The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by elgringo71, Jul 2, 2016.
Hall & Lesko
Early SWC vs KS Pittman
How did you wreck your willys? do you have any pictures of it whole or wrecked? sorry to hear that. it fascinates me to hear what happened to some of these old willys drag cars.
photo from a home movie made by RRUSS of the HAMB…thanks Ron…
We built our 40 Willys in 2 stages. The first stage was the original build. The usual find, clean, take apart, modify, add in stuff, prep for race, then test run at Lions dragstrip. This was with a 283, Isky cam, 6 Strombergs attached to a LaSalle 3 speed. It ran 14’s to start and got down to high 12’s when we decided to drop down a class, rebuild the motor.
The second phase was modifying the 283 up to 292 c.i. adding low compression Jahns Pistons, Howard Cam and lifter kit, Joe Hunt Magneto, ported and polished heads, spec’d crank, etc. We also found a demo 671 blower and had Reath Auto rebuild it for us. Here is the ad after the fire.
DRAG NEWS JAN 1961
We were running well and won several elimination races. Then we were in the finals around 9 pm against the perennial class champion. My brother got the jump off of the line and was at least 1.5 car lengths ahead past the tower at Lions. About half way down he told me that he was at least another car length ahead. We were standing on the start line and about then, a big flash went under the car. Then a huge fire ball came shooting out of the passenger side window.
We (Atts Ono and I) saw another fireball coming out of the driver’s side and then the Willys veered right. It went across the next lane and into the chain link fence of the spectator’s side. (Where it burned to a crisp) We drove directly to the burning Willys stuck in the fence. Other racers had come to use their fire extinguishers and we had a couple. It just would not go out. I thought my brother was inside the car, but the racers from the return lane told us that they saw him jump out around 60 mph (Grist Bros) right after the lights.
By the time I got back to him, he was being loaded onto the ambulance. The worst thing I had to do was to go home and tell my parents that my brother was in the hospital. Racing was cancelled early for the rest of the night…Drag News August 13, 1960 edition said it was a C/Altered coupe that blew up…it was us in C/Gas, so much for accurate reporting.
It took my brother over 2 years to recover from his 3rd degree burns that covered over 30% of his body.
The Willys? Atts Ono stayed until they could get the fire out. Then he secured the car and called me the next day to go get it out of the fence. It took us several days to totally dismantle the parts and store it in his garage for a couple of months. (My mom would have gone beserk if she saw the remnants of the Willys) We trailered the burned out hulk to a scrap yard near Lions. It took over 6-7 months before my brother could come home. But, we sold everything before he got home. The complete 671 SBC was sold to a guy from the Midwest and the rest was sold to local racers looking for a great deal from the Drag News ad.
We were close to the national record for C/Gas and had a ton of speed parts on order for the following weeks prior to the nationals. All cancelled and are distant memories.
Sorry, we once had movies I took of the car racing at Lions, but for some unknown reason. It has disappeared from our total collection. My mom and brother were the last ones to view that video prior to his passing in 1992 at age 52. Even the original 16mm color films are also gone. Very strange…To quote the Killers rock group…”This is the world we live in…”
wow, thanks for the story ! im glad your brother survived ! poor old willys, another gone. thanks for the history it was fascinating !!
Yes, the Willys is gone. We could have saved the rear body parts, trunk, fenders, bumper as well as the doors, but our friend building his 40 Willys said there was a bad vibe coming from using old parts that had met with certain circumstances. So the whole thing was disposed.
In looking back, we had decided earlier that using that heavy duty clutch made by a reputable dealer/builder in Long Beach held up for one more month, it would have been replaced with a B&M hydro. The clutch builder/dealer said that custom clutch was the strongest his shop had ever made. It was a bear to push inwards at the beginning. We had maybe 10 runs with the Strombergs on the SBC. Then after the rebuild including the 671, we had 6 more runs before it let go. Obviously, it was OK with the carbs only on the SBC. But with the extra power from the 671 plus all of the speed parts we added put tremendous pressure on the clutch. The legal, approved, 2 piece scattershield could not hold back the big explosion...It just ripped off and flew somewhere.
Thanks for your interest,
If we had been able to upgrade within the next two weeks prior to the Nationals, we would have taken out that clutch and LaSalle trans, replacing it with the B&M. The motor was solid, the car was set up correctly and with our new (on order) slicks and mags plus the Hilborn Injectors, we would have been favorites to break the national record.
Oh well... "It was what it was, and there is no going back." I read that in some novel I was reading a while back.
Yes that is the Pitman and Edwards car. That is my grandfather in the video when the car is jacked up in the pits
Yep that's my grandfather's car. I still have most of his trophies from 56 to 63. My grandfather was John Edwards.
30 sec. Into the film is John Edwards.
Pretty sure we still have that trophy!
This 300 cubic inch Merc. flathead powered '37 Willys was run by the team of Ron Benham and Earl Wooden of San Gabriel Ga. in "C" Coupe on the salt in '54.
There is some great stuff being posted on this thread. Thanks jnaki your early footage is the best.
Do you have any pictures of your grandfathers Willys and trophies or anything else about it that we might enjoy seeing? I think that he built and owned the motor and KS owned the coupe?
@Speed Gems, Wow that is a very early car. Great stuff, I think that there is a picture of a similar coupe earlier in this thread.
You definitely solved the mystery on this one.
@elgringo71 I thought i checked the whole thread before i posted that one but i'm glad i could solve the mystery. The thing i don't get is why does Doug Hartlet's "E" Coupe have a 52 inch motor and the Benham and Wooden Willys run "C" Coupe with onlt a 300 inch motor.Typeo?
LB I took this photo of Hassel & Vogelsong at Cecil County 7/16/64 the 57 wagon in front of the Willys was the tow car for the MG that I now own, the second picture is a penny post card I bought at an antique store some years back. It's from the same race as the picture and on the back it say's he set the record in B/G at 11.34. The postcard is pretty rare I've only seen one other and I bought it on E-bay
I bet that the difference was in the weight of the cars. I think that a stock Willys Coupe with the 4 cylinder weighed about 2300 pounds so they did a lot to lighten up the one that you posted. (Looks like they drilled the front axle and removed some sheetmetal)
It's pretty amazing the amount of photos that are of members cars or they took the photo YEARS ago. That is COOL.
posted in your own thread about your grandfather...
Please allow me to be the one to tell you that any miss identification is purely based on 58 years of old memories. At the time I recorded that film and continued to film up until 1960, the Pittman/Edwards red Willys coupe was one of our inspirations. It made us want to build something that looked good and go fast.
We began our own 40 Willys build that we completed in the first 3 months of 1960. One thing we did not want to do, because we were just a couple of teenagers, was to go against that red Willys in the B/Gas class. So, after our initial outing, we dropped down to C/Gas to pursue the national record until our accident.
PM me for more information for your files.
in the pits
WOW!! What a story.
Here is another picture of Doug Cook's Coupe
Here are a few more pictures of Rowdy Willy
Hey guys! I apologize for taking so long to get back to you all. I spoke to my cousin the other day. I will be picking up most of the trophies that we have. I asked her to find the boxes of pictures also. As soon as I get them I will put everything on line. My grandfather always thought it was pretty cool how so many of you guys followed them through the years. Thank you so much for keeping their Spirit Alive. Will get back to you soon!
Not 100% sure on this one but it looks old.
That's the Jr Thompson car. It definitely has the early look.
Here is some more information about Tommy Sparks the owner and builder of this one. It's a great read about his life and the cars that he built.
DUDE, where do you find this stuff?
@drumyn29 , I was looking for information on another Willys Coupe on the Internet and got lucky and spotted this.
In the article it says that Tommy Sparks ran 3 3/8 bored and 1/8 destroked Supercharged Flathead with a Italmechanica Blower in his 1937 Willys. He would turn it 7200 RPM and ran 70% nitro. He would sometimes be grouped with Dragsters and beat them. He ran his fastest time in 1956 before he quit racing. It was 10.01 at 133 MPH. He won 55 Trophies with it in one year and got protested a lot and some guys would refuse to race him.
This all came from the article. It's a great read
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