Jim Lytle made his name drag racing in the 1960s. His revolutionary Allison-powered '34 sedan, nicknamed Big Al, was perhaps the world's first flip-top drag car.
Jim recently sent us some 50-year-old photos of one of his very first hot rods. The '32 coupe he built when he was in the army stationed in Killeen, Texas, was packed with features that were radical in 1956. The fendered and flamed five-window-built in a dirt lot-was channeled over a double Z'd frame to settle the body low to the pavement and chopped 5 inches to bring the overall height down even more. Those mods, combined with a dropped front axle and a flat rear crossmember, lowered the car 17 inches. Headlights were mounted way down below the front fenders. The extended three-piece aluminum hood gave the low coupe a sleek profile, and was held on with Dzus fasterners, which were very unusual at the time. Underneath the hood, Jim ran a 354 Chrysler Hemi, which, as you can see, was set back 18 inches, and made accessible by a removable cowl. The full-race Hemi featured eight two-barrel carbs, a Herbert roller cam, and 13:1 Jahns pistons. Backed up by a four-speed truck transmission and a Columbia two-speed rear axle, the 354 got Jim from starting line to finish line in 13.2 seconds at 107 mph.
Even by today's standards, Jim's old '32 would be a radical hot rod. If the car is anywhere out there, Jim doesn't know about it. He sold it in December 1962. A friend said he spotted it, minus the fenders and running boards, on the streets of San Antonio in 1964. If you think you know where it is, let us know.
Mail your vintage photos of you and your hot rod, along with a brief story, to Tim Bernsau, Rod & Custom, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870, or e-mail them (3x5 inches at 300 dpi) to email@example.com. We are unable to return any submitted material
Helpful Hot RoddersHot rodding is full of nice people. Some of the nicest belong to the Burbank Road Kings, the Corvettes of Naples, Florida, the Jukebox Cruisers Car Club of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and the Southern Cruzers Car Club of Apple Valley, Minnesota. These four outstanding clubs have been recognized for exemplary community involvement and have each received the annual Golden Rule Award from Eagle One and associate sponsor Valvoline.
"Eagle One is proud to acknowledge and reward these car clubs for turning their passion for cars into compassion for others," said Valvoline VP Rolf Linder. Eagle One will donate a $250 check to charities designated by each of the honored clubs. In addition, each club will receive an award and a large supply of Eagle One and Valvoline products.
Read All About It: "Quarter-Mile Chaos"If there's anything we love nearly as much as hot rodding, it's mayhem. Now, one of drag racing's top photographers has packed plenty of both into a recently published book from CarTech, titled "Quarter-Mile Chaos: Images of Drag Racing Mayhem."
Steve Reyes is one of those insane guys you see down at the guardrail when you go to the drags, standing there shooting as the Fuelers, Funnies, Altereds, and Gassers go roaring by inches away. He's also the one standing there shooting when they slide out of control, stand straight up, burst into fireballs, blow up, flip over, crash into things, and fling parts all over the track. That only happens once in a while, but when you've been pointing a camera at quarter-mile action for 40 years, as Reyes has been, you eventually accumulate enough shots of dragsters erupting in flames or kabooming into a million bits to fill an entire book-an entire 178-page, large-format book to be exact.
After the first six interesting and important word-packed pages about his career and the glory days of drag racing, Reyes lets his pictures do the talking. The rest of "Q-MC:IDRM" is filled with page after page of large photos, 200 in all, with informative captions to put the chaos in context. The photos are astonishing and sometimes heart stopping, delivering a close-up look that you could never get from the safety of the grandstands. How Reyes always managed to be in exactly the right spot at the right time (and lived to get his film processed) is a real mystery. For example, the sequence of shots of the Lane Brothers' Corvette gasser heading for the 18-inch high guardrail at Lions Drag Strip shows other photographers darting for safety; Reyes doesn't budge and captures the whole thing. When Don Waite's Altered looks like its speeding right toward him at Pomona, Reyes gets the head-on shot as the roadster smashes through the Christmas tree. But it's not all mid-action commotion. The still-life close-up of a piston and crumbled pieces of a connecting rod lying within the engine-less 'rails of the Bob Dumont Top Fueler is as dramatic as any other image in the book.
Almost all of these photos were taken in the short period between 1967 and 1974-what Reyes calls drag racing's golden years, when "drivers were fearless and drove by the seat of their pants." So in a way, Reyes' photos aren't just images of chaos and mayhem; they are images of the intensity and unpredictability of drag racing during it's greatest era, the potential and real danger of the dragsters, and the skill and courage of the men who drove them.
"Quarter-Mile Chaos" retails for $39.95. Look for it in the automotive mayhem section of your favorite bookstore or from those Internet booksellers, or simply order one directly from CarTech by calling (800) 551-4754 or visiting www.cartechbooks.com.