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SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 220 - September 28, 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, Please have Anita Price contact me regarding her collection of Midget Racing stuff; Leslie Long is organizing another Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip and Main Malt Shop Reunion on October 1, 2011 at the same place along Santiago Park Creek on the border of the City of Orange and Santa Ana, California; Editor's notes: The California Racers Reunion is back and will be held on October 22, 2011 at the Riverside International Automotive Museum; Debbie Baker is doing a great service to these men; I just received a call from Charlie Tachdjian (American Classic Cars) telling me that his brother Matt died the other day from a massive heart attack; Matt Tachdjian funeral was held on Friday, September 16, 2011; My father, Russell Palmer would have been racing in the early to mid-1950's; Below are the top speeds achieved by each of the racers at World of Speed; The disaster at Reno is not the first time that racing officials have had to consider whether keeping a motorsport on its present course is a path to extinction; A couple of days ago, I picked up my son from school and I was taking him to his martial arts school; To Ernie Schorb; On August 20, 1974, Vern Anderson driving the second Pollution Packer rocket dragster set an FIA record of 203.536 mph (5.492 seconds) for the standing half kilometer (AVERAGE not peak speed); Kitty O'Neil is the only female driver to have run over 400 mph and 500 mph; January 17, 1977 Sports Illustrated, A Rocket Ride To Glory And Gloom, by Coles Phinizy; Gone Racin’…ZOOM!  ZOOM!  Norm Rapp Racing Equipment!  (Part 1)  Story by Spencer Simon, photographs by Norm Rapp and Skip Govia, editing by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz; 300 MPH Volkswagen-Breaking News!!!!

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President's Corner:  
 I was catching up on my e-mails and received the attached below. It seems us historians have just lost the last living link to pre-war Indy racing. I remember as a kid in the early '50's watching my grandfathers 16mm movies of Indy races and thinking how cool the cars were. And as the Roadster era took off and then expired one was still sucked in to the mystique that was Indy.  Yeah, I still watch the race today but there's something a little wrong with everybody driving the same kind of car. (Having driven over 230 mph one has to appreciate the skill and balls today’s drivers must have to buzz around that track in the 2's). That leaves me with an observation that I just made upon viewing the shot attached that came with e-mail. As historians all of us are so caught up in the cars and finishing stats and even the drivers that we' tend to overlook other fascinating details of the sport. All of the early shots are in black and white so we lose the majesty of the fantastic paint jobs and colors of the early cars, see JMC_1385 attached. And now to the picture that got me to this point, an up-close and personal shot of driver Johnny Seymour and our newly departed riding mechanic Joe Kennelly seated in their Myron Stevens built ride. Check out the fantastic paint-jobs on their helmets.  Looks like the time is ripe for someone to come along and do a nice little history on driver's protective head gear.
   Published on 9/21/2011; Joe Kennelly died September 16 at the age of 97, breaking what Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials believed to be the final link to the treacherous but colorful era of the "riding mechanic" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. According to the Speedway, no more pre-World War II on-track Indy participants are still alive. Kennelly, born in Seattle but an Indianapolis resident since childhood, rode in the 1936 Indy 500 with former motorcycle-racing standout Johnny Seymour, whose sixth and final 500 start came while driving a car with several local connections. Owned by driver and Indianapolis resident Shorty Cantlon, the Miller-powered car was sponsored by Sullivan & O'Brien, a downtown automobile dealership that was three years old at the time. Seymour qualified with an average speed of 113.169 mph (10 laps, 25 miles at the time), but the driver and his mechanic lasted only 13 laps of the race before clutch failure. Kennelly returned in 1937 and rode a few laps of relief at the midpoint for his colleague Freddie Mangold in a car started by Cantlon. It was the final year for riding mechanics; the role became optional for the next few years, and not surprisingly, there were no takers. Kennelly attended Butler, San Diego and Purdue universities, and later worked at the Allison Engineering plant just south of the Speedway. He retired in 1982 after 42 years, having become a superintendent for the Allison Gas Turbine division of General Motors. He returned in 1984 as a consultant and remained as such until 1989.

Captions:

Click for Image JMC_1385
The Wonder Bread 1933 Indy entry that was driven by George Barringer. The car DNQ. The fancy paint job is supposed to represent Air Baloons from the first IMS event in 1909.

Click for Image Indy-Kennelly
The paint jobs on Seymour and Kennelly's helmets matched their car's fancy cream, red and black paint work. Now we have to figure out if their hat was red or black on cream. I’m guessing red.

Here are some dates for you. 
El Mirage; October 23, November 12-13.
USFRA World of Speed; September 14-17.
Mike Cook's Land Speed Shootout; September 19-23.
S.C.T.A. World Finals; October 5-8.
ECTA; September 24-25, October 29-30.

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Editorial:   
    The newsletter is seriously late. I apologize for that. Events outside of my control kept me from producing a newsletter on a timely basis and because of that there are many events that could not be posted on time, such as Cruisin’ For A Cure, reunions, funerals, etc. The SLSRH newsletter has never attempted to meet short deadlines as this is a historical society. But where we could we made the effort to let you know of events as they were scheduled, or in the case of a funeral, to try and get the news out as soon as possible. You will notice that in Jim Miller’s President’s Corner there are two events listed that we had information on at least a week or two before the event and we could have notified the members of the SLSRH of these activities. Again, in this situation I extend to you my apologies. The reason for the delays were race events and out of town commitments by those working on the newsletter. These are reasonable situations where no one could complain, especially the editor, as this is a voluntary society and people donate their time. Thus the SLSRH is secondary to our personal lives and I understand and respect that. I have a tremendous backlog of material as we have missed 4 or 5 deadlines and I will try to get that material out as soon as possible. But while volunteers have come back from their out-of-town activities, they have even more commitments to handle and they have to write up reports on what they have been doing. So it will take a while before they are ready to work on the newsletter.
   From time to time there are debates that take place on the internet and sometimes those discussions turn into angry rants.  Frankly I have trouble with blogs because I don't understand them and have a technical lack of knowledge on how to use them.  It also seems chaotic, democratic and sometimes rather mobish; but it is also a form of free speech that keeps us all on our toes and makes us think.  Since I am a reactionary troglodyte (look it up) I am careful what I put into the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter that is based at www.landspeedracing.com.  Careful, yes, but I don't rob a person of his or her free speech.  What I do try to do is fuss with the words and change it imperceptibly into the same argument but with more academic wording that is less volatile.  Sometimes I can't do that without altering the meaning of the correspondence and then I have to return it to the sender and ask, "Can you rephrase and restate your comments in a less acerbic manner."  We are after truth at the SLSRH and every bit of history no matter how trivial, because we don't know what the future historians will choose, or what it is that will be of interest to them. 
   The angry arguments of the long ago past are now easy for us to dissect and even laugh at; while the current arguments ruffle feathers.  Some thirty years from now the readers, if there are any left, will laugh at what we said today.  I remember some of those arguments from the 1940's and '50's.  They were angry and hostile then, but today they are tame and intensely interesting.  Comments on how we function in private clubs and public institutions cannot be cut off, for to do so is censorship and the public and the historian is harmed when that happens.  If I am being blocked how can I record and save history.  As a writer and as a historian I need access, even if it is unpleasant and difficult access.  Yes, some of you will get into my face for very little provocation and chase me out of your meetings.  And it won't be the first time that such a thing has happened to me.  When you see my notepad and pen in hand and I am listening and writing intensely, but making no sound; I can be a little threatening.  But bear with me and realize that like a photographer I am only recording history and asking some personal questions. 
   What you should say is, "Not now, that's too personal, let that question go for awhile and go after another story."  Or simply let me know that the topic is off-limits and is confidential.  Blocking internet access is a way to go blind to the discussions around you.  Yes, people are critical and sometimes they are unpleasantly critical.  The way to respond is not to put earplugs in your ears, but to tell us that we are trespassing beyond what is reasonable.  Most people will understand and back off for awhile and some people won't.  The way I see it is this; tell me what you think and be prepared to back it up with facts and proof.  I might learn something that I didn't know before and I might even change and accept your views.  Certainly if I am wrong I will want to change my actions and thoughts or risk appearing foolish and stubborn.  It doesn't do any good to block someone out, for like those Nigerian internet scammers, they just find a way to keep coming back.  Sure it's inconvenient, but it's better than ignoring the world; and sometimes the world is right.
   In the current issue is a story by Derek Lewin and our northern California reporter Spencer Simon. Spencer worked very hard to bring us the biography of Norm Rapp and we hope that he will get the stories of the men and women who raced in the San Francisco Bay Area. Spencer did a great job on getting that story. If your group is planning an event that is annual and you have a leeway schedule of a year, please notify me right away. I don’t mind running your news twelve months in advance and monthly after that. All photos have to have complete captions, that way there won't be any guesswork.  Roger Rohrdanz, the Photographic editor of the newsletter, will not process a photograph without a complete and factual caption and I've told him that he's the boss when it comes to photographs.  The way that we have been doing captions is like this:

   1090.GeorgeHarrison.jpg.......George Harrison at work in his garage in Chicago in 
                            May, 1970.  Photo courtesy of Norm Johnson; photo 
                            sent in by Robin Williams.

   Everyone numbers their jpg photos differently, some use numbers and some don't.  The caption includes who, what, where and when.  The photo is always attributed to an owner of the photo.  The person submitting the photo may be an owner of the photo, or someone who got permission to use the picture for the SLSRH.  In my rush to clear out my clogged inbox I inadvertently sent out text and photographs that should go through Roger.  I overlooked the fact that they had appeared in another publication, though if I had carefully looked at the material I would have caught that.  It is true that I sometimes use material from other sources and I always try to credit the owner and sender of the material.  Still, the editor has an obligation to make sure that no photographs and text are copied from other publications without getting permission and I failed in that. 
   NEW policy; everything that has a photograph attached must go through Roger Rohrdanz. I got involved in a process that I had no right to get involved in.  If someone sends me a photo I will delete it, because the policy is that it should have been CC'd to Roger and Jim Miller too.  I will look at the photo, enjoy it as any person would and then delete it.  I may or may not email the sender back and tell them that I don’t handle photographs.  I rarely processed photographs before Roger volunteered and became the photo editor and improved the SLSRH immensely.  Also, there has to be clear and complete captions or the material available for Roger to make easy captions or the policy is to return the photos unused.  I want the readers of the SLSRH to think about what they want to achieve when they send out photographs.  That is, "Do I want the receiver to publish these photographs or just to enjoy them."  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it is and what other people are trying to say to me and then when I make the wrong decision I have to spend hours trying to repair the error.  If the sender is clear, then I am clear about what needs to be done.  Roger can be reached at
[email protected]. He should be CC'd on every photograph sent.  Also, Jim Miller should also be CC'd on every photograph and his email address is [email protected]

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This Friday will be the Hot Rod Magazine/Car Craft Cruise Night at The Auto Driving Museum located near LAX in east El Segundo. The outdoor event is free to visitors and those want to show their special interest cars. They also plan to hold a "Cacklefest" this month so bring your earplugs. Reckon the museum got the City of El Segundo do go along with them on this item.  Bob Falcon

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Please have Anita Price contact me regarding her collection of Midget Racing stuff. I can pass her list on to some folks I know who may be interested in the entire lot.   Bob Falcon
     Bob: Anita Price, the daughter of John Price, informed Jim Miller that the collection has been sold.  John was an SCTA racer and a member of the Gophers car club. However, if anyone wishes to sell or to buy car racing memorabilia then I will be glad to run their request free in the SLSRH. Sellers must provide an inventory list of what they have for sell and include a few photographs of the objects. Buyers should provide a descriptions (and photographs if possible) of what they are searching for. The editor and the SLSRH take no responsibility for any sale or agreement between the buyer and seller, nor do we make any claims for or against. Sellers and buyers should always know with whom they are dealing with, because there are unscrupulous people who do take advantage of others. The SLSRH will not get involved in any agreements to buy or to sell or to represent either party. If in doubt, ask Jim Miller, because he has an extensive knowledge of racing artifacts and collectibles and knows many of the buyers and sellers of collectibles well.

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Leslie Long is organizing another Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip and Main Malt Shop Reunion on October 1, 2011 at the same place along Santiago Park Creek on the border of the City of Orange and Santa Ana, California. At the intersection of North Main Street and East Memory Lane you turn east and go down East Memory Lane for approximately 1000 feet until you reach the second intersection (second light) and turn right down into the creek bed which is paved. The park is easily visible from the creek bed. Park and walk up the stairs to the picnic tables. The reunion honors the very first drag strip in the country that was professionally run, organized and on-going. There is no cost to come and no parking fees. Gene Mitchell, a local Orange County garage owner brings refreshments and helps to sponsor this group. The weather is nearly always perfect and the chance to talk to these early racers, many in their eighties, is a real treat. Bring your video camera, tape recorder, pen and paper to get autographs and to take notes. Long will bring his photo albums and update his extensive historical records of the old Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip, which was in operation from 1950 until 1959. This is an event not to be missed.

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Editor's notes: The California Racers Reunion is back and will be held on October 22, 2011 at the Riverside International Automotive Museum.  You can't miss this reunion; it is worth making the effort to attend.

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Debbie Baker is doing a great service to these men.  Several men that we know have gladly passed up conventional manual surgery because of lengthy and too often permanent post surgery side effects.  Instead they have opted for the da Vinci Robotic minimally invasive prostatectomy.  The super high powered 3-D magnifications, miniature surgical tools, small incisions, etc. had them back at work as soon as a week or two. (No lifting)  None of them had permanent side effects.  The current rational is that any level of PSA is too high.  They say that SAW PALMETTO in vitamins can hide a rising PSA.  Current standards are that any PSA needs attention.  Gleason score samples may or may not reach any of the tumors in the prostate.  Only after prostate removal can lab evaluation pin point the number of tumors and their degree of malignancy.  Their doctors recommended that they quit eating animal products in the future.  Hopefully, there will be a huge turn-out at Cruisin' for a Cure and all of the men get tested!     Carole Sweikert

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I just received a call from Charlie Tachdjian (American Classic Cars) telling me that his brother Matt died the other day from a massive heart attack.  Matt's services are tomorrow (September 16, 2011). You'll need to contact Charlie for info. I won't be able to attend as I am out of town.  Charlie is also hoping that maybe DRIVE magazine can run a short editorial on Matt. I'll work on getting it in if one of you will write something; nothing long, just something short and sweet.  Curt Rigney
     Curt: I will always do a bio or obit where I can, but Roger will have to reduce the size of it, because
DRIVE magazine will not take anything that I write anymore as I cannot (or probably more aptly WILL NOT) write an article or bio that is 400 words or less.  My outlet is www.landspeedracing.com or www.hotrodhotline.com, but Roger can and he does take the long articles that I write and reduce them down to the size that DRIVE magazine likes.  To start a bio, obit or article on Matt all I need is for a relative or friend to send me a few things on Matt to get started;
a) his parents and maybe his grandparents
b) Matt's date and place of birth
c) his schooling and friends
d) Was he in the military and what kind of work did he do
e) his car or racing history
f) his spouse, children, grandchildren (this is optional)
I'll start on the bio and send what I have back to Charlie for revisions and I will ask additional questions. When the bio is finished to Charlie’s satisfaction we will publish it. 

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Matt Tachdjian funeral was held on Friday, September 16, 2011.  This information is getting to you a little late.  Matt's passing should be noted.  Roger Rohrdanz
             ------------------------
Here is the info for Matt Tachdjian’s funeral:  Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10am. The services will be held at the Holy Family Cathedral, 566 S. Glassell, Orange, California 92866. The phone number is 714-639-2900.  NOTE: Bring your hot rods and show cars.  The church is located south of the traffic circle in Olde Towne Orange on Glassell.  Please pass this info on to all that knew this GREAT man.   Craig Hoelzel, Director of Special Promotions for John Force Racing, Inc, located at 22722 Old Canal Road, Yorba Linda, California 92887.  Phone number at JFR Inc is 714-921-8123  x205.  I’m not sure if you knew Matt Tachdjian of Matt’s Hot Rods in Orange, California; he died this morning of a massive heart attack. It is so sad as he lived life to the fullest, enjoying buying and selling hot rods. Driving them and showing them.  He was a top award winner at several Car Shows around the Southern California area.
   Craig, Debbie Baker and Roger: I’m sorry to hear of Matt’s passing and the news reached me after the deadline for the funeral services. However, it is never too late to do a biography or obituary and to give Matt a bit of notice. We should do our bios before we die, but at least somebody should do one. We need to remember those who have passed on and those who are still with us.

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My father, Russell Palmer would have been racing in the early to mid-1950's.  He worked for Don Blair in Pasadena and I know he spent time at the Bonneville Salt Flats with racers setting land speed records in the '50's.  He recently passed away and I'm trying to find a bit of information on this time in his life.  I found a reference to a Russ Palmer in newsletter #136 published in November, 2009 but wasn't sure if that was him or not.  I would appreciate any information you could send me.   Elaine Kazakoff
     Elaine: We'll try to help.  In a way searching for our family members is an attempt to understand the past and consequently, our part in it.  I haven't seen Don Blair in years, but I believe he is still with us and still racing his sprint car on oval tracks in Southern California and Arizona.  I'll try to find a contact number for you. I have a procedure that I outline for people who are searching for family members or friends.  The first thing to do is to go to the original source, that would be Russell Palmer's last residence, his family and friends and seek to find out every last detail that you can.  Start out with everything that you know and then ask your mother, relatives and your father's friends.  While this seems redundant and people say to me, "Yeah, duh," actually they rarely do this.  What needs to be done is to start a biography with every fact that you or other researchers know and then use that basic report to start your search.  Why is it important to send me every detail that you can think of?  I will post that bio in the newsletter and every noun that you use (date, name, place, event, person) may trigger a memory.  Most of the readers of this newsletter are on the other side of middle age and memories are stored pretty deep in our minds.  What triggers my memories may not be the same thing that triggers other people's memories. 
For example, Russell may have raced at Bonneville, but maybe not with SCTA/BNI.  Maybe he raced at El Mirage with the Russetta Timing Association, or Bell, Mojave or other groups.  Maybe he was never an owner or driver and so his name wouldn't show up on any of the lists.  But he might be known by old-timers in oval track racing.  There is a wealth of information that Jim Miller and I find every year that we never knew existed and there might be records and photographs of your father buried somewhere.  But often a person's name is just not sufficient to bring back a memory from six decades ago.  Once you have your "bio" done with as much documentation as you can find, the next step is to get it out there where people can see it.  I'll publish it in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter.  You should also google WRA/URA and see if they will put your dad's bio in their publications.  Go to www.landracing.com and to other sites that you see on the computer, like H.A.M.B. 
   As you find out more information, add it to the bio and send it back to me.  Sometimes it is the least detail that brings up an old memory.  The last step is to start a phone search.  Call our president, Jim Miller, and ask him what he knows and then after you are finished, ask Jim if he can give you a few names and phone numbers to call.  Talking to someone by phone or in person is preferable to sending emails and letters, because quite frankly, the response to email and letters is poor.  Look in our newsletters for reunions and events.  Go to the reunions and car shows with a photograph of your father as he was in the 1950's on a sign-board and see if anyone remembers him.  But do not take albums.  Scan or have copies made of original photographs so if they are lost or stolen you still have the originals.  My brother and I have our father's archives and they are huge, but it takes a lot of time and effort to index those records and so until that is done, this is the best advice that I can give to you.

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Below are the top speeds achieved by each of the racers at World of Speed.  I would like to offer a BIG thanx to all of the racers, crews and VW spectators who ventured to Bonneville to be part of the USFRA's 26th annual World of Speed. And thanx to Hot VW's for sending RK Smith to cover this unique VW event and for The Samba's moderator, John Moxon to come all the way from England to be part of our race. I would also like to offer a sincere debt of gratitude to Wolfsburg West and Tony Moore for his support of the 36hp Challenge and the $1000.00 contingency award they provided to the fastest Wolfsburg West cylinder head equipped record breaker, Bill Hatfield of Harmony, Indiana. May the Speed be with you. Burly Burlile
2011 World of Speed VW results: 36hp Challenge.
  SS36 Bug   
T33 Juan Cole 75.534 New Record 9/16/11(old record 75.277)
T60 Dan Durie (Beaver Geezers) 75.277. New Record 9/14/11(old record 73.492)
T77 Ralph Dotson  71.480
  DSS36 Bug  
T20 Bill Hatfield/Wolfsburg West 108.324. New record 9/15/11(old record 103.056)
T54 Gene Dannan/Wolfsburg West 59.709
  SS36 Ghia    
T777 Bill Smith 73.752.  New Record 9/15/11(old record 71.314)
  DSS36 Ghia  
T67 Craig Smith/Wolfsburg West 84.442
T143 Richard Troy-Denzel 92.808
  DSS36 Bus   
T51 Ronnie Fietelson/Wolfsburg West 68.851 New Record 9/16/11(old record 67.909)
T8 Matthew Kenney 67.909 New Record 9/15/11(base record)
  36hp"1"Club 
T11 Larry Mocnick/Cheetle 75.105
  NA36 Bug      
T903 Tom Bruch/Gaylen Anderson 126.236 *New Record 9/15/11(old record 106.514
  *Top 36hp Speed of the meet!)
  H/FCC           
3601 Dick Beith handling run only-no speed

Big Block (40hp & newer engines) - 130/150 MPH CLUB
  Ghia Coupe   
T70 Britt Grannis/Geoff Hart 139.756 Dual Carb 130 Club Member-new
  Ghia Coupe  
T701 Tom Simon/Grannis/Hart 138.520 Dual Carb 130 Club Member-new
  Formula V      
X150 John Milner 134.707    Dual Carb
  Bug                
T363 Justin McAllister/Burlile 127.480    Dual Carb
  VolksRod       
T1967 Richard Luna 119.207   Dual Carb
  Bug                
T51 Dick Wakefield 118.510   Dual Carb
  Bug                
T4 Scot A. Harig 109.051    Turbo 2bbl
  Bug                
T48 Karl Barnett 107.777    1600cc SSS (Single 34PICT Carb S/P)
  Ghia Coupe   
T15 Larry Gregg 107.296    Dual Kadron
  Ghia Coupe   
T65 Greg Silkenson 102.630    Dual Carb
  Buggy             
T122 John Dahlstrom 97.171     Dual Carb
  Ghia Coupe   
T711 Warren Grannis/Grannis 93.180     Dual Carb

Watercooled
  Golf R32        
X57 Gabe Adams 160.047    Turbo VR6 150 Club Member
  Streamliner   
1479 Kevin Winder 149.182   Turbo 4 Diesel (new G/DS record 2 way average 147.909)
  Golf R32        
T59 Chris Adams 137.499    Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
  Golf R32        
T57 Andrew Augustain 137.036    Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
  Golf R32        
T337 Norma Fergus (Gary’s mom) 134.551    Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
  Rabbit            
X8383 John Finn 110.906    Turbo 4
  Rabbit P.U.    
479 Rick Winder 103.075   Turbo Diesel
  Dasher Wagon
T6802 Dan Kingery 91.516    Turbo Diesel-Vegetable Oil

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The disaster at Reno is not the first time that racing officials have had to consider whether keeping a motorsport on its present course is a path to extinction. Unlimited hydroplane racing went through it. Top Fuel drag boat racing went through it. NASCAR went through it. The result was organizers were forced to admit fundamental change could no longer be avoided, and to give creative people and inventive engineers and scientists the opportunity to introduce innovations that changed the direction of the sport. In the case of Unlimited hydroplanes and Top Fuel drag boats, the introduction of enclosed cockpits and driver capsules were innovations that turned all the existing boats into museum relics, but saved the sport. With NASCAR, it was introducing seats and head restraints that brought safety practices up to modern standards. Just as the era of open cockpit hydroplanes and drag boats passed, the era of Unlimited racers as we know them has passed. I see a future for Unlimited air racing. I do not see a place for WWII airframes in that future. Unlimited air racing will be a lot safer with airplanes that are built from scratch to go 500 mph. Aside from the project to rebuild Tsunami, other airplanes that can be considered as prototypes for future Unlimited racers are David Rose’s RP-4 and the Pond Racer (although in the case of the Pond Racer I think that project might have developed with less trouble if they’d used a pair of big block Chevys). Just as Unlimited hydroplanes moved away from WWII piston engines to gas turbines, I believe there is also a place for turbines in Unlimited air racing. If Unlimited air racing can be made more affordable without sacrificing performance, this could lead to growth that brings in new teams and bigger fields. Franklin Ratliff

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A couple of days ago, I picked up my son from school and I was taking him to his martial arts school. Just as I was driving on the freeway I saw a Cool 1929 yellow track roadster. It was going on my route. As I was looking at the plates, it said GQQDGYZ and it was framed by the 200 mph club. I said to myself, "naaah, couldn't be." As I hit Danville, he was still on my path. Finally a light became red. I told him from my window, “Nice Car (which it really was).”  Feeling reluctant, I said, "Hey are you Gary?” He nodded yes. I completed my sentence, "Meadors?" He said, "Yes."  I said, “Really?” Like I Didn't think so.  I told him that, “Hi, I'm Spencer from the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter.” I guess he knew what the Society was. I told him that If he was interested in giving his Biography to give us a ring.  I had to instantly leave the intersection to avoid a calamity of traffic.  I then looked in the mirror and noticed that I was not shaved. And I looked rough. All because I work from Wednesdays to Saturdays and it happened to be Tuesday. I hope that he didn't think of a wrong impression. I have to tell you, finding stories from people is a challenge. But it is an unusual one. It can be exciting or it could lead to nothing. As for something like the stories I have gotten; the results were great.  The hardest part is beating the devil against time for the wonderful history.  Spencer Simon, Reporter of the North
   Spencer: Gary has seen most of us unshaven; we’re hot rodders after all. The reason you find great stories is because you look for them and you ask people to write them. You have what it takes to be a great reporter.

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To Ernie Schorb:  Here is some stuff I found about Wally's FIA connection.  Sincerely, David Parks
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     Wally Parks served as a director of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), this country's arm of the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA). He was a member of that board since 1965. The organization is instrumental in coordinating the course of major American autosports.  Reprinted from the January 15, 1965 issue of National DRAGSTER    
     NEW YORK, (January 8, 1965) -- Organized drag racing gained full international status here today when the National Hot Rod Association was elected the fourth member club in the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). Along with NHRA's new membership, the Association's president, Wally Parks, was elected to the ACCUS board of directors.  In a sweeping and far-reaching move, ACCUS not only broadened its base of membership, but gave control of operation and ownership of the Committee to its member clubs at its annual meetings in New York last Saturday.  By adopting a new set of by-laws proposed by a committee consisting of a representative from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing [NASCAR], the Sports Car Club of America [SCCA] and the United States Auto Club [USAC], the Committee has made these clubs actual members of the Committee, and its directors individual members of the corporation.  NHRA was also included in this change after being elected to club membership.  "I am extremely happy to have the NHRA as a member club of the ACCUS," said Charles Moran, Jr., President of the ACCUS. "It not only broadens the scope of the Committee, but incorporates into the international scene a very important and growing element of the sport."  Following the Director's meeting in New York, Parks said, “Membership in ACCUS marks the first official international recognition for the drag racing sport of quarter-mile acceleration, although enthusiast groups are active in Canada, England, Australia, Germany and Japan, in addition to widespread participation in the United States."       
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From the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1993) website:                    
     Wally Parks is the father of drag racing. Those eight words fall far short of describing the contributions this incredibly active octogenarian has made to American motorsports. His foresight and determination have helped make what was once considered racing's outcast into one of its most successful forms of entertainment. Arguably the largest participant form of motorsports in the country, Parks had the guts to fight local opposition to a standstill during the sport's formative years, and has since overseen the introduction of everything from television to prominent series sponsorships as what was once little more than a backwater activity blossomed into a very professional undertaking.  A born hot rodder, Parks returned home after serving in the Pacific campaign in World War II to be elected president of the Southern California Timing Association, the organization that sanctioned racing on California's dry lake beds. Shortly thereafter he went to work with another lakes racer, Robert E. Petersen, on a new publication entitled Hot Rod Magazine. While Petersen managed the growing company's business affairs, Parks used his journalistic skills to help make the fledgling publication grow into a substantial venture.
     At the same time he watched with growing concern as hot rodders began to race on the streets of Southern California, knowing it was only a matter of time before everything he and other serious rodders were working toward would be buried beneath an avalanche of public displeasure. The result was the formation of the National Hot Rod Association, which today, with almost 80,000 members, is the largest motorsports association in the world.  In this very limited space it's impossible to list the contribution Parks has made to motorsports. After leaving Petersen Publishing in 1963 to take over the NHRA operation full time, Parks was soon named a director of ACCUS-FIA, of which he's still a vice-chairman. Parks was the first Ollie Award winner on the
Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team, which recognizes an individual's career-long contributions to drag racing. The SEMA Man of the Year in 1973, Parks was also enshrined in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega in 1992.  
     Unlike many others in important positions, Parks has never shied away from admitting his mistakes, but in his case those mistakes have been few and far between. His ability to see coming trends in motorsports almost before they've broached the horizon line has helped keep the NHRA a viable and constantly growing organization. During his tenure the NHRA has become the owner of three of the nation's most influential race tracks, while "
National Dragster" has become the most polished and widely circulated house organ publication in motorsports. Parks was, of course, its first editor.  Under Park's leadership NHRA drag racing has become an activity professional enough to attract the nation's most forward-thinking marketing executives, while at the same time remaining "down home" enough to encourage literally thousands of participants to race at their local tracks week after week. From a few temporary drag strips located on abandoned airports the sport has grown to include almost 200 tracks from coast to coast, many of them multi-million dollar facilities purpose-built to efficiently handle the almost 1,000 entries and as many as 100,00-plus spectators who assemble for one of today's 19 NHRA National events. 

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On August 20, 1974, Vern Anderson driving the second Pollution Packer rocket dragster set an FIA record of 203.536 mph (5.492 seconds) for the standing half kilometer (AVERAGE not peak speed). This was set at Bonneville during Speedweek, in the morning before the official start of racing. Of the four drivers to set FIA records with rocket cars (Gary Gabelich, Dave Anderson, Vern Anderson, and Kitty O'Neil), only one (Gary Gabelich) has been inducted into the Bonneville 200 mph club. Three of these drivers set their records at Bonneville (Gabelich, Anderson, and Anderson) while O'Neil set her record at El Mirage. Art Arfons, having set a 338 mph record in the SCTA jet category at the 1962 Bonneville Nationals, should already have been in the 300 mph chapter of the 200 mph club. Arfons is the only driver to have set Top Speed of the Meet at the Bonneville Nationals with both a piston engine car (313 mph, 1961) and a jet car.  The mother-load of Arfons material is at www.americanjetcars.com. Franklin Ratliff

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Kitty O'Neil is the only female driver to have run over 400 mph and 500 mph. She was also the first female driver in drag racing to run in the fours and at over 300 mph. She went faster than Sammy Miller and also set more sanctioned internationally recognized records. She is the last American driver to set FIA or FIM jet or rocket records.  On June 7, 1977, driving Ky Michaelson's rocket dragster, Kitty O'Neil set an FIA standing start half kilometer record at El Mirage of 207.739 mph. That is the last jet or rocket FIA record to have been set by an American driver. On December 6, 1976, driving Bill Frederick's SMI Motivator rocket land speed car, O'Neil set a woman's FIM flying kilo record at Alvord dry lake of 512.706 mph. That is the last jet or rocket FIM record to have been set by an American driver. In driving the SMI Motivator, O'Neil was the first driver to run 400 and 500 mph on tireless wheels as well as the first driver to run those speeds on an alkaline playa instead of a salt flat. When she set the standing start 500 meter record, it had already been set twice by previous drivers in rocket dragsters (Dave Anderson in the first Pollution Packer, Vern Anderson in the second Pollution Packer). 
   Dave Anderson, Vern Anderson, and Kitty O'Neil all set FIA standing start records for recognized distances where their AVERAGE speed over that distance was over 200 mph. Driven by Dave Anderson, the first Pollution Packer rocket dragster made its public debut Labor Day 1972 at Union Grove, Wisconsin with a set of 6.13 second 248 mph and 5.68 second 280 mph runs. In September of 1972 the Pollution Packer was taken to Bonneville where Dave Anderson established FIA standing start records of 158.8 mph (5.666 seconds) for the quarter mile, 173.9 mph (6.31 seconds) for the half kilometer, and 234.7 mph for the kilometer. The standing kilometer record stands to this day. After acceptance of hydrogen peroxide rocket dragsters by NHRA, the Pollution Packer became the first car to clock over 300 mph at an NHRA National event during the Gatornationals on March 18, 1973. During the 1973 NHRA Springnationals, the Pollution Packer became the first four-second dragster of any kind when Dave Anderson clocked a pass of 4.99 seconds at 322 mph. At the 1973 US Nationals at Indianapolis, Dave Anderson attained his best ever performance with a pass of 4.62 seconds at 344 mph. The 344 mph is to this day the fastest speed ever run at an NHRA National event.   Franklin Ratliff

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January 17, 1977 Sports Illustrated, A Rocket Ride To Glory And Gloom, by Coles Phinizy.  Submitted to the SLSRH by Franklin Ratliff
   When Kitty O'Neil broke the women's land-speed record by 200 mph, it was a certainty she could beat the men's mark, too...and that was the problem. One day last month on the Alvord Desert, a barren clay flat beneath a big lonely mountain in southeast Oregon, Kitty O'Neil, a 28-year-old part-Irish, half-Cherokee lady from Corpus Christi, squirmed into the cockpit of a narrow rocket-powered three-wheeled vehicle called the Motivator. Although Kitty O'Neil stands only 5'3" and weighs 97 pounds, her entry into the machine was a minor victory in itself, because the cockpit of the Motivator is barely large enough to accommodate an expectant baboon. Once properly wedged in, lying semi-supine with her head barely higher than her feet, Kitty gave the foot throttle two quick taps, and the engine responded, first with a gurgle and then a flatulent snort, throwing out a cloud of vapor. Thirty feet from the rumbling car, Bill Fredrick, the Californian who designed and built it, began a 10-second countdown. Because Kitty is totally deaf, an assistant, Stan Schwanz, relayed the count to her by hand signals. When Schwanz signaled "zero," Kitty said a short prayer, depressed the throttle and kept it down.
   During a sliver of a second the howling machine stood motionless, as if stuck in time. In the next instant it was gone, a shrinking blur lost in its own trailing noise. For one second after she blasted off, the force of acceleration pushed Kitty's guts gently back against her lungs, but except for this minor discomfort, the ride was a smooth one. Within five seconds she was going 180 mph. In 15 seconds she was a mile down the course, doing 500. Five seconds later she was going 200 mph faster than any land-bound woman had traveled before, reaching a speed of about 600 mph and clocking 514.120 through a one-kilometer speed trap. The international rules for land-speed attempts require the driver to complete a second run in the opposite direction through the same timing trap within two hours. There was almost an hour to spare when Kitty streaked back through the same kilometer in 4.375 seconds (only 24 thousandths of a second slower than her first run) for a two-way average speed of 512.710 mph. Way back in 1954, in the pre-dawn of the Space Age, Lieut. Colonel John Paul Stapp rode a rocket-powered sled on rails 632 mph to test the effects of rapid acceleration and deceleration. Stapp survived, although he almost lost both eyeballs in the abrupt process of slowing down. (The Air Force had also subjected a trained ape to similar rides. When offered a banana as inducement before one wild run, the ape hit its handler over the head with it.) Stapp's 632 mph is still the highest terminal speed reliably recorded on land, although at least one man has surely exceeded it.
   The official world mark for a two-way run is 630.388 mph, set Oct. 23, 1970 on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flat by Gary Gabelich, a Southern Californian who dropped out of the space program in favor of a drag racing career. In the middle of his final run, the needle of Gabelich's airspeed indicator edged past 650. Today, when the gaudy antics of Evel Knievel and his imitators dominate the scene, the feats of men like Stapp and Gabelich have low cash value, and the heroes themselves are fast forgotten. On those counts, Kitty O'Neil is a worthy newcomer to the 600-mph club. She drove the Motivator to a new women's record without monetary reward or so much as a banana as an inducement. As a result of her record-breaking run, she will reap, at best, a modest bundle from various endorsements and promotions probably enough to keep her laughing halfway to the bank. If her fame becomes short-lived as that of Stapp and Gabelich, Kitty is not the sort to worry. She has been tempered in adversity since childhood, and she now prospers in obscurity. She was born deaf but, tutored by a persistent mother, she learned to lip-read and speak well enough to attend regular classes before she completed grade school. She was a promising three-meter and platform diver in the early '60s, despite being crippled by spinal meningitis, and in the years since, she has survived cancer thanks to two operations.
   Until she drove the Motivator, probably not one in 100,000 people would have known her by face or name, although as a stunt woman standing in for Lee Grant, Lisa Blount and other actresses, in the past year she has had more public exposure than Knievel. Remember how a bad guy had Lana Wood hanging out a sixth-story window in an episode of Baretta? Remember how Pamela Bellewood and Lee Grant struggled to keep their heads above water in a sinking jetliner in Airport '77? Remember Lisa Blount being set on fire during a graveyard séance in the movie 9/30/55? Well, Kitty O'Neil was the lady actually being mauled, drowned and burned. Kitty got to drive the Motivator because some years earlier she had made the right connections in Hollywood. In 1970, while racing motorcycles in cross-country events, she met and married a one-time bank vice-president, Duffy Hambleton, who, realizing he was a jock at heart, had quit banking to become a stunt man. After several years living on an orange ranch serving as a housewife and a mother to Duffy's two children by a previous marriage, Kitty decided she wanted to get back into some kind of action herself. Duffy spent two years teaching her the survival techniques of his profession, and last March she joined him in Stunts Unlimited, a cooperative association that includes many of the best daredevils.
   Through her husband, Kitty met Bill Fredrick, who earns his living developing devices that stunt men use to make smash action scenes ever more smashing. When a movie or TV director wants a bit of eye-stopping action like, say, a cute blonde being thrown through the roof of a speeding sedan, he phones Fredrick. After putting data through a few electronic abacuses and computers and mentally digesting the output, Fredrick reports back that to blast a blonde of X weight Y feet into the air through a car roof that fractures under Z stress requires such-and-such an explosive charge. Describing his particular genius, Fredrick says simply, "If you want to go up in the air, I can show you how and tell you exactly where you will land." After attending a high school that saturated him with mathematics, Fredrick had one year of engineering at UCLA before quitting to support his family. For 10 years he prospered as owner of a chain of meat markets, then after going bankrupt trying to expand his empire, he decided to devote himself to his hobby high-speed cars. In the early '60s, when he still enjoyed solvency as a butcher baron, Fredrick pioneered thrust-drive in land machines. A creation of his called Valkyrie, driven by Gabelich, was one of the first jet cars to compete on drag strips. In that day the world record stood at 394.20 mph, and Valkyrie might have beaten it, but because of its jet thrust, the car was viewed with distrust and not allowed to try at Bonneville. Another Fredrick car, Courage of Australia, and its driver, John Paxson, were the first licensed for rocket-powered exhibition runs by the National Hot Rod Association.
   Considering the occupations of Fredrick, its creator, and Kitty O'Neil, its driver, the achievement of the Motivator can literally be called a Hollywood production, but to dismiss it as a show-biz stunt is no more honest historically than to describe Columbus' first Atlantic crossing as a gimmick to promote Caribbean package tours. The record run of the Motivator was a proper venture into the unknown by two people who have been contending with relentless physical fact most of their lives. Back in the days when land-speed records were set in ponderous cars powered by reciprocating engines, the problems were multifold but, in the main, well understood. The exorbitant forces required to move those brontosaurian machines of yore taxed pistons and rods and transmissions and tore rubber off tires in chunks. The Sunbeam Slug, in which, in 1927, Sir Henry Segrave was the first to exceed 200 mph, weighed 3 ½ tons. The Bluebird, in which, in 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell first surpassed 300 mph, weighed almost five tons. Even the two jet-powered Spirit of Americas, in which Craig Breedlove pushed the record past 400, then 500 and 600, weighed about four tons each. Without fuel, the Motivator weighs a scant ton and a half and has a frontal area of less than 10 square feet. Whereas the piston engines of the past were in essence an orchestration of many exquisite parts moving at high speed in various directions, the most critical moving part in the power train of the Motivator is the throttle valve that allows pressurized liquid hydrogen peroxide to flow back through a catalytic pack and, by its rapid decomposition and expansion, propel the car.
   It is the sort of pure machine that most arch-conservationists would approve of, although penny pinchers might be appalled by the cost per mile. When the Motivator takes off for the horizon, the only wastes it expels are water vapor and oxygen, but in the process of returning these components to the atmosphere, it uses hydrogen peroxide the way Niagara Falls uses water. A 600-mph run consumes about 100 gallons in cash terms, one quick five-mile trip costs about $1,000. The piston-powered monsters used to romp to records on less than $20 worth of gas. The Blue Flame, in which Gabelich raised the record to 630.388 mph, was rocket-powered like the Motivator, but weighed more than twice as much and, more significant, had far greater frontal area. Compared to all the other record-breakers in the last 50 years, the Motivator is truly a lightweight, a mere needle thrusting toward the sonic barrier and there's the rub. The heavier, slower machines of the past rarely took off into the air unless impelled by some failure that occurred while their wheels were still touching the ground. Nobody knows how land machines will behave as they approach the transonic zone, but becoming airborne is a considerable risk. Because the pressure of air drops as its speed increases, Craig Breedlove designed a velocity tunnel under its fore section to help hold down his second jet car, Spirit of America, Sonic I. But when he got above 550 mph, the air stream in the tunnel was approaching sonic velocity and generated a reverse lifting effect.
   When Gabelich reached peak speed in the Blue Flame, only 350 pounds of the car's total weight of 6,500 were on the front wheels. The air spinning off the tires chopped small holes in the hard Bonneville salt. Before Kitty O'Neil traveled more than a few cautious miles in the Motivator, Paxson, the rocket-car veteran, made four test runs in it at El Mirage Dry Lake in California, and one at Bonneville. On the Bonneville try, Paxson attained a speed of 360 mph, but before he had passed midpoint in the timing trap, the car veered dangerously off the course, missing a protruding pipe by four feet. On her only run at Bonneville, Kitty topped out at about 300 mph, but wandered all over the course. After the Motivator was bench-tested and re-measured, Fredrick concluded that its habit of wandering was not an inherent fault but had been caused by the slick and badly degraded course at Bonneville. As a result, the record attempt was shifted to the Alvord Desert, a dry lake bed that was once restricted as an emergency landing strip by the Air Force. In the past 70 years there has rarely been a land-speed car that performed as flawlessly as the Motivator did at Alvord.
   On Dec. 3, Kitty O'Neil made one short orientation run, peaking out at a little more than 300 mph. The next day she averaged better than 300 on three runs through the kilometer trap. On the third day she twice exceeded 400, and on the fourth she pushed the record beyond 500. For her fastest run, she was still using just 60% of the car's power, and suffered only about 1.5 Gs during acceleration modest punishment, indeed. From zero to 600 mph and back down to zero, she never deviated from the center line of the course by more than three feet. The only flaw in the car's predicted performance was hardly expected and from a safety standpoint might be considered a blessing: as the Motivator sped down the track expending more than 50 pounds of fuel every second, it became nose-heavy as it got lighter instead of trying to fly, to the point where its all-metal front wheel was making a half-inch rut in the clay. There is no doubt that by dialing in more power giving herself a harder kick in the rump, as it were Kitty could have gone still faster, past Gabelich's record and possibly across the sonic barrier. Why didn't she press on? She could not because of the strange assortment of kibitzers who got in her way. The Motivator was ready to run by the last week in October.
   In the closing days of their presidential campaign, neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter saw fit to comment on the Motivator's prospects, but a great many lesser folk butted into the act, waving the banners of various causes and shooting from the hip like partisans in an old-time Mexican uprising. Whereas Democratic Governor Robert Straub of Oregon favored the record attempt, Republican Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon opposed it, fearing that such motorized antics might harm "unique natural life." (According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the area, the Alvord Desert has no life of any kind.) Several Oregon newspapers editorialized against the attempt. A very small band of nature lovers, known as the Oregon High Desert Study Group, objected to the record attempt, citing among other concerns that spectators might harm the vegetation fringing the 11-by-5 ½-mile desert, and that the noise might affect wildlife on higher ground more than two miles from where the car ran. (When Kitty made her record run, there were 50 people on hand, counting crewmen, press and officials. As for noise, every year, thunder accompanying cloud bursts gives the distant high ground a harder pounding than the Motivator ever could with its 20-second bursts, and so do the Air Force F-111's that sweep over the clay flat at 2,000 to 5,000 feet three or four times a month in VFR training.) Although their fears verged on the frivolous, the Oregon High Desert Studiers were joined in their protest by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Sierra Club.
   At one point, a lawyer representing the two groups said his clients had no objection to the running, but the Oregon High Desert Studiers subsequently reneged and, represented by another lawyer, filed an objection with the Land Appeals Board in Washington. By the time this double-dealing was cleared up, the best weeks of November were gone and the first snow was overdue. Under a contract for which Duffy paid $20,000 to get her the ride, Kitty O'Neil was only supposed to drive the Motivator to a new women's record. By similar contract, for which Marvin Glass and Associates, a Chicago toy-development concern, paid $25,000, Hal Needham, a colleague of Kitty's in Stunts Unlimited, was slated to try for the men's record and, it was hoped, break the sonic barrier. As a stunt man, Needham has few peers, if any. Since he was a teen-ager, he has had a penchant for the improbable. When he was in the 82nd Airborne and moonlighting with a thrill show on weekends, he tried coming down under 28 one-foot-diameter pilot chutes that he had bundled up in a bed sheet. After plummeting like a crated piano for several seconds, he pulled his reserve. His most notable film stunt of recent date was a rocket-propelled flight 128 feet across a gorge in a pickup truck. Marvin Glass and Associates had developed a toy line featuring Needham and had sold it to Gabriel Industries, a New York company best known for its toy subsidiaries, Gilbert and Kohner.
   Counting promotional expenses and whatnot, Glass spent more than $75,000 for Needham to drive the Motivator (which he has yet to do, even under tow at 60 mph). While ostensibly serving as pilot of the Motivator, Needham was also busy directing and editing a movie that he had written. Playing a variety of parts in a single season may be the Hollywood style, but a land-speed attempt is simply not the kind of specialty act that fits well with any other. It demands a singular, almost masochistic devotion. In the long and frustrating history of record attempts, there is proof enough on that count. Sir Malcolm Campbell once groused around Daytona Beach for a full month waiting for the right turn of the weather and swing of the moon to get firm enough sand to squeeze a few more miles per hour from his machine. Gabelich spent five weeks at Bonneville in 1970, and 10 minutes after he had set the world record, rain came, closing the course down until late summer. It was Needham's further misconception that he could hop in the car on short notice and blast off for the record or die in the attempt. Such an attitude is perhaps acceptable in the movie business, where if one stunt man is killed while demolishing a sedan and a retake is needed, another man and sedan can be hired, but the Motivator is one of a kind. It cost over $350,000, and there are more than 30 sponsors who would be very mad if Needham totaled it in one slapdash try for a record. Needham maintains that he was ready to go with the car on 24-hour notice, and never got such an alert. Fredrick maintains that because he was already out of money and a cold front was heading for Oregon, threatening to close out the course for the next seven months, there was no time to run Needham up through the gears.
   That being the case, Fredrick saw no choice but to go all the way with Kitty. The day after Kitty set the women's record, the car was being prepared for her to break Gabelich's record when Fredrick got several phone calls from afar reminding him that he had a binding contract to let Needham try for the mark. So Kitty came out of the driver's seat and became a symbol of wronged womanhood across the land not an ordinary run-of-the-mill wronged woman, mind you, but, as the press reported with some license, a deaf Indian lass, a housewife and mother of two. The Portland Oregonian , one of the papers that had opposed the record attempt, had earlier reported that Kitty was Hal Needham's wife, thereby making the contretemps look like a typical case of Hollywood hubby jealous because spouse was getting more ink. To make matters worse, in the midst of the turmoil, John Radewagen a Chicago public-relations man paid to promote Needham and maintain a low profile for Marvin Glass and Associates was falsely quoted as saying that it would be "degrading" for a woman to hold the record. As a consequence, Marvin Glass and Associates lost their low profile, and Needham got a number of phone calls accusing him of being a male chauvinist pig and worse.
   Two weeks later Gabriel Industries was saying they did not want any publicity on their line of Hal Needham toys. Thus it was that an enterprise of great pith and moment fast went to pot. The day after Kitty was pulled from the driver's seat, a strong, cold wind swept the Alvord Desert, wiping out the Motivator's tracks and sending large balls of tumbleweed across the barren ground in a ghostly dance. By nightfall it was snowing. The Bureau of Land Management experts who have had to contend with such things over the years maintain that in view of the opposition that is inevitable and all the time it will take for lawyers and lesser kibitzers to gnaw over the issues, it will be a year, maybe two, before the Motivator can get clearance to run again on the Alvord Desert. To salvage something from the debacle, Fredrick hopes this spring to run the Motivator, with Needham aboard, for the quarter-mile acceleration record on some small desert that can accommodate a modest run-out in one direction. To subject such a talented machine to this petty challenge is rather like casting Richard Burton to play the part of Yorick's skull in an off-Broadway production of Hamlet. But then, as they say in show biz, a little ink is better than none.

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Gone Racin’…ZOOM!  ZOOM!  Norm Rapp Racing Equipment!  (Part 1)  Story by Spencer Simon, photographs by Norm Rapp and Skip Govia, editing by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.
    My Interview concerning Norm Rapp's biography will be sorted out in a couple of sections. As for the two parts, Part 1 is the biography that was already documented accurately in the May, 2001 issue of Vintage Oval Racing magazine by Derek Lewin. I have to give credit to Derek because of his excellence and for his painstaking time and effort in the making of his report. Norm explained to me how he spent hours getting all the details to make a great story happen. I went to get the permission of Vintage Oval Racing for this story at their headquarters in Palo Alto, California, because everything that Norm is telling me would be exactly how he would have said it as written in Lewin's documentary. The editors of Vintage Oval Racing have allowed me to copy what Derek Lewin has written from pages 22, 23, 25, and 35 of Vintage Oval Racing - Volume 2, #5 issue dated May, 2001. At some time during my work time I had paid a visit to meet the staff of Vintage Oval Racing directly. A lot of brainstorming was going on at their place. They were so busy with what they were doing. It took almost 10 minutes for them to realize that I was there. The walls were covered and categorized with preparations for the next magazine’s stories and page layouts. Seeing the posters on the walls wasn't all of what they did.  They also produced another magazine called Victory Lane.
   What caught my attention was that I had always liked exotic race cars with aerodynamic bodies. Since I was doing my project, I had spent some time asking some questions.  When Interviewing, I first found out that Norm Rapp was a true racer. His shop not only says it all, but his absolute and incredible accumulation of knowledge from all over the years of racing was evident. He is the main man who holds such valuable information because he is the magnet that attracts all the local racers. He is still racing, whether he is helping others by his service to them on the tracks or helping the racers to keep their race cars going. When he told me that he was involved with the Indy 500, I said to myself that I couldn't have picked out a better time to bring this fantastic history up; since it is Indy's 100th birthday. Rapp has spent most of his life in sprint, midget and dirt track cars; which is the usual steps for the racers before going on to Indy.  We should not ignore these other sports of midget, sprint, and dirt track racing, for they are just as dangerous and fun.  I was impressed with Norm and who he was involved with at the time.  Norm has been racing all of his life since he was two years old, and followed in the footsteps of his father Gene Rapp.  In San Francisco, there was another legend; a long time and old friend of Norm’s since 1947, a master mechanic by the name of George Bignotti, who is 95 years old.
   I knew that Norm Rapp had worked with George to help build three of Johnny Boyd's Indy 500 cars that were owned by Bob Bowes and his Bowes Seal Fast Special race cars in 1956 and 1957. Bob Bowes had other great drivers working for him, and there are pictures that I have seen in Hillary Govia’s photograph collection. Hillary was a good friend and mechanic of Indy driver Bob Sweikert.  A couple of the Bowes Seal Fast cars that Hillary had were of Howdy Wilcox back in 1932, and of another of AJ Foyt in 1961. George Bignotti worked with some of the greatest racers of the days, especially with AJ Foyt. 
Vintage Oval Racing magazine knew a lot of the race car drivers because they write about them all of the time. I got some details of this wonderful magazine the company produces and it is definitely worth subscribing to. I did some research on my own in my local area and began to realize that there was a vast group of guys that were involved with Indy racing in my area of northern California during the 1950's era. They all knew each other one way or another because they were neighbors. Those guys were; Jimmy Correia, Norm Rapp, George Bignotti, Freddy Agabashian, Johnny Boyd, Bob Bowes, Bill Vukovich, Stuart Hilborn, Howard Keck, A. J. Foyt, Hillary Govia, Bob Sweikert, Joe James, Bob Scott, Cal Niday, Ed Elisian, Fred Frame, Jack London, Bob Veith, Duane Carter, Lynn Diester, and Paul Swedberg. I found out that there were even more. Many were outsiders that moved into the area; Earl Cooper, Joe Thomas, Gary Bettenhausen, Malcolm Fox, and Gene Haustein. If anyone knows more information about these racing legends I would be glad to mention them and add them to this story. I will mention that Norm has found some extra information about his father by chance.  Remember this article is from year 2001. Here is the article by Derek Lewin.
'From The Cockpit,' by Derek Lewin.   (slightly edited from the original by the editor)
   "Zoom, Zoom," I always chuckle when calling San Francisco's veteran racer and racing parts distributer Norm Rapp, because both he and his answering machine begin with Identical messages. "Zoom, Zoom! Norm Rapp Racing Equipment....." While I had known Norm for a number of years, speaking with him many times when driving one of Dickie Reese's Offy's in BCRA vintage midget races held at various Northern and Central California speedways. I had no Idea until recently as to the depth of Rapp's racing accomplishments, or his background as a successful and innovative businessman.   Rapp was born in 1927 in San Francisco and raised across the street from the racing parts store, he has owned for over 40 years. Rapp's grandfather's occupation as a blacksmith led both Norm's father Gene, and then later Norm himself to a lifelong involvement with both automobiles, mechanics, and auto racing.  In 1923 several years before Norm was born, Gene Rapp began to drive flathead "T" Big cars at numerous California tracks such as San Jose and San Luis Obispo where he competed against top drivers such as Babe Stapp, Eddie Meyer, Fred Luelling, and others. He was doing well enough to win a main that summer at San Jose on the oiled 5/8 mile. On Armistice Day, 1923, Gene Rapp's Big car crashed at San Jose.
   Rushed to a hospital, he lay unconscious for over a week.  After recovering and arriving home a week later, he was informed by his wife to-be that he had two choices, racing or her.  Fortunately for the Northern California racing community, Gene Rapp made the correct decision, and Norm Rapp was born a few years later on February 26, 1927. February 26 is also the birthday of Colorado midget racing great and former USAC mechanic Grier Manning, and of my wife Dion Lewin. To this day, Norm has both his father's leather helmet and driving goggles, as well as his 1st trophy won at San Jose. Gene Rapp soon opened an auto service business, becoming the San Francisco's Winfield carburetor distributer and rebuilder, frequently working on race car carburetors. To further enhance his business, he would attend area Big car races promoting his service by using his yellow 1933 Ford Phaeton as a tow car, pulling Big cars to a start as they did then, by looping a rope around the Big car's front cross-member or front axle. From the age of two, Norm would accompany his father on a regular basis to races, literally growing up around Big cars.    
   In 1936, Gene Rapp became a Nash dealer. In 1939 at the age 12, Norm began to work in the same dealership after school and during summer vacations. Norm began running the dealership's parts department. Also that year, Norm drove in his 1st race, the 1939 San Francisco Soap Box Derby sponsored by Chevrolet, which he won, and finishing second in the 1940 event. After graduation from high school in 1944, Norm joined the Army Air Corps. He attended Stanford University as a cadet pilot. He was then sent to Kessler field in Biloxi, Mississippi, for basic training. Then to Buckley Field in Denver for advance training where he received his discharge in 1946. It was while at Buckley Field that he attended the first pre-war Midget races held at Denver's Lakeside Speedway.  Upon his return to San Francisco, a close friend of Norm's father, an aircraft inspector for Pan American Airways, got Norm employment with PAA. In a job which lasted 10 years, Norm worked as an aircraft mechanic for PAA in a number of capacities, including the tire and brake shop, aircraft engine rebuilding shop, and ultimately aircraft parts control. All these jobs related to either the giant double deck (but propeller driven) Boeing Stratocruiser or their corresponding Pratt & Whitney radial engines.  Of this period, Norm says, "they didn't know it, but they sponsored more than just a couple of my race cars.''       
   Midget madness had just erupted when Norm returned to the Bay Area, and soon he found himself re-involved with racing. A BCRA Midget car owner and PAA engine builder, Larry Christensen, owned a Drake (water cooled Harley) engined Midget and invited Norm to accompany him to local midget races. During the race, Norm would work on Christensen's pit crew, but on off-nights, he would work on the midget at his own shop in San Francisco. Although Rapp had a desire to have his own Drake, he recalls that, "it took a machine shop to run one; you'd either win with the thing or blow-up." For the balance of 1946-47, the team ran the Drake three nights each week, with Dick Loveland, a pre-war midget driver, usually handling the driver chores. As Norm recalls, Friday night was Bayshore Stadium, Saturday night Pacheco's Contra Costa Stadium, and Sunday night Santa Rosa Speedway. In early 1948, the Drake was sold to Burt Wykoff; a machinist for PAA with Rapp going along as pit man, but with the stipulation that he could drive the midget in training races. During those years, BCRA as well as a number of other Midget clubs held training races for novice drivers, as well as for car owners who want to test their cars themselves, thereby enabling both to get track time. Later that year Rapp took the big step and became the car owner himself. Purchasing a midget from BCRA owner Abdo Allen, a Drake-engined homebuilt tube frame, flat tailed #106 (which had been driven by both Bob Barkheimer and Jerry Piper), assigning the driving chores to Eddie Wendt, Buck Witmer, and Earl Motter. Norm himself would warm the car up, also driving the car in training races to gain experience.
  The following season, in 1949, after driver Eddie Wendt flipped the car at Contra Costa, Rapp added a headrest to the car, and the Drake now renumbered #28, climbed into the cockpit, and began driving it himself.  Entering his first competitive race back at Contra Costa, he qualified the Drake 24th fastest out of 45 entrants putting the car into the semi. In his third night out, at San Francisco's Bayshore Stadium, he qualified the Drake 10th fastest enabling him to run the main.  Accompanying Norm to all of his races was his father Gene, who as Norm said was not pleased by Norm's purchase of the Drake.  But after observing Norm's intense desire to race, in late 1949, Gene assisted with the purchase of an almost new Kurtis Kraft V8/60, a #999 which has been acquired from former owner Johnny Smith.  Norm repaid his father by quickly selling the Drake; too quickly as it turns out, the sale by his own admission being the only race car on which he ever lost money. Norm kept honing his driving skills, and by the end of the 1950 season, finished 16th in BCRA Midget points running the Ford as #6. The following year, in July, 1951, Norm won the first of what would total 40 main event victories, this one occurring at the Marysville, California Peach bowl, competing against drivers such as Edgar Elder, Johnny Boyd, Dickie Reese and others.
   In 1952 Norm took a two month leave of absence from Pan Am to compete in John Gerber's Hot Mid-west Ford circuit, taking the long way to get there. Towing North from the Bay Area, Norm won main events at Pendleton, Oregon and Kennewick, Washington stopping long enough in Salt Lake City to compete in a midget show at the Salt Bowl.  Arriving in Iowa, Norm would tow to races with the late Don Branson, who had also joined Gerber's Ford circuit as there was more money to be made on the "Iowa" Ford circuit than in AAA. Calling Gerber's circuit the Iowa circuit was a misnomer as Norm found himself racing at not only Iowa tracks such as Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Knoxville, and others, but at fair-dates such as at Kansas City, Missouri Lakeside Speedway.  All in all, it was a good season for Norm as he not only finished 5th in points, but saw that the entire racing season had actually paid for itself financially, sufficient money being left over from winnings to wire home $450 to his mother ($5000 to $6000 in today's dollars).  Norm looks back on this 1952 season as a great adventure.   "The people were congenial," he says, "they wouldn't let you sleep in your car. They'd simply invite you into their homes and offer you room and board." During the entire season, he only had to sleep under the stars for two nights. Finally returning to the Bay Area toward the end of the 1952 season, Norm ran the Ford for the last time in a 100 lapper at Sacramento's Hughes Stadium, selling it to Harvey Lord of Meridian, Idaho.  Shortly thereafter, Norm was back at Salt Lake City driving an Ardun powered Sprint car owned by Pan Am machinist Bob McLeod in an IMCA race held there. 
   Competing against former Indy winner Bob Holland, old friend Don Branson, and Bob Slater, all of whom had been barred by AAA for competing on the IMCA Fair circuit, Norm flip the McLeod Ardun in the main event, injuring his shoulder and burning his hand.  The following week he was back in the cockpit of the famous Jess Beene Offy in a 100 lap event held at Contra Costa Speedway where he finished 4th. Beene, who was used to his car winning, was angry when Norm pulled into the pits; until he found that Rapp had driven the entire event with only one hand.  The following year, 1953, became a major turning point in Norm's life when he began Norm Rapp Racing out of the basement of his home, selling, distributing, or actually manufacturing racing parts and equipment, a business which he has run for the past 48 years.  In 1961, with parts and pieces scattered throughout 5 basements, he decided he needed a bigger facility leasing the store across the street from his home, ultimately purchasing the building in 1977. Norm continued to expand his parts business becoming a distributor for Halibrand, Bill Krech's Inglewood Tire, and Bud Pope's
Pope Tire, as well as being (through today ) the fuel and tire supplier to BCRA at all of their Midget races, an unbelievable accomplishment for any individual to achieve.  For thirty years, Norm has been assisted by Frank Albert.  In addition he drove both midgets and sprint cars, and in both 1955 and ‘56, assisted friend George Bignotti in building three Kurtis roadsters sponsored and owned by Bowes Seal Fast.  In 1957 he went to Indianapolis as a mechanic for Bignotti working on both Freddie Agabashian and Johnny Boyd’s car, and although approved to take his driver's test, after some hard thinking, declined, returning to San Francisco to concentrate on his parts business. Norm also ran numerous indoor midget races ultimately winning thirteen indoor main events.
   In the early 1960's, Norm purchased an Offy from Porter Goff becoming particularly successful with the car on pavement. Expanding his business further at the same time, he also began supplying fuels and tires to ARA (the forerunner of NARC) Sprint races as well as to both BCRA and USAC Midget races.  His driving didn't slow down either. Although he was now entering more selected races, he consistently did well when finishing.  For Example in a 50 lap USAC Midget race at Fresno's Airport Speedway, he finished second behind Parnelli Jones at San Jose in a USAC 100 lap Midget race driving the John Shanoian Offy. Now free to expand his business further, Norm added numerous lines to Norm Rapp Racing's catalog including Rupert made Sam Browne safety belts, Hal Minyard's McHal helmet line, M&H racing tires, and other Items, as well as developing a number of unique items for car owners and racers to use, one of the most innovative being the Rapp face mask.  The first time I saw one of respects, the forerunner of the full face helmet. Norm estimates that he sold several thousand of these Rapp masks, many through Speedway Motors.  In addition, he also built over 30 fiberglass molds for Kurtis and Edmunds Midget Parts, as well as some sprint car parts. V8/60 engines were also a Rapp specialty; Rapp building many V8/60 race motors each year. 
   Additionally, he developed other Midget and selected Sprint race parts including: Martas type water pumps, pan converters, water rails, front axles, radius rods, and either rebuilt or old good used parts such as steering assemblies, hubs, brakes etc.   Norm was also instrumental in developing, along with Al Gonzales, the ALGON fuel injection system for V8/60's; which he tested in 1959 on Midget owner Howard Segur's V8/60).  Norm also found time to be either an officer and/or board director of the BCRA for 14 years, being heavily involved at the same time with Speed Reilly's California Auto racing’s fan club, an organization of racing fans who would meet regularly to socialize with their favorite drivers.  He was inactive as a driver from 1967 when he sold his last midget until the early 1980’s. In 1984, when longtime friend and car owner Howard Segur decided to take his Miller-engined, tube-framed Big car and run it in WRA Vintage races throughout Northern and Central California; he replaced the Miller with a 270 Offy, and hired Norm as his driver.  Norm competed at tracks such as Baylands, Lakeport, Madera, Petaluma, Calistoga, Merced, and San Jose. Racing fans of all ages were treated to the sight and sound of Norm Rapp on the big Offy's hammer, frequently leaving a rooster tail of dirt behind.  He showed the fans what racing had been like in the old days.  Unfortunately, as happened in the past, due to numerous vintage racing dates conflicting with modern BCRA dates, Norm finally had to give up the ride. However, he still finds time to selectively buckle into a vintage race car cockpit driving for former owners such as Ralph Baiza for whom he once drove competitively.
   Currently Norm is in a partnership with Bob Higman to manufacture and sell old-style Halibrand and Midget rear-ends. In his spare time, he is restoring one of the Jimmy Davies Midget, built by the champion.  Norm Rapp Racing also stocks a variety of used vintage midget (and some Sprint) parts. These include complete rear-ends such as Halibrand, Bennett, Krech, Jones, Casale, Airheart, and some Halibrand brake components, steering assemblies, as well as literally hundreds of other new and used parts for the vintage racer.  For example, several years ago, I purchased new old-stock 2" wide 1969 seat belts from Norm for my 1969 Edmonds restoration, as well as a hard to find used set of 7.25 indoor gears needed to get the SESCO geared down for vintage racing on a small bullring.   "If I had to do it all over again," Norm said to me recently, I'd do it the same way.”  An original thinker, clearly laid back, but also a detail oriented mechanic, race driver, and businessman, Norm Rapp fits well into the unique city by the bay in which he lives. He says because he enjoys his work so much he will never retire from the worldwide business he has built providing racers on many continents with needed parts, service, and advice.  Norm Rapp Racing Equipment can be contacted at 5 Cordova Street, San Francisco, California  94112. You can call him at 1-415-333-8510.  (Editor-end of the Lewin story)
   ZOOM!  ZOOM!  Coming up is Part Two; in 2011, ten years later, Norm Rapp and the Indy 500 guys of northern California. We were given permission for Norm’s photographs to be printed for this article. They are the Bowes Seal Fast Special of 1961 with A. J. Foyt and the Bignotti-built Indy 500 race car. Also the 1932 Harry Wilcox Bowes Seal Fast Special.  The photo is owned by Skip Govia, son of Hillary Govia. The pictures of the Bowes Seal Fast Special come from the Norm Rapp collection. Sincerely, Spencer Simon.
Spencer Simon is at
[email protected]. Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]. The Society of Land Speed Racing Historians is at www.landspeedracing.com

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300 MPH Volkswagen-Breaking News ! ! ! !

Yes, the headline is correct. In Newbury Park, California, a Volkswagen Toureg V10 diesel powered streamliner has been constructed and will be racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time during the upcoming SCTA World Finals being held early in October. The eventual top speed goal is over 300 miles per hour

Adler Klos V10 Streamliner scan0001_001


The streamliner, painted Team Audi silver, black and red has been assembled by Doug Adler and Frank Klos and is designed to become the first VW powered car to achieve in excess of the magic three hundred mark . The vehicle will utilize the stock VW V10 configuration Diesel engine with the factory speed and torque limiters removed. The streamliners body is from the molds of the fast Speed Demon flathead powered liner that topped 340 mph in the late nineties and is a proven stable streamliner design.
 I will be there to cover this car along the Mike Manghelli-Keith Pedersen Volkswagen Rabbit Pick-Up attempt to break the 200 mile per hour mark(last month they went 195 plus miles per hour during the SCTA/BNI Speedweek) with a four cylinder 2.0 turbocharged VW DOHC engine.
Tootaloo..............................
Burly Burlile

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