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RIP: Ollie Morris, drag racing pioneer and engineer

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by dmarv, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. dmarv
    Joined: Oct 10, 2005
    Posts: 968

    Alliance Vendor
    from Exeter, CA

    My grandfather, Ollie Morris, passed away Saturday at his home in Escondido, CA Saturday June 28th. He was 81 years old. He was a living legend to me. He started drag racing when he returned home from WWII and quickly became one of the top drivers/builders of the time. Ollie was a fixture at Santa Ana and other SoCal race tracks during the 1950's. His vision and understanding of mechanical engineering lead to one of the first successful rear engined dragsters, "The Smokin' White Owl". The car was featured in numerous Hot Rod articles and was the cover car for November 1954. During the 1955 campaign, he was the first to use the new Chevrolet V8 at the 1st NHRA U.S. Nationals in Great Bend. His abilities caught the eye of Fred C. Offenhauser Sr. and Fred groomed him to become the head engineer for Offenhauser Equipment Corp. During his 30 year colaboration with Offenhauser, Ollie designed many items which helped with the succes of Offenhauser and are still in production today. The Dual-Port 360, Dial-A-Flow, Port-O-Sonic, TurboThrust, EquaFlow 360, and the low-profile ram manifold were all his designs. Besides working at Offenhauser Equipment, he also worked with Carrol Shelby on the intake manifolds used in the Shelby Mustangs during the mid to late 60's. He also owned and operated Ollie's Automotive and Machine in Santa Ana. His machine shop provided basic automotive repair, but spealized in performance work. His automotive genius lead to the creation of O.M.E.C., Ollie Morris Equipment Corporation. Through OMEC he developed many cutting edge items that were revolutionary for the time. OMEC was responsible for the first production variable valve timing setup called Cam-A-Go, the first variable distributor vacuum advance unit known as Vac-U-Trim, and suspension enhancing products sold as Traction Master. He continued his support of drag racing through sponserships, most notably "The Gashouse Gang" with their gas powered Chrysler Hemi dragster. His racing friends span the decades of racing pioneers: Wally Parks, Bud Coons, Don Garlits, Tommy Ivo, Joaquin Arnett, Chuck Potvin, Ted Halibrand, Mickey Thompson, CJ Hart, Creighton Hunter, Calvin Rice, Dean Moon, Bill Jenkins, Jack Moss, Ed Iskendarian, Bill Hays and many others; known and unknown.

    We used to laugh at the way inwhich the tradional hot rod market has re-invented itself. One story sticks in my mind about Stromberg 97 carburetors. During the 50's and 60's he was rebuilding or converting so many 97's for fuel use that he had collected three 55 gallon drums full of parts and cores. When he sold his shop in the mid 1980's he still had the drums full of parts and cores. He tried to sell the carburetors to some people, but nobody wanted them. He finally took the drums to the Santa Ana dump. He used to joke that those carburetors could have been his retirement account. (I can hear all you guys in SoCal heading over to the Santa Ana dump to look for the drums!)

    Grandpa, thanks for all the long talks about the early days of racing. The endless hours of questions I had about how to do this or how to do that. I don't know how many times you patiently explained volumetric efficiency and manifold air flow to me. I'll really miss going to the California Hot Rod Reuion with you and talking to all of your friends. I hope your trip from this world was better than your 200 mph at Bonneville. I know we'll talk again, it's just the inbetween years that will be hard.

    Dan Marvin, Owner
    Exeter Auto Supply
  2. Your grandfather was a true pioneer and legend. I'm sure he will be missed, but how cool to have grown up with his stories and knowledge.
    Godspeed, Ollie
  3. autobilly
    Joined: May 23, 2007
    Posts: 3,094


    Interesting story, your Grandfather really did it.
    RIP Ollie Morris.
  4. denis4x4
    Joined: Apr 23, 2005
    Posts: 3,783

    from Colorado

    I'm proud to have known Ollie and I suspect that dmarv played down some of the achievements that Ollie can lay claim to. In addition to all of the above, he handled some "skunk works" projects for Fran Hernandez at Mercury and designed the Capri V-6 manifolds that were a factory performance option. I have fond memories of 3 hour lunches with Fred and Ollie in Alhambra.

    RIP Ollie.

  5. He certainly played a part in the formative years of hot rodding. RIP.
  6. ocfab
    Joined: Dec 26, 2007
    Posts: 678


    R.I.P...... GodSpeed!!!
  7. haroldd1963
    Joined: Oct 15, 2007
    Posts: 1,154

    from Peru, IL

    What an amazing story about an amazing man!

    RIP and God Speed Ollie Morris.
  8. 85-percent
    Joined: Apr 5, 2005
    Posts: 323


    Thanks so much for sharing this news with us all.

    Condolences on your families loss. A visionary and unsung hero to all high performance car people for over 60 years!

    -90% Jimmy
  9. Bodacious
    Joined: Apr 4, 2008
    Posts: 286


    Thanks for the great story about an obviously great man. My condolences on your loss.
  10. The WW11 veterans were the very backbone of Hotrodding and we owe them a lot for their great contributions. God speed, sir and thanks..
  11. mudflap261
    Joined: Oct 24, 2005
    Posts: 588

    from tulsa

    Iam sorry to hear of your grandads passing he was truly a inventive person. Iused to look the owl over every chance I got . could you put some pics of the owl on .let these guys what a inventive racer wasdoing in 1954 thanks
  12. Royalshifter
    Joined: May 29, 2005
    Posts: 15,511

    from California

    RIP to a fallen HERO.
  13. jerry
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 3,473


    He will live on as long as someone has him in their thoughts.

    condolences on your lose.

  14. lstwsh
    Joined: Jun 4, 2008
    Posts: 440

    from Dayton,Oh

    Sorry to hear of your loss.As long as you have your memories and pass on the stories he will allways be remembered.God Speed Ollie
  15. What an amazing life he led, RIP Ollie.
  16. fab32
    Joined: May 14, 2002
    Posts: 13,985

    Member Emeritus

    Looks like he left a big legacy. God speed Ollie and condolences to you and your family.

  17. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    I didn't know him, but I knew of some of the parts you mentioned. A truly amazing man and innovator. I'm glad you shared some of his history with us.
  18. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,907


    All Hail the Smokin' White Owl!!
  19. keithc
    Joined: Jun 3, 2008
    Posts: 11



    Your grandfather was one heck of a good guy. Only knew him from phone calls when he converted my HC mag to electronic ignition. Talked to him several times and was so pleasant, not in a hurry and I learned so much from him (after being a gearhead for 45 years already). I know you will miss him, keep up your good work, he was very proud of you.
  20. stan292
    Joined: Dec 6, 2002
    Posts: 857


    Dan -

    Thanks for the story about your grandfather. I knew of him only by reputation, so it was very interesting to get some additional insight into his amazing history.

    I have an article scanned from one of the HRM yearbooks comparing the "Smokin' White Owl" to Garlits' first rear-motored car, that I've been keeping for reference if I'm ever able to build a "Hambster" dragster. That early car was clearly very well engineered - and if I recall correctly, quite successful in its own right.

    You obviously understand how fortunate you were to have Ollie as a grandpa - a very special experience indeed. My condolences go out to you and your family for the loss of their loved one, and to hot rodding in general for the passing of one of its true pioneers.
    Joined: Aug 19, 2002
    Posts: 1,964

    HAMB O'dex Editor

    sorry for you great loss!
  22. Toymaker
    Joined: Mar 26, 2006
    Posts: 3,920

    from Fresno,CA

    He will live forever in the hearts of those who read your story.
  23. I'm so sorry for your loss. He was a true hot rodder. The smokin white owl is one of my five favorite cars.
  24. derlogi
    Joined: Jan 18, 2009
    Posts: 9

    from Singapore

    I just saw your post from last year and was not aware of Ollie's passing. Sorry to hear it. He was a real inovator.

    I remember the "Smokin White Owl and Ollie very well. I never got to know him that well but some of my pals from Santa Ana did. I was from Anaheim and a good friend of Creighton Hunter, Dick Kraft, Stanley Betz, Chuck Potvin and many of the old guys. I hung out a lot in Santa Ana in the early and mid fifties around Pomeroy's gas station and Jon's restaurant. You may know many of my pals from that era. Mark Cernich, Don Hartman, Dick "Red Devil" Parker, John Garthe, Bill Smith and Don Matts from Tustin to name a few.

    Sadly we are loosing the old guys. Dick Kraft just passed on last Saturday
    and Creighton a couple of years ago. I was pretty close with both.
    Saw a lot of crazy stuff at the Santa Ana drags in the 50s

    I've got a great story about going to Paridise Mesa to take on the Bean Bandits with Hartman and Matts in their rear engine, swing axle dragster.
    Matt's built the chassis and put Hartman's 1/2 x 1/2 flathead in it. Matts was in the Army at the time and home on leave. We didn't have a trailer so we towed it with a rope down the PCH to San Diego each taking turns at the wheel for a few miles. As I remember there was , me, Matts, Hartman. Cernich, Red Devil and maybe John Garthe along
    We whipped the Bean Bandits on their own turf; they couldn't believe it and were really pissed. We had to clear out fast and left with a half dozen Chicanos flinging beer bottles at us. They came to Santa Ana the following week and got revenge. Hartman's 1/2 X 1/2 threw a rod coming of the line in the run off and the BBs won. Matt's was driving and still turned 120 on 7 cylinders

    Dr Jon Wagner aka "Little Jon"
    Pensacola, Florida
  25. Sorry to hear the news Dave about your grandfather .......he's in heaven with the rest of the prayers are with you and the family.
  26. Chopperken
    Joined: Jan 23, 2006
    Posts: 3


    Dan: My belated condolences about your grandfather. He was a very talented man. I have two of Ollie's converted H and C HEI convertedmagnetos and both of them have stopped working. I bought one of them from Ollie at his garage in Escondito. Can you suggest anyone who can repair them? I've replaced the coils, have fire going to the mag, but nothing coming out. Thanks, Ken Gross
  27. 296ardun
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 4,410


    Very sorry to hear of your loss, he was a true pioneer.

    In the early '60s I was working at Blair's Speed Shop, picking up parts at McCleod Clutches in Los Angeles. The guy was searching for the parts, so I wandered off into side room, and there was the "Smoking White Owl." It was covered with dust, and painted black, no engine. Even back then I knew the car was famous, and was amazed at the quality of construction. I have no idea what happened to it, but hope that it is still around, and could be restored to honor your grandfather.
  28. dmarv
    Joined: Oct 10, 2005
    Posts: 968

    Alliance Vendor
    from Exeter, CA


    Thanks for your story. You've pieced apart of my puzzle together. My grandfather thought that Fred Offenhauser had sold the White Owl to the BID clutch company. I've been barking up the wrong tree for 10 years.

    Dan Marvin, Owner
    Exeter Auto Supply
  29. JMPRO
    Joined: Jun 23, 2007
    Posts: 40

    from So Cal

    Well a little late but I just found this thread by chance. Sorry to hear about Ollie. I lived around the corner from him in Santa Ana when I was about 10 and wandered by his house many times on my bike and stopped to see his race car. He was always nice and answered all my questions. I got to sit in the car and pretend I was the driver and make vroom , vroom noises. Its a shame the car hasn't been found so it could be restored . What ever happened to the 32 he had. I recall it was a red 3 window. Its almost a shame, what ever happened to the low budget, built in a one car garage race car that could set a world record. I think it was 144 mph at the 54 winter nationals.
    I have some good memories from those times and some of them credited to Ollie
  30. shoprat
    Joined: Dec 23, 2006
    Posts: 1,109

    Member Emeritus
    from Orange, CA

    Sorry about Ollie and your loss. Just saw this by chance. I remember his shop
    in Costa Mesa and all the neat things he did. Very well known everywhere. I also
    used to go to Santa Ana Drags in the 50's.

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