"That was the fad then. You...
"That was the fad then. You put the canvass underhood, put the hood down, of course you cut a hole for your head, pull the rest of it back, put the back rumble seat lid down on it, and you had a nice tight cover. Open the door and crawl underneath, stick your head out and away you go. That was a necessity," Danny laughs, "to let people know you had a race car."
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."
Wally Parks wrote this rare...
Wally Parks wrote this rare timing slip in pencil for the L.A. Gophers in June 1942. By government decree all racing was stopped in the United States in June of that year because of the war, but that didn't stop racing on the street. The California Highway Patrol asked Wally Parks, an officer with SCTA, to help organize this speed event at an airstrip that was completed in 1942 at the Ontario Airport. Soon Parks would head off to war in the Pacific and Danny and his fellow SCTA members would be scattered around the world. Danny considers this one of his prized possessions.
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.
"I got the roadster in 1936....
"I got the roadster in 1936. I knew I was going to race it but I had a girlfriend and I had to take her places so I made a kind of street racer out of it. It had the B-block four-banger in it when I got it. I hopped the motor up with a Riley four-port (OHV conversion head) but of course when the Ford V-8 came out that was a whole new world. I eventually put the V-8 in my roadster."
"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."
"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.
"My '32 had a Thickstun manifold...
"My '32 had a Thickstun manifold (they were located at 2002 W. Washington in L.A. before the war). The stacks were straight down, which gave you a lot of velocity into the 97s."
"That 270 Offy I'm working...
"That 270 Offy I'm working on was for Nat Rounds' rear-engine Champ Car. I worked on the chassis after they got it going and after I rebuilt the Offy. I went through it and changed the clearances, had Ed Winfield do the cams. It never made the Indy 500 because it weighed 2,200 pounds ... 400 pounds too heavy. The Offenhauser engines were a complete mystery to the average mechanic in those days. They were accustomed to getting the cylinder heads off of a Flathead V-8 in nothing flat, but with the dual-overhead cam Offenhauser, you had to disassemble it very carefully, take the crankshaft out through the flywheel end, all that stuff. I worked for Emil Diedt (famed Champ Car fabricator) and Lujie Lesovsky (metal shaper extraordinaire) at 53rd and Figueroa in L.A. They were master craftsmen."
Before SCTA organized the...
Before SCTA organized the meets, Muroc was a dangerous place, not from a racing standpoint, but from cars blasting across the lakebed from all directions. Danny shot this photo at Muroc in 1934 of a head-on. As Danny stated, "No crowd control."