Even though Pat is a Northwestern native, his interests compel him to collect Southern Cal
The cast-bronze shift knob medallion (courtesy of Jack Underwood) and the dash-mounted gri
Back when tube shocks were exclusive to airplanes, several companies offered rotary-style
Back when tube shocks were exclusive to airplanes, several companies offered rotary-style
True, Pat didn't specify hairpins as the Spaldings' car had, but the nerf bars on the '40
Six in a row will go, provided you know what to do with it. The head on Pat's '41 Chevy pi
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.
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.
While the Spaldings-most notably Tom-made their names with their Flamethrower ignitions, t
While the original Spalding car ran one of Stuart Hilborn's first injection units made for
Tank pumps were more common to dual-purpose (road and race) cars that ran alcohol in a sec
Pat tends to inspire envy for reasons such as the Stewart-Warner gauges. The 5-inch-diamet
Butch built the pedal assembly from pedals and keyed cranks from a bicycle Pat's parents b
A track car wouldn't have run an on-board fire system, but we just couldn't help but love
The Wayne cast-iron exhaust manifolds feed a 4-inch-diameter pipe, also a Butch Bowers mas
King Bee-shaped headlights are common, but the real badged-and-stamped buckets from the '4
Roadster drivers in the day sat astride the driveshaft. Since Pat intended to take a passe
Rod & Custom Feature Car
'24 Ford Roadster
While the chassis Butch built for Pat is inauthentic per dirt-track rules of the day, it's absolutely faithful-in spirit at least-to the original. Why? Well the Spaldings' roadster's frame was technically-how can we say this-illegal. Instead of using an OEM frame as mandated by the class rules, the Spaldings commissioned a fab shop to form new sheet stock to look like a Willys frame. Butch, on the other hand, made Pat's car's frame out of 2x4-inch, .180-inch-wall tubing.
While Pat's car runs a real Culver City Halibrand centersection (the one out of Paul Knebel's full-show '28 roadster), his runs the standard-issue Ford bells, axles, and, most importantly, the differential. While he used '40 Ford rear radius rods rather than hairpins and a Model T spring instead of the torsion bars as the Spaldings did, he retained one of the original car's hallmark features-Holy Grails of the hot rod and roundy-round worlds alike-the English-made Rotoflo dampers.
Pat departed from the brothers' front suspension design primarily for aesthetics. Most notably, Pat's car sports a Ford V-8/60 front axle-you know, the tube kind with the pretty smile-instead of the original car's straight axle. On either side of that axle are square-flange '46 Ford spindles and servo-action Lincoln binders. Like the rear, the front suspension uses split wishbones, Rotoflo dampers and a transverse leaf spring. Like the original, Pat's car runs drag-link steering. Its steering box came from a '28 Franklin.
Butch built the roadster's engine on a '41 Chevy 235ci block (yes, Chevy made a 235 then). It features full-pressure oiling, a drilled crankshaft, and GMC connecting rods. While all 12-port heads made for Chevrolets and GMCs are de-facto hot rod gold, very few are as lust worthy as this one. In fact, Wayne Manufacturing cast only 120 or so iron units, making this one, the 13th example, virtually priceless. A set of Wayne manifolds flank this prized head. One pair wears a set of Flynn carburetors (courtesy of Don Ferguson); the other feeds a straight pipe. The head and piston combination yields 9.5:1 compression ratio, and when combined with the same cam profile the Spaldings ran on the lakes (Bill Spalding remembered the specs half a century on), the old boy sounds glorious.
Backing this engine is another concession made for roadworthiness, a Borg Warner T-5 five-speed overdrive transmission with a pickup clutch and lightened flywheel. (Pat jokingly calls it the "second-series LaSalle.") Naturally the contemporary gearbox required Butch Bowers to convert the Halibrand to open drive, but the available gear ratios and ideal stick placement make it worthwhile.
Wheels & Tires
While the Spaldings didn't have high-zoot magnesium wheels at their disposal (they ran steel Ford wheels with wheel plates on the rear), Pat does, and loves nothing more than using them on his cars. Since most 16-inch magnesium Halibrands (16x5 and 16x7) like these no-window wheels were intended for sprint cars, they came drilled for six-pin mounting. Pat runs them on five-lug Ford drums, so he had Buffalo Enterprises in Arlington, Washington, plug and drill them for five-lug use. It's a process that makes incredibly expensive wheels that much more elusive. The fronts wear a set of 5.00-16 Firestone ribs; the rears don a set of recapped 215/85-16 light-truck radials, recapped and grooved in a similar fashion to dirt tires in the day.
Body & Paint
Considering its rather low demand and relative simplicity as compared to its later brethren, you'd think a '24 Ford runabout body would be straightforward and inexpensive. You'd be wrong, though. What the roadster jockeys didn't consume in the late '40s, the lakes racers did in the '50s. The '60s T-bucket movement pared down the numbers further yet, so by the '70s anything resembling decent metal became a restoration. This one is a careful combination of really cherry original parts and an NOS turtle deck from Paul Gommi. Interestingly enough, the track nose proved the easiest part of the body according to Pat; it's a Dennis Webb job formed on Don Borth's buck, one of Art Ingels' employees and the guy who finish-massaged the body panels on Mickey Thompson's Challenger I and the Summers Brothers' Goldenrod. The paint, in case you're wondering, is a PPG custom blend that Pat calls Spalding Orange. Jim Emmy cut and rubbed the finish to show-car standards.
The 1943 date-coded surplus seat belts came from Lee Chapel's estate. They strap the car's occupants to a set of aluminum buckets from a pre-war Fairchild PT-19 trainer. The Bell-style wheel sports a chromed Welch plug, AKA freeze plug; beyond that wheel is a king's ransom of Stewart Warner gauges, including the exotic 5-inch, 8,000 rpm tachometer and the elusive 2 5/8-inch fuel gauge.