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The Hot Rod Rescue

The Hot Rod Rescue

Speed Demons #7
August 1957

The Pottersville Hot Rod Club was holding its weekly meeting. They had been given permission to use the basement of the Winston Loading and Freighting Company. John Ledner, president of the Pottersville Hot Rod Club called the group of some thirty young men to order at 8:30. The thin tall well liked hot rodder came right to the point as he spoke to his friends.

"Our most pressing need is to get a place where we can hold our annual get-together. If we could get the Armory that would solve all our problems. Seventeen Hot Rod clubs in the state have agreed to show their cars. In addition we have promises from about seventy manufacturers to set up booths for their products. We can even raise the necessary thousand dollars for the bond. But General Shay won't give us permission. He can't play any favorites. Even with me!"

It was the last addition that caused a lot of smiles to appear on the faces of the young men present. And one young lady, Edith Shay, felt a bit uncomfortable. Why couldn't her father give him permission? It really wasn't a question of playing favorites. He just didn't like the idea of hot rods in the Armory. Even if his future son-in-law was the head of the club.

"Our first report is from Bill Thompson," continued the young president. "He has something to say."

A heavy set young man arose from his seat and pointed to some equipment.

"Some of us have felt that welding was too expensive, too difficult to learn or even too dangerous. What I have here is the lightweight and easy to operate Linde unit. Price is just over $75.00. The kit includes a blowpipe, interchangeable welding and cutting tips, oxygen and acetylene regulators, hose, wrench, friction lighter and goggles. An additional fifty bucks takes care of the oxygen and acetylene cylinders which can be exchanged for less than fours bucks each. There's an instructive handbook that comes with each kit and you can learn the art of good welding. So my conclusion is that welding isn't too expensive, not too difficult to learn, and with proper care, not dangerous."

Some time was spent looking over the equipment. Then the president called for the second speaker, Mike Peronti.

"The turbine powered passenger car still is a long way from the family garage," began the hot rodder. "Although recent developments in automotive research and testing laboratories have brought the turbo-car a little closer to reality.

"Engineers agree that many obstacles must be overcome if the gas turbine is to be put to good use in the automobile industry. Three of the major problems so far have been the tremendous heat generated by compressed air charged with burning fuel, plus the rapid speed of the rotating turbine; high fuel consumption; and high cost and scarcity of certain key materials.

"The gas turbine itself is already a reality. There have been turbine powered test vehicles on the road for nearly ten years. In fact, the principle of turbine power dates back to man's first discovery that moving water could perform useful work.

"But the turbine's many advantages—light weight, smooth operations, power, compactness, simplicity, to mention a few—would mean nothing if it were too costly to manufacture or operate.

"Heat has been a major problem from the beginning. The turbines are driven by hot expanding gases that reach temperatures of 1,500º F. The turbine blades and other engine components must be able to sustain such high heat without losing shape.

"Much of the current research is in metallurgy—build the engine components of a metal, alloy or other material that will stand up under the extreme heat. Nickel has been proven satisfactory but nickel is expensive, and scarce. Other alloys are being tested in an effort to bypass nickel.

"Researchers believe that the problem of inefficiency, with resulting high fuel costs, can best be licked by re-employment of the heat of the engine exhaust. Regenerators, or heat exchangers, have been used on experimental engines. These regenerators use the hot exhaust to assist in hating the compressed air, thus decreasing the amount of fuel needed.

"Road tests have shown that heat exchangers increase the fuel mileage by approximately three times. A turbine-equipped bus has been driven more than 10,000 miles during the past several years. Thus engineers have had an opportunity to observe the engine under actual highway conditions."

There was a round of applause when young man finished. Then Edith Shay signaled her boy friend. He realized he had almost forgotten to make a very important announcement.

"This Sunday afternoon, at two P.M., the members of the Pottersville Rifle and Rod Club, will meet at Camp Henderson. We are going to sight in our rifles. We have been given pit ten. Guests are invited. Since most of you fellows are in the Rifle and Rod Club, come on up in our hot rods. I'm going to use mine."

After the meeting, John Ledner took his girl home. Edith had something on her mind and spoke to her boy friend.

"I think a little gentle persuasion could get dad to change his mind."

"Nothing doing," contradicted her boy friend. "No influence to be used. Things will work out, darling, so please don't fret and worry. Pack a good lunch for two for Sunday."

The weather man was most cooperative. He had the sun in the sky but not too warm a day. The club divided the members into two teams. One team shot first while the second operated the targets down in the pits. Then they changed and the second team got a chance to shoot. When finished they cleaned their rifles. The guests were interested in John Ledner's hot rod.

"Started with a '50 Ford coach which I bought new," he told them. "The changes were done over the period of a year. You can call the color Dusk Rose Metallic Enamel. Six coats of it! The front has been lowered two inches. The hood was shaved and the corners rounded.

"Notice the '49 Merc grille shell. Also the '54 Meteor grille bar and star. Sort of proud of the Frenched headlights using '52 Ford rims. The rear was lowered three inches. The engine is the original stock unit but has a lot of added pep thanks to a '49 Merc cam, adjustable tappets, Offenhauser 8.5 heads, Weiand dual-triple intake mounting two Chandler Grove carbs, and Mallory distributor. Starting cold within three minutes I could get away to the other side of that field and back."

He had no sooner said those words than the Loudspeaker System went into operation.

"Our honored guest today is Senator William Powers. The north field has been cleared. In four minutes the new small automatic mines will start exploding. Be sure to watch this display of one of the Army's newest inventions: The pocket sized automatic mine.

All eyes were on the north field and suddenly a woman let out a scream. She pointed to what all could plainly see: Three people walking calmly across the mine field. Suddenly everybody started to shout. The voice at the microphone joined in the warning. The people were upset and scared. They froze to the spot. John Ledner knew what to do. He had three minutes to make it out there and back! In a flash he was behind the wheel of his hot rod. The trusty car went into action as it had done many a time on a drag strip. It shot across the field as the seconds timed away. Ethel Shay watched him as did everyone else. The people out there in the mine field understood help was coming. Within a minute and a half the car came right up to them and to a dead halt.

"Get in quickly," ordered a voice. "We may make it—and we may not."

They actually jumped into the car and hardly was the door closed when the car turned around and headed for the starting place. It was almost back when the first of the mines began exploding. The concussion lifted the car a bit from the ground and rocked it, but it continued safely to its destination. The people cheered. Ethel Shay threw her arms around the bravest young man of the day.

"You made it! You made it!"

Senator Powers was among those who shook hands with the hero. He mentioned something about a civilian medal of honor being the right thing. General Shay was very proud. Anything the young man wanted. Anything?

I guess you read in the newspaper all about the first Hot Rod Show they held in the Armory. It surely was successful! The high spot was when Senator William Powers pinned a medal on the young hero.

"The army is interested in a car that can start from dead and come to such life," he said. "We'll talk about that later."

Of course the General was the proudest one of all even if his son-in-law stole the show!


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