Only a chosen few have kissed...
Only a chosen few have kissed the bricks at Indy, starting with Dale Jarrett who started the tradition after winning the Brickyard 400 in 1999. Jim goes to the Brickyard every seven years (or so) but if wanderlust for the Speedway gets too intense he brought some of the bricks home to make up the step to the entrance to his shop to ease the yearning. He may even kiss a few when no one is looking. (Culver Blocks with 1901 stamped on the face was one of 3.2 million bricks that made up the surface of the flat two-and-a-half-mile oval in 1909.)
The coupe changed hands a number of times before Jim acquired it, but it was Jim who got the car to handle and drive safely: “The coupe was a mediocre handling car at best,” Bill Fowler says. “Jim, by reworking the front steering geometry, was able to kill the lift that the car was getting. He took all the bumpsteer out of it, we didn’t even know what the term ‘bumpsteer’ meant at the time. It started going down the racetrack pretty straight after that.”
“I drove the ’34 mostly at the drag races and the thing was absolutely perfect but when I drove it at El Mirage. The handling problem reared its head and the car began to lift in the rear and it would start pirouetting on the front cross spring; it definitely wanted to hunt. Jim got it to handle.”
Jim, a member of the Gear Grinders, ran his faithful A-Bone roadster almost into the ground from 1961-68 at El Mirage, at the quarter-mile drags, and the SCTA half-mile drags at Riverside Raceway where he set four records.
That wasn’t a typo! SCTA went drag racing in the winter months at Riverside and Lions Drag Strip when the dry lakebed of El Mirage became a lakebed. Plus, Jim and racers like Al Teague (the multiple record holder who went 409.978 in 1991) went to a huge dry lake, 60 miles long in Laguna Salada in the Sonoran desert of Baja, where Jim set a record of 110 mph in the Street Roadster Class.
Jim got to Bonneville only to find out he couldn’t run the A in the Street Roadster Class there, only at El Mirage and the drags. They put him in Gas Roadster, which is a highboy with the engine set back into the cowl. “I ended up putting all those guys on the trailer and sending them home by Saturday (the end of Speed Week). I had the record of 124 mph with my 3/8x3/8 Flathead.”
Those car club plaques represent...
Those car club plaques represent Jim’s association with racing both as a young hot rodder and later a record holding Land Speed Racer. Jim helped revive the Gear Grinders in 1960-61, according to Jim with the late charter member Jim Lindsey’s guidance. Jim began calling around to members to become active again. The racing club was formed in 1938 and joined SCTA in 1940.
“Jerry Eisert built a 1/2x1/2 Ford Flathead V-8, put it in the ’34 coupe, and ran it on 90 percent nitro at all the local dragstrips. They painted it red and put Automotive Specialties on the hood, but Richard Stricker still owned the car.”
Jim painted the ’34 coupe blue and white as soon as he got it in 1970: “I didn’t like solid red. I ran it in 1971-73. I got the record with the Flathead, the same engine that was in the roadster. I had to redo the rollbars to make it legal, and I had to move the fuel tank to the nose because you couldn’t have it next to the driver.
Then I went to Dean Moon and Fred Larsen (Moon Equipment) and we started talking about a front-mounted blown Chevy. I took the blower off of Stricker’s Cadillac engine and put it on the Chevy engine. I rebuilt Moon’s engine in his roadster and he gave me everything I needed and Larsen picked out the parts for the blower setup. That’s when I started running a blown Chevy in 1976 at Bonneville. In 1978 I hurt the motor, so I went down into Wendover and bought a junkyard motor, put my blower, oil pan, oil pump … everything on the junker. So now the pistons are flush with the top of the deck. I was told to build the engine with 7:1 compression because of the supercharger. I ran it on straight alcohol. I ran 187 mph on that $20 motor. I got Bill Miller (Bill Miller Engineering, Carson City, Nevada) in to make me some rods and repaired the broken engine using them so the pistons were flush with the deck. I started going 190. I started learning a lot more about the 300-inch Chevy and ran 230 mph. The record was 238 and I never got closer than 230. I probably had 50 or 60 runs well over 200 mph, but that doesn’t count unless you break a record—you have to break a record in order to get into the 200 MPH Club.”