Monday, December 11, 2017

A Corvair Low Rider  
This radical 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza low rider, shown in the House of Kolor booth at the 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) booth, perked a level of interest because the author drove a red 1967 Chevrolet Monza in high school. Needless to say, this Corvair is way cooler than that long-lost ride.  
Click to enlarge

If this finished low rider Corvair is not unique enough, consider that it was originally assembled in the General Motors Suisse assembly plant in Bienne Switzerland, one of the four Corvair assembly plants still in operation in 1966, along with the Willow Run Michigan, Oshawa Ontario Canada, and Van Nuys California.
The second generation restyled Corvair was released in 1965 known as the "Z-Body" with elements of the 1963 Larry Shinoda Sting Ray design. The second generation Corvair was longer and lower and used a three-link rear suspension and coil springs instead of the original swing arm suspension which had attracted the ire of consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Upon its release, Car and Driver  editor David E. Davis wrote that "the new Corvair is — in our opinion — the most important new car of the entire crop of '65 models, and the most beautiful car to appear in this country since before World War II."
This Corvair was customized in 2012 by Romain Roulleau’s “New Ride” shop in Norges la Ville, France, with the door handles removed and doors mounted suicide style and the hydraulic system installed before the car was painted Djoce Custom Paint using House of Kolor products, an American company founded in 1956 and a division of Valspar since 1977.   
click to enlarge

The 161-cubic inch 140-horsepower air-cooled "boxer" six-cylinder chromed and detailed engine was built by Julien Pitault in Dijon France.

All photos by the author

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Aria XFE revealed 

On Thursday November 30 during a press conference at the Los Angeles Auto Show the Aria Group revealed their latest creation the FXE, an American built hybrid hypercar that will challenge the best exotic car built in Europe.

The Aria Group is a leader in providing a full range of design, engineering and manufacturing solutions to meet any request from the transportation, aerospace and entertainment industries. Aria has nearly 20 years of expertise combining the latest advances in rapid manufacturing technology with innovative design and creative engineering to produce advanced and complex projects.  Aria has built one-off manufacturer concept cars and movie vehicles which include the Ford GR-1 and the Kia GT4 Stinger concept cars. 

The basis of the Aria Group’s new dream car is its patent-pending Integrated Composite Structure chassis concept. The pending nature of the intellectual property restricts how much can be revealed but the Aria Group says that it’s a less labor-intensive production method for a carbon-fiber tub with all the powertrain and suspension mounting attachment hardware integrated into the tub.

A supercharged small-block V-8 from an as-yet-unnamed American manufacturer (possibly the Corvette ZR-1 powerplant?) producing 720 horsepower will be bolted in the rear of the tub.  Aria is still negotiating for the supplier of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission but Xtrac which exclusively supplies transmissions for the INDYCAR series seems likely to get the contract.

The FXE will also have pair of axial-flux induction electric motors that add another 540 horsepower to drive the front wheels, which makes the car’s total output 1,150 horsepower.  The energy for the front motors will be stored in a 10-killowatt per hour lithium-ion battery pack. The Aria Group promises eye-popping performance from the FXE – Zero to 60 miles per hour (mph) in 3.1 seconds with a top speed of 220 mph.  

Keep up with the forthcoming details of the Aria FXE on these pages, or check out their website for more details.

Photos and construction details provided by The Aria Group

Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 SEMA "Battle of the Builders" winner

Troy Trepanier of Rad Rides by Troy was the winner of the coveted 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) “Battle of the Builders” competition held during SEMA Ignited, the official SEMA Show after-party held after the 2017 SEMA Show.

Trepanier’s 1929 Ford Model-A Tudor sedan shown at the B&M booth in the SEMA 2017 Central Hall edged out Alan Johnson’s 1932 Ford Tudor and Troy Ladd’s 1936 Packard roadster for the title. The three builders will be featured along with many other SEMA Show builders in a new episode of the TV special "SEMA: Battle of the Builders," which will premiere on the Velocity Channel on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. 

The 1929 Model A Tudor is powered by a GM first generation fuel-injected aluminum small block engine with custom valve covers and air cleaner connected to a Legend Gear and Transmission LGT-700 5-speed transmission with a Hurst Competition Plus ™ shifter and a modified Halibrand rear end. The exhaust is all stainless steel, fed through stainless steel Flowmaster ™ Super HP2 mufflers.   

The car built for Mark and Dennis Marianai features front and rear torsion bar suspension with an entirely hand fabricated body including the hood air cleaner and grille shell that was covered with a custom mixed bronze paint from Glasurit a division of BASF.  The car rides on CNC machined custom artillery  style wheels built in the Rad Rides shop. 
 For more details check out these sites:

All photos by the Author

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Something different from SEMA 
the Ford OjO Commuter Scooter


While touring the Ford exhibit at the 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, the author saw the new Ford-branded OjO (O-Joe) commuter electric scooter.  

The OjO is built on an aluminum frame and is powered by the "HyperGear" 500-watt gear hub (planetary gear reduction) motor which is supplied power from an onboard 48 volt lithium ion battery with its built in retractable cord for 110 volt charging.

Note the Ford logo on the front of the scooter
photo by the author

Boasting speeds of up to 20 miles per hour with a maximum range of 25 miles, OjO states that the scooter is legal for use in bike lanes without a license or helmet, but the author urges readers to check their state and local vehicle codes before purchasing one for $1999.99 (plus shipping).  

The Ford OjO scooter rides on all-weather tubeless tires with each wheel suspended on heavy duty shock absorbers and it is fitted with front and rear disc brakes. The rider can sit or remove the seat and stand on the treaded non-slip deck.  The fenders and the front and rear fairings are built of ABS plastic.  

photo supplied by Ojo

The OjO is equipped with a wireless key and motion alarm to protect it when not in use, and while underway the rider is fed information by the digital dashboard which also allows the choice of three speeds as well as control of the dual speaker Bluetooth ™ sound system and the front and rear LED lighting system. As you can see in the photograph, the OjO scooter also has a USB port.

The Ford OjO Commuter Scooter will be available beginning in January 2018, just in time for racers to buy one for use as a pit bike during the 2018 racing season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Hellcat powered 1967 Dodge Dart

The Magnuson booth at the 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas featured this sinister-looking  black and red  1967 Dodge Dart convertible equipped with  a Mopar "Hellcrate" 6.2 liter (370 cubic inch) Hemi engine (as used in the Dodge Hellcat Challenger and Charger) topped with a Magnuson ‘Vengeance’ TVS2650 supercharger.
 The Dart convertible which first debuted at the SEMA 2015 show equipped with a 512 cubic inch Hemi engine was built by Dominator Street Rods in Tracy California which also performed this latest engine swap.

The Hellcat engine as purchased from Mopar Performance boasts 707 horsepower;  Magnuson claims that the TVS2650 as a direct replacement for the factory supercharger which uses Eaton sixth generation twin vortex series rotors results in higher efficiency and requires 26 fewer horsepower to drive the unit.  
graphic courtesy of Magnuson
For further information check out these websites -

Sunday, November 5, 2017


At the AAPEX 2017 show in Las Vegas, Americana Series Car Care Products unveiled their new line of Americana Pro™  HOT WHEELS™ car care products.   The new consumer automotive appearance line features professional-grade, made in U.S.A. car cleaning and finishing products that promise to “Clean. Enhance. Protect.”  The initial launch is focused on exterior detailing formulas for general auto washing, polishing and protecting our car’s finish, as well as wheel and tire cleaners and tire protectant.

HOT WHEELS™ Americana Series™ Car Care Products are professional grade from Americana Pro Detailing Products, LLC. A company with over 75 Years of auto appearance experience.  The proprietary product blends and formulas are designed for the auto enthusiast, auto collector, and easy and safe for the everyday driver.

The entire product line is also packaged in gallons, drums & totes for car washes, pro detailer’s, auto/truck dealerships & auctions. HOT WHEELS™ products clean, enhance, and protect vehicles surfaces while adding brilliance to its finishes on a molecular level and are VOC compliant, biodegradable and easy to use, providing truly professional results.

“If you’re like me, your love affair with cars began as a kid with Hot Wheels. I think car care is a natural next step,” said Americana Pro Detailing Products Founder and Executive Director Daniel Pikarsky. “We’ve developed proven formulas that have received approval from the most demanding auto enthusiasts, while being easy to use. In field tests, Hot Wheels Car Care Products have received rave reviews from both car enthusiasts and professional racing teams worldwide.”

HOT WHEELS and associated trademarks and logos are owned by, and used under license from, Mattel. ©2017 Mattel. All Rights Reserved.
Product details and graphics provided by Phil Sasso at the PRNewsBureau

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It’s SEMA week !

On November 2 & 3, the writer of this blog will travel to Las Vegas for the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show, the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. SEMA 2017 draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to the massive Las Vegas Convention Center.  
The SEMA 2017 show covers thousands of square feet with exhibits halls that focus on twelve categories that include tires, wheels, powersports, off-road trucks, restoration, auto restyling, car care products collision repair and tools and equipment. More than 50,000 people attend the week-long show which features 1500 vehicles and 2400 exhibitors.  

As in years past, this blog will report on racing and performance, hot rods and the automobile manufacturer’s exhibits.  Look for feature stories from the SEMA 2017 show in the coming weeks.   

Monday, October 30, 2017

A $50,000 bonus offered for
the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals
Winning the Golden Driller at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire is one of the hardest prizes to earn in any form of motorsports. With an entry list that exceeds 300 cars, just to make the 24-car Saturday night A-Feature is an accomplishment in and of itself. It would be even tougher to win the Chill Bowl from the back, but in 2018 drivers will have 50,000 reasons to try.

For the 32nd edition of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals any driver who wins their preliminary night while using a seat from the Joie of Seating, they are in the running to take the Joie of Seating $50,000 Challenge. Following the “BC Forever” Pole Dash, the race pole sitter will be offered the choice to drop to the tail to start the A main event.
If the pole sitter doesn't take it, then next eligible preliminary night winner with a Joie of Seating seat will be offered the choice, and so forth until the list of eligible preliminary night winners is exhausted, so potentially four drivers could be offered the chance to say yes to the $50,000 Challenge.

Randy LaJoie, a two time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, began manufacturing seats in 1996 in order to produce what he felt was a safer, and much more custom fitted seat.  "On this deal, I am promoting my company because I want these drivers to be as safe as possible, but at the same time I want to add something fun, and give a driver a chance to make a little extra money. With the track crew they have, a guy can come through the field so it should be exciting to watch."

More details will be released by LaJoie as the Chili Bowl Nationals scheduled for January 9 through the 13th 2018 draws closer.
Information and graphics provided by the Chili Bowl Nationals

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Everyone loves a Nomad -today

This understated 1955 Chevy Bel Air Nomad mild custom drew a lot of attention at the 2107 "Autos of Alamo" car show.

1955 Nomad wasn't the first two-door station wagon that honor goes to the 1950 Ford Country Squire wagon, but it groundbreaking with styling that copied the Chevrolet hardtop sedan. The Nomad traced its origins back to the 1954 General Motor Motorama  "Dream Car" car of the same name.

Although today we look back upon this 2-door design as iconic, sales of the Nomad the most expensive car in the Chevrolet showroom ($2571 in 1955), never met expectations.  Introduced four months into the 1955 model year there were 8,386 1955 Nomads produced, but full-year sales totals actually dropped in 1956 to 7,886 units and dropped again in 1957 with just 6,100 Nomads sold. Future Chevrolet Nomads were four doors, except for the short-lived 1976 Vega Nomad wagon.

The Pontiac Division of General Motors shared the same body and sold it as the Safari wagon. The Safari was even more expensive that the Nomad with a list price of approximately $500 more and Safari sales were less than half those of the Nomad for the same three model years 1955-1957. After 1957 Pontiac Safari wagon featured a four-door body design.  

All photographs by the author


Monday, October 23, 2017


Ticket packages start
at just $99 for a six-race season



Monday, October 16, 2017

Brady Bacon names finalists for Baton Award

Three finalists have been named for the first annual Brady Bacon Baton Award which will select a young up and coming driver whom Bacon foresees as a future racing star bound for greater glory. The identity of the winner will be revealed on November 11 as part of the 2017 Racers Reunion Banquet in Irving Texas.

Bacon, the two-time United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint car champion from Broken Arrow Oklahoma who began racing at age five and throughout his career Bacon has excelled in midgets, sprint cars and championship cars on both dirt and asphalt race tracks across the country.  With over twenty years of experience in building, working on and racing open-wheel racing cars has provided Brady a unique perspective to identify and evaluate future racing talents. The three finalists for the 2017 Brady Bacon Baton Award are Giovanni Scelzi, Logan Seavey and Tyler Thomas.
Giovanni Scelzi 

Giovanni Scelzi started his racing career at a young age in micro sprints on local California tracks when he was just 6 years old. Those early experiences and the mentorship of his older brother Dominic and his father, four-time National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, has clearly helped the 15-year-old driver’s career.  After he notched a remarkable 24 feature wins and two track championships during the 2010 season, the following year, as a nine-year old, Scelzi moved up to the restricted micro sprint class and won another track championship.

In 2015 Giovanni led all 25 laps to claim the “A” class winged micro sprint main event and the “Golden Driller” at the famed Speedway Motors Tulsa Shootout held at the Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2016 Giovanni made the jump to full-sized sprint cars and collected eight victories and his first career California Speedweek championship. During the season, “Gio” claimed the King of Kings Speedway title and recorded a total of twelve top 10 finishes in 17 winged sprint car races and was voted the 360 Rookie of the Year by the North American 410 Sprint Car Poll voting panel.

This season, Giovanni has focused on the King of the West - NARC 410 winged sprint car series with the Dennis Roth Motorsports team and as of this writing leads the championship chase. Scelzi has not restricted his racing to just the state of California, as he scored a clean sweep at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa driving for BDS Motorsports with the Sprint Invaders series along with  three top five finishes in three American Sprint Car Series National series starts.
Logan Seavey celebrates
his Hockett/McMillin win

The next Brady Bacon Baton candidate, Logan Seavey, also hails from the Golden State. While Scelzi lives in the central California town of Fresno, Logan comes from the historic Gold Country town of Sutter in the northern part of the state.   Seavey began racing outlaw karts in 2002 at the ripe young age of 5 years old and won his first race when he was 6 years old behind the wheel of his box stock kart.

In 2007, just his fifth year behind the wheel, Seavey won his first championship, claiming the Box Stock title at the famed Cycleland Speedway in Chico California. Since then Logan has added five more outlaw kart championships that include back-to-back championships in the Red Bluff Outlaws Winter Indoor Series in 2015 and 2016 and the 2015 QRC Speed Sport Challenge.

2017 has been a breakout year for Logan, as he has scored two victories in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League with victories in the ‘Camfield Memorial’ race at Macon Speedway in Macon Illinois and at Lincoln Speedway in Lincoln Illinois on the final night of Illinois Speedweek.
As of this writing, Seavey leads the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League championship chase with nine top five and nine top ten finishes to go along with his two victories.  Last month, Logan had a dream weekend  as he won all three nights of the seventh annual Hockett/McMillin Memorial race in the Daum Motorsports 5D with the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR (non-wing) Sprint Car League.  
Tyler Thomas in action
at the Chili Bowl

The third Brady Bacon Baton finalist, Tyler Thomas has been a standout for the last several years with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League. Thomas from Collinsville Oklahoma began racing at just four years of age and recorded five championships on the Regional and Club level with 28 wins before he moved to Micro Sprints in 2009.  Tyler quickly put together 9 wins for his first season and quickly moved to the Ecotec Midget division in 2010 and won 6 of the 8 races in which he competed.

In 2011, Tyler debuted in the POWRI Midget Series, and he became the youngest driver to win a POWRI main event at the age of 15. 2012 and 2013 saw Thomas record more wins and podiums to finish 5th and 4th respectively in the POWRI National Midget standings. Last year Thomas added another win and 10 top-5 finishes

After he started his 2017 season with a strong fifth place finish in his preliminary night feature and a 17th place finish in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa Oklahoma, Tyler has scored three POWRi Lucas Oil National victories at Macon Speedway and Jacksonville Speedways in Illinois and Valley Speedway in Grass Valley Missouri. Thomas won the Sooner Midget Nationals with the Lucas Oil POWRi West Midget League at Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Oklahoma, and Tyler with the Brian Thomas #91T midget currently stands 12th in the USAC national midget points.  

The presentation of the Brady Bacon Baton Award is just one of the many exciting events on tap for the 2017 Racers Reunion in Irving Texas on November 11.  In addition to the special tribute to our nation’s veterans for Veterans Day, the banquet will feature as a special guest, three-time Indianapolis 500-mile race winner, the legendary Bobby Unser who will share stories of his many racing victories and times as a racing commentator for ABC Sports. 

Also scheduled for the eighth annual Racers Reunion are programs that will examine the first 50 years of the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) and the life of pioneering Hall of Fame drag racer, Bobby Langley, and the USAC Hall of Fame induction of the legendary Texas racer Lloyd Ruby.

Tickets for the eighth annual Racers Reunion Banquet, which in addition to the feature presentations includes an afternoon guest speaker, autograph session and an afternoon of bench racing with a large collection of vintage race cars and memorabilia are available at


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1932 Chevrolet Confederate sedan

Given today’s poetically correct social environment, many people will likely be surprised to learn that in 1932, Chevrolet Division of the General Motors Company marketed its new BA series car as the “Confederate.” Chevrolet advertised that the Confederate had “V-16 styling at a six cylinder price" and emphasized that it was the "Great American Value."
The Confederate series encompassed fourteen different body styles and a total of 313,395 were built in five factories across the United States during the 1932 sales year.
Notice the Chevrolet Spark passing in the background
The wire mesh grille was standard
The chrome louvers on the hood dual spare tire side mounts and cowl lights on this car which was seen at the “Autos of Alamo” car show identify it as a Confederate Special sedan.

 The Confederate rides on 18-inch true spoke wire wheels.
The Confederate series was powered by the trusty 194 cubic inch 60-horsepower (up 10 from 1931) “Stovebolt Six” engine connected to the all-new three-speed “Silent Synchro-Mesh” transmission and the "Simplified Free Wheeling" mode was standard, which permitted the car to coast when the driver's foot was lifted from the accelerator via an over-running clutch, that disengaged the driveshaft from the output shaft.

This beauty is very well-equipped fitted with the dual front "Town and Country" horns, dual rear-view mirrors, luggage racks, front and rear bumpers and the optional passenger side brake and parking light. All of these options that could have been added either at the factory or the dealership.    
After one year of disappointing sales with many sales lost to the new V-8 Ford,  the Confederate  was replaced for 1933 by the CA series sold as the "Eagle" and "Master" which when combined sold 140,000 more units than the 1932 Confederate.  
All photos by the author

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cody Gerhardt wins season finale
Maria Cofer claims the championship

Ten of Bay Cities Racing Association’s (BCRA) best pavement midgets were on hand Saturday September 30 at the Madera Speedway for the 2017 season finale. Chad Nichols in the #17N Shanoian Special sped around the 1/3-mile paved oval in 14.193 seconds to claim the top qualifying honors, trailed by Scott Pierovich in the Morris #71R with a best lap of 14.267 seconds.
Cody Gerhardt timed in third fastest trailed by Mark Maliepaard as David Goodwill rounded out the fast five. Leading the second group was third generation racer Davey Hamilton Junior in the Bob Rosen #4, followed by Maria Cofer, JR Williams and Floyd Alvis.  Nick Foster Junior was unable to make the call for time trials in the second Shanoian Special as the #1N suffered from an engine vibration.

Alvis and Cofer led the field to the green flag for the first 8-lap preliminary heat race and Cofer surged into the lead and held the point for the first two circuits. Nichols moved up from his fifth starting spot into second place on the second lap with an outside pass in turn one, then claimed the lead one lap later with another turn one outside pass.

One lap later, Gerhardt charged past Cofer into second place, which dropped Maria in the Arata #88 into third place trailed by Goodwill and Alvis. The running order remained unchanged over the last three laps, all run under the green flag. Foster was unable to answer the call for the second preliminary heat race, which was led wire-to-wire by Davey Hamilton Junior trailed by Pierovich Maliepaard and JR Williams.  

Fastest qualifier Nichols pulled the number “6” pill in the redraw for the starting feature lineup, which positioned Davey Hamilton Junior on the pole position with David Goodwill alongside for the start of the 30-lap season finale feature. Foster was able to take the green flag shotgun on the field but the engine vibrations were so severe that he pulled off as the field entered turn one on the first lap. At the drop of the green flag, Hamilton sped into the lead trailed by Maliepaard Gerhardt Pierovich and Nichols.

Hamilton held a slim lead while the trailing four cars battled among themselves, as between laps seven and ten Maliepaard battled all around the track for second place with Gerhardt finally able to make the high groove work and he began to track down Hamilton. On lap 16, Gerhardt moved low underneath Hamilton as the pair entered turn three. On lap 19, as Goodwill headed down the back stretch his engine went off song, and the #3G came to a stop on lap 20 at the exit of turn two to bring out the race’s first caution flag.

Nichols had a head of steam on the restart and blasted past Maliepaard and Hamilton on the outside of turns one and two to claim second place, but Chad’s evening came to an abrupt end on lap 27 as the #17N coasted into the infield out of fuel.  Cody Gerhardt sped under the twin checkered flags to claim a popular win over Maliepaard, Pierovich, Hamilton, 2017 BCRA season champion Maria Cofer, Floyd Alvis and JR Williams in seventh place. Nichols was scored in eighth position ahead of fellow non-finishers Goodwill and Foster.
photo of Maria Cofer by the author
After the event in the pit area the Arata Brothers’ trailer was a scene of celebration in honor of Maria Cofer’s crowning as the 2017 BCRA champion. Maria continued her family’s tradition of championships, as her father (and crew chief) John was the 1994 United States Auto Club (USAC) Western States series king.
Maria piloted the Arata’s immaculate black #88 #88 on the pavement and drove her father’s red white and black #57 on the dirt portions of the 2017 BCRA schedule. Maria will collect her championship trophy at the annual BCRA awards banquet to be held on January 20 2018 at the Hilton Hotel in Stockton California.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Owned by the same man for 56 years
Spotted at the 2017 Autos of Alamo Car Show in amongst the shiny brightly painted hot rods and sport cars was this  rather weather-beaten 1961 Chevrolet Impala coupe. This Roman Red with an Ermine white hardtop has an interesting story, as it has been owned by the same man for 56 years and it has spent the last 44 years in the City of Alamo. 

The owner hasn't restored the bdoywork (yet) but he has rebuilt the  235 cubic  inch 135-horsepower  "Hi Thrift" straight six engine.

If this was your car, what would you do - restore it or preserve it as original?  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A hot rod  with a historic connection 
at the Autos of Alamo car show

At the “Autos of Alamo” car show held on the evening of September 18 at the Alamo Square shopping Center, the author found a unique hot rod with a connection to both hot rod history and the history of the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

From a distance this is a nice full-fendered 1932 Ford Model 18 Deluxe coupe “three window” fitted with a Sparton horn, but the outstanding feature of this hot rod is its flathead V-8 engine fitted with original Navarro 89 cylinder heads. Barney Navarro was a ground breaking early Southern California hot rodder who built hop-up parts for at his Navarro Engineering shop at 5142 San Fernando Road in Glendale California.

Rambler ad scanned from the September 1967
 issue of Motor Trend magazine

For five years Barney Navarro raced on the United States Auto Club (USAC) championship racing circuit, principally at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an unlikely engine – a Rambler straight six engine as used in the Rambler American passenger car. Barney sleeved the engine down from its original 199 cubic inches down to 183 cubic inches and turbocharged it. A Rambler advertisement in Motor Trend magazine in September 1967 claimed that the engine developed over 550 horsepower.

Unfortunately the chassis in which the engine was installed in for its 1967 debut was a bit long in the tooth; the first rear-engine Watson chassis which powered by a Ford DOHC V-8 engine was driven to second place by Rodger Ward in the 1964 Indianapolis ‘500.’

 Les Scott's official Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo

Navarro bought the car in 1966 from racer Norm Hall who had raced it unsuccessfully during the 1965 USAC engine fitted with an Offenhauser engine. The Rambler-powered car was entered in the 1967 Indianapolis ‘500’ for Kokomo Indiana rookie driver Les Scott who passed his rookie test but failed to qualify for the 33-car starting field.

Over the next few years, Barney Navarro continued to attempt to qualify at Indianapolis with Scott as the driver although other notable drivers tried it. In 1968, after Scott failed his refresher test journalist turned racer Ken Titus crashed the Navarro Watson in practice.

In 1969 Mike Moseley who drove for Wilke Racers and AJ Watson took the car for a “test hop” to help sort of the handling but in the end Scott and the #50 Navarro Engineering Special failed to qualify for the ‘500.’ Later during the 1969 USAC racing season Al Loquasto tried to qualify the car at two races, and  Southern California road racer Dino Dioguardi did not qualify for the starting field at the 1969 season-ending “Rex Mays 300.”

Ace midget car pilot Arnie Knepper drove the red white and blue “Navarro American Motors Special” in practice at Indianapolis in 1970 but did not attempt to qualify. Later that season both Les Scott and Denny Zimmerman unsuccessfully tried to qualify the car for the inaugural ‘California 500’ at the Ontario Motor Speedway in September 1970.

Dave Strickland's official Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo

The following year the Navarro Rambler-powered car now fitted with twin turbochargers finally made the starting field for a USAC race and ran in both heats of the “Rafaela Indy 300” held in Argentina, driven by midget racing stalwart Dave Strickland. The #50 car was flagged in 19th place in the first 153-mile heat race, and 15th in the second heat 8 laps behind the winner.  

After adjustments made during a tire test session at Phoenix improved the old chassis’ handling, the team went to Indianapolis with high hopes. Dave Strickland passed his rookie test, but the over-stressed Rambler engine then reputed to develop 700 horsepower had reliability issues and eventually Strickland stepped out of the car after a practice incident. 
The Navarro-owned Rambler-powered Watson chassis reappeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1972 as the “Roughneck Drilling Special” driven by hard-luck racer Leon “Jigger” Sirois, who practiced the car but never made a qualifying attempt.

During the 1980’s Barney Navarro sold the 1964 Watson chassis less its unique engine back to its original driver Rodger Ward who had the car restored to Ford DOHC power with its original 1964 livery as the “Kaiser Aluminum Special.” 

Barney Navarro a true hot rod and racing innovator passed away two days after his 88th birthday in August 2007 but his company carries on and sells modern examples of Barney’s original castings.    

Color photographs by the author
Black & White photographs courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection