Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fast Past.

Back in the fifties and sixties guys were obsessed with fast cars and fast women. I don't know what the girls were interested in, I had a Car!
Okay, it was a little before my time but the race looked about the same. The tract shown looks like it might be the Santa Rosa track. One of the things that was different is that they kept the track watered and their was no dust. I don't think that they could get families to go to the races with that kind of dust.

Pure skill.
As kids we used to go the hard-top races on weekends. and cheer on our heroes, the hard-top race drivers. A hard-top-racer was a car that was built up especially for racing on a dirt track. You could do anything that you wanted to it to make it go around the track faster. Anybody that has ever raced on a dirt track will know that no matter what you do to your car, your driving skill counts most. An example of driving skill would be to run up on a car on the outside going into a turn. You run up real fast on the outside going into it. The driver sees that you are overtaking him and his reflexes make him go faster. As soon as he speeds up, you duck back. He flies into the corner going too fast, he will drift up the track to the outside of the turn, and you duck back in and past him on the inside. You always have to remember to smile and wave on your way by, the crowd loves it!

The next time that you fly up on the same person to "show him your tire", as that tactic is called, He will slow down and crowd-in expecting you to pass him on the inside again. Then you just step on the throttle and pass him on the high side because you already have the momentum going. Then you remember to smile and wave on your way by, because the crowd loves it. It's a lot like playing poker. If you are running a bluff it's best to remember what driver that you "tricked", and how you tricked him the the last time. If you guess wrong, both up you can fly up and "kiss the wall". Kissing the wall is not nearly as romantic as it sounds, because it leaves your car with a much undesired permanent pucker.

If there wasn't a good hard-top race, we would go to the Jalopy races. A Jalopy was a car that had to be under a certain value. If you won the race with it, somebody else could pay you the price set before the race, and you had to sell it to him. So there was a lot of low-end value cars on the track. I can still remember the smell of hot engines and the lingering smoke in the air from the old worn-out oil burning engines. That was back in the days when speed was King, and the environment be-damned. God I love the smell of a Jalopy race in the morning!

I may have met my wife fifty-five years ago without knowing it!
I've mentioned before that my wife and I have unusually similar backgrounds. Although she was born in San Jose, and I was born in Willits, our ancestors are from the British Isles. One of her aunts was married to one of my uncles and they lived in Ukiah... But I digress. She went the the same hard-top races that I did as a kid in Santa Rosa. Only she rooted for the guy, Marshall Sargent, that I wanted to call all kinds of disgusting names, because he always beat my favorite racer, Ed Negre. Ed drove a Lincoln Zephyr, with a Cadillac LaSalle transmission and and the motor was a hot-rod Ford flathead v-8. She went to the races in San Jose where Sargent raced. When he raced in Santa Rosa, she would go with her family to Santa Rosa. So we may have stood next to each other in the line at the soda-pop stand. It seems like I should have noticed, because I've always been kinda' magnetically attracted to her.

Best Hamburgers ever!
The kids from back east always talk about how great “White Castle Hamburgers” are. Well I've never tasted one.. don't need to, the best hamburgers ever were at the Santa Rosa Raceway. You had the choice of a hamburger or a cheeseburger. Then you could get “sauce” and/or “vegetables”. Those were your only choices. The sauce was a mixture of mayo, mustard, and catchup. The vegetables were chopped up lettuce, onions, and tomato. They toasted the buns on a separate grill. They put everything on the burger for you, then they wrapped it nicely in a waxed tissue. It came already salted and peppered on the meat. The hamburger patty was ranch raised meat that was well aged for tenderness and flavor. The difference was about like the difference between a tomato that your grandma raised, and one like you buy in the store today. They handed you a hamburger as fast as you could walk up and order it. My order was; “cheeseburger, sauce and vegetables”.

People soon learned that it wasn't Burger King. If you wanted anything special, you didn't get it. When people started getting “special” the guy at the counter would tell the person to check the booth at the other end of the stands. (there was no burger stand back there) The guy would come back and say that there was no burgers down there. The guy in the stand would say “we don't have what you wanted here either. Do you want a hamburger or a cheeseburger, with sauce or with vegetables?” The burgers were drop dead delicious, and only a fool would want to change their recipe. Sometimes I wish the world today would be more like that, where people that had coupons, checks, food stamps and lootery tickets, would just be sent down the street.

Land and water speed records
Don Campbell
Was the first, and so far only, person to set both land and water speed records in the same year. (1964) Don was a brave, and some would say crazy, racer that was one of the most exciting people of the day. Campbell's land record of 429 MPH for a wheel driven vehicle was not broken until 2001. His water speed record was 276.33 MPH. He died while attempting a new record. He was traveling 320 MPH when his boat became airborne and flew up into the air at a 45 degree angle. He came back into the water and disintegrated on impact. He was killed instantly. All of his vehicles were called “Bluebirds”.

It was an age when speed was sought after. Anything more powerful, or anything that went faster was exciting to us. The military was building faster airplanes. The jet was a fairly recent invention and was coming into vogue. The cars of the day were designed to look like airplanes, clear back to the tailfin rear fenders. In the sixties, everybody knew who Art Arfons and Craig “Breedy” Breedlove were. They were busy taking records back and forth from each other in the sixties. In 1964-65 The land speed record was broken seven times between Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove. October 15, 1997 Andy Green set the world land speed record, and also broke the sound barrier on land for the first time. Green was driving the “ThrustSSC” twin turbofan jet engine racer.

Back when I was 16 I dreamed of picking my date for the drive-in movies driving a car like this. This black beauty is the "ThrustSSC"

Salt Flat racers
Just about everybody that could afford a car dreamed of setting some kind of a speed record. Our very own home-town-boy-does-good, Ross Sherburn set a salt flat record back in 1981.

Jim Frederick's legendary Fly Rod Superbird. Jim and his crew member Ross Sherburn drove this car from 1981 through 1987 at Bonneville setting numerous B/Altered records.

I wonder what happened to the days when we could dream of setting a speed record? We went to the moon back then. Noboby told use that it couldn't be done. I wonder what the kids of today will do? We were told that by now that the world would be nuclear powered and it would be free, all we had to pay for is the power lines, and there would be no pollution. We were told that all of the cars would be electric, because power would be so cheap. I wonder how they are doing on fusion power? That seems to be a non-polluting source of energy. I wonder what will be found wrong with that. It seems like everything that we dream about today is just to good to be true. But I'll bet that Ross had a lot of fun "Killing Salt" while it lasted.


Ekovox said...

Don't forget the College of the Redwoods Corsair salt flat car.

"Built back in 1971 by a group of engineering students from the College of the Redwoods in Northern California, under the direction of Bob Haveman, the Thermo King Special was a ‘Corsair’ streamliner powered by a blown diesel engine originally used to power transport refrigeration units. There were a couple of Corsairs built, but this particular one, the one Joel had acquired, set its last record (199.019 mph for F/DS cars) in 1979 at Bonneville. Then it was retired, supposedly forever."

Dave Kirby said...

My dad was one of the first T.V. repairmen in our area. We had a T.V. back in the late 40s. One of the earliest "sports' event on the box was Jalopy Derby from Gardena C.A.. The announcer was "whoa nellie" Dick Lane.

I grew up within ear shot of Irwindale Raceway which along with Pomona was one of the premier drag racing venues in southern cal. I spent many a weekend there watching a lot of famous racers. They served a killer hamburger at the pit snack bar. The secret was the sauce they used. It was basically a 1000 island sauce but had a tangy saltiness that made you want another. I later came to find out that it was a touch of anchovy paste that made the difference. The most memorable burgers I ever ate came from a place called Finney's near the Newport Beach Pier. They used finely chopped slightly grilled onions. Of course everything tasted better when I was a kid. I had my first slice of pizza from a stand at the Balboa Pavilion, I was hooked.

kathy sherburn said...

Thanks for the post about Ross.The day before he set that record he passed a kidney stone.We spent our summer vacations there at the Salt Flats in Wendover,a good time was had by all! Many stories and memories.

By the way Spyrock, Ross's Uncle Luther had a history of kidney stones also.

Robin Shelley said...

Wow, Ross! I had no idea! Let's hear some more about this record-breaking feat of yours... cool!
Waaaaay cool!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ekovox.
I remember that racer. The fact that it was powered by a refrigeration unit motor, and the fact that it looked like a refrigerator laid on it's back excited me for some strange reason.

As Ekovox knows, the old racer is still around. It now holds the land speed record for the fastest car with a Ford Model-T flat head engine. It seems like they have a catagory for everything.

e. said...

You know, one of my earliest memories as a child was the straight stretch of Highway 1 between Juan and Howard creeks. My mom and her motorhead friends used to drag race that strip late at night... they'd all race until the sheriffs would come and tell us all we had to go home.

Ernie Branscomb said...

So, What do you thing that the chances of a stock 2006 G.T.O. doing 200 MPH are? If they are good, what do you thing the chances are of my wife finding out that we took her car to the salt flats? We could wash the Salt off before we put it back in the garage...

Ernie Branscomb said...

E, that was a great spot, downhill both ways. Only you had to put somebody at the Branscomb Road to keep some idiot from pulling out in front of you.

Robin Shelley said...

Winchester Flat!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Because we are into motors today, have you ever seen a 108,920 Horse power motor? With over Five Million pound of torque?


ROBIN!!! its just straight away racing,doesn't take too much brains!!!!

Robin Shelley said...

You mean I could do it?!!
Ha, ha!
C'mon, Ross... quit being so modest. Tell me! I love that stuff!


ROBIN! for the most part,my dad was a catskinner,it doesn't skip a generation!!! LOL!


ERNIE! i moved away from garberville before being able to cruise main street!did you guys do this??? i cruised main street in weaverville,oakdale,modesto and CORNING! CRUISING MAIN STREET in CORNING,got me married!!!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ross, isn't that what you were trolling for?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ross, I have been driving since I was eight years old and I drove the water truck in the woods at fifteen. I wasn't very excited about street racing. But, I did have a ski boat. The girls put on bikinis for that.

The local race track was "The Flats" between Garberville and Redway. To get a good honest quarter mile, we had the Phillipsville Flat Marked off, but the people that lived there would rat us out.

Bunny said...

speaking of fast, according to your visitor counter which is at 999222 there are only 778 more hits until you reach a million. should we have an online party?

spyrock said...

what a cool looking car ross. i had one of those studebaker silver hawks until someone smashed into me. it was my grandmas car. i only went a 120 in it. but i've always loved speed. must be in the blood. the rush is incredible. mostly i loved to go as fast as i could down a wave. a big long wall, turning into one of those tubes where you get locked in like riding down the birth canal. my friend groovy liked to hollywood back and forth across the street but i would usually just go for it straight down the hill on our skateboards back in the 60's. my friend bob was a speed ski racer up in clear lake. i never did get hurt except for a few rasberries. i've slowed down quite a bit these days.
i think its just a family trait whether you have kidney stones or not. you just trust you will make it and go for it.

spyrock said...

i first saw my ex about 10 years before i met her at a doors concert. she was with larry who wound up getting her and her best friend pregnant at the same time, so larry was given the choice to go to jail or vietnam. he went to nam. it was the best jim morrison show i ever saw him do. i saw him about 5 times before at the avalon and he was just laid back like the rest of his band. but he was all black leather and shakin it for the small town american girls that came that night. so ten years later at a disco called the joaquin club i went straight up to her and asked her to dance for 25 years to one long doors song.

Ernie Branscomb said...

The meter speaks with a forked tongue. It does weird things to it's numbers. I know how to straighten it out, but I have to go back to when it was reading right and count forward, and I haven't been that bored yet.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ever wonder what kind of tires they use on the supersonic racers?

Rubber turns to jelly at three hundred MPH. They use spun alumimun wheels with groves cut in them for steering.

More go-fast, 800 MPH racer.


Bunny said...

I see the counter goes both forward and backward.... what's up with that? I'll never trust counters again.

Jim said...

Ernie, you surprise me. I know you strive to know how things work and as I remember you would always fix the things you could, pronto. So what's up with the counter.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Dang... Jim's got hisself an blogger name! Soon he'll have himself a forest name. Soon to follow will be a hippy name, like all the newcomers got. Then he'll start critisizing everything. He already pointed out that my counters broke.

Jim...You need to come back home. Living up there were nobody knows who you are is giving you somekind of a superiority complex.

Anonymous said...

So this is how you treat a newcomer... poor Jim. And all to cover up your broken counter.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ah... I was just teasing him. Jim sounds like a great name to have. I think that he is my cousin Jim. And he is Bear killin' tough. I'm sure he can take a little teasin'.

Indie said...

What fun to read, Ernie! I love the subheads and all the pics; they really add to the readability of this post.

It's been awhile since I checked in. Good to see you're still having fun.

I love hearing about the magnetic attraction for your wife and that you two might have stood in line together a half century ago. So sweet!!

Jim said...

You are right Ernie, Jim is Oregon.
And your counter still speaks with a forked tongue.

Ernie Branscomb said...

The counter is still wrong, but Todd barton called at about seven o-clock. He was excited that he was the "Millionth" Visitor". I had to tell him that the counter was all screwed up, but I'm going to by him a milkshake anyway!

ross sherburn said...

those MILKSHAKES don't taste as good,as the ones made in the 50s!!!! chocolate malts were my favorite!!!!

Fredy Champagne said...

Thanks for the really great memories of early stock car racing. I grew up in the South and saw many great races and drivers in the 50s and 60s. I'm 63 now and remember seeing my first stock car race in Martinez GA at age 11. I drove for a few years in Eureka when it was a dirt track. What fun, what memories. I still race, as a car owner. I'm just the manager, crew chief, and all around cook and bottle washer for my two grandchildren. Chelsea and Chris Champagne are racing Legends stock cars now in Ukiah, finishing the season 4th and 5th in the final championship points. The stock cars are still a great family sport. Thanks Ernie.