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DeSoto Madness!-- Last year got a totally entertaining e-mail from Fred Vosk of bikesters.com. In it, he detailed his experiences with DeSoto-powered drag cars from the late 50's and early 60's. I dug the e-mail so much that I asked him if I could reprint it here. Fred said yes, so here it is -- a special treat!

Nitro Recollections:
DeSoto -- The Guy With the Funny Hat

by Fred Vosk

I was living in L.A. in the early 60's, learning how to paint hot rods and race cars and hanging around Lions a lot (even doing a bit of racing). There were a couple of guys from up north (around 'Frisco?), the Shrank Brothers (not sure of the spelling). One was named Jessie, I think he drove; don't remember the other's name. I think they owned a junk yard up there. They had an old Scotty Fenn (Chassis Research) car and used to tow it with this beat up pickup with a couple of real greasy spare engines in the back. I guess they just took them out of cars in the junk yard, that way they knew they ran. I don't think they even built them. When they blew one up they just took off the heads and blower setup (4-71 with a lot of spin) and stuck them on one of the spares along with a cam (Herbert, I think.) They'd throw that bullet in the car without even cleaning off the grease. They were real fast; I think they ran B/Fuel and probably were the fastest under 300 inches at the time. They were the ultimate DeSoto racers. We were pushing back down the return road one Saturday night when they had one let loose in the lights. Man, they were turning some ferocious rpm's.  

A little later in the 60's there was a car running out of Tony Capana's shop -- 10,000 RPM Dyno in Torrance --  by the guy who ran the dyno, Ron Hammel (I think he's still there.) It also was DeSoto small block hemi-powered (276) and was a sidewinder ultra light (jack start) body made out of dope and fabric... cool. It was very quick, but tended occasionally to go in any direction it felt like; 'winders did that now and then. The Cook Brothers' car kind of darted around a bit at times too, it was also jack start and of course it was short one wheel in the front. I saw them run right with Ivo at San Gabe; however, I seem to remember the car as having a 241 Dodge hemi in it, not a DeSoto. I always loved "winders" and checked them out real close; I even put one together once.  

Also, Hains and Cross were from Tacoma, Washington, not California. Before they had the AA/FD sponsored by California Equipment Co. (Cal Equip, Seattle), they had a B/Fuel 276 DeSoto (very quick) running as the Pirates racing team. I know because at the time we had a Flathead C/Fuel coupe, the Shifters racing team (yes everyone "WAS" in a hot rod club back then). We both raced for the same sponsor, Day and Night Speed Center, Seattle, owned by Clark Marshall. This was in 1958 to '59. Clark later owned California Equipment Co.  /Drag Fast, probably the first manufacturer of aftermarket floor shift linkage (pre-Hurst), and he continued to sponsor Bob and Jack. Later, Clark ran Puyallup Drag Strip and put on major auto shows in Seattle and the Northwest for many years, but that's a whole 'nother story.  

Also around '58 to '60, Dick Kalivoda was running a DeSoto-powered modified roadster out of the DiGammas car club (yeh, they'd even let THAT guy in a club). And at about the same time in Spokane, Washington, Don Wilber and Swede _____ were running a very clean little DeSoto-powered Henry J altered. We ran against them a few times for middle eliminator; we had a Chev in our coupe by then.  

"Man"... that's more remembering then I've done in years... hurts my head... hurts my fingers too... all that typing... maybe I'm getting old... NOT!

Fred Vosk
www.bikesters.com

 

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