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History Chasing The U-2

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Ryan, Apr 20, 2020.

  1. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,137

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    Ryan submitted a new blog post:

    Chasing The U-2


    Continue reading the Original Blog Post
  2. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 3,375


    Hmmmmm.....another interesting U2 story.....Francis Gary Powers who was shot down in one. He later did helicopter air traffic reporting in the L.A. area in which crashed and he was killed.
  3. Great job man,,,,very interesting .
    It just goes to show that these great men that did all this history were also just regular guys .
    And when the wolf is at the door,,,,,you do whatever you can to make it work .
    Necessity is the mother of invention,,,,probably the fastest old wagons ever existed,,,lol .

    J_J2, chryslerfan55 and MO54Frank like this.
  4. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,654


    Hello Ryan,
    Great story about the U-2 plane and the chase vehicles. We had seen plenty of 1957 Ford Ranchero trucks and the standard 1957 sedans with the Paxton/McCulloch superchargers at Lions Dragstrip back in those early days of racing stock cars in the classes. Our 58 impala raced a 57-58 supercharged Ford sedan plenty of times. Those Fords came from the factory rated at 300 hp for the 312 motors.

    But, to see the same motor in a station wagon would have been really something. It would have been the ultimate beach/surfing road trip cruiser. Edwards Air Base is not to far from Long Beach. (approx. 2 hours) We had a Aeronautical Class, one semester in college and got to go to Edwards Air Base for a tour. At the time, the U-2 was off limits, but we did get to see the SR-71 by accident.


    I am sure the local hot shoes in the So Cal Ford camp had plenty to do with making those Paxton/McCulloch Station wagons move really fast. The factory Ford guys, the Stroppe Enterprises Group, and local drag racing guys like Les Ritchey, etc. would have been the go to guys.

    Thanks for bringing up a great topic... Sorry, no pictures as we were told that cameras had to stay home during our field trip to Edwards Air Base.
    mgtstumpy, mctim64, J_J2 and 4 others like this.
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  5. Healeykid
    Joined: Aug 30, 2013
    Posts: 17


    @Ryan Do you think it could have maybe been Smokey Yunick's "Best Damn Garage" in Daytona Beach? Bill France would have also been down in Florida at the time. I think Smokey worked on Ford, Hudson and Chevrolet in the 1950s. Very cool story!
  6. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,006


    Great story! If my memory is still working correctly I think my father at one point had a 1957 Ford 2 door station wagon with (I think) a 312 and 3 dueces with a 3 speed overdrive in it. I always thought it may have been some kind of ex police special vehicle. That thing hauled ass too!
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  7. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,137

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    Honestly, I think it was probably Holman-Moody. They were doing a ton of shit with that blower at the time... and while they weren't in Florida, a lot of time has passed and details like that can get confused...

    Who knows though...
  8. I wonder if Smokey Yunick's garage had anything to do with building the engine, He had a history of being a pilot in the Army Air Corp and flew a B-17 Flying Fortress so their could have been a connection. HRP
  9. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 13,645

    from oregon

    Smokey Yunick and Bill France together in the same room, now that would have been an interesting conversation to hear!
    Hombre, Speedwrench and slowmotion like this.
  10. Jarek Thompson
    Joined: Oct 9, 2018
    Posts: 12

    Jarek Thompson

    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  11. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,137

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    I don't know anything about start cars... What did they do? I'll email for sure.
  12. MO54Frank
    Joined: Apr 1, 2019
    Posts: 296


    The little pickup pulling a small trailer in one of the pictures looks like a Willys Jeep truck.
    There's some discussions out there about starter engines for the SR-71, and I think they were big Nailheads... I will check that out.
    J_J2 and belair like this.
  13. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,137

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    I think that's just the taxi vehicle... I'd guess the front land gear connects to the trailer somehow and the truck drives it into position? Totally guessing.

    I don't know shit about jet engines. Do they need to spool up in some way to start?
    J_J2 likes this.
  14. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,200


    Damn cool story Ryan, I'd like to hear more specifics too. I'm still leaning towards Smokey being involved somehow. Mid-fifty's/NASCAR shop/Florida is hard to ignore. Then with Smokey's hitch in the Air Corps to boot.

    I was thinking their major differences of opinion were a little later timeframe, but not sure.
  15. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,587


    I know for the SR-71 the start cart was powered by twin Buick Nailheads, then later a Big Block Chevys.

    They acted a lot like a top fuel starter drive, in that they would spin the turbine over until it could ignite with the help of a catalyst.

    Probably a similar system for the U-2
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  16. Baumi
    Joined: Jan 28, 2003
    Posts: 2,487


    Wow, that´s some cool history. "Shenanigans",alright , who would have thought that...haha
  17. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 8,464


    I saw U-2 at Elmendorf AFB in about 1964 when I was about 7. My dad came home and got me. Walked in the hanger and there it was, flat black/gray all by itself. I remember it had Australian markings on it, and wondered about that for a long time. One day the little voice in my head said "That was a CIA plane, dummy." My dad saw the SR-71 start-cart in Thailand when they had one loose an engine and make an emergency landing there. They had to haul in everything for it, as nothing was "normal" about those planes. He said the start cart was two Nailheads with chrome valve covers on them that said "Harry's Hot Rods" or "Harry's Hot Rod shop". Maybe something about southern California too.
    57JoeFoMoPar and kidcampbell71 like this.
  18. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,686

    jimmy six

    All makes sense to me....
    Special Ed likes this.
  19. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 1,043


    Super cool.

    Can you imagine being one of the men assigned to this task? I don't know anything about the Air Force or how this would work, but I'm assuming some officer told some not-officer that he had to chase a U-2 in a station wagon. Sounds like a rough gig to me!:D:cool:
    John Starr likes this.
  20. Special Ed
    Joined: Nov 1, 2007
    Posts: 6,005

    Special Ed

    Frank Kurtis (Kurtis-Kraft) who dominated the Indy 500 during the 1950's, was contracted to build a shit-ton of those start-carts.
    s55mercury66 likes this.
  21. Super cool! I was never around U2s but got to be up close and personal with SR71s taking off. Loudest plane ever.
    Desoto291Hemi and slowmotion like this.
  22. BrerHair
    Joined: Jan 30, 2007
    Posts: 4,445


    Cool find Boss!
  23. chargin03
    Joined: Jan 8, 2013
    Posts: 444


    While working on the flight line at Mc Coy AFB I sometimes saw a U-2 being chased by a El Camino. I think it had a 396 but not sure.
    Alaska Jim and belair like this.
  24. John Starr
    Joined: Sep 14, 2016
    Posts: 109

    John Starr

    I love it.
    I once spotted (providing light and ground reference, mostly) for a pal in Beechcraft 18 making an emergency landing on a dry lake bed at near zero sunlight. Long story. Short version: racing alongside an airplane is fun... and intense. I can't imagine the pressure on U2 chase car drivers.
  25. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 6,262


    While at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa saw an SR-71 take off. By far the noisiest aircraft I've ever heard.
    Desoto291Hemi likes this.
  26. Kevin Ardinger
    Joined: Aug 31, 2019
    Posts: 201

    Kevin Ardinger

    IMG_0222.JPG My father-in-law was one of the first U2 pilots. This is a picture of him at wallops Island with the grandkids. I’ve ridden one of those chase cars. It wasn’t anything hopped up. Just an old bronco with no doors on it. The pilot teeters the plane on two wheels until someone can put the pogos back under the wings to hold it up. Pretty crazy experience. There’s a good book called Dragon Lady about the U2.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Jet96, mgtstumpy, Nostrebor and 3 others like this.
  27. Arominus
    Joined: Feb 2, 2011
    Posts: 391


    At about 2:38 in this you can hear the start cart at full bore. It sounds healthy.

  28. sloppy jalopies
    Joined: Jun 29, 2015
    Posts: 4,070

    sloppy jalopies

    It was supposed to be the RS 71 but the big boss Johnson pooched the letters in his speech...
    they decided it sounded better as the SR 71 and left it that way... history channel.
    Nostrebor and Desoto291Hemi like this.
  29. Jeff34
    Joined: Jun 2, 2015
    Posts: 446


    My first job out of college was across the street from Moffett Field in 1988. They flew the U2 daily. I got to hear it take off at 7AM and tried to walk outside at 4PM when it glided back in. Two El Caminos were being used at the time with a custom “rack” in the bed and over the cab to rest the wings on. Good times

    Sent from my iPad using H.A.M.B.
    John Starr likes this.
  30. Arominus,
    Great video !
    I was just wondering,,,,,do you live anywhere near “ the mountain “ ,,,?


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