"We knew that fuel tanks that were used on the fighter planes were being used in the Streamliner class. Next to our farm was a war surplus yard. They had belly tanks over there for sale for $20 and we bought one. We had a pretty good shop on our farm with welding equipment and all the necessary tools to repair farm equipment, or to build a car. First we put a Model A four-banger in the tank on a Model A frame but the Model A engine was not as efficient as the Model B engine four-cylinders in the 1932 Ford. We found one in a junkyard and put that in. We put sleeves in the cylinders to get the cubic inches to 180 ci so it would be in Class A."
“In those days, everything in Nevada had stopped because of the war,” Alex Xydias explains
The brothers took the family's 1935 Ford farm truck to Bonneville. "We made ramps so we could load the belly tank on the back of the flatbed. We also carried a 50-gallon barrel of aviation fuel. We weren't going very fast up the Grapevine (a steep 5 1/2-mile grade on the way to Bakersfield) when we accidently clipped a tractor trailer. The fender of the truck tore the ropes holding the belly tank and dented his fender. When the big old burly truck driver got out, he was really aggravated, and chewed us out," Chuck laughs.
They hung burlap water bags in front of the truck's radiator to keep the water cool for drinking, and as the truck overheated, for the radiator. However they never tasted the water prior to leaving: "We drank out of the bags and the water tasted awful," Chuck laughs.
"We ate peanut butter sandwiches on the way up and all the time we were there. We slept in sleeping bags in the back of the truck going up and when we got to Bonneville we didn't have the money to stay in a motel room."
Once on the Salt Flats the brothers took full advantage of the week by amassing 17 runs on the 5-mile course. Their top timed speed of 117.03 mph in the elapsed Class "A" Streamliner category was by the Xydias and Batchelor Streamliner record of 156.39, which ran a V8-60. Nevertheless, the brothers were ecstatic with their speed, considering the four-banger never missed a beat.
Kay Kimes The Drive on 395
“When we got to Mojave (Mojave is 114 miles from Bellflower; Wendover, Utah/Nevada, is ano
Later it was "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" but "The Drive on 395" getting to the first Bonneville is what we're about here. When Kay Kimes first laid eyes on Bonneville he uttered only three words, but those three words sum up the Salt Flats then and now: "Oh my God!
"We had no idea until we got to Bonneville what to expect," Kay begins. "We were used to the dirt of El Mirage and when we saw all that white, it was something we had never seen before. The air was clean and the surface was cool."
Kay's father worked at a gas station in Nebraska before moving the family to Southern California in 1942 when Kay was 14. The family settled in Bellflower. "I built my first hot rod in high school," Kay says. "I bought a narrowed 1927 T-bucket and a chassis that had been narrowed as well. I don't know what that frame was from but I got a 1928 Chevy coupe for $15 and took the four-banger engine and trans out of it and put in the bucket. I later replaced the Chevy with a Model B Ford motor. I went all through high school with the car. I joined the Wheelers Car Club right after I got out of high school. I graduated in 1946; I was 17."
While, Kay couldn't remember just how he had acquired a sprint car, he did purchase it to race at El Mirage. Kay recollected the times when he and his friends, plus his dad, went to El Mirage with his Sprint Car following behind his 1941 Dodge stake bed on a tow bar until they reached the bottom of the Cajon Pass. Because the truck had a tendency to overheat, the race car was fired up to help push Kay's Dodge up to the 4,190-foot summit to the High Desert.
What's a teenager doing with a stake bed truck, you ask? Kay followed circle track racing and crewed on friend Bill Finley's track roadster with a four-cylinder Cragar engine. The Dodge was made to order for the job, plus at El Mirage it doubled as a push truck.
After arriving, Kay’s crew didn’t have the luxury of awaiting beds to fall onto in town be
When the decision was made to go to Bonneville, Kay was concerned that if a suspension failure or worse happened to the sprinter using the tow bar was out. The car would be towed on a trailer to Bonneville.
The Dodge's Flathead-six had overheated getting to the High Desert town Mojave with its payload of Dave Ratliff, Julian Doty, and Kay, plus a 50-gallon drum of alcohol, tools, parts, and camping gear.
When they got to Mojave, Kay decided to unload the race car and drive it on highway 395. They drove the sprinter north to Independence, then Lone Pine, through Big Pine and Bishop, then up to Tonopah, both at 6,000-plus feet.
While they took turns driving the race car the whole way they shut it off coming into each small town, pushing it with the Dodge truck not knowing how the local sheriffs would react to a race car passing through their sleepy little settlements uncorked. Remember this was 1949 when hot rodders weren't exactly welcomed with open arms, so why invite an open ticket book.
It had to make quite a stir for the locals to witness Kay's rig and others heading north to Bonneville. That mini parade was confirmed by Bobby Milner, 78, of Apple Valley, California. Bobby grew up in Lone Pine and remembers when he and his school friends would sit out all night long watching and waiting for the racers to pass through town.
"Doty had run out of gas short of Tonopah in the Sprint Car but we didn't know that because we were quite a ways behind him in the Dodge," Kay says. "There was an older couple in a Buick going the other way. They turned around and pushed him into town. Then we put it back on the trailer and towed it into Wendover."