Friday, February 4, 2011

Hot Rod Race

When I was a sophomore in High School I bought a 1952 Ford with a 239 cubic inch flat head V8. It was obvious that the valves were bad and I tore the engine down to replace them. The valves were seated in the engine block. I found that the valve seats were also cracked; but worse yet, the engine block itself was cracked where the valve seats were inserted. I was about to look for another engine as everybody said there was no way to repair the cracks in the block. My dad, who worked at the Bendix Missile Factory, however, said he might know of a way to install the valve seats in the cracked block. He suggested I might try an epoxy adhesive. Although the use of epoxy was not all that well known for such use in 1961, I decided to go for it. I glued the seats in the block with the epoxy and the engine ran like new. A lot of my friends made fun of my car saying my engine was glued together, but I never had a problem with the glued-in valve seats.

The following year, I purchased a 1958 Ford and so no longer had use for the old 52 Ford. My brothers and a few other friends and I decided to convert it into a stock race car. I was too young to drive the race car, without my parent’s approval, which was a solid no, so we got an older guy named Zeek, who was twenty-one, to drive the old 52 Ford. We raced it at the South Bend Motor Speedway and a few other tracks in the circuit. Zeek had a propensity to crash the car, usually on the second or third lap of each race. We would then haul the car back home to make needed repairs to race it again the following Friday night.

By the third week of this same routine, we all talked about finding another driver; but Zeek anticipated each race with such enthusiasm, that none of us had the heart to tell him that he was to be replaced. Then a miracle happened on the forth race of the season; Zeek didn’t crash. He actually came in third. At the end of the race we ran back to the pits to congratulate Zeek; but Zeek only muttered “The dammed throttle stuck half open and I had to throw her up in into third and just go with the traffic!”

The following week we hauled the Ford over to New Paris to race. With the throttle fixed, of course, Zeek again crashed during the third lap. This time he destroyed the entire front end of the car making it impossible to load on the trailer. We left the car lying there in a heap. No one had to inform Zeek he was no longer the driver.

I think of my old Ford flathead with a smile in my heart whenever I hear the song Hot Rod Race sung by Jimmie Dolan:

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