The 1948 So-Cal Belly Tank – Hot Rod Magazine’s January 1949 Hot Rod of the Month

Shown Here is the Crew: Dick Flint, Richard French, Alex Xydias, and Keith Baldwin. What Fun it Would Have Been to be on That Team!

Hi gang…

Early Hot Rod Magazines are full of great stories of the golden age of hot rodding in America.  Pick up anything in the 1940’s thru the early 1950’s, and it gives you a window into the birth of some of the best known people and cars we think of today.  Such is the case with the beginnings of So-Cal Speed Shop and the January 1949 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.

In this issue, Hot Rod Magazine identified Alex Xidias’ Belly Tank as “Hot Rod of the Month”.  Kind of a fun designation and one I’ll have to start checking to see when it started and ended.  I’m sure there will be more interesting cars heralded with this title – all worth reading, and some worth sharing.

Some interesting notes about the article:

  • The Belly Tank crew is identified as Dick Flint, Richard French, Alex Xydias, and Keith Baldwin
  • The tank was “white and gold” – not red and white as we usually think of the So-Cal Speed Shop tank and colors
  • This tank was powered by a Ford Flathead V8-60.  I’ve always thought that larger tanks meant larger engines, since the first tank on the salt was small (10 feet long/Bill Burke/1946), and it had the normal size Ford Flathead, 239 cubic inch engine
  • The story talks about the tank’s record setting performance in 1948 – 15 mph above the next fastest “A Streamliner” of the year

Great Cut Away Drawing by Rex Burnett. This Had To Be One Of Burnett's First Drawings - and What a Great Job It Was Too...

As noted in the article, Xydias first started construction of the tank in February 1948 and finished it in time for the first SCTA meet in April (interestingly, here the article notes the colors of the tank as blue and gold).  He set the Class A record of 130.155 mph at the close of the 1948 season.

The article also mentions the following information concerning the build of the tank:

“During the construction of his car, Xydias received much help in regard to building the body from Bill Burke, “father” of the belly-tanks.  Along with this, he received many engine speed secrets from Vic “Pappy” Edelbrock.  Without their many helpful suggestions, Xydias doubts whether he would be a record holder today.”

Hope you enjoy the story and pictures gang and until next time…

Shake, Rattle, and Go!

Geoff  

Technical Specifications (From Hot Rod Magazine, January 1949)

Owner

  • Alex Xydias

Builders / Designers / Crew

  • Bill Burke, Vic Edelbrock, Dick Flint, Richard French, Keith Baldwin (as reported in the article)

Tank

  • P-38 drop tank (large 300 gallon type)
  • 3 compartments: the driver’s (in front), the engine and the fuel (in the rear). 
  • Steel firewalls separate each of the three compartments.

Suspension

  • Suspension is rigid, having no springs in the rear and only a short transverse leaf spring in the front.

Front Axle

  • Stock

Rear Axle

  • 1932 Ford ballbearing rear end – 4.11-1 ratio

Steering

  • 1932 V-8 steering column rotated 90 degrees to provide more ground clearance

Shocks

  • No shocks are used at any of the standard Ford wheels.

Driveshaft: (open/closed driveshaft)

  • Short 10” driveshaft with no universal joints

Brakes

  • Rear brakes only

Engine (make/year)

  • 1939 Ford V-8 60

Speed Parts (heads, intake, cam, other):

  • Edelbrock dual intake manifold
  • Edelbrock 9 ½ to 1 heads
  • Winfield super cam
  • Spalding Zephyr ignition

Carburetion

  • Two Stromberg 81 carburetors

Displacement

  • 156 cubic inches

Dashboard / Gauges

  • Stewart Warner tachometer, oil temperature gauge, and water temperature gauge

Tire Size

  • Front: 500×16, Firestone, ribbed tires
  • Rear: 600×18, Firestone Indianapolis type tires

Wheels / Rims

  • Standard Ford wheels

Special Features

  • Hand fuel press pump
  • Airplane alcohol anti-icing fuel tank – 3.7 gallons


About Geoffrey Hacker

Geoff Hacker is an automotive historian and is researching the history of belly tanks and streamliners from the early postwar era with his good friend Rick D'Louhy. Both are also working on a book called "Forgotten Fiberglass" about the history of early fiberglass sports cars in America (www.forgottenfiberglass.com). Read more about Geoff's background on the "About Us" link of the Forgotten Fiberglass website. He can be reached at geoffrey@bellytanks.com

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