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Art & Inspiration Bob Gurr- The Gearhead of Disneyland

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Jive-Bomber, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. Jive-Bomber
    Joined: Aug 21, 2001
    Posts: 3,153


    Jive-Bomber submitted a new blog post:

    Bob Gurr- The Gearhead of Disneyland


    Continue reading the Original Blog Post
  2. It would of been fun to have been one of the first 'drivers; when it was untracked, I understand there was a bit of NASCAR 'rubbin' going on!
  3. Rolleiflex
    Joined: Oct 25, 2007
    Posts: 857


    YES! If this guy isn't a HAMBER, he ought to be! :D
  4. Jive-Bomber
    Joined: Aug 21, 2001
    Posts: 3,153


    Yes! The first cars had no guide rail system, so you could use the width of the track, pass, etc. They had an unrestricted police car version driven by a cast member who could pull an external e-brake if a driver got out of hand!
    vonpahrkur likes this.
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  5. vonpahrkur
    Joined: Apr 21, 2005
    Posts: 881


    You forgot to include the film from opening day with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Driving on the Autopia. :) Rumor has it that Bob might have done some of the drawings in the Dan Post books, but it has yet to be confirmed.
  6. pgan
    Joined: Apr 7, 2009
    Posts: 178


    Yes, Bob Gurr got plenty of publicity in magazines for his cool-looking Autopia roadsters when Disneyland first opened in 1955, largely because the PR people were smart enough to invite car magazine staffers to come try them out--probably sans governors and possibly off-track. I remember, as a kid, being enthralled with the whole autopia ride, where we got to drive the cars ourselves. They had wrap-around bumpers, but certainly weren't on tracks.
    But it wasn't until 20 years later, as the young editor of Street Rodder magazine, that I happened to notice that one of the '20s-style Main Street vehicles had a dropped Bell front axle. Another had a complete Model A front suspension. So I contacted Disneyland PR and was introduced to Bob Gurr, which resulted in a 5-page article "Disneyland's Main Street Rods" in the June '75 issue. Not only were there lots of behind-the-scenes photos of where (and how) the WED crew hand-built these vehicles, and how certain parts (brass radiators, beaded fenders) were farmed out to California Metal Shaping, but bio details about Bob: Art Center auto design graduate, Ford Advance Styling designer (briefly), and hot rodder who drove (in '56) a black '40 coupe "that ran a bored and stroked, ported and relieved, C-T Automotive-prepped flathead." One caption says the low-slung fire engine had original Rushmore headlights given to him by "restorer Dan Post." So there was a connection there. Another fact I remember (but didn't print) was that the sleekly designed monorails were powered by 283 Corvette engines.
    Interviewing him was a wonderful experience. He was enthusiastic then; I've seen him at concours shows and Art Center events with various cool vehicles since; and from what I understand he's still doing it. Quite a guy.

    Pat Ganahl
  7. foolthrottle
    Joined: Oct 14, 2005
    Posts: 944


    the car looks like a scaled down Arnolt Bristol
  8. Just because a TJJ Blog / H.A.M.B. thread can never have enough pics ...

    Bob Gurr Autopia Concept drawing (Nov 3rd 1954).jpg
    November 3rd 1954 Autopia car concept drawing by Robert H. Gurr

    Walt Disney test driving Autopia prototype as Gurr looks on.jpg
    Walt Disney about to test drive a prototype Autopia car (as Bob Gurr looks on)

    Autopia cars being built in the Walt Disney Studios Machine Shop..jpg
    Autopia cars being built in the Walt Disney Studios Machine Shop

    Autopia cars at MAMECO Automotive Engineering (1).jpg
    Autopia cars at MAMECO Automotive Engineering (2).jpg
    Autopia cars at MAMECO Automotive Engineering in Newport Beach, California.
    Ted Mangels and Ed Martindale engineered the early cars and Glasspar did the fiberglass work.

    Test driving the original Autopia cars.jpg
    Bob Gurr test driving the original Autopia cars

    Autopia cars riding down Main Street, USA.jpg
    Bob Gurr (driving the car in the foreground) rides down Main Street, U.S.A.,
    behind the wheel of an Autopia car. Comedian Jerry Colonna, who provided the voice
    for March Hare in Alice in Wonderland, clowns for the camera in the adjacent police car.

    Tomorrowland Autopia - April 1957.jpg
    April 1957 - Elizabeth (Bette) Kovacs, daughter of Ernie Kovacs, drives an Autopia car in Tomorrowland at
    Disneyland in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs Estate/Getty Images)

    1-1-1959 Fantasyland Autopia Opens to the Public.jpg
    January 1st 1959 - Fantasyland Autopia opens at Disneyland​
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
  9. foolthrottle
    Joined: Oct 14, 2005
    Posts: 944


    Arnolt Bristol

    Attached Files:

  10. 29AVEE8
    Joined: Jun 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,384


    I can smell the “White Gas” fumes.
  11. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 3,742

    Hot Rods Ta Hell

    Always a favorite of mine-and my kids. I recall as a kid in the 70's the cars were Corvette Stingray styled and there were two separate courses; Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, then they were morphed into one circuit during a rebuild about 20 years ago. As always I drove it last time I was there recently and couldn't help but think how long it may be until some go-green fanatics start protesting the use of internal combustion engines on the ride, blah blah blah. Yeah, a Tesla sponsored electric self driven vehicle ride might fit the tomorrow land theme (snore) , but the thrill for kids is to drive a "real" car and experience the sound and smell of the engine.
  12. Rolleiflex
    Joined: Oct 25, 2007
    Posts: 857


    Here's a couple color shots of several of the cars and check out the gas pumps in the background.
    teach'm and HEMI32 like this.
  13. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 3,130


    upload_2019-5-14_16-47-36.png 11 year old hot rod driver (LOOK AT THE EARLY WIDE ROADS) Thanks to my dad for lugging around that huge brown suitcase with the Graflex 4x5 camera…history lives.


    Being from So Cal has its advantages. The beach was a few miles away, Lions Dragstrip opened in 1955, the mountains for lake fishing were 1.5 hours away, the schools were all within walking distance, what more could a growing kid want? We had the Pike Amusement Park only 3 miles away, so that was our different kind of fun, just a walk or a short bus ride.

    If we wanted to drive to Orange County (The OC), there was always the Ghost Town, gold mining at the Volcano, the Chicken Dinners and the dark steakhouse at Knott’s Berry Farm. As far as rides, it was the train and stagecoach. That was it. Knott’s was small, but fun and tasty. But, just a few miles south, when Disneyland opened up, that made it a whole new ballgame. (attractions vs attractions/rides)

    It was a straight drive East for about 20 miles on Willow Street near our house to get to Disneyland (Willow St. turns into Katella). Knott’s Berry Farm was closer by 5 miles from our house on the Westside of Long Beach.


    Of course, the first thing my brother and I wanted to do was to drive those putt-putt cars. We were lucky as there was no “rail driving” and we actually had to steer those cars. The lawnmower engines had just enough power to make it fun. Despite the lines (“E” ticket ride), we went right back to the end of the line to ride those cars again. It was a homemade go kart with a fancy body on it. What fun it was to accelerate and steer on a road course!

    9 years later, one of our friends got a job as an Autopia mechanic and maintenance guy. His shift was the graveyard, 11 pm to 6 am hours. When he got off of work, he was always tired during the day, when we were up and doing some fun things as teenagers. But, we were always envious of the stories he told us about the races at the Autopia. (and his salary) If there are cars and teenage hot rodders, something was bound to happen.

    It was the graveyard shift mechanics driving and tuning the high powered cars vs the normal ones. They had to take the bodies off and drive/tune the motors. Some nights, those guys sat in the seat, turned around to adjust this and that, while steering all over the track. When they were tuned, then the fun races began around the track. For the two years our friend worked there, he never crashed during the tuning/race challenges. His stories made us want to work there, but the hours were not the best times for early morning surf sessions or late night cruising escapades. One had to make valuable choices…

    But as far as modern go karts with fancy fiberglass bodies, this was the ultimate at the time. They were a far cry from a 2x4 wooden frame go kart or later, a tube frame go kart that we built several years before the opening of Disneyland.
    Last edited: May 22, 2019 at 4:57 AM
    HEMI32 likes this.

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