We started out this week with more bad news. Longtime friend and AHRF Pioneer Dick Gulstrand passed away.
Growing up in Culver City was like being in race car heaven. There was Ted Halibrand and Norden Machine Works who made Carbs and Steering. Down the block, Emil Diedt had a shop and close by was Marvin Faw, both master tin benders. On the other end of town, we had Ed Iskendarian and his cam emporium. Down the street a few blocks over by Hughes Aircraft we had a street that picked up the named “Gasoline Alley” because it was populated with the likes of Travers and Coon, Jimmy Nairn, Dick Troutman, and Tom Barnes and Reventlow Automobiles. Later on, a newcomer moved in up the block by the name of Dick Gulstrand. Besides being a great “Shoe”, It didn’t take long before Dick become known as “Mr. Corvette” and his shop on “Gasoline Alley” became the place to go if you wanted to make your Vette run fast. It was a sad day on March 3, 1963, when I went to the 1st Dodger Stadium Sports Car Races and watched those new fangled hot rods from Carroll Shelby called “Cobra’s” trounce Dick Gulstrand in his mighty Corvette.
We just have to include this shot of Dick (JMC_3729). We see him in his Baher Chevrolet sponsored “Stingray” drifting through the middle of turn one at Riverside International Raceway on May 2, 1965, during race two of the nine-race United States Road Racing Championship that year. Dick started the 48 lap race in third spot in the GT over the 2-liter class and brought his skate home in fifth overall after completing 47 laps. Two of those Shelby Cobra’s and two Porsche 904’s were the only ones in front of him. Dick had a reputation for getting on his head from time to time so he took to putting a roller skate on his rollover bar for a little fun as seen in the shot.
Years later when we did the AHRF interview we just had to re-reminded him that he was a hot rodder first and foremost. We even got him to admit that he was at El Mirage back in 1949 when the Tattersfield-Barron tank set a record. See, Dick just happened to be buddies with AHRFer Bob Morton who built flat-motor for the tank at Ansen Automotive. Small world.
We last talked to Dick a month ago. His place is about a half mile from here and he was saying how the freeway construction next to the shop had really messed up “keeping the place clean”. He also mentioned that he just did a test drive in a newly restored ‘63 split window and ended up getting rear-ended. The consummate gentleman always had a smile on his face and will be sorely missed.
On to merrier subjects. On Saturday we headed down to Orange County Fairgrounds for the 30th something “Great Labor Day Cruise”. The camera went along so here are some shots and comments.
The Fairgrounds is situated in a way that you can drive around it in a circular fashion so the displayed cars can jump in and out of line at their leisure. What’s cool is that everybody gets to go for a ride. This shot shows just a few cars in line for what we call a cruisin’ car show (JMC_5587).
We call this shot Dame in a Deuce ‘cause the girls got to drive the cars too (JMC_5586).
You gotta have your ears and eyes workin’ all the time as we ended up in the middle of the road getting shots for you more than once. I probably coulda laid down on the ground as this bagged lowrider had air but I didn’t want to get squashed (JMC_5591). Wonder how many miles he gets on the front tires with this camber setup?
We’ve always liked slammed Chevy pickups thanks to Spencer time it turned out to be Mike Spacek who had put together a little display of Land Speed rides (JMC_5592). In this shot, we see Lance Laverty’s wildly painted number 521 Lance Speed Racing 175cc Yamaha. Behind it is Luis Moreno’s number 4385 650cc gas powered ride that runs a special construction chassis. Out back is the number 799 Black Racing GSX that hasn’t run yet this year but looks real sinister just sitting still. Note the rear swing arm has been extended quite a bit to get it to handle better.
About thirty feet away we ran into this beauty (JMC_5593). Since there hasn’t been much racing this year at Bonneville Danny Thompson decided to bring his “Challenger 2 “out to the Orange County Fairground for the Cruise event. After his 419 mph tune-up run on not the best salt conditions he’s getting antsy to put the pedal to the metal in his beauty. He says Hi and is looking for a sponsor. Anybody game?
Meanwhile back to the slammed green Chevy pickup. Jim Hahn, who’s connected to the en Rods and off we went. Murray and the Rod & Custom Dream Truck (JMC_5588). Who would have known that a short time after this pic was snapped that we would be cruising in this very truck? It also happened to be the “Shop Truck” for Rotten Rods and Chop Shop located in Fullerton. It was fitted with bags and it was just a click of a switch or two on the bottom of the dash before we were makin’ sparks and draggin’ tail. We have to blame the connection to the blue Stang on the right in the background, but more on this later.
We always seem to run into somebody we know at shows and this blue GTCS Stang in the original pick up shot “borrowed” the truck from Jason at Rotten Rods and off we went (JMC_5589). He’s workin’ the brody wheel on the way to gettin’ a beer before we starting Mr. Slammed’s Wild Ride.
We did about three-quarters of a lap around the Fair before Mr. Temp Gauge reached 190. We parked it next to Jason who had a different problem with his ride. No sooner had we exited the vehicles than up pulls a slammed “‘51 Shoebox” that was a couple of cars behind us. We all piled in to continue the ride. JMC_5590 Shows the view from the rear seat. After years of riding in cars with a low in the nose attitude, it’s amazing how dis-orientated one gets when you can only see out the side windows. We made it back to ground zero without any further adventures, darn-it.
We hoofed it around and shot lots more pix but had to show you a proper hot rod with its nose in the weeds (JMC_5594). Note the interesting arrangement of the side pipes on this Chevy.
Back in the nt of the side pipes on this early 1980’s Joe Henning was doing stories for Neal East that were published in Old Cars Illustrated magazine. We ran across a bunch of these small vintage snapshots that were even smaller after they had been trimmed (ouch) and then published (JMC_1320). If you look closely at the featured shot you will note all the cars are powered by Drake’s (like in Dale Drake before he partnered up with Louis Meyer to take over building Offenhauser’s we mean Meyer-Drake’s). ADrake was basically a modified Harley-Davidson with new barrels that were water-cool instead of air-cooled. They ruled in the central valley of California before and after WWII. Anyhow, the guy on the right in the dark midget is none other than Billy Vukovich before he became an Indy Car Hero Driver. Stay tuned for more on these shots.
We also found another batch of shots in our sorting that turned out to be a real treasure trove of lost images. There are 30 in all and they were taken at Del Mar Horse Track back in 1949 on the day that Rex Mays perished (JHC_1321). Henning had done an article on the race in Old Cars Illustrated 35 odd years ago using some of the shots and had casually mentioned in the story that he had gotten them from Fred Lobello. Fred was a member of the San Diego Roadster Club (as was Joe) at the time and was about to unleash his Model-B powered “Lady Bug” Lakester on the S.C.T.A. establishment (By the way, the Lady Bug exists today in a private collection). We’re lucky that we found them in mostly good condition about 66 years after they were first printed. Car 12 up front is the Kurtis-Kraft factory entry on its fancy tow rig that was driven in the race by Johnny Parsons. J.P. started the 100-mile race in fifth and lasted to lap 36 when the clutch started slipping and he parked it.
We couldn’t resist showing you the Henning drawing of the Roth-mo-bubble that appeared in as Joe calls it “Rotten Custom Magazine” (JMC_1316). I talked to Joe today and asked him how long it took to do one of these drawings. He couldn’t remember exactly (he’s 86) but said he was fast.
After showing you one odd-ball ride how about another one from way back in 1932 (JMC_5150). In the depths of the depression, one William Bushnell Stout conceived this radical new form of transportation and even started a motor car company in Detroit to build it. It was rear-engined and carried six passengers along with a golf bag and even had a side opening door like today’s SUV’s. It was named the Stout Scarab. This illustration was bagged from an Esquire Magazine printed in ‘32.
Fast forward some 25 years later to a bunch of hot rodders lead by a brash rich kid who would kick but in the sports car world with their creations named after an Egyptian dung bug (Scarab) whose sole purpose in life was to eat shi*. They just also happened to occupy a building on “Gasoline Alley” in Culver City about six doors away from Dick Gulstrand and operated under the name Reventlow Automobiles, Inc. SBC_032 shows dry lakes racer Chuck Daigh crossing the finish line in first place at the 1958 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix for Sports Cars at Riverside International Raceway in the Chevy-powered you know what eater called a Scarab Mk 2.
When hot rodders are invincible they think they can do anything, and this group that was located at 11930 West Jefferson Boulevard in Culver City was on a roll. For their next adventure, they were going to conquer the world of Formula 1. One of our finds in yet more Henning stuff was water damaged relic from that time in the form of a spiral bound Brochure/Press Kit (JHC_1322). Inside is typical PR stuff with bios on the team players. It was brilliantly designed by Fredrick Usher, Junior and Illustrated by Carlos Diniz.
The thing was so well done that it had everyone shaking in their boots as to the upcoming romp by the California upstarts. Take for example this Diniz drawing of the car’s engine (JHC_1323). Leo Goossen designed the laydown motor that featured that mysterious for the day Desmodromic valve layout. Little did the world realize that Jim Travers and Frank Coon (Traco) had been enlisted to dissect the 1955 Mercedes-Benz W196 engine at Ford Motor Company where the all-conquering Formula 1 car was on loan. Then they hired an engineer to design a chassis with no automobile design experience. Starting to get the picture?
Needless to say, the car was a complete failure. This shot taken at Riverside International Raceway at the long forgotten 2nd United States Grand Prix by my Grandfather in 1960 was the only F1 race the car started or finished in. Rodder Chuck Daigh was the lucky driver. It was also the last race of the existing formula so welcome to the used car junkyard, but that’s another story for another time (JMC_5595). Us racers had to wait until 1967 when another X-Bonneville racer by the name of Dan Gurney won a Grand Prix in an American built car. Maybe that’s why he was nominated for the President of the United States in 1968.
Trivia question of the week— what AHRF Pioneer hot rodder worked on both teams? If you guessed Phil Remington you would be correct. Happy Cruisin.