That's Dan Gurney driving...
That's Dan Gurney driving Frank Arciero's 4.9L V-12 Ferrari behind Duffy at the Examiner Grand Prix Pomona February 1, 1959.
Duffy Livingstone will always be remembered as the father of the Go Kart. This story, however, is about Duffy the hot rodder, a card carrying member of the NHRA Charter Club (#156) and the Pasadena Roadster Club.
For some hot rodders it wasn't all dragstrips, dry lakes, and the Salt-a few ventured into road racing: "Land Speed Racing kinda scared me," says Duff. "I liked sporty car racing instead."
Duffy made such an impact in the Fifties road racing his Ford Model T, you only had to mention his name in those circles and some cultured noses went in the air. Duffy blew their doors off on a shoestring in his '25 roadster that caused those noses to get bent out of shape.
In 1926, when Duffy was 1 year old, he moved from Springfield, Illinois to Pasadena, California. When I asked Duffy if he grew up in Pasadena he laughed. "No, I lived in Pasadena; I never grew up."
Duffy's first car was a "bone-stock Model T 4-door sedan. I paid $12 for it from an old lady from Pasadena. Actually I had $8 in it and my buddy Dick Van De Veere (whom I've known since 2nd grade) had $4. It had been on blocks for years. The motor was frozen up when we got it, so we towed it and slammed it into gear, which broke the motor loose. It ran fine from then on."
After the T was sold, Duff didn't own another car until World War II ended. Duffy walked or rode his bike to school since he only lived three blocks away. "I kinda liked my bike and was riding it when the War started. I went in March of '42."
Having survived flying missions over the South Pacific, Duffy was discharged in '46 and returned to Pasadena. No more walking for Duffy-he wanted a hot rod. The one he purchased, you might say, led him into the muffler business.
"A guy named Dave "Mitch" Mitchell had a Deuce roadster for sale and I bought it from him. He owned Mitchell's Roadster Shop in Pasadena, by the Rose Bowl, and after I bought the roadster I went to work for him and learned how to weld there. We were replacing a lot of four-bangers with Ford Flathead V-8s in roadsters. Dave later changed the business to Mitchell Mufflers."
"I built Mitchell's first glasspack muffler," stated Duffy. "Originally, mufflers were packed with steel and eventually the material deteriorated. Some liked the rapping sound, but the noise grated on most people after awhile. When Mitchell started making mufflers he bought the casings and cores and the endcaps from Porter Muffler in LA, and we'd put the glass in the mufflers. The first glasspack mufflers didn't work out. The resin melted. We used the same fiberglass like you put on the hood of a car. The stuff would blow out the back of the muffler and if you were following too close behind, you'd start to itch," laughed Duffy.
"In '48, we started using what they called roving fiberglass [a high-strength, coarsely-woven fabric used in all phases of fiberglass molding] which was the remains of a continuous strand of fiberglass. We'd wrap that around the core."
"We made $66 off our first customer. A dual exhaust job was $49.50. That included splitting the manifold on a Chevy-6. We were only there a year because they sold the building. We then moved to Monrovia to what used to be a gas station and changed the name to GP Muffler. We were making glasspack mufflers. We'd write on a bill of sale GP for glasspacks or SP for steelpacks."
"Jay Chamberlain (who later became a Formula One competitor) used to hang out at our muffler shop and had a T that he got from Emil Diedt and he wanted to unload it. I got the T and approached a guy named Paul Parker who had a Merc engine. I did the work on the car, Parker supplied the engine. Diedt built the nose out of steel (hammered it and the hood)."
It was just a frame, a nose and the body. We started working on it. Paul's motor was a 3/8x3/8 Merc with a Potvin Eliminator cam (bored and stroked an additional 1/8-inch for more cubic inches) that we put in the roadster. It was a horrible-looking thing when we first built it. The first paint job was pink. I mixed some red primer and gray primer and it came out pink. I named the T the Eliminator after the Potvin cam."
Flights Cancelled Today
Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, California, were sleepy little towns in the Fifties; consequently their airports were sparsely used. So on certain weekends their vast expanse of concrete was the perfect place to hold amateur road racing events. The California Sports Car Club put on sports car races there, throwing in a few hay bales to outline the course and some snow fencing to keep the spectators reasonably safe.
"I borrowed Don Blair's trailer in '52 or '53 and towed the T to Palm Springs to the airport course. I was lucky the damn thing even started. I entered a bunch of races before I got the T to handle."
Such a Deal
"Paul got married and that took him out of the picture, plus I blew his Flathead Merc. So I got a '55 Chevy V-8 engine from a Chevy dealer. In those days Chevy dealers made it so the warranty engines they removed were made useless. They would crank the pistons down and break the skirt off of each one, then take a hammer and hit the front of the crank where the pulley goes on to put a flat spot on the corner, and they poked a hole in the side of the block. They'd sell them for $25."
Duffy filed the front of the crank, bought some Jan's pistons and welded up the hole in the side of the block. Tim's Precision Engines balanced and bored the 265 to 283 cubic inches. Duff scrounged some Chevy truck heads for $30 and Tim put bigger valves in them. He threw in a Shaffer aluminum flywheel, a three carburetor manifold for Carter carbs which Duffy modified to hold 97s, and he had a screaming V-8.
That's Duffy (front and center)...
That's Duffy (front and center) at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in 1938. Gordon Babb (R) owned Ace Model Shop in Pasadena where the first tether cars were created and Duffy worked. Popular Science Magazine shot this photo for a story on the gasoline-powered model cars. Babb began making special tires for the racers because the model airplane tires would rip to shreds.
This beautiful 9-inch wooden...
This beautiful 9-inch wooden model was built by Duffy in 1938. The hood was aluminum and the Offenhauser engine was made from a tin can. Note the nose and grille that Duffy crafted long before the Kurtis midget noses were fashioned after the War. In 1944, Frank Kurtis designed a pedal car for his 11-year-old son with a grille almost identical to the one Duffy had created in '38. "It was pretty scale," says Duff. "I made seventy-five cents a week working at the model shop while going to school."
"I bought the `32 in 1945...
"I bought the `32 in 1945 for $400 from Dave Mitchell," says Duffy. "It had a Ford Flathead V8 in it when I got it that got at least 25 miles to a gallon. I filled the tank, drove it to San Diego, and drove it back home to Pasadena and later when I checked the tank it had at least two inches of fuel left in it. I pulled the Flathead Ford engine and put a box-stock Merc engine in it that I got out of the crate. Then I put a Cad in it."
Duffy stuffed a 346 cubic...
Duffy stuffed a 346 cubic inch `37 Cad engine and transmission in his Deuce. It had two big four-barrel Stromberg carburetors. What are the odds that at the same meet, S.C.T.A. President Ak Miller was also running a 1937 Cadillac V-8 with a speed listed at 120.16. You Ol' Yeller fans may be surprised to learn that Max Balchowsky, another road racer, also had a `32 Ford roadster with a flathead Cadillac before he went Buick Nailhead power in his Deuce. There obviously was something about the engine.
"I channeled it... Z'ed the...
"I channeled it... Z'ed the frame," commented Duffy on his `32 with the Packard taillights. "I did some things to that car I'd never seen before or since. When you channel a body, you drop it down to the bottom of the frame; there is a gap on the top between the body and the framerail. I widened the top framerail to come out and touch the body and I boxed it all in. I built a set of hang-down pedals for the `32 from scratch. This was before anyone ever thought of doing something like that."
Before the Chevy was dropped...
Before the Chevy was dropped in, the Eliminator ran a Flathead: "I was running out of fuel on the top end. It ran beautifully going straight, but when I turned right the force would overcome the flow of fuel coming out of the carburetors and they would load up. Going left it ran fine so I tried building my own constant flow carburetion."Duffy took the float bowls and floats out, put an outlet on the other side of the carb and ran four lines to carry the overflow to the catch tank on the framerail. Duff installed an electric pump hooked to the catch tank, pumping the fuel back to the gas tank. "I didn't know what I was doing anyway," he admits.