Every hot rodder's dad should...
Every hot rodder's dad should own a gas station, and Dick's dad did. "He built it right next to our property," Dick laughs, "and I built my Model A there. Dad sold it before the war began." That's Dick (about 12) with his dog, Toppy.
Dick Megugorac, from Peoria, Arizona, and Bob Wenz, from Los Gatos, California, were inseparable in the early '40s. They hung out together at Santa Monica High School, they raced together on the street, and they raced as fast as their gas pedals would let them at the dry lakes. Bob was Dick's best man when he married his high school steady, Lois. The two were inseparable, that is, until life separated them.
Strangely, both had attended their friend, former Low Flyers member, Phil Remington's affair at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum for the unveiling of Dan Webb's recreation of Remington's Modified during the L.A. Roadsters Show in 2010, but because of the large number of attendees neither got close enough to recognize one another.
Dick wanted an OHV four-cylinder...
Dick wanted an OHV four-cylinder head on a '32 Ford B-block so bad that he traded his '29 Model A for this '30 Ford roadster with the Cragar. "I drove the Cragar at El Mirage, had trouble with the motor, got tired of pulling the motor, and finally put the Flathead V-8 in it."
Of all things, the writing of this story (with a bit of sleuthing thrown in) brought the two friends back together after over 30 years. (But that's another story.) It occurred to me it would be fitting to combine their stories for Rod & Custom.
It's almost as though the dry lakes were created for young hot rodders like Dick and Bob. Circle track racers Ed Winfield and Earl Mancell discovered Muroc, a hard dry lake bed located in the Antelope Valley, in the early '20s for testing, prompting Mancell to organize the first Land Speed meet at Muroc Dry Lake (Edwards Air Force Base) in 1927, which was the beginning of a new form of motorsports.
The Great Depression made car builders like Bob and Dick scratch for every penny, but that didn't diminish their ability or desire to bolt together their rides from homeless parts.
That single '39 Ford taillight...
That single '39 Ford taillight wasn't a ticket maker because early Ford standard models from 1933-40 only had one taillight. Dick would be in the hoosegow today because that plate was off his dad's pickup. Dick could never get the Modified registered and finally sold it.
The drivers/builders were mostly high schoolers from working-class families; the "gow jobs" they drove were lightning rods to the authorities, which made the lakes a haven away from the fuzz. It was flat, and it was free ... well almost. More importantly, those bygone days led to long-term friendships, businesses (Hilborn Fuel Injection and Iskenderian Cams are still going strong today), and yes, marriages.
Dick's father opened a Signal Oil gas station on his property, which every young hot rodder dreams of: Imagine walking from your house to the lube rack to work on your '29 Model A roadster even before you got a driver's license.
But hot rodding wasn't just a guy-thing-girls were hot rodders, too. After all, there was room for two in those "hot irons," which brings us to a high school girl who lived where the air was filled with the smell of the sea, Santa Monica, California.
"At 15 years old," Lois Megugorac begins, "my boyfriend had me in his parents' garage working on his hot rod. He had me putting the rings on the pistons, then putting them in the block and tapping them in with a wooden hammer handle." Lois is referring to her one and only, Dick Megugorac.
At 6 feet, 4 inches, Dick...
At 6 feet, 4 inches, Dick needed every inch his Modified could spare. Dick chopped the frame, moving the rear crossmember to shorten the wheelbase. His close friend (particularly when riding shotgun), Bob Wenz, would later become his best man. This photo captures the essence of hot rodding where it all began at the dry lakes of Southern California. Dick ran 99 mph in spite of his wind resistance at El Mirage. The silt and clay of El Mirage took its toil on the Modified's windshield. One advantage of being way-tall was Dick didn't need it. This is how November and 2,800-foot elevation looks at El Mirage-cold and windy. That's Dick's girlfriend, Lois (with the scarf), and Bob's girlfriend, Virginia.
Megugorac? Doesn't ring a bell? How 'bout "Magoo"? No, Dick isn't nearsighted, nor does he sound like Jim Backus. "Everyone kind of mumbled my last name," Dick says, "so Magoo came out of it."
Lois wasn't just a pretty grease maiden, she could sew as well-oil cloth, that is. Dick's '29 roadster was upholstered with blue oil cloth that Lois stitched for her steady.
Dick's ride, when he entered high school, was his Modified. "I didn't drive it every day because I was always screwing with it," Dick laughs. "I'd take the plate off my dad's pickup and slap it on. I could never get it registered. When my dad was doing construction, he didn't use the Pontiac so I would take that to school."
"I paid $5 for the body," Dick says. "There wasn't a lot of money in those days. It was ugly till I finally got some paint on it. Believe it or not, I had the fastest Flathead V-8 in Santa Monica and that's what got me in the Low Flyers."
Bad Hair Day
As you can see by the photos, Dick being 6 feet, 4 inches, always had a bad hair day driving his Modified, but bad hair for his sister, Annie-no way. Besides being Dick's race car, the Modified moonlighted as the family (get-me-to-work-on-time) commuter.