Makes your mouth water doesn't...
Makes your mouth water doesn't it? Jim bent the header pipes but Ronnie Ward (Roger's brother) welded them. "Ronnie was a hell of a welder," Jim says. He has treasured this photo of his engine enough to carry it for some 60-plus years in his wallet. That beautiful "full house" banger served Jim with distinction. Except to freshen it up, it never left the company of his Model A roadster.
"My roadster sat in my mother's back yard for seven years. My brother Earl said, 'let's take it out to the drags.' Florence didn't want me to take it but I was hardheaded and went drag racing anyway. I got a trophy first time out, windshield on it and all, at the San Fernando Drag Strip-87 in the quarter."
Jim's hardheaded refusal to sell his roadster paid off at Famoso Drag Strip. "I took the radiator out of the roadster to try and lighten the thing up; I had just the top of the hood on it, and took the sides off. I had quick-release springs on the hood to hold it down. I went down the strip and the hood came up, I got off it and the hood went down. I got on it and it came up again. Got out of it and I thought I'd better get going. It finally blew off, and I tried to catch it, but the hood hit me in the head," Jim laughs. "It went 83 mph."
Jim ran nine times at the drags and collected six trophies. We can only speculate, had Jim decided to continue drag racing with his early successes, he might have been known as "B-Block Bowden."
Soft-spoken Jim Bowden is truly part of the great generation of hot rodders. Jim is not only a war hero who endured life-threatening hardships as a POW, but represents what early hot rodders were all about. When called upon to serve, they put the hot rods away and fought for their country with valor. They came home and went to work building this country.
Jim got out of the business but kept the property, which is leased out. Jim and Florence retired to Hesperia in 1994.
Jim was not a frequent racer, or a well-known one, but when Jim did compete he left his mark as his trophies attest. Jim raced when he and hot rodding were young. Both can be proud of their heritage. To call Mr. Bowden an unsung hero would be an understatement. Jim, you're a great American and I'm proud to have written your story.
Jim has never returned to the dry lake since the last time he ran in 1949. I will see to it that Jim and I are at the El Mirage meet May 2011.
The End: Ready for its new...
The End: Ready for its new owner, Bob Brown. Jim's '31 was towbar'd away from its home at Occidental Garage June 7, 1965, to begin anew. Jim lost track of the car after that. The price? You don't want to know! If anyone out there knows where it is today, please let us know.
Sixty-plus years evaporated...
Sixty-plus years evaporated away to 1948 as Jim held his prized Rev's trophy. If just for an instant, they were young again as the thrill of that day came back to him. We're honored that you have shared your story and priceless photos with us.