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Folks Of Interest Hot Rod Legend from the greatest generation Fran Hernandez,.. RIP

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Harms Way, Jan 29, 2011.

  1. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    Fran Hernandez at 17 years old,.. (1939)

    And again later in his life,... (1949)


    [​IMG] <hr size="1">
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    <table border="0" width="100%"> <tbody> <tr> <td align="left">[FONT=verdana,arial]January 20, 2011[/FONT]</td> <td align="right">[FONT=verdana,arial][/FONT]</td></tr></tbody></table>[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Natural mechanic led race car division[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman, serif]
    The Detroit News
    [/FONT][FONT=arial, helvetica]Fran Hernandez parlayed his love of tinkering with cars into a lengthy career that revolved around Ford Motor Co. Assembly lines and the national racing circuit.
    "His work was everything," said his son, Randy. "Cars, racing — he was just consumed by it. That was his passion."
    Mr. Hernandez died Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, from natural causes. He was 88.
    Born Feb. 8, 1922, in Chihuahua, Mexico, he grew up in California, where he began working on cars as a teen and pursued "hot rodding" on area dry lakes, relatives said.
    During World War II, Mr. Hernandez served in the Navy as a first class machinist mate.
    After his discharge, he became a machine shop owner with automotive engineer Fred Offenhauser and a foreman for the Edelbrock Equipment Co.
    In 1949, he won a drag race at a Santa Barbara airport with a 1932 Ford coupe he souped up by successfully using nitromethane in a four-cycle gasoline engine — which Hot Rod magazine called a first in the field.
    Mr. Hernandez also worked for car builder Bill Stroppe and Indianapolis 500 racer Peter DePaolo, through whom he became involved with Ford Motor Co. Racing.
    He later worked for Electric Auto-Lite Co., which was bought by Ford. In the 1960s, he was charged with creating a performance racing program at its Lincoln-Mercury division.
    To keep Ford competitive on the national racing circuit, Mr. Hernandez and his team worked to improve its Mercury Comet. A private performance event in 1964 proved a model had a 100,000-mile durability run, he told Car Craft magazine in 1966.
    That year, his team launched the Mercury Comet Cyclone GT, which became popular in drag racing.
    When overseeing the assembling of the race cars, Mr. Hernandez had a singular vision.
    "He was a great engineer," said mechanic Bud Moore, whose South Carolina team Bud Moore Engineering built NASCAR race cars. "He understood what the drivers wanted. He was a real big help for all of us, because he knew what needed to be done. It was a great honor to have him working with us."
    From 1969-70, Mr. Hernandez managed a Ford facility in Brighton, which produced the Boss 429, a Mustang variant.
    "He was very dynamic … one of the most talented and knowledgeable men I've ever worked with," said Ed Hull, a former Ford engineer who worked on the project. "He could do anything."
    Mr. Hernandez later managed a Ford fabrication and development section, which built and delivered presidential limousines for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, relatives and associates said.
    "He was a hands-on guy … the type of guy who was a doer, not a talker," said John Mulrine, a former Ford technician. "He was a hard-working guy. His reputation just followed him."
    Mr. Hernandez retired in the 1990s and worked in consulting.
    Other survivors include his wife of 68 years, Patricia; a son, Rick; a daughter, Nancy Hernandez; a brother, Luis; and seven grandchildren.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  2. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    He also had a hand in this,.... as well as many others,...
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  3. 3wLarry
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 12,804

    Member Emeritus
    from Owasso, Ok

    another one...:(
    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  4. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

  5. What an incredible history. Such a loss, RIP.
  6. CH3NO2JAY
    Joined: Feb 28, 2008
    Posts: 244

    from Chicago

    The first pic of him in his youth is cool...
  7. hotrd32
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 3,521

    from WA

    RIP...Mr Hernandez....unfortunately we will keep losing them, so get the info from them while you can......
  8. 296ardun
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 4,384


    Never knew he had a role in the Yeakel Bros.- sponsored roadster...Don Rackemann is often mentioned as is Nick Matranga, but good to know that Fran Hernandez also played a part........
  9. Babyearl
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 610


    It also appears that he knew Von Dutch,, R.I.P.
  10. One of the greats R.I.P.
  11. 19Fordy
    Joined: May 17, 2003
    Posts: 7,189


    I hope there is a movement afoot to interview these folks on tape so as to record and preserve the historical and important role they played in the "HOT ROD" movement over the years from the very times of pre "'back in the day" until the present. ( A similiar thing is being done with WWII veterans, Korean War vets, Viet Nam Era vets, etc.) For once these national treasures are "gone", they are "GONE".
  12. AHRF ----->
  13. Henry Floored
    Joined: Sep 18, 2004
    Posts: 1,370

    Henry Floored

  14. jangleguy
    Joined: Dec 26, 2004
    Posts: 2,668


    Another name seen throughout my magazine reading youth. This guy really did it all and did it well. Never met him, but he's a hero to me, just the same.

    Pat Ganahl had some nice words for Fran in the latest HR Deluxe. And Vic Edelbrock couldn't say enough about Fran in his book. We could all aspire to be as productive as Fran Hernandez...
  15. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    The more you know about his life,.. you see he was always in the thick of things when it came to Hot Rodding ,... from its inception and birth,... into Factory hot rods, and factory sponsored race cars,.... A truly interesting life that history will remember as a true American Hot Rodder,.....
  16. SOHC427
    Joined: Apr 5, 2009
    Posts: 958


    Sorry to loose another one....RIP
  17. God speed Fran Hernandez.....

    Attached Files:

  18. rd martin
    Joined: Nov 14, 2006
    Posts: 2,449

    rd martin
    from indiana

    talk about knowledge! he was into it all. wish i had half that talent. rip fran.
  19. TomP64
    Joined: Dec 10, 2008
    Posts: 418

    from Vancouver

    The "later in life" picture doesn't look a whole lot later for a guy who lived to be 88. He sure accomplished a lot and being a guy into racing Fords and Comets he is a hero to me.

    Any idea where that picture of the Yeakel car at the drags is taken? That background isn't familiar in the pictures of early So Cal strips i've seen.
  20. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    #1: OK,... only a few years later,... like 10 years,..
    (first picture 1939, Second Picture 1949)

    #2: Saugus Dragstrip (But not sure)

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  21. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    Hey guy's,.... Fran was a true Hot Rod Hero,........

    One last Obit. from a slightly different perspective, He was a good guy with a great sense of humor who's contributions to Hot Rodding, Drag Racing, Hot Rod after market, and the baddest of the bad Muscle car's is documented and undeniable,....

    "Fran" Hernandez, of Tecumseh, MI, passed away Wednesday, January 05, 2011, at Tecumseh Place II. He was 88.
    Fran was born February 8, 1922, in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, to Juan C. and Maria Antonieta (Pradeau) Hernandez. Fran served in the U.S. Navy as a First Class Machinist Mate on the USS Cabot CVL-28 in the Pacific during WWII.
    After his military discharge, he returned to southern California to become a pioneer in the fast-growing sport of hot rodding in the 1940s. He turned his hobby of cars and racing into a life-long career. He was the first person to successfully use nitromethane in a four-cycle gasoline engine that ultimately revolutionized the sport of drag racing.
    In April 1949, Fran's 1932 Ford three-window coupe ran in the first ever organized drag race at the Goleta Airport in Santa Barbara, CA. Fran was racing carburetors and nitromethane in his car against Tom Cobbs' 1932 supercharged roadster, and Fran's car won. Today, drag racing and nitromethane go hand-in-hand.
    Fran was a Manger at Ford Motor Company for more than 30 years. In the early and mid-1960s he created and ran the Lincoln-Mercury racing program. In many circles he is credited for coining the term "Funny Car." In 1966 he and his team created the true first generation Funny Car, a Mercury Comet Cyclone GT. The rest, as they say, is history.
    From 1969-1970, Fran managed the Ford facility in Brighton, MI, that produced the legendary Boss 429 Mustang. In later years, he managed Ford's Fabrication & Build Activity where they hand-built and delivered a 1988 Presidential Limousine. Fran will always be remembered for his automotive innovation and creativity as well as his marvelous sense of humor.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  22. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    Fran in 1969,.. at "Kar Kraft" He ran and built the Boss 429 project


  23. BrerHair
    Joined: Jan 30, 2007
    Posts: 4,637


    Condolences to the Hernandez family.
  24. Tman
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 34,058


    Like Jangleguy I grew up reading about him.
  25. RIP Fran - a true Legend
  26. Fiatdude
    Joined: May 5, 2010
    Posts: 89

    from SoCal

    Could it be at one of the mile events they use to hold at March AFB in Riverside????
  27. 296ardun
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 4,384


    Was also wondering where the drag strip shot was taken...Don't think it is saugus, the background was rolling hills, don't think it was Pomona because don't recall that dirt berm beside the track ... and don't think it was San Gabriel #1, too many trees in background, not San Fernando, not Paradise Mesa (there was a flat expanse beside the track....fresh out of ideas.

    (but back to Fran, the writing on the frame answers my earlier question about his involvement with the Yeakel Bros roadster, he built the hydro. ...unquestionably a man of many mechanical talents who came from a humble background and made good. He will be missed---RIP)
  28. Fran also designed the fuel injection system for the Yeakel Brothers car;made from 4 Stromberg carburetor bottoms.The setup is still around;I know because I saw it about a year ago.
  29. Hack Attack
    Joined: Nov 11, 2004
    Posts: 240

    Hack Attack

    Sure sounds like he had a fun and interesting life.

    Rest in peace Mr. Hernandez...
  30. Pete1
    Joined: Aug 23, 2004
    Posts: 1,969

    from Wa.

    I learned a small but important tip from Fran in 1950.
    How to narrow a 32 pedal box to install a column shift.
    He mentioned nitromethane at the time and I took his advice
    later and ran it in my dragster, the first in the northwest.
    Great guy.

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