Wally Parks, the future editor...
Wally Parks, the future editor of Hot Rod, was president of SCTA when Don cranked off those impressive speeds at the lakes in 1946. Yes, that tall guy behind the counter who just opened his speed shop knew a thing or two about speed.
“Don had a home up in the hills of Glendale. I had to go over there one time on a Sunday morning early for some reason. Don answered the door. He wanted to show me his rose garden. The inside of the house was very neat because of his wife—who, by the way, was quite a looker. I go out behind his house and it’s terraced about three levels and at the very back you could look over north Glendale. His rose garden didn’t have one leaf out of place. It was immaculate!
“When Sherm Gunn and I opened up M&S Welding, I’d work at Blair’s then go to our shop and work there at night. Gunn was a mechanic at a car dealership in Pasadena. We were doing a lot of production work for Ford Obsolete in Rosemead, axles, radius rods, and it just got more and more and more. Plus I got to do more sophisticated stuff on race cars and we started building the Funny Car chassis. I left in 1970.”
Phil Lukens, owner of Blair’s, had a friend who he was to meet at Blair’s and found out they needed help in the chassis shop; Lukens started the next day.
“I was doing straight axles; we were doing nothing but straight axles for years. When I became foreman in the chassis shop, which included muffler work, I had five guys working for me. Total, we probably had 12-14 people working at Blair’s. There were two people in the office, two counter guys, and Don. There was a driveshaft department, machine shop, dyno shop, and the chassis shop. We put a lot of work out of the shops.” Lukens has been at Blair’s ever since, having purchased the business from Don in 1975.
“There was an opening at Blair’s and I went to work in January 1962 out back in the fabrication shop,” Robby Robison of Arcadia begins. “I had learned how to weld in high school. Everybody started at the bottom.
“Customers would come in having an idea of what they wanted and we would fulfill their needs either with our engineering or theirs. We would take a stocker and change the engine or the drivetrain with different axles, front or rear.
“Blair didn’t get upset very often. Oh, he’d fire us about three or four times a year because of a lot of shenanigans that went on in the place. But when you came back from lunch it was business as usual. We’d set each other on fire. You didn’t carry a rag in your back pocket or it would be on fire before the day was out. Of course new guys didn’t know that. There was always somebody lighting somebody on fire in the back where I worked. Don would get on the intercom and say, ‘Outside … outside, do I smell fire out there?’ We’d say, ‘We’re good,’ and Don would say, ‘I smell smoke!’
“On Saturdays, the minute that Don would leave for home and his Chevy was out of sight, we’d start working on our own stuff. Or we’d have a Destruction Derby.
“Don would buy cars from a couple of wrecking yards just to get the components out of them. So we would use the cars on Saturday afternoons and go down the alley around the shop and T-bone the cars on our figure-eight track. Or we’d go across the street to a defunct restaurant that had a tenth of a mile paved oval around the building, which was the original parking lot, and we’d race go-karts over there. At night we’d go to Fontana or Irwindale to race or Lyons on Sundays. You could drag race three or four days a week.
“Don would come to work on Monday and the cars would all be beat up. We’d blame it on the local vandals. He knew what happened to them, but if they got banged up too bad he wasn’t too excited about that. We’d cut the cars up, call the wrecking yard, and have them come get them and they would buy them for scrap.