Otto Crocker: Father Time
When Burt Munro does his climactic run down the salt in ‘Worlds Fastest Indian’, you see those big, circular clock dials spinning, and the name “CROCKER TIMER” is right on the face of the dial, capturing his world speed record. It’s hard to appreciate in today’s world of electronics, but in the early days of auto racing (up till 1949) timing records were calculated by a hand-held stopwatch, and were marginal at best.
J. Otto Crocker, a San Diego watchmaker, made it possible to accurately time these vehicles to within thousandths of a second for the first time, making new records highly accurate and virtually indisputable. The device consisted of 3 master electronic clock units with individual controls for recording speeds over progressive distances. A photocell beam tripped the clocks at the quarter mile (after the 2 mile start), mile mark 3 & 4, and at the finish line. The Crocker Timer went on to prove its worth at Bonneville, dry lakes, boat racing, and later at the drags.
There is very little written about this man behind the scenes, and I find only a few mentions here and there in the hot rod books. I don’t know if its possible to overstate how much Otto Crocker did to help establish organized motorsports racing, but “The Clocker”, as he was known, was dedicated to improving competition practices and give legitimacy to the record books. His timing devices were nothing short of milestone in the annuals of Hot Rod History…