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IN THEIR OWN WORDS

“My answer? Simple. Dad’s 1957 Victress-Chevy”

It was the 4th car he built. The first was a rear engine Model A he built in three months. Driver sat where the hood would normally be. Engine, trans and very short driveshaft behind. A pilot, he built it on a leave and not having time to properly body it, he just made up some bulkheads and stringers and covered it with dope and fabric. Looked like a turtle with no head, but it ran. Next, he took 1936 Ford running gear, built his own fiberglass body and built a pretty neat little car. Stock flathead power, it’d do 100 flat out.

Building the body in one piece and popping it off the mold, he was not able to roll the body edges under. So it was flat sided on all four corners. He said from the back it looked like an old woman bent over. The third car was a Glasspar–bodied flathead special. Tube frame, Ford suspension.

Raced it in SCCA events in the mid–fifties, always finishing 1 or 2 in class, and fully street legal, too. He never owned a trailer. He ran it at Stockton, Vacaville, and Arcata airport races, mostly in 1956.

His last car was a Chevy–powered Victress. Victress, located in Hollywood, like Devin and Glasspar made fiberglass bodies. Dad put his on a ’57 Plymouth frame as he liked torsion–bar suspension. He fashioned his own coil spring rear suspension and watts link in back over a Plymouth positraction differential. Unable to find a Chevy four–speed, he used a Jag Moss box behind a homemade adaptor plate. The engine was a 265 CID Chevy bored to 283 CID, with fuelie heads and Duntov cam, three two–bbls.

An interesting feature of the car was an airfoil (wing) that mounted behind the rear wheels below the Victress’ substantial rear overhang. It was mounted on a pivot, sprung with WW2 parachute shock cord, and linked to a Model A emergency brake lever in the cockpit. Flying down the straights, he’d have it in the “up” position. Hitting the brakes, he’d flip the emergency brake lever, the airfoil would drop creating drag, slowing the car, and by his calculations, providing 300lbs of downforce at 100 MPH. He said it looked like a “reverse manure spreader.” Worked like a champ.

He took second in B–Modified at Laguna Seca’s October 1958 SCCA event, and did well in a couple of hillclimbs. I remember driving to the track with him, removing the mufflers, installing a racing windscreen, and off he’d go. Going home, the same thing in reverse.

While he loved racing, he enjoyed building even more. After the Victress, he built a jet boat, then a cabin cruiser, then a 50 foot commercial trawler that’s still in service today in Half Moon Bay, CA. And then, an airplane, totally from scratch. Low wing, tandem seating, 140 hp Lycoming, a hot little thing. Stalled at about 75mph but climbed like a rocket. All this built at home, with just hand tools, a vise, grinder and gas torches. No bandsaw, shears, brakes, MIG, TIG, lathe, mill–––none of that.

Over the years, I’ve looked for Pop’s cars but have never been able to find any. I did finally buy a Victress project car in Texas which I will restore. He’d like that!

Steve Steers

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