We are all spending more time alone these days and it is easy to slip into a funk. Perhaps what you need is a good read. Fortunately I have assembled my own library of hot rod and racing books to help me through these dark times. I have chosen five books to recommend that I found humorous as well as entertaining. Enjoy!
They Call Me Mister 500 by Andy Granatelli (1969). This is among the oldest books on my shelf and one of my favorites. It was given to me by my Aunt Ruthie who was very supportive and encouraged anything her nieces and nephews were passionate about. Interestingly, this book was published the year Granatelli won his first Indy 500 but ends at the conclusion of the ’68 racing season. So we learn all about the Granatelli brother’s early days; growing up in Chicago, opening a garage, becoming a distributor of speed equipment, promoting races and finally competing in the Indy 500. Would you believe they drove their first entry from Chicago to Indianapolis? The story of Andy attempting to qualify the racecar himself is an absolute classic- I still laugh about it. The chapters regarding his efforts to resurrect the Novi marque and revolutionize the sport with his turbine cars are very informative yet heart breaking. As corny as it sounds, this book changed my life in many ways. I recommend it to everyone.
Stand On It by Stroker Ace (1973). Yeah, this was made into a bad Burt Reynolds movie but if you hold that against it, you’ll miss out. This fictional story (written by Bill Neely under an alias) is based on the true to life exploits of Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Linda Vaughn and others. It was a time when big money was just beginning to permeate the sport but political correctness didn’t yet exist. This book is raunchy and dated, but fun. It’s fiction but if you know the history, it isn’t much of a stretch.
Cannonball! by Brock Yates (2002). I know! Another bad Burt Reynolds movie! But the story of this cross country race is true and Yates was a participant. In fact, he won it in 1971 in a Ferrari Daytona partnered with professional racer Dan Gurney. Yates published the story of his maiden voyage in Car and Driver that year when I was a wee lad/subscriber. When I read his report, it blew my mind! I loved the story so much I gave a speech on it in my middle school English class. Yates raced again in ’72,’75 and in the final edition held in ’79. The book covers the entire history of the event and though it didn’t make me laugh out loud, I smiled throughout. Yates also wrote the screenplay for the original Cannonball! movie and to his credit wanted Steve McQueen to star. I think we can all agree that it would have been a different movie with McQueen rather than Reynolds at the controls.
Sunday Money by Jeff McGregor (2005). I wish I could remember who recommended this one to me because it made me laugh the hardest. McGregor is a racing outsider that purchased a motorhome and followed the NASCAR tour when it was at the peak of popularity. Obviously well-educated and highly literate McGregor takes it all in and shares his observations with the reader. Sometimes he is critical about what he sees but I think he is fair. He doesn’t simply slam your average, working class fan- he digs deeper. He seems to understand why people become passionate about auto racing. At times his musings are downright poetic.
Cages Are For Monkeys by Kevin Olson (2016). The title refers to a transition in Midget car racing for safety reasons. When Olson began racing Midgets only a simple roll bar (or hoop) behind the driver’s head was required; today’s drivers are completely surrounded by a roll cage and it’s changed the way they drive. My first exposure to Olson was in Open Wheel magazine. There was a photo of him published repeatedly in which he was dancing with a Christmas tree. Apparently it was taken at an awards banquet at which he got drunk and made a spectacle of himself. Years later he became a columnist for Sprint Car & Midget and I discovered that there was much more to him. His essays were sometimes nonsensical but other times serious and quite thoughtful. The book is the story of his life and it turns out that he is an accomplished racer…And he tells some funny stories. In the end, racing and family are the two things that matter most to Kevin Olson. I can hardly argue with that.
One of One
It began as a dune buggy class. When the track operator eliminated the road course and insisted everyone race on the quarter mile dirt oval, it called for a new vehicle. Established chassis builder Jim Belfiore produced a dozen frames and sold them for $800 apiece. One of his creations powered by a four cylinder Datsun mounted up front captured the 1983 track championship.
Energetic racer Bruce Kranak, never one to follow the crowd, had a different idea. He owned a Volkswagen performance shop in San Jose so his choice of power plant was no surprise. What was unique was the configuration. Whereas Belfiore had opted for the traditional Sprint Car layout, Kranak flip-flopped the major components. He positioned the fuel tank in front of the driver and tucked a hot rodded Rabbit engine up under the tail. It remains to my knowledge, the only upright rear engined Sprint Car ever built. It was truly “One of One”.
There was a mad thrash to complete the car in time for the early May season opener. The fiberglass skin was unpainted and the chassis was bare metal but the car was fast! Kranak bowed out before the checkered flag fell but emerged from the cockpit ecstatic- He knew that he had a potential winner. Throughout June research and development continued and Kranak put together a string of top five finishes. Finally on the first of August after a race long battle with a pair of Belfiore cars, Kranak achieved his first win. It had to be a gratifying moment and rewarded the team’s outside-the-box thinking. Throughout the remainder of the season, Kranak either finished third or fell out. (I recall an issue with universal joint failure- This situation was remedied when the team installed u-joints procured from an Indycar manufacturer.) In the final points tally Kranak was ranked fifth overall.
When the 1985 season rolled around the team was loaded for bear and Kranak captured the Opener. After placing second twice more in May he won his third feature with the car on June 21st, taking over the points lead for the division. In spite of a couple more top five finishes, Kranak lost the lead when he took his family on vacation in late July. Then at the final points meet of the season, the likeable veteran wheel hopped another competitor and struck the cement retaining wall upside down. The roll cage of the unique race car was crushed in the accident and Kranak was extracted complaining of neck pain. He was stabilized and transferred to a local hospital where his injury was diagnosed as a broken neck. Sadly the crash ended Kranak’s racing career and the wrecked racecar was set aside.
During the off season Kranak made a deal with fellow VW enthusiast/racer Dion LeBeau for the purchase of the car. LeBeau rebuilt the roll cage and worked out an arrangement with Kranak wherein the business owner became primary sponsor. Personality-wise Kranak and LeBeau were polar opposites. Whereas Kranak was a loquacious extrovert, LeBeau was sullen and introverted. Nonetheless, he was a capable mechanic and a veteran driver in his own right. LeBeau put together a two car effort that included newcomer John Brumund piloting an older conventional buggy (also Rabbit powered).
At a Sunday April season opener, the new team served notice to all that they were serious competitors for the title by both placing in the top five.
LeBeau won his first feature with the car on Memorial Day weekend 1986. He ran consistently throughout the year and finished second in the point standings. At the end of season 2-day challenge race against the Nevada competitors (Quincy, CA), LeBeau placed fourth. It was second highest of the California based entries.
In 1987 LeBeau announced that the car was for sale but planned to race it until a buyer came calling. Though he captured numerous heat races, he didn’t win another feature that year. Still, a string of consistent placings (ten top fives during the regular season) earned him his first championship. One night in July, fearing his mount had a terminal engine problem, LeBeau switched cars with his teammate Brumund and Brumund became the third different driver to win a feature with the car. When the team made the long tow to Quincy at season’s end, LeBeau led the California contingency with a solid fifth place finish.
Without a potential buyer on line, LeBeau decided the campaign the car himself in 1988 in what turned out to be his home track’s last year of operation. On May 27th he won his second feature with the car and repeat on June 10th, tying Kranak’s record. Unfortunately LeBeau crashed the car heavily a month later and finished the season sixth in the points. In post season action the car was cobbled back together but crashed again on October 15th and couldn’t be repaired in time to make the annual trip to Quincy.
At the conclusion of 1988, a new club for the four cylinder Sprint Cars was formed (SORA) and a traveling schedule assembled. LeBeau chose to participate only in the events relatively close to his San Jose home- two at Antioch Speedway and two at Watsonville. By now his racer had five full seasons of wear plus three grueling crashes in its lifespan. LeBeau qualified fourth fastest at Antioch and finished fourth in the feature but the highlights reel ended there. In 1990 LeBeau kept the car at home.
In 1991 LeBeau made his final appearances with the car. The records show that on July 20th at Antioch LeBeau was scored tenth in the B Main. Five weeks later the car was fifth in one of three Heats, earning a transfer to the feature but likely didn’t take the green flag. After that, I never saw LeBeau or the unique car again.
In a perfect world, Bruce Kranak’s successful brainchild received the ground-up restoration it deserved. With seven feature wins and one championship to its credit, it certainly deserves some recognition.
1970 Mac’s IT Rotax Special — Four Engines, Four Wheel Drive
The Can-Am Racing series was an open comp, run what you brung. There were cars that were very successful such as McLarens and Porsches. Then there were cars that were creative. The AVS Shadow with its tiny tires ran, but always seemed to have problems. The Chaparral 2J, was built with a snowmobile engine connected to a fan to suck the air out from under the car in order to create a vacuum. It ran so well it was banned.
These were cars that the designers and builders thought of outside the box. In that time came Jack Hoare, an ex-Shelby American engine builder and crew worker. Jack raced in the Can-Am series in an older McLaren that was Ford-powered. He thought, “How about lighter with better traction?
How about 4 smaller engines, located at each tire, for better weight distribution and better traction?”
The car is sponsored by Mac’s Super Gross Company manufacturing chemicals, products for automobiles, hand cleaners and other items. That is where the name came from. In the name MAC’S IT, the IT comes from Innovation Racing with Jack Hoare.
The car was built around four two-cylinder, two-cycle 775cc Rotax snowmobile engines producing 110 hp each for a total of 440 hp in a car that weighed approximately 1200 pounds. The four engines have two in the front and two in the rear. With a complicated drivetrain system, centrifugal clutches come off the engine’s driving belts through a variable ratio pulley system. These connect to a modified VW transaxle that provide power to the wheels. The same system on both front and rear engines are connected together by a balance shaft. There were problems with push me, pull you action and trying to get everything synchronized. The car did have some power loss due to the drive system.
Now comes testing, at the Orange County Speedway which is a dragstrip. The team set up cones on the strip to resemble a road course. Just about every time test driver Hiroshi Fushida would accelerate hard the balance shaft would twist and break with a loud bang. They eliminated the balance shaft, so the two front engines and the two rear engines ran separately from each other. This made the car more reliable but still had the synchronization problem.
Off to the races: the Can-Am race at Laguna Seca. With a few practice laps the car stayed together, but it was smokey and noisy, sounding like a herd of chainsaws. Now came time for qualifying. The driver Hiroshi Matsushita recorded a lap at 1 minute 29.4 seconds. That was 18.6 seconds behind the slowest qualifier. The pole-sitter was Vic Elford with a time of 58.8 seconds driving the Chaparral 2J. At that rate, Hiroshi would be lapped by the leader about every three laps. The Mac IT Special did not qualify for the race and, unfortunately, the Mac IT was never to be seen again.
Even though it did not qualify, it just goes to show the ingenuity of people like Jack Hoare that think outside the box. Others that try something different don’t do as well as everyone else and some do far better than expected. Oh, by the way, one car that did far better was the Chaparral 2J , the sucker car that was later banned from racing.
A Race of Two Worlds
The image captured my imagination—a photograph taken on the white, high banking at Monza. A rolling grid of fifties-era Indy roadsters and bringing up the rear was a pair of D-type Jaguars. I was probably ten years old but it was clear to me even then that something was wrong with this picture. How did I know D-types? Because I owned a Matchbox car of one and it was a favorite.
A match race pitting Indy roadsters against European Grand Prix cars had been volleyed about for years. During the summer of 1956, USAC Director of Competition Duane Carter sat down with Italian promoters and hammered out the details. Tire wear was a huge concern as the Firestones being used at Indianapolis weren’t designed for the amount of downforce the roadsters were likely to encounter. As a result, a new tire was developed and Firestone headed to Monza with their test mule and veteran pilot Pat O’Conner. In short order O’Conner was clocked at 170.8 mph, beating World Champion Juan Fangio’s track record by nearly 10 mph!
The news spread like wildfire and soon after the factory Ferrari and Maserati teams withdrew from the event citing that it was “too hazardous”. Germany’s Mercedes Benz and England’s BRM team followed suit and it was starting to look like only American iron would participate. Then two weeks before the event, an entry was filed by the Scottish Ecurie Ecosse Team for three Jaguars. The Jags had finished first and second at LeMans that year and though underpowered in comparison to the roadsters, accepted the challenge.
Tony Bettenhausen broke the one-lap qualifying record in the Novi at 176.826. He was followed by the nine other Indy cars (seven of which shattered Fangio’s record). The Jaguar’s best speed was 151.635- a full twenty miles per hour slower than most of the roadsters so they filed in at the back.
The 500 mile contest was divided into thirds, each of sixty three laps. There was to be an hour break after the first and second segment to allow for servicing of the vehicles. Bettenhausen brought the field around for the green flag and hesitated, expecting the starter to wave it vigorously. In Europe the starter need only “display” the green flag and seeing this Englishman John Fairman pulled his Jaguar out of formation and motored around the stumbling roadsters. He was first to hit the banking and a check of his rearview mirror revealed that no one else was in close pursuit. You can imagine the response of the crowd when the days’ slowest qualifier led the field coming down to the start/finish line.
It took a full lap around the 2.6 mile course for the Offenhauser engines to clear out and the Novi plummeted backward outside the top five. Then the roadsters exploded past Fairman with Eddie Sachs snatching the point followed by Troy Ruttman and Jimmy Bryan. On the second lap Bettenhausen’s Novi awoke, powered by the Jaguar and ran down the leaders. The popular Novi led the third circuit then headed for the pits with a throttle linkage problem. Bettenhausen returned to the action and gave the crowd a thrill before retiring for good with a broken sway bar.
Bryan won the first segment followed by six roadsters and the three Jaguars. During the hour long intermission major repairs were necessary to keep the roadsters in the fray. The Indy cars were bottoming out coming off the parabolic curves- frames were cracked and fuel tanks developed leaks. Meanwhile the Jaguar crews casually swapped tires and topped off their fuel- no repairs were necessary.
Only the Novi failed to make the start of the second segment. The sway bar was replaced but the fuel tank could not be. The rest of the roadsters were cobbled back together and eleven cars took the green flag. Cigar chomping Bryan was again the leader when the checkered flag fell. He was followed by three other roadsters and the Jaguars in fifth through seventh. The other entries fell out with mechanical problems. The drill between the second and third segments was much the same but this time only eight racers made the call. One roadster was late due to the replacement of engine bolts.
The final segment was won by Ruttman but Bryan was second and Johnny Parsons was third. Due to attrition Fairman finished fourth followed by both of his teammates. Bryan (with the sleeves ripped free from his driving suit) was declared the overall winner and received nearly $35,000 for his efforts. Fairman was awarded fourth with the other D-types in fifth and sixth respectively. They didn’t receive much for their days work other than the respect and admiration of their fellow competitors. The Ecurie Ecosse Team was formerly invited to partake in the 1958 Indy 500 but regrettably, they declined
I’m told that “June is out” for the local “Beaches” cruise-in that used to happen on Wednesday evenings. Apparently, PIR and Beaches are still hoping that something can happen over this summer but no one knows for sure yet. We will try to keep you posted on this cruise and/or any other car related events going forward. Stay tuned.
Many events have already been canceled for the 2020 season. Some organizers are holding out hope and haven’t canceled, but please, please, do your due diligence and try to verify whether any event is actually still going to happen before you make a trip to a venue. I know we all want to get back to normal sooner than later but check before you go, to be certain.
Apparently, according to a friend, there was a “Cruise-In” on Main Street in Vancouver. From what I’ve learned it was kind of spontaneous, via a Facebook announcement from a young man. According to my friend, there were a lot of cars that showed up, and according to an article in the “Columbian,” a lot of garbage was left behind, the cops were there but did not disperse the crowd and no one got in trouble or was arrested. Normally, we car folks don’t make a mess when we hold a cruise-in so I don’t know what that was all about. My friend said it was loud and chaotic, something else that doesn’t usually happen at car events. I hope this nonsense isn’t part of a “new normal.” (Photos by Bob Patterson).
Also, the first cruise-in/car show that usually happens early in May is the Portland Transmission Warehouse Show. Of course, with everything canceled this year so far, this show was not supposed to happen. It turns out about 20 or so car guys showed up at the venue and there was an impromptu event anyway. Not sanctioned or organized by anyone, it just happened.
From John’s Hopkins Hospital
The following was sent to me from a friend, taken from the interweb, supposedly from John’s Hopkins Hospital. I claim no knowledge of its authenticity or accuracy. It sounds to me though, that it has some good information in it. I decided to print it here for you entertainment only.
Stay Well and Be Safe
This virus is not a living organism. It is a protein molecule (RNA or DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular (eyes), nasal (nose) or buccal mucosa (mouth), changes their genetic code (mutates) and converts into aggressor and multiplier cells. Since the virus is not a living organism, but is a protein molecule, it cannot be killed. It has to decay on its own.
The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.
The virus is very fragile; the only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat and that is the reason why soap or detergent is the best weapon. The foam CUTS THE FAT (that is why you have to scrub for 20 seconds or more, to create lots of foam).
By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down.
HEAT melts fat; this is why it is necessary to use water above 77 degrees for hand washing, laundry and cleaning surfaces. In addition, hot water makes more foam, making it more effective.
Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 65% DISSOLVES ALL FAT, especially the external lipid layer of the virus.
Any solution with 1 part bleach and 5 parts water directly dissolves the protein, breaking it down from the inside.
Oxygenated water increases the effectiveness of soap, alcohol and chlorine, because peroxide dissolves the virus protein. However, because you have to use it in its pure form, it can damage your skin.
NO BACTERICIDE OR ANTIBIOTIC WILL WORK because the virus is not a living organism like bacteria; antibodies cannot kill what is not alive.
The virus molecules remain very stable at colder temperatures, including air conditioning in houses and cars. They also need moisture and darkness to stay stable. Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade the virus faster.
UV LIGHT on any object that may contain the virus breaks down the protein. Be careful, it also breaks down collagen (which is protein) in the skin.
The virus CANNOT go through healthy skin.
Vinegar is NOT useful because it does not break down the protective layer of fat.
NO SPIRITS, NOR VODKA, serve. Th
e strongest vodka is only 40% alcohol, and you need a minimum of 65%.
The more confined the space, the higher the concentration of the virus there can be. The more open or naturally ventilated, the less.
You have to wash your hands before and after touching any commonly used surfaces such as: mucosa (mouth area) food, locks, knobs, switches, remotes, cell phones, watches, computers, desks etc. and don’t forget when you use the bathroom.
You have to MOISTURIZE YOUR HANDS due to frequent washing. Dry hands have cracks and the molecules can hide in the micro cracks. The thicker the moisturizer, the better.
Also keep your NAILS SHORT so that the virus does not hide there.
In the late sixties, when Indycar racing was at the height of its popularity, a group of businessmen endeavored to build a replica of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in California.
Construction began in an Ontario vineyard in September of 1968 and was completed in time to host the inaugural California 500, Labor Day Weekend less than two years later. The Ontario Motor Speedway was the most technically advanced racetrack of its day with computerized timing, scoring and display and a state-of-the-art sound system. It was the same length as Indianapolis (2½ miles) but an additional lane wider all the way around. Best of all, the infield was free of obstructions enabling the spectators to see the entire course from any seat in the house.
The OMS Board of Directors read like a celebrity Who’s Who: actors Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman, race team owners J.C. Agajanian, Parnelli Jones, Briggs Cunningham and Roger Penske. Even comedian turned racer Dick Smothers was involved up to his eye teeth. Two time Indy 500 winner Roger Ward was hired on as Public Relations Director.
180,000 attended the first race making it the largest crowd to witness a sporting event in California history. Among those in attendance were actors Glen Ford, Robert Stack, Werner Klemperer and James Garner. Senator Barry Goldwater was on hand as well as (then Governor) Ronald Reagan. President Richard Nixon did a fly over!
By all accounts, the race itself was a barn burner. Popular Texan Lloyd Ruby paced the thirty three car field but ’70 Indy winner Al Unser forged his way to the point on lap two. Unser was driving the iconic Johnny Lightening Special owned by Parnelli Jones which proved to be the dominate car that season. Unser and Ruby tussled for the opening ten laps before Unser secured the lead and led until the first round of pit stops. California racing legend Dan Gurney and New Yorker Peter Revson each led briefly but Unser was in command throughout most of the day. Then with fourteen laps remaining Unser’s turbocharger failed and he handed off the lead to Stock Car ace Leeroy Yarbrough. Yarbrough’s reign lasted only five rotations before he succumbed to a blown engine. That passed the baton to capable Oregonian Art Pollard who battled tooth and nail with Jim McElreath (in A.J. Foyt’s backup car) to the finish. Pollard revealed later that a slow leak in one of his tires allowed McElreath to best him in the final four laps and fewer than two seconds separated them at the flag. From a guaranteed purse of half a million, McElreath collected $146,850. – By far the biggest payday in his twenty five year racing career.
OMS hosted three other major events in 1970- the NHRA Super Nationals, a 500 mile NASCAR Stock Car race and a non-points event for Formula One cars. Though the attendance for each event was substantial, it was not what the promoters had projected. In 1971 the 250 mile Champion Spark Plug Motorcycle Classic and the California National Air Races were added to the schedule. Over the next decade major rock festivals were hosted by the speedway as well but nothing seemed to give them relief from the tremendous debt they had incurred in building the facility. OMS was built at a cost of $25.5 million and financed with interest bearing bonds. As time went on (and attendance at their promotions declined) the management was unable to meet the $2 million a year interest payments. By 1980 the speedway was upside-down but conversely the land on which it sat, had gone up in value expeditiously. Chevron Development Company wanted the land and got it by paying off the bondholders. First order of business was tearing down the ten year old “Taj Mahal” of racing facilities. Sadly, nothing remains of it forty years later.
Roger Ward predicted that whoever won the inaugural California 500 would achieve immortality- like Ray Harroun did in winning the first Indianapolis 500. Jim McElreath’s victory was hard fought and no fluke. Unfortunately it was achieved at a magnificent racetrack that is virtually forgotten today.
On last month’s cover we published a teaser photo from the Sacramento Autorama. One of my “Bucket List” events. Three of my friends and I flew down last month to check out the historical show, The 70th Annual. We had a good time and saw a lot of cars. In part because the weather was very cooperative, 65 and sunny every day we were there.
There was building after building full of cars. One particular building housed room after room of some of the nicest cars we’ve ever seen, Low Riders in particular were well represented. Now, this style of “Custom” may not appeal to everyone but you sure can’t argue with the fact that these guys know how to build some spectacular cars. Virtually every inch of these cars is finished and detailed to the “N” degree, and the paint jobs! The paint jobs must take months to complete due to all the affects, stripes, colors and minute details etc.
Since the weather was so nice, we lucked out also, because there was a “cruise in” in the parking area near the buildings. Many of these cars and trucks were as nice or nicer than those on display inside the buildings.
If I didn’t mention it already, this show is huge by comparison to say the Portland Roadster Show. One thing for sure though, even though the corona virus has negatively impacted our lives and resulted in the cancellation of the 64th Annual Portland show, as ‘car people,” I think we should all be proud of OUR SHOW. By comparison, the Portland Roadster Show is every bit as good as the Sacramento Autorama, just smaller. I’d plan to go to next years Portland Roadster Show, heck why not plan to hit the Sacramento show too.
2019 Ranchero Roundup
As most of you are aware, there are “general admission” car clubs. Marque specific car clubs, model specific car clubs, there might even be color specific car clubs that I’m not aware of. One of the members of the car club, of which I am a member, Trick ‘n Racy Cars, also happens to be a member of one of the Model specific clubs that are out there.
Ford introduced a kind of “Ute,” an Australian term, for a pickup/car way back in the thirties if I’m not mistaken. Those “Utes” were built in Australia and weren’t routinely exported to the US. In 1957, Ford introduced an American version and called it a “Ranchero.” It was built on a car chassis using passenger car components for the body but with a single seat (bench seat) passenger compartment and a pickup like bed/box. The quarters were like the car quarters and in fact just like the station wagon quarters.
These Rancheros were produced from 1957 through 1959 and in 1960 downsized it to be included in the newly introduced “Falcon” line. And through out the entire run, the Ranchero got “passed around” to be built on several different chassis sizes all the way up through 1979.
All of these Rancheros are unique and stylish, in my opinion. In particular, I like the 1957 Ranchero and though many don’t share my affinity for the 1966, Falcon based Ranchero, I like that one too.
A group of Ranchero lovers started the Ranchero Club, dedicated to any Ford based commercial vehicle from 1952 to the present. Specifically supporting 1952-1961 Couriers, including Canadian Meteor Sedan Deliveries up to 1961, 1957 – 1979 Rancheros, including Canadian Meteor Rancheros, Australian Utilities from 1946- present and Argentine Rancheros, 1961 – 1965 and Courier Sedan Deliveries, including Australian Falcon Sedan Deliveries and Pinto Panel Deliveries, that’s a lot!
2019 was the year for the 26th Annual Northwest Ranchero Round Up, which was held at and sponsored by Hillyer’s Mid-City Ford in Woodburn, Oregon. The Round-up was a three day event and it included, a road trip to the Burger Hut 50’s Café, in Hubbard Oregon, a trip to and a tour of SMS Auto Fabrics, in Canby Oregon, (503-263-3535) a purveyor of … all things auto upholstery related dating from the 1940’s through the 2000’s. Of course, a show, a short trip to the World of Speed Museum, in Wilsonville Oregon, and their annual meeting and banquet, where the next year’s annual Round-Up is scheduled or at least the location is designated. Fun was had by all. Bellingham Washington will be the location for the 2020 Round-Up.
The Little Engine That Did
I’ve always referred to it as: “My hot rod motor”… To call it “junk” or a “junkyard anything” would be inaccurate. From the beginning, it was built with decent parts… it just wasn’t “race stuff.”
The iron block may be the first V-8 I ever owned. Something my volunteer builder procured when he was assembling the engine for my first Modified around ’94. Or it could be from the complete engine I bought off the bulletin board at Knecht’s in Cottage Grove, OR. “Hear it run on the dyno!” the index card proclaimed. It was built as a backup by some IMCA racer’s dad. I guess they didn’t need it. I’m quite certain the rotating assembly came from that IMCA motor. The iron “202” cylinder heads were a sponsorship from Roger’s Automotive in Auburn, CA. The Vertex mag was purchased directly from the manufacturer when I worked for Competition Specialties.
I managed to land an engine sponsor my second year in a Sprint Car and the hot rod motor was relegated to a spare. I’m happy to say that my race engine (built by Rick Guest aka R&G Machine that advertises in this paper) never missed a beat so the spare sat idle for the next five years or so. It wasn’t until my buddy stuck it in my Super did it breath life again. I ran the car a couple times in Banks, OR (there were non-engine related issues) and again it was mothballed.
In 2007 my neighbor and fellow Sunset competitor Tommy Moreno was making a run at Rookie of the Year with a talented Stock Car graduate piloting his Sprint Car. Pat Canfield had won a Feature about mid-season and was well ahead in rookie points when the team barfed their only engine with two races remaining on the schedule. I volunteered the use of my hot rod motor and Moreno and Canfield didn’t hesitate. They extracted the engine from my Super and plugged it into their Sprinter. The following weekend at Sunset, Canfield peddled to third or fourth in the Main Event and within a week or two had a similar finish over at Madras. The team was able to clinch top rookie honors and wound up with a top five in the overall point standings as well. Afterwards Moreno cleaned, wrapped and returned the engine to me. It sat on the end of my workbench for another eight years.
In 2015 Bernie and Jimmy Voytek prepped my Super for competition with West Coast Vintage Racers and reinstalled my hot rod motor. Unfortunately the club had moved away from dirt track racing by the time I was ready to participate. The Voyteks convinced me to give asphalt racing a try so I towed the Super to Roseville, CA for the West Capital Alumni Assn. races on Halloween of ’17. We had a blast that weekend but battled overheating problems each time I took to the oval. Bernie suggested I might have a cracked cylinder head and sure enough that turned out to be the case.
I ended up buying another vintage race car for the full on racing engine that came with it. Bernie located another set of iron cylinder heads, similar to what I had, and installed them on my hot rod motor. I brought the engine home and slid it under my workbench. This time it wouldn’t sit idle for long…
The 2019 edition of the Wingless Sprint Series was winding down when I received a call from a friend whom I know from the NW Old Time racers group. A biker friend of hers, “Rhino” was crew chief on a Sprint Car and they had blown their only engine with two events remaining. Turns out I know Rhino and his brother-in-law Lance Hallmark. I explained to Hallmark exactly what I had and told him he was welcome to use it. One of the races remaining was the HPP Wingless National – A two day show at Cottage Grove with an inflated purse. It was imperative that the team participate in that as well as the season finale at Willamette, if they hoped to maintain their ranking in the points. Hallmark picked up the engine the night after we spoke. He plugged it into his Sprint Car the next evening and Friday night called me from the racetrack in a panic. He had adjusted the valves and the engine would not fire. He had already missed warmups, qualifying and his heat race- all that remained was the Feature. In frustration, Rhino had already thrown in the towel and taken a seat in the grandstands. Fortunately I was able to get ahold of Bernie and put him in direct contact with Hallmark. With the valves reset to Voytek’s specs, the hot rod motor sputtered to life and Hallmark joined the starting field in the 22nd and final starting position. In short order, Hallmark familiarized himself with the limitations of his new power plant and began to move forward. By the conclusion of the race he had broken into the top ten.
I decided to attend on Saturday night when the big money was being offered. Hallmark had continued to make adjustments in gearing and engine cooling throughout the day, to improve the marriage between his car and my engine. He gave us a thrill before dusk by winning one of the three preliminary heats. Based on that win and Friday night’s finish, he was slotted seventh for the fifty lap Feature. Race sponsor Mark Herz grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag but within four cantos, Hallmark seized the point. He had clearly adjusted his driving to maximize his car’s potential- limiting his slides through the turns to maintain forward momentum. Before long he had opened up an insurmountable lead and no one was closing. Then disaster, a back-marker got upside down in turn two bringing out the red flag. We figured our Cinderella Story had ended as only a couple of lapped cars separated Hallmark from some hotdogs up from California that had threaded their way through the field. But when racing resumed, Hallmark again began to pull away and it was easy to see why. He wasn’t scrubbing off speed in the corners or breaking the tires loose on the straightaways. By contrast the second and third place entries were at opposite lock coming off the turns and fishtailing on the straights. When the checkered flag fell, Hallmark was again leading by a large margin.
Modest in victory, Hallmark called my engine a “Torque Monster” and revealed had he’d never turned more than 5,900 rpm! He and his crew invited me to join them on the front straightaway but I declined. Hallmark deserves all the credit for his win. Bernie Voytek just smiled like the Cheshire Cat. He estimates that my engine has a lowly 11 ½ to 1 compression ratio and makes between 400 and 420 horsepower! If more people had known our secret, I’m sure the celebration in the pits would have been larger.
Race engine builder Brian Crockett was attempting to assist Hallmark when he discovered that the motor had a hydraulic lifter cam. After he congratulated Hallmark he remarked: “You guys just set race engine technology back thirty years!”
But then again, it isn’t a race engine… it’s a hot rod motor.