In my quest to find the best information possible, I am often honored by finding the best people too. This happened recently when I located a dry lakes historian (and now good friend), Frank Lurry. Frank has been collecting Dry Lakes photos, memorabilia, and history for the better part of 40 years. I’m afraid to schedule a trip to California lest I visit Frank and never return from his collection.
Frank was kind enough to lend his thoughts and research for today’s story – a review of what it was like in the 1930’s before the Ford Flathead V8 became dominant. He also touches on some of the early ways in which these cars were referenced.
So….without delay, let’s introduce Frank and his story for today.
Go get ‘em Frank!
Muroc Drylake, Sunday September 17th, 1933
“Hot irons! Hot roadster! Gow jobs!” That’s what hot rods were called before 1945.
Four banger Fords dominated, with countless heads and speed equipment to ‘up’ the performance of your Model T or Model A, with the ultimate goal of possibly reaching one hundred MPH. It proved to be a lot harder than it sounds. With the introduction of the V8 flathead in 1932, the four cylinders still dominated for only another few years.
Speed equipment for the V8 was non-existent until around 1935 when Morrison, Alexander, and others introduced V8 manifolds and heads. Think how these men felt when after making things in their own small shops they could increase their speed and their dreams.
On that day in September, the entries numbered one hundred and fifty and there were no V8s listed at all. Chevy and Ford four cylinders ruled the day. To give a few examples, Clarence Smith’s T turned a hundred and twelve miles an hour; soon-to-be a famous driver at Ascot, Wally Shock, in his modified T turned ninety-nine MPH, as the caption reads under the photo, “Believe it or not!” Lee Chapel is credited with opening the first speed shop. He turned one-eleven in his ‘Chevy powered modified’ with a tornado head of his own design and manufacture.
In the program for that September day, Bell Parts was advertising everything from Riley and Kragar to race cars built to order. George Riley was advertising his 4 port heads as the fastest head for a Ford motor. Winfield ran an ad for the greatest development in the history of carburetion. All that for $19.50!
Quite an achievement for average guys, to build their own car, drive it to the lake, go as fast as they could, and hope to make it home. The excitement of racing on the Muroc drylake was a memory not soon to be forgotten.
The sights, the sounds, the smell…
Special thanks to Frank Lurry for sharing his thoughts and history of this time and for his permission in sharing some of his collection. Much appreciated Frank!
Until next time gang..
Shake, Rattle, and Go!
Note: Click on the pictures below to see an expanded image appear on your screen.