William Rooklidge: 1952 Jaguar XK120

Fanning Roadster

Jaguar delivered this XK120-M “open two seater” in July of 1952 through the Hornburg dealership in Los Angeles. The car turned up in February 1955 at Willow Springs Raceway, entered and driven by Howard Fanning of Los Angeles as one of 16 Jaguar XK120s in the “Stock” C class. The car’s racing career was short-lived and ignominious, however, as it was heavily damaged in what turned out to be California’s most disastrous and heavily criticized sports car road race.

The lead headline on the front page of the following day’s Bakersfield Californian screamed “Race Driver

Killed at Willow Springs; Spectator Mowed Down in Crash.” The article reported that driver Bill Powell died at the event after “his 500-cc race car went out of control and rolled during a practice run.” And three Jaguar XK120s were heavily damaged in the large-bore production car race, which was called after four laps. Noted California racer Frank Monise, Sr., driving the No. 59 Jaguar XK120 coupe, “lost a wheel coming into the east turn of the course” (Turn 8, the track’s highest-speed turn), the article reported, and “ran off the track [and] rolled several times. “Shortly after the Monise accident,” the article reported, Fanning “skidded, rolled and crashed” his No. 68 XK120-M roadster. Jack Graham, driving the No. 30 XK120-M roadster also crashed, but ran long enough to claim second place behind Jim Peterson in his No. 83 Jaguar XK120-M.

Graham Roadster 1955

Although the Bakersfield Californian article reports that Monise’s car hit a spectator and that Fanning skidded as a result of fluid left on the track from the Monise incident, the photographic, documentary and eyewitness evidence suggest otherwise. The Fanning and Graham roadsters crashed between Turns 1 and 2, where the photographs show them resting forlornly after the event, and where spectators were crowded between the track and parking lot during the race. Graham ran long enough to finish in second place, while neither Fanning nor Monise made the podium. And Monise alone crashed at the remote Turn 8, far from any spectators. If a Jaguar crashed from a fluid spill from another wrecked Jaguar, as the newspaper reported, it was likely the Graham roadster that crashed after Fanning.

Monise Coupe 1955

In any event, Fanning, Monise and the injured spectator, the Californian reported, were all “taken to the Lancaster hospital with major injuries.” Fortunately, Fanning, Graham and Monise all lived to continue racing, Fanning for a handful of events in an MGA, Graham for many events, initially in his damaged Jaguar and then in an Aston Martin, and Monise in well over 100 events in a variety of race cars, but never in another Jaguar. Indeed, Monise stripped his Jaguar coupe and sold the chassis, the only remaining usable portion, while continuing to make payments on the car.

Because of the carnage, the promoters, the California Sports Car Club and the Long Beach MG Club, were subjected to withering criticism from the racing press. Powell’s death was “the first driver-fatality in West Coast sports car racing,” Road & Track noted, and the event, “which saw one fatality, one critically injured driver, one badly injured spectator, one injured official and several wrecked automobiles, was badly organized,” with “too many over-eager drivers, no provision for driver tests to prove proficiency, poor crowd control, inadequate flag-men, superficial technical inspection, disorganized ambulance service and in general a complete lack of appreciation for the fact that the future of sports car racing rides on every event.” Another promoter, RRR, took over the Willow Springs Road Races the following year.

Soon after the Willow Springs debacle, Robert Colgrove, an auto body shop owner from Riverside, California, purchased a pair of wrecked Jaguars, a chassis and the entirety of the rolled roadster. Colgrove replaced the roadster’s leather interior trim with black vinyl, replaced the stock seats with bucket seats, hammered the body back into shape, and painted the car “gas tank orange,” before realizing that the front suspension was damaged beyond his capability to repair. The car sat unused in his auto body shop until 1970, when Colgrove sold the car (along with the chassis and a set of photos of the wrecked Jaguars at Willow Springs) to Ellis Lewis, who hoped to return the roadster to the road as a driver. Lewis used the chassis as a rolling cart to store Jaguar engine blocks and transmissions. Stymied by the badly bent front suspension, Lewis stored the roadster in his Riverside barn until 2006, when he sold it to the present owner.

After a ground-up restoration by Fabozzi Metal Works in Norco, California, the roadster sports a suede green exterior and suede green leather interior, a standard XK120 color combination. The roadster returned to Willow Springs in 2011 and first ran at Monterey in 2016, in both events tended by a crew headed by previous caretaker Ellis Lewis. And in 2015, 60 years after the Willow Springs debacle that marked the car’s ignominious motor racing debut, Frank Monise Jr., son of Frank Monise Sr. and an eyewitness to the events that unfolded that fateful weekend, drove the car round “Big Willow,” retracing the path his father had taken for those four fateful laps and indeed Frank Jr. had taken as a boy riding in his father’s and his friends’ Jaguar XK120s.

Revised version posted at Bill’s request, Marcus Bicknell Oct 21 2017

#27 in our series on cars in the Del Monte Trophy Race Group

 

Rob Manson: 1952 Streets Manning Special

Engine: Ford Mercury Flathead (Side Valve) 8 Cylinder (V8)
Displacement: 4185 cc (255 cubic inches)
Horsepower: 198 bhp @5000rpm, torque 300 ft-lb at 1800rpm
Induction: 3x Stromberg 97 downdraft carburettor, Navarro intake manifold
Gearbox: Ford, 3 forward gears and reverse, Lincoln Zephyr gear set
Running gear: 1936 Ford, scrap yard sourced, Manning tubular ladder chassis,
Brakes: Drum brakes from same running gear (Ford Lincoln)
Normal tyres: Dunlop Racing L 16 inch
Based: California, USA
Entrant: John Streets
Designer: Chuck Manning, a stress analyst at Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles who became the first Technical Editor of Road & Track magazine, conceived the type and built the first example, a different car to this one. Rob Manson’s Manning Special was constructed by Wally Chapman, from Manning’s plans, in the upstairs bedroom of his grandmother’s farmhouse in Schaghticoke NY in 1952. John Streets helped him finish it, raced it thru 1958, rebuilt it from remains of the wrecked original in 1991 and still looked after the car up to 2017.

Marcus Bicknell races the Manning at Laguna Seca in August 2019

Marty Stein: 1952 Siata 300BC

No.32 in our series of cars in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – 1947-1955 Sports Racing & GT Cars group

Race #56

ST402 was the second of the initial three Siata 300BC production cars-an outgrowth of the Orchidea semi-prototype built for Otto Linton and documented at www.speedcraftspecial.com. A run of fifty was ultimately built for homologation in the sports racing category.

The first three were delivered to the new owners by Linton in April 1952, though the invoices were not produced until June. 402 and 403 were bought by Tom Scatchard and Henry Wessels III respectively, and were even seen together in several races.

The car has arguably the most extensive and best documented period history of the model, in magazines, books, still photos and video clips. It finished first in class in the Convair trophy race at Allentown, Pennsylvania followed by another class win at Thompson, and then finishing the last race completed on the original Watkins Glen street course in September 1952. In 1953 it reached its zenith, finishing 20th overall, third in class, and eighth on index at Sebring in March of 1953. Its final period appearance was at Bridgehampton that same year.

402 then was converted for street use, possibly in Europe, and then changed hands a couple of times before coming into Marty Stein’s possession and being returned to its racing configuration. The car then began a vintage racing career which continues to this day, and is now believed to be the only 300BC being actively raced in America, with the longest continuous competition history of any of its sisters, spanning over 30 years. It has participated in the Monterey Historic Races more than 20 times, with finishes in the top ten. It has also run in races such as the Wine Country Classic, where it has finished as high as seventh overall, the Coronado Speed Festival, Buchanan Field, Lime Rock, and a return to the Glen for the Fall vintage festival. After a refresh in 1991 it was invited to represent the model in a display class of Siatas at Pebble Beach.

Awards for the car include the Group 3A award at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Best in Performance and Presentation for its group at the Wine Country Classic, and the first Spirit Award in memory of Martin Swig.

 

Rob Manson: 1953 Kurtis 500S Dodge

Frank Kurtis decided to build a sports car based on his 1952 500A Fuel Injection Special Indianapolis  car. The 500S series sports cars were built at Kurtis’ shops in Glendale California between 1953 and 1955.  Some 30 race cars and kits were sold including 12-15  built by Kurtis.

This car was purchased by a Doctor in Fresno, California whose intention was to race it. The engine chosen was a small block 240c.i. V8 Dodge Hemi which, in race trim, with 3 Stromberg 97 carburetors, developed about 250hp. The Kurtis torsion bar suspension is attached to front and rear live axles. The differential is a Hallibrand quick gear change unit. Brakes are Lincoln drum type. Bodywork is aluminum except for fiberglass nose and tail sections. Wheels were 16″ magnesium. 

The car was raced at Bakersfield, Reno, Moffett Field and Pebble Beach in 1954. Subsequently, it was road raced in Colorado and New Mexico.  It was turned into a hill climb special in 1964 for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. The Dodge Hemi motor was replaced by the first of a series of ever-larger Chevrolet V8s as the car moved from the sports car to the unlimited category from 1964 through 1969. It was a strong contender but not a winner. 

After nearly 35 years of single family ownership, the 1953 Kurtis 500S Dodge returned to road racing in the late 1980s and has been vintage raced on the East Coast since that time.  It is presented as it raced at the 1954 Pebble Beach Road Races.

Scott Shelley is driving Rob’s Kurtis at Laguna Seca in August 2019

Rob Manson: 1953 Tatum GMC Special

Charles “Chuck” Tatum was a decorated Marine Corps veteran of Iwo Jima from Stockton, California. He built the Tatum GMC Special in late 1952-early 1953 on a dare from friends Phil Hill, Sammy Weiss and Doug Trotter. Pre and Post War Ford suspension and drum brakes are mounted on a Tatum, designed and built, tube frame chassis. The engine, originally from a truck, is an inline 6 cylinder GMC. For the 1954 and 1955 seasons, Wayne Engineering of Los Angeles, supplied full race 302c.i. versions with its 12-valve cross flow cylinder head. Jack Hagemann of Hayward, Ca. built the all aluminum body.

The Tatum GMC Special was an active road racing participant and occasional winner, throughout California, from 1953 through 1955. During that period it also won the Best Sports Car Trophy at the 1954 Oakland National Roadster Show and was Hot Rod Magazines’s Cover Car for October 1953. The Tatum turned 157 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats and co-starred with Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie in the Hollywood epic JOHNNY DARK. Chuck Tatum raced his Special in the Del Monte Trophy feature race at the 1954 Pebble Beach Road Races. The Tatum GMC Special has been an active vintage racing participant since the mid-1980’s and is entered in the Del Monte Trophy Race Group for the Monterey Reunion 60th Anniversary Laguna Seca Races. 

Stu Hanssen: 1951 Hanssen Baldwin Special

This the third car built by Willis Baldwin of Santa Barbara.  It was raced from 1954 thru 1960 by Wm. Hanssen at tracks such as Palm Springs, Hanson Dam, Santa Barbara, and the famed Pebble Beach circuit. It is based on a shortened 1947 Ford chassis and is powered by a Ford Flathead V8 with an Ardun overhead valve conversion. The suspension and running gear is Ford.

Unlike Baldwin’s other Specials, this car has an all aluminum, full fender, envelope style body.

 

Don Blenderman: 1955 Murphy Kurtis 500SX

Frank Kurtis, the highly successful Indianapolis car constructor, built four Kurtis 500SX sports racing cars at his Kurtis Kraft facilities in Glendale, California. Each car was unique.
This is chassis number 3 (8 55 SX3) commissioned by Culver City Buick dealer Bill Murphy. Murphy had owned and raced two earlier Kurtis 500S sports cars, but this car was to give him the most success. In two years of competition, the Murphy Kurtis 500SX achieved an astonishing 18 Class victories and 9 Overall wins, in 31 starts against America’s and Europe’s best professional drivers. It competed in the Del Monte Trophy feature race at the 1956 Pebble Beach Road Races. Indy winner Sam Hanks provided race support for the big Kurtis until Murphy retired in 1957. Subsequently, the car was raced by several guest drivers including Bill Pollack and Chuck Daigh.

The Murphy Kurtis 500SX retains its original Holborn-Injected Buick Nailhead engine, Jaguar 4-speed transmission and Halibrand differential. The truss-type frame uses solid axles, front and rear, that are sprung by a transverse torsion bar system developed by Kurtis for his Indy car chassis. The full fendered alloy body is substantially original. A true “time capsule” race car, demonstrating the rapid professional evolution of locally-built Specials, during the first five years of sports car racing in California.

The car sat at Murphy’s dealership for 20 years until it was purchased by Rich Siefried. Siefried restored it. In 1980 it won its Class and the Sears Craftsman Trophy at the Monterey Historics and the Pebble Beach Cup at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

 

Steve Schuler: 1955 Hagemann Chrysler Special

The Hagemann Chrysler Special was built for amateur racer John Barneson by Jack Hagemann of San Leandro, California. Hydroplane and race engine builder George Nauro was chosen to build the powerful Chrysler 300 Hemi motor.

Hagemann developed his metal shaping skills during WWII at the Alameda Naval Air Station. He had already designed and built a number of early 1950s northern California Specials with strikingly beautiful alloy bodies. He used that experience to shape the several easily removable panels that comprise this full fendered, all aluminum body.

The chassis was also designed and built from scratch, using the most advanced speed equipment and components available. Hagemann built a ladder-type frame of steel tubing. Front and rear solid axles are suspended by torsion bars and radius rods and the differential is a Halibrand quick change unit. The car was the first to use disc brakes at the Pebble Beach Road Races.

At the 1956 Pebble Beach Road Races, Barneson finished 2nd in Class and 12th Overall, in the Del Monte Trophy race. He then won the next three races and had podium finishes throughout 1956 and 1957. Subsequent owners raced the car continuously into the mid-1960s. In 1965, it won the SCCA Pacific Coast Championship. It’s current owner has been racing the Hagemann Chrysler Special in vintage events, in it’s original 1955 configuration, since 1980. It is participating in the Del Monte Trophy Race Group at the 2017 Monterey Reunion Laguna Seca Raceway 60th Anniversary Races.

 

Lou Pavesi: 1953 Huffaker-Marston Healey

The Huffaker-Marston Healey Special was built in Marin County, California, for sports car salesman and enthusiast Mick Marston, by famed race car constructor, Joe Huffaker. It is the first Huffaker built sports racing car.

Marston acquired a wrecked Austin Healey 100 sports car which became the donor of most of the Special’s components. Huffaker designed a tubular chassis, and a de Dion-type rear suspension with inboard rear brakes and torsion bar springing. The original engine was race tuned and for a short period was equipped with a rare, but unreliable, Hunter Twin Cam cylinder head. The body is a light and functional all aluminum design built by Huffaker.

Mick Marston raced his Healey Special from 1954 through 1958 at tracks throughout central and northern California. It was a strong and consistent finisher against the 3 liter Ferraris and Maseratis in the D Modified race group. It competed in the Del Monte Trophy race at the 1956 Pebble Beach Road Races.

The current owner has vintage raced it since 1978 including 17 appearances at the Monterey Historics/Reunion. Huffaker Engineering continues to maintain the car in race condition. The Huffaker-Marston Healey Special continues to be a treasured member of the Pavesi, Marston and Huffaker families.

 

 

It’s a beauty !

Rick Cannon: 1950 Cannon Mk1 Special

Ted Cannon, built the Cannon Mk.1 and two other sports racing Specials at his machine shop in North Hollywood, California. It was mostly built from parts accumulated from other projects. The chassis, from his father’s 1934 Dodge, was shortened and the frame rails were boxed for rigidity. The coil spring front suspension and drum brakes came from the same pre-war Dodge. The rear axle, transverse leaf springs and drum brakes are from an early Ford. Cannon used two master cylinders and invented a driver-controlled balance bar to synchronize the front and rear brakes. The engine was a hot-rodded Ford/Mercury Flathead V8. In order to obtain the desirable close ratio gear cluster for the Ford 3-speed transmission, Cannon had to buy a wrecked Lincoln Zephyr sedan ($25). That purchase, however, provided the sheet metal for the Mk.1’s cowl and engine cover as well as it’s trunk lid and rear body work.

The Cannon Mk.1 was finished just in time for the inaugural 1950 Pebble Beach Road Races. In the main Pebble Beach Cup race, Los Angeles fireman Jim Seeley drove it to 3rd place behind Phil Hill’s and Don Parkinson’s lightweight Jaguar XK-120s. Seeley raced the car with considerable success through 1952 at Carrel Speedway, Del Mar/Torrey Pines, the Sandberg Hillclimb and twice more at the Pebble Beach Road Races (1951 and 1952).

After 67 years, the Cannon Mk.1 Special remains with the current generations of the Cannon family and is a marvelous example of the ingenuity and mechanical skills of California sports car racing enthusiasts in the early 1950s.