Young Danny Eames was a regular spectator at Legion Ascot Speedway in Alhambra, California. It was close enough to his parents' home to almost smell the benzene and Castrol R oil. What he saw and heard was enough to get him hooked on circle track racing.

Ascot was for professional racers and Danny was just a hop-up who wanted to go fast at the time. So when word hit the streets about a place called Muroc, it was enough for Danny to gas up and go: "I went to Muroc in 1934," he begins. "Of course it was in the middle of nowhere. We'd sleep overnight on a blanket under the car. It was safer at night in case some idiot racing around wouldn't run over us. There was no traffic control, no organization, no nothing. We just showed up, they'd pick three or four guys at about your same category, and you'd race against one another.

"We just wanted to race and the cops were getting pretty tough about street racing in town. We had to go someplace where we could just hang out and race without being hassled. The course was a mile long, but the first quarter of the course was measured so they could check you for the quarter and for the full mile."

The Beginnings
Danny Eames (born in 1918) was raised in Alhambra. His father was mechanically minded and initially owned a small grocery store. Mr. Eames later worked at Northrop Aircraft Corporation as a parts analyst. Danny majored in manual arts at Alhambra High, which consisted of mechanical drawing, shop math, machine shop, and welding, graduating in 1936.

"I always liked cars," Danny says. "I used to go to Legion Ascot and watch them race. Then a guy gave me a Model T chassis. I monkeyed with it for a while. I just kept getting more and more involved until I got my '29 Model A. Then I went over to Bell Gardens and met George Riley.

"I finally saved enough money while in high school to buy a four-port Riley overhead-valve conversion head for about $160. They were expensive! But I got the intake manifold, the exhaust manifold, and two Winfield carburetors with the deal.

"I finally sold the Model A for $175 and bought the '32 from a car dealer. It was sitting on the back row, it didn't have a top, and nobody wanted it so he sold it to me."

Danny's Alhambra High School class of 1936 must have also had a class for race car drivers. Sam Hanks ('57 Indy 500 winner) was in Danny's graduating class, as were Ray Crawford (won the Stock Car class driving a Lincoln in the Mexican Road Race in 1954, and also invented the check stand at his Crawford's Market) and Don Francisco (dry lake competitor and famed technical editor for Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Motor Trend magazines).

"Of course the place to hang out before the war was Bell Auto Parts. It was a fun place to go," Danny says, "and you could always find something you needed.

"Everybody had to work in those days. This was during the Depression ... there wasn't any money. We had to be careful what we did with our money, but hot rodding was our relaxation.

"I worked at an auto shop in Alhambra called the Auto Specialty Shop. I learned a lot there as a mechanic. I learned to rebore the cylinders, grind cranks, and they did complete rebuilding so it was a great place for an apprentice to learn."

Muroc
"We used to go street racing on Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena. It was wide and long with no traffic. It was the place to race. I belonged to the L.A. Gophers and when I first went to Muroc dry lake I couldn't believe it. It was flat and smooth and big ... real big. I was amazed at such a place. When the government shut it down we went to Harper Dry Lake, it was further but it was worth it.

"I just got my driver's license when I first went to Muroc. You'd go to the drive-in and try to choose off a drag race and you'd hear someone say something about Muroc next weekend. Hey, that's great ... I'm going to go. That's how it started, word of mouth.