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Land Speed Racing Newsletter #392

Land Speed Racing Newsletter #392


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Ann Lawford,   
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, David L. Parks, Tex Smith, Tom Medley, Lee Blaisdell, Eric ‘Rick’ Rickman (editors and photographers)
GUEST EDITORIAL, by Craig Breedlove (sent in by Stan Goldstein).
     For decades the Spirit of America management team has had a cordial and respectful relationship with both the Noble and Schadle teams.  That both these teams are now seeking to change or circumvent the FIA and FIM rules that have stood for almost one hundred years is truly disappointing.  Now, they propose rule changes designed to accommodate the fact that they have spent more than a decade producing vehicles that are simply incapable of competing within the existing rule package.  In doing so the arrogance of this action clearly degrades the traditional sportsmanship and records produced and recognized by long established international sanctioning bodies. And (this) would be seen as tantamount to moving the goal posts during the game. Rocketry is not new to this world. 
     The Chinese invented it thousands of years ago and in the early 1980’s the Spirit of America team built and ran a rocket powered LSR vehicle capable of easily refueling within the one-hour return run window.  Further, international specifications clearly define the precise specifications required in the layout, construction and validation of timed distances and recording devices. Specifically however, the intent to change the turn-around window from 1 hour to 24 hours totally invalidates the original intent of the rule, which is to compensate average speeds in both head and tail winds and climatic conditions.  Finally, the unresolved controversy that stands today over the accuracy of RADAR as a timing option has to this day frozen for decades, the unrecognized record of Hal Nedham’s rocket car. Similar controversies are destined to exist about accuracy with the use of GPS tracking; think of it as a game of horseshoes.  Not hand grenades.
Craig Breedlove
Spirit of America Operations, LLC
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------STAFF EDITORIAL, by Richard Parks
     The Society of Land Speed Racing Historians is open to all, free of charge, with no responsibility or duties unless they wish to volunteer.  I am the only staff person on the newspaper, but I rely on a number of people to provide news, articles and historical research.  The publisher is, though we may see the return of someday and they would be most welcome.  We work as volunteers and receive no pay or benefits for what we do, nor do we take advertisements or seek any revenue.  The members represent the land speed community in all its rich variety; reporters, photographers, racers, officials, spectators and those who love hot rodding and straight line racing.
     The Guest Editorial spot is available to anyone who has anything to say and we are glad to post your thoughts as long as they are cordial and meant to be constructive and not hurtful.  As your editor I do not consider myself to be an authority on any subject, merely a means by which information is brought to your attention.  In the past I have allowed ideas and topics meant to inspire and prod discussion, but any opinion that I express does not represent the Society or its members.  There is a mistaken view that I have a superior knowledge and I will tell you now that anyone harboring this opinion is wrong.  I am an observer only and a reporter of what I see and what I know.  Sometimes what I observe or know isn’t always as accurate as I think it is and I have explained that in past columns.  There are NO historians who speak the truth 100% correctly, because events that we report on are too vast to gather all the facts and put them in a semblance that can be readily understood.  We try our best though.
     My knowledge goes back to around 1949, and my father’s to 1931 and in some cases I know things that NONE of you know, mostly trivial things that only a family member could possibly know.  That in itself does not make me an authority on a subject; only ONE of MANY reporters on a subject.  You should never accept what only ONE authority tells you.  Historians are taught to consider many reports on the same subject, the more the better, and then to compare and contrast that information.  In many cases we are stuck with only one view or one report and we must consider the facts, the conclusions and who wrote the article.  For example, I was one of only a few who spoke to a certain racer before his run resulted in his death.  That makes me an original or first-hand witness, but it does not guarantee that I understood the circumstances thoroughly.  Always consider the source of your information and how reliable it has proven in the past.
     Similarly I receive complaints wherein people I really respect and admire take an opposing viewpoint and I am perfectly happy to add their thoughts to the newsletter.  It becomes a different matter when those people that I look up to attack others or myself and call us names.  In their anger and in protecting their views they become uncivil and perhaps abusive.   I have learned that if I turn my back on people who are having a bad hair day that I won’t have any friends left.  Yet I must be clear and firm on this subject; do not think that an overly argumentative stance will stop the newsletter from being open and honest on all subjects.  Do not think that we play favorites.  Do not attempt to pressure us into running only one set of views and denying access to others.  I do not always agree with people who send me research, or ask for a Guest Columnist spot, but I run their views anyway. 
     In one situation a man professed to have come up with a solution regarding roll-overs and many wrote in to say that it was a welcome topic to discuss, but they couldn’t say whether the theory was sound or not.  On the other hand two engineers told me that the theory had merit and deserved further review.  One individual, a very successful professional and a person we look up to, wrote to someone else, who forwarded the email to me.  This man, and I stress that he has merited our respect, said that not only was the theory flawed, but that we were “idiots” to run the research and the researcher himself was definitely uninformed.  This man went further and said we were even more inane to think it had any chance to succeed.  What did this tell me?  That if you scream, curse, have tantrums and throw out every pejorative that you can you can move people into agreeing with you.  This is not the scientific process.  I respect everyone, especially their work as a car builder/restorer but I easily can see that the man’s social skill needs work and he believes that name calling is the way to win arguments.
     Likewise the issue of the Bonneville Salt Flats rile up a lot of people and these very fine men and women who are truly committed to LSR have divided into camps; angry at each other.  My way of dealing with this ongoing Bonneville disaster is to allow all sides to civilly debate the topic in a Guest Editorial spot and let each reader/member come to their own conclusion.  I do not take sides and I do not play favorites and if you haven’t learned that about me by now then you simply haven’t been reading my staff editorials.  I don’t KNOW what to do with Bonneville, even though I have an OPINION.  You all have the right to tell us what you KNOW and what you believe to be true.
     The same procedure goes for the recently formed LSR sanctioning association and their proposed new rule changes in land speed racing.  First of all there ARE NO RULE CHANGES being implemented as far as I know.  Proposals come and go but actual rule changes are not necessarily on the horizon.  What has to happen for rules to be changed?  Do you know or are you feeling insecure over changes that could affect you, your club and your ability to maximize your car’s performance?  Rule changes are presented to ALL the sanctioning bodies all the time and if they have merit the officials, clubs and timing associations make changes.  No one can force a rules change and if they tried the racers and members would leave that group and go elsewhere.  There are numerous sanctioning bodies and a new one was proposed recently with the word “World” in its title.  It doesn’t matter that the organization was legally established as a corporation IF THERE ARE FEW OR NONE willing to abide by its rules. 
     But what if a group of land speed racers broke ranks and supported the new group, would that invalidate the FIA, FIM, SCTA, BNI, or any of the other major sanctioning bodies?  You know that answer, but I feel that you have to hear it from somebody else in order to believe it.  As long as there are a handful of racers supporting ANY sanctioning body, then that organization continues to exist and provide a service to its members.  If the NHRA can live with the IHRA, and in the past with the AHRA, then you can live with multiple sanctioning bodies and even a new one.  Realize that each group has different rules unless they coordinate and if they do then there is no problem as a record under one is the same as under the other.  Where the rules differ you may have to choose which group to join.  Or you can join as many as you wish.  I remember LSR guys joining Mojave Timing Association, SCTA, Russetta, Bell and other groups all at the same time, or quit one group and join another.  Such movement did not weaken or destroy land speed racing.  Rules and records were not the cause for the serious decline in the 1950’s and ‘60’s.  Changing tastes in auto racing was at fault.  Each group had different rules and procedures, but some racers were happy to conform to the rules in each group because they loved to race as much as they could.
     Personally I like the idea of several sanctioning bodies, but that is strictly my opinion and I do not ask anyone to agree with me.  But to say that you fear a new group and new ideas and rules is not a valid response, seeing as how few, if any have quit your group and joined the new group.  Yes, it is threatening to have your life’s work in doubt.  I remember when my brother lost his record and he fought tooth and nail to have his class divided into modern and vintage records.  It worked and he got his record back though for the life of me I can’t understand what made him so angry; records are made to be broken.  But records are never meant to be stolen and that’s what a lot of people fear when the old rules are tinkered with.
     Well, what can you do?  Besides studying and talking to the new group you can also bring up the subject with the group that you are currently associated with.  Ask yourself this question; who are the people on your rules committee, do they need more volunteers, have they been there forever, do they resist change, are they farsighted and learned experts, are they easy to talk to and discuss rule changes?  That may be hard with the FIA/FIM as they are located far away and perhaps not easy to reach.  But I can’t see any group, old or brand new making major changes to safety, records or rules without input from a large number of racers. 
     Conversely, the opposite is also true; some rules changes are fraught with peril and can have adverse impact on the sport.  Case in point is the Guest Editorial by Craig Breedlove in this issue.  Craig is a man that I highly respect.  My father respected him and in the 1960’s he was well-known throughout the country and loved.  Craig’s view is that piston-driven cars, jet cars, rocket cars and other free-wheeling vehicles all have certain advantages and disadvantages.  Why should his record, gained the old fashioned way, have to “fall” to another type of vehicle that can’t set a record as he had to obey back then.  It is a valid viewpoint and an opinion that has to be debated and addressed.  My father, brother and I would say that SAFETY is paramount in rules making.  If rules change it is for several reasons; safety for drivers, teams, officials and spectators, reliability of speed equipment, course set-up, length of course, and variables concerned with increased speeds.
     Since 1931, tell me if you know, just how easy or hard it is to get land speed racers to make and to accept changes?  I may not be an expert, but I was a “fly on the wall” way back when and I can tell you change comes in installments and with wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I also know that there are some racers who are unhappy, who feel that small and powerful cliques make up what they feel are arbitrary and coercive rules.  At the same time I know of times when hardworking and dedicated volunteers gave their best to make sure the average racer had a fair opportunity to go after records without any favoritism.  Here’s what I am sure of; you can send me your opinion and I will post it.  Or you can call me names, curse my progeny, damn my soul to NASCAR boredom and hurl epithets at my head.  That won’t work of course, because I feed on insults.  But you’re willing to try.
     Jack Underwood is recovering at an outpatient care facility and will be returning home soon to reopen JACK’S GARAGE.  For those of you who have never visited Jack’s Garage it is a place where the famous and infamous gather to discuss all things related to hot rodding and land speed racing.  Let me know if you want the coordinates and when Jack will be reopening the garage for visitors.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------EDITOR: The following letter is from Ernie Nagamatsu.
     We are leaving for Australia and racing our 1958 Kilpatrick Speedster at Phillip Island and the week following is the Australian F1 Grand Prix Historic Race.  We race the same circuit in Albert Park as the F1 race cars and during the same weekend.  This is amazing for an ex-farmer of Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley so long ago and a neighbor of C. J. Hart who lived on 1st Street.  New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing January 15-17, 22-24, 2016 A Tribute to Porsche.  Amazing to have our red #7 small 1958 Porsche Speedster in Pit Garage #1 with the Porsche Museum Legendary Race Cars and Engineers with Mechanics; all from Germany!  It was two weekends of hard racing; full 12 Standing Start races and 3 Qualifying Races at Hampton Downs.  What a joy for the first time in over 20 years; good wheels under me like race cars should be and racing against blindingly fast 1990's Porsche Cup cars with our 1958 Porsche Speedster; more later.
SANTA ANA DRAGS REUNION, sent in by Leslie Long.
     The Santa Ana Drags Reunion will again be held on Saturday, April 2, 2016, at Santiago Creek Park, in Santa Ana, California, from 10 AM to 2 PM.  The host is Leslie Long.  The event is free, you may bring your hot rods, photographs and albums.  Parking is free and the lot is located at the corner of Lawson Way and East Memory Lane in the paved creek bed.  The Park is about one mile east of Main Street. Do NOT go to Hart Park; that is too far east of us.   Children and grandchildren are welcome and a light lunch will be served courtesy of Gene Mitchell.   For information contact me at [email protected].  
     An Afternoon with Alex Xydias and his memory of ''My Friend Wally.''  Discover the Wally Parks few got to know.  Program Starts at 2 pm, Saturday, March 19th, 2016.  Refreshments will be served.   The program includes: Wally's formative years.  From the Midwest to California.  The Hot Rod Scene.  Before WWII.   WWII Tank Testing and Hot Rodding through the Philippines.  The Dry Lakes and Bonneville.  Wally's Humor and more.
     As seen and experienced by his dear friend and legendary racer/builder, Alex Xydias with historical insights by Greg Sharp, Curator, NHRA Motorsports Museum.  Museum Members $20, Non-Members $25.  All proceeds go to benefit the NHRA Motorsports Museum, a 501c(3) non-profit educational institution. Donations are gratefully accepted and enable programming of this kind and more.  The Museum is located at 1101 McKinley Ave, Bldg. 3A, Pomona, CA 91768.  For more information call 909-622-2133 or visit us online at
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Road Runners report by Jerry Cornelison:     
     Our March 8th meeting will be at Pole Position Raceway in Corona, for our 5th Annual Road Runners Kart Challenge.  We will meet at 6:30pm, conduct a short business meeting and then go racing.
     Location is: Pole Position Raceway 1594 E Bentley Dr, Corona, CA 92879      Racers and spectators are all welcome.  For the spectators the Racers always put on a good show.  If you've ever attended you know what I mean.
     Road Runners Banquet, March 19 at March Field Air Museum.  If you have not already RSVP'd, please do so ASAP.   The final headcount has to be submitted soon.
     Benedict Castle Car Show, April 3rd.  I met with the organizers last Saturday.  They are really doing our exclusive show spot up great.  It is being called the Salt Flats, there will be vintage signage displayed.  Each entry will have a license-plate sized, brushed aluminum looking sign with the vehicle information for display.  It can be taken home with you after the event.  If you have questions and/or want to enter your race vehicle and need registration info, please call me. 951-500-2079. See you on March 8th.  Jerry Cornelison - Secretary, Road Runners
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------EDITOR’S NOTES: The following Aussie Invader Newsletter March 2016, was sent in by Rosco McGlashan, [email protected]
     Greetings to all of our sponsors, supporters, 1000 MPH Club members, Supersonic Selfie members, newsletter recipients and followers, welcome to our March 2016 Newsletter.   Boy did we stir up a hornets' nest of controversy over my comments regarding the formation of a new speed sport governing body sent to me by North American Eagle’s boss Ed Shadle. I had no idea that this comment would have generated so much feedback. There were some brilliant comments coming from those "in the know," from LSR and WWSR gurus such as Andy Green, Ronald Ayers, Ken and David Warby, Franklin Ratliff, Richard Parks and several other experienced LSR teams from around the world.                                       
     I apologise for not having the time to respond to all of the great folks and feedback I have received. In brief all I was saying is that the turnaround time of 60 minutes will become a safety issue jeopardising the safety of the driver, crew and spectators. My team feels the current permissible turnaround time needs to be increased to meet higher safety standards. My take is 90 minutes would be a great help in achieving this.  Another good comment that I received again involving safety was an idea to utilise two sets of timing traps, both sets sanctioned by the relevant controlling bodies, and set towards each end of the track, this would then allow thrust powered cars to utilize more breaking area.
     For example a car on a 20km – 12 mile long track could then use 3 miles to accelerate into the measured mile, run the measured mile (4 miles in total) and 8 miles to stop. The return timing traps are positioned at the same intervals for the return run. Great idea from where I am standing, there are very few tracks anywhere in the world that measure more than 20 km/12 miles in length, this idea would work and allow for shorter than 12 mile tracks.  My great mate Dave Warby’s comment on the WLSRA was that it shouldn’t have had an L in its name. Boy the Warby's have paid their dues and are looking the real deal with their latest jet powered boat. 
Here is a response from Richard Parks which I thought was very appropriate.
      "Thank you for including me in your discussion. I will post your comments in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter at for others to read and ponder. Recently the NHRA, which I was around at the time when my father formed it in 1951, decided to do away with the back-up run. This is a rule that I favor in land speed racing as well. There was a good reason why a back-up run made sense at the dry lakes in the early 1930's and on the Continent before that; course conditions, elevation, wind direction.  But the biggest reason of course was the timing equipment and official error or connivance.
     Today the professionalism of the sanctioning bodies are above reproach and the competency of the officials and equipment unquestionable.   Forcing race teams to turn a big car around and redo the speeds is dangerous to spectators, crews and the driver.  I've seen my share of deaths, though back-up runs haven't produced many injuries or deaths thank goodness. But in the one-hour hurry up in order to get an official record there is great potential for trouble.  We don't need additional problems in an ever-increasing cost and speed sport. 
     This is a contentious issue and there will be some who will say we shouldn't mess with tradition and what has worked.  There will also be those who say land speed racing must adapt to the present circumstances which are vastly different from those conditions since the early 20th century. The least that we can do is have a dialogue and I will post what you have to say on the subject.  Thank you again for bringing this to my attention.”
     We presently have some brilliant companies working on various components for Aussie Invader 5R, Newland Associates in Kalgoorlie are busy machining up our tailfin, Rosetta Stone Operations in South Australia are working with Enzed to finalize our piping fittings and hardware requirements, Di Candilo Steel City are on the job laser cutting several components for us, and Siemens are working on our data acquisition hardware.                 
     We note with a touch of sadness that our friends and rivals the Bloodhound SSC team are currently doing it tough with getting their car test ready and onto her way to South Africa to start running some serious numbers. We wish them well and that British Industry will get further behind their amazing project. I have often said that setting the WLSR is not an ego trip for the driver or team, it’s all about an ego boost for the country.  We all know it’s a tough world out there at present for industry and families. Our big push for this year is to get our car 90% completed and to make an appearance with her at the Sydney Opera House in the company of our great sponsors and to generate some worldwide media.
     My team has also suffered a big financial setback recently ourselves after having been told we were eligible for a Research & Development grant funding and subsequently went through a long process, eventuating in us receiving some funds from the Government. However due to the way the tax office looks at a project like ours, they have decided now that we do not qualify and want this money back. Initially gaining this grant meant that we had the funds to purchase day to day hardware for our project and be able to work wholly on getting our car completed and not spending every spare minute chasing the illusive financial sponsor.  We have had some great support in the past from Prime Minister John Howard, we are hopeful that our new PM Malcolm Turnbull who is promoting research and development, technical innovation and the teaching of STEM subjects to our young folk, will step up to the plate and get behind an Australian project like ours. It is ironic that this project is basically ALL research and development, we are attempting many new things never done before. We hope Malcolm Turnbull and the tax office will see the light and review their decision. I am sure that they will be the first to use Aussie Invader 5R as an example of Aussie ingenuity and technical excellence, when we achieve our goal! Anyone reading this with connections to the government, might want to have a quiet word with them.  All my team and I can say is that this car will get built and run, however long it takes and whatever issues we have to overcome!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin'...Jim Clark biography.  Written by Bob Small, photographs by Bob Small, edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  30 June 2015.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands; for photographs go to

     I actually met Jim Clark in the fall of 1969 at the NHRA World Finals at the old Dallas Motor Speedway.  He had attended the race as a spectator, and had recently become a contract racer for Chrysler, and had some parts that he needed transported back to California, and he knew we were from California, as was he.  I had seen Jim at the races on occasion, but we never spoke, just sort of nodded at each other, but that was about it.  All of the Mopar racers in Division 7 either knew each other, or at least, knew about each other, mostly because we were surrounded by GM competitors, if for no other reason.
     In any event, he asked me to come up to his shop in Baldwin Park, California, Jim Clark's Engine Dynamics, and drop the parts off, and he said that he'd like to talk to me about a few things.  He offered to sponsor my 1963 426 Plymouth B/SA, "Tommy's White Tornado," and he offered to help me with some specialized parts that could help take the car to the next level.  My partner and I held the National ET Record in the NHRA B/SA class at 11:89, and we had one of the fastest cars in the class at that time, so the notoriety that came with that was beneficial to Jim as well, having our car running out of his shop.  At the time, there were a number of fast Chrysler products running out of Jim's shop, and he had a pretty good reputation for being able to build some fast cars.

     He was a good sponsor, and a good friend, and even though I'm long retired from racing now, I'm glad that he and I are still friends, we talk on the phone weekly, and still see each other when time and distance permit, he currently lives in Virginia City, Nevada and currently has a Hemi Dart under construction that should be ready to run in the fall of 2015.

     Jim's list of race cars that he built and drove is long and impressive, and to the best of my knowledge, they were all Chrysler products.  His first real race car was a '62 Plymouth 413, that ran primarily in AHRA competition.  The next car was a '63 Plymouth 426 factory lightweight, and that was followed by a '64 Plymouth 426 Stage lll factory lightweight named the "Determination" or as it was not too affectionately known around Engine Dynamics; the "Detonation."  It was actually a very good car, it had originally been built for Tommy Grove when he was a factory racer for Chrysler, and it was always a fast car.  The “Determination” was driven at alternate times by; Jim Clark, Don Crouse, Dale Reed, Jr, Dale Reed, Sr, Doc Conroy, myself, and Dave Kempton, so it got around.

     Jim's next car was named the Hemi Express, it was a 1965 Dodge Coronet A990 car, and ran the SS/BA class in NHRA, and was probably Jim's most well known car, even though there were a number of other cars that passed through Engine Dynamics over the years, and all the Hemi powered cars were always named Hemi Express.  There is an interesting story behind the name "Hemi Express," and in all the years I've known Jim, I didn't know what the reasoning was behind the name.

     As it turns out, the reason for the name Hemi Express is due to Jim's lifelong fascination with trains, specifically, big steam locomotives, so when he acquired the '65 Dodge SS/BA car, since it was a big car anyway, the name just seemed fitting.  Jim was enamored with trains to the point that, after he quit racing, he sold the Engine Dynamics shop to one of his employees, John Avery, who still owns it today.  Jim went to work for a company that supplied trains to the movie industry, and learned everything he could about trains; how to run them, and how to work on them.  He became a licensed steamfitter, and eventually, he became the "Train Man," in Hollywood, the go-to guy for trains for movies, which is what he still does today.  As he says, jokingly, "I've been in over forty movies, never had a speaking part yet, and I can't count how many times I've had to die onscreen."  His eldest daughter, Andrea, is an actress, and works pretty steadily as an extra; she lives with her husband and children in Huntington Beach, CA. Jim is, in all actuality, most likely the most knowledgeable person today on the early steam powered locomotives, and he scouts the country for suitable locales to make movies where trains are utilized.  His expertise is a highly sought after commodity in the entertainment market.   

     For a short while, Jim owned the Dodge Hemi Dart that had originally been campaigned by the "Drag-ON-Lady," Shirley Shahan, but he didn't keep it long, as he was having a Pro Stock Dodge Demon built at Butler Racing, and the space that the Dart occupied needed to be open for the Demon, so the Dart was sold.  Jim owned the Demon for a short time, had some local success with it, but his heart wasn't really in Pro Stock, and he decided to go back to Super Stock racing.  He sold the Demon to Billy Stepp, also known as "Billy The Kid," a Midwestern racer from Dayton, Ohio, who ended up being quite successful with it.   The driver of the Demon at that time was Stuart McDade.

     Jim acquired a couple of '68 Hemi Barracudas at that time, one from Judy Lilly in Colorado, the other one came from Dave Wren, a well-known Super Stock racer from the state of Washington.  One of the cars, and I don't remember which one specifically, was sold to Harry Holton, a longtime Chrysler Super Stock racer from Northern California, and whichever one of the Barracudas he kept, ended up being Jim's last race car with NHRA for that time period, and he retired from racing the year after I did, in 1974, in order to spend more time with his kids and family.  He went on with his career in trains, a few of the movies that he provided and ran trains for were; "Wild, Wild, West," "Water For Elephants," the cable movie, "Into The West," and the weekly series, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."

     Jim and I took the Hemi Express SS/BA to a meet at Long Beach, and at the time, Lions was an American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) strip, and they were holding a three day meet there, and all the AHRA heroes showed up for it.  Long and the short of it, comes Sunday eliminations, and Clark manages to wade through all the AHRA hot dogs, and even with their rather oddball way of doing things, we end up in the final for Super Stock, against a Cobra Jet Mustang from Arizona.   We'd never heard of the guy, but evidently, he was something of a legend in AHRA.  Now keep in mind, the Hemi Express is an NHRA car, complete with NHRA decals all over it, and it was pretty obvious that they really didn't like us much, and made no attempt whatsoever to hide it.

So, up to the line they go, Mustang takes off on a handicap start, Clark chases after him, catches him right in the lights, and blows past him for the win.  We figure we've won the race, right?  Wrong?
     It seems that we went from a no breakout final to a breakout final, only one problem, the only ones that were aware of it was the tower personnel, they'd sort of neglected to pass this tidbit along, and especially to the bandit NHRA car that showed up and spoiled the party.  When this gets announced over the PA system, Clark, who at the time was a pretty large guy, and in good shape, blows up, asks me to put the car on the trailer, and says he'll be right back.  He marches up to the tower, goes inside, and then boils back out the door with the president of AHRA, Jim Tice, by the collar.  Clark puts him up against the tower wall, sticks his index finger in Tice's face, and proceeds to tell him what a bush league, second string, route step organization AHRA is, and will always be # 2.  Then Jim let's go of him, storms away, comes back to the pits, we get in the truck, and leave Lions pit area at about 80+ MPH.  Jim got the various contingency checks from the various suppliers, but he never did get the check from the AHRA, though. Guess I don't have to wonder why, eh?  It’s a true story.

     Today, Jim lives in Virginia City, Nevada, with his wife Lorraine.  He has four children by his first marriage, and four stepchildren with Lorraine, and between them, they have 16 grandchildren.  Jim is quite active in the small community he lives in, and is a member of the local Masonic lodge.  He still races occasionally, and shares his love of cars and knowledge with his son Brian, and his grandson Brandon, who are both active racers.

     I have included some pictures of the various Jim Clark cars; unfortunately, this is not all of them, but these are the ones that I have pictures of.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin’ … Randy Clark.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz, 3 November 2006.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands; for photographs go to

     Roger Rohrdanz and I traveled to Escondido, California, to see Randy Clark and his Hot Rods and Custom Stuff shop. HRCS is located about a mile from the 78 freeway, west of Oceanside. A sprawling series of buildings contain a busy, but very friendly group of mechanics, body men and fabricators working on 63 cars in all states of wear. Randy approached and greeted us with a warm hospitality. Blue eyed, with a Grizzly Adams beard and strong build, he literally swallows you up with his love for hot rods and customized cars. He showed us around the buildings and explained what each of his 43 employees were doing with a strong paternal pride in their craftsmanship. He has no problem at all with customers coming into his shop, pulling up a chair, and asking question after question. In fact, he welcomes such visits. 
     The first thing that he asks prospective customer is “what do you want to do with this car.” The next question is said openly and fairly, “what do you want to spend on your car.” Randy encourages customers to come down to the shop and participate in the design of their car so that when they drive down the road their pride of ownership will shine. His customers come from all over the world and Randy works with them in person, on the phone, by fax or email, in order to give and receive feedback on their car’s progress. He makes up an album with progress photos of their projects. Some of the cars even grace the website.
     Randy says that there is nothing as satisfying as working with an owner to create a customized work of art. His wife, Peaches, said that Randy is a very driven man when it comes to his customized creations and we could see many of the cars nearing completion. The “M80” received the “Riddler Award” and the “Yosemite Sam Radoff Sculptural Excellence Award” at the Detroit Autorama show. Many other custom cars have been shown at the prestigious Grand National Roadster Shows.  HRCS will take any pre ’73 car, and some after that date. To build a car takes 6 months or longer, and 9-12 months for a complete restoration. He never hesitated to answer any of our questions.
     Randy’s father moved the family from Orange County to northern San Diego County in 1955, looking for a less crowded area to raise the family. Graduating in 1964, Randy opened a small repair shop and gradually, over the years has expanded.  In 1989, he opened HRCS at its present location with just one building. With hard work and a commitment to building the best, HRCS has grown to what it is today. Many people, when in the market to purchase a vehicle, will bring the car to him for a pre-purchase inspection to insure that they are getting what they are paying for. HRCS offers appraisals, safety inspections, parts, a complete service center, fabrication, bodywork, rust repair, custom paint and upholstery. Randy admits that he is a perfectionist, as Peaches nods her head, and says that he just can’t let a car go until it is perfect.
     It was apparent that his employees have a great respect for him, and are at ease working for a gentleman with such high standards. Randy is especially proud of the new “American Peerless” car, and those who are helping him.  It is a Ford ’32 Deuce Cabriolet with removable hard top, air conditioning and a cool front end.  He says that much of his success goes to his employees with their craftsmanship and dedication.  He says he “hires, the best, pays them the best, and keeps his standards high.”  “Money,” he says, “isn’t everything, but loving your work is.” This man and his staff love to create beautiful cars. “I have no time to play,” he says, “There are cars to build.” The Michelangelo of custom car building shook our hands warmly as we left and went back to the work that he loves.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin' ...  James Close.  Biography and photographs by James Close, editing by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  13 August 2009.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands; for photographs go to

     My grandparents on my father's side were British and immigrated to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia also prior to the First World War.  My grandfather last name was Close and he was a coal miner.  Grandmother Close was a school teacher.  My grandfather was also into body building, and ran a gym in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.  They had nine children; James, John (who died when still a baby), George, Sadie, Earl, Clarence, Ida and two more whom I have forgotten the names of.  My father was James Close and he was born in February, 1917, in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.  My grandparents on my mother's side were the Purdy's, from Ireland and Scotland.  They immigrated to Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada before the First World War.  The Purdy’s were farmers.  They had three sons and three daughters; Vern, Carmon, John, my mother Verne and her two sisters, whom I can't remember their names.  My mother was Verne Purdy and she was born in August 1916, in Amherst, Nova Scotia.  James married Verne in her home town of Amherst.  They had James, my brothers John and William, and my sister Mary.  My brother John resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is a design draftsman.  My other brother William has lived in various places in Canada and the United States and is an auto body repairman and brick layer.  My sister Mary lives around the Toronto and Niagara Falls area of Ontario and is an office worker.  My nephew Robert, John's son, died recently from cancer.  My niece, Sheree, is Mary's daughter.
     I was born James Close, in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 20, 1942.  I went to an elementary school in Truro, Nova Scotia, until the family moved away when I was seven years old.  I transferred to Fairview Elementary School, in the town of Fairview, Nova Scotia and still remember some of my friends there; Jimmy Cunningham, Vernon Denty, Jimmy Kaiser and Billy McClain.  I went to Armdale Junior High School, but at that school I don't remember any close friends as I was training every day for track and field events, as well as working every evening until 11 PM and every weekend in my father's auto body repair business.  I did a lot of sanding and masking on the cars before they were painted.  My first job working for a business other than my father's part-time auto body repair shop was at the age of 12, for the summer in a grocery store in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I was pricing stocked items for the shelves, and packed groceries at the cash registers.  When I was 14 I had a job during the summer months for an electronics company called EMI Cossar Electronics, in Halifax, working in the sheet metal shop.  At EMI my job was to sand weld joints and punch holes in sheet metal panels.  The next summer, when I was 15, I worked in a gas station, Hebb's ESSO, at Prince's Lodge, Nova Scotia.  The owner's name was Fraser Hebb, and my job was pumping gas, changing oil, fixing flat tires and doing minor repair work.  I was also into track and field, primarily a high jumper, from the age of 12 until I injured a knee at the age of 15. I was selected for Olympic training in Canada at the age of 15, but because of the knee injury, I quit the sport rather than go through surgery. Also at the age of 12, I started lifting weights, and subsequently, I have never really stopped working out. I still work out perhaps 4 to 5 hours a week.  In Nova Scotia, it was difficult to do any real hot rodding, because there was no available hot rod parts, etc.  When I was sixteen years old, I did shoe-horn an Olds engine into a 1956 Chevy, which I promptly blew-up.  I went through 5 engines in the Chevy in 50,000 miles.  (I was 16 years old then),
     I went to Halifax West Municipal High School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I also completed a four-year program at the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology in avionics technology.  I took classes in wood working, and drafting in junior high, high school, and tech school.  I married when I was very young to a Canadian woman that I met in high School.  Her name was Nancy Lee Green and we were married on July 14, 1961.  She was always very slender at that time and of average height.  She was probably the easiest person I have ever known to get along with.  Immediately after completing my education, my wife and I immigrated to the United States in 1965, with the hopes of getting involved in motor racing.  I got a draft notice from the United States military system almost immediately upon arriving in the United States, but because my wife was pregnant at the time, they reclassified me and I didn't have to go into the military.  Our daughter, Debra Leigh Close Benedix was born in 1966.  We divorced, probably because I was never home as I was always away somewhere, either working or racing, and also she sat through and watched when I had my most severe racing accident at Ascot in 1971.  After that, she didn't really want to go the track that much. 
     I met Jim Murphy as a result of my father going to work at a small machine shop where Jim Murphy was working at the time, and started hanging around Jim's place helping him build a sprint car.  I also helped Jim start a speed shop at that time called Auto Racing Engineering, in Orange, California while I was working at All American Racers in South Santa Ana, California, owned by Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby.  Jim had a great shop there, with lots of machine-shop stuff, Heli-Arc and gas welding equipment, etc.  Murphy is a master craftsman, fabricator, welder, machinist, and mechanic.  He is "one in a thousand" related to quality of workmanship.  I would trust Jim Murphy to build me a race car in a minute.  You never have to worry about whether something was going to fall off the car, or whether something was going to break and cause you to have a serious accident.  There are very few people like Jim Murphy. He is also a workaholic; he doesn't seem to know when to quit.  Jim Murphy was the first person other than the staff at All American Racers that helped me learn something about racing.  I took my father to All American Racers one evening when he first arrived in California to try to get him a job in the machine shop as a machinist, hoping that would be helpful for me to get started in a career as a race driver (which it didn't) and my father didn't get a job there, but I did as a designer. 
     The drafting classes were helpful in my being selected by Dan Gurney's All American Racers (AAR) to do some part-time design on his Formula 1 and Indy cars from the fall of 1966 until the fall of 1967.  I was hired at AAR by Bill Fowler, who ran the machine shop and metal fabrication part of the business.  My office was next to a large office shared by Dan Gurney and Max Mullman (Dan's PR person, who after leaving All American Racers went on to become the business manager of top athletes and/or race car drivers).  There was an African American by the name of Hardy Allen (I think you may know him) who was responsible for the parts stock room.  Another person that I knew at AAR was Wayne Leary (I think that was his name) and another we called Dean.  Wayne and Dean did the final assembly of the Indy cars.  I went to Willow Springs, California with them one time when AAR and Dan were testing a Ford powered Lola Can Am car there.  Johnny Miller (a Hawaiian ex-motorcycle tuner) was running the engine shop at that time, and he used to spend hours porting and polishing heads and then flow testing them.  There were evenings when I would finish up doing drawings for the day, and if Johnny was running an engine on the dyno, I would go over there and help him take readings off the various gauges during the dyno runs.  One time we were running a Ford 4 cam Indy engine on the dyno, and Gurney went into the engine room part of the dyno facility, and was looking down the intake stacks of the fuel injection system with a flash light.  Those engines had the intakes directly above the cylinders and the exhaust was in the valley of the engine where the intake manifold is located on normal V-8 engines.  Dan was trying to see if he could see stuff working in there.  I also got to spend a week with Gurney and a few of the race track crew at Riverside International Raceway doing Goodyear tire commercials.  We spent the entire week there, running a Formula one car, as well as a Cougar provided by Ford Motor Company, with a film crew shooting literally thousands of feet of film.  Some of the footage was on television in Goodyear commercials during that period of time (1967).  I got to run some laps around the paved oval that was part of turn nine with the Formula 1 car. 
     At the time I was also going to the Jim Russell Race Drivers School out at Willow Springs.  I never met Jim Russell, as I don't think he ever came over to the US, at least not while I was attending the school.  He was British, and lived somewhere in the United Kingdom.  There was a heavy set Scotsman running the school, and there was a skinny young British guy working on the cars.  I don't remember their names.  Willow Springs at that time was a pretty basic facility.  There wasn't much there other than a fantastic road circuit that I very quickly became fond of.  We were using Lotus Formula 3 cars at the school.  Gurney's Eagle Formula 1 car seemed to me to be much easier to drive than the Lotus 31 Formula 3 cars; it was kind of like comparing a Mercedes to a Chevrolet.  The Eagle Formula 1 was very smooth and predictable, where the Lotus Formula 3 was somewhat harsh and difficult to drive.  Even though the Lotus was more difficult, I managed to set a Formula C track record at Willow Springs during my SCCA qualification race for my SCCA racing license with the Lotus Formula 3.  This was even with the Formula C class running an 1100cc engine at that time and the Lotus Formula 3 had only 1000cc engines.  After 8 days of in-car on-track classes using Lotus Formula C single-seater race cars, I was afforded the opportunity of using the school cars to get my SCCA racing license. I got my license with 50% of the normal SCCA required track time. I then started to buy and assemble a LeGrand Formula B car, but ran out of money. I then started going to TQ races, midget races and sprint car races, trying to get a ride in anything that I could, but with no luck.  I was going to Ascot, Trojan Speedway, the old Irwindale paved track, the little El Toro dirt track, etc.  I don't remember the names of any of the people that I was talking with then, but I do remember a few of the driver's names that were running at the time.
     Eventually, in the winter of 1970/1971, I traded an old 1957 T-Bird that I had blown up the motor in for an old Curtis midget (ex-Al Hendrix car that he had run against sprint cars with a super charged Offy engine in the car) that was stretched out for a Chevy V-8 for sprint car racing. I installed a new crate Chevy 350 in the car, using the stock motor with Hilborn injectors and a mag.  The car still had a midget front end, a midget in-out box, and a midget rear-end.  When I finally figured out that I had to set the car up completely different than a real sprint car because the engine was really high in the chassis, I was able to qualify within a half second of fast time, but I could never get the car to live through a heat race because of the midget drive train.  I sold that car a guy named John, can't remember his last name.  Jerry Crowell, as well as Jim Murphy, helped me a bunch with my old stretched midget when I was running CRA.  I ran a couple of races back east in New York and Pennsylvania in a super sprint wing car for a team that had no money and couldn't afford to run as hard as I was trying to go, thus that came to a very quick end.  I ran a winged super sprint car for Jim Ruth from just north of Philadelphia, but he wasn't the same Jim Ruth who ran the CRA.  Ruth had no money and couldn't afford to run as hard as I was trying to go, thus that came to a very quick end.  I also ran a modified for Becker Tire at the old Reading Fairgrounds track in Reading, Pennsylvania.  They were also under-funded, and I quit after one race.  The week after I quit the ride, a young driver was almost killed in the same car in an incredible accident at the start of a race at the Reading Fairgrounds track.  I ran a few CRA races at Ascot for Keith York from Reseda, California in 1975, but they also didn't have the money to provide good equipment, so I quit that team.  Keith's son, a TQ driver, had been trying to run the car, but he was never able to make the show with it. The best I could do was sometimes make it through the consi (consolation round) to the semi, but the car was so bad that it was very frustrating.  That was the end of my sprint car racing. 
     I ran one CRA race at Ascot for Pop Miller around that same time (in 1975, I think), when Ronny Rey didn't show up that particular evening. Pop didn't put me in the car until after qualifying was finished, thus I had to start last in the consi, and I was able to get all the way up to second place, and lost second place on the last lap when I almost spun out and ended up third, just missing getting into the semi and that was the last of my sprint car racing.  Pop Miller was an interesting guy and nearly everyone who ever drove a sprint car in CRA at that time drove for Pop at least once.  When he was young enough to properly run a racing team and build great cars, it must have been really something to drive for him. The one race that I ran for him was a great experience.  I told him after the race that the engine started to run a little hot during the race, and he told me to not be watching the gauges, but to concentrate on driving the car instead.  He said that he would tape over the gauges if I kept watching them.  Pop Millar became a friend, and I used to visit him whenever I could.  I got to know a bunch of folks that were either involved with race teams and/or hung around the tracks from 1968 through 1975, including Ralph Foster.  I used to drive Ralph to the tracks between 1968 and 1971, because a lot of the time he was in no condition to be driving and it afforded me the opportunity to try to get a ride.  Ralph was a track photographer, and as far as I know, he never was a car owner.  He was a race car driver back east prior to and just after the 2nd World War, and he showed me newspaper clippings that he kept that indicated that he was winning a lot of races, and track promoters offered other drivers extra money if they could beat Ralph.  I used to go over to his house in Garden Grove, California and go through his scrap books and photographs.  He was a very interesting character, who lived a lot longer than I ever thought he would.  Jim Murphy put a Chevy V-8 engine into a small Hillman British car that Ralph had in the 1960's when Jim was running the speed shop.  That was how I first met Ralph, and then we started going to tracks together where he was working as a photographer.
     I spoke to J.C. Agajanian once, at the Sacramento mile track, the day that Ronny Rey killed another driver that spun out in front of him going into the third turn.  Walt Reath was also killed at that race, when he ran out onto the track to try to warn drivers (that had just finished the first lap of a race and were coming down the front straight away full throttle) that there was a bad accident in the first turn.  There was also a driver killed in the accident in the first corner, which meant that three people died in one day.  Ronny Rey was a very quick driver at times, but it seems that he could not be consistent.  I never knew him as a person, but he went very fast at times.  I had a real good race with him one evening at Ascot, when I was driving for Keith York.  I still have a photograph at my home in France of the two of us side by side in the first and second turn of Ascot that night.  I ran a Formula 2 car for Rogers/Murray Racing in a series for Formula Atlantic cars in Ontario, Canada, in 1978 and won several races and the season championship.  The 1974 March that I ran was a very satisfying car to drive.  It was very fast, but was not difficult to drive.  I was always the fastest car at the tracks we ran, and when I didn't have some sort of problem, I won.  We ran Mosport in Ontario, as well as Shannonville. Again, I couldn't afford a second season, thus I completely quit motor racing.  I did run a few times in a Formula 3 Dallara for Prestige Formula Racing in France somewhere around 1990, but again, I was paying my own way and couldn't really afford to continue.  Thus, race driving was finished for me.  I ran at a small track in the northeast of France, just east of the Nancy/Metz area, as well as a really neat track in the northwest of France which was just southwest of Lille.  This particular track was perfect for a Formula 3 car, and it was possible to really push hard in the car.  Formula 3 cars don't have a lot of power (perhaps 180hp), but they are very light (perhaps 900lbs), thus they actually are pretty quick on the right kind of track, like the track southwest of Lille.  I don't remember the names of any of the people, partly because I only ran a few times, and because French names are very difficult for me.
     I married Rachel Vuillemin-Close, as a result of accepting a work assignment in Europe in 1988.  I rented an apartment on the same street and next door to where my future wife was working.  We met around Christmas 1988, got married in 1993, and have been together ever since. My French wife never got to see me really racing cars, but she did get to see me run Formula 3 cars a few times in France.  My careers are as complicated as my life generally.  My education was in avionics, but I never worked with avionics after completing my education.  I worked as an electronic engineering technician, as a race car designer, as a customer service engineer, as a tech specialist on several different sophisticated microfilming systems, as a car salesman and leasing agent, as computer service engineer, and ultimately my last position before retiring was with Toyota Financial Services in Torrance, California as a business systems analyst.  I am currently retired from everything.  I haven't raced in many years, and I retired from my last full time job in August of 2006.  I currently spend a part of my time at my wife's home in the Dijon area of France, and I have a 40 foot turbo diesel pusher motor home in the United States that I use as my home there.  I still am an avid motorcyclist, and I currently have a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 sport touring bike that I ride in France.  It is the closest thing in performance that I can afford that performs on a level that satisfies some of my racing feelings.  I have one of the 6700 or so 1988 Pontiac Fiero GTs that was built that year.  I now keep it in France, and I take it to several car shows a year.  I have done so many things with the car that it would be difficult to list them all herein, but it is a real nice car.  It corners probably better than most street cars, including Corvettes, but it doesn't have a lot of power.  I have done a few things to enhance the power, but it is still under-powered.  On the other hand, it is fun to drive on twisting roads, like in the mountains.
Gone Racin' is at [email protected]
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gone Racin’ … Jeff Lasiter, Coast Auto Glass.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.  31 October 2006.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands; for photographs go to

   I can’t remember when I’ve had to have a windshield repaired or replaced.  Most of us go a lifetime and never have to deal with such a problem. Ralph Foster, the 1940 Midwest Sprint Car Champion, and I were on our way to attend the Legends of Ascot Reunion at Perris Auto Speedway, in Lake Perris, California, when we hit a bump in the road. There didn’t appear to be any damage and we continued on to the reunion, which is put on by Don Weaver and Belita Michnowicz. When we left, Ralph remarked to me, “Where did this crack come from.” We hadn’t seen it as we parked and went in to the reunion tent. But there it was, spreading in an arc, about 12 inches in length.  The wife was none too happy, and didn’t believe our story, especially with an old lead foot like Ralph in the car. “Fix it,” she demanded, but with all the stories that you hear, I decided that I could live with the crack and didn’t bother to do anything about it. Even after my wife got a warning from a policeman, I still left the windshield as it was. Then one day I met Randy Haapala, owner of the Body Palace body shop and he mentioned, “Better get it fixed,” and recommended a young man to do the job, Jeff Lasiter at Coast Auto Glass Company. If it had been any other person, other than Randy, I would have stubbornly adhered to the false notion “It has some more life in it,” and let it go. But Haapala is a fixture in the hot rodding and drag racing world and his advice is valuable.
   I called Jeff and he made the whole process extremely easy and comfortable. He ordered the glass and came to my house to do the repairs. Jeff drove up in a small van, jumped out and greeted me with an enthusiastic hello and proceeded to the job right away. It was evident that he liked his line of work and that he was good at it. He didn’t mind that I stuck around and peppered him with questions. In fact he seemed to relish company and explaining what he does and why he excels at what he does. He showed me the custom tools that he used and their purposes. He removed the trim and the windshield wipers then used a sharp tool and a razorblade instrument to cut the caulking that holds the windshield to the body of the car. I asked him how a pothole could have done such damage and he told me that a rock had done the damage.  “Where,” I asked, as I couldn’t see any rock damage. His fingers rubbed over the surface and said, “Right here at the edge, where a windshield is most vulnerable.  I looked and finally saw a pinpoint crack, too small for the naked eye. “That did the damage,” I said, and Jeff nodded. “You were probably going 60 mph and the rock or pebble was flung back by someone’s rear tire at 80 miles an hour, and anything going 140 mph will break a windshield if it hits it at just the right angle.” Then he showed me how it was an external crack and how the plastic laminate in the middle of the two panes of glass keeps it from causing serious injury. 
   Jeff explained that the window acts as a brace for the body, giving the car added strength, and sometimes surviving accidents better than the body. But in this case the glass was the weakest part, and with his fingers he put pressure on the inside of the windshield and made the crack grow and expand into various shapes like a potter working with clay. He took that 12-inch crack and moved it over 4 feet in length. I could see how much he liked working with glass. Jeff removed the windshield, cleaned the surface, brought out some primer paint and went over the area with the paint where he had previously cut out the old caulking. He explained that there are a lot of cut-rate outfits that will underbid, but they will overlook a little process like that, and then later rust will set in and ruin the looks of the car. He prepped the new glass, put a brand new trim on the top of the glass, and told me, “I always use a new trim, rather than save $15 by trying to salvage the old cut up trim.” Jeff cleaned the surfaces, refit the rearview mirror mount and made sure the primer dried on the edges of the glass, explaining each detail as he worked. Finally he put on the caulking, raising the beading up into the air; twisting and twirling it around like an expert icing chef would do on a wedding cake.  Then he lifted the ponderous windshield and laid it neatly on the caulking, put a little glue on the trim, fussed around with little details, applied some blue masking tape, and the new windshield was in place and curing. In two hours I could drive the car, and in 24 hours the caulking would be completely cured.
   While he was giving me an education in his chosen field and repairing the windshield, he was taking several calls. “Word of mouth keeps me busy,” he said.  I wrote him a check and he didn’t even ask to see my ID. In this business, car guys know whom to trust, especially if Randy Haapala gives the referral. It was nice that someone would take the time to explain things, such as the windshield can take up to 735 pounds of pressure per square inch, and to see how a broken windshield responds to pressure.  An unbroken windshield strengthens your car immeasurably, but when the windshield is cracked your car loses that advantage. I didn’t ask what an average repair/replacement would cost, but I overheard a few phone calls and they ran in the range of $250. You can probably find a company that will go lower in price, but not by much and certainly they won’t take the time to explain things to you, or to go to that added little step and make certain that the replacement won’t cause you problems in the future. Jeff Lasiter can be reached at [email protected].
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]
Gone Racin’ … Boyd Coddington.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.  18 March 2008.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands; for photographs go to

     Everyone seems to know the name Boyd Coddington, but fewer people actually know who he really was.  I visited Boyd’s old shop in Stanton once, but he wasn’t there.  Since he was younger than me, I figured that there would be more opportunities to interview Coddington and so I penciled him down on my calendar for a visit in the future.  I waited too long as Boyd passed away at what most of us would call a young 63.  Hot rodders tend to put off important things like that.  Roger and I went to Boyd’s reception on March 5, 2008, at his new shop in La Habra, California, for one last chance to do the story on one of hot rodding’s greatest car designer and builder.  I gleaned very little from the 500 or more guests who were in attendance.  Coddington was a very public man who kept his personal life as private as possible. 
     He grew up in Rupert, Idaho, on a tributary flowing into the Snake River, just northeast of Burley.  They call this the Banana Belt of Idaho, probably in jest, but it is the potato growing heart of America.  Burley is famous, if you can call it fame, for the hydroplane racing along the Snake River.  Boyd’s interest was more into cars and he traded a shotgun for a Model-A Ford when he was twelve years old and reputedly ran a gas station in Utah at the age of thirteen.  A decade or so later, Coddington was in California working as a maintenance man at Disneyland in Anaheim. 
     By the early ‘80’s he had developed a reputation as one of the best car designers and builders in the nation.  Many people call him the best, but designing, building and restoration is a very subjective field.  Men like George Barris, Chip Foose, Steve Moal, Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and many more have their fans who will argue the point.  Everyone seemed to know the name of Boyd Coddington, even non-hot rodders.  He had an easy way of drawing attention to himself and his creations.  Boyd had a natural ability to showcase his art and his personae.  Everything that he did seemed to be greater and more splendid and some will argue that it was natural, while others will say that he planned and organized everything in detail.
     I missed seeing him at the LA Roadster Show one year.  There were just too many things to cover.  I went over to my favorite haunt, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, for a break from the heat and to view the museum racecars.  Sheri Watson told me that Boyd had just been there.  “He’s offering a reward,” she told me.  I asked, “For what?”  It seems that Boyd was carrying a large sum of cash in a bag and he left it in the restroom at the show.  I asked her, “How large was it?”  “He said it was $130,000,” she said.  I couldn’t believe that anyone would do that, especially Boyd. 
     Over the years I’ve witnessed many such transactions.  I saw one man open a valise totaling eighty thousand dollars in an effort to buy an old Bonneville streamliner.  The brown lunch bag filled with bills is one of those urban legends that we have heard about so often.  Perhaps Boyd did lose all that cash, or maybe he didn’t, but it added to his legend and to his reputation. 
     Then there is the story of his run-in with the government over issuing ownership documents to the cars that he has built.  Hot rodders from the beginning of the automotive age have been taking someone else’s junk and making a new and improved car out of it.  I remember a story that my mother told me.  George Putnam, the famous Los Angeles radio and TV reporter, had interviewed my father, shortly after Dad had founded the NHRA.  Dad needed to sell his hot rod to raise some money for rent and expenses and George offered to buy it for $350, which was a lot of money in the early 1950’s.  It was a racy little roadster, painted fire station red, with tan leather seats and chopped down.  It was the car used for the NHRA logo.  George came to the house and my mother answered the door.  “I’ve got the money for the roadster,” Putnam told her.  “Do you have the keys and the registration,” he added.  My mother just roared with laughter at the startled TV star.  “It’s a roadster,” she laughed.  “It’s doesn’t have any registration, its put together from a dozen other cars,” she managed to add.  Putnam never bought the car. 
     Whether Coddington was guilty or innocent is open to question.  A lot of hot rodders vigorously take Boyd’s side and accuse the government of trying to enforce a code of laws that don’t apply to hot rodders.  The government feels that Boyd and many other builders and hot rodders are trying to defraud the government out of their fair share of taxes.  To some, Coddington is a hero against a bullying government that has been trying to outlaw our sport since the Dills Bills of the 1940’s.  To others, Boyd was trying to walk a line that left the straight and narrow and headed into the unlawful. 
     Hot rodders have often found themselves in this gray area.  We don’t like to be told what to do or be legislated into a box.  The world of the hot rodder and the law has often been contentious.  There were a lot of designers, builders and restorers, who could have faced the heat, but Coddington was singled out and regardless of his guilt or innocence, it brought him the respect of the hot rodding community.  He bore the insults with a grace that bordered on greatness.  He paid the fines and accepted the outcome and went back to work.  Whether this was the ultimate reason for his bankruptcy is unknown. 
     Boyd created some of the most beautiful cars ever made.  He attracted great talent and many of his former employees, like Chip Foose, went on to great acclaim.  Coddington had this easy aura about him.  He was comfortable working alone, with his crew or in front of a camera.  He sometimes came across as a cantankerous and sharp tongued boss when on a deadline for his show, American Hot Rod, but when he wasn’t under pressure, he was quiet and reserved.  He won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award half a dozen times and numerous other honors.  He wasn’t the first hot rod designer and builder, nor will he be the last.  He wasn’t the most outrageous and colorful, nor was he the most tragic.  He probably isn’t the most self-promoting among the builders and designers.  But if you take everything that he has done and add it all together, he has to rank ahead of them all.  Boyd would probably be the first to say that rankings, praise and aplomb mean nothing.  He would tell you that it’s all about the cars.
     We got to the reception early and waited until they opened the doors to his salesroom and shops.  From what I could see, there were three buildings with about 60,000 feet of space and ample outside storage.  There was a huge tractor/trailer semi truck that Boyd used to take his cars around to various shows.  The garage bay had about a dozen cars under construction and gave a hint to the popularity of his designs among the public.  Some of his clientele included rock band stars, baseball players and fortune 500 executives.  His famous creations included CadZilla, Boydster and the AlumaCoupe among others. 
     I tried to get an interview with one of Coddington’s employees, but she said she wasn’t allowed to talk to me and referred me to her supervisor.  The supervisor in turn referred me to another person who I searched for but never found.  That’s the mystery of Boyd Coddington, even in death he was always present, but never quite reachable.  So I attempted to find out for myself.  If you can measure a person by the quality of his friends, then Boyd is one of the great ones.  I ran into Don Rackemann, Greg Sharp, Scrub Hansen, Ed Justice Jr, Larry Woods, Joe Merino, Steve Davis, Mauri Ively, Steve Coonan, Nick Sfetku, Jack Stewart, Jerry Kugel, Tony Thacker, Jimmy C and Chip Foose. 
     Rackemann worked for my Dad at the NHRA and was a well-known drag strip manager.  Greg Sharp is the curator for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum and Tony Thacker is the Director of that museum.  The Reverend Scrub Hansen is a colorful personality among hot rodders in Southern California and a judge at the Grand National Roadster Show.  Ed Justice Jr has his own car radio show and is the CEO of Justice Brothers Car Care Products in Duarte, California.  Woods is the vice president at Mattel’s Hot Wheels division and has used many of Boyd’s cars for hot wheels scale models.  Steve Davis is a car designer of note.  Jimmy C is one of the most popular and outgoing pinstripers in the Orange County area. 
     Jerry Kugel designs and builds some of the most beautiful roadsters anywhere, but is also a land speed record holder.  He has the distinction of taking away my brother’s Bonneville land speed record by running 81 mph over my brother’s old record.  David Parks is the youngest son of Wally Parks.  David took away Andy Granatelli’s old Bonneville record by recording a run of 224 mph in his Camaro.  Kugel’s Fire Bird sped to a 305 mph record, not bad for a door slammer.  The margin of increase was the greatest ever recorded.  Nick Sfetku is a famous drag boat racer and hot rodder.  Jack Stewart is a long-time member of the LA Roadster Club.
     Hansen mentioned the passing of ‘Lil John Butera, who was about the same age as Boyd.  Someone mentioned that Butera and Coddington worked together, but no one could give me an answer to this question.  I met Dave Parker, Nick Barron, Gil Losi, Lew Frantz, John Dianna, Harry Hibler, John Edgars, Bob Leggio, George Barris and Squeak White.  Edgars, Dianna and Hibler were the featured speakers.  Edgars told the audience that “Boyd was a salesman and an artist.  He brought a new concept of marketing to his art.  Everybody wanted to be around Boyd.  He had an eye for design.  Boyd gave opportunities to others to thrive and succeed.  He was a very giving person.” 
     John Dianna, the owner of Buckeroo Publications, took the microphone and added, “Boyd had a smoother look.  He could just look at a project and know how to put it together.  He had a personal vision that allowed him to take on impossible tasks.  Boyd surrounded himself with great talent.  He invented the polished cast wheels that everybody has to have on their cars today.  He could be a tough taskmaster when he had to juggle projects,” Dianna concluded. 
     Hibler was the last to speak.  “Boyd could be called humble, but not often.  Boyd would be honored to know how many people are here today to pay him tribute.  He was a dreamer, craftsman, doer and artist.  He was not always easy to work for, nor did he easily listen to others.  Boyd was not a yes man, but he kept an open mind.  He knew when he had gone too far and was willing to apologize to those he had offended.  He had an eye for detail and could picture in his mind what he wanted to achieve.  I believe his CadZilla and AlumaCoupe were his greatest inventions.  His legacy will always be with us and we owe a debt of gratitude to Boyd Coddington,” Hibler said. 
     The crowd, estimated at over 500 people, made their way to the rear of the yard, where a barbecue catering company was serving food.  Boyd would have liked to see people happy. 
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].  ***********************************************************************************************