The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by KKrod, Mar 31, 2014.
Here is the coupe when Larry owned it:
Interestingly I was a rocket test engineer for Aerojet, in Azusa, while I was running the '32 coupe. As with most of the guys I was trying Nitromethane. Starting with about 10% I slowly worked up to 50%. Others were ahead of me going up to 90% or so while others were trying things like hydrazine, etc. A lot of guys burned up or exploded engines during the learning process. I was apparently too timid to chance breaking my engine.
Aerojet was developing a Nitromethane fueled rocket at the time. However it blew up and destroyed the concrete test bay when the detonation traveled back up the fuel lines. When the engineers and mechanics I worked with found out that I was taking 5 gal. cans of Nitro out to the drags and even using it; they thought I was crazy. Today we understand the Nitro better than we did then. We knew it was only a solvent.
At Aerojet we started rocket engines with UDMH (hydrazine). Toss it in with nitric acid and it ignited without the need for a starting devise.
Thanks for your question. I actually enjoy looking back at some great times.
Going from Oklahoma to Texas.
Don and Larry Shinoda shared some of their pictures with me. I especially like the one on the lakes with Larry and Don and the car.
The restored car at the 2009 GNRS. Restored by Dave Crouse.
Race cars always evolved. It is restored to the 1953 version when Larry Shinoda raced it.
In 1952 I had a straight 8 Buick powered Cord sedan for racing at the Lakes and the drags. The Cord set the 1952 Russetta Class B Sedan record at 137.509 mph for the 1952 season. The rules were changed for the 1953 season limiting the engines to 305 cu. in., which eliminated the big Buick.
Howard Johansen (Howard Cams) had been doing some work with GMC engines. He was also a menber of the Glendale Coupe and Roadster Club (GCRC) as I was. He had even cast about six 12 Port Heads for the GMC engine. Tom (Acmo) Mclaughlin, a long time friend and also in the GCRC, was running "jimmys" very successfully. They suggested that I go with the GMC engine. Howard sold me one of his 12 port heads, a cam and a bunch of pieces. I built a 302 cu. in. GMC engine (270 block bored out). I used the 12 port head, fabricated a steel 6 carburetor manifold, and put the GMC in the Cord. The GMC propelled the Cord to a 1953 Russetta Class B Sedan record of 135.559 mph. The card also won numerous drag racing trophies with times up to 107 mph.
I decided to do only drag racing so I sold the heavy Cord and bought the '32 coupe from Larry Shinoda (Larry was building a roadster). I put the GMC engine in the coupe with the Buick transmission I had been using. Howard gave me a cam grind that he had been using in the DeSoto engine for his record breaking 266 Hydro boat. It was a long duration cam meant to perform up in the 6000 rpm range. Howard was also making pistons then so I used them. The first few races with the '32 were not very impressive so Howard said to bring the engine down to his dyno. The first runs on the dyno were not very impressive but after a couple of cam changes we found another 50 hp. The car came alive and started to set records at the drag strips. By then I had machined a fuel injector unit using castings the Howard provided. The car was very successful, set records at most of the strips that I ran and even won an overall Top Eliminator ($25 Bond, which actually paid $18.75 - Thanks Lou). The photo shown earlier racing Gene Mooneyham in the 554 car was at the NHRA Regonals at Colton (May 1955). I won over Gene's flathead powered '34 and set the fastest A Fuel Coupe time of 120.32 mph at the NHRA meets that year. Later we raced several times when we both had Chrysler hemis.
Interestingly at the time I got the 12 Port head from Howard he had already lost interest the GMC engines and had moved on to DeSotos and then Chevys.
Back in the mid-1980s I did an article for Street Rodder Magazine about the Howard GMC 12 Port heads.
The GMC ran good and was very "quick out of the hole". Unfortunately the GMC development stopped in the early 1950s because they were pushed aside by the big V-8s made by Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Chrysler. The limit on my engine was the valve springs. The available springs then would float the valves around 5400 rpm on the fast action cams that worked the best in the engine. It would have been great to have the springs that are available today.
The GMC was a good engine as can be seen in the performances recorded in recent years.
(Hydrazine)' thats N2H4 Tiros 2 missile fuel. You mean the guys
were running this stuff on a drag strip? Oh, and thanks for all the
great info Don......
Thanks for that in depth description of the 302 GMC engine when it powered your coupe. I really enjoy reading about the very early days of drag racing.
Very much enjoying this thread, thank you to all involved in making this thread ...............
Don, you sir are a true living legend......thank you for sharing
Very cool to hear the history on this coupe. Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing guys.
What a great history lesson, Thank You!
Don, Colton was where I mostly went, 'back' in the day. It ran a lot of big names for being a small time strip. I saw you run your 32 with the GMC and it surely was quik out of the hole! and noisy too. I'm a Buick nut and have couple of '39 century's, saw some fast straight 8's run, yeah it was really interesting in those days, you didnt know what to expect coming up to the line, 4,s 6,s 8,s ohv, flatheads ie 'John Bradley', bikes with V8.s or 2 stroke outboard motors, it was all new!
WOW! This story is beyond cool!
I think it's time to start reading some of Don's books
Just not sure which book I should start with?
We are very fortunate that Don Montgomery is telling stories about his past drag racing and dry lakes days. If I remember correctly from his books, he was at The First Drag Race, at Goleta, 1948, racing his Hudson with a hopped up Hudson engine. He was a regular at Blair's when I worked there in the early '60s. And it is great to see his old coupe restored to its original Shinoda form, thanks for posting pictures of it!
I am having a great time posting these pictures. I have been sitting on some of them for 20 years or so. Thanks to the HAMB for providing such a great venue to post them.
The 554 coupe is probably the most famous of the early drag racing coupes. Gene Mooneyham was a gifted competitor. In this photo the 554 coupe was flathead powered. Gene drove the Mooneyham and Johnson entry. Both guys were members of the Rod Riders club in the Russetta Timing Assn. This photo was taken on May 15, 1955 at the NHRA Regonial Championships at Colton. Later in mid-1956 Carl Johnson built an injected Chrysler engine for the '34 coupe (I also had switched to Chrysler power then). Gene applied lots of Nitro to accomplish a great 134 mph time. My best of 133 mph was the second best A/Fuel Coupe time then. When fuel was banned we both parked our coupes. Later the Bakersfield Smokers, with fuel insurance in hand, scheduled their soon to be famous Fuel Championships meet. Gene took the fenders off of his coupe, added a blower, and proceded to thrill the crowds with great, tire smoking, runs down the strip. He later sold the coupe and went on to many successes in fuel dragster competition. Later he settled down to start his Mooneyham Blowers business. Gene is gone today but many of us remember his impressive accomplishments, and the 554 coupe lives on today.
Colton was a fun, low key place to race. Most of the top cars made passes there. Probably the most talked about guy was John Bradley. His flathead dragster won over faster and bigger overhead V-8 powered dragster so many times. He was a "giant killer" He was also a flathead engine killer.
It is nice to hear from you about Colton. It brings back memories,
I have great memories of the big Buick engines I raced in my Hudson and Cord sedans. I had hopped up my Hudson 8 with only moderate success. One night it broke while street racing on Foothill Blvd in Arcadia. Several of the guys I hung out with had Buick Centuries ('37,'38 and '41). They were fast after they got would up. So I put a big Buick engine in the Hudson and good things happened quickly. By early 1950 the Hudson had hit 110 mph at the Lakes and was a success at street racing - who the heck would hop up a Hudson 4 door sedan? So I have a fondness for the old Buicks.
Re: '39 Buick - When I put the 320 c.i. Buick engine in the Hudson I found a problem with the column shift. The Hudson used a shift rod/lever and a cable to shift the transmission. After a limited amount of research I discovered that the '39 Century trans was operated by a rod/lever and cable. Problem solved. Later I had discovered that the Buick trans cable pulled when the Hudson trans cable pushed. The result was an upside down shift pattern. How was that for my researching ability? I just had to always remember that low gear was down and back and high gear was up and back. The shift from low to 2nd was pull up and forward. But it all worked. When I built the Cord I used '38 floor shift trans.
Have fun with your Buicks. I like them too.
Do you happen to remember what Howard called the cam you mentioned above for your GMC? You said "Howard gave me a cam grind that he had been using in the DeSoto engine for his record breaking 266 Hydro boat. It was a long duration cam meant to perform up in the 6000 rpm range."
In late 1953 my brother and I were building a nail valve 322 Buick for our '34 sedan. Howard sent us what he called an "LDB +10". He said that meant Long Duration Bigelow plus ten degrees more duration. I remember Kenny Bigelow ran GMCs.
Off topic, but.... I've seen Howard's notes/book on camshaft profiles and HP numbers on Desotos and other engines. I was just blown away......
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I count seeing Larry Faust make the first ever 8 second fuel altered pass in the 554 at LIONS in 1963 as one of the biggest thrills of my life. I watched Gene and Larry's every race in '63 to defend the Jr. Eliminator #1 title. I followed them all over California that year. It was my great pleasure to have Gene build the blower and drive for my current roadster in '96. I sat in Gene's office and listened to stories about the coupe. Gene and Dorothy Mooneyham were two of the nicest people I have ever known. Thank you for the wonderful history lessons.
At the risk of boring everyone with my memories I would like to add the following about this photo.
In 1956 there were about 20 or so A/Fuel Coupes running in the Southern California area. There were also about nine drag strips in the general area running on various schedules. The result was that a meet at any one drag strip may have from 0 to maybe 4 or 5 A/Fuel Coupes in competition. The racing was often very slim.
I talked with C.J. Hart (Santa Ana Drags) and we scheduled the Fuel Coupes Invitational for Sunday, Oct. 14, 1956. C. J. donated clock trophies.
The attached picture was taken at the Santa Ana dragstrip starting line. Most of you know that is now under the main runway of the John Wayne- Orange County International Airport. The picture was published on the front page of the Drag News newspaper.
The cars in the picture, starting from the left, are:
1 - No. 102 - Rizzo and Grey This neat '34 coupe was flathead powered. Later Ben Rizzo switched to a Chrysler engine. Ben still has the coupe as it was run back in 1967 when it recorded a good 157.57 mph time.
2 - The Road Dusters, out of San Diego, were one of the first to take advantage of the light weight '33 Willys coupes. It was flathead powered.
3 - San Pedro Muffler (Stecker-Golden-Ewell) '34 coupe - This coupe was run by Jack and Bill Stecker with Jack Ewell at the throttle. It had a blown Dodge hemi engine. Bill Stecker is now an active member and past president of the L.A. Roadster Club. Jack Ewell went onto many Top Fuel dragster successes.
4 - Jack Chrisman - This beautiful '29 A sedan, with Von Dutch striping, was injected Chrysler powered. Jack had help there from a relative of his (Art Chrisman). Jack went on to be NHRA National Champion in Howard's twin Chevy dragster (now recreated) and should get much credit for helping to introduce Funny Cars with his blown Comets. Jack's family now has the restored sedan.
5 - Don Montgomery's '32 coupe Powered by a SCOT blown Chrysler engine.
6 - Dave Deichman This neat looking '34 Tudor had Ardun/Ford power. It was sponsored by the Pasagreen Body Shop owned by old hot rodder Tom Tanaka. Tom's son, Cal Tanaka, is a well street rod body and paint guy today.
7 - Bill Sievers '35 coupe. Bill's coupe had Oldsmobile power and was sponsored by Harts Texaco. Jack Hart would go on to the top of the NHRA organization in the 1960s.
8 - No 57 jr Russ Palmer's beautiful '35 coupe was numbered after Don Blair's no. 57 sprint car. Russ was working for Don and maintaining the sprint car at that time. Russ went on to own a group of automotive magazines with headquarters in London, England.
A couple of cars were still in the pits, probably getting "serviced" when the photo was taken. One of them was the 554 coupe of Mooneyham and Johnson - Chrysler power - which would become very famous in the future.
I believe the Fuel Coupe Invitational was the first non-dragster, single class, Invitational drag racing event. It was a neat deal.
The grind Howard was using in his DeSoto engines was called the SU 9 (probably like Super 9). The cams he was using in the GMC engines were the F5, F6 and F7. They were fast action cams that would overcome the available valve springs in the mid 5000 rpm range. However they performed well. You could tell it from the sharper exhaust note the engines emitted. I ended up using the F7.
In 1950 Kenny Bigelow surprised everyone with a very fast GMC powered Chevy coupe. Little work had been done on the "jimmys" before that. Kenny was working with Iskenderian then. By switching to Chet Herbert's roller cams Kenny became the best advertisement for Chet's motorcycle developed cam designs. Unfortunately Kenny lost his life at the dry lakes in his coupe. I would guess that Howard checked out the Isky or Herbert cams grinds that Kenny helped developed and modified to be the LBD+10.
Cam names were often interesting back "in the day". When I switched to Howard Cams for my straight 8 Buick engine he gave me what he called the "Awful-Awful" grind. It worked well.
Yes cool thread, cool coupe!
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Don, back in the early 80,s Herbert was running an ad "ANY CAM ANY GRIND", HA! I called him up, lets see what he says about a old straight 8 Buick gggg. Well there was a pause for a minute, he said OK! Well I was working long hours so about a month later I called to pick it up he said he was about ready to 'use it for a door stop". 'BUT' dont tell anybody where u got it, took me half a day to reset my grinder" I asked if there was an extra charge for it i would pay it, he said no its what the ad said" I then asked what grind it was. Knowing I really wouldn't know much about cam grinds he said "its what you want" gggg and it is what I wanted!
Chet was a cool guy.
My 39 Century block is original bored 0.90 over, '41 dual carbs, balanced '52 crank and chopped flywheel "parts from a 39 Centuy coupe that ran at Bonneville in 50,s.Herbert cam is a street grind. runs good
You are never boring,Mr. Montgomery. Stay healthy and live long !!!!!
Your books are my required reading during the winter months up here in Mass.
Thanks for sharing all these memories with us.
I for one have been a big fan of your 32 3W with the 12 port Jimmy, Don.
I am going to save all this info for an article in 12 Port News for Inliners International that I will finally get done to writing this weekend.
Separate names with a comma.