Monday, August 29, 2016

Wienermobile sighting

While traveling on business recently in Bakersfield California the author encountered a very rare and unmistakable vehicle parked in a hotel parking lot.
The first Wienermobile hit the road in Chicago in 1936 and there are currently six full-size Weinermobiles on the road in the United States, built on the chassis of a GMC W-series medium duty truck which was built in Japan by Isuzu.
The Oscar Mayer rolling hot dogs are powered by 366-cubic inch Vortec V-8 engine which allegedly produces 300 horsepower. The conversion which is built of fiberglass was completed by Prototype Source Inc. in Goleta California, which specializes in mobile marketing vehicles – check out some of the other Prototype Source creations at

The Weinermobiles have their own website at

and you can follow them on Twitter at



Monday, August 22, 2016

Matt Streeter wins a thriller at Placerville

Thirteen Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) mighty midgets joined four other divisions for  Donnie Tilford Tribute night at the Placerville Speedway on Saturday August 20 2016. Cory Elliott from Bakersfield set quick time in time trials as he toured the clay ¼-mile in 12.140 seconds to edge out McDougle’s Maria Cofer by .28 seconds, with Stockton’s Matt Streeter third fastest and Taylor Simas in Doug Bock’s Esslinger-powered Spike chassis to round out the fastest four cars.   

Randi Pankratz led the first laps of the first eight-lap heat race in her Edmunds/Fontana as she used the lower line before Matt Streeter powered by on the top side of the track. Streeter then pulled away for a convincing victory trailed to the finish line by Elliott and Simas. Brian Grad led all the way in the Arata Racing #88 Ellis chassis Storcks Garage entry to capture the second heat race over Michael Faccinto and Sparky Howard.

Gard and Simas shared the front row for the 30-lap feature following a memorial lap dedicated to Bryan Clauson who grew up at Placerville Speedway watching his father race there. At the drop of the green flag, Gard and Simas battled around the bottom of the race track as Matt Streeter in third chose to run his 14jr Spike/Esslinger around the high side of track, with Maria Cofer in fourth trailed by Nate Wait.

The action paused on lap 9 for a caution flag after Taylor Simas lost power in the #62 on the backstretch. After Simas was pushed back to the pit area, the intense race action resumed with Gard in the bottom groove and Streeter at the top. Streeter slowly reeled in Gard and stuck his nose ahead on lap 12, then led by a car length on lap 14. Behind the lead pair, Cory Elliott passed Cofer for third while behind the lead pack, Pankratz and Wilson fought for position, and Floyd Alvis, Bill Lindsey, and JR Williams continued to battle.

On lap 19, Gard recaptured the lead as Elliott briefly tried the top side of the track and fell back to fifth position, but by on lap 22 Cory had regained fourth place when the yellow flag flew for Bobby Wilson’s spin in turn three. Bobby restarted and joined the tail of the field for the restart, as Streeter and Elliott both took to the high groove while Gard, Pankratz and Cofer continued to use the low groove.

Streeter forged back into the lead on lap 28, as Elliott nipped Gard on the last lap to claim second place, with Randi Pankratz and Maria Cofer in fourth and fifth respectively.  A big “Thank you” to the Placerville Speedway staff for providing a super racing surface with two very good racing grooves which resulted in an exciting race for the fans.  

The BCRA midgets return to action on Thursday night September 8 at the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico California as part of joint BCRA/USAC Western States midget program along with the USAC/CRA sprint cars for the second of four nights of the 63rd annual Gold Cup weekend.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tony Hulman’s Beechcraft 18 airplane

While researching the recent “500” Platolene gasoline story, the author found an interesting letter written in February 1972 by the company’s general manager, J.W. Connelly, to the chairman of the Carmi Illinois airport expansion committee. Originally based in Hulman’s hometown of Terre Haute Indiana, at the time Platolene 500 headquarters was based in Carmi a small Illinois town 125 miles southeast Terre Haute.

Platolene 500 Inc. was one of many local businesses that supported the long-overdue extension of the city’s airport runway to 4,000 feet. Mr. Connelly’s comment was “two of our partners in this company, Henry Smith and Tony Hulman of Terre Haute Indiana, each have Beechcraft 18 airplanes. In the past they have used our present runway but they are very reluctant to do so because of only 2,700 feet of pavement.” It is worth noting that the recommended ground roll landing distance for a Beechcraft 18 was 2,800 feet. So what is the story behind Tony Hulman’s airplane?

The Beechcraft 18

The Beech Aircraft Company of Wichita Kansas began to produce the Beechcraft Model 18 in 1937, a “tail-dragger” design all-metal semi-monocoque construction and twin tail fins similar in appearance to the larger Lockheed Electra powered by that used twin radial engines.
Beech advertised to businessmen
Intended for use as a small airliner or as an executive aircraft, sales were slow and at the time of the United States’ entry into World War II in December 1941, only 39 Model 18's had been sold. As part of the war effort, more than 4,500 military versions of the Beechcraft 18 were built during WW II. Some sources state that over 90% of United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bombardiers and navigators during World War II were trained in Beech 18-type aircraft.

Tony Hulman’s plane

A typical Beech D18S cabin

Tony Hulman’s plane was a Beechcraft Model D18S, the first post-World War II version that debuted in October 1945 and featured seating for two pilots and six passengers with 5 feet of headroom in the cabin. The plane was powered by twin Pratt & Whitney 985 “Wasp Junior” nine-cylinder radial engines with gear-driven single-speed centrifugal type superchargers. The engines were rated at 450 horsepower each and used 99-inch constant speed propellers. The Beechcraft Model 18 typically cruised at 170 MPH, with a ceiling of 20,000 feet and a range of over 500 miles.
A Pratt & Whitney 985 in a Beech 18
A Pratt & Whitney 985 data plate

There were 1,035 Beech D18S planes built; the plane which would become Hulman’s was serial number A-223 completed on May 29 1946, the day before the first Indianapolis 500-mile race under Tony Hulman’s ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The mirror-like polished aluminum bodied plane was sold through dealer Interstate Airmotive to the Trailmobile Company of Cincinnati Ohio.  The company which built over-the-road semi-truck trailers since 1915 kept the Beechcraft in the company’s hangar at Cincinnati’s historic Lunken Field until 1954.  

During July 1954 the Beech 18 A-223 was sold to the Electric Auto-Lite division of Willys Corporation which manufactured 400 different automotive parts, including generators, lamps, horns, hubcaps, wiring, and seat adjustors. Electric Auto-Lite based in Toledo, Ohio the largest independent manufacturer of automotive electrical equipment was purchased by Ford Motor Company in 1961 after which Ford changed the division name to simply “Autolite.”

Under Ford’s ownership, the Autolite division expanded into auto racing particularly with spark plugs.  Lloyd Ruby drove Lindsey Hopkins’ “Autolite Special” Offenhauser powered Epperly laydown roadster to an eighth place finish in the 1961 Indianapolis ‘500.’  In 1962, Autolite spark plugs won the Daytona GT Continental, the Daytona ‘500,’ and then swept the top three finishing positions in the Indianapolis ‘500’ as Rodger Ward and Len Sutton finished one-two for Bob Wilke with Eddie Sachs in third place in Al Dean’s ‘Autolite Special.’
Tony's plane restored

The Willys Electric Auto-Lite division sold Beechcraft D18S tail number N80242 to the Mead Corporation of Dayton Ohio in October 1954. Pilot Lloyd Fuller went along with the plane, just as he had with the previous owner as he had flown Beech A-223 since it was completed in 1946 at the Wichita factory. During Mead’s ownership, Tony Hulman flew on the plane, although according to an article in the October 1971 issue of Flying magazine, Fuller said Hulman “really didn’t care for flying.”  
The tail of Tony's plane

In December 1963 the Mead Corporation sold the plane to Hulman & Company, pilot Fuller relocated to Terre Haute, and Hulman & Company built a new hangar on Hunt Road adjacent to Hulman Field (now known as Terre Haute International Airport). Under Hulman’s ownership, the tail number of the Beech was changed to N500 which remained until 1973 when it was predesignated N5QQ. Hulman & Company sold the highly-polished Beech D18S with blue trim in the fall of 1989. The plane’s current owner keeps the restored plane in Henderson Nevada.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Chad Nichols did it again!
The Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) mighty midgets paid a visit to Lakeport Speedway on Saturday night August 13 2016 as part of the track’s Fan Appreciation Night program with the BCRA vintage midgets and the track’s regular contingent of Bandeleros, Jammers, Bombers, and Legends cars.    
The fastest qualifier Shanoian "Essy" shares
 the front stretch with the vintage Shanoian "Offy"

Chad Nichols in the #17N Shanoian Special topped the field in time trials with a best lap of 12.015 seconds around Lakeport’s nearly circular paved ¼-mile oval. Nichols was joined in the 4-lap trophy dash by Michael Snider in his family’s #6K Beast, Darin Snider in the Champion Automotive #18, and Scott Pierovich in Del Morris’ #17K Beast/Esslinger. At the drop of the green flag for the trophy dash, pole-sitter Pierovich jumped into the lead and held the lead for all four circuits to claim the win.

Floyd Alvis and Bobby Wilson paced the field to the green flag for the 10-lap heat race, and Alvis led the first lap in his Stealth/Buick, before Pierovich executed a nifty outside move through turn one on the second lap to grab the lead. Later in the race, Nichols snuck around Alvis with his own outside pass to grab second place. At the drop of the checkered flag the finishing order was Pierovich, Nichols, Alvis, Wilson and JR Williams, as both Darin and Michael Snider failed to finish.
One of the Lakeport fans checked out the driving position
of a BCRA vintage midget as driver Richard Walsh looked on
Before the evening’s feature races began, BCRA members joined a group of cars and drivers staged on the front straightaway for a very popular “meet and greet” session with the fans. Before the national anthem, fans and racers alike paused for a moment of silence for fallen racing hero Bryan Clauson, who passed away after an accident during the Belleville Nationals. As an additional tribute Saturday night all the BCRA racers carried a “BC” sticker on their race cars.
The BCRA midgets on display for the fans

The evening’s fast qualifier Chad Nichols drew the “0” pill in the re-draw for the 30-lap feature lineup and thus started from the pole position. After the first start was called back, the field roared in the turn one with Nichols on point followed closely by Michael Snider and Pierovich. As Pierovich and Snider fought for second place, Nichols began to pull away from the field.  

Pierovich passed Michael Snider with a slick inside move through turn three to claim second place, but by that point Nichols held a 20-car length advantage. As the race continued non-stop, Pierovich was unable to cut appreciably into Nichols’s lead as the pair worked lapped traffic.

Mid-race, JR Williams experienced mechanical problems and pulled his #74 J & J Stealth into the infield, far enough off the racing line so that the racing action was not interrupted. Michael Snider’s car faded in the late laps and the cars of Darin Snider and Bobby Wilson both got around the #6K. Nichols led Pierovich, Darin Snider, Bobby Wilson, Michael Snider and Floyd Alvis to the checkered flag.      

The battle for the BCRA season championship heads to Placerville Speedway on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds Saturday night August 20 as part of an action-packed 5-class program for Donnie Tilford Tribute night.
Photographs by the author

Thursday, August 11, 2016

“500” Platolene gasoline

Recently on an episode of the History Channel program “American Pickers,” during a visit to Southern Indiana, one of the two protagonists bought a large old porcelain service station sign that read “500 Platolene” which used a checkered flag  The owner of the sign mumbled something about the people that ran the Indianapolis ‘500’ had owned this service station chain. Hearing that, the author had a new research project, namely where did that name come from?

Anton “Tony” Hulman Junior, who bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker in 1945, was born in Terre Haute Indiana the only child of grocery magnate Anton Hulman and his second wife Ada Grace Smith Hulman.  Ada’s family owned the Princeton Mining Company and the Deep-Vein Coal Company both bituminous coal mining operation as well as Princeton Farms all in the vicinity of Princeton Indiana about 80 miles due south of Terre Haute.

Henry P. Smith Junior operated those businesses after the death of his father as well as the RJ Oil and Refining Company which in addition to its refinery RJ operated 100 service stations in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Henry’s cousin, Tony Hulman was a partner in RJ Oil and Henry’s son, Donald Smith (later a Hall of Fame racing promoter) was RJ Oil’s sales manager.

In 1953 RJ undertook a one million dollar expansion of its refinery that was completed in August 1953. The refinery was the first such plant in the area that used a new process developed by Universal Oil Products of Des Plaines Illinois known as “platforming”

In an article published in the Terre Haute Tribune,  Smith promised motorists that the company '500' service stations  will have “the most powerful, cleanest burning, most economical gasoline that has even been refined” because of “the specially developed catalyst in this secret new process.” The process used “precious platinum, a metal more costly than gold;” in 1953 an ounce of platinum cost $70 compared to $40 for an ounce of gold.  The name of the new gasoline was “Platolene” - the “gasoline made with platinum.” The name and logo ‘500 Platolene’ was trademarked in 1953.   
A matchbook from the author's collection combines two
Tony Hulman businesses - 500 Platolene and the
Meadows Shopping Center (Terre Haute's first mall)
Today the Smith and Hulman family business interests remained intertwined. Tony George, Tony Hulman's only grandson, recently re-installed as chairman of Hulman & Company currently sits on the board of directors of First Financial Bank N.A. (once run by Don Smith), Deep Vein Coal Company, Princeton Mining Company, and R.J. Oil Company.  

There is one final racing connection to this story. In the early nineteen seventies Universal Oil Products (UOP) developed a new process known as ‘CCR platforming’ that allowed refineries to produce high-octane lead-free gasoline. To help promote their new process, in August 1971, UOP signed a sponsorship deal with Don Nichols’ Advanced Vehicle Systems.
The series of sinister black race cars in the SCCA Can-Am and Formula One series were known as “UOP Shadows.” The UOP Shadow DN4A driven by Jackie Oliver and powered by a 494-cubic inch Chevrolet engine powered by lead-free gasoline won the 1974 SCCA Can-Am championship.   

Postscript 2

Tony Hulman became a partner with RJ Smith in the Princeton Farms the primary product of which was popcorn. Around 1940 Smith and Hulman hired the former Vigo County Farm Bureau extension agent to run the Princeton Farms. The agent who ran the Farms for 12 years later became world-famous for marketing his own brand of popcorn: Orville Redenbacher.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dan Gurney and the Peter Bryant Award

Iconic driver's engineering excellence to be recognized


The late Peter Bryant left and Dan Gurney right at the
2009 legends of Riverside event

Whether it was his overseeing the design and construction the Formula 1 Weslake Eagle and then driving it to become the first American (and still the only one) to win a Grand Prix in a car with his own name on it; or talking Ford into working with Colin Chapman to install a modified Ford Fairlane engine in a upgraded Lotus 33 chassis for the 500; or taking Toyota to victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona; or building the Eagle Indy car that  Jerry Grant broke the 200 mile-per-hour barrier with at Ontario Motor Speedway in 1972. ... Dan Gurney was never satisfied with the status quo and always sought a technical edge to go along with his great talent behind the wheel.

On Saturday night, August 20, Dan Gurney's name will be added to the honor roll of names on the Peter Bryant Challenger Award.  The ceremony will take place at a special dinner on August 20 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel held as part of the historic races and concours and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic Can-Am racing series

Can-Am event producer Dave Wolin said "In truth, Dan Gurney's name should have been on this perpetual trophy long ago.  Dan Gurney has always been celebrated as championship driver ... and now we're very pleased to be able to recognize him for his many contributions to racecar engineering with this prestigious award. The general public really never thought of Dan Gurney as an engineer when he was driving,"  Wolin remarked,  "but, in many ways he was." 

This unique award is named for the late race car designer, Peter Bryant, who designed and engineered many well-known racing machines, among them the cutting-edge Ti22 and UOP Shadow Can-Am cars as well as the Shelby Series 1 passenger cars.  Beginning as a young racing mechanic in his native England, Bryant went on to become a brilliant and innovative engineer and designer.
The Peter Bryant award
The award celebrates excellence in motor racing engineering and the spirit that Bryant brought to the craft.  Phil Remington, Bruce Burness, Trevor Harris, Tyler Alexander, Alwin Springer, and Ike Smith are the names that precede Gurney's on the clear Lexan award that features a likeness of his Bryant's incredible "Ti22" car and pieces of titanium sheet sourced from the Timet Company, the company that originally produced that exotic super-strong/super-light metal used in the car.  

Due to prior commitments Dan  Gurney will not be able to attend the Can-Am dinner.  Accepting for him will be Vintage Racecar Associate Editor, historian, and the author of "Dan Gurney's Racing Eagles", John Zimmermann.

There are still a few tickets available for this special Saturday evening August 20 event, they may be obtained at:

Photos and information for this article provided by Doug Stoke at Stokes Communications

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The first annual Tom Manning Memorial race and much more
this Saturday night  
Looking for something fun to do this Saturday August 6th? I suggest that you come to Stockton 99 Speedway for a night of all open-wheel racing on the exciting high-banked paved ¼-mile race track.  
There will be FIVE classes of open wheel racing - The King of the Wing Orchex Western Sprintcar Series, the Legends of Kearney Bowl, vintage Super Modifieds, the  BCRA Vintage Midgets  and the BCRA Midgets which will present the first annual Tom Manning Memorial race to honor the memory of BCRA's long time Chief Steward.  

The pit gate opens at 1 PM, the spectator gates open at 5 PM and the racing program begins at 6 PM.  Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 North Wilson Way Stockton, California