You're probably a pretty devout worshipper at the hot rod altar if you know the Spalding brothers. For those who haven't achieved such devotion, the brothers, Tom and Bill, produced some of the hottest ignition systems and camshafts in the seminal years of the hot rod.

After years of helping other people go, the brothers decided to have a go at it for themselves. In a matter of a few weeks, they built what could be considered one of the hottest track roadsters of the day. With a Wayne-headed Chevy mill, it was distinctive and powerful. When combined with a high-tech open-tube Pat Warren rear axle, it was light too. And fast? Oh, you bet; with its Flamethrower-orange paint (as in the brothers' ignitions), Art Ingels nose, and judicious plating, it even looked fast when sitting still.

But if you had to be a hot rod student to know the brothers, you'd practically need a degree in the subject to know their car. It's because Tom and Bill built their roadster in the very late 1940s, at the end of California's roadster-racing heyday. While the car proved itself briefly in the '50 season, the brothers didn't see the series fit to campaign. To paraphrase a clich, the flame that burned twice as hot lived half as long, and the brothers parted out the car by early 1951.

Curiously enough, the Spalding brothers' old number 43, dubbed a Construction Masterpiece in its day, recently rose like a phoenix from the ashes, to paraphrase another appropriate clich. While its handler, Pat Swanson, is the first to admit that his car is a recreation based on the famed racer, he's being rather humble. Rather than an identical copy, it's a roadworthy version of the famed racecar built almost entirely from period- and application-correct parts. And man is it cool.

Backtrack
To understand what made the Spalding brothers' roadster appeal to Pat in the first place, you have to know a little bit about track roadster construction, specifically roadsters campaigned under the California Roadster Association banner. Roadster racing in the late '40s was an affordable means for enterprising drivers to prove themselves worthy of rapture to sprint-car racing. As such, most roadsters were a little more than conglomerations of stock parts spiced up with a few go-fast goodies.

On the other hand, the car the Spaldings built was almost a Sprint Car in roadster clothing. The brothers copied many of the elements on Johnny Hartman's roadster: Kurtis Midget torsion bars, open-tube rear axle, and, most importantly, a Chevrolet engine topped by a Wayne 12-port cylinder head. That alone was enough reason for Pat to recreate the car, as he's the historian for Inliners International, a club dedicated to inline-configured engines. Specifically, he regards 12-port cylinder heads as straight porno. You know, the good kind.

While likening the roadster to a Sprint Car may constitute high praise in some circles (and certainly blasphemy in others), it would still underestimate the car's abilities. You see, the Spaldings built more than a roundy-round car, as they proved when they clicked off a 146-mph run at a 1949 El Mirage meet. Despite the Chevy's 246ci displacement, a certain disadvantage when compared to its 300-inch Flathead Ford contemporaries, the Hilborn-injected engine was vastly more powerful than its valve-in-block bent-eight peers due to its more efficient valve and port arrangement.

With its 300 to 500 pound weight advantage, the car could hold its own against Offenhausers at Phoenix' quarter-mile track, or at least that's what Tom Sparks told Gray Baskerville in a January '73 interview. Whatever the case, the car clicked a 40.71-second qualifying lap time at the same venue-the fastest for that track at the time.

But re-creating a racecar verbatim for street use as Pat intended to do presented a few issues. First off, open-tube axles have no provision for a differential, transforming even simple turns into broadsliding exercises. While front brakes constitute unnecessary weight on a track car, they're sort of important on the street. A track car's simple in-out 'box provides only one gear (high), and lacks a conventional clutch and flywheel for normal operation. Furthermore, solo seating seriously limits a road car's social appeal.

So Pat took a few liberties. While he consulted with Bill and the late Wayne Horning (Wayne Manufacturing) to authenticate the car's overall feel, he departed where he said he felt he could improve the car's road-going properties. After a few years of collecting parts (both the most challenging and fun, he noted), Pat turned over his trove to Butch Bowers.

What Pat collected and Butch assembled took far longer than what it took Tom and Bill Spalding to do nearly 60 years ago. And while the Spaldings' car was a pretty expensive car for the class in its day, what Pat invested in collecting and assembling some of the most desirable parts in the historic hot rod world cost considerably more, even when balanced against inflation.

Was it worth it? Sure Pat could've saved himself considerable time and money; he could've bought a body out of a catalog, used a different engine, and even found a set of off-the-shelf wheels. But would the car have been the same?

It's not too often that a re-creation inherits some of the soul of its namesake, but we're going to go out on a limb here and say this one did. And the toil and trouble Pat went through in order to build such a car means it should keep that soul for a long, long time.