That's Jot (left) next to...
That's Jot (left) next to his friend the late "Big Bill" Edwards and his Cad-powered coupe at Bonneville behind Alex Xydias' So-Cal Special Streamliner in 1950. Jot was manning the Bell Auto Parts tent that year.
Innovation was happening in quick succession at the dry lakes after the war. There was Chet Herbert's roller cam, Stu Hilborn's fuel injection, and the Spalding Brother's (Bill and Tom) torsion bar suspended roadster, yet many a hardened hot rod jaw dropped when Jot Horne unbolted the towbar from his Model T at the June '48 SCTA meet at El Mirage.
The Ford and Merc Flathead V-8 was the SBC of its day, but Jot would have none of it when he shoehorned a 420-inch Duesenberg monster into his '27 Ford roadster. All the while working for the granddaddy of them all-the very first speed shop, dating back to 1923-Bell Auto Parts.
Finally, Jot is responsible for designing one of the most enduring wheels ever to pop a bead: the Cragar S/S. Since Bell Auto Parts has been gone some four decades, few of us have ever walked through the brick building's front door. Jot went through that door thousands of times because he worked at the legendary speed shop for over 30 years, "and I loved every minute of it," he says.
Jot Horne, "the 'E' is silent," Jot joked, was born in 1925, raised in Bell, California, and attended nearby Huntington Park High School. Jot, along with the usual academic classes, took shop classes making wood patterns for casting aluminum. That skill helped him later in the speed equipment business.
Before World War II, street racing was rampant in Southern California (sound familiar?); of course dragstrips wouldn't exist for another decade. Jot, without a legal place to go racing, went street racing. He won 18 races in a row. I bought my Model A coupe from a used car dealer for $75. It had a Cragar overhead valve conversion head on it. I found a roadster body, took the coupe body off, and put the roadster body on the A. That was common in those days because the bodies were easy to stumble on. I did it over a weekend. Later, I put a Ford V-8 Flathead in the roadster that we called an A/V-8.
Drag it Out
"I hung out at the Clock Drive In in Bell and I'd pick off guys to race or vice versa. I raced after dark mostly around the Bell/Maywood area and we used to go out to Turkey Valley (El Monte, where ranching was the core of its economy) to race on a real straight road. The place was packed with racers from all over. I got arrested when I couldn't stop while racing, hit a fence, and knocked it over. I just took off, ditched the car in an abandoned barn, and the cops found it and impounded my roadster."
That was Jot's wake-up call ending his racing on the street. There was an alternative, he learned. "I had a neighbor, who was older than me. He had a Winfield head on his Model A engine. He invited me to go with him to Muroc in 1939. Boy, I was hooked. What a beautiful place to race, but shortly after the Army took it over. I went to El Mirage a couple of times as a spectator before I went into the Navy, which I enlisted in when I was 17."
"When I got out of the Navy in 1946 I went to work for the Drake brothers. I knew Stanley Drake and his brother (John), who were Dale Drake's (Meyer-Drake) nephews. We did some finish work on the Drake two-cylinder Midget engines. I was never a qualified machinist but I did general machining for them. I didn't stay there too long. They were paying me 95 cents an hour. I passed Bell Auto Parts at 3633 East Gage Avenue in Bell hundreds of times when I was a kid and saw all that racing stuff in the window. I went over there one day and I told Roy Richter I wanted a job. Roy offered me $1.25 an hour. I took it. When I first started at Bell, I worked in shipping then they put me on the counter."
Bell Auto was already legendary in 1946 when Jot hired on. According to Jot, celebrities like Clark Gable would frequent Bell Auto to buy Cragar speed equipment back in the day.
"Juan Manuel Fangio (five-time Formula 1 world champion) from Argentina walked in alone around 1954 and bought a racing Ford Model B four-cylinder engine with a Hal dual-overhead cam head on it. I think he paid $500 for it. He must have heard it was there. He couldn't speak English. We boxed the engine up for him and he slipped us each $1 tip for cerveza," Jot laughed.
"We sold a lot of Ford Flathead V-8 parts after the war, Edelbrock being number one because of Vic's success at the lakes and in Midgets using his heads and intake manifolds. Guys using Edelbrock were going faster. We sold a lot of Isky cams, Harman and Collins cams, and Winfield cams ... pretty much those three, and a lot of Spalding ignitions."
Jot's assignment behind the counter was made to order for this experienced hot rod builder. "I built up the counter business. We had a counter loaded with used speed equipment, some on consignment. Cragar heads, racing engines, superchargers, even nose pieces off of Midgets for sale.
Jot (behind the candy machine...
Jot (behind the candy machine in 1955) knew that racers and rodders frequented Bell Auto Parts for a different version of candy-speed equipment. The hanging Bell helmets, called the 500, were being manufactured in a garage behind the parts store in 1954. They multiplied by the tens of thousands in the coming years. Eventually all USAC drivers at Indy, Ontario Motor Speedway, and Pocono would strap one on.
Wild isn't it? Jot had an...
Wild isn't it? Jot had an affinity for T roadsters and teamed up with fellow Bell Auto Parts buddy Norm Taylor to build another '27 T, the "Airoadster", in 1950. Half buried under the cowl is a single-overhead cam 441-inch aircraft six-cylinder Ranger engine mounted upside down. The engine was inverted in the P.T. 19 Trainer (crank on top, cylinders on the bottom), which allowed the prop to be higher on the tarmac.
Forget the radiator, it was...
Forget the radiator, it was air cooled. Jot knew that military aircraft engines were high tech (this one had roller rockers) and cheap after World War II. Jot paid a C-Note for the 7.2L and they threw in the whole plane. With the crank mounted 6-71 GMC blower, room for the driver was almost an afterthought.
The limited-edition Kookie...
The limited-edition Kookie Kar from the Danbury Mint has brought new attention to Jot's intake manifold that Norm Grabowski plopped on his'52 Cad. Jot made less than a hundred intake manifolds divided between the Cad, Chrysler Hemi, Ford Y-Block, and Olds overheads. "I originally made the manifolds for superchargers and converted some intakes to run four Stromberg 48 carburetors over the siamese ports of the Cad and Olds engines."
There was the Moon pedal and...
There was the Moon pedal and the Horne pedal. If manufactured today the cool Horne masher would still be in high demand.
Hidden under the louvered...
Hidden under the louvered '27 T hood (aerodynamics overruled showing the glitzy motor) was a stunning four valves per cylinder Model J Duesenberg. The twin-cam straight-8 engine produced 335 lb-ft of torque at just 500 rpm. Painted red and blue with its eight chrome stacks and handmade radiator shell from a Bell Auto Parts customer, Jot's creation was an ear-popper. He competed in the '49 1st Bonneville Nationals setting a record of 127.565 for the "D" Roadster class with the Doozy bolted to '32 'rails. "It was something ... the racket that it put out," Jot laughed.