Art Chrisman

Art Chrisman

By Fergus Ogilvy:   Henry Arthur Chrisman died on July 12, 2016 at the age of 86. He was a driver, fabricator, race engine builder and pioneer in post World War II speed tests and drag racing. Based at Chrisman and Sons garage in Compton, California, and working with his father, Everett, and his brother, Lloyd, he was renowned for three cars: his racy coupe for Bonneville competition and for contests on dry lake beds, his number 25 dragster and later his Hustler I. All were liveried in his signature golden-brown tones with contrasting white added to the Hustler. From the late 1940s and throughout the ‘50s, he campaigned a series of highly competitive race cars. He became synonymous with the development of the Top Fuel dragster at a time when nitromethane fuel revolutionized the class. His Hustler 1 dragster, which he co-owned with Leroy Neumeyer, claimed the first U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships, in a 64-car field at the March Meet at Bakersfield in 1959. His résumé as a driver included multiple wins and speed records at the highest level in a career that lasted around 12 years. Art Chrisman’s innovations led many to recognize him as drag racing’s first statesman. Greg Sharp, curator of the NHRA Motorsports Museum, said upon his induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame, “Art Chrisman is truly a renaissance man. Rarely can one man build a racing chassis from the ground up, do the metalwork, paint it, build the engine that supplies the power for the record-breaking performance, tune it to its maximum potential, and drive the results of his handiwork to a...
Garlits on Nitromethane

Garlits on Nitromethane

By Titus Bloom: “To my understanding,” says Don Garlits, “it was the Germans in the late 1930s that pioneered nitromethane. They empowered their 12-cylinder rear-engine race cars with it—presumably the Auto Unions. These cars were used on closed autobahns in speed record attempts and they operated with Roots-type superchargers and zoomie headers—those that point upward to generate down pressure. “I first heard of nitromethane in the nineteen-forties from a guy representing Autolite spark plugs, Fran Hernandez, who had a carbureted flathead. Hernandez had challenged another guy to a race. The other guy, whose name I can no longer recall, had a blown flathead. They met on a perimeter road of the old airport at Santa Ana, which later became the drag strip. It was a big race for money and Hernandez, who had introduced nitromethane to his fuel, didn’t start his car until the last moment—so there was no noise, no smell, no hint of cunning. But when the race was initiated, the flathead propelled by nitromethane outran the blown car by the broadest possible margin. Unfathomable! “The Bean Bandits from San Diego got wind of the miracle fuel and developed carburetors to use it in undiluted form. Emery Cook who was married to one of the Bean Bandits’ sisters found out about it and he told me. Cook, who was associated with the famed Cook & Bedwell car, was the first to exceed 160mph over the quarter-mile – 98% nitro!”   What’s Garlits working on? “I’m rebuilding my electric dragster. I’ve been 185.60mph but a guy in Texas has run 188mph, so I’m behind the ball. I’m still...
California Hot Rod Reunion® at Bakersfield

California Hot Rod Reunion® at Bakersfield

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the California Hot Rod Reunion® presented by Automobile Club of Southern California is a BIG deal since those folks 25-years ago just thought we were going to do it only once! The Reunion continues to be the venue to renew old friendships, meet the legends and your heroes, and just have a great time. Whether you’re a first-timer, or can boast you have been to them all, you’ll enjoy quarter-mile nitro nostalgia racing, a giant vendor midway and an eclectic swap meet. You’ll need three days to take it all in! The Reunion is just $25 per day, or if you buy in advance of October 7th, you can save $10 over gate admission on a three-day event ticket. You’ll also get a goodie bag filled with the collectible 25th anniversary event program, dash plaque, souvenir badge/schedule, lanyard, and more. On behalf of the Museum and our Reunion sponsors: Automobile Club of Southern California, Good Vibrations Motorsports, Dynamat  and Racepak, we hope you join us for this special silver anniversary! October 21-23, 2016 – Friday – Sunday, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA   Tickets available by phone (800) 884-6472 or online. For more information and a list of events go to:...
Harmonic balancers: Free advice on selecting them

Harmonic balancers: Free advice on selecting them

By Archie Bosman:  It’s easy to underestimate the cost of a deficient harmonic balancer. But they can have a profound effect on the fortunes of the able race engine—a natural enemy of crank and bearings. With the engine running, camshafts and crankshafts vibrate torsionally (in twist) and, as the saying goes, for every action there’s a reaction. Camshafts are affected by the forces related to the opening and closing of the valves while crankshafts by the combustion events. Each time the cylinders fire, torque is imparted to the crank, causing deflections—twisting it as much as 2 degrees. All of this partially complicates the timing of the valve openings as well as the cam and ignition timing to say nothing of the oppressive conditions in which the crank operates. As a result of the vibrations and deflections in both shafts, a harmonic balancer or damper is connected to the crank to absorb them. Vibrations are at their highest when furthest from the flywheel. Hence dampers are mounted on the front of the crank. Yet, on historic and vintage race engines often there was no provision at the front of the crank to mount a damper. Consequently, they might use a custom elastomer or tunable pendulum damper at the rear of the crank near the clutch.   Resonance At certain engine speeds the torques imparted by the cylinders are in sync with the vibrations in the crankshaft, which results in a potentially destructive phenomenon known as resonance. This resonance can cause stress beyond what the crank can endure, resulting in crankshaft failure due to fatigue. Robert Bartlett of the noted historic...
There’s road racing…then there’s Irish road racing!

There’s road racing…then there’s Irish road racing!

By Victor Moore: When Stirling Moss, the 1950’s Formula One sensation, was asked how he compared today’s F1 competition with motorcycle racing’s MotoGP, he said F1 is interesting, MotoGP is exciting. He’s right, for how can any form of racing excite when there’s the likelihood that one of two cars will invariably win. And mostly it’s been this way in F1 for decades. Not so in bike racing however. MotoGP and its two subordinate classes, Moto 2 and Moto 3, leave you balanced on the edge of your seat from the moment the start lights extinguish. As 93,000 fans poured into the Sachsenring circuit earlier this month for the German Grand Prix, motorcycle racing, especially in Europe, rides high on the wave of public exuberance. And then there’s Irish motorcycle road racing, an eccentric hundred-year-old tradition that functions by applying to local councils for permission to close public roads for several hours during which time road racing can be conducted. You might have thought such racing to be extinct such is its potential danger. Not a bit – and what’s more its entry ranks are overflowing. With Superbikes reaching speeds approaching 180mph and negotiating their paths between five-inch curbs, concrete walls and pillars and lighting poles, painted lines, manhole covers, recessed water drain grates, varying road surfaces…well, if you think MotoGP is exciting this is something quite other! The Race of the South is long established, probably started in the 1970s. Now held deep in the County Westmeath countryside, the venue is known as Walderstown, a region of rural beauty not far from Athlone. Located about three-quarters of an hour’s...