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Red Bull and Caterham (F1) give their V8s one last blast – rev limiters removed

27 Nov

As they prep to switch to the turbo V6 next year a fitting sendoff was necessary for the Renault RS27 after the Brazillian GP…
The removed the rev limiters and let ’em rip. Supposedly Red Bull hit 22,000 RPM

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber helped Red Bull and Renault to send off their final V8 engine with one last blast.

Webber personally fired up the Renault RS27 in his chassis, glowed white hot as it screamed away at maximum revs with its limiter disabled.

Lotus and Caterham added to the cacophony of noise in the pit lane after the Brazilian Grand Prix as Formula One said goodbye to the V8 engine formula which has been in service since the 2006 season.


Red Bull:






Fun facts about the Renault RS27:

  • 2.4 L V8 (2006 to 2013)
  • 8 years of competition
  • 59 wins – 40% of wins in the V8 era
  • 65 pole positions
  • 55 fastest laps
  • 3665.5 points
  • 5 Constructors’ world titles
  • 5 Drivers’ world titles
  • 750 bhp maximum power (2013 version, typical car installation, typical temp/pressure/humidity)
  • 18,000 rpm maximum engine speed (2013 version)
  • 95kg weight, FIA perimeter
  • 1,271 engines built, 683 for track use, 588 for dyno use
  • more than 2 000 000 km total
  • more than 5 000 components per engine
  • more than 7 600 000 parts used
  • 21,800 pistons used
  • 43,200 inlet valves used
  • 45,900 exhaust valves used
  • 43,800 connecting-rod bolts fitted
  • 22,000 spark plugs used
  • 10,600 oil filters used


Jean-Michel Jalinier, Renault Sport F1 President and Managing Director: “The V8 era has been a particularly successful one for Renault, and one that stands up to the exceptionally high standards we set with the V10 in the 90s. We can be very proud of the ‘hit’ rate of wins and poles, but equally of the progress we have made, particularly under the frozen engine regulations. What is equally satisfying is the relationships we have built up with all of our teams. We have worked hard on installation to provide the most driveable engine, sacrificing outright power to enable greater integration and other benefits such as energy recovery and cooling to make the overall speed of the car quicker. To have won with four different teams and six different drivers shows the relationships have flourished.”

The golden age of auto racing

11 Oct

Scuderia Ferrari Factory

Lancia-Ferrari D50 in preparation for 1956 Monaco Grand Prix

FOR SALE: 800 mph jet powered land speed racer

2 May

When those quarterly bonus checks roll in don’t forget to treat yourself to something fun this time.

The car was built by Craig Breedlove, run to 675 back in the ’90s, then sold to Steve Fossett.

When Fossett died in that plane crash in ’07 the project was abandoned. Their loss is your gain! They are accepting offers >$3MM.

Tell Andy Green to fuck off and bring that record back to the US where it belongs!

“buyer gets the entire workshop, drawings, spares, tools, jigs and even the truck needed to haul Target 800 MPH to the dry lake bed of your choice.”


No joke. It’s actually for sale:



Developed from landspeed legend Craig Breedlove’s promising 1996-1997 ‘Spirit of America – Sonic Arrow’ by the late Steve Fossett’s Reno, Nevada-based team during 2006-2007. Fossett purchased the un-fulfilled project in July, 2006 from Breedlove with an initial record target speed of 800 mph, with eventual development planned for speeds of 900 mph+. The ‘Target 800 mph’ team was nearing testing phase at Bonneville, Utah or the dry lakes of California when Steve was killed in the crash of his light aircraft in September, 2007.

Initial record runs were planned for a dry lake in northern Nevada in spring, 2008. A logistical exercise for loading, transport, assembly etc was conducted by the team o n the Black Rock Desert in October, 2007. That is the source of the attached photos (all images © Stuart Radnofsky / Project 100 – 2007). Further engine tests / team exercises were conducted in early 2008 at El Mirage before the project was eventually shut down, with all elements carefully packed and mothballed in mid-2008.

The car has been rebuilt and re-wired from the ground up with a longer wheelbase, wider track and modified aerodynamics, including lengthened wheel covers and parachute assembly and no dorsal fin. The braking parachute and its deployment system were also completely re-designed

We are selling the complete project outright. Included in the sale will be the car plus all designs and drawings, data and other documentation, all workshop and operations elements, including special tools and jigs, extensive spares, custom loading and assembly hardware, modified race transporter trailer and tractor, catering transporter and tractor, pickup truck and more.

Over US$ 4 million is invested in this project. Serious offers (principals only) are invited

Contact Stuart Radnofsky, Director, Project 100 Communications Ltd, Tel +44 (0)1727 836238, Fax +44 (0)1727 869142, E-mail

Powered by a single modified S&S LM1500 (a ‘land / marine’ powerplant derived from the famed General Electric J-79 turbojet as used in the USAF Phantom II fighter-bomber) the engine generates over 18,400 lbs of supersonic thrust with afterburner and water injection. The car is constructed of steel tubing with stressed aluminum skin, the driver compartment being made of carbon/Kevlar/glass fiber composite.

Although at first glance a tricycle layout, the car actually runs on 4 wheels, the front pair closely situated to allow a smaller frontal area and thus reducing drag, the rear pair on a wide track for stability. Primary deceleration is, naturally, by parachute, with a ‘friction ski’ brake for final stopping power.

Overall length is 48 ft (14.63 m); overall width 10 ft 6 inches (3.20 m).
Overall weight (wet) is just over 9,000 lbs, achieving a thrust to weight ratio better than any modern jet fighter.

ENGINE: S&S LM-1500 / J-79

  • Supplied by: S&S Turbine Services Ltd
  • Fuel Capacity: 105.0 gallons
  • Thrust: 18,400 lb (36,800 hp) with afterburner and water injection
  • Oil capacity: 2.5 gallons


  • Steel tube frame with stressed aluminum skin
  • Carbon / Kevlar / Glass fiber composite driver capsule, engine inlets, and rear wheel fairings
  • Tires: Filament-wound carbon/glass composite material with rubberized epoxy matrix
  • Wheels: Aluminum billet hub, special alloy spun disk heat treated, steel fastened
  • Wheel bearings: Tapered rollers
  • Suspension / front: coil over hydraulic shocks
  • Suspension / rear: variable deflection beam
  • Steering: worm and sector
  • Parachutes: mortar deployed, supersonic capable
  • Windshield: Lexan
  • Electrical Power: deep cycle batteries, 28V system


The data below was logged from one of Craig Breedlove’s actual 1996 runs reaching 675 mph. Extrapolations from this data project a potential top speed of 850-900 mph.

COTA pics – Rolex Series GrandAm race this weekend

4 Mar

Woke up at 530am
715am flight to Austin
Head to friend’s hotel to pickup my ticket from the concierge.
At the track by 9am
Get windburned and freeze my ass off all day.
On a plane headed back home at 640pm.

All in all not a bad day

Oh, and this trip reinforced my odd obsession with Aston Martin’s. The Vantages running GS are in my top 3 for best sounding racecar ever. Lots of these on track pics will be of the Vantages.

Main straight – These seats suck.

Turn 1 – Phil Hill

Straight coming out of Turn 2

Turn 3 going into the S section

Turn 4

Turn 12 at the end of the back straight – These are the section 15 seats. IMO the best in the house. You get to see the second half of the straight, turns 12 -15 (and the turn in of 16) and there’s a board right there so we were watching the live SpeedTV coverage at the same time

Turn 15



Anyway, on to the car pics.

And finally, the Vantage GS class cars

Also, if anyone is buying early Christmas presents I’ll take this Juan Manuel Fangio painting. Please and thank you.


In the hall of the engine rebuilder

29 Jun

Talk about a great idea for a stop motion video.

11 months and 3000 pictures later…


UK-based YouTube user nothinghereok bought this used engine off Ebay for his Triumph Spitfire after his own engine suffered a catastrophic failure. He then decided to document the process of rebuilding the engine from stripping its thousands of parts, cleaning them up to completely reassembling the entire thing again. Mind-boggling. Also, a great little surprise at the end.


Infinity Over Zero: Meditations on Maximum Velocity (land speed racing)

5 Dec

The Land Speed Record war is an interesting thing. More interesting than Dancing With the Stars, you say? More interesting than American Idol? Absolutely. If Craig Breedlove breaking the 500 mph barrier, crashing, then laughing about it all while sitting on the half submerged wreckage doesn’t entertain you then I give up.


And Mr. Coonce… if you see this, I’m copying it with the deepest admiration and respect.

Infinity Over Zero: Meditations on Maximum Velocity
Go buy this book!

I thought this one piece was worth sharing. I’d never heard this side of the story before:


Craig Breedlove at the press unveiling of the rebuilt Spirit, 1963



500 MPH

In October of ’64, Walt Arfons makes his presence felt at the salt flats with his Wingfoot Express. With Tom Green pushing the pedals and pulling the parachutes, this bulbous, bulky flounder of a ‘liner reels off a new record of 413.2 mph at Bonneville… three days later Art Arfons and the Green Monster turns 434 mph… Breedlove clocks 468… and so it goes, a month long game if ping pong with a target speed of 500 mph.

Walt Arfons makes the mod to his wienie roaster (now dubbed Wingfoot Express II), modifying the thrust from his jet engine with JATO (jet assisted takeoff) rockets. The car is now denied sanction by United States Auto Club timing, the American sub-contractor and corollary to the FIA, because of the alteration. Just as the jets had initially caught the powers that be off guard, so had the rockets. The technology was ahead of the intellectual capabilities of the sanctioning bodies…

On the 15th, Breedlove strikes paydirt — and a telephone pole. After bursting through the 500 mph barrier on the first lap, Craig turns his SOA (Spirit of America) around and is chewing up black line in supreme fashion, easily generating enough thrust to back up his provisional record run. Through the speedtrap, however, chaos envelopes the vehicle. At 539 mph the parachutes shred like CIA phone records and, like a domino, Breedlove’s brakes melt into goo-goo muck. The barreling machine is vaccuuming up salt like June Cleaver on benzedrine, and begins swerving off axis from the infitine black stripe burnt into the salt and continues barreling towards an imminent peril. After the rampaging bull of a streamliner snaps a telephone pole into kindling, it hits an embankment which launches the race car and dunks ‘er into a brackish brine canal. Breedlove swims to the surface and climbs onto the stabilizing fin of his streamliner, the only portion of the vehicle not completely submerged. “For my next act, I will set myself a-fire,” a wet but euphoric Breedlove tells stunned camera crews. His two-way average speed is 526.61 mph.


Bill Moore's cutaway drawing of Spirit, rebuilt with a tail in 1963


Now I’m Going to Drown

The following transcript is verbatim from a portable recorder operated by voice-over announcer Jim Economides and his recording engineer, Bill Robinson. While producing a verite sound f/x record, they were station at an observation station manned by United States Auto Club timer Joe Petrali. After Craig went zooming past their stations with parachutes shredded to ribbons, Economides and Robinson gave hot pursuit in their rented vehicle, whereupon the continued to roll tape at the final rest of the SOA. This is unexpurgated documentation of the return leg of the record run, when Breedlove became the first person to eclipse the 500 mph mark.

Breedlove sounds adenoidal and likea chipmunk, giddy and vaguely bi-polar. He also sounds very glad to be alive.



USAC OFFICIAL : He’s on his way… he’s standing on it… they say he’s really standing on it now… nice and straight… he’s really rolling… into the mile…

VOICE : I see a smoke trail.

USAC : … Something fell off of the car… that must be the chute… wait a minute, something fell off the back of the car… he lost his chute…

VOICE : I hope it was his chute…

USAC : … he lost his chute…
VOICE : Before he hit the trap of after?

USAC : He didn’t say it’s out… I see him coming… he’s really coming along, he’s really pouring it on… here he comes…

VOICE : … heads up…

USAC : He’s approaching the finishing line… he’s past the finishing line…

VOICE : … he’s got no chute…



(trucks and support vehicles roll, horns honk, general commotion as reporters dictate to their machines)

VOICE : … what a thrill for the people…

VOICE : He’s in the water..

USAC : He’s in the water…

VOICE : He’s in the water…

USAC : Better roll the ambulance down here… roll the ambulance… I’ll roll down there… okay… I’ll roll

(tape rolls out)



BREEDLOVE : (deep breaths and laughter) Unnhhhh, huunnhhhh…

VOICE : Suppose you’ll get a water speed record on that too?

BREEDLOVE : I think so.

VOICE : Who do you think you are? Cobb or somebody?

BREEDLOVE : What a ride! Uhh hnnnuhhhh… “FOR MY NEXT TRICK!”

(more laughter)

VOICE : Unintelligible overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : “I’ll set myself… a-fire…”

VOICE : … son of a bitch…

BREEDLOVE : I went over the top of that 10 mile light. Did I break it? Did I break the record?

VOICE : Yeah…


VOICE : We didn’t wait to see…

VOICE : You went right over the top of it…

BREEDLOVE : If Petrali missed the time on that, boy, he’s out of business.


BREEDLOVE : I’m not doing it again!


VOICE : Jeez-us…

VOICE : Look out now…

(shutters click)

VOICE : Holy mackerel…

VOICE : See you had to swim there…That was an underwater job!

VOICE : Yeah.

VOICE : Craig, that was a tremendous run, though. It looks like you broke the record by a big margin.

BREEDLOVE : I obviously did!

VOICE : It can’t stand another one though…

BREEDLOVE : Hey, you did a pretty good job with that course old buddy…


VOICE : He was really steerin’. I thought you were going to go right by here and you might not make it in this water…

VOICE : I tell you that was the last we expected…


VOICE : … to see ol’ Craig Breedlove

BREEDLOVE : (off mic and distorted) Roy, you wouldn’t believe it!

VOICE : I’ll tell you one thing, you’re a spectacular man


VOICE : I wonder what the people are going to…


VOICE : Nobody waited to get it!

BREEDLOVE : How fast did I go?

VOICE : Let’s all get in this four-wheel drive…


VOICE : (off mic) Nobody heard, Craig.

BREEDLOVE : Hey… hey Bill… For my next trick I’ll set my self a-fire! (laughs)

VOICE : Well, you did a beautiful job on the car (laughs)

BREEDLOVE : (deep breaths) Huunnhhhh! Huuunnnhhhh… Did you see what I did to that telephone poll, Nye?

VOICE : Jeez-us…

BREEDLOVE : I damn near drowned… look at the racer!
VOICE : Craig, here’s your dad…

(commotion, heavy breathing, more commotion, unintelligible)

VOICE : Oh my God… oh my god…

BREEDLOVE : I’m okay, Pop.


BREEDLOVE : At least we went 500… (deep breaths and laughter) unnhhhhh, huunnhhhh…


BREEDLOVE : I damn near drowned in that thing! I couldn’t get out!

(commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : You know, you should get a skin diving license.

(commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (unintelligible)… spectacular. If Petrali missed that he’s fired!

(laughter) (film camera rolls) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : He’s the first guy to try and set a Land Speed Record and a Water Speed Record at the same time!

BREEDLOVE : (off mic) I lost my steering at the (unintelligible) mile.

VOICE : You did?

BREEDLOVE : The brakes just burned up

VOICE : They did?

BREEDLOVE : I put my chutes out after I cleared the mile because I lost my steering.

(commotion, overlapping dialogue) (film camera rolls)

VOICE : You put out both of them didn’t you?

BREEDLOVE : Well, the first chute, I pulled it, it just went to shreds. I felt it go to a ribbon. Then I hit the… I waited for a while and I tried to hit the brakes and the brakes just wouldn’t go… I was pumping the brakes and then nothing, no brakes at all. The I hit my other chute and nothing happened. I didnt’ have any… I just took that…

VOICE : No steering…

BREEDLOVE : …steering and I turned it clear around like this. It finally started…

VOICE : (interrupts) Did you see that…

BREEDLOVE : … coming around

VOICE : … telephone poll that you sheared?

BREEDLOVE : Yeah, I know I hit the pole.

VOICE : With your right fin, or what?

BREEDLOVE : I just saw that pole coming and I went just like that…

VOICE : (whistles)!

BREEDLOVE : … and then I hit the pole. I thought I had it when I hit the pole. I saw that telephone pole coming and I went, “Ooooooh” and I gritted my teeth.

(laughter) (film camera rolls) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (loud, over laughter) I gritted my teeth and that pole just sheared off like nothing. You know, “DOUMMM” and no pole! (breathes in) UUNNHHH… I looked up and I thought, “Oh boy! Another chance!”

VOICE : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I looked up…

VOICE : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : … I hit the water and the water started slowing me down and I seen (sic) this big ol bank coming up and I thought , “OHHH NAWWW.” (laughs)

VOICES : (giddy laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I hit the bank and it just went right over the top there. I was flying there about 30 feet in the air and I thought, “NOW I’M GOING TO DROWN!”

VOICE : (uproarious laughter)

BREEDLOVE : I couldn’t get the caopy off. I tried to get my belt done. I couldn’t get my mask off and the water was filling up like that…

VOICE : … Next run scuba gear…

BREEDLOVE : … and I thought, “What a way to go! After all this and now I’m going to drown!”

VOICES : (uproarious laughter)

VOICE : Next run, scuba gear, baby!

(shutters click)

BREEDLOVE : (giddy laughter) I broke the racer! (giddy laughter) Everything’s okay… How fast did I go, dammit? (giddy laughter) (shouts) DID WE BREAK THE RECORD?!


BREEDLOVE : (shouts) WHAT WAS THE TIME? (giddy laughter)

VOICES : (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

BREEDLOVE : (clears throat) Will somebody tell me how fast I went?

(giddy laughter)

VOICE : Hey Craig, you set a boat record!

VOICES : (giddy laughter) (commotion, overlapping dialogue)

VOICE : C’mon, let’s go and (unintelligible)

BREEDLOVE : I want to find out how fast I went, man!

VOICE : Where? In the water or in the…

BREEDLOVE : Hey Al. What was it?

VOICE : 526

VOICE : 539 for the kilo.

VOICE : 535

(truck pulls up)

VOICE : 526 average. 535 coming back.

VOICE : (reading off time slip) Mile is 539 point eight nine. The kilo was 535 point four-oh. And the average for both ways was 526 point two eight. And the kilo was 527 point three three.

(tape rolls out)


Craig Breedlove & Crew with Spirit of America, Bonneville Salt Flats, 1963



This page has an embedded video clip from an old film. It has footage of Breedlove breaking the 400 mph mark.




BTW, while reading this stuff I have come across what I think is now my favorite streamliner.

Jocko’s Porting Service Special.

Pretty sure it’s the only ‘liner that actually set records on a dragstrip.



I’m not much on pushing books on people because I know everyone likes different stuff, but holy shit you have to read this one.

I think this review (or part this small part of it) sums it up best:

When I finally gave Cole Coonce’s, Infinity my full concentration, I was upset with myself for having delayed. It was something I had trouble laying down.

I had better state here that when I began reading Hot Rod, the magazine was giving pretty heavy coverage to Bonneville. A year or so later came the tremendous LSR race between Craig Breedlove and Walt and Art Arfons (as well as several other lesser characters). As a highly influence-able youngster, I sucked it all in like the proverbial human vacuum. When I could, I borrowed older magazines and read about the exploits of Mickey Thompson, Athol Graham, and others matching the efforts of highly funded, even government backed, foreigners like Malcolm and Donald Campbell and John Cobb. It seemed unbelievable that hot rodders could take war surplus engines and a few 3-ton truck bits and run over 400mph but they did and it excited me. It must have had similar effect on Cole Coonce.

Infinity over Zero helped me relive many of those feelings. Coonce describes the salt and speed happenings of the mid 60s in some detail. He also gives tremendous personal insight to the jetcar buildups that ran on the dragstrips of the time, including rarely heard anecdotes from some of the land-locked pilots. The mishaps of Jetcar Bob are possibly worth the cost of the book.

But Infinity over Zero is not a historical overview of some period of land speed racing. It is rather better described as what its subhead implies – “Meditations on Maximum Velocity.” It is instead a verbal vortex of the emotions Cole Coonce encountered while a variety of men gave their all in pursuit of dreams. And it is certainly not for me, you, or Cole to decide for others that their dreams are too costly in lives or dollars spent.



It’s a history lesson for gearheads with a perfect amount of philosophy thrown in written by an eccentric car guy who brings it all together very well.

The timeline of the book jumps around. It is a story told while the author and a friend are making thier way through the desert southwest following the 1996-1997 Land Speed Record war between Craig Breedlove and Richard Noble.

I’ve got this book dog-eared and highlighted to hell and back. Seriously, some of these stories blow my mind…

The last hurrah for the rocket went down on an abandoned Royal Airforce base in England.

“Slammin Sammy” Miller stopped the clocks at a mind warping 3.58 seconds at 386 mph in the Vanshing Point rocket funny car. Miller, who had his crotch burned off in a nitro funny car fire in the early 70’s routinely kept his foot in the throttle until he would pass out (!) from the excessiv g-forces, which was usually 660 feet into the run. According to crew members, Miller routinely got his thrills from waking up in the car after the car stopped accelerating, coasting through the speed clocks at nearly 400 mph.

(As an addendum, “Slammin’ Sammy” Miller posesses the only 1 second ET on a time slip; circa 1980, at an 1/8th mile drag strip in Holland, he actually tripped the clocks at 1.60 at 307 mph. He was relegated to Europe after an NHRA blacklisting…)

Brent Fanning explained Miller’s method cum madness thusly: “He had the brake handle rigged with a brass knuckles type grip (it was a push brake) so his hand would stay on the brake should he black out when the car ran out of fuel, which it had been calculated to do at just past the 1/8th mile. Then the deceleration would move his arm and brake handle forward applying the brakes and also releasing the chutes, which were attached to the brake handle in some manner. Thus slowing the car until he regained consciousness.”





On and on it goes. Thrust SSC ripping the chutes off the car on it’s first supersonic run then trying to get refueled and make the backup pass within an hour… saying fuck the ‘chutes, we don’t need ’em and lighing up the jets to go back the other way, only to miss the 60 minute turnaround time by 43 seconds. (A few days later they made both runs in 60 minutes to claim the official record)
More stories about drag racers cratering the pits with hyrdazine explosions, the NHRAs decision to outlaw aircraft engines, building LSR cars during the Compton riots (with guns in hand)….



Cyclecars – Relics from the era of awesomeness

28 Nov

Take an engine from something like a WWI biplane, put it in a chassis full of splinters and tetanus, strap on a helmet and give ’em hell.

As someone else said, “I wonder how they get their legs and their balls to fit in the same pair of pants?

This is a GN cyclecar from the 1910’s.

seen racing on sunday…….5 litre (302ci) air cooled, JAP V8…total loss oiling system (it just runs out all over the car/driver/floor) engine from before Louis Blereo (think you spell it like that) first flew across the English channel … well before ww1….
The guy drove it like a bastard, opposite lock on every corner, smoking the tyres as he was sliding…..and no front brakes

Oh and it’s road legal too!! Don’t ask me how i have no idea

I think I want one of these things

Here is “Thunderbug.” This is another GN from the same era. (same black/yellow car from above)

“The Hornet Special”

Nash and Godfrey hated cogs

Built a car with chains and dogs

Would it work I wonder if

It was fitted with a diff?

Holy F’ing shit…

Turns out he only broke a collarbone, but DAMN. 😮

And then take one in the mud?!

No kits. Get to work!

I’ll stop soon, I swear 😮 I can’t get over the details on this car.

As someone else very aptly pointed out it’s like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… in race car form. Very Victorian. The patina, the oily ash, the copper and brass, the exposed valvetrain on the Prestwich engine, the artwork… It’s just fucking awesome in every sense.

Just a couple more that popped up


23 Nov

Watson, our new Rhodesian ridgeback will be coming home Dec 10 and I absolutely can’t wait.

Anyone that knows me also knows of my love for Indy roadsters and my plan to build one when I finally get time. One day I’ll pull the blueprints back out of the safe, start beding tubing, learn how to work sheetmetal, etc and you’ll see me cruising a copy of the Ken Paul Spl around town, but until then I’ll settle for having just a little more testosterone in the house 😀 . As a compromise between a great dane and a yorkie we settled on a Rhodesian ridgeback and after some searching we finally found a breeder we are very comfortable with and trusting of and we have picked out the newest memeber of our family. 


Here’s our new little guy:



We are naming him Watson in honor of the great Indy roadster builder, chief mechanic and all around legend AJ Watson. AJ’s cars won the 500 seven times, tying him for first on that list and making him the dominating force during the Indy roadster era.


Some history:  

Watson got his big break at the end of the 1954 season when he became chief mechanic for the team run by John Zink, Jr., the son of a magnate in industrial heating from Oklahoma. He modified a Frank Kurtis-built roadster for the 1955 Indy 500, and with it Bob Sweikert won the race.

For the 1956 Indy 500, Watson built a roadster of his own design, offsetting the engine and driveline some 12 inches to the left to improve weight distribution for faster cornering speeds. Pat Flaherty set a new one-lap speed mark to sit on the pole at a record 145.596 mph in the first Watson-designed roadster, and then went on to win the race. Watson roadsters monopolized the front row for the 1958 Indy 500, and Watson went to work for Bob Wilke’s Leader Card team (named for the envelope company owned by Wilke’s father)

In the end, Watson built some 23 roadsters, including the cars that won the 500 in 1959-60, 1962 and 1963. When A.J. Foyt, Jr., recorded the last 500 victory for a front-engine car in 1964, he, too, was driving a Watson roadster.


AJ Foyt’s ride… pure mechanical beauty:



Here’s a Sports Illustrated article from May 1960:

May 30, 1960

The Wizard Of Indy

He’s car-builder A. J. Watson, and he has 11 chances to win next week’s ‘500’

Alfred Wright

It is almost axiomatic to report each year that the cars are running faster at the Indianapolis Speedway. A fortnight ago, for instance, the cars that qualified for the first 22 of the 33 positions available in the 500-mile race on Memorial Day averaged 145.513 mph. That is 2.5 mph faster than last year. Then just last weekend, Indianapolis newcomer Jim Hurtubise of Lennox, Calif. averaged 149.056 mph for the 10-mile qualifying run to beat the record 146.592 set the week before by Eddie Sachs. By Indianapolis standards, Hurtubise’s performance was remarkable and was greeted almost in disbelief. But by other standards it was one more step forward, typical of the way these fastest of all racing cars get better, by decimals sometimes and by leaps at others.

Everyone concerned with Indianapolis takes for granted the inevitability of higher speeds. Although the engines are periodically reduced in size, as they were most recently in 1958, still the speeds go up. The drivers, albeit a year older, are almost invariably the same fellows who drove a bit slower the previous year. The alterations in the cars from year to year—and particularly this year—are usually almost imperceptible.

Last weekend, while everyone at the speedway was standing around on one foot and then the other, waiting for the wind and the rain to go away, A. J. Watson tried to explain the improvement in this year’s cars. Watson is the quiet and unassuming Californian who built the Indianapolis winners of 1955, 1956 and 1959 and from his blueprints came this year’s fastest qualifier, the Travelon Special driven by Hurtubise. “I don’t know,” A.J. said without any false modesty. “The cars are about the same. Maybe it’s the tires.”

Tires, to be sure, are terribly important at the speedway, more important than at any other race. It is on the four gradually banked turns of this rectangular track’s two-and-a-half-mile course that a driver is most apt to pick up the fractional seconds that make a difference. And it takes a special kind of tire to withstand the speed at which today’s race cars go into the corners. Firestone, which has had a monopoly at the Brickyard for years, is constantly tinkering to make the speedway tires (used nowhere else in the world) faster, stronger and more adhesive. This year they have added a couple of grooves to the tires, and it is these, along with some minor alterations in the compound of the rubber, that Watson was referring to.

However, with the 1960 race still a week away, it was not Firestone but Watson himself who seemed to dominate the event. Of the 65 cars at the track trying for the 33 starting positions, 11 of the certain starters will be Watson cars, either built by him or built from his blueprints. Remarkably, all of the Watson cars figure to be in contention at the end of next week’s “500.” Of the eight fastest cars to qualify so far this year, six of them are A.J.’s.

It is generally conceded around racing people that the driver of a car is 50% of the race, and the car and mechanic are the other half. The folks in the stands at Indianapolis think largely in terms of the men in the cockpit—Sachs, in the pole position, Jim Rathmann, in second place, Rodger Ward, last year’s winner and national driving champion, Tony Bettenhausen, Johnny Thomson, Jim Bryan, Hurtubise and the other big names. Around the garage they talk about Watson and George Salih, Quinn Epperly, Eddie Kuzma, Frank Kurtis and the others who build the best of the cars.

Talking piece

Watson, of course, is the chief topic of conversation. His accomplishments and his reputation have been mounting steadily ever since Bob Sweikert drove Watson’s first winning car in 1955. Last year, during the 47th lap when Thomson (in a non-Watson) made a pit stop, the cars in the first five positions were all built by Watson, and those driven by Ward and Jim Rathmann finished first and second.

“Simplicity personified,” says Fred Agabashian, the elder statesman of the veteran Indy drivers, in accounting for Watson’s success. “A. J. never hangs a lot of superfluous metal on his cars. Everything has a function and is easy to fix. The workmanship is first class, and A. J. has a reason for each little thing he does. And don’t forget that A. J. is right there at the track working on his cars every year. He is always up to date. A lot of the fellows who build cars don’t ever get to the track, so they have to depend on hearsay and theory.”

A handsome man with just a sprinkling of gray in his crew-cut hair, Watson is almost deferential about his work. He makes no claims for himself as an engineering genius. About all he will say to define his success is, “I come back here and race cars all the time, and that’s where I may have a little edge on the other builders.”

If you wanted to buy a new Watson car for next year’s race it would cost you about $15,000, roughly $5,000 less than other top builders charge for just the chassis and skin, as racing people call the body. You would, of course, want to install the standard Meyer-Drake four-cylinder Offenhauser, the engine almost everybody uses in Indianapolis cars, but you would have to buy that separately for another $10,000 or so and install it yourself in your own garage.

Perfection in a small garage

As he did with the four new cars he built last winter for this year’s race, Watson would construct the car at the small garage he owns in Glendale, Calif. Much of the work there is done at night, since Watson’s labor is semi-voluntary. The four or five assistants who help him work for the love of the craftsmanship and racing. Most of them hold down daytime jobs at nearby plants like Lockheed and have a loose arrangement with Watson concerning their pay. Naturally, Watson’s wife, Joyce, and his two daughters, aged 6 and 2�, are not particularly enthusiastic about this way of life, for they don’t get to see very much of Daddy. But Watson, like most perfectionists, has a priestly dedication to his work. Aside from a little water skiing now and then, there is hardly anything that distracts him from the year-round occupation of building and racing automobiles.

Come April, Watson will have finished building whatever new cars he has contracted to deliver (the four he built last winter were the most he can produce at one time). At that point he packs up his family and heads for Indianapolis  where he owns a house in the little township of Speedway, on the outskirts of Indianapolis and near the race track. Watson sets up his headquarters at the Speedway in adjoining garages Nos. 16 and 17. From the day he moves in until the end of the racing season, he is the full-time mechanic for Bob Wilke, a machine card manufacturer from Milwaukee who runs an auto racing stable under the name Leader Card, which is also the name of his business. While A. J. is getting the Leader Card Specials ready for the big race, he also helps out his many other customers and friends.

There is a deceptive casualness about Watson’s operation, as if everything he did was a kind of afterthought. Speaking of the four new cars he built last winter for the 1960 race, he said, “I kind of promised Aggie [ J.C. Agajanian, the southern CAlifornia pig farmer and racing promoter] that I would build him a car if I had time, and then Wilke wanted a new one if I was going to build one for somebody else. The first thing I knew I was building four of them.” All four of these cars qualified the first day at speeds of better than 144 mph. One, the Leader Card Special, is being driven by Ward, one by Jim Rathmann, one by Len Sutton and Aggie’s car by Lloyd Ruby.

Watson had to turn down an order for a fifth new car last fall from Al Dean, a southern California trucker whose Dean Van Lines Specials have been contenders at Indianapolis for years. So Watson lent a set of his blueprints to his friend and fellow-mechanic, Wayne Ewing, one of the many car buffs who hang around Watson’s shop in Glendale. Ewing went ahead and built the car on his own and turned it over to Clint Brawner, the talented mechanic who masterminds Dean’s racing cars. On the first day of qualifying this car broke, with Sachs in the cockpit, all the records at the speedway. It set a new single-lap record of 147.251 mph which was later broken by Hurtubise’s 149.601.

Although Sachs, at the age of 33, has been one of the top dirt track drivers in the East since 1953 and ranked among the first 10 drivers in the national championship for the past two years, he has never finished a race at Indianapolis  Sachs is a fellow with a large and determined jaw and a keen sense of survival, and he has been heard to say that if he can win the big race this year, that will be it. He will be perfectly happy to make a full-time job of his cocktail lounge at Center Valley, Pa., just outside Allentown, near the New Jersey border. Despite his fast qualifying run, Sachs’s strategy, he has said, will be to lay back within hailing distance of the gang busters and avoid the free-for-all that usually characterizes the early stages of the “500.” The $150 that goes to the leader at the end of each of the 200 laps can be mighty attractive bait and can even mount up into big money over a period, but experience proves that the early-lap winners rarely drive their cars into the victory lane.

A hairy scramble

Among the front runners one can expect to find Jim Rathmann and his brother Dick. Jim, the younger of the two, is a saturnine blond and a truculent competitor who has three times finished second at Indianapolis  Naturally he has every intention of shaking the bridesmaid role this week. Rodger Ward in Watson’s No. 1 car is another front-running type. (The other Leader Card Special, for which Watson will also be the chief mechanic, is the car in which Ward won last year. It will be driven this time by Chuck Stevenson.) Along with Rathmann and Ward you can expect to find Tony Bettenhausen and Johnny Thomson, both of whom like the hairy scramble that goes on for the lap prizes, and, probably, the amazing Hurtubise, who, as a rookie, is still something of an unknown quantity.

Around Gasoline Alley, as they call the garage area at the speedway, it is customary to find most of the cars lying in a thousand parts inside their crowded stalls whenever they aren’t on the track for practice. An occupational disease of every Indianapolis mechanic is the urge to make just one more adjustment, no matter how well a car has performed up to that point. However, in adjoining stalls, numbered 62 and 63, the disarray and confusion is caused by something more serious than a mechanic’s persnicketiness. It is there that the two Novi Specials are parked, and this year, as quite frequently in the past, they are not well.

Ever since the war, the Novis have been almost as much a part of the Indianapolis scene as the brick paving on the homestretch. The deep-throated roar of their supercharged V-8 engines sends a thrilling shiver through the grandstands. Although today they are virtually the same machines that first arrived at Indy so many years ago and have since set their share of records, they can still travel faster on the straightaway than the very latest four-cylinder Offenhauser. It is the determination of Lew Welch, the Michigan air-conditioner manufacturer who owns them, that one day one of his Novis is going to win the race.

No day for the Novi

Unhappily, this is no more likely to be the year of the Novi than previous ones. No. 49 Novi was scarcely able to get on the track at all. First it was the impeller on the supercharger which broke into pieces while turning at something like 40,000 rpm. Then, on a practice run last Saturday, the engine blew completely beyond repair—for this year’s race. With young Dempsey Wilson at the wheel, Novi No. 47 seemed to be doing better and was turning laps at 143 or so last Saturday when it started spouting oil. At nightfall it was again in pieces, and only the most optimistic man in the garage would dare predict it would be ready to qualify, which it wasn’t.

The absence of the Novis will be a loss to the race. As Wilson said after one exciting practice session, “With the Offies you watch your tachometer to see how fast you’re going. With the Novis you watch it to find out when to slow down.” At 7,800 rpm, the Novis turn up about 630 hp. At a little better than 6,000 rpm, the recommended top speed, the Offies produce only 375 hp.

Yet it will most surely be an Offie that ends up in front next Monday, and if there is anything to the law of averages at the Brickyard, the Offie will be riding in a car that A.J. Watson built. It is hard to figure the race any other way.

Drag racing pioneers or suicidal nutjobs?

21 Nov

This is basically a tribute to the crazy bastards who risked life and limb for that last bit of speed… and were willing to play with untold amounts of self-igniting, super toxic, incredibly unstable and deadly rocket fuel to get it.

Warning: It’s long, and I won’t Cliff’s Notes it.

Hydrazine was first used as a rocket fuel during WWII for the Messerschmitt ME163B. Hydrazine is also used as a low-power monopropellant for the maneuvering thrusters of spacecraft, and the space shuttle’s auxiliary power unit.

I’ve been doing some entertaining reading this morning. Mostly about the early days of drag racing… and more specifically, the use of hydrazine as a fuel additive. It all started when I came across a thread about a guy who found a 20lt drum of hyrdazine in the shop of a local drag racer who passed away.

He got responses like this:

Labratory Mice get Cancer just thinking about Shit like this.


DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH THIS STUFF!It is HIGHLY TOXIC! It is of the family of fuels that are known as.”oxygen scavengers” their latent heat value increases dramatically in the presence of oxygen.DO NOT BREATHE it in!It is very corrosive to non-ferrous metals when combined with water.It was banned in the 60’s from drag racing because some people were mixing it with nitromethane and getting a crude and very unstable form of nitroglycerine!I think Chris Karamesines still holds the “altitude record” for lofting a GMC blower when an engine he was running with a nitro/hydrazine mix exploded.I think it’s still used as an ingredient in liquid-fueled rocket engines.BAD NEWS SHIT!


The MSDS sheets read like a horror movie (sidenote: the racer who had the barrel stashed away… died of cancer )

Well that piqued my interest, so I did some more searching.

I’ll quote the stories word for word. Maybe they’ll be as entertaining to someone else as they were to me:

First an article, then some personal accounts.

The Doomsday weapon of the sixties

By Steve Reasbeck

Alton, Illinois, Sunday, April 4, 1960; on a typical spring Sunday in the Midwest – cool, crisp, and clear. The local drag strip is hosting a match race between one of the heaviest hitters of the day, Chris Karamesines Chicago based slingshot, powered by what was becoming the standard powerplant of fuel racing, the 392 Chrysler Hemi. The nickname for the hemi headed engines that were production equipment in big Chryslers was Chizlers, and the Golden Greek had named his state of the art slingshot after the engine itself.

On this particular Sunday, the Golden Greek’s Chrysler was ready to go in a manner that was a bit unprecedented. When the car was push started; many knowledgeable and seasoned watchers noted that the engine sounded a bit different – the cackle a bit louder, crisper. Don Maynard, the exceptionally sharp crew chief of the Chi-town star, appeared to have really done his homework.

The Greek left in the manner typical of dragsters of the day, the two rear tires throwing off a rooster tail plume of smoke. However, the car started to pull at mid range – hard –much harder than ever before. After a brief period of silence, the announcer read off the timers’ reading to the crowd – 8.82 @ 204.50 – a good 30 mph faster than the typical time of the day. The Greek did not back up the astounding mph that day, and did not in the immediate years afterward. However, a 199 mph clocking in Kansas a couple of weeks later indicated again that the Chizler had indeed come upon something.

What was the difference this time? Over the years, dark accusations and less than complimentary statements were made concerning the driver, the facility, and the pass itself. A hoax, it was called a PR stunt. Maybe…but, then again, maybe it was not.

The Greek had a secret that day and it was a dangerous, volatile secret. It was the same secret that would launch the USA’s Titan Rockets into space to put mankind into space orbit. The secret that the Soviet Union would use to power their ballistic missiles designed to thwart the threat of US aircraft. That secret was Hydrazine. Over the years, Hydrazine would prove to be the additive to use to put one’s name on the map, to make the “1320 news” as one of the players. It would also prove to be one of the most dangerous products that one could run, and would result in the destruction of equipment, and the injury of competitors

Hydrazine, technically named anhydrous hydrazine (N2H4) is basically designed as an oxygen-scavenging agent, and is primarily used in rocket technology. It has the aroma of ammonia, but is clear and colorless – and is extremely caustic. If absorbed through the skin, it would make one extremely ill, and in NASA environments one must use protective clothing to work with it. Its oxygen scavenging capabilities were so powerful that it was generally used at only 10cc per one gallon of nitro.

A monopropellant, (which means that it does not require an oxidizer to be a propellant) it uses a catalyst for ignition. It is typically used on spacecraft thrusters to adjust attitude and trajectory. Used also in liquid fueled rockets, often mixed with “hypergolic” fuels such as nitric acid, it requires no ignition source and combusts spontaneously. Nitromethane is also a “hypergolic” fuel, which is where its use in fuel dragsters came in.

Jim Miller, a Texas based Super Stock racer who has an extensive background with Hydrazine through both his military and NASA careers, states that it’s use in an internal combustion fuel motor is a bad combination.

“Since nitro (CH3NO2) carries oxygen with it already, and hydrazine needs that oxygen it makes for a bad combination. That would make a ready made bomb mixed in the right proportions.”

A 70’s era crew chief once told Miller that he set a record with only 2% hydrazine mixed with 90% nitro and 8% methanol.

Although relatively stable to store and transport, its reaction with other chemicals were unknown and could be extremely dangerous. A spokesman for one of the nation’s largest producers, appalled that hot rodders were messing with it in internal combustion engines, commented, “There is no way to pinpoint every phase of the reaction between hydrazine and nitromethane”, and went on to state it could easily “result in unexplainable engine explosions. You have got to remember that hydrazine can burst into flame when merely spilled on iron oxide (rusted metal)!”

Its use had been with drag racing since the early years. Not used until the use of hot fuels began early hot rodders in Southern California soon figured out that hot fuels would increase the performance of their early dragsters.

Miller added, “I would not think it would mix well with gasoline.”

Some were involved with the fledgling space program out at Edwards Air Force base, and soon they discovered that this magic elixir might indeed make their already developed out flatheads push the envelope just a bit more. Among early users were Jack Chrisman, as well as carburetor and fuel injection pioneer Holly Hedrich. What they found was that Hydrazine would push the flatties to about 380 horsepower, up about 90 from a state of the art, fully prepped nitro powered flattie. The down side, however, is that they generally only lasted for one or two nitro runs, and then became instant junk. The main webs and rods had a tendency to blow apart, taking everything else with them. As a result, its use was pretty much shelved after this sobering discovery.

The quest for speed, though, is addictive, so the success of the use of Hydrazine would prove too tempting. This would cause racers to tempt fate and use it to get those big numbers that would launch them into the record books. The Ramchargers 65 altered wheelbase Dodge cracked the eight-second barrier for the first time at Cecil County Maryland in the summer of 65, thus becoming the first stock bodied car into the eights. When driver Jim Thornton tripped the timers at 8.91, the Moon tank had been topped off with a dose of Hydrazine mixed in with the alcohol/nitro.

In 1967, Ed Schartman’s flip top Roy Steffey Enterprises Comet dominated the Indy Nationals, clocking a jaw dropping 8.28 on the FC final. Crew Chief Roy Steffey’s secret – you guessed it – Hydrazine. Along with the record setting performances, though, was continuing carnage. The Cleveland based SCS Comet was the last widely known use of hydrazine, however, and although

it was used off and on in years to come its use began to wane.

As the technology of the sport progressed, it became apparent that the engines were at the point where the good old nitromethane/methanol mix was capable of producing enough usable horsepower to make the cars run quick and fast. The technology was developing in other areas, and it was simply getting to the point where it was not a cost-effective option.

Every sport and every endeavor grows through innovation. Drag racing was and is no exception. However, one only needs to spend some time with some of the true pioneers of our sport to realize the extent of innovation attempted, and its subsequent cost in both dollars as well as physical injury. However, the use of Hydrazine propelled early racers to phenomenal performances, which resulted in big headlines throughout the racing world. Those early 200 mph times, however controversial, helped develop the quarter mile into a major motorsport, so perhaps it is just another reminder of the debt that today’s competitors owe those that came before.

PS. As you read the personal accounts, think about this. These days, this is what it takes to handle this stuff.

Operators in scape suits make adjustments to the monitoring equipment in preparation for the hydrazine fueling activities for the Herschel spacecraft.

And now for some personal accounts from guys that were there.

Hat’s off to these fucking crazy sonsofbitches.

One of my Viper brothers, the late and sorely missed, John Hogan, used to work for Chris Karamazines, the Golden Greek. This was way back in the sixties, I know if we say we remember the sixties we weren’t really there, whatever. The Greek used to try every and anything to go faster and quicker. One of the craziest things was using hydrazine as an exciter and oxigenator for Nitro. John said he used to have to keep the 8oz of hydrazine in a box full of ice, covered with a towel. The Greek would do his burn out and after he backed up John would open the fuel tank and add the stuff while they took off the throttle stop and switched the pump to the high side. As soon as the pump picked the mixed potion up the engine started heaving and barking and making a hellacious noise. Started throwing big GREEN flames in the air. Then the green light would go on and the car would launch like nothing ever seen before. The deal was that they had to run the whole tank out or it would become hypergolic and blow a crater in the track. So they idled the car back down the return road until the tank was used up. Of course NHRA got wind of this shit and banned hydrazine in competition. Those were the days. The saying went something like: “If the ground is shakin; and the flames are green, he must be using that Hydrazine.” And that’s the inspiration for my calling my chili the Hydrazine Flash!


Once upon a time in the south……yea, some of us used Hydrazine….

Every now and then we would add a drop or two……kept it in a vinegar bottle in the glove compartment of our push truck…..

One of our “competitors” insisted that we give him some of our “special sauce”…we did, along with instructions……”DO NOT PUT IT ALL IN AT ONE TIME”…….he did not heed our warnings……heard this horrible sound…a certain hemi, with the front wheels sitting up on the trailer, just started up…something was definately going on there……looked over and saw him running around the car, pulling wires off, it still ran…..sounded like 10,000 rpms…..then the crank blew out on the ground……..we left.

That stuff was hell on parts, but was good for a while. I tried some in an old panhead…..big mistake.


“Wait, I’m old….I remember….I think!! If it’s burnin’ green–It’s hydrazine. One night at the “beach” I noticed a jr fueler(remember REAL jr fuel–850 lbs & the whole can) runnin’ kinda green. They came back to the pits to cool it down where the hoses and mud were. They parked it and walked away to get some hot-dogs or something. About 5 minutes later there was a loud explosion, and the cylinder heads had blown OFF the SBC and were just layin’ in the cool-down area.ANHYRDOUS ‘ZINE…exciting and unpredictable!I’m a professional….Don’t try this at home!!”

Shows what a crazy thing it really was…


I used to hang with a lot of heavy hitters from the 60’s that had top fuel dragsters. Most of them never messed with hydrazine. It was added to the tank in very small quantities right before the run. If it was allowed to remain in the tank or fuel system after the run; it began to gel and turned into a Class A explosive. If you tried to fire the car after it sat for awhile there was a possibility that the engine would explode similar to hydraulicing a motor. There was at least one pit death and some injuries that resulted from this.


Well, I have CRS real bad, but I do remember one story from Indy “68 or “69 about when nobody wanted to admit they used it.
I had reunited with Walton/Anderson for a few races and went to help. As anyone who ran the stuff knew, there was a story that anything over 5% of the stuff would turn the mix to a class A explosive within 20 minutes! Nobody knew if it was true or not, but did NOT want to find out!
I think I remember 65 T/F cars shooting for 32 spots. In the first three pair, there were oildowns, they didn’t do as good of a job as today, and were pretty quick clean ups but were almost 25 minutes behind from when the session started.
When the next pair BOTH blew up and oiled both lanes, Walton and I looked at each other and panicked ! Off came the nose, out came the tank and main line and a rush over to the grass area to dump it. While it was draining, I looked up to see about six or eight other guys also draining theirs.


Hydrazine it what the Germans powererd the Me 163 Comet with. They occasionaly blew up in flight as they flew through turbulence. Unstable shit.
These planes killed more than 50% of their pilots, they never lost one to enemy action.


A great friend of mine who passed away last year, James “Boston” Smith had some good hydrazine stories. He grew up traveling during the summers with Ezra Boggs and the Moby Dick funny car team in the 60’s and 70’s. Pretty good summer vacations for young kid. The original funny car summer.
Part of his job was pulling the drain plug on the fuel tank when the car got back to the pits when they were running a special fuel mix. Drain it into the ground and purge the system with methanol. According to his tales, every second counted. Said you could tell someone was running hydrazine when they’re car would “mysteriously” blow up in the pits after a run, or on the way back. If you knew someone was running the stuff, you took your time staging. One day he commented to me how he was another victim of hydrazine cancer. Apparently the stuff is extremely carcinogenic.
Here’s to all those who can’t be here, a round for the house


I have a good friend “dick belfattii- The Shadow” who was one of the original “greek fleet” fuel cars in the early 60’s. he played with hydrozine in his fuel car anlong with buddies karamasinis & don maynard and later payed a heffty price for it ,burned the skin off his legs after his engine exploded at a match race in York pa. that explosion made him a team owner and he had bobby vodnick do the driving after that. see the pics of the engine after the explosion (nitro/alky/hydrozine) dick said the hydrozine was good for about 10 mph on the top end (if you got the mix right?)


I once saw a sbc top fuel motor blow the valve covers and oil pan off the still running motor while staging(back when they push started toward the starting line and crossed over). Hydrazine was the accepted reason and it was later banned. Lots of unbanned stuff is found while trying to gain “maximum competitive advantage” and later made illegal. If you have not crowded the line on the rules, you have never raced sucessfully


Hydrazine however – nasty nasty stuff.

I heard that at nationals one year everyone was running ‘zine and there was a LOT of engine explosions. And after the third one everyone was running back to the pits and dumping their tank onto the grass before the stuff got too unstable and blew up the car!

I also heard of one digger that was sitting there after they drained the tank not running, and suddenly the engine blew one of the cylinder heads and blower right off of it because of the hydrazine laced nitro left in the injector lines and cylinders from cutting the mag while it was running.

If you ever look at some of those old color night photos of the md 60’s fuelers, some of them are blasting out green flames! Thats hydrazine!

“If the ground is a-shaken, and the flames are green, they is-a runnin’ that hydrazine!”

A few more…


Just a word of advice…if you get something on your hands and can immediatly taste it in your mouth….you have just screwed up big time.

Just make sure you have a will and your family is provided for


What do you get when you mix Nitromethane and Hydrazine?

Burned pistons. Cylinder heads that clear the grandstands. Vaporized superchargers. In other words, carnage.

If you use it quick, you get gobs of power. If you let it sit more than 5 or 10 minutes, you get a class III explosive that will detonate if you sneeze to hard…


It’s really not too surprising that when you take a nitrated(oxygen bearing)fuel and mix it with an,”oxygen scavenger”(a fuel whose latent heat value rises dramatically in the presence of oxygen),you are essentially left with a very crude(and unstable)form of nitroglycerin.You get about the same result mixing potassium permanganate and red fuming nitric acid although if you pour one into the other the wrong way it explodes.Bad mojo.


Hydrazine is extremely nasty shit. It is what is used in the space shuttle’s attitude control thrusters.

It’s a mono-propellant, which to the layman means it can go boom all by itself, no second reactant needed

It’s also highly carcinogenic.

It’s clear and smells like ammonia. Don’t ask how I know.


From what i hear it killed a lot of engines at the drags too untill it was banned. Stories of engine blocks falling in half. Another story relayed to me was of maybe tom senter or one of the early flathead pioneers running a stock flatmotor on it it made amazing HP for about 30seconds
then let go


There were a couple of deaths in the pits, I heard. NHRA won’t talk about it though. Liability issues, I guess. I remember a Jr Fueler the blew the heads off in the pits at Lions.


I think they’re STILL trying to clean up some stuff like that that they spilled around here back during the space race in the early 50’s…


Not positive, but I THINK it was Sneeky Pete who found out the hard way-
that it’s so highly oxygenated that it will burn back up the fuel line like a fuse and make your Moon tank into a car bomb.


I had access to hydrazine in the 50’s when I worked at Boeing.
I can tell you, It REALLY makes a flathead go fast.

(the post-it note is from David Freiburger to Gray Baskerville). Rumored to be a hydrazine related “failure”

From an article called “Great Race: 1969 US Nationals”

During the hey-day of N2H4 fun.

Contributing to the fun of watching what were essentially full-size street car look-alikes snake down the track to low seven-second, 200-mph times was the reliability of the automatic-transmission-equipped Funny Cars. Mixed in with the Top Fuel dragsters’ great times were more destroyed engines, superchargers, and centrifugal clutches — the result of hydrazine in the nitromethane and the fatiguing heat generated by the still new centrifugal-clutch technology — than any previous NHRA national event in memory.

If you can find this issue, there’s a piece in it called “A Look at Hydrazine.”

Can you imagine if they tried printing that today?

Ford Model T repair prices in 1928

7 Nov

in 1928:

Median cost of a new home – $4,250
Average yearly salary – $1,490
Men’s worsted wool suit – $21.50
Rawlings Junior baseball glove – $3
Women’s leather handbag – $2.98
Bayer aspirin tablets – $.98
Tea – $.75/pound
Sliced ham – $.57/pound
Ivory soap, 12 cakes – $.43
Cheese – $.39/pound
Wrigley’s Spearmint gum – $.39
First-class stamp – $.02

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