I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California in the 1950's. This was a period when hot rods were common in the school parking lot, drag racing on "The River Road" for pinks was all the rage -- well, in conversations, at least. I remember driving down a ramp beside the Glendale Police Department to enter the LA River channel (a wide cement trough with an occasional trickle of water in the center) where there were regular weekly drag races. One Friday night, a fellow drove in with his brand-new 1957 Ford with the supercharged 312 engine. Brand new. He had stopped at a gas station on his way from the dealer's lot with it. Couldn't wait to race somebody with it!

Since my Mom put me in school as soon as she could talk the authorities into taking me, I was younger than my classmates by almost a year but I had much the same interests. My very first car was a crude sort of go-kart. Our gardener, Joe, gave me an engine for it from an old lawnmower. The frame was angle-iron, bolted together; wheels were old soapbox derby standard. The brake was a rubber-covered piece of wood on a tube handle--pull the handle and the pad would rub the ground to slow you down! I couldn't afford a centrifigal clutch for the engine so I put a pulley on a lever and pushed a pedal to engage the engine with the wheel. Several boys in the neighborhood built these cars and we would race around the neighborhood streets after school. Mom just said to be home for dinner.

I had my first real car at 13 or 14, a 1941 Chevy sedan. I got my first ticket at 15 in my Dad's car (long story and you will NEVER hear it here).

Tommy Ivo lived on Orchard Street in Burbank. I walked up and down Parrish Street, parallel but one block over, on my way to and from high school. Sometimes I'd take the long way to see if Tommy's T-bucket was parked in front. This was the second T-bucket hotrod ever built and a beauty to behold. I met Tommy at the SoCal open house last year (the Friday before the LA Roadster Show). He told me he bought that house when he was 12, with his movie/tv earnings, and that he still lives there!

Icons of racing such as Jack McAfee, Don Prudhomme, Kent Fuller, Tony Nancy, and countless others lived in the valley as well and were racing at the San Fernando drag strip, Lions, LADS, and even up in Bakersfield. Wally Parks started the NHRA in the LA area, where he edited Hot Rod Magazine. There were custom shops in Burbank and North Hollywood that I could ride my bike to; they let me look in the doors as they worked. It was like magic to me. Alex Xydias had his famous speed shop on Victory Avenue in Burbank.

My brother-in-law, Dave Dunbar, got interested in sportscar racing in the mid-50's. He bought a car from Ted Cannon's shop: 38 Ford frame and suspension, MG-TC front fenders, Model-A rear fenders, Franklin radiator shell, and a stroker Mercury engine. He raced this in the Cal Club races for several years and let me crew for him sometimes. He called this car the
FUBAR Special. Through Dave, I met a number of racers and carbuilders and saw sights that remain vivid to this day. Maybe someday I'll try to add a page on what I remember from those days.

My first hotrod was a 1934 Ford Cabriolet. It had a 1950 Olds engine that I rebuilt (and bored 1/8" over). Fun car, I never forgot it. Stock 1934 drivetrain, which provided important lessons in replacing rear axles. Later, I bought a car from a friend. This was a 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline with a Corvette 283 engine. The transmission was a '39 LaSalle floor-shift 3-speed. Fooled a lot of folks with this car since it was also customized. At that time, the kids in the San Fernando end of the valley tended to build custom cars with lots of exotic bodywork and paint, with lowering blocks and fender skirts and stuff like that. More often than not, the engines were stock. The kids at my end of the valley tended to build cars that went fast. Primer was actually considered a color by most of us. Neither group understood the other at the time and we certainly didn't mix. Funny how kids are. This car also had some lessons to provide on replacing axles.

Anyway, the Navy and then family intervened and I didn't have the time or money to mess with hotrods for quite a while. That changed in the mid-90's as the kids were growing up and out and I actually had a couple of dollars in the bank. Turned out Martha liked going to carshows and looking at the hotrods. Eventually, I bought a project car to work on, then a driver (and, simultaneously, Martha bought another project car), and things grew from there. Meanwhile, I re-discovered racing. The rest, as they say, is history.