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A Visit with Edward George Farrell

A Visit with Edward George Farrell
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A Visit with Edward George Farrell
Story & photographs by Dorothy Farrell,
additional biographical material by Dave Selway

Edited by Richard Parks,
Photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz  
12-09-11

   Edward George Farrell was born on March 30, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, to Edward N. Farrell and Ellen Hunt Robertson Farrell.   Ed's dad was born in Washington, D.C. in 1888 and became a banker.  He lost everything that he owned during the Great Depression.  Ellen was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1898.  She was a housewife and died of tuberculosis when Ed was only four years old.  Ed's paternal grandfather was Edward George Farrell and was a circuit court judge in Washington, D.C. in the late 1800's.  When Ed's grandfather came to the United States from Ireland he dropped the 'O' in O'Farrell, since he didn't want to be associated with some 'Shanty' Irish with the same name.  Ed was named after his grandfather.   He grew up in Long Beach, 

where he attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, and where his love of anything automotive first began.  For his 14th birthday, his father bought him an old car motor.  Ed took that motor apart and reassembled it many times.  He worked on cars with his high school buddies Dave Selway, Blaine Pitman and Jerry Wicker. 

     Ed raced street rods, and developed an ongoing love affair with automotive sports and racing and loved to spend hours upon hours in the garage working with anything mechanical.  "His early drag racing included a nitro burning Jimmy-6 in a Tudor sedan, stripped to the bone for a light weight car.  He beat many of the V8 racers of the day such as the Chrisman's, at the Santa Ana Airport drag strip.  He used to tell stories of beating everyone off the line and getting passed by his opponent just after the finish line," Jim Snyder recounted      For all of his adult life, Ed enjoyed off-road motorcycle racing, land speed car racing, and restoring classic cars.  He was one of the founding members of the Desert Motorcycle Club and enjoyed motorcycle racing and the camaraderie of friends he made through the club for more than 40 years.  There were 13 guys that started the club in late 1966, though the first formal meeting was in March of 1967 and the first DMC race was December 1967.  Chuck Lee rode a 650 Triumph and was the first club president.  Chuck was bullet fast and won the National Hare & Hound over-all contest in 1961.  Wally Casperson owned a 650 Triumph Metisse and was always in the top 10 over-all in the 1960’s.  Jim 'Corny' Corning had a 650 Triumph or 250 Husky and was always fast as well and led one of the early B to V's.  Bruce Lewellyn rode a 650 Triumph and 360 Husky.  Bruce was a legend among the club and always finished in the top ten over-all into his forties.   Ed Farrell owned a 650 Triumph and rode in competition for forty years.  Ed gave up motorcycle racing at the age of 70 in favor of Dual Sport.   Lynn Bennett had a 650 Triumph Metisse.  Darrell Wilborn owned a 650 Triumph.  Bill Greene rode a 500 Triumph.  Mike 'The Red Rhino' Eifert had a 500 Triumph.  John Motley rode a 100 Hodaka.  Bill Moore also rode a 100 Hodaka.  Bill Bland owned a 650 Triumph and the last of the original members, Eddie Goyette, also had a 650 Triumph.

      Ed was also a member of the Lakers Car Club and enjoyed several years racing his Firebird on the dry lake beds of Bonneville in Utah and El Mirage in California.  Some of the members of the Lakers included Jim Snyder, Phil Grisotti, David Parks, Jerry Wicker, Dave Selway, Warren Bullis, Wayne and Ted Sparks, Al Eschenbaugh, Jamie Steinegger, Ted Olsen, John Iannocci, Ernie Mnoian, Bob Anderson, Chuck Schiebeck, Ken Rowe and Don Labine.  Iannocci also runs a Jimmy-6 at Bonneville.  Mnoian is Ed's partner in his race car.  The Lakers car club was founded in 1962.  Emil (Griggs) Grisotti was one of the club's founders.  Emil was the father of Phil Grisotti, a current member.  Warren Bullis joined in 1962, followed by Jim Snyder in the same year and David Parks in 1970.  Ed joined the club in the mid-1990’s.  In 1966 the Lakers were the top points club, a feat they repeated thirty years later in 1996.  This made them the number one club in the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).  The Lakers have always kept their membership low in order to foster a closer club loyalty.

      Ed purchased Don Labine's 1968 Camaro race car after Labine pulled the big block Chevy engine out to put into his new Firebird race car.  Ed installed his Jimmy-6 engine in the Camaro and set a couple of records at Bonneville in 1996.  Then Ed wanted to improve on the aerodynamics so he sold that car, keeping the Jimmy-6 engine.  He purchased the 1985 Firebird, which had better aerodynamic lines to it, and installed the Jimmy-6 engine.  Ed's partner, Ernie Mnoian, drove the Firebird at Speed Week in August of 2011, qualifying for the long course with a speed of 175 mph in the quarter.  The first pass on the long course was aborted in the first measured mile due to coolant spraying on the windshield and the temperature gauge showing over 220 degrees. 

That run netted a 176 mph in the quarter.  Mnoian stopped the car as he thought it was a fuel leak.  Ed's son, Brent Farrell, drove his father's first Bonneville car a few times, but Brent's real passion is desert motorcycle racing.  Even though Brent is six foot six inches, much taller than most motorcycle racers, he is very accomplished at racing and has been a Huskvarna sponsored rider.  Ed raced motorcycles until he was seventy years old.

    Ed began working on the restoration of a 1936 Hupmobile in 2003 and completed it in 2011, just a few months before he died.  Unfortunately, he no longer had a driver's license due to the brain cancer, so he didn't get a chance to drive the Hupmobile after it was restored.  His son Brent drove the Hupmobile to Ed's Memorial and the guests enjoyed seeing it in the parking lot.  Ernie Mnoian also brought the Firebird race car to the memorial.  After unloading it from the trailer, Brent fired it up in the parking lot to everyone's delight.  Ran Hooper filmed this and it is on YouTube Videos on the internet.

In September of 2011 Ed and Dorothy, along with their friends, Dave and Sara Selway, took the train to the Speedway Motors Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, to see the motor that Ed donated, which is now on display.  His friend, Chester Osgood, had spent many years and lots of money building that engine, and then died without leaving any instructions about what to do with it.  Chester's family gave it to Ed and he completed some work on the engine before donating it to the museum.  Even though Ed's health was really failing during that trip to the museum in Lincoln, he was very happy that he got there.  Ed was 79 when he died on Sunday, October 16, 2011 due primarily to his advancing brain cancer.   A website has been set up for Ed at www.edfarrell.info.  It contains a lot of nice comments in the Guest Book, some photographs and a video of Ed which was done six months ago by his daughter, Stacy.  Her children are young and she knew Ed wouldn't be around when they got to be teenagers, so she made that video of Ed to show her children later.

Ed was very proud of his family; his wife, two children, their spouses, and his three grandchildren.  He married Dorothy Mackey in 1961 in Bellflower, California and lived most of his married life in Westminster.  Together they raised two children: Stacy, born in 1968, and Brent, born in 1970.  Ed worked for the City of Long Beach for 35 years.  He started as a mechanic and retired from the city as the superintendent of their fleet services department.  He  and Dorothy moved to San Diego County in 1997 after he retired and they lived in Bonsall.  Some of his friends and hot rodding buddies included; Roy Sheridan, Bill Fulmer, Frank Hainey, Jake Krotje, Bob Oliveri, Bob Byrd, George Chilberg, Dode Martin, and Mike Van Zant.  Ed lived in Bonsall from 1997 until he passed away in 2011 and enjoyed working on all his car projects in his six car garage.  He achieved everything he wanted in life; knowing that family and a host of friends made life more enjoyable.  Survivors include his wife of nearly 50 years, Dorothy Farrell, his son Brent Farrell and his wife Charity Farrell, grandson James Farrell, daughter Stacy Nawrocki and her husband Matt Nawrocki, and grandchildren Joey Nawrocki and Jordyn Nawrocki, and nieces Heather Jones and Julie McMullin.

Dave Selway added the following to Ed Farrell's biography:

     I met Ed sometime between 1948 and 1950 when we both attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California.  The only class I can remember sharing with Ed was a Physiology class in which we studied the human body and its various systems, excepting the reproductive system which the powers-that-be deemed off limits.  My mom insisted I follow a college preparatory curriculum, so I missed out on the shop classes that were more in line with my interests at the time.  Consequently, I'm not familiar with what other classes Ed was taking.  I do recall I was not a very good student, did very little homework and spent most of my study time drawing hot rods and airplanes.

      Ed, myself and a number of our friends were intensely interested in cars and how to make them go faster.  We spent most of our free time before school and during the lunch break hanging out by the street that bordered the school watching the kids drive their cars up and down.  The cream of this crop was Les Callahan's very nice rod, a chrome trimmed, metallic green '26 Dodge roadster, lowered, no fenders, a race car nose, white leatherette upholstery, a souped up flathead Ford V-8 and a quick-change rear end that made the coolest whine going down the street.  Some of the gear-heads Ed and I hung around with in this period were Bill Swan, Al Koester, Blaine Pittman, Paul Sukane, Gus Harding, Jim Marsh, Charles Baker, Don Simpson and Jim Cheuvront at Poly, plus Jerry Wicker and Jim Coffin at Wilson H.S.  It was Jim Cheuvront's dad that later helped Ed get his job as a mechanic for the city of Long Beach.  Ed stayed with the city his entire career, working his way up into very responsible management positions in which he set specifications and negotiated with manufacturers on motorized equipment purchased by the city.

      Ed Farrell, Blaine Pittman, Al Koester, Paul Sukane and Dave Selway decided to start our own car club in the early 1950's.  We called ourselves the 'Chokers.'  It was the thing to do in those days to have cast aluminum plaques made up showing the club's name and home town in bold letters.  These were usually attached to the back of your street rod.  Ed's neighbor and fellow hot rodder, Norman Gernhardt, had the plaques made and I remember Ed polished and painted his to a much nicer finish than the rest of us.  The club met weekly in Blaine Pittman's garage.  We collected dues each meeting that became a fund that we used to buy speed equipment for club members in turn.  Later, Ed Farrell, Blaine Pittman and I joined the 'Dusters' car club, which was an established club affiliated with the Russetta Timing Association.  Joe Maillard was president and Clark Cagle did most of the recruiting of new members.  Maillard and Cagle ran a hot flathead '33 Ford coupe at the drags, lakes and Bonneville.  It was at a Dusters party in 1952 when I fell and required hospitalization.  Ed brought my car home that night and had to walk about 3 1/2 miles back to his home.

     Some time in the late 1940's or early '50's Ed bought a well-used Model A Ford roadster, and naturally, he wanted to improve its performance and make it a hot rod.  I helped him lower the body over the frame (channel it) by cutting away the portions of the body that interfered.  Since Ed's work space was limited, we did the surgery in the vacant lot next to my mom's house.  We had no welding apparatus or skills at this point, so the result was a rather "flexible flyer" in which the body tended to move around on the frame according to the g-forces being imposed.  The floor boards also were sketchy.  I remember riding to El Mirage with Ed in his "new" hot rod and being frantically flagged by a passing motorist as we cruised along.  We finally figured out there must be something amiss, so we stopped.  The spare wheel and tire had loosened the rope we had tied it into the trunk with, had slipped through the floorless trunk, and was dragging on the road.  Nasty flat spot, but on we went after retying the wheel.  Due to lack of funds, not to mention knowledge, Ed's rod sported a bone stock Model A engine.  When really leaned out, I remember the exhaust manifold glowed crimson red, and the car got about 26 miles per gallon.

      I believe Ed's next car was a '34 Ford coupe which he also channeled, but without my help this time.  It had no fenders, had a cut-down radiator and an Eddie Meyer equipped early flathead V-8.  Ed installed an Engle camshaft, the first time I heard the name, and it had a marvelous drive-in quality lope when idling.  Later in the 1950's Ed had a fairly nice '39 Ford Deluxe coupe with a souped up flathead.  It was about this time that Kenny Bigelow came out to the Santa Ana drags with his hot GMC-powered '37 Chevy coupe and began to go pretty quick.  Also, Frank Iaccano (sic) ran his GMC-powered '34 Ford coupe at the drags in about this same time frame.  So it was in the early to mid 1950's, that Ed noticed the potential of the GMC engine in drag racing and switched over for essentially the rest of his life, at least as far as drag and land speed racing with four-wheeled vehicles was concerned.

      My own interests began to drift away from Ed's in the mid 1950's and I lost track of his drag racing activities (I don't recall him doing much dry lakes or Bonneville racing in those days).  I do remember, vaguely, that he ran his Jimmy motors in other people's cars, but I wasn't close enough to the action to have reliable information.  When I went back to college in 1956 I lost contact with him almost completely.  I moved to northern California and married in 1959, Ed married Dorothy a couple of years later and we led separate lives for several decades until we reconnected in the 1990's.  In 1996 I met him at the Muroc dry lake meet where he ran his Jimmy-powered '68 Camaro in the 160 mph area.  In 2001, Ed had a '85 Pontiac Firebird, again GMC-powered, and I helped him get it ready to run Bonneville Speed Week.  He ran over 160 that year and set the record in his class at 164+ in 2002.  Jim Snyder can fill in more detail on the progress Ed's stock head GMC powered Firebird made in subsequent years.  At Speed Week this year (2011), Ed's health already failing, Ernie Mnoian drove the Firebird, now powered by Ed's new 12-port Jimmy, to a top speed of 176 mph.

      Typical of Ed, in addition to his own projects, he was enthusiastic and energetic in helping his old friend, Jerry Wicker, get his flathead Lincoln-powered '29 Ford roadster up and running at El Mirage and Bonneville in 2007.  In September, 2011, my wife Sara and I accompanied Dorothy and a very weak Ed on what turned out to be the last item on his "Bucket List."  Ed had donated a very exotic, highly modified flathead Ford V-8 engine to the Speedway Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He had inherited the engine from its creator, Chester Osgood, an old time hot rodder friend who had passed away.  Ed was determined to see the engine as it was displayed in the museum and Dorothy decided to take Ed to see the engine in Lincoln.  It was a major ordeal.  Ed's doctor said he couldn't fly so we went by train.  I'll spare the details, but it was a hell of a trip.  Dorothy got almost no sleep for two days and nights.  Ed stayed in the hospital two days in Lincoln before he was able to visit the museum.  But he made it, and he appreciated it.  Brent and Stacy flew out to Lincoln to bring Ed and Dorothy quickly back home by minivan.  Ed was a friendly, outgoing, people-oriented guy who worked with and inspired his friends to have fun and enjoy motor sports as much as he did.  He will surely be missed.

A 17 yr old Ed Farrell sitting on, what maybe a stripped down ’27 or ’28 Ford Cabriolet. circa 1949, Long Beach, CA.
Early fifties, El Mirage. (l-r) Bill Swan, Al Koester, Dave Selway & Ed Farrell
Ed Farrell with his restored 1967 Triumph TR6C. 2010, Bonsall, CA.
(l-r) Jerry Wicker, Ed Farrell, Peter Nolan (visiting from Australia), Dave Selway and Bob Claytor.  Bonneville, 2007
This 1985 Firebird, in which Ed Farrell installed the Jimmy-6 engine.  Ed's partner, Ernie Mnoian, drove the Firebird at Speed Week in August of 2011, qualifying for the long course with a speed of 175 mph in the quarter.
Ed Farrell’s friend, Chester Osgood, had spent many years and lots of money building an engine, and then died without leaving any instructions about what to do with it.  Chester's family gave it to Ed and he completed some work on it before donating it in 2010 to the Speedway Motors Museum. In Sept 2011, Ed Farrell (in wheelchair) went to Lincoln, NE to visit the motor, which is now on display.  
(l-r) "Speedy) Bill Smith, Ed Farrell (in wheelchair), Dave Selway. Sept 2011,Lincoln, NE.
(l-r) Ed Farrell, son Bret Farrell, daughter-in-law Charity Farrell, wife Dorothy, & daughter  Stacy Nawrocki. July 3, 2011, Irvine Spectrum.
At Ed Farrell’s Memorial service. These are all members of the Lakers Car Club (from l-r) Wayne Sparks, David Parks, Dave Selway, Jerry Wicker, Ernie Mnoian, Jim Snyder, Chuck Schiebeck, Phil Grisotti, Ken Rowe, Don LaBine, Warren Bullis.