You never know what’s going to show up in these columns, and this one will be a bit different. The connective thread between topics here is tenuous, at best. In today’s music, we’d call it a mashup. In a board meeting they might call it “housekeeping.” In the past I’ve used the term potpourri, but that’s too frilly. An alternate definition for that word is medley. Yeah, we like Medley. So follow and see where this goes.
It starts with this very good photo sent by reader Doug Peterson of Lodi, CA. He took it at the Riverside Raceway drags around ’59 or ’60. Of course it’s a picture of the perfect little (all steel) Chevy-powered Fiat coupe run by the Slicks Racing Club out of San Bernardino. I remember it well because I’d see it running at my local strips. But that’s not why Doug sent the photo. See that ’32 sedan in the background with a white top, whitewall tires, and orange wheels? Yes, that’s Larry Banker’s Fordor that we showed briefly last time along with brother Walt’s matching 3-Window coupe, the way they were featured in Hot Rod in ’61 updated with chrome reversed wheels. Doug said he used to see both Bankers’ Deuces regularly at local SoCal tracks, where they would often race each other. See, there’s our first tie-in. It’s cool to see a Banker ’32 in this prior form, and it’s also an exceptionally good, clear, sharp photo taken by a young spectator at the time.
Doug has been sending me photos like this since my days at R&C. Remember the story I did in TRJ No. 65, The Unknown Drag Race, held at Riverside in the winter of ’59? Doug took most of those photos. Doug grew up in Arcadia, CA, Class of ’61, and says “I got interested in ’57 when I read about Cook and Bedwell’s 167 mph record in Hot Rod and Drag News an older neighbor gave me.” Then “I really got hooked when I went to nearby San Gabriel and saw the real thing. I went to San Gabe, Lions, Riverside, Pomona, Fontana, and Famoso. And I took my camera, always.” He said the camera was “some old 35mm my mother got in the ’30s or ’40s.” It must have had a good lens, he apparently used non-fading Kodachrome for color, and he obviously knew how to focus and frame photos.
Further, he says, “1959 was the high point of drag racing. By ’63 diggers were all starting to look similar enough that I lost interest in photographing them.”
And to show just how strong his love of ’59-era diggers is, Doug built this Dragmasters-style, Potvin-blown, 392-Hemi-powered rail about 20 years ago. Known locally as “Potvin Doug,” he said he upgraded Chuck Potvin’s front-blower-drive a bit, and runs the car hard at Sacramento Raceway and annual Kingdon meets. With daughter Lori driving, it has turned 7.73 at 178 on straight alcohol.
Oh yes, and as far as the Bankers Bros. ’32s go, I got 2 or 3 emails from people saying Walt Bankers’ coupe was never “lost.” It’s currently in Gary Lorenzini’s garage, and I’m going to go see it next week–along with another surprise. So stay tuned for updates on that.
Topic No. 2 (or is it 3, or 4?): Seeing the Slicks Racing Club logo on the door of the Fiat immediately reminded me of the Andrade and Carvalho Wayne 12-Port GMC ’27 T drag roadster with all those shiny pipes (and paint) that I had a crush on after seeing it in the Nov. ’61 Hot Rod. The only signage on its otherwise flawless body was a similar Slicks decal on the rear deck.
After already seeing Iacono’s coupe and rail, this car was a booster shot for my intrigue with 12-Port Jimmies. However, even though it was “local,” I never saw this car run, or at a show, and still don’t know exactly what color it was (HRM just said maroon). But sometime in the ’90s, I did locate one of the owners (Carvalho) by dialing 411 for San Bernardino. But he didn’t remember who they sold the car to (in ’59) or where the engine went. His main info was that all the “chrome” on the car was actually copper plating, and that the (of course) upside-down “weirdo” on the copper ’32 grille insert was painted by Dean Jeffries, not Von Dutch. None of this was mentioned in Hot Rod, but it must have made it a doubly striking piece. Wish I could have seen it in color.
Now there are 2 or 3 twists to this story, and they drove me crazy all day yesterday. I mentioned I found and talked to the aging Carvalho, but that essentially led nowhere (no names, no photos…he might have told me the car was purple…). But a year or two later I was in Larry Braga’s shop in San Bernardino, and there was the copper “weirdo” insert hanging on the wall. Larry said it belonged to “Woody,” who bought the car in ’59. So I talked to Woody, who built it into a nice street rod with a Nailhead Buick and chrome Merc wheels. He had a couple of photos I copied. Then he sold it to Don Clem of Redlands, whose sons further street-rodded it in the ’70s (i.e., dragster wire front wheels, Chevy engine). Clem just happened to have a different early ’27 T roadster in Braga’s shop being restored, so I went to Clem’s house, copied a few iffy ’70s photos, and saw the bare roadster body sitting on a bare frame in his garage. It looked pretty hopeless, so I lost track years ago.
But here’s the part that drove me crazy. First, I had a full set of excellent 8 x 10 prints of this roadster in my files. I can see them. I’ve looked at them dozens of times. But I couldn’t find them anywhere after hours of searching yesterday. So I had to copy the ones above out of HRM. Second, after all the searching and finding, I thought I had included the story in one of my Lost Hod Rods books. But nothing. I knew I had written about it somewhere, and shown photos–maybe in R&C? Roddin’ at Random? I’ve got all of those copied in a binder and went through all of them. Nada. Zippo. My last shot was the RJ Times in The Rodder’s Journal. I’ve got all of those in a binder, too. But all I could find was one small photo of the Jimmy roadster and a brief mention in TRJ No. 6, then a couple more photos in No. 11 in a piece more on Don Clem’s other track-nose T in Braga’s shop. I’m retired, not senile. What? What were we talking about?
The next topic is connected because (1) I knew I had these photos and (2) Doug Peterson mentioned the Cook and Bedwell dragster and its 167mph record. Plus you’ve said you want to see more nostalgia drag racing. Well, you probably haven’t seen this, because I was the only photographer there. It was a 1-time event staged at the now-gone Carlsbad Raceway in 1982, more or less organized by Joaquin Arnett and the Bean Bandits (who had their rear-engine ’27 T roadster there). I went because I had just done a freelance feature on the just-restored Stone-Woods-Cook Swindler A for Hot Rod magazine, and Mike and Doug told me they were going to make some maiden runs in it at this event. I did get some tire-smoking and wheel-standing shots but–in typical fashion–they soon had the front end off and the Chrysler Hemi completely torn down because Doug didn’t like something he heard. The photo above will have to suffice, because the real topic here is the pair of photos I happened to get of one amazing run made by none other than Emory Cook in none other than the Cook and Bedwell dragster. I was told that at least some of this car was original–possibly the whole chassis–but it was nebulous just how much.
Again, my memory might be a bit circumspect, but I’m pretty sure this was the first and only run the car made. And somehow I got it getting green-flagged off the line, then sprinted down the guardrail and amazingly got the pan-blur, tire-sizzling shot above, which I consider one of my best, and certainly favorite, nostalgia drag photos. And what makes this flawless, totally smoked-in 1/4-mile pass even better was when Emory crossed the finish line and they announced the time: 167 mph, on the nose! They duplicated the car; they duplicated the historic run; done. Glad I was there to see, hear, and preserve it.
So, are you getting bored, or confused, by now? Let me know. But I hope not, because I have one more that isn’t connected at all, other than by the heading “housekeeping.” I’ve had this photo in my files for decades. You should know I’m a sucker for full-fendered Model A roadsters in the first place, preferably red or black ones. When I saw this one, sitting out in a parking lot pretty much by itself, at one of the first L.A. Roadster Shows held at the Pomona fairgrounds, I snapped a photo of it with a telephoto lens. Obviously I was pretty far away, and I must have been leaving or headed somewhere else, because I didn’t go over to get a closer look. This was just a “grab shot.” It wasn’t parked with the other roadsters, and there’s no I.D. tag on it. So all these years I had no idea whose it was, or anything else about it. I saw it briefly that one day, took the picture, and never saw it again. All I knew was that it looked like something an Early Times member would own, and that it was the lowest, bitchinist ’28/’29 A I’ve ever seen.
Well, wouldn’t you know it was built by Fat Jack. The stance, the lowered headlights, and the widened Buick wire wheels should have been clues. But I only recently found out. John Robinson mentioned something about it. Then I saw a pic of it parked somewhere in the Bay Area on son Bill’s SCRC Instagram. Now, as I was paging through my binder of RJ Times copies, I see that Curt Iseli did a page on it in issue No. 64. Jack built it for Chuck Hoffman of Encinitas, CA (near San Diego), in 1978. In street rod style typical of the time, he drove it to far-flung events, including the Western Nats in Merced and even the NSRA Nats in Memphis in 1980. But sometime after that it experienced a severe wiring melt-down and got garaged, as-is. Even after Hoffman’s passing in 2010, his wife wouldn’t let it go, even though Scotty Strebel of San Francisco began making discreet inquiries about its availability several years ago. The good news is that Scotty persisted and Chuck’s widow finally relented. Since acquiring the car, Scotty rewired it, rebuilt the 327, and tuned up the rear suspension before putting it back on the street, where he’s enjoying it today. However, I just noted that the RJ Times piece ends “…there’s a lot more to this story, and we’ll tell all in an upcoming feature.” That was five years ago. And as I well know, that’s how things often go at the always over-stuffed Rodder’s Journal. Hmmm. I wonder if that’s where my photos of the Andrade-Carvalho roadster are?