Look at this Unbelievable Stash of Factory Race Cars!
- June 19, 2015
- Posted by lauraj
- Comments Off on Look at this Unbelievable Stash of Factory Race Cars!
If you can find his shop, this is the scene that greets you as you enter. Ropes and pulleys are the only things keeping that little roadster up in the air. Yes, that’s a glider hanging from the rafters.
“My shop is dark and dirty. I don’t dust, I don’t clean, and you won’t find any billet crap here.” – Scott Dapron
Stepping through the tall overhead door is a little like entering an automotive time portal. My first impression of Scott Dapron’s shop is like some blue oval version of that last scene from “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Last Ark” where a worker pushes that crate carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the oblivion of a huge warehouse. Dressed in dirty jeans, plaid shirt, and a stained paper Oldsmobile hat, Scott stands just inside the big door like the gate keeper to an eclectic automotive altar. “The shop doesn’t get many visitors,” Warren Tracy says. Warren is a good friend and owner of the Busted Knuckle Garage who introduced me to Scott. “He doesn’t pull the car covers off for just anybody.”
My first moments in Scott’s shop could be a clinical case study for sensory overload. There appears to be dozens of cars, mostly covered, but at first they are just background. What jumps out is a patina’d 1923 roadster complete with a Halibrand quick change suspended from the 30-foot ceiling with ropes and pulleys like a giant guillotine that needs only the slightest of encouragement to take advantage of all of gravity’s best efforts. Or the leviathan lump of aluminum on the floor to my left that appears to be a super-sized GMC blower. “That’s a supercharger off a diesel locomotive”, Scott says. “I know somebody who is gonna want that, so I bought it.” That’s Scott’s life in an oversimplified YouTube sound bite.
He buys stuff – lots of stuff – tons of stuff. And not just cars and parts, but live-scale steam trains, a 1950s-era cocoon-like aluminum trailer, a 3-71 GMC blower once bolted on a Hudson inline six, scads of restored scooters, and enough Halibrand wheels to create a magnesium fire that could probably be seen from the international space station. Scott’s shop is a journey back to a heavyweight world where a leviathan 427ci 1963½ Galaxie was called a lightweight – along with other cars that likely helped define the term “heavy metal.” It’s as if I’ve just began some crew-cut 1960s automotive Van Heusen journey. Except this is no dusty Disney diorama – Scott’s shop is more like an open-faced Bell helmet blast through Adventureland on methanol, so breathe deeply, my friends.
Through mealtime stories, the pieces of Scott’s puzzle begin to fit together and lord knows there are a bunch of pieces to this guy’s life. It’s no surprise he grew up exposed to cars. As a youngster in the late 1950s in Southern California meant you were either into surfing or cars. His older brother Mike tore up the streets of their beach community in a 1932 Ford that fueled his younger brother’s passion. After dinner, Mike would fire his Deuce and hit the streets, unaware that Scott had hidden himself under the rumble seat, surreptitiously riding shotgun while big brother conquered dragons.
After working at various Ford dealerships, Scott eventually landed a job with Mickey Thompson from 1967 to 1971. This was when Mickey was heavily associated with Ford, who funded most of his racing, including his famous record-setting efforts on the Bonneville salt. Mickey took three Mustangs to set endurance records, with two cars on a 10-mile oval. Scott was there, helping to refuel the cars and keep the smudge pots burning during the night. Later, Mickey returned to the flats with his Ford-powered Autolite Special streamliner urged by a pair of 427 Cammers and Scott’s bright blue paint job. That was a time when pallet loads of engines and parts were delivered to Thompson’s southern California shop, dropped out of the sides of DC 3 cargo planes. How good was it back then? A well-funded shop might have a little 1963 Falcon Ranchero to run parts and get lunch. Scott’s parts chaser was a 1969 428 Cobra Jet Torino. But it was a manic life with Thompson and Scott eventually moved on to other adventures in Europe and then back to Southern California working for rocker Rod Stewart.
Car guys know that every machine has a story and it quickly becomes apparent that there are countless stories parked in the dusty alcoves of this shop. It’s the provenance of veterans of the car wars to remember those who came before. Perhaps that’s one reason why much of Scott’s collection takes direct aim at a time when machines were crude, yes. But this was also a time when these same machines fairly oozed character. While we might be focused mainly on the machines, perhaps Scott’s dust-laden museum is really more of a private homage to a time five decades past when high- performance cars were built and driven by colorful characters chasing a dream.
In the early 1960s, all of Ford’s performance efforts were focused on the Galaxie. The big engine in a little car idea had not yet taken hold; that would come later with the Thunderbolt. So in mid-1963, Ford released the fastback Galaxie, a car that has since earned its classic status. In order to beat those increasingly quick Mopars, Ford built a lightweight Galaxie, reducing weight with an aluminum bumper, fiberglass hood, lightweight seats, all the sound deadening material removed, and many other little tricks. According to Scott, the first 22 lightweights came with fiberglass doors, but subsequent cars were equipped with steel doors since the weight savings was a mere seven pounds. Then Ford employed a bigger gun. They bolted a 427 Low-Riser engine between the rails and fitted it with a very rare aluminum case T-10 four-speed. The plan was to put the first of these production line-built cars (over 200 were eventually produced) in the hands of successful drag racers – one of which was Mickey Thompson.
Mickey immediately built four pairs of aluminum Hemi heads for the big-block Ford and began testing. In the midst of this development, the Thunderbolt debuted, which immediately made even the lightweight Galaxie obsolete. Thompson pushed the Galaxie over in the corner of the shop, where it began collecting dust. In 1968, Scott purchased the car without a motor or trans and with 900 miles on the odometer. In 1973, he learned one of the original hemi engines that had been used in the Thunderbolt was now in a boat. Scott bought the boat and had Fritz rebuild the engine, returning it to its rightful home in the Thompson Galaxie.
In 1957, Bill Stroppe whacked the top and windshield off a 1957 Mercury convertible and built a 391ci Lincoln to power the beast (dubbed The Mermaid) down the sand at the Daytona Beach Speed Trials. Piloted by Art Chrisman, the Experimental Class Merc ran a two-way average of 154.176 mph, placing second only behind Hot Rod’s editor Wally Parks’ 159.893 average in a 1957 Plymouth. The power behind the Mermaid was a tweaked Lincoln Y-block with Hilborn mechanical fuel injection, a Scintilla magneto, a mechanical roller cam, and Hedman headers. Though the car has disappeared, Scott says this is the Mermaid’s actual “Big M” engine, the same one that was on the cover of Hot Rod in October 1956.
“I’m gonna take a chain saw to it. Cut it right down the middle and mount the left side on the wall with a mural of Lions in the background.” – Scott Dapron’s plans for the Mickey Thompson Fiberglass Trends Mustang Funny Car body hanging from the rafters of his shop
Gordon Potter worked as an engineer for Garrett AiResearch and built this incredibly bad-ass turbocharged 457ci Chrysler Hemi-powered ’56 T-bird. His goal was to drive the car to Bonneville, run 200 mph, and then drive it home. Though he never made the attempt, the ‘Bird appeared in the July ’64 issue of Hot Rod. The engineering that is now nearly 50 years old is still impressive. Scott says the Hemi made 804hp normally aspirated and 1,100 on alcohol. According to Scott, the ‘Bird has run a tire-spinning 11.30 at 149 mph on the strip and has seen boost as high as 38psi. Scott’s brother Mike, who is also part owner of Scott’s building, purchased it from Potter in 1985.
The name Fritz Voigt echoed through many of Scott’s stories. When Scott started work at Mickey Thompson’s shop as a flunky/painter, Fritz was the engine builder but the man’s aura and reputation extends far beyond the engine room. He was a regular at the first sanctioned drag races at Santa Ana airport in the early 1950s. Then he won the B/Gas Dragster class at the first NHRA Top Eliminator race in Great Bend, Kansas. This qualified him to take on Calvin Rice for the first NHRA National Champion title, but the final was rained out. NHRA moved the race to Arizona nearly two months later where Calvin Rice won the race but his performance established Fritz’s place in drag racing history. Fritz later worked for Mickey building Chrysler, Pontiac, and Ford engines that powered an incredible array of competition cars, including many of Mickey’s Indianapolis race engines.
Scott’s favorite story regards the small Craftsman tool box sitting beneath an enlarged photo of Don Garlits racing Jack Chrisman at the 1962 NHRA Nationals. In the photo, it appears Big Daddy in the far lane has a comfortable lead, but Voigt power from the supercharged M/T Pontiac hemi was enough to power past the Swamp Rat for the win. As part of the Top Eliminator prize, Craftsman awarded the winning crew chief the aforementioned tool box that Voigt kept (including its original cardboard container) all these years.
“Fritz has built over 100 engines for me. He built all of the engines in this shop.” – Scott on his friendship with Fritz Voigt
Behind the Glass Menagerie
In one corner of Scott’s office is a glass case that contains an assortment of intake manifold eclecticism. Scott rattled off reams of information about each one seemingly without taking a breath. I couldn’t hope to keep up and wasn’t brave enough to ask him to repeat himself. So I contented myself to taking notes on a ridiculously rare Bud Moore manifold. Among the other treasures are a NOS Ford Cammer fuel injection manifold and a six-carb manifold for a Cadillac. The wheels on the floor are magnesium Halibrands for a Lola T70.
“I knew you were asleep while we were talking…” – Spend time with Scott and a fair share of zingers will certainly come your way
Original Article: Jeff Smith of Hot Rod