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History The Catfish

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ryan, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. Ryan
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    Ryan
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  2. JeffreyJames
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    JeffreyJames Member

    Those days are pretty long gone huh? Lack of Money and Indy Racing are just two things that cannot coincide these days. I am surprised that they did not keep on the salt after having a taste of victory. Definitely a cool car and story.
  3. Harrison
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    Harrison Member
    1. 1959-1960 El Camino Owners
    2. The Airbag Connection

    Where do you come up with this stuff?

    I didn't know guys in Cali even knew what a catfish looked like.

    Great story.

    JH
  4. Tman
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    Tman Member

    Cool story.

    My dad had a chance to go to Indy back in the late 70's as crewman for his former Sprintcar buddies effort. Those were some of the last years an average Joe could scratch up a team together and make a try. Hank had 3 cars main,backup,and show. I still kick my dad for not going, things like family and his day job kept him here. Unfortunately they didn't qualify anyway.
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  5. chevnut
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    chevnut Member

    Thanks for the cool Read Boss.

    Anyone have any idea where the car is now? museum? or is it MIA?
  6. HOT ROD DAVE
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    HOT ROD DAVE Member

    very interesting reading, thanks for posting this great piece of history
  7. Gigantor
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    Gigantor Member

    Word.
  8. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    The car ran in AAA race at The Danbury, Ct. State Fair with the original body, there was a photo in the local paper years ago.
  9. studedudeus
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    studedudeus Member

    That story sounds, to me, a lot like the Sara Fisher story from Indy this year. Family and friends scraped together what they could, and finally got the car to qualifying. Had to qualify the car into the race to get enough to pay off those initial debts. Mangaged to get into the race, then got crashed out by another car.

    Just shows that if you still want to race badly enough, you can. But you have to take big risks to do it.

    Great story, and great photos. Thanks.
  10. Old Dawg
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    Old Dawg Member

    Hey! Thanks for posting the Sparks-Weirick "Catfish" story

    I may've posted this story before; but, here goes. In 1948, my parents rented a house in Pasadena, CA, next door to the Sparks. Art and Thelma Sparks had two sons, Arthur "Sparky" and Jackie. "Sparky" was my age (10), so we were playmates. At the back of the Sparks' property, Art Sr. had his personal shop. It was (and still is) a two story building (brand new), with the work area and garage downstairs. Upstairs was an office and storage. Mr. Sparks had his manufacturing facility (ForgeTrue Pistons) downtown. We kids had the run of the place, as long as we didn't get in the way, or touch anything in the machine shop. As I learned later, Joel Thorne and Sparks had "split the sheets"; and Paul Weirick had gone his own way. However, Sparks had an agreement with Thorne to maintain, and rebuild the Sparks Six engines. So, at any given time, there was at least one of those jewels sitting on a bench in the shop. Although I saw none of the famed Sparks Six cars, there was one older car (which I think was one of the "Poison Lil's") in a crate in the garage. We kids spent a lot of seat time in that crate. My dad, an architect, would get incensed, as every year, three to six months before Indy, the lights in Sparks' shop were burning 24/7. Drivers and mechanics, of all fame, were over there. Although my father was pissed, I was smitten by the "bug".
    That shop still stands. A high school buddy of mine owns the property. In that facility, he's currently totally reconstructing a race car, on which he was the original crew chief. Though I go in there, a couple of times a month; the place never ceases to evoke memories. I keep saying the joint ought to be declared a national hysterical site. He cringes.
    I currently race a 1932 vintage "big car", which has been shown (perhaps ad nauseum) in this forum. So, I still have that "bug".:)
  11. SUHRsc
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    thanks for posting ryan...some stuff i didnt know!
    cool history old dawg!
  12. Huh? ... Ryan's article states they went to Muroc (a dirt bed dry lake) ... did they also run the Catfish @ the Bonneville slat flats?

    I agree that this is definitely a cool car / story!
  13. Dawg ... neat stuff ... thanks for sharing
  14. Ryan
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    I haven't read anything about the car ever going to b-ville. However, it might have...

    As for muroc sand vs. b-ville sale... That's an easy mistake to make. Especially for folks back east... It's just a whole lot of space for most of us!
  15. paintfumesmahgee
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    paintfumesmahgee Member

    Cool stuff... wish I had a cool name like Art Sparks!! That's badass!!!
  16. plymouth1952
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    plymouth1952 Member

    I love this stuff its the roots that are the real story. Has anyony did a good story on Ascott raceway ? seen Evil jump 19 bus's there in 66.
  17. hlfuzzball
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    I heard a rumor back in the 1970's that the Catfish (or maybe only the body) was still stashed somewhere near Indy.

    Mac Miller, have you ever heard of this ? :confused:

    Tom
  18. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    Old Dawg, I always enjoy your posts here on the HAMB. Here is a photo of Joel Thorne in the Big Six, that sold at Pebble Beach last year. Is that the Art Sparks shop you mentioned in the background?

    Attached Files:

  19. autobilly
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    autobilly Member

    Kool story Old Dawg, for me it added a personal touch to Ryan's very interesting post. I could see you guys playin' in that shop. It's great that you still go there, sure has been a constant in your life. No wonder you cought the "bug".
  20. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    Ryan,Thank You for starting another great thread! When someone mentions The Catfish on the East Coast this is the car that comes to mind with most people. I strongly suspect that Pop Dryer copied the idea when he saw the Sparks/Weirick car at Indy. He had a shop in Indy that turned out DO Heads for B motors, complete 5Main DO Dryer engines and race ready cars, his bodies were some of the nicest in the day. The midget was powered by a Harley Knucklehead, featured a Dryer Wiggle front end that was fabed out of Model T Ford parts. It was originally built for Bill Schindler and went on to win an East Cost Championship. I bought the remains of this car in 1972,along with a two bay garage full of race cars parts. Sold it one hour after I got it home. I was CLUELESS as to what it was at that time, it changed hands again and is under restoration now.

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    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  21. jerry
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    There is also a story of the car in the book "Offenhauser" by Gordon Eliot White.

    Neat car and story.


    jerry
  22. Bobby Green
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    Bobby Green Member

    One of my favorite posts. Thanks
  23. Rockerhead
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    Rockerhead Member

    For those who are interested there is a good book about Art Sparks and his many accomplishments, including Forged True pistons and developments of valve springs that allowed the use of more agressive cam profiles to be designed in the late 1950s and later. Naturally his racing accomplishments make the book interesting reading.
    The book is "Speedway" written by Gene Banning - published in 1983.
    Since it is out of print it may be hard to find but perhaps a search of www.abebooks.com or other book sites might find a copy. Since the print run was not large it may be pricy. It is a good look at some racing history.
    Good reading - Don.

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  24. 73roundlight
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    Great post Ryan. I have always liked that car, every time I see pics of it I can't believe it was actually made and raced.

    And thank you OldDawg, cool story, wish that were around in NH where I grew up. Sadly that was not to be.

    Best, MRAK
  25. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    Don, Is there any mention of Bob Swanson in that book? Bob drove for Sparks Weirick at Indy in 1937 and in the Vanderbult Revival in this stretched Offy midget. I've often wondered what happened to the car when it got back to California, someone thought it was converted back to Midget form.

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  26. Old Dawg
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    Old Dawg Member

    I'm gratefull to those of you that have an appreciation for these old race cars. I often thank those folks that stop by our paddock at the vintage races, as, if it weren't for the spectators, we wouldn't have a venue to run and show these cars. Most of the fun at the events is sharing the histories of the cars with the enthusiasts.
    That's not the Sparks shop in Pasadena in the background of the photo, 37KID. It looks, to me, like the shop area at Indy. In my view, that wasn't the original "Big Six" that went on the block in Monterey last year. The chassis of the "Big Six" was orignially set up for two men (as were the little sixes). The car at auction was a single seater. The original "Big Six" had a parallel spring front suspension (the one at Monterey has a transverse spring set up). After talking to Tony Hinkels, a past shop foreman for Sparks, the engine in the existing, so called, "Big Six" is a 270 c.i.d.. The orignal had 337 inches. So, I think the existing car is an interesting creation (not even a recreation); but it's not the "Big Six". Mecham did buy an original Sparks Six engine, though. For $121,000. I'm not being critical; but, most of the old race cars are not original. They have some parts that were original to A race car; but, not necessarily to the original. Many of the good recreations are as good, or better, than the originals. I hope I didn't start anything.
    Plymouth 1952, there is a book, that you still can get, on the Legion Ascot. It's called "Legion Ascot Speedway" by John R. Lucero. It's available through the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Museum, in Knoxville, IA. www.sprintcarstuff.com :)
  27. mac miller
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    I haven't heard anything about the existence, location or condition of the Sparks and Weirick Catfish here in INDY but I'll ask around and see if any one knows anything. Its possible that its stashed in the IMS museum basement.

    mac miller in INDY
  28. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    Just looked at the Pebble Beach catalog from last year and that Big Six restoration does not match the the photo I posted. It is the real deal, used to get progress photos from the former owner, just not a period perfect restoration. The Little Six that lives in a collection in Mass. is another story, that car sounds as good as it looks at Vintage events. The Lucero Ascot book has a nice photo of The Catfish with new owner Fred Frame behind the wheel on page 170. At the top of the page is the Sparks/Weirick #33 Gilmore Special twoman car. Bob Swanson drove this car at Indy in 1937. Rex Mays set it on the Indy pole back to back in 1935 and 1936. The car sat engineless in a midwest collection the mid 1970's, and I called about it once a month. Skipped a month of calls and it was sold next time I did check in.........for $20,000. It gets worse, that fall THE ENGINE out of that car was in the flea market at Hershey. Engine and car have been reunited, and it is nicely restored, and it still has the original upholstery that some of America's greatest drivers sat on as they crossed the finish line.
  29. The37Kid
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    The37Kid Member

    Mac, Does Pop Dryer's son still run the old shop? Do they still have any of the old cars?
  30. Weaverville Studios
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    Weaverville Studios Member

    Art Sparks: Semi-pro athlete, actor, stuntman, land-speed record holder, AAA, USAC and Indy genius mechanic and car-builder....A genuine American hero-someone should make a movie about his life.

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