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Thread: Early Days of Hot Rodding and Racing in Santa Barbara and beyond.

  1. #121
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    A few years ago at a Sonoma Meet I was talking to a mechanic preparing a fleet of Porsches for racing and I showed him some old grainy photos I had taken of a 1968 Porsche 908 -008 that Jo Siffert had driven to victory in the 1968 Nürburgring 1000. I had taken these at Oran Park in 1970 as the car was trailered around behind a Chrysler VF Valiant Pacer. The mechanic then introduced me to his boss, Cameron Healy, who kindly took the time to tell me the 908 was now part of a private collection belonging to Dr. Julio Palmaz in Napa, not far from the Sonoma race track.

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    Name:  1970 Oran Park # 9 Porsche 908.JPG
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    (Ken H photos.)

    More about this 908 at this site
    https://endurancenostalgia.wordpress...rgring-winner/

    Cameron then climbed into his 1953 Cooper Porsche # 55 also known as the "Pooper" to go out and compete.


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    (Ken H photo.)

    Cameron is also the owner of the earlier mentioned Porsche 356 Germund SL 356/02-063 and here is this YouTube clip of that story.




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    Ken H
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 04-25-2021 at 07:02 AM.

  2. #122
    Quote Originally Posted by khyndart in CA View Post
    Some well known drivers raced at Torrey Pines in the early days of their careers.

    Attachment 69290
    For instance, Dan Gurney, whose racing exploits began with a Triumph TR2 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, 1955.

    Attachment 69291
    Ken Miles driving his well known Flying Shingle.

    Attachment 69292
    Carroll Shelby. # 20. 1953. Ferrari 375 MM.

    ( Ken H..)
    That photo is not Dan Gurney in the white #129 TR2. It is actually Noble Bishop. Results of that January 15, 1956 race can be found here: http://wsrp.cz/natus1956.html
    Also, Dan's TR2 was painted Poppy Red.

  3. #123
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    Thanks "teegeefla" for the correction.
    My facts were correct but not the photo.

    "Originally Posted by khyndart in CA View Post

    Some well known drivers raced at Torrey Pines in the early days of their careers.
    " For instance, Dan Gurney, whose racing exploits began with a Triumph TR2 ( # 129) at Torrey Pines in San Diego, 1955."

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    https://www.racingsportscars.com/dri...urney-USA.html



    My searching will continue for a suitable photo if it is available.


    (Ken H )
    (
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 01-31-2022 at 06:27 AM.

  4. #124
    Here is a photo of Dan's #129 TR-2 from a 1959 Autosport article:

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  5. #125
    From Motor Racing, December 1959:

    Dan's first race was at Torrey Pines. He had tried to modify the car back to standard but was unable to do this, so ran in the modified category, finishing fourth in his class and ninth overall. He felt he had done "pretty well," especially on the twisty parts of the circuit. "But I hadn't learned how to heel and toe then, so I must have looked pretty funny trying to get slowed down for the corners."

    FRUSTRATION

    The next race was at Palm Springs. "By this time I had modified the car back to standard, and boy, it was really slow. All the production cars were grouped together for this race, over 50 of them, XKs, 300SLs, Porsches, Triumphs, Austin Healeys - and there were even a few Formula Three Coopers stuck in there for some reason. I got up to about twelfth or thirteenth, trying awfully hard, then a little Formula Three car just about stopped right in front of me on a hairpin bend, and I had to steer into the hay bales I would have run right over the top of him. This spun me out, of course, and I finished a really hot seventeenth. This race was really frustrating - I felt I was driving quite well but getting absolutely nowhere. I was going round the corners faster than most of the others, but they were just hosing me down the chute on the straightaway."

  6. #126
    A photo of Dan's Palm Springs incident from a DVD set of old race films and photos by Al Moss:

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  7. #127
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    Good stuff teegeefla,
    Al Moss was the founder of the company I work for, Moss Motors, and his films and archives are a real treasure, thanks for sharing.

    Dan Gurney wore a black helmet throughout his whole racing career.
    There was little regard for safety back in the fifties such as the lack of roll bars on the cars in your Palm Springs photo !

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    (Ken H )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 02-07-2022 at 05:29 AM.

  8. #128
    Thanks Ken; those Al Moss DVDs are amazing and I also learned a lot of new info about racing in California back then. I was a fan of Dan as a kid (since he was proof that someone tall could be a race car driver) and I got to know he and his wife Evi for the last decade of his life. I have compiled a database of his entire amateur and pro career and have a collection of around 130 models of cars that he drove (with another 20 or so on my "to do" list. Some are diecasts, others are kits that I built, some are models that I modified. The collection can be seen on my facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/groups/815317719358977
    Hope you enjoy it.

  9. #129
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    I will try this once again.
    Buellton is a small town about 40 miles north of Santa Barbara and 10 miles from Los Olivos. ( https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/l...vos-california)
    I saw recently that there was a race track on the edge of Buellton 70 years ago and I went to check out what I could, from looking at some old photos.
    As you can see not much has changed over that period of time !
    The farmer asked why did I want to take photos of the farmland and I showed him the archive photos. He was not aware of the racing and was most helpful and let me enter the property to try match where the racing had taken place and this is the result.
    He said it was a good time to wander around and take photos before the area is leased out for organic crop farming and the place is busy with people, farm equipment and irrigation pipes and watering etc. and No Trespassers !
    A present day photo of where the hills had resounded 70 years earlier to the sounds of vintage Model T jalopies, hot rods and motorcycles.
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    (Ken H photo)
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    Where I stood to take this photo is marked in the early photo of a start in 1950 of a group from the local Model T Club who organized the events at Buellton. ( I was at the white marker between the trees.)
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    The property owner and family have been there for decades and will not allow any development and they are close to the edge of town and I was amazed how it is unchanged from the 1950s.

    Attachment 72628
    Looking toward Buellton today. The long building in the middle is home to Tilton Engineering which make pretty decent racing clutches
    used around the world, (One can spend some time going through this site ) https://tiltonracing.com/

    In the distant hills in the middle at the top was the home for President Reagan during the 1980s known as the Western Whitehouse.

    (And that is my geography lesson for today.)

    (Ken H.)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-22-2022 at 07:30 AM.

  10. #130
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    A "Jalopy" is defined as an old and unreliable automobile. After WW2 there were many of these to be found in the US and so the local lads made good use of them at raceways such as Buellton.
    Here are some examples of racing at Buellton in 1950 and how it looks today.
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    Note the cars and spectators parked up in the natural grandstands of the hills.

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    (Ken H )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-22-2022 at 03:04 PM.

  11. #131
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    A 1950 photo shows the race winner with the checkered flag behind the winning car # 38 a 1934 Ford Tudor.
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    My 2022 photo of the same area where some of the same trees are growing on the hillside.
    The big difference is the major Highway 101 that by-passed Buellton in 1965, can be seen running north and south in the middle of the photo.

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    Lunch break at the Buellton pit area where most of the vehicles appear to be 1934 Fords except for # 14 a Chevrolet.

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    A much quieter place today.
    (Ken H photo )

  12. #132
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Ken H,

    That Buellton stuff is great and welcome back !!.

    Am busy in the cold in the Bay of Plenty collecting information from Don Tilsley who raced in the 1950's at Ohakea, Mount Wellington, a course I knew little about [ make that nothing as was not around the actual Mount but in the suburb of Mount Wellington near the present Motorway ], Seagrove and at NSCC Hill Climbs at Wairamarama Hill, near Onewhero that Trevor Sheffield knows a lot about.

    Keep them coming - and the modern photos make good comparisons - not a lot has happened since.

  13. #133
    Share with what you know about the Mt Wellington circuit when you can please Roger.

  14. #134
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    Not one of the prettier cars on the track, but local garage owner, Tommy Garland had his? machine # 2 running well.
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    Another young man who is featured in this thread was the popular Jack Mendenhall. Jack operated the local garage and tow services in Buellton along with building hot rods, dragsters, Jalopy racers etc,,.
    Here is a young Jack standing by 1931 Ford Model A (Which has a 1932 grill shell )
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  15. #135
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    The Buellton Speedway didn't last long and was closed by 1953, partly because of crashes like the one shown here.
    The flat oval made the top-heavy coupes more prone to rollovers, creating liability for the landowners and sponsors.
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    Today it is land for farming and the racing is a distant memory.
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    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-25-2022 at 04:05 PM.

  16. #136
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    Just past the old raceway one can still see the Buellton sign that has also been there for over 70 years.
    With the famous sign on it for the well known Andersen's Pea Soup showing "Hap-pea" standing over "Pea-wee"
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    The earlier mentioned Jack Mendenhall was friendly with the Andersen family and they sponsored Jack as he built specials to go racing after the local raceway closed down. The first creation was this dragster which was the original "Pea-Soup" Andersen Special. Along with Bob Joehnck's engine preparation this dragster was very competitive at the local quarter mile drag strips at Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.
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    It ran originally as a flathead-powered gasser and like most dragsters it went through a variety of engine changes. In this photo from the early sixties it powered by a fuel injected Cadillac engine.
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    Jack doing some tire warming on the San Luis Obispo drag strip, smoking out the 1942 Buick ambulance.

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    Another view of Jack Mendenhall leaving the start line at Santa Maria.

    Jack Mendenhall's dragster can be seen today at his collection. (More on that later.)
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    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-28-2022 at 07:33 AM.

  17. #137
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allan View Post
    Share with what you know about the Mt Wellington circuit when you can please Roger.
    Allan,
    Have posted the information on Mt Wellington on the NSCC thread, as it was an NSCC event.
    Don gave me some results initially and later a description of where the track was - " Commissariat Road " was the start finish straight.
    A friend of mine lived on this road in the 1970's - 80's - never knew it had been part of a race track.

    Cheers

    Roger
    Last edited by Roger Dowding; 06-30-2022 at 12:21 AM.

  18. #138
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    The boys from Buellton had a need for speed.
    Jack Mendenhall appreciated the Andersen family sponsorship and the Andersens enjoyed the advertising on what became known as their
    "Pea Soup Specials" mostly prepared by Jack and his team at his Buellton Garage that has now the site of the Mendenhall Museum.
    In the sixties Jack headed down to Mexico to race through the Baja Peninsula.-Described as a tough, enjoyable and unforgettable experience.


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    From Motor Trend Sept. 2013
    "But there were other daring souls willing to put their driving skills to the test in less customized machines.
    Jack Mendenhall is just such a person. Jack had already been successful on the salt, strip, and dirt oval. In 1968, he entered a 1958 Chevrolet Pickup, #212, dubbed Baja Piranha, in the Baja 1000. Jack's sponsor for this event, as with his Bonneville trials, was the ubiquitous Andersen's Pea Soup, a business neighbor in his hometown of Buellton, California. He partnered with body shop owner Bob Rowe as co-driver.
    The truck's exterior looked remarkably stock with the exception of the roll bar and roof-mounted lights. The most notable off-road accessory was the aircraft-style high floatation tires.
    Though Mendenhall had victories in previous endeavors, he didn't grab a record this time out. He didn't even finish within the 50-hour time limit. Still, putting a mostly stock 10-year-old 2WD pickup through a grueling off-road race takes more than a bucketful of grit and determination. Jack went on to compete in the 1000 with other vehicles, including James Garner's radical Olds. Our hats off to Jack."

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    1968 in Mexico

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    Off at the start, out into the unknown. 1968

    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-29-2022 at 11:58 PM.

  19. #139
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    During his Baja racing episodes Jack Mendenhall became friends with movie actor, James Garner. James had enjoyed racing and the filming of the movie, "Grand Prix" but his contract stated he was not to drive in any racing events. But Garner noted the restraining order did not mention off-road racing !
    Some interesting quotes." In the '69 Mexican 1000, Garner piloted the '70 Grabber 442, which was one of three preproduction cars built by off-road guru Vic Hickey.
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    The Mendenhall Cutlass is in the middle and identified by the central roof light. The Garner car is on the right and the Hickey Olds Cutlass is on the left.
    " Vic hickey operated Hickey Enterprises, a GM-backed team. He also had a personal relationship with famed shifter mogul George Hurst, who kindly provided Vic with three of Lansing's muscle cars: two production 1969 4-4-2s, and the aforementioned '70. "The latter was actually a pre-production version, specially prepared by George before it was shipped to Vic. Vic then prepared the car for James Garner for the '69 NORRA (Baja) 1000 off-road race.
    Vic had the ability to turn any car or truck into a competitive off-road racer within an average of 30 days. As for the 4-4-2, a lengthy list of modifications was made, beginning with enlarging each of the wheel openings a full inch. To allow enough travel and wheel clearance, the chassis was lifted three inches. From there, Vic and his team installed custom ball joints (upper and lower), modified the upper and lower control arms and installed ¾-ton Chevy pickup truck spindles up front, which were far stronger than the stock 4-4-2 spindles.
    A special roll cage was installed, and a 50-gallon fuel cell replaced the stock tank. Racing seats for Garner and his co-driver(s) were installed, a custom instrument panel fabricated, and a stock W-31 Olds 350-cu.in. engine was warmed up. Also among the changes was the addition of custom-made Cragar wheels clad with Goodyear off-road rubber. Painted blue and dubbed the Goodyear Grabber, due to the rubber company's backing, the highly modified Olds was ready for competition."

    Garner raced his first modified Olds Cutlass in the 1969 Baja 1000. (October 1969.)

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    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 07-11-2022 at 07:47 AM.

  20. #140
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    Jack Mendenhall prepared his Olds Cutlass for desert racing in Southern California, Baja Mexico and Nevada at his Buellton garage.
    it may not have been the best looking machine and looked a bit out of place amongst the other desert racers.
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    Jack had some sponsorship from our local Los Olivos Tavern.
    This shot shows James Garner checking out Jack's Cutlass in Buellton
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    The car had paint jobs so it could be spotted easier out in the wild desert!
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    (Ken H )

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