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by Ellis Brasher
In late 1964-65, my friend Bill Rogers inquired about building a Hemi® powered dragster and, having built four or five, I already had most of the required equipment and material on hand.
This first picture is of the roll cage and the bending required, but only tack welded. The car assembly requires bending all four frame members, front axle, roll bar and brace and the steering box mounting bracket. The first car I built, the tubing was hauled from CC, Tx to the Rio Grande valley for bending and it turned out looking about like exhaust tube bending.
I then started think about how to make decent bends in 1.5" O.D. X .050" wall frame rail tubing and 1.625" O.D. X .125" wall roll bar and front axle tubing. Actually I always used 1¹" IPS SA-106-B steel pipe for roll bar and axle, it being 1.66" O.D. X .140" wall. I wanted the bends to be about 7" inside bend radius so I started thinking about bending it around a piece of 14 " pipe, but I knew it needed something to prevent it from collapsing/kinking.
I solved the collapse/kinking problem by machining a solid steel, egg shaped object that would barely fit inside the frame or roll bar and axle tubing. It was set up on a steel welding table with a piece of 14" pipe about 4" long mounted on an axle vertical to the table so that the tubing could be secured to the 14" pipe and the 14" pipe rotated in order to cause the tubing to bend. To prevent collapsing and kinking the "egg" was welded to a 20' piece of 1/4" pipe and the "egg" inserted inside the tubing to the point where the bending occurs and the 1/4" pipe secured so the "egg" would remain where located while the tubing slides over it during bending. The entire bender was made from 4-5 pieces of scrap and was manually operated; I could draw, scan and post a sketch of the bender if anyone wants to make one.
The next shot is of the back end of the car. The scatter shield was made from a steel, 1/4" min. thk. 14" pipe cap with a flange welded on to fit the engine bolt pattern. Look close at the bottom and note the clutch release fork shaft that sticks through and through; drilling the 3/4"+ holes on either side for a smooth fit of the shaft ain't very easy. You may notice a new scatter shield pipe cap lying in the background.
The next shot is also the back and also shows the 392" Hemi block. The object between the scatter shield and rear end housing is a homemade lineup jig made from pipe and machined to fit the main bearing saddles, scatter shield bearing housing and rear end pinion bearing housing. The rear end is an Oldsmobile, junk yard variety that was narrowed by torch cutting and welding. A lineup jig was used to keep it close. Some axles were shortened by torch cutting and welding; some were resplined and heat treated.
Keep in mind that no two of the frame rails are alike. The uprights were fish mouthed to fit the rails using a hole saw the same size of the tubing; the fits must be good in order to stick weld .050" wall tubing. I would normally put the first pass with a 3/32"Lincoln Fleetweld 180 rod and then cover with a 3/32"Lincoln Fleetweld 37 rod.
Next is a shot of the car frame full length and as I recall it was 180" wheelbase. The torsion bar was made from a junkyard VW torsion bar that came laminated by using stacks of 1/8" X 3/8" steel bars, but the normal was to use the correct number to make a 3/4" square bar and then use 3/4" drive sockets welded to the arms bolted to the axle. The trick was to locate and weld the sockets on to get both sides built with the same setting on each arm.
The next is the front end and lots of hours in hand making each component including wheels; hubs machined from solid aluminum 3.5"diameter bar so as to accept tapered roller bearings, spokes were intended for wheel chairs and the hub caps were freeze plugs. The spokes were installed and tightened using a dial indicator so that very little balancing was needed. Negative camber was about 3 degrees and caster about 30 or so. I still have the spoke hole drilling jig.
Next is a shot of the car on a borrowed trailer for the first time and I think it went to the old Houston track on the Gulf Freeway. As I recall the car ran 3 runs at 215+. The guy with the white hat on and with the big bulls eye is the owner/driver. Any doubts he could get in it.
Next shot appears to be a very important conference; the two guys with writing on the T-shirts are the co-owners; guy with the shades is Blackie Blackard (RIP), Blackie. I took the picture, but don't know where, probably Houston. I think the guy with the funny looking hat is Tom Crowley who I built a car for which appears on the near side in the match race.
Next is a 2 out of 3 "match" race between Gary Watson, near side and Bill in his first ever, Ford powered race car. These "match" races were like the WWF in that no one ever won the first two, and back then the money was slim pickings.
The race was at old Rodd Field at CC, Tx where I and many others saw their first ever big time racers that would come and put on 2-3 exhibition runs, the likes of Garlits, Eddie Hill and the twin Pontiacs, Bobby Langley's SCORPION and once with an aluminum channel framed car, Bob Sullivan in Pandemonium and of course half a dozen locals.
Next shot is probably at the Green Valley Spring Nationals which Bill won over the best diggers in Texas. The race was billed as a $5000 dollar race which was probably more than the cost of Bill's car. There was much torn up equipment at the race with two cars becoming entangled at about 200 mph and the Cortines car flipping 7 times, but he walked away.
I hope you enjoyed this little dab of drag racing history. One of my biggest regrets is I never spent the time or money to photograph things I have seen since seeing my first ever drag race at Halls, TN in 1957 or so where I saw what would later become the "Tennessee Boll Weevil" get beat by Lewis Carden's SBC, NHRA record B gas dragster. A friend and I pulled the Boll Weevil trailer back to Memphis to Ray Godman's home where we met him and I first learned of him being in a wheel chair.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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