The late Bob Higbee, SCTA...
The late Bob Higbee, SCTA Chief Starter, speaking with Jim in 1962 at El Mirage. Higbee gave the OK to Jim an untold number of times to begin the run down the course over the years at Bonneville and El Mirage. “I built that square rollbar and started running El Mirage in 1962 in the Street Roadster Class with the Flathead V-8. They didn’t have a Street Roadster Class at Bonneville when I took the car there in 1969, so I ran Gas Roadster and I had the record Saturday morning at 124.040 mph and sent them home,” Jim laughs.
When he got out of school he worked at a gas station. There was a ’40 Ford Tudor for sale. Jim bought it after selling the Model A, which sat on the street for years till it finally got hauled to the junkyard. He started drag racing the ’40: “I was doing a lot of street racing. I ran it at Santa Ana in 1954 with the Flathead V-8 with two carburetors and nothing else. That was back in the days when they drag raced four abreast.
“I wanted something more powerful. I was hanging out at Automotive Specialties. The more I hung around guys with cars in high school and guys like [owners] Bill and Jerry (Bill Fowler and Jerry Eisert) the more I learned about working on cars. In Pennsylvania cars were only to get you back and forth to church and to work. My mother drove in Pennsylvania but she never drove when she moved to California.
“This police officer came to our club meeting one night and he had this association over in Maywood called the Police Officers Car Club of America; I still have a decal on my toolbox. He wanted clubs to race off the street, not on the street. He had a track built on vacant lot on the corner of Slauson Avenue and Eastern Avenue in Maywood near the Chrysler assembly plant and the Lincoln/Mercury plant. He got Bethlehem Steel to donate the land where we raced.”
That’s circle track chauffer...
That’s circle track chauffer Jim going into a turn in 1995 with his Midget at a Western Racing Association (WRA) vintage race. Jim got what was left of his Midget from Don Edmunds, which had a cowl, the frame, plus a front and rear axle (Jim took care of the rest). The chassis is a rare rail-type frame that Frank Kurtis made in the late ’30s before switching to tube chassis in the ’40s. It originally had a Studebaker flat-six in it, and then in 1947 a Ford V-8/60 was installed. Jim replaced the Flathead with a 110 Offy. “In the ‘40s it was running Gilmore and places like that,” Jim says.
“Bill Fowler set me up! I was racing my ’40 sedan with an Olds engine, I was spitting out gearboxes, rearends, and drive axles. I’d have to take it to Automotive Specialties to get it fixed. I was working for U.S. Rubber and I had to have a way to get to work. One night Fowler and I were out cruising the boulevard and we went up to Tiny’s Drive-In and a ’34 three-window, full-fendered coupe pulled in. I didn’t know Bill was setting me up. He said ‘Jim you ought to have a car to get back and forth to work and you should have a car for racing. Every time you blow that SOB up on a Saturday night or Sunday, you have to have it towed into our shop and we have to bust our butts to get it done by Tuesday so you can go to work.’ I said, ‘What do you have in mind?’ ‘You know, a coupe like that ’34 that just pulled in, or a roadster.’ ‘If you could find me a roadster, I’d buy it.’ ‘I happen to know that a bunch of kids tore a ’29 Model A all apart and they’ve lost interest in it. You can buy it for a $150.’ ‘SOLD!’”
“A couple days later Jerry Eisert had the Model A piled in the back of his ’40 Ford pickup. When the gaskets disbanded, the Flathead was taken out of the five-window. I went and got the engine and put it in the ’40 sedan and sold it.”
When Jim first got the roadster it didn’t have an engine. “I had a girlfriend who had an extra garage and I started working on it at her house.” Jim tried to stuff the Olds in his new roadster but soon realized that there was no way to put headers on it so he pulled the engine back out. Ed “Big Daddy” Roth bought it and put the Olds in “Tweedy Pie”, a ’23 Model T roadster.