Land Speed Racing Newsletter #383

Land Speed Racing Newsletter #383
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THE SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS Newsletter.  Issue #383. 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Ann Lawford, www.landspeedracing.com   
PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Richard Parks, [email protected]  
PHOTOGRAPHIC Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, [email protected]
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REPORTER: Spencer Simon, [email protected]
FIELD REPORTER/HISTORIAN: Bob Falcon, [email protected]
HISTORIANS: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Burly Burlile, Jerry Cornelison, Robin Millar, Ora Mae Millar
IN MEMORIAM: Wally Parks, Tex Smith, Tom Medley, Lee Blaisdell, Eric ‘Rick’ Rickman (editors and photographers)
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GUEST EDITORIAL: Speed week cancellation does not mean salt flats are mismanaged.  By William White  http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/3014279-155/op-ed-speed-week-cancellation-does-not.  Submitted by Ron Main, Oct 09 2015.

     Sadly, 2015 Speed Week and World of Speed events were cancelled by the racing community due to undesirable surface conditions (partially dissolved surface salt-crust layer or stratum) that prevented establishment of a race course having sufficient length required for record setting.  Some members of the public believe that this year's poor racing surface is proof of purported Bonneville Salt Flats deterioration and that it is solely due to brine extraction by a potash mining company. They also believe that U.S. Bureau of Land Management has not been sufficiently rigorous in its protection of the salt flats.
     Disputing facts follow.  All potash production from the salt flats prior to 1963 was from private land south of Interstate 80, which was patented between 1917 and 1927 under the 1872 mining law. Potash production north of I-80 from collection ditches on the eastern margin of the flats, is from a federal lease issued by BLM in 1963; production is a small percentage of total annual production. This lease was issued prior to the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act with its requirements to consider impacts to the environment. The federal lease is a valid existing right subject to specific conditions set forth in the lease.
     It is indisputable that surface salt-crust stratum conditions are changed this year from previous drought-influenced years. May 2015 was wettest on record during the 1997 - 2015 period (Western Regional Climate Center, www.wrcc.dri.edu/). Although surface salt-crust stratum has changed this year, overall mass and volume of the salt flats remains relatively unchanged. This is based on BLM salt crust thickness studies conducted in 1988, 2003, and field-checked in 2015.
     The 2003 study concluded that there was virtually no change in salt crust mass and volume during the 15-year period between 1988 and 2003 when the same measurement method was used. Since there was no change in volume, purported annual depletion rate of 1.1 percent generated from the 1988 study was shown to be invalid. Consequently, perception that Bonneville Salt Flats is disappearing at this erroneous depletion rate is unsupportable based on thickness data and volume calculations from the 2003 study.
     Responding to the racing community's concerns, BLM and University of Utah geologists examined salt-crust exposures at mile posts 3 and 5 of Speed Week's 2015 proposed race course. During the July 15 examination, they observed that surface salt-crust stratum had thinned, become soft and slushy in some areas, and like scattered popcorn in others, exposing underlying thin gypsum stratum. However, when BLM augered bore holes adjacent to each mile post, they measured an additional 2 to 3 feet of salt thickness present beneath the thin, 0.5 to 1-inch thick gypsum stratum. These thicknesses are consistent with total salt-crust thicknesses measured from nearest bore holes drilled during BLM's 2003 salt-crust thickness study.
     BLM engaged in a cooperative agreement with two potash mining companies (Intrepid Potash Wendover, LLC and predecessor, Reilly Industries, Inc.) to conduct an experimental Salt Laydown Project to replenish salt to Bonneville Salt Flats. Between 1997 and 2012, an estimated 9.8 million tons of sodium-chloride salt were transferred from company private land to the salt flats north of I-80. Since 2012, another 1.5 million tons have been added for a total of 11.3 million tons to date.  BLM's monitoring and data collection from the Laydown experiment and the subsequent 2003 salt-crust thickness study produced three peer-reviewed published papers, which assessed the Salt Laydown Project's efficacy (see "Salt Flats Research," www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/salt_lake/recreation/bonneville_salt_flats.html).
     Based on these published papers and review of Intrepid's 2006 mining and reclamation plan, BLM mandated that Intrepid continue the Salt Laydown Project for life of lease. Intrepid is also required to quantify and report salt tonnage being withdrawn from federal-lease collection ditches. Furthermore, tonnage extracted from federal-lease collection ditches north of I-80 may not exceed tonnage being replaced through the Salt Laydown Project, and Intrepid must perform a salt-crust thickness study similar to BLM's 2003 study by 2018.  Intrepid recently contracted with Brenda Bowen, Associate Professor, Geology & Geophysics, University of Utah, to conduct the 2018 salt-crust thickness study.  BLM will use results of the 2018 study to determine if additional mitigating measures will be necessary in management and protection of Bonneville Salt Flats.
     William White is a registered professional geologist (Idaho & Utah), and was BLM's physical scientist responsible for monitoring and assessing progress of the Salt Laydown Project from 1997 through 2007.
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STAFF EDITORIAL, by Richard Parks.
     I don’t have much of an editorial today, except to tell you that there is a lot in the pipeline yet to be done.  I’m working on bios of Tony Thacker and Carl Olson along with three book reviews on the interesting and exciting Old Car Nut Books by David Dickinson.  The Tex Smith autobiography from the publishing company Graffiti Publications is now available and all sales will help his family and wife.  Check with Autobooks/Aerobooks in Burbank, California to see if they can get you a copy or check the internet to see where Graffiti Publications is located.  Tex was a giant in hot rodding and his stories and bio will brighten your day. 
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The following was submitted by Bob Choisser.
      http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/pressdemocrat/obituary.aspx?n=roberto-skinner&pid=176057178.
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     Robert Skinner passed away unexpectedly on August 18, 2015 at his workshop in Sebastopol, California.  Robert was born in Santa Monica on May 12, 1941. He began his career of professional drag racing with a trio of Southern California geeks known as The Surfers. This association, fronted by Roberto's skills and the garage at his mother's Red Apple Motel on Wilshire Boulevard, created an epic winning dragster which ultimately inducted them into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1997. In the mid-1970s, Roberto left racing and began the myriad of pursuits in Sonoma County, having purchased a house and apple orchard in Sebastopol, complete with various workshops. Here he created, invented, designed, produced, and fixed many things (often for friends). In addition, he volunteered at the Ceres Community Project, danced impressively and consistently, studied languages, traveled extensively, cultivated and maintained many, many friendships, lived in the moment mindfully, and always expressed tolerance until it didn't make sense. He is survived by his sister, Jerri Hughes; his nephew, Kevin Hughes; and his niece, Erin Hughes Wahlberg.  Robert Skinner was an incredibly talented and noteworthy soul who touched many lives. He will be sorely missed. A commemoration event is planned for May, 2016, in celebration of his 75th year. Press Democrat from October 9, 2015.  http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/pressdemocrat/obituary.aspx?n=roberto-skinner&pid=176057178#sthash.NYO6TIXG.dpuf.
Also: http://www.hotrod.com/news/1508-bob-skinner-of-the-surfers-drag-team-dies-at-age-74/.
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     I got involved with a reality show; which started out being filmed as "LORD of the Car HOARDERS."   That show eventually became "RUSTED DEVELOPEMENT."   It shows on Monday nights on the DISCOVERY Channel.   They made "our show" into a two-parter; the show that I am in will air in two weeks.  "Too Tall" Dave Cox will be on next Monday's show.  That yard is here at my place in El Mirage.  We buy & sell vehicles and try and save the older ones from going to the scrap heap.  Right now I have a 1914 and 1926 Model "T" plus some 1925 Chevy stuff; the list goes on.  All together we probably have over 200 vehicles.  Most people like the Free Tour.  George Callaway
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      I have a wonderful book titled, "Where they raced (Lap 2), that I purchased at the museum.  It shows all the so cal tracks and I enjoy it.  I currently race Land Speed Cars and remember seeing Wally's name in the Spin book, dated 1948 as I remember, signed by Wally.  It's probably in the stuff the SCTA hauls out to Bonneville; most racers probably have never seen it?  I'd love to have something written up regarding my new Land Speed Car, as you know we have been rained out the last to events at Bonneville, but I run at El Mirage on a regular basis and have one of the nicest, well made cars out there.  The car is less than one year old, built by Dave Tuttle, with a current NASCAR engine, Liberty 5 speed air shifter and Winters rear end.  The metal work is very impressive.  I have one more license level to acquire (175 - 200) and then can run against the 201.4 record. Hope to do that this October meet.  I have some photos, details about the team and car and would love to have something published IN YOUR Land Speed work if possible.  You offer help in crafting a story, what do I need to do?  I am in the Rod Riders Race Club.  Thanks, Alan Pinho
     ALAN: I have reviewed Where They Raced and The Santa Monica Road Race, both by Harold Osmer and am including the reviews for you to read.  Osmer is a good historian and writer and I would like to see him and others chronicle in depth more of the race tracks throughout the country and Canada.  What you should do is start on your bio, and then write down your stories (bench racing tales) and I will help you edit them.  We will post them in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter (www.landspeedracing.com) and again on www.hotrodhotline.com.  Here's the first questions for your bio; A) where and when were you born, your parents and siblings, B) what schools did you go to and who were your high school friends, C) where you in a car club and if so tell us who else is in the club and what the club is like.  Send that back to me and I'll rewrite it and edit it for you.  Don't take more than 20 minutes; write fast, I'll do the rewrite. 
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     The most comprehensive listing of drag strips I’ve encountered is in a book entitled The History of America’s Speedways Past & Present, compiled, edited and published by Allan E. Brown.  The copy I have is the third edition, and was printed in 2003.  If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you might try contacting [email protected], or the current publishers of the National Speedway Directory.  If it’s out of print and no longer available, I’d be happy to loan you my copy with the assurance that I’d get it back.  Carl Olson
     CARL: I'll ask Jim Miller about the book.  I do book reviews and if he has it I'll borrow it from him or from you one of these days.  I'm always looking for books to review on hot rodding and auto racing, especially land speed racing.  
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...book sales for the (Tex Smith) autobiography (are from) the publishing company Graffiti Publications.  Andreanna Ditton
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     STAFF NOTES: I have not vetted this material.  If you are interested please check it out thoroughly as the SLSRH Newsletter staff makes no recommendation pro or con on this business.
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    We are a family owned, reliable business in Frederick, Maryland since 1999. We welcome your email inquiries, and usually answer the same day.  We use a vintage manufacturing process very similar to the cloisonne car badges made in England back in the 1930s and 1940s.  These jewelry quality medallions will not dull, fade, flake or peel.  They just keep on looking new regardless of the elements. We can duplicate and improve your club's current car badge, modify it or start from scratch with a newly designed upscale badge; in about 45 days.  We will design badges especially for your club; using your ideas or logo. We can also ship them individually packaged in a nice gift box for a warm presentation.  These solid metal, 18 karat gold or chrome plated badges are custom made by skilled craftsmen; the standard size is 3" in diameter and a hefty 1/8th" thick, with inlaid cloisonne coloring.  We can make any size or shape within reason.  Website: http://arniebrown.com/badges.htm.  You will find many photos and information, including prices.  We also explain our "vintage" manufacturing process.  Arnold R. Brown 902 McLendon Drive, Frederick, Maryland 21702 [email protected].
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Gone Racin’ … Santa Ana Drags Reunion October 2015.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.  October 3, 2015.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

     Roger and I look forward to the twice a year reunion honoring the Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip.  It is a low-key event that is free to the public, parking is convenient and Gene Mitchell provides the food, drinks, shade tents and soft chairs for us as his contribution to the sport.  Leslie Long is the event organizer, Roger is the official reunion photographer and I try to reach as many people as possible as the media representative.  It’s one of the easiest and most satisfying of all the many reunion, car shows and events that we attend each year.  The park is tree shaded, quiet and the weather is almost always warm and pleasant. 
     The official title is “The Santa Ana Airport Drag Strip and Main Street Malt Shop Reunion,” as long ago we combined two very special reunions into one because of declining attendance.  It has worked out so well that Leslie gives us the go-ahead to hold them twice a year, on the first Saturday of April and again on the first Saturday of October.  We hold the event at Santiago Park in Santa Ana, though it is right on the boundary with the city of Orange just south of Hart Park.  Since a creek runs next to the raised park we call it Santiago Creek Park; but enough of that.  The main reason we go is to see the people who came together over 65 years ago to race at the old Santa Ana Airport, now known affectionately as John Wayne Airport. 
     For a decade from July 2, 1950 to mid-year 1959 it was the Santa Ana Drags that enthused a nation of hot rodders and turned them into drag racers.  Men and women who would go on to create a sport and a business that is still strong and vibrant.  The Santa Ana Airport was not the first venue for the nascent sport of drag racing.  Young people had raced at the Goleta Airport a year earlier in a race that was organized.  There were races held on highways, public streets, abandoned air force bases and dry lakes.  The Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) held a drag race at the Tustin blimp base in June of 1950 that attracted cars and motorcycles.  But there is no escaping the fact that the first race held on July 2, 1950 at the old Santa Ana Airport was the first, continuous, organized, and professional drag race that set the style and the trend for all drag racing that came after that date.
     The Bean Bandits raced at Santa Ana and immediately set in motion a drag strip at Paradise Mesa to the north of San Diego which soon attracted the top drag racers.  Within days and weeks young people began forming their own “Timing Associations” because the emphasis was first placed on how fast a car could go and later morphed into how quick a car could cover the distance between point A and point B.  Notice I did not say “how quick a car could go in the quarter mile,” the standard for drag racing today.  The founders of the sport were many and each of them was trying to figure out the safety angles, the length of a course, the rules, media use, promotion, car classes, spectator seating and safety, and a host of other problems.  Drag racing is still evolving and always will as speeds vie with safety in order to progress.
     All sorts of rules and regulations had been thought up and promulgated from the first drag race among eager drivers even before the turn of the nineteenth century into the modern era of the automobile in the early twentieth century.  The culmination of these rules coalesced at Santa Ana.  Here was the birth place of drag racing.  Here was the cauldron of competition that swiftly turned old coupes and roadsters into sleek machines that saw speeds rise meteorically and times fall like a rock.  Here was the laboratory that changed open cockpit roadsters into streamlined and highly modified race cars that became aerodynamic and powerful.
     The promoters at Santa Ana were C. J. and Peggy Hart, Creighton Hunter and Frank Stillwell, but they had tons of help in the form of young people who were paid to work or volunteered their services.  The Harts were the brains and the heart of the promotion.  I never met Stillwell, but I knew Hunter and C. J.  These men wanted to race as well as promote what they thought would be a money-making venture.  But a bigger concern was finding a place where young people could race safely and where there were rules and cars were inspected for safety.  It was crude by our standards but at the time it seemed so fantastically well organized and professional.  It took very little time to codify the rules and regulations, test theories and discard that which didn’t work and that which did.
     At the same time there was street racing and time trials on the dry lakes of Southern California and at the newly organized Bonneville Salt Flats.  Santa Ana drags revolutionized drag racing and very rapidly caused illegal street racing to drop in size.  It also successfully competed against land speed racing which dropped to precariously low numbers and caused many of the timing associations to fail or merge into the SCTA.  Who wants to go to the dry lakes when they have a neighborhood drag strip that is cleaner and much more convenient?  Who wants to tow a car 700 miles away to race on the salt flats, when one can go drag racing and get home in time to take his sweetheart dancing?
     Young people raced their cars, but they also hung out at the corner malt shop or drive-in and bragged about their cars, girls and of course their skill with the wheels.  Many of the drag racers hung out at the Main Street Malt Shop on Main Street of course, or at the Andy Parks Malt Shop and so we combined their reunions with the Santa Ana Airport Drags reunion.  Why not?  Remembering the past is what we do; except the shops no longer exist, except in our imaginations.  Even the Santa Ana Airport drag strip has changed and few people know where it exists today except for Leslie Long and Gene Ellis and a few really long-ago old-timers.  Perhaps we will never really know exactly where it is.  The important thing is to remember that time and place where the world stood still, Pappy Hart raised the flag and then whoosh, the first official drag race that we know of began and our lives changed.
     The Orange County Register ran a story on Pappy Hart’s son, Gerald Hart and the coverage put renewed numbers into this October’s reunion.  Hundreds of thousands of spectators attended Santa Ana Airport drags and many are still alive and their memories of the place are needed.  A special thanks to Susan Carpenter and Johan Moreno for giving us this boost in promotion.  Another grateful salute to Gene Mitchell for providing the food, drinks, desserts, tents and chairs at his cost and refusing any contribution.  Finally, I want to thank Leslie Long for keeping this reunion going and to Roger Rohrdanz for his excellent photographs and to all those who attended and who helped to spread the word and especially for Gerald Hart for keeping his family active into this reunion.  It is one of the best events on my calendar and I hope you will come and see us.  Bring your photographs and memorabilia to share.
     Here’s the group that came this year; Leslie Long, Gene Mitchell, Roger Rohrdanz and Richard Parks, the reunion organizers, plus Megan Mitchell and Daniel Fox for helping to set up the tents and chairs, Don Cook (who raced his ’34 Ford 6 cylinder coupe at Santa Ana), Gene Ellis (who raced at Santa Ana and later became a renowned oval track racer), Ernie Balderrama (who raced with the “Outlaws” in a ’41 C-altered Willys) and his son Larry Balderrama, Rodney Smith (who is a collector of memorabilia and photographs from the old Gopher’s car club of the SCTA), Windy Casada (who got her name for the storms when she was born), Rich and Tim Casada, Darryl Adams, Wayne Harper, Larry Davis, Jim Miller (the president of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians and archivist for the American Hot Rod Foundation), David Steele (Director of the American Hot Rod Foundation) and Steve Ross.
     Chuck Schiebeck (a former Lakers car club member who worked on Jim Snyder’s Salty Cuda #82), Shane Zacherson (who came from St George, Utah), Phil Turgasen, Pete Douglas (who won a trophy at the last race held in June of 1959 in a ’57 Thunderbird), Don Porterfield (who raced at Santa Ana in ’50 and ’51), Norm Stevenson (who raced a ’37 Ford flathead with Bill Butters, a ’32 Five Window flathead Ford coupe, a ’32 Ford roadster and a small block Chrysler powered dragster), Eldon Harris (an original Santa Ana drags and Main Street Malt Shop participant), Mike Uribe (one of the old time Bean Bandits of Paradise Mesa), Manuel Flores Sr (who crewed for Calvin Rice and used to go to the rival Andy Parks Malt Shop) and his son Manuel Flores Jr, Roger Brophy and his son Scott Brophy, Gerald Hart (who was called Butch by his mother Peggy Hart), Betty Belcourt (widow of drag racer Dick Rosberg and mother of jet car driver Terry Rosberg), Marv Ripes (who knew my father Wally Parks), Jim Murphy (who raced motorcycles and crewed on many race cars), Patricia de Santos, Curt Kopetsky, Al Teague (who went 409 mph at Bonneville in the 1990’s), Terry Shaw (whose father raced at Santa Ana in the early days), and Diane Carmelo Leuenberger Vandenberg (who raced out of the Jack Hart Garage sponsorship and at Santa Ana in the early days).
     Bob Payne, John Conner, Gary and Judy Kranz, Leon and Darlene FitzGerald (who owned the Pure Heaven car), Bill Thomas, Jerry and Dave Sackett, Bill Davidson, Joyce Daily, Dianna and Rob Hund, Mike Good, Martin and Diane Sechrist (who raced at Lions when C. J. Hart moved to that drag strip after Santa Ana closed), Ken Freund (who just completed two long-distance tours of South America on his motorcycle), Ken Hempstreet, Doug Westfall and his granddaughter Nautica Williams, Richard Palicz, David Espinoza, Rick Kersh (who raced at Santa Ana, Lions and OCIR and knew my brother David Parks at Corona Del Mar High School), Barry Bowyer (who owns a 1913 Model-T, ’33 Sedan Delivery, ’36 convertible sedan and a ’39 Ford Cab-over which is his latest project), and Fred Angelo. 
     If you would like more information on the Santa Ana Airport Drags reunion please email me at Gone Racin’ at [email protected].
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The Earl Mansell Story - Roarin' Roadsters.  Written by Dick Martin.  June 1, 2003.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

     We tend to think of "treasure" as riches hidden centuries ago or vintage race cars discovered after decades under wraps. Ed Justice, Jr. of Justice Brothers Oil Products brought no less a treasure to our attention than Earl Mansell: "Mansell may be the last surviving driver to compete at Legion Ascot in the '20s," says Justice." Ed should know; his father, Ed Sr., has amassed an extensive collection of priceless Champ Cars, midgets, and Sprint Cars at his museum in Duarte, California.
     Earl Mansell not only manhandled those magnificent open-wheel machines with Wilbur Shaw and Rex Mays before the Great Depression, he fashioned a new dimension in racing. It's been reported that Gilmore Oil Company sponsored the first organized meet at Muroc, March 25, 1931. Not so-it was Mansell, October 9, 1927, and he revealed a yellowed entry blank to prove it. There was a curious correlation between tracks like Ascot and Muroc: If Earl Mansell's close friend, Ed Winfield, was here today, he would tell us the connection was testing.
     We wanted to learn more about Mr. Mansell and his involvement in an obscure dry lake during the '20s, called Muroc. We called his home in Santa Maria, California, where he resides with his wife, Virginia, to arrange an interview. He answered the phone in a clear, strong voice; the conversation was brisk: "Wally Parks asked me when I started going to Muroc. Well, it was after I started Sprint Car racing-probably 1922. Wally said, 'you were there 10 years before us.' Come on up," invited Earl, "and we'll talk about it!"
     Earl Mansell was born November 9, 1908, in Pasadena, California. His love affair with mechanics began as a boy when he came across a one-cylinder Excelsior motorcycle abandoned in a vacant field. The engine had seized. He took it home, repaired it, found the owner, and was given the bike for his honesty. Says Earl, "Of course I thanked him, but this affected my whole life. Since that day I have never been away from wheels-machinery, motorcycles, or race cars."
     Earl worked at a small airfield in Pasadena cleaning the planes, but nothing was mundane in the Roaring Twenties: "It had a taxi lane around the perimeter, which I used for a racetrack. To attract the public to learn to fly, an air show was held every Sunday, and they pressed me into service when the wing walker failed to show. It was easy...it was a biplane which had struts and wires to hang onto," laughed Mansell.
     Street Racing Is Nothing New.  Mansell became a serious street racer at 15: "I became kind of a terror around Pasadena in my roadster. I had a hopped-up Model T with a four-valve Rajo head and Winfield carburetor on it, but we didn't have any kind of speed equipment like they have today. I still had the stock wheels and some of the body stripped off...that was it.
     "I attended several street races at night in San Fernando. One night while the racers had the street blocked off, the police came, and everyone there received a ticket. I appeared with the others in court at Van Nuys. It cost me two dollars.
     "I got pinched two or three times a week, but the judge was a pretty good friend of mine, and he made it all right. My father was a motorcycle cop, and every time I got pinched it kind of hurt him a little. The police cars were Buick touring cars, and they couldn't catch me...I'd run away from them, but then they'd get a warrant and come after me. My car was easy to identify with the twin pipes."
     After attending a race as a spectator and working for Cecil Ballinger who owned a Rajo dirt car, the mold was set: "I was 17 when I first raced; I got into Sprint Car racing because there was money in it-at the lakes there was nothing. The first race I ran, I got $60 and I thought I was a millionaire. I decided right then and there, race car driving was for me." Earl purchased a chassis from Marvin Mann who had quit racing; Mansell took the engine out of his roadster, borrowed some wheels and a larger carburetor, and headed for the track.
     Ascot.  Ascot Speedway held its first event January 20, 1924. The Model T brought many of the fans to the track, and most of the home-built dirt cars ran modified T engines on T frames. A few wealthy racers ran Duesenbergs and Millers, but the race cars of choice ran Ford engines. There is no question that tracks, especially Ascot, created the speed equipment industry. Cylinder heads of every configuration exploded on the market. Overhead-cam heads and two- and four-valve heads spilled onto the market. Depending on the company's name stamped on the aftermarket head, the T engine was referred to as a Cragar, Frontenac, Rajo, Riley, or Winfield.
     Ascot was test-bed for radical engineering designs. Mansell recalls just how highly innovative some engines were: "I drove an eight-cylinder, two-cycle dirt car for Leon Duray. If you had an idea, Ascot was the only place to give it a try."
     Speed equipment manufacturers knew if their product was successful on the track, it would sell on the street. An ad in the '24 Ascot Official Program for the Rajo-Valve-In Head read: "Acceleration from five to forty miles an hour in fifteen seconds over the stock head." Mansell's close friend and fellow competitor, Ed Winfield's innovative carburetors, cams, and heads were direct results of Winfield's track racing.
     It is astonishing that combined purses at Ascot were up to $4,300 per event, fueled by crowds of 10,000 spectators when wages in the '20s were in terms of cents per hour. No wonder drivers like Mansell and Winfield frequented the 5/8-mile oiled dirt track (with many applications of "road oil" the surface took on a pavement-like hardness). The Thanksgiving Day Sweepstakes race, held August 1924 at Ascot, had $30,000 in cash spread through the field, attracting drivers from around the country and Europe. Other tracks scattered throughout the L.A. area-Banning, Colton, Culver City, Inglewood, and Redlands-brought fans out on Sundays to watch their local heroes.
     Muroc Was a Test-Bed.  Muroc was a great place for testing the limits of automotive components. It was ideal for endurance tests to advertise the durability of a given make. Studebaker's advertising claim of 26,000 miles in 26,000 minutes was carried out on the dry lakebed.
     Mansell became one of the test drivers for a similar test: Not to be outdone, Dodge set up a small city on the lake, complete with a mess tent and showers for drivers and crew, to break Studebaker's record. Surveyors laid out a 5-mile circle, which moved over a little each day for a new surface. The two cars involved in the run both failed. Mansell had this to say about the experience: "When my car failed, they pulled the pan, and it had tubular connecting rods, which certainly were not stock. They had a high gear ratio, as we could go up to 50 mph in Low gear. This failure happened, but it was kept quiet."
     When it came to testing their race cars, Mansell and Winfield had two options, the street or the dry lake (There was no such thing as a dyno until 1938 when a chassis dynamometer was developed by Clayton Industries). "We tested our racing cars on School Street in Flintridge (west of Pasadena) close to Winfield's home and shop," explained Earl, "but it was good for only short distances."
     The more sensible location they discovered was Muroc's 44 square miles of hard, flat surface: "Ed and I would go up to Muroc and run his race car to test his engine. He had no interest in racing anyone across the lake," emphasized Earl. "Winfield was like a part of an engine. He'd shut off the engine, coast in, and take the plugs out. He wouldn't pay attention to the plugs; he'd look inside the [spark plug] hole into the combustion chamber."
     A small bit of civilization that greeted the hot and thirsty consisted of the Muroc store, post office, and a one-room school: "The people that owned a small store by the lake were named Corum," says Earl. "We'd go there for food and they sold water...they had a gas pump as well. They wanted a post office and there was already a town of Corum somewhere, so they turned the name around and called the area Muroc...we always called it Muroc."
     However, Mansell found it to be a dangerous environment with cars going in every direction, particularly at night. On one occasion, fearing being hit in the dark, Mansell tied the steering wheel of his car so it would make a wide circle, turned the headlights on, set the throttle, put it in gear, and slept in a slow-moving vehicle during the night. He observed that, without the availability of timing equipment or a specified course and length to run on, there wasn't much else for the street racers to do after chasing a few rabbits across the lake, except head for home.
     Referring to the chaos, Earl recalled, "There were some bad accidents on the lake, mostly caused by neglect. Out on the lake there was nothing stationary to refer to, and cars would run together; it was difficult to judge distance. When Winfield and I went to Muroc, it was helter-skelter. That is the one reason I promoted the race-to get some semblance of order. They'd take off, someone would come along, and they'd run with them. There was really no racing. No one knew how fast he or she was going."
     Mansell Organizes the Chaos.  Earl made a pledge to do something about the bedlam and put together a plan: He would have rules with qualifications and classes-coupes, roadsters, and touring cars. Accustomed to prize money when he won a race, Earl devised a "pay-back" system similar to off-road racing's today. Profit was not his motivation, for he kept none of the entry money. The entry fee of $3 was divided among the class winners. The winner got two-thirds and the loser got the other third. In essence, the first Southern California Championship Sweepstakes transformed the hot rod racers into professionals, at least for that one day. Earl worked hard to promote his event; flyers were circulated to street and track racers alike. His event, unlike any other, would take place October 9, 1927, at Muroc.
     "We had two stop watches," continued Mansell. "We went up the day before and set up the course. I took a heavy table and set it up for the registration. I took some pipe and a sledgehammer, and we measured with a tape. We measured 5,280 feet and put the stakes down. We got the wind so it was crossways, where the course would be. We didn't go 1/10 of a mile or any of that; we went with a mile because that gave us less chance of error. We put flags in the pipe-we had a stopwatch and a guy standing at each end with one. As the car went by...we could see from the table...we used the stopwatch and with a little, old scratch pad wrote down the time. Two could race one another, the same as a drag race today, but no more than two. They drove around to our table to get their time-and that was it."
     Only 20 entrants made their way onto the dry lake that day. Maybe Earl's idea was just a little ahead of its time, or the radiator-busting 4,000-foot climb discouraged all but the fanatical in those pre-Model-A days. Nevertheless, running at Muroc would never be the same again thanks to Mansell's "Championship Sweepstakes" event. The same rules that made circle-track racing successful could be adapted to the dry lakes as well. Racing across Muroc was made safer and purposeful by what Earl started. When the 20 racers got home with timing slips in their pockets to verify how fast they had gone, they had something to show for trekking to the middle of nowhere, and word began to spread.
     "I only promoted it once," emphasized Earl, "because I was involved in Sprint Car racing and didn't have the time. George Riley took over after me." In turn, an environment was created which made hot rodding the most innovative form of motorsports of the last century.
     It was fitting that Riley, a speed equipment manufacturer, would follow Earl's lead in keeping organized meets alive at Muroc. Riley made the second most popular aftermarket head (after the Cragar) for the Ford four-cylinder. He knew that an untapped market awaited him and other manufactures with this unique form of racing. Mansell introduced a new form of racing that appealed to the free spirits. Combined with the new midget race cars emerging on the scene, the interest level on the part of the car-building hot rodders began to decline towards circle-track racing as the popularity of the lakes began to grow.
     By 1938, 23 Southern California racing clubs had been formed. It was not until May 15, 1938 (11 years after Mansell's first organized event), that the newly formed Southern California Timing Association held its first meet. Dry lake racing had become the new obsession, with 300 entrants that first day.
     Ed Winfield.  Because Mansell and Winfield were close friends, we asked Earl for his insight on such a larger-than-life legend: "My father was a motorcycle officer in Pasadena, and they had Henderson motorcycles; it was a four-cylinder inline engine. Winfield would change the carburetor on it-he was making small carburetors-and my dad would test them for Ed. Ed took an old Landis internal grinder and made a cam grinder out of it. I twisted off five camshafts at Legion Ascot because I had no one to coach me. I went to Ed and he helped me. I kept dropping valves, and I figured the springs were too strong. In those days they didn't have spring testers-you tested them with your hands. I got springs that were weaker, and I dropped them faster. Ed wasn't much older than I, yet he knew so much."
     A Life of Racing.  Earl moved to San Diego in the early '30s and opened a garage. When the war started, he served in the Merchant Marines and stayed at sea for a number of years. After the war he became part owner of a tuna clipper. His ability to organize led to a stint as Mayor of Chula Vista, a suburb of San Diego, where he resided.
     His reputation as a consistent driver earned him the respect of many and took him all over the country. His ability as an engine builder provided him with a steady stream of customers from the Depression until he retired to Santa Maria.
     After all of his injuries on the track, it was a drunk driver who almost cost Earl his life. Since that day, almost 30 years ago, Earl has needed aid in walking. However, while it has slowed him, he still makes a point to travel to functions to meet with old racing buddies. He recently attended a reunion of veteran dirt track racers at the Route 66 Speedway in Victorville, California. Former Indy winners Parnelli Jones and Rodger Ward were some of the dignitaries present.
     While others have been given credit for Mansell's efforts at Muroc, we are proud to be able to bring some recognition of his accomplishments-if rather late in life. We're happy to report he received the Golden Helmet Award at the Old Timers Get-Together for Outstanding Contributions to the Sport of Automobile Racing, September 2002.
     Earl Mansell set in motion the ingredients that would evolve into the fastest, most innovative sport in the world-land speed racing. Likewise, another pioneer, C. J. "Pappy" Hart (born in 1912), took over where Earl left off, as founder of Santa Ana. Pappy turned a quarter-mile into the quickest of motorsports-drag racing. And Wally Parks (1912) who founded National Hot Rod Association standardized the sport of drag racing in the country and made it respectable.
     To treasure "is to retain carefully as in the mind," and what a treasure it is to know such pioneers who span so many years. They were not only there at the beginning, they were the beginning.
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Gone Racin’ … Earl Mansell.  Written by Richard Parks from interviews with Earl and Virginia Mansell and from a story written by Dick Martin in June 2003.  Photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  22 September 2015.  Quotes are from Dick Martin’s story on Earl Mansell.  Additional material is from John Lucero’s book Legion Ascot Speedway and from my interviews with Earl and Virginia Mansell over the years.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com.

      I met Earl and Virginia Mansell at the Gilmore Roars Reunion around 2002 and again out at the San Bernardino Fairgrounds when Hila Sweet held the Car Racers Reunion.  They invited me to their home in Santa Maria, California where they were then living and where Earl and his son worked on building engines.  Earl brought out an old set of homemade flags that he used at Muroc Dry Lake in 1927 at the first recognized land speed time trial.  I have to backtrack and state that the dry lakes were often used by car manufacturers to test their vehicles and to establish endurance records which were later used in advertising.  Midget racer and Indy 500 chief mechanic Danny Oakes told me that he drove on the dry lakes during that time span for various car companies.

     Mansell was born in Pasadena, California on November 9, 1908, not quite five years before my father, Wally Parks.  The two men knew each other and often talked about the old dry lakes days, but Earl was there first, had his fling and then moved on to oval track racing around Southern California.  He told Dick Martin that his interest in racing and automotive engineering began as a boy when he found a motorcycle and repaired it.  He then located the owner, who in turn gave the bike to him.  As he grew he worked at a number of jobs.  He used every opportunity he could to drive and perfect his skills.  He also worked cleaning airplanes at a small field near his home.  After World War I the public was fascinated with airplanes and especially flying stuntmen.  Earl explained this to Martin, “It had a taxi lane around the perimeter, which I used for a racetrack. To attract the public to learn to fly, an air show was held every Sunday, and they pressed me into service when the wing walker failed to show.  It was easy...it was a biplane which had struts and wires to hang onto.”
     Mansell also raced on the streets, which nearly all young people did in those days.  The Los Angeles basin was not as crowded as it is today.  Cities were separated by farms and the traffic was light.  Still it was a dangerous thing to do and Earl explained it this way, "I became kind of a terror around Pasadena in my roadster. I had a hopped-up Model T with a four-valve Rajo head and Winfield carburetor on it, but we didn't have any kind of speed equipment like they have today. I still had the stock wheels and some of the body stripped off...that was it.  I attended several street races at night in San Fernando.  One night while the racers had the street blocked off, the police came, and everyone there received a ticket. I appeared with the others in court at Van Nuys. It cost me two dollars.  I got pinched two or three times a week, but the judge was a pretty good friend of mine, and he made it all right.  My father was a motorcycle cop, and every time I got pinched it kind of hurt him a little. The police cars were Buick touring cars, and they couldn't catch me...I'd run away from them, but then they'd get a warrant and come after me.  My car was easy to identify with the twin pipes."
     Most young men wanted to be a race car driver.  It paid very good money for young men who were glad to find any work, before or during the Great Depression.  Earl went to work for Cecil Ballinger’s Rajo sprint car.  "I was 17 when I first raced; I got into Sprint Car racing because there was money in it; at the lakes there was nothing.  The first race I ran, I got $60 and I thought I was a millionaire.  I decided right then and there, race car driving was for me,” Earl proclaimed.  Sixty dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money today, but my uncle showed me his paycheck for working fifty hours a week in the brass foundry and he earned only seventy dollars per month.  A race car driver could race six or seven nights a week and if he was careful and didn’t destroy parts he could earn a good living.  Mansell bought a chassis from Marvin Mann and put the engine from his roadster, added wheels, carburetor and some speed equipment and began his racing career.
     Ascot Speedway was built over in East Los Angeles and was a major sprint car track on the west coast.  All the big name racers started on the Pacific Coast in January because of the good weather and gradually worked their way eastward as the weather warmed.  The first year that Ascot opened was in 1924.  The best drivers from all over the nation raced here; Hal Cole, Roy Russing, Lane Curry, Frank Wearne, Pierre Bertrand, Johnny McDowell, Ed Haddad, Bruce Denslow, Bob Austin, Frank McGurk, Rajo Jack (Desoto), Bud Snavely, Ray Pixley, Tex Peterson, Jimmy Miller, Danny Oakes, Mel Hansen, Freddy Agabashian, George and Hal Robson, Duke Dinsmore, Fred Winnai and, of course, Earl Mansell.  They had a tough time beating the professionals who owned Miller and Duesenberg powered cars though, men like Rex Mays, Kelly Petillo, Wilbur Shaw, Al Gordon, Chet Gardner, Louie Meyer, Danny DePaolo, Babe Stapp, George Conners, Fred Frame, Stubby Stubblefield, Cliff Bergere, Mel Kenealy, Sam Palmer, Ted Horn and Ernie Triplett.  Ascot was fast, slippery and dangerous and many drivers were killed racing there.  Occasionally a Model-T using a Cragar, Winfield, Riley, Frontenac or Rajo head would sneak up among the top five but rarely did they upset the mighty Miller and Duesenberg powered cars.  "I drove an eight-cylinder, two-cycle dirt car for Leon Duray.  If you had an idea, Ascot was the only place to give it a try," Earl told Martin.
     One of the well-known racers was Ed Winfield who not only won his share of races, but later developed his own unique speed equipment; carburetors, cams, and heads which he sold to a voracious market of young men who wanted to go as fast as they could on the streets, tracks and dry lakes.  Mansell knew the reclusive Winfield and learned much from him.  Then Ed’s wife gave him an ultimatum, to quit racing or lose her.  She had good reason to want to see Winfield leave racing; the death toll at Legion Ascot and other racetracks around the country was mounting rapidly.  Ascot would last 12 years, from 1924 until 1936 and then the uproar over the accidents and deaths among the drivers would close the track.  A mysterious fire would burn down the famed race course and the owner would take the insurance money.  Eventually Legion Ascot would become a school and housing tract.  The race course hummed with frantic activity in its heyday and the purses and prize money was astonishing; the track drew crowds of over ten thousand cheering fans.  There was also a thrilling and dangerous road course that went up into the hills above the track and ended in front of the stands.
     Mansell raced on other tracks as well.  There were board tracks in Culver City and tracks in Los Angeles, San Diego and up and down the state of California.  Racers that gained a reputation in California also barnstormed through the Midwest, South and Eastern racetracks.  If you kept your car in good condition and didn’t beat it to death or take unnecessary risks you could find a track to race on every day or night of the week and if you ran first, second or third the prize money would add up quickly. 
     Everybody knew about the dry lakes of Southern California.  Muroc was the largest and the best of them all, but at times the kids would head out to Rosamond, Harper or other dry lakes to test their cars.  The big car companies like Studebaker and Dodge would hold test and endurance racing on the dry lakes.  Earl took a job with one of the car companies and drove on the dry lakes.  Friends of his, like Danny Oakes and Babe Stapp also worked as endurance drivers.  Earl drove for Dodge and told Martin, "When my car failed, they pulled the pan, and it had tubular connecting rods, which certainly were not stock. They had a high gear ratio, as we could go up to 50 mph in Low gear. This failure happened, but it was kept quiet."  Earl also tested his race cars on the dry lakes and on the streets as well.  "We tested our racing cars on School Street in Flintridge (west of Pasadena) close to Winfield's home and shop, but it was good for only short distances," Earl related.  "Ed Winfield and I would go up to Muroc and run his race car to test his engine.  He had no interest in racing anyone across the lake.  Winfield was like a part of an engine.  He'd shut off the engine, coast in, and take the plugs out.  He wouldn't pay attention to the plugs; he'd look inside the [spark plug] hole into the combustion chamber," Earl said.
     The dry lakes were used by many people besides car companies looking for endurance records and ammunition for sales brochures.  Hollywood stars would challenge their friends to see who had the fastest cars.  Young people would go out to the lake to race their cars.  It was hectic and frantic and there was no organization or safety.  As soon as the drivers reached the dry lakes they sped off in all directions, throwing dust into the air and making dangerous turns.  Muroc is Corum spelled backwards and is the name given to the lake that is now called Rogers Lake, part of the Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, north of Lancaster, California.  The Corum brothers owned a small store and post office on the lakebed.  There were also farmers in the area and a one-room schoolhouse.  During the depression of the late 1920’s and ‘30’s there were also homesteaders who tried to make a living in this arid area.  "The people that owned a small store by the lake were named Corum.  We'd go there for food and they sold water...they had a gas pump as well. They wanted a post office and there was already a town of Corum somewhere, so they turned the name around and called the area Muroc...we always called it Muroc," Earl stated.
     If there were cops in the cities to hassle young speeders, there was freedom in the high desert.  Young people went out to the dry lakes to race their cars, shoot jackrabbits or find desert tortoises to take home as pets.  They raced around the dry lakes during the day and night and it was very dangerous.  But an idea came to the young nineteen year old in 1927.  "There were some bad accidents on the lake, mostly caused by neglect.  Out on the lake there was nothing stationary to refer to, and cars would run together; it was difficult to judge distance.  When Ed Winfield and I went to Muroc, it was helter-skelter.  That is the one reason I promoted the race-to get some semblance of order.  They'd take off, someone would come along, and they'd run with them.  There was really no racing.  No one knew how fast he or she was going," Earl said of the mayhem.  So he devised a plan; he would hold an organized time trial with classes, rules and organization.  There was a class for touring cars, roadsters and coupes and prizes for the winner of each class.  The entry fee was three dollars and he took the entire amount and divided it into the three classes and distributed the money to the three winners, keeping nothing for expenses.
     The time trials took place at Muroc on October 9, 1927 and Earl approached friends, passed out flyers and drafted rules.   "We had two stop watches.  We went up the day before and set up the course.  I took a heavy table and set it up for the registration.  I took some pipe and a sledgehammer, and we measured with a tape.  We measured 5,280 feet and put the stakes down.  We got the wind so it was crossways, where the course would be.  We didn't go 1/10 of a mile or any of that; we went with a mile because that gave us less chance of error.  We put flags in the pipe; we had a stopwatch and a guy standing at each end with one.  As the car went by...we could see from the table...we used the stopwatch and with a little, old scratch pad wrote down the time.  Two could race one another, the same as a drag race today, but no more than two.  They drove around to our table to get their time-and that was it," Earl added.  There were 20 pioneers that day that set the stage for bigger and better things to come.  Although few in number these young men would tell their friends, show their time slips and give an enthusiastic charge to land speed racing in the California desert.  No longer were the city streets the only place to test the speed of your car.
     "I only promoted it once, because I was involved in Sprint Car racing and didn't have the time.  George Riley took over after me," Earl told Martin.  Riley and George Wight from Bell Auto Parts would team up with other young men in car clubs and create the Muroc Timing Association in 1931.  Riley sold autos and auto parts and specialized speed equipment.  The Riley head for the Ford 4-cylinder engine was very popular with young people.  Bell Auto Parts was the headquarters for young racers.  A bulletin board at the speed shop and garage posted the latest results and future meets.  Riley and Wight would organize the meets at the lake beds until 1937 and then with liability and business fortunes waning they would turn the organization over to new groups.  The biggest was the Southern California Timing Association which formed in November of 1937 and held their first time speed trial meet on May 15, 1938.
     "My father was a motorcycle officer in Pasadena, and they had Henderson motorcycles; it was a four-cylinder inline engine.  Winfield would change the carburetor on it, he was making small carburetors, and my dad would test them for Ed Winfield.  Ed took an old Landis internal grinder and made a cam grinder out of it. I twisted off five camshafts at Legion Ascot because I had no one to coach me.  I went to Ed and he helped me.  I kept dropping valves, and I figured the springs were too strong.  In those days they didn't have spring testers, you tested them with your hands.  I got springs that were weaker, and I dropped them faster.  Ed wasn't much older than I, yet he knew so much," Earl said of his friend and mentor.
     Mansell married and moved to San Diego during the Great Depression where he opened a garage.  He also found work in the Merchant Marines and was at sea for many years.  After the end of World War II he served as the mayor of Chula Vista where he and his wife and children were living.  He saw the huge profits that the tuna boats were making and went into business with a friend.  The tuna catches were depleting the stock of fish off the California coast and so Earl and his partner fished down off the coast of South America.  While he was out to sea his wife and children were killed in a car accident and word was sent to him.  He hurried home and the loss of his family was a major setback to this kind man.  Earl returned to building engines.  It took him years to overcome the grief in losing his family.  He had many friends around the country and he eventually met his second wife, Virginia and they had children.  Over the years Earl survived racing accidents, but it was a drunk driver that nearly took his life.  Many racers will tell you that it is safer on the racetrack that it is on our city roads and highways.  He was nearly crippled for life and though he has to have help he still managed to work on building engines with his son.  He never missed a chance to attend the many reunions of car and motorcycle racers and renew old friendships.  I had the privilege of taking another Pasadena racer, Rodger Ward, to the Car Racers Reunion, and the two men talked of their past races.  While at his home I saw the original flags used at that first time trials back in 1927 and felt the same zeal in his voice today that he had at that event so many years ago.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].

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Gone Racin’ … THE OLD CAR NUT BOOK #1.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.  10 October 2015.  Reprinted with permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

 

     The editor of THE OLD CAR NUT BOOK series is David Dickinson and he has a goal; to save as many stories as he can and publish them.  He collects old car and hot rodding stories from many people and then creates an anthology.  Reader’s Digest is a magazine anthology of short stories and articles that is widely read.  Several anthologies in book format have been published; one that I reviewed recently was ROAD TRIPS, HEAD TRIPS, AND OTHER CAR-CRAZED WRITINGS, edited by Jean Lindamood with an introduction by well-known writer P. J. O’Rourke.  Anthologies are hard to review, for each short story by a writer differs remarkably from another writer in quality, timeliness and appeal.  I might laud the book and tell readers that the series of stories are remarkable and yet the public might hate the various stories.  Or I might hate the stories and the public might love them.  As a reviewer I scan the books, reading fast and so there may be parts that I miss or that I give short shrift too.  Some stories grow richer with time and take awhile to deliver their message.  When I was younger I enjoyed many of the anthologies that I now find boring.  The opposite is true, some stories that I disliked years ago I now find much more interesting.
     That said the collection of short stories, whether they are true or fiction, fulfills a crucial need for the automobile age is young yet and we need to save as much of the history and heritage that we can.  The first automobiles began appearing sometime around the end of the 19th century, and the years before First World War saw the world change drastically because of motor driven vehicles.  Some historians posit that the piston driven vehicle (cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles) altered the environment and made our lives healthier as we no longer had streets filled with horse manure.  In 125 years our world has been transformed.  Dickinson and other editors have made it their goal to find and save for posterity the story of the “old cars,” and the people who love and drive them.  Right off the bat I can sense that Dickinson, the editor and sometimes author of a tale or two, has the right idea.  I just want to warn readers that it is important to consider all the writers of the stories as a whole and not to misjudge this fine series by some of the works that are not as well written as others.  Just as a story can be told orally by a witty and engaging story teller, so can it also be underplayed and poorly told by a person without humor, timing or comedic talent.  In fact it is harder to write a short story or bench racing tale than to orally tell your friends at a party or event.  Stories always go over better when they are spoken; the cadence, tempo and sound of one’s voice make a great difference.
     THE OLD CAR NUT BOOK #1 is a paperback book measuring six inches in width by nine inches in height and is an inch thick.  It contains 290 pages with 59 short stories, with additions; Dedication, Excerpts, Acknowledgments, Foreword, Introduction and a short two page bio on the editor, which should have been longer.  Most readers grab a book and open at the middle.  I do that; it is a normal habit in a world where people have little time and are inpatient.  But knowing something about the author/editor, looking at the people the editor used in the acknowledgment and who introduces the book is important to knowing how much we can expect out of the book.  Robust, stocky, white bearded Dickinson is from the Pacific Northwest and has always been a car guy and appears he always will be.  His picture looks like so many of my hot rodding buddies.  Dickinson plans on publishing five old car nut series books.  The first two books contained stories he wrote or collected from friends and people he met in this project and are simply about cars and the people who love them.  Book three in the series is about road trips, book four will contain stories on racing and book five will be devoted to stories for those who were born before the end of World War II.  The books sell for a very reasonable $14.99 and you can order them through Evancourt Press located in Seattle, Washington.  I would check with book stores, especially my favorite, Autobooks/Aerobooks out of Burbank, California.  You can also contact the editor at [email protected].  I have an idea that the Dickinson would like to talk to his public, maybe to glean more stories in the future.  The quality of construction is very good, but the paper is not photographically the best, although I found the photographs to be adequate.
     I recognized Ky Michaelson, the Rocket Man, and Lance Lambert, the host of Vintage Vehicle Show on television.  Remember though that it is the quality and ideas in the story that matter, not the author’s reputation.  A number of writers seemed familiar and perhaps I have met them at car shows and races.  The quality of the stories seemed very good.  Carl King and Gary Hughes told interesting stories of their first car.  Gary lost his car, a typical story and found it again, each time it cost him more than he bargained for.  The car stories are a sort of Holy Grail, a path to be taken, a crusade of the mind and spirit and in the end a coming of age tale.  The short stories average only a few pages and that is both a blessing and a curse.  For stories that are familiar to what we have heard before then the shortness is just the right size.  But occasionally there is such an interesting and completely new story told in such a way that I kept hoping Dickinson would allow the writer to take 20 or 30 pages and follow the story into more depth.  Some tales just simply demand more.  Dickinson compensated somewhat by asking a few writers for multiple stories.  Overall though I found every story interesting though some were more amusing than others. 
     There was only one woman author listed, Sue Nader, and her story was only three pages long.  Women are often overlooked in car stories and bench-racing tales.  It’s a big oversight, because I know they are observing their husbands and boyfriends and someday we will tap into that huge reservoir that the ladies possess.  Sue Nader’s story is so much like most of the women that we know; she hated the car scene at first.  When she married she went along with her husband out of loyalty and to show a sense of commitment to his love of the car culture.  Along the way she began to find an appreciation for the culture that her husband was immersed in.  Now she finds car shows and car events to be a fascination that she looks forward to.  Her story is the story of most women married to car guys.  One of the shorter tales in the book, it is also one of the most important.  The old car nut book series is worth having.  It is worth reading and then at car shows hand the book over to your better half and have her read it while you bench race with the guys.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].  **************************************************************************************