My dad purchased this race car in 1962. By Jess Rivera Jr.
This car 1956 Chevy 150 business coupe and was campaigned (raced) out here on the west coast by Rush Chevrolet; Here it is driven by Troy Ruttman, in Gardena, Ca.,who wonat Indy in 1952 at about age 22. Troy later drove Mercury Marauders for Bill Stroppearound 1964 Bill Stroppe had a race shop in Signal Hill right.After this car "aged out" in 1958, you could only race cars that were the three latest years; after that it sat in Mr.. Rushes car collection;
The car came form the factory as a race car;was never driven on the street; it had everything special like sintered metallic brake lining, 6 lug wheels and differentials (they came specially "cut" from 1/2 ton trucks), heavy duty suspensions including sway bars and extra leaf springs in the back, heavy duty coil springs up front; accommodations for duel rear shock absorbers, diamond plated frames for stiffness; the car had the front seat, roll up windows; hood and trunk bungy cord type tie downs, at the rear quarter panel to the rear bumper it had a special plate to keep from "hooking" other cars, and of course dual exhausts, no mufflers. originally it had a 265 with 2 four barrel carbs, solid lifters, duel point distributor(basically a Corvette engine) , a heavy duty radiator. on the 1/4 and 1/2 mile tracks they ran 4:56 gears and kept it in second gear by hooking the column shifter to the dash with a spring.
My dad was the used car mechanic at Rush Chevrolet and he bought the car from Mr. Rush and brought it out as an early model stock car in the California Jalopy Association you could run stock cars that were 1953 to 1956. we won a number of trophy dashes, heat races and main events and my dad finished third in the points standing. The was driven by Lloyd Dane who was the NASCAR champion on the west coast in 1954, 1955 and 1957. He was inducted into the hall of fame I believe in 2002. He also drove Hudsons, factory fords and then Chevies in 1960, 61 and 62 ran Riverside, Darlington and and a number a other races.
My older brother, some friends an I acted as the pit crew. I was about 16-17 at the time. we had some fun times
We changed engines and went from the 265 to the 283, then a 306 and finally a 327. My dad would buy 365 horse 327's (short blocks right out of the crate) because they were very durable had steel rods etc. to compete with the bigger punched out Oldsmobiles, Fords and Dodge hemi's. We won a number of trophy dashes, heat races and main events.
At the end of the 63 season the rules changed again and my dad purchased a 425 horse, 396 used in Corvettes but we never installed it. instead he wound up selling the car after making it a 1955 convertible; the new owner drove it, crashed it and then we bought it back and parted it out. If we knew then what we know today
What a gold mine it could have been if we had kept it. I have very few parts left from it like the old seat belts, tach, gages etc, some trophies and maybe the registration .probably would have worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars today as an original factory race car.
what a shame
FYI, Mr. Rush also ran two 1957 "black widows" ( special 1957 Chevrolets modified from the factory for racing) from 57 to 59; in 1959 Bob Ross won the west coast championship driving one of them; I remember my dad would take me to the shop with him ( I was about 10 years old) and I think in 1959 they took one of the 57s , took the good parts off of it and sold it as a used car. The other got passed on between several owners until it was restored in 1987 and it now sits in someone's collection
One Reader Writes…by D J "Duke" Dukesherer, Sr.
What is the history of racing in Westchester/Playa Del Rey?
Beginning with the building of the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordrome, the area is rich in racing history. The wood plank raceway built in 1909; was the first of its kind anywhere in the world; built right in the middle of the Ballona Wetlands. It was 1/3 mile long, and was the first board track built specifically for racing motorcycles. All motorcycle board races prior to this track were held on bicycle velodromes. Later, cars raced there also; driven by greats like Jimmy Murphy and Ralph De Palma. I have often written about the doomed, street car served raceway, which burned to the ground in 1931.
The entrance to the racetrack was located at where Jefferson and Culver Blvd’s converge.But of all the racing activity in the area, none was larger than the Mines Field Raceway. The massive race course and grounds, backed by oil magnate Earl Gilmore, covered a territory from about Arbor Vitae (continuing down to Wil Rogers St.) to Sepulveda; and between Century and Inglewood. The location had previously played host to the National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition in 1928, and was visited by the Graf Zeppelin, and flying pioneer Charles Lindberg. To attend the Air Races, Amelia Earhart completed the west-bound leg of the first woman’s solo, U.S. transcontinental round trip; landing at Los Angeles.
This 2 mile dirt course (it was never paved) drew crowds from everywhere, and the grand stands alone held 75,000 people. Local favorites such as Rex Mays, Kelly Petillo and Lou Moore raced here. The whole enterprise lasted only 4 years—1932 to 1936; but hundreds of thousands of spectators flocked there. On Oct. 25, 1936, African American race driver "Rajo" Jack drove a Ford stock car to victory in the 200-mile National Championship at the Mines Field Speedway. As segregation was still prevalent in the area, Jack, whose real name was Dewey Gaston, claimed he was Portuguese; to get around the race discrimination.
Mines Field Raceways’ B shaped 1.9 mile dirt road course was opened in 1932, and closed in 1936. A shorter 1.56 dirt road course was used in 1934, hosting an AAA champ car race. Much of the area is now LAX/Westchester. The National Champion racer: Rajo Jack, aka, Dewey Gaston (1905-1956). He also used the name Jack Desoto, alleging to be Portuguese, so he could stay with the white racers at motels across the country. He once let the other driver win in a two lap match race because he knew that he couldn't kiss the white trophy girl. This was long before the struggles of Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson. He is buried in Lincoln Cemetery-Carson, CA.
Finally, street racing aficionados will remember that Westchester was the home of the last true hand built (modified) Ford Shelby Mustangs and Cobra Mustangs-all built by racing great Carol Shelby’s company at a then abandoned LAX aircraft hangar at 6501 Imperial Highway. I can remember these being "test driven" all over town. The first Ford Mustangs were introduced at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964 to rave reviews. Shelby began modifying them shortly thereafter.
Carol Shelby, at his Venice, CA shop in an AC Cobra, 1963. Left, at LAX, a ’65 Shelby Mustang GT; the engine was a modified K-code 289ci Windsor V8 with special "Cobra" valve covers, tri-Y headers, a special intake manifold and Holley carburetor increased power from 271 to 325 hp. All cars were painted "Wimbledon White".
Moving his plant, only a few years before from 1042 Princeton Drive in Venice, and at the urging of Lee Iacocca, Shelby began production of the hugely successful Shelby Mustangs in 1964. He continued to build the cars in Westchester until LAX evicted him in 1966. You can view a classic TV commercial of the Mustangs being driven along the LAX runway at http://youtube.com/watch?v=fYD8w-nP89s-The Theme Building is in the background. From there, the cars were made at a Ford plant in Michigan; basically becoming a production car. In 2006 Ford introduced the new Shelby Mustang; made in Las Vegas, NV.
Two large aircraft hangers were leased from North American Aviation at LAX in Westchester on January 1, 1965 for $8,800.00 per month. Shelby American, Inc., sold the new Shelby Mustang GT350 for about $4500.00. My grandfather, William "Lloyd" Thompson, retired Ford Motor Company employee/ Detroit, MI, worked at the plant.But not even a plaque or memorial reminds of us of these racing pioneers and locations-- born along, and forgotten near, the bluffs and foggy dunes of Westchester/Playa Del Rey.
Please email comments to: email@example.com
DID YOU KNOW
Driver Danny Weinberg led only one lap in his career, but that one lap was enough to win the race. Weinberg raced from 1951 to 1964, winning his one and only race at Hanford (CA) Motor Speedway on October 28, 1951.
Fred Lorenzen won the 1964 Rebel 300 at Darlington because his crew chief refused the car owner's direct order to bring the car into the pits for tires. Lorenzen got $10,265 for the win; Crew Chief Herb Nab got fired.
The 1,000th Winston Cup/Grand National race was held in Ontario, CA, February 28, 1971. The fact that it was the 1,000th wasn't publicized, because nobody noticed until after it was over.
Janet Guthrie was the first woman to lead a lap in a Winston Cup/Grand National race. Under caution, she led five laps during the Los Angeles Times 500 at Ontario, CA, November 20, 1977. She finished 24th.