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SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 230 - January 12, 2012
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, Memorial/Celebration of Life for Burke LeSage; Early Drag Racing Part 1; Video of the 1955, ’56 and ’57 NHRA U. S. Nationals; Happy New Year to you and please keep the newsletters and updates coming; When we last spoke you mentioned “boxes of stuff” that you knew were around with some information from early (1970 – 1973) NHRA races; I posted the notice of the Celebration of Life for Burke LeSage on the www.Oilstick.com website under obits; The official 2012 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series rules supplement and amendments is now available at this website; Check out the video of the NHRA '62 Winters; Richard: You have my permission to use it all (Tim’s obituary); I just had the opportunity to read a proof of the February issue of Ultra VW's magazine from over in England; First Motor Trend Cover Car; Editor’s notes: This release was received from the Motorsports Hall of Fame, in Detroit, Michigan and is reprinted with minor editing; Gone Racin’…To say goodbye to C. J. Hart. Article by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz; Gone Racin’…Deuce of Spades, a movie by Faith Granger. Movie review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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President's Corner:  
   To Spencer Simon; I can be of some help to you on the captioning for the story since I have all the results and basically know all the players in your pictures. I can also help you with getting the scans processed for the story. Most of the pictures need to be scanned at a higher resolution. Captions can also be imbedded with the scanned picture depending on what program you use to scan them. I think I can talk you through the scanning part and can also help with the captioning. If you’re interested you can e-mail me or leave a message and I'll get back to you.
Here's a caption that could go with the Johansen tank-
   Howard Johanson showed up at Bonneville in 1954 with his twin tanked Streamliner. It was an all new car based on his earlier 1949 design that had failed. This and the old car had been patterned after Piero Taruffi's record setting cars of the same design that he built in Italy right after the war. Lloyd Scott was the designated driver and the car was entered in two classes, Class B as car no. 204 and powered by a Dodge Hemi and in Class C as no. 205 with DeSoto power. In the results it only lists the car taking a lap in class B. Lloyd ran a disappointing 139.96 mph, almost 100 mph slower than the Hill-Davis car. This second version of the twin tank design didn't handle just like the first version and was never seen again.

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Editorial:   
     Recently a reader wrote in and stated that some of the material in the newsletter is boring and wondered why I allow it into the Society's Newsletter.  The answer is that the SLSRH is a historical society and we compile and find information on a wide range of subjects.  We cannot know what we are saving will have merit today or in the future.  It just might be the case that some of the information that we salvage might be the crucial information in a future book or magazine article.  What we find and add to the newsletter might never be of importance, but we cannot take the chance of leaving out something because it is boring to some.  The SLSRH has chosen to be a research and historical body of independent historians; some of whom are professionals like Jim Miller and LandSpeed Louise Ann Noeth and some who are amateur historians, like myself.  Why do I consider myself to be an amateur when I have a degree from a major university in history?  Because I do not make a living at what I do and that's the key thing to remember.  Professional and amateur are often equal in their quality of research; it is just that to one person history is a vocation and for another it is a vacation.  I spoke recently with Dick Martin, a very fine writer.  He writes and sells his work to publications and makes a living from his work.  I have written over 400 articles and I write for the enjoyment of it and not for a living. 
   I also encourage all our readers to understand that you are not just subscribers to a free newsletter.  I consider you to be either amateur or professional historians because you take an interest in learning.  Some of you write and photograph the present, which soon becomes the past.  You share what you have with the SLSRH.  You are historians in your own way and that's exactly how Jim Miller and I see you.  There is a huge gap between the polished writer, photographer, or researcher and the beginner.  When I started out my articles were full of errors as Dick Wells and Wally Parks were so willing to send back to me with editorial corrections (the old red and blue pencil marks).  I have stated for the record that I want everything, no matter how entertaining or how mundane.  As for records, well they do take up time and space and most of you will simply scan over them and not read them.  As the editor I am not concerned if 1 out of a thousand reads everything and the other 999 pass on the material in the newsletter.  What's important is that I get the material into the newsletter and archive it somewhere so that it is safe and can be retrieved by future readers and historians. 
   For those seeking pure entertainment I try and put certain things first, such as a magazine would do it with the editorial and president's column up front, followed by important current events like deaths and memorials.  Then I print letters from the readers and comments on the letters.  I have been asked to reprint some of the biographies that are archived at www.hotrodhotline.com, Richard Parks/Roger Rohrdanz, Biography section.  I think that is a good idea and this will add a bit of entertainment value to the newsletter.  But in the end, what I publish in the newsletter is data and lots of it.  This is the kind of data that NHRA, SCTA, NASCAR and other racing organizations fail to keep.  Enthusiastic and committed men, like Burly Burlile, Bob Frey, Jim Miller, Jack Underwood and others go out of their way to find and record many of those old records and results from tracks and drag strips all over the world and they need a place to archive those old records.  Yes, boring old records for some of you; but NOT for me.

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Memorial/Celebration of Life for Burke LeSage.  I am trying to get the word out to as many folks as possible. Please help in any way you can. If you have a website, know of a website, know friends and/or associates of his and you have a way of contacting them please assist me and the family.  Friday, January 20, 2012 at 1:00 PM at The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, 1101 West McKinley Avenue, Bldg 3A  Pomona, California 91768.  If you have photos, or anything you'd like to share please bring anything and everything.  Larry and I are assisting the family and organizing the program. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.  Anne Lindsley, [email protected], 909-240-0868 (cell).
    This message was re-sent by Jerry Cornelison, Road Runners - SCTA (est 1937) http://www.ussarcherfish.com/roadrunners.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSgv7-OMVdg. Standard1320 Club. 1962 Winternationals professional film; DEDICATED TO THE GOLDEN YEARS OF DRAG RACING 1955 to 1971. Sent in by Scrub Hansen

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1CyH-f7qgM&feature=related. Video of the 1955, ’56 and ’57 NHRA U. S. Nationals. No sound, but the quality is good. The link may not work, but you should be able to Google the link to find the film, as well as a good many more similar videos.

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Happy New Year to you and please keep the newsletters and updates coming. Your father and all the other hot rodders like Burke were a big inspiration to me when I was young and part of the reason I got involved in record breaking. Living on the “wrong” side of the pond meant that reading about their exploits in Hot Rod was the only way to stay connected. We take the Internet and Web for granted these days so I’m proud to have helped pioneer its use in motorsport with the ThrustSSC website back in 1995.  Cheers. Robin Richardson.     ps - thought you might like these pics of “Bonneville comes to Goodwood” from a few years back.
     Robin: Thank you for the photos and with your permission I will attribute them to you and post them at
www.landspeedracing.com.  You aren't on the "wrong" side of the pond, because land speed racing originated in Europe and we want to learn as much as we can about the early years of the sport as we can.  Our newsletter seems to be biased, but that's only because the majority of our readers and those who write to us are located in the Southwestern United States.  I am trying to broaden the perspective to include Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Europeans and as many others as are interested in land speed racing.  This is a major flaw in reporting past events by any group and a problem that we must constantly look at and improve.  Even our reporting of Southern California land speed racing is tilted towards the SCTA and we hardly ever find news of the many other fine timing associations that flourished in the 1930's and '40's.  So we have our work cut out for us to dig deeper and uncover all LSR events, records, people and cars.  Please feel free to write in with news of LSR from the continent.  It can be current or past historical events.  Part of the reason we formed the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians was to provide an outlet for people to write in with what they know.  Then we can archive all the history that we can, including biographies, stories, articles and captioned photographs.  We also do book, movie, video, and magazine reviews and post them online.  We are not the only website to do this or the only organization to attempt to save LSR history, and like these other great sites we make our material free to everyone who wants to read what we have accumulated.  If you have any news on past or present LSR projects that you want us to post to our newsletter, please send them in to me.  Articles don't have to be current; we love old stuff and print everything we receive.

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When we last spoke you mentioned “boxes of stuff” that you knew were around with some information from early (1970 – 1973) NHRA races. I am still trying to fill in some of the voids from those races and was wondering if you had access to that information. I am mainly looking for qualifying and results sheets to fill in the one percent of the info that I don’t have.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for your consideration and keep up the good work.  Sincerely, Bob Frey
   Bob: My brother and I will soon have the research space to begin inventorying, indexing and scanning early drag racing records left to us by our father and we will be glad to help you. 
  
Readers: Bob Frey is a motor racing announcer who often does race announcing for the NHRA. He is looking for race times, results, speeds and elapsed times. If you have a program, race sheet or other results for a race let us know. I will send him the information and post it to the newsletter.

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I posted the notice of the Celebration of Life for Burke LeSage on the www.Oilstick.com website under obits.  I don't know how many pay attention any more to Oilstick, but, at least it is posted.  Evelyn Roth
     Evelyn: www.Oilstick.com is one of my favorite websites and I do go there.  I should make an effort to go there more often as it is a wonderful view on the Santa Barbara -Santa Maria area.  Be sure to remind me from time to time so that I can mention your website in the newsletter.
     Readers: Please put www.oilstick.com on your list of favorites.  All my old car and boat racers newsletters used to be on this site.  It still posts interesting and informative things about racing and hot rodding that you should know about.  Evelyn Roth also supports the Mendenhall Gas Pump Museum in Buellton, California, where the Gold Coast Roadster & Racing Club hold their annual Gas-UP Party and Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame each year.

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The official 2012 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series rules supplement and amendments is now available at this website;
http://www.nhra.com/UserFiles/image/2012/News/January/2012Heritage%20SeriesRuleAmendments. pdf. Bob Painton

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Check out the video of the NHRA '62 Winters, scroll past the ads to get to it.
http://dragracingonline.com/agent1320/2011/1320-xiii_12-37.html. John Ewald

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Richard: You have my permission to use it all (Tim’s obituary). Walt James was too great a guy to abridge anything about his heroic and eventful life.  NSSN (National Speed Sports News) ran it in September, 2009 but it did not include any of his military experience in the Air Force during WW II.  Tim Kennedy
   Readers: I am running this email from Tim Kennedy to let you know that I do try and get permission from the owners of material before I publish, but where I fail in this policy I ask you to remind me so that I can offer an apology and retraction, or get the necessary permission. Does anyone want to add any comments on Walt James and his brother Joe James to the story that I am writing?

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I just had the opportunity to read a proof of the February issue of Ultra VW's magazine from over in England. The February issue will feature a six page story covering all of the Volkswagen land speed racing from around the world in 2011. I hope you can find a copy at your local bookstore when it hits the shelves in late January or early February. Also, Hot VW's will be running a feature in the March issue showing Bill Hatfield's beautiful DSS 36hp record holding Mexican Beetle. Be sure to get a copy if you do not already have a subscription.  Other items of note:  The Australian Speedweek at Lake Gairdner is now just two months away. Let's hope they have good weather this year and can get in a full weeks racing.
   Also this year’s "Bug In" #37, to be held at the Fontana Raceway in Fontana, California on April 29th will be featuring a special show area with Bonneville Volkswagen land speed racers. One of the cars expected to make its Volkswagen show debut will be the new 5 liter V10 turbo-diesel VW powered streamliner of Doug Adler and Frank Klos. This car has the potential to be the first VW powered car to exceed 300 miles per hour and is truly spectacular. I hope you can fit the "Bug In" on your calendar and attend the show to see this gathering of very special Volkswagen's. By the way, all VW land speed racers are invited to bring their car for display, just contact me for details. Here is a great forum on Beetle aerodynamics (and on turbochargers):
http://www.shoptalkforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=136778&start=75. Shop Talk Forum on VW Beetle aerodynamics. A must read for VW bug and Ghia land speed racers. Burly Burlile

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First Motor Trend Cover Car. The only car with Wally Parks’ signature. See  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaRkvkLAwr8.  John Morehead

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Editor’s notes: This release was received from the Motorsports Hall of Fame, in Detroit, Michigan and is reprinted with minor editing.
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Finalists for the next Motorsports (Detroit) Hall of Fame have been determined. The class of 2012 Inductees will be announced early in the year.  Quarter-milers on the ballot this year are “Blue Max” owner/driver Raymond Beadle, funny car builder and component designer John Buttera along with pioneering Funny Car driver Jack Chrisman.  Voters are also considering six-time NHRA Pro Stock Champion Warren Johnson, golden-voiced sportscaster and announcer Dave McClelland and “The Old Master” engine builder Ed Pink.  In the Open Wheel category, nominees on the ballot include veteran driver and official Wally Dallenbach, four-time Indy winning owner Chip Ganassi, American auto racing impresario Carl Haas, and two-time Indy 500 winner “The Flying Dutchman” Arie Luyendyk.  Other names being considered by the Voting Panel are Pat Patrick who served as the first president of CART and whose teams won 3 Indy 500s, Danny Sullivan who “spun and won” at Indy in 1985, and Alex Zanardi who captured CART titles in 1997 and 1998.      
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   DETROIT (August 25, 2011) – 2011 inductees at the 23rd Annual Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Induction Ceremony at the Fillmore Theater, included; Donnie Allison (Stock Cars), Ed McCulloch (Drag Racing), Augie Pabst (Sports Cars) and Bruce Penhall (Motorcycles) as well as friends and family members that capably memorialized and accepted the honors for Sid Collins (At Large), Roger McCluskey (Open Wheel) and Ed Winfield (Historic).  Among the presenters were current Hall members and motorsports legends Bobby Unser (for McCluskey), “Big Daddy” Don Garlits (for Winfield), Bobby Allison (for Donnie Allison), and Roger Penske (for Pabst) who were joined by a trio of expert broadcasters and announcers that included Donald Davidson (for Collins), Larry Huffman (for Penhall) and Bob Frey (for McCulloch).  David Hobbs was Master of Ceremonies while Kurt Busch gave the opening address as the evening’s Honorary Chairman.  Penske was the evening’s final presenter.  Motorsports Hall of Fame America 2011 Induction Class: 
     Donnie Allison, a member of the famed "Alabama Gang," compiled nearly 400 short track victories before joining the NASCAR Cup circuit in 1968.  He won 10 Cup races and captured 17 pole positions.  In 1970, he scored three wins and had 10 top five finishes.  Allison, who earned the Rookie of the Year title in the 1970 Indy 500, will join his brother Bobby in the Hall of Fame.  
     Sid Collins was the original broadcast voice of the Indianapolis 500 and launched the IMS radio network in 1952 shepherding its growth from 26 to 1,200 radio stations.  Listening to his dramatic, often poetic, race descriptions became an established tradition for families at holiday picnics and homesick members of the armed forces at remote locations around the globe. 
     Roger McCluskey won Sprint Car championships in 1963 and 1966, National Stock Car championships in 1969 and 1970, the Indy Car title in 1973 and competed in all but one Indy 500 between 1961 and 1979 when he retired from driving to become USAC’s vice president and director of competition. 
     For 30 years, Ed “The Ace” McCulloch split his time between drag racing's two most powerful divisions, notching 18 Funny Car victories and four Top Fuel wins.  He was named Driver of the Year in 1973 and 1988, was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2000 and continued in the sport as a tuner and crew chief between 2001 and 2010. 
     Augie Pabst was one of the brightest and most versatile stars of road racing in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.  He won USAC and SCCA road racing titles in 1959 and 1960 behind the wheel of the Meister Brauser Scarab.  During his career he won 13 major races including the Road America 500 three times and the GT category at Sebring in 1963.     
     Bruce Penhall was considered to be America’s greatest speedway motorcycle rider. After establishing himself in the U.S., he won several important European motorcycle racing titles and led the U.S. comeback in World Championship speedway racing in the early ‘80s, winning the World title in 1981 and 1982.  In doing so, he was the first American to win that crown in 44 years. 
     Ed Winfield was regarded as one of the all-time great mechanical minds motorsports has ever known. He was an expert in engine design and carburation and played a major role in the development of the famed Novi engine with his brother, Bud.  He is generally recognized as the “Father of the Racing Cam Business,” making his first performance camshaft in 1914 at age 13 and is credited with creative cylinder head designs and other engine advancements.

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Gone Racin’…To say goodbye to C. J. Hart. Article by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.
  It is inevitable in racing, that we must bid farewell to our friends and heroes. July 1, 2004, we paid our respects to one of the greats of auto racing, C. J. Hart. His full name was Cloyce Hart, and he took the name Joe in an attempt to hide from an angry father. C. J. became his name and he was a paradox for us. A kind and fatherly type of man, he could also set standards and refuse to cross the line. Born in 1911, he ran away to join the circus, came west with his bride, best friend and fellow car racer, Mary Margaret “Peggy” Hart. They formed a team that could not be broken, even by Peggy’s untimely death in 1980. C. J. was affectionately called Pappy, and for good reason, for most of the racers were at least a decade his junior. Hart worked in a gas station, then left to form a garage with a friend in Santa Ana. The depression in the 1930’s was hard; hard on men and hard on their families. C. J. and Peggy found a way to raise a family and still do what they loved to do, and that was race cars. Hart was eager to stop illegal street racing among the young men after World War II; and get the kids off the streets.  He and two friends, Creighton Hunter and Frank Stillwell got permission from the authorities to open a drag strip on an old abandoned airstrip that has since become John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Pappy literally had to invent the rules for drag racing. His track was not the first, because a club had formed a race at Goleta in 1949, but Hart was the first to charge admission and to consistently award prizes and trophies and to codify the rules. He decided on a quarter mile distance after watching the quarter horses run at horse tracks. A quarter mile distance also allowed plenty of room for stopping the cars. Running a drag strip turned into a lifetime avocation and  Hart created a venue, and a system that was copied by people from all over the country. People came out to the West Coast to observe this new racing phenomenon; and then went home to start up timing associations, as they were called, in nearly every part of the country.
  Distinctly American, this sport has grown and prospered. Sanctioning bodies formed to carry on what Hart had started and over time the rules were modified and became the sport of Drag Racing as we know it today. Pappy went on to run drag strips at Lions in Long Beach, Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield, and worked at many other tracks in Southern California. Upon retirement, he went to work for Steve Gibbs and NHRA with their Safety Safari Team, which is the group responsible for the safety of the drivers on the track. He may have retired again, but it is hard to tell, because Pappy was always at a race, a reunion or a drag racing event. It is also impossible to tell all the stories about Pappy. Drag racing and the people in his life were everything to him. He always had a cigar in his hand and a wispy smile on his face, just barely visible. He could chide and admonish someone who had broken the rules with such warmth and humor, that no one ever took offense. He was terse. His advice was short and to the point. When someone was losing a fight, he blurted out the sage help, “don’t get up, dummy.” When he caught someone breaking the rules, he would say “Cheater, don’t do it again.” Years later he would see the same guy and greet him with the words, “Hello, cheater.” Once he was cajoled and nagged into taking a trip to Hawaii. He gave in, and went with the group, but upon landing in Honolulu, and taking one look around, went immediately back into the terminal and boarded another plane to come home. When asked about his trip to Hawaii, he exclaimed that if they tried to put one more lei around his neck he would strangle them. C. J. was a no nonsense kind of guy. He knew what he wanted and he kept focused on that goal.
  It had been 24 years since he lost his best friend and wife, Peggy. She was every bit the competitor that Pappy was. She was his right arm and confidant. She was a tenacious race car driver and drove on the drag strip and at the dry lakes. Peggy did not like to be beaten. Pappy gave her the best car that he could, and Peggy drove it to victory after victory. C. J. always said that he was just biding his time until the Good Lord came to take him away to be with his darling wife. Pappy was 93 and said that he had a full and good life. He liked to joke with his friend, Wally Parks, close in age and equal in zeal for the sport of drag racing, that one or the other of them could remember Adam. They traded age jokes all the time. Pappy was an honored guest at all the reunions; the CHRR in Famoso, CRA, Car Racers Reunion, Bean Bandits, Gas-Up Party and many more. He was inducted into several Hall of Fames, and no doubt will be added to more as the years go by. His greatness came not only from his idea to create a sport that would get kids off the street, but his leadership with those kids, who would follow him anywhere. His famous quote was always, “But you got in free.” A person’s funeral is often the measure of the man himself. Those in attendance were some of the very young people that looked up to him, and then went on to glories of their own. I saw Dale Pulde, Linda Vaughn, Gloria and Cindy Gibbs, Wally Parks, Sam Jackson, Dick Wells, Jerry Archambeault, Bob Muravez, or as we came to know him, “Floyd Lippincott Jr,” Reverend Ken Owens, Reverend Scrub Hansen, Jack Underwood, Ron Henderson, Orah Mae Millar, Pete’s widow, and her family, Doug Kruse, Louie Senter, Bob Leggio, Mousie Marcellus, Creighton and Betty Hunter, John Ewald, Dave Wallace Jr, Tommy Ivo, Donny Johansen, Hila Paulsen Sweet, Andy and Ron Marocco, Neil Britt, John McClenathan from the Bean Bandits, Big John Hunt, Ed Justice Sr and his son, Ed Jr, and many more. We will miss Pappy but he set us straight when he said, very simply, "I’m ready, it’s been a great ride, and I have no regrets.”
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].

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Gone Racin’…Deuce of Spades, a movie by Faith Granger. Movie review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.
   A friend sent me an email with a link to a movie trailer and told me to check it out. Normally I pass on such requests, but I had caught up on my assignments and this fellow was a respected hot rodder. As I played the trailer I found myself more than just caught up in the story line; I became lost in reverie. Great movies will do that to people. The mood simply takes you by surprise and you are remembering a time when you were young, foolish and searching for answers. I looked at four trailers and each one had a liveliness to it that reminded me of
American Graffiti at its best. I searched the website and found an email address and wrote to the director, Faith Granger, to find out if this was going to be another attempt at the ‘great American novel’ or just a hot rod movie. The answer to that quest was as interesting as the movie that eventually came out of the mind and soul of an incredible young lady. I think I know who Faith is by now, and then I am surprised to find out that she has many sides. Her accent seemed to be French, but she supposedly was raised in Lebanon. She is as true a hot rodder as you will find and the movie that she created comes from the depths of her soul. Faith is the director, actress, producer, promoter, cinematographer, bottle washer, investor and whatever else was needed on the movie; Deuce of Spades. She has boundless energy, drive, persistence and dedication to making this movie. Faith is also stubborn and opinionated and when she makes up her mind there is no one who can sway her from her goal. The movie took years to make and except for a few small donations, the funding came from her employment and those who believed in her. Everyone who worked on the movie put aside their financial interests and volunteers flocked to help her. Months went by and we despaired seeing the completion of the film. Faith emailed many of her newfound friends in the hot rodding world, including me, and we all did what we could. Slowly she overcame problems plaguing production and found indoor and outdoor areas where she could film; with no budget and delays as actors and cameramen left to take paying jobs elsewhere.
   The list of credits is huge for an independent movie. The fun part is to see how many people we can identify. In a strange sort of way the weakness of the film is its very strength and that is the actors and actresses who had very little training, but carried their bit parts well. The non-professional actors did exceptionally well. Dan Warner as an SCTA inspector at El Mirage spoke his lines as if there were no cameras on him. Gene Winfield played himself in the film with the same passion and caring that he does in real life. A special cameo role was played by Bill Hines. Some of the actors seemed a bit out of character or read their lines in an awkward manner, but this was to be expected when the cast was so large. Real life hot rodders, custom car builders, mechanics and those in the business can be seen in the film. Young traditional hot rodders were intermixed with graybeards who ran at the dry lakes or on the streets back in the 1950’s. The main actors have all had some experience on stage and screen. This movie could be their break into serious roles in bigger productions. Here are some of the names that you may see rise to stardom some day; Timothy Luke, Alexandra Holder, Jordan Warren, Kyle Clifford, Gary Miller Youst, Carol Lynn Campbell, Kristen Findley, Jane Evans, Alana Stites, Nathan Ramirez and Jack Currenton. Faith Granger produced and directed
Deuce of Spades, acted, created the music, directed the photography and wrote the script. There was no rating for the movie, but I would say that it should be PG-13. I reviewed the movie with my wife and my niece, who was thirteen, and watched their reactions carefully. I expected the movie to affect my wife and I more than a teenager, but her eyes were riveted on the actors from start to finish. My feeling is that this movie is destined to become a cult classic for years to come by young people, especially those in the traditional hot rodding, rockabilly culture. Deuce of Spades is filmed in English with subtitles in Danish, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Finnish and Dutch. The length is 128 minutes long, but it felt shorter than that. The pacing was slow at times, but it isn’t that distracting. The action sequences were very interesting and interspersed throughout the film.
   Normally I watch a movie just once and write my review. This time I watched the movie twice and intend to see it again. 
Deuce of Spades did not go into the theatres, but went right into DVD sales. This was due to the decision of the filmmaker to control her production. Faith felt that she needed to develop her own distribution system first and then approach the film industry to see what deals can be made. Movies made today are often formulaic in nature. A producer finds a good script, investors, directors and well-known cast and then the producer spends just as much money in promoting the movie as in making the film. He hopes to make at least as much money in a theatre run as he spent on the movie, with the profit coming from overseas viewing, DVD sales and merchandising. If a film grosses as much as the producer spent then the buzz in the industry is that the film is a winner.  Independent movies do make money and buck the trend and I believe that Deuce of Spades will be one of these successful indies. A hot rod movie can be successful, but usually as a potboiler or B movie. Hollywood produced dozens of hot rod B movies in the 1950’s; the plot being rebel boy doesn’t listen to grown-ups, falls in love with the unattainable girl and learns the hard way. A few Elvis movies had some beautiful hot rods and race cars in them, but the motivation for seeing a Presley movie was the singing and beautiful girls. Hot rods and custom cars were eye candy in many movies over the years, but it was the seminal (original and trendsetting) movie American Graffiti that launched the movie careers of many actors, especially Harrison Ford. This was a coming of age movie for the late 1960’s and ‘70’s, hardly the prototypical age that we all remember as being rooted in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. I suppose every decade has their rebels and their hot rodders, but most of us ached for that special film that focuses on the cars and the men and women who loved and cherished these cars during the Golden Age of Hot Rodding.
  
Deuce of Spades is that movie. It is a lush, photographic record of the times we all remember. It is a bold canvas with photography and action that are simply beautiful. You won’t find Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp or Cameron Diaz in this film. It isn’t polished and the acting is sometimes raw, but it is beautiful nonetheless. In fact the acting fits the film like a tight glove. Yes, it’s rather raw, but so is the era and more than that; it’s real. Granger knows this period well. How did she do it? This black haired, pretty, heavily accented woman from Europe and the Middle East; how does she understand us better than we understand ourselves. The plot is tried and true for hot rodding; bad boy meets good girl. The heroine, if indeed she is one, falls hard for the bad boy hot rodder, who is truly good and noble, if a bit flawed. The hero, or anti-hero if you please, has fate and adults lined up against him. The two star-crossed lovers struggle to change their destiny only to find that hot rodders have to pay the price for their rebelliousness. We’ve all been there and we feel the angst and the pain. We know what’s coming, but we hope against hope that these two will be able to escape the despair that awaits them. Oh, it is so believable and Granger changes the plot just enough to escape being type-cast as a predictable writer or director. Sometimes I think that Granger is telling us a story that we have read or witnessed time after time. The challenge, the attempt at escaping the race before it is too late, the friends that trap you into doing the very thing that you know will destroy your life. Then comes the betrayal, when those very friends and lovers turn their back on you and you have to carry that heavy cross on your back as you crawl and walk towards your Golgotha. The hero is Johnny Callaway and he plays some heavy roles here. Granger as scriptwriter and director drags out the pathos and inner demons that our hero, Johnny, would just as soon leave buried. Betty is Johnny’s love interest and Granger cast her beautifully. She has that virginal, pure inner soul, with alabaster skin and ruby red lips that we all dreamed of when we were that age. When she lacks the courage and betrays her love, we know the fate that awaits both of them. 
   Art and Sandy are also wonderfully cast as the friends who prop up Johnny and Betty. These are weak people, who need each other and when forced apart by their tragic miscalculations of impetuous youth, show their frailty as people. Another friend of Johnny’s is Tom, who flees his friend in his darkest hour. The character of Peggy is well scripted. She is a villainess in the classic sense, but with the edges smoothed and a vulnerability that is delicious to watch. Her actions are deliberate and they destroy Betty and Johnny. Yet we can’t help feeling sorry for Peggy as she schemes her way into Johnny’s heart and bed. Again and again she tries to supplant Betty and fails. Peggy is a truly marvelous character that I wish Faith Granger had given more space for character development. I can see a sequel here with Peggy’s character expanded and enlarged. The young hot rodders, male and female, are scattered to the far corners of the land, both in miles and in their souls. The fragility of their characters belies the bravado that they once displayed to each other. Tragedy and the horror of their actions shrive them with a remorsefulness that is almost unbearable to watch. Then Granger enters as the narrator and messiah, who painstakingly puts the clues and story together for us to understand. She reaches out, as if drawn by a power that will not let her character go free until she has rescued those fallen people and set their souls free. The ending breaks the heart of the stoniest among us; rescues us from our pasts as well. Tragedy turns to redemption just the way that we always wanted it to be for us as well. All the pain of the past that Johnny carries on his shoulders for us is whisked away. Maybe the ending is too pat and too positive, but we no longer care. He has suffered enough for himself and for everyone else. We want his suffering to end; we demand that his suffering end. For hot rodders everywhere, it is time that we put aside the pain and the remorse and forgive not only these young people, but ourselves as well.
  
Deuce of Spades is a powerful movie. It is hard to categorize it. Yes, it is a period piece, straight out of the 1950’s and very accurately done. You won’t find a coke bottle, lipstick or clothing that is not perfectly matched to the time. But Deuce of Spades has many elements, all meshing into one grand epic. Granger has to have had a love affair with Hollywood. Her directing style is part Hitchcock and part Welles. Orson, especially, would be very proud of her. The filming and mood are as period perfect as are the props. I thought for a moment that I was watching A Touch of Evil or The Third Man. Some people may feel that the camera lingers too long on the burning cigarette on the floor or the clouds drifting by in the sky.  This movie is so beautifully filmed that it is a smorgasbord to visually enjoy. The wide open vistas in the desert are perhaps the best I have ever seen. The hot rods are simply humming with that flathead power that just can’t be duplicated by any other sound. The music fits the haunting loneliness that pervades the souls of the characters. It’s obvious that even though the budget was minimal at best, that Granger worked on every little detail until it was perfect. Deuce of Spades has that film noir feel to it at times; a reworking of that wonderful French film, Breathless, that was remade for Richard Gere. Deuce of Spades is also so close to those Medieval passion plays and tragedies where the star-crossed lovers are never able to find peace and normalcy. The hero and heroine can only find sorrow and grief, torn apart and left to drift in a world of what could have been. It is the Arthurian tale of tragic love retold in our hot rod world. Nobody has done it better than Faith Granger and her band of nomadic actors. 
   I went into this knowing that so many have failed before and expecting, at best, a typical B movie. What we have here is a movie that has more than exceeded our expectations. I can’t say that it is quite a masterpiece, but find me a movie of this wide a genre that is better.  Maybe those old Bogart film noir movies are better, but they didn’t have those killer cars in them like
Deuce of Spades has. There are a few violent scenes, but compared to today’s movies, those over 13 should have no trouble with them. The love scenes are very tastefully done and there is no gratuitous nudity. I wouldn’t call this movie a chick flick by any stretch of the word, though my wife and niece never wavered in their interest in the movie. Deuce of Spades easily attracts both men and women. Granger, as a director, understands men just as well as women. She draws out performances that cross the gender barrier. Usually it is so obvious when the men are working shirtless that the intention is to draw the female audience into the action, but in the movie such scenes were so artfully done that I couldn’t envision doing the scene in any other way. Likewise, most movies seem to force nudity into scenes where it is awkward. We know why Hollywood does this, but the nudity and sex scenes seem out of place. In Deuce of Spades there is no nudity in the sex scenes, no body parts showing, and the action is brief, but so well done that our imaginations take over. Granger showed that her strength was as a director. At first her acting seemed so restrained that it was almost rigidly so, but then I realized that she was deliberately muting her presence in the movie as a contrast to the other actors. She was an observer, a narrator and a guide and it would have been easy for her to try and steal the show for herself. Her talent lay in her ability to let the action focus on the other actors. I paid $20 for this movie in order to review it, which I don’t normally do. It was money well spent. It is a classic and I will watch it again and again. Even with the occasional flaws in this movie, I was very impressed and rate this film a 7 sparkplugs out of a perfect 8. I think you will love this movie.
Gone Racin’ is at
[email protected]

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