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DENNY SAID YEP

DENNY SAID YEP
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From out of the blue I recently got an e-mail from Bill Todd out of Redmond, Oregon. Bill had been a member of the old Bozeman, Montana Pacers car club we had back in the early Fifties, and he sent along a couple photos of a trip several club guys did to Bonneville. I had built a flat motor, but had nothing to fit it into, when someone mentioned that local motorcycle dude Denny Wheat had a semi-rodded Deuce coupe I might borrow.

I got ahold of Wheat and he said yes to the plan of me using the car with my engine for the upcoming salt flat trials down in Utah. Off to the backyard and the old doubled 2X4 strong arm hoist trick, the engine was in place with just a few hours over in which to build a tow bar from a discarded Ford front axle radius rod. We jury rigged a taillight, which we never bothered to use, and several of us were off to the salt. Some rags to sleep out in, probably no more than ten bucks between us, but we were gone on yet another Great Adventure.

Just south of the Idaho border in Utah, I decided we needed to break the engine in, as it had never been fired. So I jumped in the driver’s seat with George Schrieber riding shotgun. Yep, That George, who later came to SoCal and built the Yellow Fang dragster with Ed Roth. An aside: George stayed involved with drag racing, until recently running a jet quarter miler under Air Force sponsorship. He now has a place down in central Missouri. We dropped the clutch and ran the new engine for several miles, still on the tow bar, and decided it would do.

At the salt we had to remove all the glass(side and rear) because it was not of the safety variety, but we had all the other equipment in place. I took the initial run and I think we got a slip for97, close enough to dream of the big 100. Schrieber took over and I think he got in a couple drives in the nineties. But with each run, the slips kept showing a declining speed. Somewhere I have a dash plaque proclaiming the Art’s Muffler Shop Special as doing an 80-something. Bad to worse, until I decided to look into the engine.

Turned out that in my haste to get to the salt, I had neglected to clay the heads, you know, put strips of modelling clay on each piston, bolt down the heads, rotate the engine by hand, then disassemble the heads and mike the clay thickness. Sure enough, while most often there was no interference, the dome cuts in my new C4Sharp heads were being pounded by the pistons. Neither the pistons or the heads were cracked, but our runs were over for sure. For me, the lesson learned was never take short cuts.

That coupe was a good one, and with glass installed it would have surely broken our magic l00. Still, great fun for a bunch of young dudes. Denny got his car back in one piece, and went on to some notoriety with motorcycles. About ten years ago I ran into his relative down in Los Angeles (also a Wheat) who was into bikes, only to learn that this Wheat lived on Maui and was an acquaintance of Jimmy Pflueger, a car guy from our island of Kauai. Small indeed is the world.

Oh, and Bill Todd went into the Air Force, later got into T6 Texans in a big way, but never forgot his foray into hot rodding. Turns out he is now working on a reverse port A banger which figures out to maybe give about 150 hp at around 6000 revs! With an eye to maybe do the salt again. Betcha Schrieber would be up for a ride.

And, Art’s Muffler Shop is still in Idaho Falls. In fact, they bent up the exhaust for wife Pegge’s ’32 four door.