That’s Don standing next to...
That’s Don standing next to his brother Bruce’s Deuce roadster at the lakes. They were as well known in SCTA circles as the Spalding brothers (Bill and Tom) and the Pierson brothers (Bob and Dick).
“I loafed for about a year, around my parents’ house doing little jobs on my car and the neighbor’s stuff. Then I went to work for a small parts store in Los Angeles. At that point I met Jack McGrath who also worked for the parts store and later became famous for racing in the Indianapolis 500. We both quit when we learned there was an auto parts store near there with a machine shop. They hired us and that’s where I learned to do machine work, such as operating a Boring Bar and a valve-grinding machine.
“They’d send me out to buy mostly Model A and B crankshafts from the wrecking yards. I’d check them out and buy them for $5 or $10 and take them back to the shop. They’d grind them and used them in rebuilt engines.
“I decided I wanted to go out on my own. My grandfather had left me a small amount of money and with that I was able to buy a lot in Pasadena and put up a building on Arroyo Parkway right after the war. I think it’s still there today. I started out with one employee and somehow started selling used speed equipment and racing fuel. Tim Timmerman started working for me and he began building engines.
“Then I first moved to the northeast part of Pasadena in the middle of the block on Foothill Boulevard in the late ’40s to a 2,000-square-foot building. I stayed there awhile and I got a chance to sell it to put a good down payment on the corner of Foothill and Daisy. My brother, Bruce, and I were going to go together on the property, but he was killed while he was a passenger during a drag race in Arcadia. I paid $30,000 for the building and property.
“That was my first race car,”...
“That was my first race car,” Don says. “In fact, one of my first cars period; my transportation car in 1939. Rodger Ward (’59 and ’62 Indy 500 winner) had a wrecking yard in South Pasadena. I lived a couple of miles from there. I drove it on the street and drove it to the lakes, took off the windshield and lights, and went 121 mph … I’m not sure if it was Muroc in 1939 or Harper that I ran. I ran a blower on an early 21-stud Flathead Ford engine. It was basically a stock engine with filled heads to build the compression. The blower that I was using was worn out and it was scraping the case, but it was close enough that it boosted the pressure some. Rodger opened a tire shop in Monrovia and drove for Vic Edelbrock and blew everybody away driving Edelbrock’s Midget when I knew him. Rodger’s brother, Ronnie, built my Sprint Car that won the CRA Sprint Car Championship.”
“When I moved, we dismantled the building down at the middle of the block and moved it down to the corner and that became the muffler shop. It is still there today. I had three muffler hoists, two underneath the roof and one outside.
“I was still dealing in a lot of used speed equipment, doing machine work, muffler work, and then we went into the chassis business. We built several match race drag cars.
“I got interested in circle track racing. That killed the drag racing also, as far as I was concerned, which only lasted a few seconds where circle track racing lasted a half-hour or so. At that point I had about 13 people working for me.
“I got a little bit antsy and decided I wanted to retire. I sold the business in 1975 to Phil Lukens who worked for me, and I retired. I tried to do my Sprint Car racing and finally realized I didn’t have enough money and went back to work.
“In about 1985 I opened a shop in Glendora, California, that specialized in engine rebuilding. We didn’t have any parts department there. I did pretty well in that and I was able to buy another piece of property in Covina, California, and put up a good-sized industrial building in downtown Covina.
“It’s amazing to me how many fellows who worked for me did so well on their own. Nice kids from nice homes, no riffraff … oh, there were a lot of cutups! I didn’t actually interview anybody for a job; I asked what they could do then I’d say, ‘go to work’. It was on-the-job training just like Pete Eastwood. Eastwood never worked for anybody before, he just picked up what he knew from his dad who restored Model Ts, but he also picked up what he knew working for me.”
Mike Hoag of Brea, California, hired on in 1965-66, and was in charge of the chassis shop where, among other products, they turned out tube axle assemblies for the ’55-57 Chevys by the score (the kits, including leaf springs, sold for $132.50): “Don Blair was probably the best guy I have ever worked for in my life,” Hoag, who stayed at Blair’s four years before forming M&S Welding with Sherm Gunn, says.