I discovered (re-discovered?) dry lakes racing quite by accident. We were at a Road Kings car show in Burbank one year and Ken Walkey had brought his streamliner to exhibit. He had a flyer on a Muroc Reunion event coming up the next weekend. This flyer talked about inviting hot rods up to make a (slow) pass down the course. I managed to talk him out of it, applied for entry, and went up. It was fascinating! I talked to a number of racers and found out about the regular meets at El Mirage (the Muroc reunion was a short-lived event held on what is now Edwards AFB). Got a little lost on the way home and ran across the road to El Mirage. Talk about serendipity.

The next El Mirage meet found me there, wandering around like a lost puppy. I finally ended up at the Tech trailer where I asked how somebody got started in this sort of racing. He asked me where I lived and, when I answered "the San Diego Area," he told me to go find somebody with San Diego Roadster Club on their racecar and see if they'd talk to me. I went up to the starting line and started pestering this gentleman with a red and yellow modified roadster. Jack Harvey, bless his heart, answered my questions (some of which pain me to recall), patiently explained how the race was organized, and finally invited me to come to a meeting of the club. I did, liked what I saw, and never stopped. Went to more El Mirage meets, met lots of racers and helpers, helped the friends I made in the club, and then -- one day as I was bemoaning how long it would take to turn my Mustang into a racecar -- someone said to me, "Why don't you race the Deuce?" Umm, why not indeed?


This is Martha's 1932 Ford 5-window coupe, Ruby, before she got painted. This is the setup my son James and I ran there several times. Best speed was 117 mph running a stock Mustang 5.0 EFI engine. Hell of a ride when the wind catches the front fenders and it starts wandering all over the dirt. This car later became the donor of several street engines to the Mustang -- as soon as we blew up an engine in the racecar, we'd yank the engine out of Ruby. I almost had an engine in it a couple of times. I finally got another engine for her right now -- 302 Ford, of course, made from bits and bobs from previous race engines. Installed and running at last!

In July 2004, I ran the Mustang through tech inspection at El Mirage to make sure that the car would be ready for Bonneville the next month. Whoa! I ended up with a list of seven "DO THIS OR DON"T COME" items to correct. They let me run the car, very slowly. I think I did 132 my second run that day. Boy, was I busy for the next month!

The picture below is the Mustang at El Mirage in September, 2006 (also before paint). We got two runs that day. I managed 155 or so on this run (the car is entering the timing trap here). I was off the gas as much as I was on it, trying to keep the car going straight.


The next run, as I was approaching the traps, I decided to just keep my foot on the gas and hope for the best. I pulled the parachute release just as I crossed the line between the cones. At the same time, the rear end washed out to the right. I steered into the skid, got the rear end coming back to the left. Over-corrected, of course, so I had to give it left steering to try to bring it back straight again ... when the chute blossomed! Jerked the rear of the car completely around. A quick glimpse down the track where I had started and then I was in a huge cloud of dust. Threw in the clutch, held the wheel straight, and waited.

Boy howdy, do you ever attract attention when you spin out at El Mirage! On the plus side, after the Tech guys heard my story they went out to inspect the track near the timing trap and decided that it was unsafe to run any more cars.

Oh, yes. I did 163 this time. The record is 183 or so and is likely out of sight, especially now that I've retired the Mustang. However, my neighbors have re-vamped the Mustang and there is a chance we'll get her out to El Mirage again some year. Be a good chance to tech the car and check things out. But we already know the car is ready -- she did 167 at the Texas Mile in October, 2015.

I have run my lakester here four times so far. In July, 2012, Russ Eyres and I did some checkout passes on Saturday morning, then I made two easy passes on the (new) car on Sunday -- 145 and 164 mph. I was having considerable trouble with the shifter and was running pretty stiff Bonneville gears, so these speeds weren't surprising. In June of 2013, I ran again and did 165. Disappointing but still unable to shift through all the gears. My last pass, so far, came in November of this year (2015). Since Bonneville had been cancelled the past two years, turnout at El Mirage was quite robust. My lineup number was 233! Saturday saw 169 runs; I was a few cars back, in my firesuit, when racing had to halt for the day. Bummer!

Next morning, the few of us who hadn't run Saturday got to run on the new course in the cool morning air, something normally reserved for the very fastest of the big boys. Yippee! Nothing could stop me now. I got pushed off, used my new GPS speedo to see when I reached 40 mph and let in the clutch. Ran up to the shift light (8500 rpm) in first, shifted to second and managed to get nearly full throttle up to the shift light. Into third, pulling hard, up to the shift light. Shifted into fourth and ... nothing. Engine quit firing. Flailed about a bit, finally bit the bullet and pulled the chute. Speed through the lights was 146. Crap!

When I got out of the car, I looked for some obvious problem. Checked the gauges. Turned engine power on and there it was -- no fuel pressure. When we got back to the pits, I pulled some body panels off and, sure enough, the fuel pump impact switch had tripped! Press the red button and, voila', fuel pressure. We buttoned the car back up to make a second pass. I was confident that 200+ was in sight since I had been at 170 when I shifted into fourth. Nothing could go wrong now!

Except weather. I won't belabor the point. A storm came in before there was a chance for us ro run. We packed up and skedaddled off the lakebed. In a big cloud of dust with rain beginning to fall.

Back home, I ordered an inertial switch from Pegasus Racing. The original switch is no longer stocked by Summit -- wonder why...

This May (2106), Martha and I hauled the lakester out to El Mirage to try one last time with the 2006 engine. Much to our surprise and delight, Paul Warner and Paul Gilbert flew down from the Portland area to help out. My lineup number was 204 this time, somewhat better than last November. We went through Tech on Friday in a blustery wind that put dust everywhere you wouldn't want it. Saturday, we got one run in -- engine started missing and bucking in 3rd gear so I gave it up and coasted through at something like 104.

Paul W. suggested fresh plugs and, since I don't run an alternator, putting a hefty charge on the battery. Come Sunday, the crowds had thinned a bit and we were able to run soon after we arrived on the lakebed. Pushed up in line, warmed the engine a bit, and waited to get to the front of the line. When we did, Paul W. started the engine -- and the tach failed to indicate! The starter was waving us on so we pushed off and I made a run, shifting by ear. Did 167 and change. Drat!

But there was another round so we got in line to run again. Nothing could possibly go wrong this time!

Started the engine back in line a ways to warm it up. The car in front of us made a pass so Paul W. tried to start the engine. No joy! The starter gave us a few minutes to figure things out and ran the car in the other lane. Problem was no fuel pressure. Seen that before! So they pulled the tin off the back enough to press the red button on the inertia switch. Popped in the dzus buttons and started the engine.

They pushed me off and Martha remembers how the car took off like a rocket. Paul W. was saying, "Yes, this it the one. Look at it go!" I remember the acceleration was significantly larger than I'd felt before. Until 3rd gear, when the engine quit running. Another coast through the lights. Pushed back to the pits, where we found that we had no fuel pressure again.

Took the car down to San Diego. Pulled the engine and ran it on Russ Eyres dyno. Best power was 525 (corrected) horsepower, where I was expecting over 600. Hmmm. Does explain why my speeds never reached my expectations. Don't know why the difference in power between my computations and reality, however. I truly think the engine once did make 600+ hp, when it was in the Mustang. I guess something has worn out in the years since. We may never know, since I have some new heads and intake and cam on order to try to make maybe 700 hp for next Bonneville! We shall see...