By the early sixties, the Formula One teams of Grand Prix racing had evolved from a front engined configuration, to a rear. Though the rear engined lay out had been experimented with over the years at Indianapolis, the concept had yet to be successful. A state of the art Indy Car in 1960 was a ponderous 1,700lb sled propelled by a ground pounding Offenhauser engine. There were various chassis manufacturers but basically they were all alike. Thirty three of them took the green flag at the 500 that year, but their reign was about to be challenged.
Father and son, Charles and John Cooper of England along with their driver Aussie Jack Brabham, had led the rear engine revolution in Formula One. They captured the World Championship in 1959 and were in the United States pursuing a second title in the fall of 1960. Indy winner Roger Ward encouraged them to bring their Grand Prix car to the Speedway for testing and the team agreed. Riding on their standard road racing rubber with their tiny Coventry-Climax engine, Brabham attacked the two and a half mile oval with unexpected gusto. No one on hand had ever seen a car carry more speed through the corners. Their lap times would have easily qualified them for The 500 and an ecstatic Ward begged them to return in May. The team professed not to have the funds to pursue such an endeavor. That was when fellow road racer (and heir to the tissue fortune) Jim Kimberly stepped forward to offer sponsorship.
The team clinched the 1960 Formula One crown and arrived in Indianapolis the following spring to little fanfare. Their car had a slightly larger engine than the Grand Prix version but was still significantly smaller than the Offenhausers. Plus the Cooper itself was dwarfed by the roadsters; it was dubbed “a funny car” and not considered a threat by anyone. In addition to all else, it was painted green which was considered “bad luck” at the Speedway.
Brabham and his team were unfazed by the naysayers and went about their race prep. They knew they didn’t have the fastest car- You didn’t need to have the fastest car to win a 500 mile contest. They knew their engine was reliable and would go the distance. They also knew that like all of their competitors, they would have to make pit stops along the way. The Cooper weighed about 700 pounds less than the average roadster so it would be easier on tires. The Coventry-Climax engine also got better mileage (twelve mpg compared to two or three) so fewer stops were anticipated.
Brabham did a respectable job in qualifying (starting thirteenth) and drove a conservative race. In retrospect too conservative, the driver admitting later that he could have pushed harder. They still needed three pit stops, probably because their Dunlop tires didn’t hold up as well as the tried and true Firestones everyone else was using. The roadsters blew by the Cooper all afternoon but Brabham held his own through the turns. When A. J. Foyt took the checkered flag at 200 laps, Brabham was in the ninth position.
The Indianapolis establishment was slow to recognize Brabham and the Cooper’s accomplishment. Seemingly only the astute realized that they had changed the course of Indy car design going forward. Mickey Thompson returned in 1962 with a brace of rear engine cars, one of which qualified eighth. Then in 1963 Colin Chapman arrived from England with his Ford powered Lotus cars. These cars were a match for the Offenhauser horsepower-wise and only a fluke kept them from Victory Lane. In 1964 Roger Ward himself finished second in an American built rear engine car- one of twelve that qualified for the 500 that year. Then in 1965 Jimmy Clark won the race outright in Chapman’s Lotus. Four more rear engined cars followed him across the line. In fact, only six of the thirty three starters that year had their engines mounted in front of the driver. In 1966 the last roadster qualified for the Indianapolis 500 and ironically was eliminated on the first lap. So the revolution that the little Cooper started in 1961 had completely changed the face of Indy car. The process took five years.
Though Jack Brabham is included in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame, he has received little recognition for his influence on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Fortunately he won other accolades like a third World Championship in a car of his own design (1966). He was also knighted by the Queen of England (1978). “Sir” Jack Brabham retired as a driver at forty four and lived to the ripe old age of eighty eight. A documentary about his life in racing is due for release next year.
Greetings GearHeads and GearHeadettes. By the time you are reading this, Summer will be right around the bend. And you know what that means Gearheads? Oh yeah, good times.
But I digress. At press time we are smack in the middle of Spring and Gearheads know what that means – car shows. Now, the couple dozen of you GearHeads who do read this column are used to pics and copy of swoopy cars of the future. And the reason for that is of course that the EVs and AVs ARE our future. I hope everybody by now knows what an AV is?. I write about Autonomous Vehicles because well, they are our future and there is a constant stream of news about them. And indeed we have more news this month, but…
You readers may have noticed all of the good-looking Hotrods in this issue. This is the Portland Roadster Show issue and we felt we would like to get us some o’ that too.
Now, over here at GearHeadsWorld we love ourselves some beautiful hotrods as well as other uh, beautiful things too. With that being said, the young lady up above introducing the Show is Savannah, model/spokeswoman for GearHeadsWorld.
So this was a very special show for Savannah as it was her very first. You see, Savannah hails from Hungary and they just don’t have shows like this over there. She was awestruck by the Kaleidoscope of colors as well as the corn dogs. Yes she has never heard of them and she saw her first one at the show. Why do Americans deep fry their wieners in cornmeal and stick a stick in them?
We see Savannah showing us this radical, full custom Mopar because she likes it. Here at GearHeadsWorld, we like to pick our show favorite. Now, we usually lean towards the smoke and fire racing type vehicles. But this year we picked this one because it makes us nostalgic. Remembering the years we toured the show circuit and came across a lot of full custom displays like this. Sometimes beauty before badass. What more can I say.
From here, Savannah will be heading to Southern California. Anyone down in those parts who may require her services can give us a holler. You can check the rest of her pics over at #GearHeadsWorld.
Before we move on, we would like to give honorable mention to the Beaches Display. All of that sand and the palm trees and everything remind us of Fun in the Sun with our rods. And who better to remind us of that. If you have not been living in a cave then you know about the Beaches Restaurants in Vancouver and at the Portland Airport.
It was 20 some years ago when they decided to hold a car cruise over at their first Beaches location in Vancouver. That has since grown into what very well may be the biggest weekly car cruise in the West. This Cruise In, held all summer long on Wednesday nights at PIR in conjunction with the drag races has gone on to raise way over $2 million for local charities! Their best days count well over 1000 cars and bikes on display.
So there are bands, BBQs, drinks and a whole lot more. If your car has mods and is cool, they will generally find a place for you on most Wednesdays during the summer, no matter what it is… Sorta.
All right, moving on to less exciting news. As of press time we have had another fatality. You probably heard about the Uber AV that ran down a woman in Arizona. As a result numerous AV companies have a suspended their testing. One of the head industry Geeks had this to say, “The cars aren’t smart enough yet.”
Highly-leveraged Tesla continues to face challenges in delivering their latest model to their anxious worshippers who have plunked down their dollars for first delivery. They remain months behind. We will wait and see how it all shakes out.
And that’s all for now GearHeads.
On dirt floors and mighty dreams we wrenched. It was not easy. Some of us were just working on John Deere’s or Model T’s before the big break spilled upon us like a gorgeous sunrise over the valley.
We were brothers. Cousins. Friends. But the heat of competition placed us all apart. Each in our own regime. Clawing away at the hardened earth of our self proclaimed trenches to wring out secrets of speed.
Weight. Combustion. Aluminum.
It was the dawn of Hot Rodding. A term we would not know for two more decades.
It is what we did.
We were soldiers.
We saw the torment as racers skipped meals to gain horsepower.
One single digit.
We witnessed the pain of a failed tire.
The hard lick of a failed rim.
The pain and loss of chrome smoke and fire.
We were soldiers.
Gasoline, oil. steel and iron. Rubber, grit and hope. Leather, combustion
We were soldiers.
The World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville, Oregon periodically changes their displays. Currently they are displaying a number of Corvettes. This display nearly spans the 65 years of the Corvettes existence.
The first production Corvette was built in June of 1953 in Flint Michigan. The Corvette is referred to as “Americas Sports Car.” Also in this display is a 1959 Ferrari TR, also known as a 250 Testa Rossa. These Ferraris dominated the World Sportscar Championship Series at the time.
Next the museum will change out these displays and have a Porsche display opening on April 28th. Please support our local automobile museum.
The 62nd Portland Roadster Show wrapped up March 18th, with record crowds and many happy exhibitors. Once again the PRS awarded more trophies and cash awards than any International Show Car Association (ISCA) show in the country.
Dave Kindig and KevDogg from Kindig-It Designs were back with their impressive trailer and three of their newest builds. The 1958 Lincoln Continental that Kindig-It built for Tad and Sue Leach of Idaho took home the Grand Sweepstakes Trophy for Best in Show and a $10,000 check. They also brought along the 57 Corvette they had built for Charity Kindig’s parents, and it took home a Best in Class. The 66 Nova they brought took home a second in class.
Also back was the PRS’s number one Ambassador and one of the Kings’ of Kustoms, John D’Agostino. John was key in bringing some great cars up from California, including Cliff Mattis’s 41 Buick name Dillinger, which took home the King of Customs award and a $3000 prize.
There was an amazing three car turntable display in Hall C, which featured the 1940 Ford Coupe of Dennis Holt from Spokane Valley. The beautiful black coupe took home the World Cup of Hot Rodding Award and a $5000 prize.
For the kids, the Optimus Prime semi truck from the Transformer movies was on display along with its arch nemesis Galvatron, and the wrecker as well. Limited Edition posters and stickers were given out to luck kids in attendance.
The PRS Hall of Fame also inducted the 55 Ford F100 Truck known as Down n’ Dirty of John & Tracielyn Rydzewski. The truck originally showed in the 2001 PRS and has been built almost entirely by John and his friends from Pacific Styles and Lo Limit Accessories. The truck was just returning from Chicago and the ISCA Finals where they took home an amazing Second Place Truck, and a Top Twenty for the entire show! Welcome to John & Tracielyn and their amazing truck.
The Portland Roadster Show is owned and produced by the Multnomah Hot Rod Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It’s the only show of its kind that is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Co-Producers Duane Caseday and David Jothen can’t say enough wonderful things about all of their great volunteers, and the member clubs of the MHRC. They have already begun the planning for their 63rd annual show, and exhibitor, vendor and sponsor applications are available on their website at www.portlandroadstershow.com.
“I have the sickness,” he said with a smile, pushing his beer back and forth across the polished wood table at the restaurant we met for lunch. “My first Sprint car race was at Terre Haute a long time ago and I was like: ‘WOW, This is really cool.”
The sickness he speaks of is an affinity for racing. Ask a true race fan and they will tell you that the sport gets under your skin, you become addicted to going to the dirt track, the drag strip or anywhere they drop a green flag. Renowned motorsports photographer John Mahoney takes that passion to another level.
Mahoney, a Indiana native, discovered dirt track racing first then graduated on to his first Indy500 in 1955. “I have not missed a ‘500’ since” he states proudly. You might know his name, you might not- but if you follow American open wheel racing at any point in the last 40-odd years, you have undoubtedly seen his work.
Mahoney has photographed the stars of USAC, long before they become stars. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree is psychology and went to work for the state of Indiana. During his studies, he met and befriended an equally well known and talented would- be motorsports photographer Gene Crucean.
“I got my first Press Pass by pretending to write for a fake newspaper.” Mahoney admits wryly. “We called it Northwest News.” It was the mid sixties and he and his first wife had moved to southern California. “We reached out to the track in Sacramento, asking for passes but got no reply. I just wanted to get into the pits for free!” He had Crucean pose as the pretend editor for Northwest News and kept sending in requests. “The weekend of the race I was out in southern California, I was at a hotel- they were always having parties in the hotels- and I ran into JC Agajanian, you know, the promoter for Ascot Speedway. I thought to myself: ‘its now or never’ and walked up to him, saying that I was a writer for Northwest News and we never heard back about credentials. JC said that he had never heard of Northwest News but pulled out a pass from his pocket and gave it to me!” Later on Mahoney got hooked up with a couple legitimate racing publications, his photography flourished and the rest is history.
The camera was merely a means to an end. In order to get in the gate, being a member of the press was an easy and fun way to be close to the action. For John Mahoney, it was his golden ticket. His ex father-in-law was a master in the darkroom and quickly taught young Mahoney the tricks to developing film and printing his own pictures. Many years later at a pivotal point in his career with the Indiana Employment office, Mahoney decided to take make his ever-growing weekend hobby and turn it into his sole career. “It was a risk” he admits, “But it was the right choice.”
Dirt track sprint car and midget racing was, is, and will forever be his favorite. He has had the privilege to work with some of the biggest names around. From Foyt – his personal favorite-, Andretti, Rich Vogler, Bryan Clauson, Tony Stewart, and many more. In the handful of best races he has seen, the Hoosier will list big, local, Indiana races over the decades at the top.
“Some guys says that the ‘good ol days of racing was better- BOLOGNA! Some of the best drivers and racing is happening today!” Though the sport has changed, Mahoney loves it the same as ever. “Yeah the money aspect has changed racing, but the on track skill is as good as it always has been.” He cites the talent of Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell as reference. “THESE at the good ‘ol days!”
Mahoney is constantly asked for photographs for varying projects. Trying to obtain credit for his images is a never-ending battle. He has helped put together a few books on the history of USAC racing and is currently working with Dave Argabright and Pat Sullivan on another. His personal photo collection is featured proudly in “FULL TILT: The Motorsports Photography of John Mahoney” and on his website johnmahoneyphoto.com.
Mahoney, unlike most professional artists- is about as humble as they come. He refuses to admit how influential and important his vast experience is. He also jokes that he has yet to make a good portfolio of racing pictures. His wife, Martha, made a point to pull me aside after our lunch meal. “He is one of the best, no doubt. He will never say it but – if you have seen his work, you know.” Between portraits, actions shots and details of the track — John Mahoney is one of the best visual storytellers in racing. For a career made through the lens of a camera, Mahoney has managed to live his life at the place he loves best and the manner he loves best: at Full Tilt.
In celebration of fifty years of attending short track races throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, I have decided to open up my personal photo archives and share with you loyal readers. All race cars hold some interest for me… open wheel cars are of particular interest. Here are a handful of images that are memorable for one reason or another and I think deserve another viewing.
The #95 was one of three decidedly different four cylinder sprint cars campaigned by Reno racer Mike Wood…come to think of it; it was very likely the same chassis with three different variations of coachwork. This configuration appeared at the Plumas County Fair races in 1987. It featured a lightweight corrugated aluminum engine cover (repurposed cooler of some kind?) and a low drag, stationary airfoil. Fellow competitor Tom “Smokey” Stover described the racer as a “hot dog cart with a wing”. All got a good look at Wood’s creation as it didn’t move quickly and failed to transfer from the consolation race.
Tony Thomas’s Wolverine sprint car originally included “sail-like” panels on either side of the tail tank and a trough nose. After he was asked to remove the panels, Thomas installed a conventional hood and this hideous elbow guard. But what made his racer truly unique were the less noticeable features; ultra-long radius rods and a single torsion tube across the front. All major components, the engine, the seat, the fuel tank, were all mounted lower and further back in the chassis than usual… and it worked. Thomas won three of the first four races he contested in the car. When asked to make more revisions Thomas chose instead to retire this chassis. Eventually it was sold and campaigned (less successfully) by another owner. Thomas readily admitted his creation was ugly; his wife in fact dubbed the car “The Munstermobile”.
In the “free-wheeling seventies” some adventuresome short track racers began experimenting with rear engine cars. Some like the Sneva family from Spokane were successful, especially on asphalt. Others, not so much. Portlander Gary Clark forsake a conventional upright sprinter for this rear engine design. I was told that he didn’t start from scratch- part of the chassis (likely the front) was scavenged from a formula car. Regardless, you really need to know your geometry to make a racer like this work on dirt and reportedly Clark struggled. Beet’s Body Shop on Mt. Tabor applied the unusual parrot green, red and yellow paint scheme. The good news was, people noticed the #42 and it actually generated more business for the sponsor.
Is there anything uglier than a wrecked race car? I think not. This flathead powered roadster belonged to Willie Anderson and was campaigned throughout the Pacific Northwest by Jack “Crash” Timmings. On the final afternoon of the 1951 racing season at Portland Speedway, Timmings blew a tire and impacted the guardrail head on. Jack was a big guy and as strong as a bull. He mangled the steering wheel where his chest made contact in the wreck but emerged from the roadster unscathed. After a quick trip to the hospital, Timmings returned to the track to see Len Sutton claim his championship. Jack resented the moniker “Crash” by the way- in an interview years later the gentle giant defended himself saying: “I don’t think I crashed any more than anyone else.”
I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the appearance of my race cars but this four cylinder modified was an exception. It was built by the Myer brothers in San Jose for next to nothing and I purchased it from them for $500. with trailer. Ready to do battle at Baylands Raceway Park circa 1988 is my sponsor John “Rooster” Horton. He didn’t win the Feature that night. Horton was a customer of mine that became a sponsor and ultimately a good friend. The car had started life as a super modified and was originally built to accept a V-8 engine. In the following years the car’s appearance improved greatly but at the end of the day, the 2×4 chassis was just too heavy for a four cylinder engine to pull. I nicknamed the car: “The Box” as an endearment… my fellow competitors however called it: “The S**t Box” or “The Penalty Box” as numerous racers were forced to drive it when their primary cars broke down.
I used to say it was so ugly, it was cute… but to everyone else it was just “Fugly.”
This month I need to mention 2 former racers. Just prior to the Press deadline we lost them. Both of these guys campaigned hard running versions of the Chevrolet Vega at PIR back in the 80s. I was there back then with my “Avenger” Vega. Larry Merritt and Doug Sandstrom. I wish them well on their final run.
Next I will make mention of another who continues to make his mark in the world of racing. This guy got his start wreaking havoc around the streets of Camas in his Pontiac Trans Am while in high school. Don’t know if Greg Biffle ever made it to PIR. But he sure did find his way to the Portland Speedway where he made many runs resulting in championships from there on into the NASCAR professional ranks. He has now joined Team GT (General Tire). What all that entails will be announced.
This next item has been big news at press time but I think most of us are aware by now of Elon musk’s latest antics. His own personal red, Tesla Roadster is currently racing through outer space attached to his Falcon Heavy Rocket, definitely making it the fastest car of all time. One could imagine that he has made many earth-bound roadsters quite jealous.
Along with all of the other news of production woahs and battery issues, we could mention one other news development that may be construed as a positive. We have a Tesla Model 3 which crashed into a pole resulting in almost a perfect T-bone of the front end. Then we have the Tesla Model S that recently rear-ended a fire truck. The front end was wiped out on that one. The encouraging word out of all of this is that their front ends seem to make pretty good crumple zones.
While we are talking about the EV cars, I need to mention the Rimac Hypercar. This is the second generation EV from Croatia, the successor to Concept One. They say this one should dyno out to somewhere north of 1100 horsepower. It will be introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. This one should easily blow away the Koenigsegg. Price: $1 Million.
And I guess we would be remiss if I did not mention the latest rumor coming from the Ford ranks. They say Mach 1 is coming. However, they are saying that it will be an SUV. It is said that it will be out in 2020. So we will just have to wait to see what all the excitement is about.
Now, here is some news that might excite a few GearHeads. The new Corvette ZR1 is definitely out there. And it is busy proving that it can run with any super car at any price. Chevrolet proved that earlier this year during validation testing. The car ran for 24 hours. we will just say that the behemoth has four radiators and it has blown away the best that the Ford GT could offer.
Now that we have gotten you GearHeads all excited what with news of supercars and hypercars, we will leave you with this: AV Cop Cars. That’s right Gomer, we are talking about cop cars that will pull you over but there will be no cop inside. Whaddaya think of that?
’nuff said — Chuck Fasst.
There aren’t many FULL customs being built any more. Full resto-mods, full high dollar builds yes; but customs like those that were being built at many custom shops back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s aren’t being built much any more. Tom Zink’s 1941 Ford “Custom” “Victoria” is a custom built in the tradition mentioned above.
Tom and Marsha Zink of Gresham Oregon bought a fairly straight 41 Ford Coupe a few years back and then set about turning it into what you see here. The list of “Mods” is extensive with not much of the original sheet metal, trim, glass or any part really is left untouched. We don’t have room to list all of the changes that made but we’ll touch on as many as we can.
The frame is a Jim Meyers Racing fabrication. (Jim Meyer Racing Products, Lincoln City, OR. 541-994-7717.) Made specifically for this car with GMC independent front suspension, chromed, a Mustang rack & pinion steering, power disc brakes and stainless steel exhaust. The rear diff is a Dutchman 9”unit, narrowed 4”, the trans is a Ford AOD that backs up a Ford 351 Windsor bored .030 over and polished or chromed wherever possible. This then is in keeping with the latest trend to put a Ford in a Ford. Nice.
Fenders on stock 41 Fords are bolt on units. These have been reshaped, wheel openings changed and massaged, before they were welded in place. The body sides have been extended down and channeled over the frame and the hood reshaped, sectioned, and welded to make it a one-piece hood from the original two-piece.
The coupe top has been modified using the top and vent windows from a 51 Ford Victoria hardtop with hand formed side glass frames to create possibly the only 41 Ford 2 dr. hardtop alive. The other body mods are countless.
The interior sports power windows, handmade or modified 51 Ford Victoria pieces, modified Corvette seats, Chrysler dash, creature comforts from Vintage Air, Ididit Steering all wrapped in beautiful beige leather with contrasting dark blue carpet. Almost no part of the beautiful car has been left untouched. It’s simply beautiful from top to bottom, inside and out.
As I place this story in the March issue, Tom, Marsha and “Victoria” are at the Sacramento Autorama, one of the longest running Car Shows in America. I hope she brings home some more gold in the form of another Best of Show Trophy.
“Victoria,” has placed first in the following shows as a Radical Custom in 2017. Forest Grove, Portland Roadster Show, Spokane Speed and Custom, Boise Roadster Show and the “Grand Daddy” here in the West, The Grand National Roadster Show, Pomona California.
As I place this story in the March issue Tom, Marsha and “Victoria” are at the Sacramento Autorama, one of the longest running Car Shows in America. I hope she brings home some more gold in the form of another Best of Show Trophy or trophys.
Late NOTE: Victoria cleaned up at the Sacramento Autorama in the Custom D’ Elegance class with Five Awards. Outstanding Under Carriage, Outstanding Paint, Outstanding Interior, Outstanding Detail, and an Achievement Award. Congratulations Tom and Marsha.