In the 1943 photo above two...
In the 1943 photo above two members are wearing the donated lids. Jack stands against his '37 Plymouth (far left).
We all enjoy stories from what seem like the glory days of hot rodding and we recently received a book filled with some great stories told by the guys that were there. In many cases the accompanying photos could tell a story themselves and do a great job helping illustrate the tales. The best part is that the clubs represented are very diverse and tell the stories of hot rodders across the nation and not just on one coast. If you enjoy the following story (and I'm sure you will) you can order the book, Car Club Memories - Personal Stories from Three Dynamic Decades of Cruisin', Competition, and Cool Cars. Fred Thomas spent years collecting the stories and photos and has assembled some of the best into this book available online at barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, and authorhouse.com. Local bookstores can search by title, author, ISBN: 978-1-4343-6251-3 (sc), or LCCN 2007908240. The $15.95 book has 116 pages and165 vintage black and white photos to add to your reading enjoyment.
The Duke's plaques were hand...
The Duke's plaques were hand painted.
Jack and a group of friends formed the Dukes while still students at Oceanside-Carlsbad High School in Oceanside, CA. At the time they were playing baseball for a team sponsored by a menswear store. The owner was left with a quantity of white Fedora hats, which he couldn't sell. In an effort to get rid of them he offered them gratis to the players. The guys readily accepted the stylish hats.
When it came time to name the club, several choices were considered. Then one member suggested they be called the Dukes, as the Fedoras made them look like royalty. No further discussion was needed.
Good friends, girls, the strand! Life in Southern California during the 1940's was great for growing up. Drag racing and car clubs added another dimension to the scene. And, Jack had a part in it all.
Sadly the Dukes amicably disbanded in late 1943. Jack's next club affiliation didn't come until he returned from service. In 1946 he joined the Carlsbad Oilers.
Kenny Harmon strikes a bravado...
Kenny Harmon strikes a bravado pose on his bumper while Jack looks on. Sadly Kenny went into service shortly after the photo was taken and a year later was killed in action. Jack's first car was a Flathead powered Model A. The '37 coupe replaced it. The Plymouth served him well.
Jack had learned to fly planes on the G.I. Bill. In 1951 he acquired a used twin Cessna, better known as a Bamboo Bomber. The fledgling NHRA was holding a competition at the Muroc dry lake near Victorville, California. He and a few buddies decided to fly up and left around 8 a.m. They landed at the end of the course by the timing booth, and parked nearby. His plane appears in car magazine photos from that event.
The wind picked up and visibility was poor at best. The races subsided due to poor conditions. As the sky cleared, the group got hungry. So they jumped in the Cessna and flew to the infamous Poncho Barnes diner located adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base. In addition to lunch they had the opportunity to meet Chuck Yeager who had recently become the first pilot to break the sound barrier.
Following the lunchtime adventure the group once again hopped in the Bamboo Bomber and returned to the Muroc event. Later, after watching out for cars racing down the lake, they took off and flew back to Oceanside, arriving in mid afternoon.
Competing at the Paradise Mesa drag strip near San Diego was eventful in the Fifties. Jack hopped up a 239ci Ford Flathead and ran it in a '40 Ford coupe. In one race his competitor drove a chopped and stripped down '34 Ford coupe. The '34 won and Jack contested the race. The strip officials sided with Jack. The '34 driver wanted another shot at him and agreed to "unstrip" his car to meet the class requirements.
Eventually this Carson topped...
Eventually this Carson topped '41 Chevrolet convertible took its place. Jack had lowered the car and installed fender skirts, giving it a stylish look. While he was in the Navy his mom drove the Chevy. She had the lowering blocks taken off to improve the ride. At the same time the fender skirts came off too. She sent him this photo of the "improved" car. He was dismayed when he saw the "improvements".
Instead of that Jack and his partner Jim Nelson, who later became a co-founder of the Drag Master Company, installed the 239ci motor in Jim's stripped down '34 Ford coupe that had been running C gas with a more powerful engine. A $50 wager was placed on the outcome. This time the results were decisive. After an engine examination by the judges, the greenbacks went home with Jack and Jim!
On another occasion they raced the partnered coupe against Alex Xydias, founder of SO-CAL Speed Shop. Alex had a '34 coupe with an extremely low chopped top. The low-profile rod sported 259.5 cubic inches by official measure. The B gas class limit was 260ci. In the time trials both cars independently broke the existing B gas record. Jack had made the record breaking run for their team. When the time came to go up against Alex's car, Jack and Jim flipped a coin to see who would drive. Jim won the toss.
Down the strip both cars performed well, and stayed pretty even. But, at the finish line Jim's driving skills had given them a winner. Following the race Jack and Jim were asked to remove the engine heads so the displacement could be verified, satisfying any doubters. As it was Jack's engine, he was chosen to do the teardown. The inspection went without a hitch and their win was official.
Jack's close friends were...
Jack's close friends were also into cars. Here his good friend Albert Waibiel poses with Jack's cousin Dolly. In the Forties the "strand" was a popular place to hang out. One day the senior boys at Oceanside-Carlsbad high school skipped school and took all the junior and sophomore boys with them and headed for the beach. There were about one hundred fifty of them gathered on the sand. Out of nowhere the principal arrived and began taking down the license plate numbers on the parked cars. Jack and others involved faced reprimands when school started the next day.
Albert Waibiel (left) and...
Albert Waibiel (left) and Knobby Tyler look confident as they get ready for this 1943 photograph. The '34 cabriolet next to them lacks a hood, giving it a "hot rod" appearance.
As an Oilers member he became...
As an Oilers member he became actively involved in the drag racing scene that was still in its infancy.