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Why YOU should remember Mr. Hernandez RIP

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Fiatdude, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Fiatdude
    Joined: May 5, 2010
    Posts: 89

    from SoCal

    Francisco A. Hernandez

    <!-- Francisco A. Hernandez-->[​IMG]Hernandez, Francisco A.
    February 08, 1922 - January 05, 2011
    On an April morning in 1949, a young Mexican immigrant named Fran Hernandez drove his 1932 Ford coupe to a makeshift racing strip near Santa Barbara and defeated an old rival in what's considered the first legally sanctioned drag race in America. The Los Angeleno also set drag-racing history that day as the first driver to use a "nitro" fuel in his hot rod. Nitromethane, also used in rockets and model airplanes, remains a drag racing staple.
    Mr. Hernandez, whose passion for fast cars led to a distinguished career with Ford Motor Co., died Jan. 5 at a nursing home in Tecumseh, Mich., of complications from a brain aneurysm he suffered in 1994. He was 88.
    He was born Francisco Arturo Hernandez in Chihuahua, Mexico, on Feb. 8, 1922, and arrived in Los Angeles as an infant with his family, exiles of the Mexican Revolution. He attended Polytechnic High School and during World War II served in the U.S. Navy as a first class machinist mate on the USS Cabot CVL-28 in the Pacific theater.
    Returning to Los Angeles after the war, he became a machine-shop owner with automotive engineer Fred Offenhauser and later a foreman for the Edelbrock Equipment Co. He indulged his love of tinkering and his need for speed by building hot rods in the Edelbrock machine shop and racing, legally and otherwise, on streets and dry salt lakes, including Bonneville.
    His 1949 grudge match with a dry lakes racer named Tom Cobbs took place in a legal venue sponsored by the Santa Barbara Acceleration Association, on a service road at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. In the highly touted race, Cobbs drove a supercharged roadster, a '29 Model A body over a '34 Ford frame, but it was no match for the souped-up '32 Mercury three-window coupe that Mr. Hernandez drove.
    Mr. Hernandez went on to work for Indianapolis 500 racer Peter DePaolo, car builder Bill Stroppe and Electric Auto-Lite Co., which was acquired by Ford Motor Co. in 1961. He moved to Detroit the next year and was a Ford manager for more than 33 years. In the 1960s, he developed a racing program at Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division and is credited with coining the term "Funny Car," originally a Mercury Comet Cyclone GT. ("Funny Car" is an official drag racing car class.)
    In 1969-70, Mr. Hernandez managed the Ford facility in Brighton, Mich., that produced the Boss 429, a Mustang variant, and in later years managed Ford's Fabrication & Build Activity, which hand-built a 1988 limousine for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He retired in the 1990s.
    Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Patricia (Rathbun) Hernandez of Tecumseh, who married him in Los Angeles in 1943 - after he got out of jail. He had been sentenced to 30 days behind bars for zipping around LA in a roadster with no fenders or running boards; he got out five days early for good behavior.
    Survivors also include three children, Randy Hernandez of Tecumseh, MI, Nancy Hernandez of Houston, TX, Rick Hernandez of Agoura Hills, CA; a brother, Luis F. "Phil" Hernandez of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.

    <!-- -->
    Published in the Los Angeles Times on January 30, 2011

  2. TexasSpeed
    Joined: Nov 2, 2009
    Posts: 4,618


    Thank you for sharing this with us. I particularly enjoyed the good read.

    If it wasn't for men like him, I don't know what we'd all be obsessed with today.

    Rest in peace.
  3. laloszephyr
    Joined: Aug 13, 2005
    Posts: 190


    Very nice story,RIP.
  4. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    I posted a thread about Fran yesterday,... with a number of pictures, and the Obit. from the Detroit News,... you can find it at the link below,...

    I was actually shocked by the lack of response.

    Fran Hernandez,... 1939 at 17 years old
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011

  5. Fiatdude
    Joined: May 5, 2010
    Posts: 89

    from SoCal

    I'm sorry I missed your thread yesterday --- Fran was one of the true greats -- My wife slid the orbits under my nose this morning knowing my background playing with Fords and I was truly taken back at his passing.

    I really enjoyed all your photographs thank you
  6. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,869

    Harms Way

    My pleasure,... And thank you for posting this thread as well,... Fran didn't get a lot of personal publicity for all he did,.. But his drive and Passion of Hot Rodding speaks for itself.

    He came to the US to follow a dream, Built Hot Rods at there inception,.. was there at the beginning with Edelbrock & Offenhauser, .. Went off to World War II to defend HIS new country,... came back home and became very successful,.. still following his dream and passion. all in a quiet and unassuming way.

    His story defines our Nation and the greatest generation,... somebody we should respect and pay tribute to,.... A life well lived. IMHO
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  7. TexasSpeed
    Joined: Nov 2, 2009
    Posts: 4,618


    I apologize for not seeing your thread as well. I've been busy all weekend being out of town for a wedding. Still, that's not reason enough to not recognize a hot rodding great.

    Thank you for taking the time to make your post as well. You did an excellent job.
  8. scalhotrod
    Joined: Nov 22, 2010
    Posts: 138


    This is pretty cool and noteworthy. I'm glad it was published, it makes it easier to draft and add an article to
  9. Danimal
    Joined: Apr 23, 2006
    Posts: 4,130


    Amazing how much history is in this sleepy little community I call home. Lenawee County MI is the home of Tecumseh where he passed. I wish I would have known him.

    I just found out today that the founder of a small community in California came from my home township of Ogden and later went on to be a cobbler in Blissfield. That town was once called West Blissfield but he changed it based on a recommendation of his wife to Hollywood.

    RIP Mr. Hernandez. I'm glad we are linked in some way.
    westendofdz likes this.
  10. Fran was indeed a great man.Here is a picture of him taken about 7 years ago at his grandson's(my stepson)wedding.As an aside;his son Randy is preparing a book on Fran's life.

    Attached Files:

  11. ClearSpot
    Joined: Aug 20, 2009
    Posts: 939

    from Michigan

    Thanx Fiatdude.
    Very interesting life he had.
    RIP Francisco.
  12. truckncoupe
    Joined: Apr 4, 2009
    Posts: 1,427


    God Bless ! Awesome story!
  13. lorodz
    Joined: Jul 26, 2009
    Posts: 3,728


    awsome story..r.i.p. sir..
  14. Another member of the Greatest Generation leaves us. Low key gentlemen like him are what makes this a great country. RIP
  15. nice piece of history. thanks
  16. fab32
    Joined: May 14, 2002
    Posts: 13,985

    Member Emeritus

    A sad day and another reminder of how fragil and short life is. RIP

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

    Harms Way

    I would love to own a copy,... Please keep us informed on it's progress.
  18. Offy 220
    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 255

    Offy 220

    Thanks for posting the link about Fran. I met him when he worked with Bill Stroppe, I knew he worked with Fred C. Offenhauser and Edelbrock, didn't realize his involvement with Ford and the racing community. God bless you and your family, thanks for servicing our great country, RIP Mr. Fran Hernandez.
  19. swazzie
    Joined: Mar 30, 2004
    Posts: 940


    Props dear sir and God speed.....
  20. ChuckleHead_Al
    Joined: Mar 29, 2004
    Posts: 1,896


    Well said, well said.. May he RIP...
  21. I had know idea of his passing the speed god has another good bench racer to talk with. much respect
  22. ACH interior guy
    Joined: Sep 22, 2011
    Posts: 4

    ACH interior guy

    I grew up with Fran living 2 doors down from me in Farmington Hills, great guy. I didn't realize what a legend he was until he passed earlier this year and I read the history of what he'd done. When you're a young kid listening to Fran tell stories was fun but it's hard to put all that together at 9 or 10 yrs. old.

    Fran was also in charge of building the last Lincoln Presidential Limo started under the Reagan administration and delivered to George Bush Senior. Fran had a picture of that Limo in his house sign by Bush thanking him for the car.

    This is significant because I remember Fran talking about this on my parents back patio. Fran said the car was so heavy with armor that it needed to be design on a light duty truck platform. This had never been done before...before this, stock limos were bought and taken to a conversion or aftermarket shop. Fran wanted to build the limo in the prototype garage that he ran at Ford in Dearborn, and that's exactly what he ended up doing. He got his way and that was the first presidential limousine to be designed and a truck chassis. Since then, all of the later Presidential Limos have been made by General Motors but they have all been on light or medium duty truck chassis. Perhaps some ideas he drew from his days of commissioning "Funny cars" in the 60's.

    I know it's been months since he died, but I just saw an old coupe last night with a bunch of Edelbrock components on it that made me remember him again. I think I need to visit his wife Pat...she is still a sweet lady and a great cook that I haven't seen in several years.
  23. Jeem
    Joined: Sep 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,885

    Alliance Vendor

    American success story. An inspiration for sure.
  24. Troy H.
    Joined: Sep 20, 2011
    Posts: 8

    Troy H.
    from Canada

  25. x2!

    Thanks for this thread. I'm ashamed to say, I didn't know.

    Rest in Peace, Mr Hernandez.
  26. stude_trucks
    Joined: Sep 13, 2007
    Posts: 4,755


    Very inspirational! I love these kinds of stories. True heros of hot rodding and this country.

    And exactly the reason why we need to reconsider the benefits of building bridges with our neighbors instead of barriers.
  27. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,989

    from Tampa, FL

    Cool guy. Why don't we hear more about guys like him, before they pass? RIP, Amigo. Gary
  28. Fiatdude
    Joined: May 5, 2010
    Posts: 89

    from SoCal

    It has been a year -- -- -- --
  29. kevin mac
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 106

    kevin mac
    from toledo,oh

    thanks for the article..... roamed around these cities as a kid chasing women,and got hitched

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