What a Doozy
"It was a little slow business-wise...
"It was a little slow business-wise one day in 1964 when I started drawing a five-spoke wheel. Boy that looked pretty good, so I took the drawing to Roy. I told him we should go with this because Mickey Thompson was selling 200 of his Radar wheels a day." Cragar, known to the hard-core hop ups, would soon be known around the world because of the Cragar S/S thanks to Jot.
Jot would spectate no more and became a member of the SCTA racing club the Gear Grinders where they met once a month in a saloon in Bell.
"I saved up quite a bit of money during the war, being overseas and all. I bought a channeled '32 roadster that had a Ford Flathead V-8. I drove it to work. I replaced the Flathead with a Model J Duesenberg engine. I saw an ad in the paper. A Mr. Barbie owned a Coca-Cola distributorship for Southern California. He had a speed boat with two Duesenberg straight-eight, dual-overhead cam engines with four valves per cylinder in it. I bought the one engine for $450 and I could have had the second one for $400. At that time I didn't realize the gold mine that I might have had later. We put four Stromberg 48 carburetors on it, an aircraft magneto, and exhaust stacks instead of the manifold. The machinists at Bell built me a special quick-change rearend so I could change the gears quickly. We boxed a '32 Ford frame and put a Deuce roadster body on it."
Later, Jot removed the Deuce body and replaced it with a '27 T roadster body in 1948. "I put a T body on the '32 frame because it was easier to run a belly pan and it was slipperier, which I know was because I went from 130 mph to 143 at El Mirage just by changing bodies," Jot stressed.
"Working at Bell we heard that SCTA was planning a meet at a place called Bonneville. Being a member of the Gear Grinders I decided I was going to go. I flat-towed the T with a towbar, which is how I got it to the lakes. It was quite a ways and we spent the night in Tonopah, Nevada. When we drove out to the Salt Flats it was so flat, white, and so clean, we'd never seen anything like it."
Jot competed in the '49 1st Bonneville National, which had the crowd using ear plugs because the Duesenberg was deafening. Jot set a record of 127.565 for the "D" Roadster class. "It was something ...the racket that it put out," laughed Jot.
"The car was capable of higher speeds but I didn't have the opportunity to do it. The engine came into the cowl quite a bit and it was about 800 pounds, which made it good and stable because of the weight."
After the war, military aircrafts by the thousands were headed for the scrap heap, almost for the taking. Jot and Bell Auto Parts buddy Norm Taylor got wind of a P.T. 19 Trainer in 1951 at Hawthorne Airport for cheap. The Ranger engine was what they were interested in. "We heard some guys had been using the Ranger in Sprint Cars. We bought the whole plane for $100. We took the wings off and loaded the thing in Norm's pickup with the back of it sticking out and got it home.
The '27 T body they used was brand new. "A kid came in from Chicago, with an old panel truck, who had a '27 T body for sale. He said, 'you know anybody who wants to buy a brand-new body?' It was in a Ford dealer's store room. 'You think $30 is OK? We thought he'd want $100," laughed Jot, who snapped it up.
Horne Equipment Company
Jot left Bell Auto to start his own business to try his skillful hands at manufacturing intake manifolds initially in 1955. Jot was able to rent an empty building within 100 feet of Bell Auto Parts. Another rental building next to Jot's seemed to do most of its work at night. It turned out the tenants were counterfeiters.
The speed equipment Jot produced is highly sought after today, not just because of the limited quantity but the results they produced. The Horne intakes were getting the racers attention because they were making horsepower, which made the competition take notice. Jot heard that legendary speed equipment manufacturer Phil Weiand, who also produced blower kits, remark that Horne was a thorn in his side. "Phil had a dyno and he ran one of my intakes and it ran better than his," remarked Jot. "I made wood patterns for castings in high school, which helped me when I decided to start my own business-Horne Equipment Company."
Jot's father, a journeyman wood pattern maker (similar to a die maker) made the complex patterns required for the Horne intake manifolds. Jot made less than a hundred manifolds before returning to Bell. If you come across one, put it on your snap-it-up-right-now list.
With the aid of his father's expertise, Jot made blower manifolds, snouts, back plates, and top plates for the Cad, Ford Y-Block, Hemi, and Olds engines. He also made naturally aspirated manifolds for the Olds and Cad engines.
But that was only a few of the items that Horne produced during his one-year business venture. "I made about a hundred throttle pedals similar to the Moon pedal, a carburetor adapter to put a four-throat carb on a two-throat carburetor intake, and some beautiful stuff for the MG engine.
"Roy Richter owned an MG dealership in Bell so I made the valve covers and side plates for the MG. Almost everything I made when I had my own company I sold to Bell Auto Parts. I sold the Horne Equipment Company to Roy for $6,500 and returned to work for him after being gone about a year." (Roy was only interested in the blower manifolds, Chrysler being his main focus.)
Jot Doodles the Cragar Wheel
The renowned Cragar name, part of Bell Auto Parts, was located in the same brick building that founder George Wight built in 1928. Mr. Wight acquired the Cragar name, inventory, and patterns for the overhead valve conversion for the Model A engine in 1932 when the Cragar Corporation dissolved.
Cragar, while known to the hard-core hop ups, would soon be known around the world because of the Cragar wheel, thanks to Jot. "It was a little slow business-wise one day in 1964 when I started drawing a five-spoke wheel. Boy that looked pretty good, so I took the drawing to Roy. I said we should go with this because Mickey Thompson was selling 200 of his Radar wheels a day." (Prior to Jot sketching the Cragar S/S, an attempt at Bell Auto Parts to design and build a somewhat similar wheel was unsuccessful.)
"Weeks went on by and I kept needling Roy and said, 'how many times am I going to ask you about building the wheels before you fire me?' I had $4,500 to invest in the project, however Roy declined the offer and went on to build the first prototype."
The wheel business quickly expanded outgrowing the 2,500-square-foot Cragar side of Bell Auto, going down the street to a 6,500-square-foot building, eventually exploding the 4,000 wheels per day production into a 30,000-square-foot facility, plus the largest chrome plating facility on the West Coast, in just a few years. "They had back orders up the kazoo," Jot laughed.
If you're wondering if Jot got a piece of the action, he did, in a round-about way. "Roy gave me and Johnny Glew, who also worked for Roy, a third of Bell Auto Parts and Desert Dynamics that manufactured off-road equipment, which Johnny and I developed. Johnny had the design side with the off-road winch and other products and I took care of the cataloging. We manufactured winches for off-road vehicles, rollbars, push bars, and gas tanks. At the same time Bell Auto's business was slowing quite a bit, having to compete with the big speed equipment parts warehouses and Roy was consumed with the Cragar wheel and Bell helmet business."
Jot, Johnny Glew, and a fellow named Jay Bowman then sold what was left of Bell Auto Parts to Charlie Strader, Jot thought in 1979. Jot sold Desert Dynamics to Johnny Glew and Dave Bowman approximately a year later. Jot spent a brief period working for Dick Cepek (off-road) tires and wheels, then called it quits.
With his hot rod life behind him, Jot and his wife Imogene quietly retired to several acres at beautiful Oakhurst, California, in 1984, close to the south gate leading to Yosemite.
Every hot rodder went to Indy...
Every hot rodder went to Indy when it was truly the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. That's Jot in the suit jacket: "I went to Indy in '51 for three weeks with a car running a 12-port Wayne Horning Chevy six-cylinder engine owned by Bill Johnson. We almost qualified it but the Offys were just too fast." The car returned in '53 and still failed to qualify.
Bell Auto Parts became a regular...
Bell Auto Parts became a regular advertiser in the SCTA Racing News. The talented art editor who drew the covers and ads for SCTA was Eldon Snapp. In this December '39 program the SCTA had just completed their first year as an association.
Jot was responsible for the...
Jot was responsible for the layout of an extremely detailed Bell Auto Parts catalog that covered Ansen motor mounts to wing nuts packed into 129 pages. But the Cragar wheel, which Jot designed, was the big sales ticket.
Jot at the September 1948...
Jot at the September 1948 meet at El Mirage. Jot saved his money during the war and purchased this channeled '32 with a Ford Flathead V-8 shortly after he was discharged. "I drove it to work," says Jot, "until I saw an ad in the paper for a Duesenberg engine for sale. We ran the exhaust under the '32, then out the side when we switched the Deuce to a T body."
Early on, everyone who went...
Early on, everyone who went to Bonneville had their picture taken by this famous landmark, and so did Jot in 1950. Listed are previous record holders starting with Ab Jenkins in 1940 of 182.5 MPH.
The date on the back of this...
The date on the back of this photo is December 1951 with Jot waiting for his turn to run at El Mirage: "I ran 129 at El Mirage ... I think the record was 129. I wasn't able to make a return run, because of the wind, for a record."