Tiny Tim about to put the pedal down thanks to one of his older brothers. Their parents ne
Tim Timmerman was one of the first employees to work at Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena at Don’s location on Arroyo Parkway before Blair moved to Foothill Boulevard and Daisy. Tim later became one of the premier racing engine builders in Southern California for over 60 years. Tim raced his hot rod wheel to wheel with some of the biggest names in auto racing in the ’40s.
My father never owned or even drove a car, Darrell Tim Timmerman of Santa Ana, California, begins. He was a butcher by trade and wasn’t interested in cars; he took the trolley to work. My dad was in his fifties when I was born in 1921. I was the last of nine children, growing up in Canton, Oregon, near Portland.
Even if Mr. Timmerman had an interest in an automobile, with the average wage of 22 cents an hour in the United States, the price tag for a new Ford in the first full year of production in 1909 was out of his reach at a hefty $825. It would be a while before there would be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.
Hot rods and Harleys are like oil spots on the driveway—you can’t have one without the oth
Tim purchased his first car, a Model T, during the depression. It was a running roadster that he bought for $7.50. He was too young to have a driver’s license: I got it home and one of my buddies wanted to drive it. I let him take it and he came walking back. You know, they had three pedals; he hit the center pedal, which is reverse, going fast and screwed up the trans. And not knowing anything about cars, I finally took it to a blacksmith a block away from my folk’s house. We took the engine out and I sold it to him for 50 cents.
I got my ’29 Ford roadster when I was in high school. Jim Travers was from California and he drove up to Canton in his ’29 Ford roadster and we became acquainted. Jim’s dad had a foundry in town. I knew there was a lot of hot rodding going on in California; I knew it was the center of all the action. (Travers, along with Frank Coon, later formed Traco Engineering (TRAvers & COon), which became a major engine supplier to the Can-Am road racing series.)
Travers had a four-banger too, but it was warmed over with a Winfield head and cam. Mine was bone stock. He was going on about how exciting it was that he made it from L.A. in his four-cylinder. I asked him when he went back to L.A., if I’d send him money would he get me a cam and head for my Model A engine? He said, Don’t do that, the guys down there are starting to put Ford V-8s in Model A’s. That’s the way to go.’ He talked me into it.
“That’s me when I had hair on my head at Carrell Speedway working on Manuel Ayulo’s carbur
I went and got a V-8 in a wrecking yard. I found a ’35 Ford Flathead and put it in my roadster. It just bolted right up to the trans. I was young and didn’t really know what I was doing. There weren’t any speed shops in Oregon before the war, but I did it. I really and truly believe I was the first one in Oregon to put a V-8 in a Model A.
I was in high school at the time and taking wood shop. I asked the instructor to help my buddy and me make a mold for an intake manifold for the V-8. He said he would because he liked the idea that we were trying something challenging like that. We took it and had it cast. It had two carburetors and it worked, Tim laughs.
After Tim built his A-V8, one of his buddies built one too. They heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor was attacked. Tim continues, He said let’s go out and volunteer. None of us wanted to go into the Army; we’re going to go into the Navy. On Monday we went and volunteered. They took those two guys but when they found out I had asthma they wouldn’t take me.
“I saw Tim’s bitchin’ black Deuce roadster with California plates blow by,” Tom Medley say
Tim (right) couldn’t remember the details of that carefree day with two of his Oregon budd
The guy standing on the passenger side of Tim’s Deuce roadster is Tom Medley. “There was a
When Tim backed into the fence at the horse track, his racer came home with a badge of cou
Tim’s ’32 never cooled off: Race on the street, sideways at Carrell Speedway, and then str
Want a quick lesson on how to chop a pickup top? Look carefully. That’s how!
Want a quick lesson on how to chop a pickup top? Look carefully. That’s how!
The Army guy right next to the Navy guy said, the Army will take you.’ The Army guy gave me a dirty look and stamped a paper and told me to take it downstairs. I took it downstairs and asked, what do I do now? Go home, you’re 4-F (not suitable for the military).’ I went to a doctor and he told me there was no cure for asthma so he said I should move to some place where it didn’t bother me.
Tim escaped the damp climate of Portland, Oregon (average rainfall 42.3 inches per year), heading south: I always wanted to come to California and as soon as I got here in 1944, the asthma went away. I moved to Highland Park and later to Pasadena.
Upholstery by Tom Medley. Yep, Medley was as much a righteous stitcher as a celebrated car
Tim’s first job when he got to California was working at a Burbank aircraft plant in the modification shop. But I wanted to start my own business down the road, so I started planning for it. A friend of mine traded me his stock engine for my race Flathead V-8 engine and $200. I went down and put that down on a Kwik Way Boring Bar. At that time I was boring engines nights and weekends for various shops and making payments on the machine.
I first met Don Blair at the dry lakes. He was working down in L.A., at the time, for a machine shop that did engine work and sold parts. Blair worked on the counter and said to me, come down and see if they’ll hire you.’ They did.
Blair and I used to drive to work together. He had the lousiest car radio I ever heard. I asked him, where did you get that thing? Blair said, What difference does it make? I got a good buy on it!’ (Blair was/is thrifty.)
Tim’s show-quality ’34 was on display at the first Motorama held at the Shrine Convention
I found out I was just a flunky tearing down engines and hot-tanking heads and blocks; I realized nothing was going on there. I told the owner I’d come in on weekends and work for nothing if he’d teach me to run the crank grinder. He wasn’t receptive to it so I got hot and told Blair I was going to look for another job. Blair said he knew somebody who might hire me.
It was Jack McGrath. He called his shop Quality Motor Rebuilders. Jack built half the engines used by the Gophers, Sidewinders, and the Outriders. He really taught me how to run the equipment, stroke cranks, cylinder block machining, and assembling engines.
When I was working for McGrath, I built my ’32 from scratch. I got a frame, frontend, and I found a straight roadster body at different wrecking yards. When I got that thing running with a bored and stroked engine, I don’t think I had over $500 in it.
Jack and I really hit it off. He taught me how to do machine work. After I built my ’32 Ford roadster, we’d go out street racing around 10 o’clock when most people were home from work and off the streets. We’d always go to a place where there was no intersection. You couldn’t do that stuff today too much traffic. Of course we also went together to El Mirage and ran.
“My first shop I started in 1953 was a rented building just down from Blair’s Speed Shop.
People don’t realize it today, but McGrath and most of the guys started out racing regular roadsters and a lot got totaled. McGrath ran his ’32 roadster and I ran mine, but after three races at Carrell Speedway I realized I couldn’t race and work at the same time. If I crashed the roadster I’d have no way to get to work. As the competition got stiffer, McGrath and everyone else switched to the lighter T roadsters. McGrath was racing at Gilmore and Carrell Speedway, but there were tracks all over the place. That’s when he closed his shop.
I went over to Blair and asked if he needed anybody. He said, You!’ I went to work for Blair on Arroyo Parkway. I did all of his engines. There was only one other guy who worked there; he called himself Remarkable Art Herd. He worked on chassis and on Blair’s race car.
Tim surveys the carnage on his ’35 Ford convertible when it was sideswiped by a hit-and-ru
“Boy I wish I had that car today,” Tim says. “I got that before the war; it had an automat
“That ’36 was stripped overnight after it crashed at El Mirage in 1946,” Tim states. “Peop
“My hill-climbing Harley was built at the factory specifically for hill climbing. It was c
Tim’s employer and friend Jack McGrath was known by the press as “King of the Hot Rods”. M
Where have all the roadsters gone, long time passing? Let’s see, no telling how many were
If you find a black ’32 Ford roadster with a salvaged title and signs of bodywork at the r
How does a hot rodder who’s enjoyed zipping through life for nine decades stay so young? Tim was quite an avid bicycle racer and unicycle rider and did so well into his eighties.
Blair would stand behind the counter selling new and used speed equipment by the hour. There was a lot of activity going on at Blair’s all the time. Guys would come to him with used speed parts because they knew he’d buy them. If I’d ask him where a particular part was, he’d say, It’s upstairs on the second shelf on the right.’ Don knew right where everything was.
The late Robert Petersen would come in all the time and talk to the guys about what was new in the way of hot rodding. He was trying to figure out what to put in Hot Rod magazine. He’d end up selling a few of his magazines to the guys in the shop. I worked for Blair for five years.
I decided to take a vacation and go back home and visit my folks. I drove my Deuce up to Canton. A bunch of guys wanted to street race me when they saw the California license plate. Then they told me about a race on a horse track in Yakima.
This rare photo of Bruce Blair with his brother Don was taken by Tim at the first SCTA pos
It was almost like a math equation: California license plate + hot rod = racer. That combo was a magnet for info-hungry Oregon hot rodders. Tim tracked down Travers because of his California plates on his ’29 roadster when he showed up in Canton. Now, Tim was the hot dog from hot rod country and everyone was all ears about the latest. It was one thing to read about the lakes and the roaring roadsters, but another to see a ’32 in the tin with a hint of Carrell Speedway clay and El Mirage dust still clinging to it. Naturally Tim and his Deuce roadster were real popular.
I kept making the payments on that boring bar all the time I was working for McGrath and until I quit working at Blair’s. Then I started my own shop in Pasadena.
Tim later became an innovator when it came to blueprinting engines in his new business: I went up to Foothill when Don moved there but I didn’t stay long. Don was very good to work for, but I just decided to start my own shop around 1953 and called it Tim’s Precision Engines, on Hudson Avenue in Pasadena.
Motors And Mufflers
Parts that Don didn’t machine or didn’t do he’d send to me. I moved only a half-mile down the street from Blair’s. Don would send me work because I had a balancer at the time; blue printing an engine was brand new then when I started.
Tim rented out half of his shop to Duffy Livingstone (Mr. Go Kart) and Roy Desbrow. Desbrow and I decided to go into business for ourselves. Livingstone begins. Tim had room in his shop, so we cut a deal with him and got half of the building. We called it Duff & Roy’s Mufflers. We didn’t stay too long; then we started to manufacture glasspack mufflers. We went to Monrovia and opened GP (glass packed) Mufflers. Vern Dad Taylor worked for Tim and was doing the porting and relieving.
Jack McGrath and Manuel Ayulo were as close as brothers and rarely was one mentioned witho
Livingstone purchased a warranty Chevy engine for $25 that was purposely rendered useless by the dealer by cranking the pistons down, breaking each of the skirts, hammering the front of the crank, and punching a hole in the side of the block.
After Duffy breezed through those irritants, Tim balanced and bored the motor from 265 to 283 ci, put bigger valves in some truck heads that Duffy scrounged, and produced a Ferrari killer on the road race circuits of Southern California in Livingstone’s ’24 T roadster.
Tim’s business was well known in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond for building quality engines for all forms of motorsports and of course for the street. Tim gravitated toward Chevy Corvette motors, which he knew well from a hands-on standpoint. Tim eventually moved his shop to Santa Ana and retired at the age of 81 after over 60 years in the field.
Tim, like all the hot rodders who grew up in hard times, never had his hand out except to shake yours. Tim worked nights, weekends, and during the day to achieve his goals.
Tim’s most cherished possession is this ’46 CRA yearbook where promoter Bob Ware wrote: “T
Tim rubbed shoulders, and wheels, with some of the future stars in Champ Car racing back i
On more than one occasion, Tim commented that it had been 70 years or so since he took the