Danny ran this Model B block...
Danny ran this Model B block with a Riley four-port overhead-valve conversion head with a Model C Ford crankshaft before putting a Flathead Ford V-8 in his roadster. (George Riley was an innovative machinist and inventor who manufactured what Henry Ford should have done in the first place for his four-cylinder engines.)
"I wouldn't have gone up to the high desert to sightsee except to go to Muroc. When I got there, I couldn't believe it-those Joshua trees growing out of that dry sand. I started going in 1934. After a couple of times going up there to watch, I started to compete. I could run as good as those guys could so why not run with them? They gave us a timing slip. I stuck mine on the righthand corner of the windshield and parked my car in front of Alhambra High, so everybody had to look at it," Danny laughs.
"We'd go up to Muroc on a Saturday afternoon after work, camp out under a blanket, wake up at dawn, and be ready to go.
"We used to race four abreast. George Riley was putting on the meets at that time. As I recall, I went 109 mph at Muroc. For a street highboy with no lights, no nothing, that was pretty good. Of course I drove the car there.
"We weren't familiar with alcohol as a fuel then, but Bob Rufi was the first guy to run alcohol. We found out he ran alcohol because he spilled some and it removed the paint.
"I was working at Northrop Aviation in their machine shop in Hawthorne when the war broke out. I had a sister who was a secretary in the Air Corps for some general and I couldn't live with that," Danny laughs, "so I quit my job and joined the Navy as a machinist. I was in the South Pacific for two-and-half years and came home in one piece.
Danny grew up near the old...
Danny grew up near the old Legion Ascot Speedway in Alhambra along with future Indy 500 winner Sam Hanks. Both got into Midget racing, but it was too dangerous for Danny. "I found out racing Midgets was the quickest way to get killed," he laughs. "Racing Stock Cars was safer. That was at Carroll Speedway. The Merc belonged to Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Inglewood, Bob Estes. I drove for him when his regular driver was racing track roadsters and the dates conflicted."
"I got a job as a mechanic at Art Hall Lincoln Mercury in Long Beach and worked up to service manager. At the same time my friend and neighbor Sam Hanks got me interested in Midget racing. Hanks was doing quite well and he got me some business rebuilding Offy engines.
"The engines were a complete mystery to the average mechanic in those days. They were used to getting the cylinder head off of a Flathead 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."
A friend of Danny's worked in a gas station and bought a Kurtis Midget chassis. Danny put an Offy in it: "I tried Midget racing. Boy, I found out that was the quickest way in the world to get killed," he laughs.
Road to Detroit
"I worked at Esquire Motors in L.A., which was a Chrysler dealer; the owner had a stock car. One day the driver didn't show up so I drove it. They said, 'Why don't you keep driving this thing?' I raced at Ascot, Carroll Speedway, and the high bank one-mile track at Oakland Speedway. It was a '50 Plymouth standard coupe. The only reason they had that Plymouth coupe was Johnny "Madman" Mantz (not "Madman" Muntz) had won Darlingtom with a Plymouth just like it. It didn't weigh anything and it handled well. It was fast even against the Ford Flathead V-8s with its Flathead six-cylinder engine.
"So that kinda put me on Broadway with Dodge. The Dodge people said why don't you go to work for us?" Danny was hired as chief test driver/chief engineer in charge of its performance program by Bert Carter in 1953. Wally Zierer was the general automotive engineer who said this in 1956: "Danny Eames and his brains were an asset to Dodge's racing programs."
That's Danny in a '50 Plymouth...
That's Danny in a '50 Plymouth standard coupe on the high-bank, one-mile track in Oakland, CA. Danny worked at a Chrysler dealership in L.A. as a mechanic and the owner's regular driver was AWOL. Danny got the call. The coupe was powered by a mighty Flathead six, but the Plymouth was light and handled well against the Ford Flathead V-8s. Danny did well enough to take over the ride and race at Carroll and Ascot Speedways.
"I was in the Mobile Economy Run and I won that twice in a Dodge getting 23.4 mph. We put the Hemi in that little Dodge and that was dynamite," Danny says.
Danny headed for El Mirage and set a speed record of 102.62 mph with the same car. Proving while getting good mileage, this '53 Dodge wasn't your Aunt Bee's Sunday-go-to-meetin' Dodge.
"They put me through the Chrysler Technical Institute and put me through charm school (he's not joking) for two weeks. The boss said 'Look, you're going to meet a lot of dealers and meet a lot of their wives so I want you to act like a gentleman.' They even taught me how to carve a turkey," Danny laughs.