Handy Hot Rod
Speed Demons #8
Jim Horton of the Westfield Hot Rod Club was busy reading the "For Sale" column of the Hot Rod News. He was making some notations with a pencil.
"Here are a couple of good buys," he informed his buddy, Dave Shaw. "'56 Chev. 210, 2-door red & white, R & H, new 7.10 x 15 WW's, new full race engine, Edelbrock 3 carb intake, Isky LBD cam, Weber flywheel, DSM coil, Corvette stock bore & stroke, heads ported, other extras, in immaculate condition. Best offer over $800 takes it, and here's another: Custom fiberglass coupe, '40 V8 60 full race, balanced, Zephyrs, full SW dash, 10,000 miles of L.S. driving, excellent handling characteristics. $1150."
"What's stopping you from buying?" demanded Dave Shaw.
"Ever hear about something called money?" demanded Jim Horton. "You know that green paper the U.S. government issues? Nice stuff. That's all I lack. At the rate I'm saving I'll never be able to get that car of my dreams."
"So you can use mine," interrupted the friendly voice of Carl Bauman, president of the Westfield Hot Rod Club. "It's nice to dream, but sooner or later you must face the realities of life. You can't run a car on dream gas. Which reminds me we have an invitation from the Montmara Hot Rod Club for next month. They have their annual championship drag at the Montmara field drag strip. This time they are going to have an extra stock car class. Last year Pete Innterfeld won in the "B" Roadster class. That Chevrolet V8 of his did 108.78 mph. Anything new?"
"You can take a look at the bulletin board," suggested Jim Horton.
"And my ears are all attention. Read it aloud, but with a lot of effort. Mike Govanti is busy working on his Hot Rod so a little noise may interfere. But believe me I'm all attention."
Carl Bauman got a little closer to the bulletin board and in a pleasant voice began reading:
"Backward Glance at 1906 Uncovers Two Newsmen Shaping Auto History: Just fifty one years ago this coming summer, two newspapermen, Charles Jasper Glidden of Boston and Charles Y. Knight of Chicago, played major roles in the development of the automobile as we know it today.
"Glidden, who was first a telegrapher, and later a writer, had acquired a fortune in his organization of New England telephone companies. He was an ardent motor tourist early in the century. In 1904 he and Mrs. Glidden had driven their English Napier from Boston to the St. Louis World's Fair by way of Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Chicago. Afterward they fitted their car with flanged steel wheels and drove it over the railroad rights-of-way to the Pacific Coast for the first leg of their round-the-world tour by automobile.
"To encourage motor touring in the United States and thereby stimulate highway construction, Glidden put up an expensive trophy. The annual Glidden Tours began in 1905. In the 1906 tour from Buffalo which consisted of 1570 miles to Bretton Woods through Canada, 48 cars started and 19 finished. Because 13 made perfect scores, the rules were tightened for 1907 when the American Automobile Association technical committee was organized to take charge of scoring.
"The tours continued summer after summer, through 1913, when squabbles over which car actually won brought the series to a 33 year halt. They were nostalgically revived in 1946.
"One of the 20 cars that entered but dropped out of the 1906 contest was an unusual vehicle built by Charles Knight who had the backing of a Chicago friend, L.B. Kilbourne. It had an engine in which the traditional poppet valves of internal combustion engines were replaced by sleeve valves resembling in principle those of the steam engine.
This was the first of the Silent Knights which, in the next two decades showed up as power plants in many American and foreign motor cars."
"You have a really nice voice," complimented Dave Shaw. "I guess that must be one of your many attractions for Helena Davenport. How's the romance coming on? Are you, or are you not going to get her that engagement ring with your hard earned cash?"
There was no smile on the face of Carl Bauman as he listened to those questions. But he replied.
"I seem to be absolutely negative as far as her father is concerned. We had one talk and that ended up in an argument when he learned I was president of a Hot Rod Club. He gave me the usually silly arguments and couldn't see any sense for what we were doing. He owns a small plane and uses it to fly to his business appointments up state. I wanted to know what was wrong with speed in the air as compared to speed on the ground? Sure, I plan to give Helena a ring but it would be easier all around if her father liked me."
"Maybe it could be arranged," commented the friendly voice of Mike Govanti. His face was spattered with oil and grease from working on his car. "After all, dad is president of the town's biggest bank so he sends for Mr. Davenport and comes right to the point. You must be nice to the young man who is the best friend of my son. Get it?"
Carl Bauman laughed and there was no longer any tension on his face.
"Let's take a peek at the car," he suggested.
The two walked the length of the old freight house that served as a meeting place and work shop for the Hot Rod Club.
"Al Benton up in Hartford asked me for a description of my job, so here is what I am telling him. I started with a '32 Ford 5 window car. Took me almost a year to do the rebuilding. It has a 59 A block bored out to 3 5/16 X 4 1/8 and is equipped with an H & C dragster cam, Edelbrock 3-carburetor manifold. Edelbrock 10 to 1 heads, and 25-tooth gears in a '39 Ford box. Body alterations are a '39 Plymouth steering box, 3 ½-inch dropped axle, gas tank, electric fuel pump. The battery is located in the trunk. The clutch and brakes are operated hydraulically, but the biggest factor is the rebuilding of the roof. She can turn over and over and not get a dent, and could almost carry a warship on top."
"When do we try her out?" asked Carl Bauman.
"Suppose we make it about three tomorrow. My girl works at the airport. We can pick you and Helena up at about one-thirty, go to the drag strip and give her a spin."
The next day when they called for Helena there was a slight change in plans.
"Dad will land at the airport at about two and I'll drive his car out there for him. You go ahead and we'll meet at the airport."
They arrived at the airport and there was a tiny speck in the sky. The operator at the control tower waved to Helena. She knew it was her father's plane. They watched the plane come in for a landing then something happened. The right wheel didn't come down from the under carriage. The operator at the control tower warned Mr. Davenport of the danger. Helena's father was an experienced pilot. He took the plane up again and tried to unjam his controls.
"I can't do a thing," he told the operator. "Haven't got a parachute. Only thing I can do is crash land."
"Not in that type of plane—you'll burn. How much more gas have you got?"
"Emergency supply for about three quarters of an hour. Better come up with something good or it's my finish."
Carl Bauman got an idea and rushed over to Mike Govanti.
"The top of your Hot Rod can take anything. We drive out onto the field and he lands his left wheel. We support his right wing on the car top. In effect we become his right wheel. Up to the operator we go and I'll explain it to Mr. Davenport via the radio phone."
They rushed up to the control tower and told the idea to the operator first.
"It's a long chance," he admitted. "We'll clear the field of everything but the ambulance and the crash fire truck. Take the radio phone mike and tell it to Mr. Davenport." Mr. Davenport listened carefully. At first he refused.
"If anything goes wrong," he said, "we all burn."
"But nothing must go wrong," snapped back Carl Bauman. "You have to be around to give away your daughter when we get married."
That did it! The field was cleared of other planes and cars. Mike Govanti let Carl Bauman drive the Hot Rod. He sat next to his friend and watched the plane. Once it overran its mark and the second time the right wing almost smashed into the car.
"I think I'll get heart failure," whispered Mike Govanti. "This is more than I bargained for."
On the third try the right wing came down slowly on top of the Hot Rod that was pacing it, inch for inch. Then the plane and the Hot Rod stopped together. Soon the field was swarming with people. Helena cried as she hugged her father.
"Why cry? He forced himself to smile. "You are the luckiest girl in the world to have a fellow like Carl."
The papers gave it top billing. There were photographers on hand. Mr. Davenport had just one comment to make.
"Handy to have a Hot Rod around, isn't it?"
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