Tag Archives: Bender and Hier

Twin Engine Drag Racing

For those of us in the drag racing world that have been around for a while, there is an amazing website called “Two to Go”.  The site is a plethora of twin engine drag machines that evolved as a result of a ban on the use of Nitromethane racing fuel by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) from 1957 to 1963.  The thinking of racers at the time was that if they were limited to running only gasoline in their fuel tanks then why not use two power plants instead of one.

Upon discovery of the site, I found that the few twin engine cars that I knew about and raced against here on the West Coast were a mere fraction of these high horsepower two-timers actually built.  To my amazement, there were about three hundred throughout the country!  Every combination you could think of: Chryslers, Chevys, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, V8s, Six cylinders, Four cylinders, both injected and supercharged (Blown), Motorcycle engines (see related article), some with two different makes of engine such as the “Odd Couple”, one blown Chrysler and a blown Chevy.  Some were side-by-side and others inline, the whole thing was a remarkable fete of innovative engineering.  By the way, I did drive the famed Freight Train – just long enough to blow it up.

Sidewinders

Although my cars were always single engine, either blown or injected dragsters (see related article), I was always enamored with the sidewinders.    A sidewinder is a shorter, dragster frame with the engine sitting sideways in back of the driver with a chain and sprocket drive to the rear axle.

My dream car

A good friend and sponsor of our dragsters, the late Lee Titus of Lee’s Speed Shop in Santa Monica California, decided to build a double engine sidewinder which I was scheduled to drive.  I was thrilled with the whole thing as there were no twin sidewinders to date … at least that I knew of.  This also was not your average sidewinder – it was gear driven, instead of a chain.  Two large sprocket-like gears were attached to each side of a special machined axle with special bearings. The back end of each engine would have a gear and idler assembly matching with the two main axle gears and would be driven by two B&M Torque Master converters, powered by two blown small block Chevys.  It was my dream to drive this thing.  The car was very well engineered and was on four wheels in its final stages, waiting for the torque converters; when for whatever reason, Lee decided to abandon the project.

I was devastated.  My partner and I didn’t have the means to buy the car and finish it, so it hung from the ceiling for a while in Lee’s shop but eventually it disappeared and I lost track of it.  While perusing the Two To Go website, what did I find at the bottom of one page … that’s right, the gear drive sidewinder on its wheels with my old friend sitting in my dream car in front of his shop in Santa Monica.  I was taken back and thrilled that there were actually some photos taken of the machine.  It’s too bad because I’m sure it would have been the car to beat and I would have been in the driver’s seat.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

Want to see more twin engine stuff? Check this out.

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Gene’s Brake Shop

John Bradley - Gene's Brake Shop

Back in the ‘50’s, Gene Long owned Gene’s Brake Shop.  I think it was in Colton, CA but it was out there in what is now called “The Inland Empire”.  Gene sponsored a flathead dragster owned by John Bradley.  John eventually became known as “Mr. Flathead” and rightly so.  When we sold our Fiat Topolino that was supposed to put Jazzy Nelson on the trailer, we put the flathead in our new Ito built (Bender and Hier) dragster mentioned in a previous blog.  The best running flathead dragster at the time of course was Bradley.  We always ran 100% nitro in our car but the Bradley bunch was something else.  We were never sure what they had in the tank but the crew was usually running on a 50/50 mixture of John Barley Corn and Falstaff (Beer); half of the crew was on Jack Daniels and the other half on beer.

We were at Colton one day and John got beat by Emery Cook in the Cook & Bedwell Chrysler.  We won our next round and were faced with Cook for top eliminator.  Cook was ahead of me about a car length at half track when all of a sudden the Chrysler let go and I won the race.  The Bradley team went nuts.  They all climbed into their pickup (about a dozen of them) and sped down the middle of the track yelling obscenities, throwing beer cans all over the place, weaving from side to side screaming “FLATHEADS FOREVER!!”  “All you %$#@ing overhead lovers ^%$#–you and your overhead valves, yaaaaay!  Hier beat the Chrysler!!  I went over to Emery, still sitting in his car, shook his hand and thanked him for the race.  One of the nicest guys I ever met.  Here we were out in the weeds at the end of Colton, I was sitting on the tire of the C/B car talking to Emery when the Bradley bunch came screaming up and surrounded us still throwing beer cans and yelling.  They scared the hell out of Emery but since Hank and I knew them, I wasn’t worried and although it was very embarrassing, nothing happened.

On another occasion at Fontana we were rained out and sitting in our truck waiting for the rain to quit when we heard a car fire up.  It was John lighting off his dragster.  We figured he was just running it up to play with the tune a little bit when all of a sudden pulling up to the starting line was the Gene’s Brake Shop dragster.  Down the strip he went in a driving rain, rooster tails shooting up from the slicks, by the time he got to half track you couldn’t even see him.  We just shook our heads and went home.  One thing about these guys: They were nice guys (as long as you were running a flathead) and had a car that really ran.  Regardless of conditions they would always provide good entertainment even if you couldn’t race.  We enjoyed racing them and it was all part of the “good ol’ days”.

Thanks for visiting and…

See you at the races!
Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Blowers by the numbers

BLOWERS AND THE NUMBERING SYSTEM.

Most of our website fans and followers are familiar with the term “Blower” (supercharger) on an engine.   But have you ever questioned where the numbering system came from?  4-71, 6-71, 8-71, 12-71, 14-71, 18-71?  This blower thing goes way back to 1885 when Gottlieb Daimler got a patent on the thing and it probably goes back even further but he’s the one who finally received the original patent and then it goes from there.  Several different types and styles have come along since and constant improvements are being made even today.

There are centrifugal blowers (from the word centrifuge) which are somewhat of a bowl shaped aluminum housing usually sitting above the engine (but not necessarily) with a grooved circular plate revolving around a center shaft.  It is generally gear driven off of the cam gear, crank shaft or other means of a positive drive.  Air is usually ducted into the intake manifold or directly into the carburetor or fuel injector.

Then there is the “turbo” charger (from the word, turbine).  Similar in appearance to the centrifugal, the turbo charger is driven off of exhaust pressure and has no mechanical connection to the engine.  As exhaust gas exits the engine it first travels through the vanes of the turbo charger and creates “boost” in the incoming air to the carburetor or fuel injector, sometimes referred to as “free air”, “free boost” or “free horsepower”.

The numbering system mentioned earlier is strictly for the “roots” type blowers used on most supercharged racing engines.  It is the big aluminum “thing” sitting on top of a racing engine with either carburetors or fuel injection bolted to the top of it.  On street rods it’s usually polished or chrome plated.  Briefly, it is belt driven off of the crankshaft and has two counter-rotating helical shaped rotors (or “screws”) inside that increase the volume of air to the engine.  Thus, you are able to add more fuel.  More air, more fuel, more horsepower.   If you ask an owner or read about an engine having a 6-71 or 8-71 blower and wonder, “what in the world are they talking about?”, here it is:

The Roots type blower numbering system of today originated from the 2 cycle, GM series diesel engines.  The engine design requires the blower to blow fresh air in as the piston is coming up and blow it out as it goes down.  A series of oblong holes towards the bottom of the cylinder lets the blower blow the exhaust gas out as the piston passes these slots and blow a fresh charge of air in as it comes up and is ready to fire again, every stroke is a power stroke, thus the 2 cycle, only a different concept.

6-71 Blower

A 4-71 GM Diesel has 4 cylinders and 71 cubic inches per cylinder, thus the size of the engine is 4 x 71 or 284 cu in.  The blower would be a 4-71 blower.  6, 8, and 12 cylinder GM 2 cycle diesels are 6-71, 8-71 and 12-71.  The aftermarket has seen fit to continue the numbering on up to 18-71 but there are no 18-71 GM Diesels.

Some enterprising racer of the day took the blower off of a GM 2 cycle and strapped it on an engine and wa-lah! – a blown racing engine and the beginning of an era for sure.  As a note, back in ’58, the Bender and Hier Lee’s Speed Shop small block Chevy dragster had one of the first Potvin “crank-drive” blowers (mounted in front and driven off of the crankshaft) and set two Chevy “firsts”, both an elapsed time and speed record at the old Lions drag strip in Long Beach, CA.

Thanks for visiting and…

See you at the races!

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Incentive To Win

I’ve written in the past about fan appreciation and how things were back in “the good ol days” of drag racing.  Unless you’re as old as I am, it’s hard to understand just how things were back then.  The sport was just getting started, so it was really something new to most people.  5,000 people were considered a “giant” crowd of spectators.  Anyway Hank and I had our share of fans, but our fans wanted us to WIN!!  It was great; we would sign an autograph or two, even back then.

Bender and Hier's Crankdrive Small-block Chevy - On The Trailer

One thing that really sticks with me from back then was the difference between winning and losing as far as the fans went.  When we would win a meet, the fans went nuts, mainly because the small block Chevy was very popular among race fans back then and our little dragster (about 1,200 lbs. loaded) was very fast and quick.  Here’s how it went: When we would win there was always a crowd around the pit area both friends and strangers waiting for me to be pushed back into the pits, and all would congratulate us on the win.  When it was time to put the car on the trailer, yes, that’s ON the trailer, no enclosed “Haulers” here, the fans would help wipe the car down (oil), grab the loading ramps, hook them up to the trailer, push the car up onto the trailer, grab the tie-downs, tie the car down, put all the tools and equipment back into Hank’s pickup, pick up any debris we might have left laying around on the ground, hang around for a little, bench racing if we wanted to stay, and then send us off.

Sometimes Hank would drop me off at the tower on the way back from the run (somebody else would steer the car back), to pick up either a trophy or my 25-dollar bond ($18.75), and all this loading help would be done before I got back to the car.  Boy!  That was nice … however … when we lost … wow!  Tommy, Jimmy and maybe Hank’s sister Babe, our volunteer pit crew would be leaning on the fence, or sitting on the tool box and not a soul around.  No win, no fans.  No help loading the car and usually it was dark by then so this whole deal was quite an incentive to WIN!

That’s the way it was back in the “good ol days” … what a deal … see ya’ at the races.

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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The First Low Profile Blower or …

Real Men Crank Drive

I thought it both interesting and informative.

Our first “Sponsor” for our early days of racing was Lee’s Speed and Muffler Shop in Santa Monica, CA.  Lee had a friend named Chuck Potvin, a cam-grinder and speed innovator.  The GMC diesel blower was actually an integral part of the 53 and 71 series, 2 cycle diesel truck engines and was not a supercharger.  Most racers felt the blower could be used as a supercharger for a race engine but didn’t know exactly how to do it so Potvin reinvented the “Crank Drive”.

It was one of the first uses of the GMC blower as a supercharger.  Potvin’s beautifully machined aluminum castings bolted to the front of the engine and the blower was gear driven off the crankshaft.  Two aluminum tubes brought the air from the outlet side of the blower through a specially machined intake manifold on top of the engine.  A specially designed fuel injection system by Stu Hilborn (Hilborn Fuel Injection Systems) provided the fuel delivery system and was usually used with this new set-up.  To our knowledge, our Lee’s Speed Shop dragster was one of the first to use this new technology.

The car was fast, quick and won many races.   It set both speed and ET records for Chevrolet and was featured on the cover of the November 1958 edition of Hot Rod Magazine.  Word traveled fast and soon everyone was coming by Lee’s shop wanting to see the “Crank Drive”.  “Oh, so you’re the guy that drives the ‘Crank Drive'” was a common greeting upon my introduction.   It was an exciting and really fun time.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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A Wink And A Nod

… or Saugus & Rackman


In the 50’s and 60’s there was a little track in Saugus Ca. (sort of the SE side of Santa Clarita area).  After my partner Hank Bender ran his fuel burning ’37 sedan over the little bridge and across the road at the west end while racing Joe Pisano’s ’34 coupe with a Jimmy 6 in it, and wiped out a goodly piece of the farmers onion patch, two things happened; 1: Hank quit driving and I became the driver of the Bender and Hier team and 2: They turned the strip around and ran it west to east so the shut-off area was longer and went up a hill (BTW, all houses now).

The starter at the time was Don Rackman, part owner, racer and fellow member of the Screwdrivers racing club out of Culver City, Ca.  Back then, the starter used 2 flags, green for a good start and red for foul and restart.  At that time Hank and I were running our Joe Ito built, Fiat Topolino Coupe with the stretched frame and our fuel burning Merc flathead with Hilborn Injectors.  Fortunately Jazzy Nelson didn’t run at Saugus a lot and we won most of the meets we ran at the track.

This gets good: When we came up against a real good running car or bike, such as the Berardini Brothers fuel burning ’32 roadster or Agajanian’s Nitro Triumph, Rackman would be standing center track in front of us and in his usual way, would look at both drivers, but just a fraction before he threw the flags he would drop his head and then leap in the air with the flags.  When he dropped his head … I left … and usually won.  Well I found out years later that he knew that I knew, so he would bet money with whomever he could, that we would win.  Well, we had a fast car, and I was quick off the starting line but after many races, I began having trouble beating my opponent off the starting line at Saugus.

About 2004, we had a get-together at the NHRA Museum in Pomona.  Rackman and a bunch of fellow old time racers were there and I found out that depending on whom he was betting on, he would wink his eye just before dropping his head … so … I left on the nod and my opponent was “gone in the blink of an eye”.  I couldn’t believe it, no matter who won the race, Rackman won some money.  The place broke up in laughter and we all had a good time.  Reminiscing.  It was fun because: That’s the way it was back in the good ole’ days.

See ya’ at the races.


Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

… or Saugus & Rackman

In the 50’s and 60’s there was a little track in Saugus Ca. (sort of the SE side of the Santa Clarita area).  After my partner Hank Bender ran his fuel burning ’37 sedan over the little bridge and across the road at the west end while racing Joe Pisano’s ’34 coupe with a Jimmy 6 in it, and wiped out a goodly piece of the farmers onion patch, two things happened; 1: Hank quit driving and I became the driver of the Bender and Hier team and 2: They turned the strip around and ran it west to east so the shut-off area was longer and went up a hill (BTW, all houses now).

The starter at the time was Don Rackman, part owner, racer and fellow member of the Screwdrivers racing club out of Culver City, Ca.  Back then, the starter used 2 flags, green for a good start and red for foul and restart.  At that time Hank and I were running our Joe Ito built, Fiat Topolino Coupe with the stretched frame and our fuel burning Merc flathead with Hilborn Injectors.  Fortunately Jazzy Nelson didn’t run at Saugus a lot and we won most of the meets we ran at the track.

This gets good: When we came up against a real good running car or bike, such as the Berardini Brothers fuel burning ’32 roadster or Agajanian’s Nitro Triumph, Rackman would be standing center track in front of us and in his usual way, would look at both drivers, but just a fraction before he threw the flags he would drop his head and then leap in the air with the flags.  When he dropped his head … I left … and usually won.  Well I found out years later that he knew that I knew, so he would bet money with whomever he could, that we would win.  Well, we had a fast car, and I was quick off the starting line but after many races, I began having trouble beating my opponent off the starting line at Saugus.

About 2004, we had a get-together at the NHRA Museum in Pomona.  Rackman and a bunch of fellow old time racers were there and I found out that depending on whom he was betting on, he would wink his eye just before dropping his head … so … I left on the nod and my opponent was “gone in the blink of an eye”.  I couldn’t believe it, no matter who won the race, Rackman won some money.  The place broke up in laughter and we all had a good time.  Reminiscing.  It was fun because: That’s the way it was back in the good ole’ days.

See ya’ at the races.

Ronnie Hier

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NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona

I’ve mentioned in the past, to check out all the neat restored racecars, hot rods and street rods at a Goodguys meet or a NHRA Hot Rod Reunion.  Well, I left out an important item – the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona.  It’s right there adjacent to the drag strip and believe me it’s worth it.  It’s free to NHRA members and I think it’s only five bucks for non-members.

NHRA Museum Cruise Night Crowd

They change it around periodically.  The last time I was there, along with all the old drag cars, they had a couple of 50-60’s flat-head, track roadsters, an early Indy car and a couple of Bonneville rigs.  NOTE: They have monthly “Cruise Nights” and can get over 300 cars in attendance – anyone is welcome and it’s FREE (along with admission to the museum)!  Between my friends Greg Sharp, the Curator, and Steve Gibbs, the VP of the group and the others involved, they really put on a great display.

It is my intention to replicate our Bender and Hier, Joe Ito built, Lee’s Speed Shop, crank-drive blown, small block one of these days soon and have it displayed in the museum.  Wow, how nice that would be!

Thanks for visiting and…

See you at the Races!


Ronnie Hier
Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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