I probably shouldn’t be telling this story but when you look at the whole picture, it’s kind of funny. Here is one from back-in-the-old-days that will give you some insight into just how drag racing was when it first started.
Back about ‘52, Hank Bender and I built a ‘39 Fiat Topolino with a Ford flat head and a Hilborn injector that we ran on 100% Nitro, built specifically to beat Jim “Jazzy” Nelson. We bought the frame and body from a guy who was trying to do the same thing but he ran out of money and sold it to us. Together with Joe Ito (who might be still alive?), we finished it and it wound up looking very similar to Jazzy’s. Well, we raced Jazzy a lot because back then you raced until the two fastest cars were left and then you raced each other. The little Fiat was fast and we came close many times but those of you who remember Jazzy Nelson, not too many people beat him, including us. We won a lot of races with that little car and it was really a fun time in our lives.
We never beat Jazzy so we decided to “step up” and build a dragster for our flathead. Before we began building the dragster we had to save up enough money to get it started (probably at least two hundred bucks). We sold the Fiat without the engine and trans, (we had the trick “Zephyr” trans with second and high gear only so we couldn’t let THAT go), so we were close on the finances but had to wait awhile – about a hundred bucks apiece for each of us.
Ray Alley (one-time NHRA Top Fuel Competition Director & Crew Chief) is a good friend of ours from back in the good ole’ days. Ray was the exhaust and muffler installer for Quincy Automotive (Bill Cox), on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. With a little lull in our race program we decided we would join with Ray and build a dragster. What the heck, with all that exhaust tubing around, it shouldn’t be a problem. Can you believe it? Ray and Hank actually built a dragster frame out of exhaust tubing! We put our injected flathead in it and headed for the “Rock Quarry” – the San Fernando drags. We made a half-pass and it felt fine. The brake handle felt a little hard but it was only a short run and it stopped so didn’t give it much thought. We didn’t use parachutes back then, or driving suits, or gloves, or boots, or fire bottles, or a roll bar that came up over your head but we were having a ball (actually all of us were nuts but we didn’t know it).
Enough testing, lets make a bonsai run. So I donned my Quincy Automotive T-shirt and my trusty helmet (that was my driving suit) and loaded ‘er up with 100% nitro, a touch of benzene and a few spoonfuls of ethyl ether for “effect” and up to the starting line we went for a “single”. Well everything went well – at first. My first full pass in a dragster and the baby was really haulin’ the freight. I don’t remember exactly how fast we went but it was in the 120-130 mph range, which was very good at the time. As I said earlier, the brakes on the previous run felt a little funny. Well, as a matter of fact the brakes just barely worked and I wound up in the rocks (Big! Rocks!) down at the end and bent up the front half of the car pretty bad. We decided not to fix it and that was the end of the Alley, Bender, Hier and Quincy Automotive exhaust tubing dragster (I don’t think Bill Cox knew he was a partner). Oh! I was ok. But don’t try this at home!
Thanks for visiting and …
See you at the races!