Growing up in the small town of Van Nuys on Sepulveda Boulevard, Jim Khougaz would sit outside his house on a Friday night as a procession of hot rodders made their way to the Dry Lakes. It wasn’t long before Jim wanted in on the action. Through a school friend’s brother, he got his first taste of Muroc in 1938, a taste that would fuel a lifelong passion for hot rodding and cars.
While still in high school, Jim ditched the soapbox for a ’32 roadster with four flat tires and an engine that didn’t work. He figured for $50 he couldn’t go wrong. With a lot of elbow grease and some help from his dad, Jim soon had the car running. Although he had tasted the lakes Jim confined his racing to the streets until after the war. (while in Italy during the war his brother and sister decided to take his ’32 for a spin. The results were summed up in a letter his mother wrote to him: Your car is sick but the engine is fine.)
When the war ended, Jim made the conscious decision to not only continue hot rodding but to compete with the others on the lake. He joined the Hot Riders and ran 111 MPH with a ’29 on ’32 rails and a stock engine (plus dual carburetors) at El Mirage. The sheer thrill of going over 100 MPH convinced Jim he had to build a hot rod purely for the lakes.
He found a junked out ’32 roadster for which he paid $250, stripped it down and started from scratch. In an attempt to lower it he Z-framed the rear. Unfortunately he didn’t have enough money to put a drop-frame axle in the front so the car became known jokingly as The Motorboat”.
Finally, with a drop axle in place, Jim installed a four inch radiator. This created a problem with installing the magneto for the engine. Moving the radiator forward and inch he replaced the ’32 hood with a ’34 hood thereby making it to length. With a hammer and sheers Jim fitted the unique aluminum bellypan under the car which not only helped it aerodynamically but also gave it a defining look.
The engine was 59 A block built by Lou Baney and Manuel Ayulo. It had an 1/8th inch stroke and was bored a three and three sixteenths to three and five sixteenths. The car never did get first place at the lakes and Jim moved on to other projects. However, it’s recent resurrection by Dave Simard has brought the Khougaz roadster back into the spotlight where it has always belonged.