won the race. Oh, maybe someone in these motorsports organizations can tell you the winner of Daytona in 1954, or who won Top Fuel at the Nationals in Indianapolis in 1977, but all the other times and the runs and who raced back then are absolutely forgotten.
   These records would be forgotten except for a small cadre of dedicated men and women like Bob Frey and Leslie Long, among others. Bob Frey is an announcer for NHRA and other racing leagues and he has taken it upon his shoulders to find every single run and every single time for every drag racer who ever raced at every single drag strip in every country of the world from the first race to the present. If he had a thousand zealous helpers it would take him about a thousand years to accomplish this task, “if the records were not tossed out and destroyed.” Leslie Long is doing the same thing for land speed racing; only he is a bit more prudent. Long is only trying to recover every single time for every single racer at the old Santa Ana drag strip when it was in existence from 1950 to 1959. As an additional assignment he is trying to find and save every single time for every single run by every driver at El Mirage dry lake from the 1940’s to the present day. He also wants to include photographs and other biographical data. With a thousand zealous helpers his task should only take his lifetime. What is wrong with this scenario? Should it be up to volunteers to find and save these records or the sanctioning body that generates revenue from fans, sponsors and race teams? What is the purpose of a sanctioning body if it isn’t to create rules for the sport and keep the records of that sport? 
   Why is it Leslie Long’s job to compile the statistics for the SCTA and not the SCTA itself? Why is it Bob Frey’s job to find and save the statistics for the NHRA and not the NHRA itself? What is wrong with their ideals and purpose? Can anyone tell us if NASCAR has done a better job? What about the IRL and other racing bodies; have they kept complete and honest records over the years. To answer the question of the reader as to whether John Force has 14 records at 1320 feet and 1 record at 1000 feet; the correct answer is, “I don’t know.” It’s up to the sanctioning body to determine how they wish to award championships. Frankly, I don’t think that John Force cares what the criteria is for giving him the annual trophy as long as he gets it and the sponsors are satisfied. But I do think that this is a great topic to discuss and I also think that it is (almost) criminal that the old records have been cast aside or lost. The only way that you will ever know about Dave Marquez’s accomplishments is if I tell you, because frankly, most of the guys that knew him are gone.  His times and victories can only be found in old, fading newspaper and magazine pages and soon they too will be unintelligible. I won’t be around to tell you that Marquez and the Motor Monarchs ruled the dragstrips of America in the early 1950’s and his cars were some of the most advanced and beautiful cars ever to have raced. But who knows that anymore?

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I wanted to give you an update on Charlie Gilmore. I attended Charlie Gilmore's memorial service on March 5, 2011. It was held at the Solebury Friends Meeting, in Solebury, Pennsylvania. It was a very nice service, with a lot of people attending and a lot of speakers. He was remembered by friends from all walks of life; from family, fire company compatriots, political and activist associates, musicians, and our representative group of racers. I told several of the stories that I have shared with the Landspeed Historians, which were well received. This shows what a broad range of interests, and activities that Charlie was involved in. And the number of people he moved and touched. He will long be remembered and missed by us all. Rest well, old friend. I will see you up the road in a little while. We'll get together, knock back a few Rocka-Coola's [Charlie's pet name for a cold drink, beer being the preferred variety] and talk about the old days. The time of our life. Jeff Foulk
     Jeff: Thank you for the update.  If you can send me any names and what was said I will be glad to publish that.  Charlie was a good story teller and I will miss him.

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Editor’s notes: I have received new information on Karl and Veda Orr. I am researching it now. It may necessitate a retraction and apology to the Orr’s, now deceased, for theories on their lives that may have been misconceptions. We believed the sources that we used in the past that now may have been erroneous. We should have some updated news in a few weeks.

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I have E-mailed several people to hopefully get some biographies in the area; Dema Elgin, Chet Carter, Tony Lloyd, The Hubbard’s (Vick and Al), Roger Penske, Roy Brizio w/connection to Jim McLennan, Don Smith, Gotelli, Tognotti and Blackie Gejeian.  I am also going to see if I can take some snapshots of Eric Rickman's original photo shop in Oakland, California as well as Lee Chapel's speed shop.  The hard part is getting them to okay the bios.  Maybe you could contact Rickman's son, since you have their connections.  Does Bob Falcon have connection to Roger Penske?  I am trying to get my neighbor Rich Fox to do his as well.   Spencer Simon
     Spencer: We want everyone to do their biographies, caption their photographs and write down their stories.  We are not particularly concerned that the people involved have to be famous, like those that you mention.  In many cases they have written their bios or had books written on them and their facts and stories are well-known.  It is the common hot rodder who we are after, because in all likelihood they have not written down their biographies or their stories and they have important things to tell us.  I was at Gale Banks' house one day and went over to ask Jay Leno if I could do a story on him.  He said, "No, my story has already been done by many people."  He wasn't rude or discourteous and I've been turned down by a lot of people in my life.  But this incident did tell me that perhaps I have been spending too much time going after the rich and famous and neglecting the little guy in hot rodding.  This is not a numbers game where we have to "land the big fishes."  What you need to do is find someone that will complete their bios with you, then proof read it and make sure that all the facts are in the story and that they are correct.  Then work on the grammar and spelling.  It doesn't have to be perfect, just as good as you can make it.  Get permission from the person so that we can publish his or her life story and then send it to me.  All bios go into the Gone Racin' By-line at www.hotrodhotline.com and are free to the public to read and enjoy.  Yes, we want all the above mentioned people to write their bios and share it with us at the SLSRH newsletter, but some of them can't find the time or won't do it.  Do this one bio at a time and always finish the first one before going on to the next one.  I've met many of the people that you have mentioned.  We do want their stories, but this is a voluntary effort to save history and they have got to want to do this.  You're doing a fine job.  Keep it up.

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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

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Hi Richard: Am I still on your list. I don't get much from you anymore. Ken Freund
     Ken: About five years ago I closed down my email Car Racers Newsletter and Boat Racers Reunion Newsletter.  This was a more cumbersome way to receive and transmit information than a simple website.  The advantage of the emailed version was that the receivers had to make a decision to open it or delete the emailed newsletter.  That advantage disappeared when AOL, CS and other internet providers considered it to be spam mail and refused to allow half of my racing address lists to go through to their subscribers.  From time to time I send out a special email when events come up of a timely manner or might be news that is of importance to the racing public.  It is also a way to let people know that I'm still around and to receive a feedback that the email addresses are still current.  My old address book contained 4500 names, but that has been reduced to only 1200 over the years.  My outlet for news is now the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter which goes directly to the website www.landspeedracing.com.  That site is more limited to straight-line racing, but I sometimes allow oval track, motorcycle and other news on it.  Also, we have quite a few stories and biographies listed on www.hotrodhotline.com.  It is nice to hear from you and I hope to see you again, perhaps at a local event.

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I was talking to Bill Summers yesterday. He said he has a new lakester and plans to run at El Mirage in May.  Ken Freund

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Hello Spencer: We do have some interesting LSR stuff.  My Dad (Chet Herbert) ran several cars at El Mirage & Bonneville over the years.  One was on the cover of Hot Rod magazine back in about 1952 Ray Evernham & I are building a new unlimited streamliner now to make a record attempt (www.lsrproject.com).  If you can give me any ideas I will come up with some stories and photos.  Thank you, Doug Herbert
     Spencer and Doug: Thank you for your interest.  Here's what we suggest that people do; a) write their bios, b) caption their photographs, and c) write their stories.  In writing your bios set a time limit of 20 minutes.  Any more and you'll get bogged down and won't finish it.  Next, answer these questions;
   Who were your grandparents (four people), their names, dates and place of birth
   and what they did in their lives
   Who were your parents (two people), their names, dates and place of birth and
   what they did in their lives
   Your full name, date and place of birth, where you grew up,
  What schools did you go to, what jobs did you hold, name your friends in school
   Did you serve in the military
   Did you do any racing or take any shop classes in school
   Your wife and children, dates and places and what they do or like to do
  Your children’s spouses and your grandchildren, dates and places, etc
If you don't know the answers or if you have to do research, STOP.  I only want 20 minutes and what you remember.  Because you will send me this first draft and I will put it into order and ask you questions in
DARK BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS and you will then have a chance to answer those new questions and add anything that you forgot to put in the first draft.  Remember, each time you spend just 20 minutes or less.  This should be quick and efficient; no wasted time or energy to make it perfect the first time.  I'll do the rewriting.  We will send revisions back and forth until about the third or fourth time when you will look at your bio and feel that it is perfect for you.  A biography is very personal.  It is what you want to pass down to your family and friends.  A bio is often written and updated as we get older.  A bio should be fun to do.  It needs to be brutally honest, because bios are concerned just with the facts.
     Later we will ask you for stories.  Stories are what you experienced in an event.  It might be about a race, a funny or sad incident, a moving experience or a chance to teach younger people what to do or not to do.  We all have stories; sometimes we call them bench racing.  Some of the stories are left untold until we are older and the embarrassing things of our youth have lost their sting.  Stories tell people what we are like in a personal way. 
     Captioning our photographs is done like this; Buy acid free peel off stickers about 2x3 inches or larger.  Print on the labels the following; who, what, where and when that the photograph shows.  Include the owner of the photo; i.e. who took the photo or who owns it now.  Photographs that are not captioned become worthless over time.  Photographs with captions will be valuable to the coming generations.  I suggest a caption party where the children do the printing and ask Dad or Grandfather who is in the pictures, what is going on, where it happened and why.  This is a great way to bond and for the children to have a good laugh as maybe grandpa tells an embarrassing story or two.

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There is news regarding the DSS36 dual carburetor class participants running in the 36hp Challenge at the World of Speed event on the Bonneville Salt Flats this coming September.  The crew at Wolfsburg West have generously offered a $1000 contingency award to DSS36 racers in the 36hp Challenge. 
     Wolfsburg West Contingency Award Details: You must be participating in the 2011 36hp Challenge racers at this years USFRA World of Speed event being held at the Bonneville Salt Flats  from September 14th through the 17th. 
     To Qualify: Vehicle: Stock Bug, Ghia or Bus body per 36hp Challenge guidelines. Click For Supporting Image
Engine: DSS or Dual Carb Class only! Contingency award does not apply to other 36hp Challenge categories. Must be equipped with two identifiable Wolfsburg West 'Okrasa style' dual port heads. Heads can be modified!  Other carburetors, intake manifolds and linkages can be used in place of the early style components supplied with the WW kits. All other 36hp Challenge DSS engine requirements must followed. Click For Supporting Image
   Wolfsburg West identifying Part Numbers for contingency consideration: Click For Supporting Image
111 101 351OK   Dual port cylinder head, no valves with seats and guides.
111 101 351OR   Dual port cylinder head, no seats or guides
111 198 351OK   Dual port cylinder head, complete with valves
111 198 700         Complete dual port kit with original style linkage
111 198 700A      Complete dual port kit with CSP style bolt on linkage
   Confirmation: 36hp Challenge officials on site will be required to inspect and confirm the presence of Wolfsburg West cylinder heads.  Click For Supporting Image
   One winner: Only one contingency award will be available to be given to the fastest record set in one of three DSS dual carb classes described above. To qualify, a new top speed record for the class must be set and then only the fastest record of the three classes will be awarded the contingency prize. If no records are set at the 2011 World of Speed, the award will not be offered. Below are the current record speeds that will need to be exceeded:
             DSS36 Bug.....103.056 mph     Sept 09      Justin McAllister   Bonneville Utah
            DSS36 Ghia....105.777 mph     Sept 10      Richard Troy        Bonneville Utah
             DSS36 Bus.................Open Minimum     85.000 mph required to qualify for award. To date, no dual carb equipped bus has competed for the 36hp Challenge. This minimum was determined by adding 30 miles per hour to the recommended pre-60 Type 2 factory top speed. Although a new DSS36 Bus record speed could be set under 84.999 mph to establish the baseline DSS 36 Bus record, it would not be sufficient to justify equaling the performance standards established by the Bug and Ghia DSS36 records, thereby equaling the standard needed to qualify for the contingency award.
   The winner of the contingency award will receive a check directly from Wolfsburg West.  Should you have any questions regarding this award, please email me at [email protected]omcast.net and I will do my best to quickly answer them so you can fulfill your plans for the 2011 season.   Burly Burlile

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I am working on an article (and eventual book) about the first Palm Springs race held in April 1950.  If you were there (or a relative) and have remembrances and/or photos, I would like to hear from you.  Please email me at [email protected] or call.  If I use your contribution, you'll receive an autographed book.  Thanks, Art Evans, Redondo Beach, CA

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I just thought this might be of interest to you; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Kennedy_Miller.   Michael Kacsala
     Michael: I've received this before and another one on a Portuguese couple that passed away and left a barn full of expensive cars.  One of the fun parts of my job is to find people like that who have fascinating collections and do a story on them.

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I would like to introduce you to a great woman when it comes to land speed on a bike.  I first met her on a job site at her place.  Whoever came up with the name, "Gone With the Wind" was the best thing that could come to mind.  I was fascinated with some of the pictures at Linda Jackson's home and I could feel the atmosphere of a special person.  I learned that she was a fantastic person to talk to.  I was also fascinated with the fact that her husband was involved with Neil Young's Lincoln Volt electric car.  I got a glimpse at what an Olympic rider looks like coming back from a bike ride.  I knew I was involved in land speed, but my mind tells me she is "Land Speed," even if she is people powered.  This is Linda Jackson.  Spencer Simon, Northern California
           -------------------
Spencer: This is from her website.  Linda Jackson, Team Founder & President.          
     “I gave up my investment-banking career in 1993 to become a professional cyclist at age 35.  I went on to become one of the top three stage racers in the world and won the Tour de lā Aude, the 1998 Hewlett Packard International Women's Challenge, twice finished 2nd overall at the Giro dā Italia Donne, and once 3rd overall at the Tour de France Feminine.  I captured six Canadian national championship titles, won the Bronze medal at the 1996 World Road Race Championships, and was a 1996 Olympian.  I returned to the financial world following my racing retirement in 2000, joining Credit Suisse First Boston as a Director in the Technology Group.  From 2003-2005, I consulted for a California based winery.  I found cycling again in 2004 when I became involved with a local women's cycling club started by the Palo Alto Bicycle shop.  Aware of the lack of funding for women's sports, I began to seek additional funding for the team.  In 2006, TIBCO became the title sponsor of the team, and the team started competing in races across the country.  The team was ranked #24 in the country that year.  The rest is history.  The team steadily climbed the charts and was ranked number one in the country in 2009.  In 2010, the team became UCI-registered and contested its first races in Europe.”  Linda Jackson

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11x14 print of the first lap photograph of the start of the 1961 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen is available. David Cooper has copies of the Donohue Photo Book. Contact me at [email protected]. Ron Nelson, classicvintagemotorsports.com, Prairie Street Art.

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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.
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WINGFOOT EXPRESS: TERRY ARFONS INTERVIEW

Terry Arfons is Walt Arfons' eldest and only surviving son. He was a racing tire engineer with Goodyear back in the 1960’s and was involved with the "Wingfoot Express" LSR bid.  I interviewed him over the phone at his home in Uniontown, Ohio on July 7, 2009.

*          *          *

You were born in 1942, so you’d have been a grown-up back when Art and Walt were going for the record.

Yeah, I was working for Goodyear as a racing tire engineer. I worked for them for 15 years. I was also in on the design of Breedlove’s tires and my dad’s tires too.

Were you living at home with your parents in the 1960s?

No. I was married. I had already been in the service.

Were you living on Pickle Road?

I was close. I was on another street in Akron, the same part of town. I was born on Pickle Road.

Did you help your dad build the two Wingfoot Express racers?

Not really, because I was at the time working for Goodyear. Of course, I went over there on the weekends and stuff, when I wasn’t traveling. But no, he had a couple guys working for him who helped him.

Who were these guys?

Jim Taylor and Rich Edelbrock. It’s not spelled like the manifold. It’s spelled a little different. It’s “Edelbrock” or something like that.

Did these two guys go with your dad to Bonneville?

Yes.

Did you go yourself?

Yes, I went out with Goodyear. I went out when the rocket car was run.

What about in 1964, when Tom Green set the record?

I didn’t go out then. See, I got out of the service in ’63 and I worked at Goodyear as a test driver for a while, until I went into the racing division, but it was only for like six months. But it had to be in that interim that I was doing that. So no, I didn’t go out then.

What branch of the service were you in?

I was in the air force.

What became of those two Wingfoot cars?

Well, they used them as parts and stuff for other vehicles, like the first Wingfoot they used most of the stuff to make a dragsters out of that they used to run exhibition races with. As far as the rocket car, he just cut it up and used it for different things. I mean it was a shame because the museum in Washington DC, the Smithsonian, wanted the thing, but he never saved it. You just don’t think of that stuff, you know.

[I ask about Walt’s tattoos.]

He’s got one on his chest of an eagle and he’s got a couple on his arms, a sailor girl or something. I’d have to go over and look at them to tell you what they were. But the one on his chest is a big eagle. It goes all the way across his chest. He got it in the 1930s when he was in the navy.

Did he leave the navy before the start of WW2?

Yes. He got out in ’39. Arthur was in the war.

Any memories of that 1964 record set by your dad and Tom Green?

Oh yeah. It was an exciting time. And then...Now why did I say I wasn’t out there? I wasn’t out there for my dad’s attempts, but I was out for Breedlove. See, Breedlove ran Goodyear tires too. And when Breedlove was trying to set the record I know we took a car out there, a Daytona Cobra from Carroll Shelby, and they set a bunch of records on a ten-mile oval with my dad’s driver, Bobby Tatroe, who has passed away. He was driving the rocket car. He and Breedlove were making records on this ten-mile circle.

Were you there when Craig had the big crash and went in the pond?

No, that was before my time. I was there when Breedlove had the other car, Sonic 1. See, ’65 was when I went to work for Goodyear in the racing division.

I know your mom Gertrude went out to Bonneville with Walt. Did she enjoy all that?

No, my mom did not enjoy any part of racing at all. She was always very nervous and scared. She was a basket case when he was gone. She’s still living too, eh. They just celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on the first of July.

It’s ironic, really, what with your dad having had that heart trouble so far back.

No, he did not. He insists that he had heart trouble, but he’s never had any trouble with his heart.

He didn’t have a heart attack?

   No. No. He didn’t have a heart attack. The reason he didn’t drive the car on the record attempts, why Tom Green got a chance to do it—Tom Green was simply a man who worked for P. H. [garbled] Tool company, which made torque wrenches. He simply helped dad when dad needed some help; of course later on he acted like he built the car and everything; he had very little to do with [building] the car. But the reason dad didn’t drive it was because...dad drove all of his dragsters, he at one time had six cars on the road, and whenever we would finish a car he would drive it to make sure it was safe. I say “we” because at one time I helped him build a car. We had several appearances. In seven days him and I built a whole jet dragster. Day and night. Mom brought food down.

   But anyhow, to make a long story short, the reason my dad didn’t drive that was because he was building a trailer to haul that Wingfoot in. It had a cable-operated rear hatch, and he jumped down off of that and caught his finger on the cable and it pulled the tendon out of one finger on his one hand. If you see any pictures of when they broke that record you can see that his hand was in a cast. That’s the reason he didn’t drive the car. He had full intentions of doing it himself but couldn’t because of that. He drove the car several other times when they were trying it out different places. On the way out to the salt...no, I think it happened out on the salt flats, when he jumped down off the trailer and his hand caught that cable and the cable was frayed and put a gash in one finger. As a matter of fact that finger now is still stiff. But Tom happened to be there and he said he’d do it [drive the car]. Actually, it was pretty simple to do. It could go much faster than it went.

Was your dad happy with Tom as the driver?

Yeah. And for a long time, in the later part of Tom’s life, he seemed to think he did more than he really did. And you know, he did drive it and he broke the record. But dad built the car.

He and Tom broke it and held it for only three days. That must have been a huge disappointment.

Yeah, it was a big disappointment to him. But then again, it was his brother that broke it. Him and my dad were feuding because of competition and because of wives and so forth. But when Arthur did crash out there dad got on an airplane right away and flew out there. He took a night flight out because he wanted to see him before...because nobody had ever lived through anything over 300. And so dad and him became good friends after that. And they were very, very close when they were working together.

So they made up after Art had that big crash?

Yes. It was because my dad flew out there that gave them an excuse to make up. And they did. But then, you know, in 1960, dad put a jet engine in a car, and Arthur was still working with the Allisons and stuff like that. But Arthur didn’t really want to go to jets. In ’59 dad built that jet, and started running it in late ’59 and early ’60, and was doing quite well with it. A lot of people wanted to see it run on a track so he was making good money with it. And then dad built several more of them. Then Art started, I don’t know when he finally built a jet car, but it was ’62 or so. But dad started it. Down in Columbus there was an old navy fighter, of course it was obsolete, an F-7U, with two J-46s in it. And they went down and got that. They gave it to him for taking it away. Dad ended up using the engines out of that for drag cars. In ’59 he built one with a jet engine but didn’t have an afterburner.

This was a drag strip car, right? Not a land speed car.

Right, an exhibition car.

[I mention Romeo Palamides et. al. having a jet car on the West Coast.]

Dad had one before Palamides did. He had the first one. I guarantee you that.

It wasn’t a real streamlined thing.

Oh no, it was an open cockpit, rear-engine dragster. They put the engine in at a two-degree angle so the nose would want to stay on the ground.

[I mention seeing an article from around 1956 in which Art and Walt speak of wanting to go after the LSR.]

Oh yeah. When they were kids they had an infatuation with Malcolm Campbell and John Cobb.

What kind of guy was Bobby Tatroe?

He would drive anything dad built. One time they built a car powered by steam. I mean you talk about something that was fast, this thing was fast. The whole car, loaded with water and everything in it, it had a tank, converted water to steam, it was just a needle valve and a big tank and when you stepped on the throttle it would pull the needle valve out of the hole a little bit, and it was unbelievable. You heated the water to a certain temperature and you ran the car. But as the car ran down the strip it got lighter and lighter because of the [declining] water weight. Well, Bobby drove that the first time, and one of our Goodyear photographers, Bob Stamm, he has been taking pictures of racing for years, he didn’t even get the thing on the camera except for a little bit of the rear end of it because it accelerated so fast. But anyhow, that thing crashed. Bobby was driving it. He didn’t get hurt. As a matter of fact I drove him to the hospital that day, and he said he was more scared of the ride I gave him that he was of that car. Bobby was a good guy. He got along with dad well. He was personable, very friendly.

When was this steam dragster run?

Later 1960s. I have some documentation of that and some pictures of it.

Would it have come after the rocket car?

   No. No. It was before the Bonneville car. It was to be an exhibition drag car. [On the rocket car] dad put four wheels on it. The ones in the front only had about two inches between them. But they were worried about tires blowing out. Of course they always did because nobody had ever run that fast. Well, dad put a two-inch steel plate between the driver and the tires, so if anything went it wouldn’t have gotten to the driver. That car was tremendously fast—except Bobby hit the wrong button. And those JATO bottles didn’t have any way of shutting them off. So dad put retro-fires on all of them. What it did was it blew a hole through the front of them. Well, there were so many buttons and levers in that thing that—there were two different sets of rockets, a row of ten and then another row of five. But anyhow, that’s what happened out there. Bobby hit the wrong switch just as he was about to go into the second stage of the rockets. That thing was going five hundred and some miles an hour. I’ve never seen anything in my life like that. The car was flat on the back. Well, the exhaust came out at Mach five, so you could see the rings in the exhaust when that thing—in pictures of it. You can see the top five, exhaust rings there, on an afterburner car that’s the exhaust coming out at the speed of sound or more. Each ring was.

   Well anyway, dad and I were running a little Mustang, we were out probably three miles from where Bobby was starting, and he ignited all the rockets. It was a big green puff, because those things were solid fuel assist bottles. And all of a sudden there was a hole—you couldn’t hear any noise—all of a sudden there was a hole in this green stuff, which was the car which blew that away after the green stuff came out and it was accelerating. But it was accelerating so fast—there’s just no doubt in my mind that it would have went over six hundred, because the exhaust was coming out like five times the speed of sound, but when that exhaust quit the wind wrapped right around the back of that thing and you could hear it, whoooo, you could hear it slowing down. It was very flat in the back so the wind tried to stop it. It was a really good design, way ahead of its time. But unfortunately, when they had the retro-fires, it did quite a bit of damage on the inside, where the engines were mounted. We knew it was going to but we never thought we would have to use it.

I guess with fifteen JATO bottles, making a run must have been expensive. 

There were 25 of them. They used to cost about a thousand dollars. They were surplus. They had a 15 second duration, or 30 second, I don’t remember exactly now. But they had no way of shutting them off. They had to be able to shut them off.

As I understand it the bottles didn’t all blow at once, but came on in stages.

This is all from memory, but what there were 15 bottles in the back, which was 15,000 pounds thrust, and there were 5 on each side of the car. So there was a total of 25,000 pounds of thrust.

So if Bobby hadn’t made a mistake hitting those buttons, it might have worked out differently.

Oh, it definitely would have worked out differently. We had made other practice runs using five bottles or this or that, just so we knew what we were doing. But we had to change all those 25 bottles in less than an hour. So we had that all down pat, there was one bolt that held them in, it went into a slot, you had to take the bolt out and light the bottle out of the slot. We had all that down pat. Everything was “go.” It was just that the retro-fires went off. It seems to me that only the ones in the two side compartments went off. There’s a newspaper clipping from Salt Lake City that shows, I believe, an aerial view of it, of the retro-fire going off. [see Deseret News, Oct. 20, 1965, p. D1.] They said it was the fastest acceleration in the quarter mile they had ever recorded. It was just unbelievable. See, this was just sheer power. There were no fuel tanks or nothing else.

As a Goodyear guy, could you tell me a little about security? Were you given warnings about keeping things secret?

Oh absolutely. We were in competition with Firestone at that time. As a matter of fact the reason they hired me was for the drag racing end of it. That’s where I got started. But I worked at Indianapolis later on, like when Bobby Unser broke the record in ’68, I was there. It was several years that I was in charge of the Indianapolis racing, I was in charge of that section at particular times; we would divide it up. Competition was fun down there. We’d go down and spy on them and they’d come down and spy on us. We had a tent set up where they couldn’t see us taking tire temperatures and so forth, and whether there were any different design looking tires.

Did you have binoculars?

Yeah. They had a grandstand at one end and they let people in. Well, me or any Firestone engineer could go in there and sit and use binoculars and watch ‘em and clock ‘em with stopwatches and so forth. On gasoline alley we would set up three tents on pit road, with half the tent over the wall and half over the pit lane. What we’d do, the cars would come off the track and come in hot and go right into the tent and we’d take the tire temperatures, and we had the tires in there too so they couldn’t see anything other than when the car went out onto the track.

Did that kind of thing go on at Bonneville as well?

Yeah, but not nearly as—Bonneville was more of an open plain. Usually the press would be the ones who would be telling each thing that was happening. I know when I was down there with Breedlove it took him forever to do anything. He would make some runs and then he’d—one time the thing exploded, the engine stalled and then relit and exploded most of the inside of it and we had to rebuild that. I gave a hand doing that stuff too, because that was part of the deal.

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

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"Letter from Bob Sweikert to Karl and Veda Orr." Click For Image

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Veda Orr's scrapbook on Bob Sweikert, 1955 Indy 500 winner. Courtesy of the CG Collection Click For Image

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"Karl and Veda Orr at the Taix restaurant in 1984."  Courtesy of the CG Collection Click For Image

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"Cover of Veda Orr's Lakes Pictorial booklet," Courtesy of the CG Collection Click For Image

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