Natural Guys © 1999
By Bill Ott
All things in nature constantly repeat ...
But always with a difference.
The essence of the repeat in mechanical
design is one of exact reproduction ... which is contrary to nature.
The main point in mechanical art is the
appreciation of the nature and quality of the materials involved, plus
knowledge of the mechanical requirements -- Andrew M. Vincent, 1938.
Which brings us to the story of a pair of NITRO burners from the 60's, a
dragster on it's top in Texas in ‘63 and how the forces of both natural
and mechanical reproduction were merged to create both the appearance and
results that were the essence of the hot rodding (and therefore the Drag
Racing) experience ... innovation at its finest.
Larry Steinegger and Al Eshenbaugh had been campaigning their Stuckey
built Performance Products dragster for a short while when they decided to
build themselves a set of them new-fangled Zoomie headers just like everyone
else was running. So they welded themselves up a set and took off on a short
tour of the Lone Star State. First stop -- San Antonio.
"STOCK" BUG CATCHER
Al usually took care of the driving chores, but for this meet Dick Soures
was at the wheel as Al had injured himself on the job. The car had been
running consistent 7.5's @ 190 plus up to this point. Push it down, start it
up, off it goes as Larry and Al watch from the push car while Dick crosses
the finish line, makes an abrupt turn into the dirt, rolls it on its top,
slides back across the track into the dirt again, whacks a 55 gallon drum,
and slides to a stop.
Hey, guess what? When the boys were told about the benefits of those
Zoomies, no one bothered to mention that the driver had better be wearing a
vented facemask or he'd wind up breathing NITRO fumes ... a whole lot of
them! Seems that Dick passed out at about the first set of timing lights,
and missed all the excitement!
A quick check of everything revealed not much damage to anything
(including Dick) due to sliding in the dirt, but ... mucho damage to the
Hilborn 4-hole "Bug Catcher" from sliding across the track. Ground
a whole bunch of that sucker off ... too much to fix. Time to load up the
wounded race car and head back to Phoenix.
The damaged injector seemed to work its way into most of the
conversations on the long drive home. It seemed the boys had an old 4-hole
Hilborn scoop laying around the shop somewhere and all of the damage to the
piece on the trailer behind them was to the scoop ... wonder if? ... Na ...
THE ESSENCE OF THE REPEAT IN MECHANICAL DESIGN IS ONE OF EXACT REPRODUCTION
... WHICH IS CONTRARY TO NATURE.
Upon arriving safely home, pulling the motor, and hauling the chassis
over to Clint Brown's shop in Phoenix for some cosmetic repairs (Clint built
the beautiful body) it's back to the shop to pull that injector and blow out
the dirt and debris. Not much hope for the top half of this rascal, but the
bottom half is perfect. AND ... that ‘ol 4-hole scoop was right where the
boys thought it was!
Next step, find an artist with machine tools to meld these parts into one
piece. How about ‘ol J.T. Stewart over at Dynamic Machine, and besides, he's
a damn good welder, too. So the boys laid their idea on J.T. and the plan
was set in motion ... THE MAIN POINT OF MECHANICAL ART IS THE APPRECIATION
OF THE NATURE AND QUALITY OF THE MATERIALS INVOLVED ... PLUS A KNOWLEDGE OF
THE MECHANICAL REQUIREMENTS. J.T. lived up to his reputation and the end
result was an injector that looked like it just came from the factory. Stu
Hilborn would'a been proud of this one!
Back to the shop to bolt this beauty back on the blower. Damn, it sure
looked natural, all polished up on top of that 6:71 ... ALL THINGS IN NATURE
REPEAT ... BUT ALWAYS WITH A DIFFERENCE. Hook up the fuel lines, linkage,
return springs, and let's fire it up! Hey, idles great! Now let's blip the
throttle once or twice ... EEEK!!! Big time binding between the huge
butterfly and the inside of the scoop ... back to Dynamic Machine to replace
the 1/4" steel butterfly shaft with 1/2" Stainless (Let's see THIS
one bend!), back on the motor after a slight change to the barrel valve
adjustment and she fired up slicker than owl poop! Incidentally, the nozzles
and return pill weren't touched and all of this was done without benefit of
a flow bench ... what's a flow bench?
Next weekend at Beeline Drag Strip it was back to performing just like
before the "Incident in San Antonio." As a matter of fact, Al
reported it responded better than "stock." The boys from Phoenix
were still running this set-up a few months later when they won the #9
position on the Drag News Mr. Eliminator list at San Diego where the
injector guy himself, Gene Adams, told them he was impressed, and also when
they were runner-up to Bob Sullivan for the AA/FD trophy at the ‘63 AHRA
Winternationals at Beeline Dragway, Phoenix. This was the race that Top
Eliminator between Sullivan and the Dragmaster/Ongais team was determined by
a coin toss due to darkness.
"PERSONALIZED" BUG CATCHER
Larry and Al, along with Red Greth and Johnny Loper, were inducted into
the Arizona Motorsports Hall Of Fame on Nov. 13, ‘99, and are presently in
the process of restoring the dragster. They towed the almost completed
beauty to Bakersfield, Ca., to attend the ‘99 California Hot Rod Reunion,
where the photos for this story (coming soon) were taken by Jerry Gross.
Last we heard about ‘ol J.T. Stewart, he was doing the clutch work on
Jim Head's Top Fueler. And Larry and Al still run their Performance Products
Co. down in Phoenix. So if you're ever passin' through and got the time,
drop by and remind ‘em ... THE ESSENCE OF REPEAT IN MECHANICAL DESIGN IS
ONE OF EXACT REPRODUCTION ... WHICH IS CONTRARY TO NATURE ... I'm sure they'll
nod their heads in agreement.
More old B.S. later.