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Dyno Don Batyi

Dyno Don Batyi


Text by Dyno Don Batyi, edited by Richard Parks.

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Zolton and Dorathy Batyi in 1937.  I have two younger sisters, Elizabeth and Patricia.  For the first decade of my life I lived in Baltimore and went to school there.  In 1948 my family moved to California in what is called the Inland Empire of Riverside/San Bernardino area.  I attended San Bernardino High School, where I took machine shop classes.  I played on the football team with Jim Davis, who I would later meet up with again in the Over the Hill Gang car club.  After graduation I went on to Valley College.

I built my first car while I was in high school in the mid-fifties.  It was a 1947 Ford Club Coupe with a flathead motor.  I don’t remember how many times I rebuilt that motor, but it kept blowing up.  After awhile I finally got it right and it turned out to be a pretty fast car. It was a street machine and I used to hang out at Mimi’s Drive-In, San Bernardino, also did some drag racing in the orange groves, ahh, the old days.  

After graduation in 1956, I wanted to get into drag racing.  I got a job at Scotty’s Muffler and that is where I learned to build hot rods.  C. W. "Scotty" Scott was my mentor and we were good friends until his death.  I was just starting out in life then and Scotty rented me a place to live and even co-signed for me to buy a car.  "Buster" Burris and I rented a building at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino and had a Memorial for our dear friend Scotty after his passing.  So many people came and left donations, we struck out even.  Scotty was a much loved gentleman and I still miss him a great deal.  Scotty was into SCTA dry lake and NHRA drag racing. He had the first open wheeled lakester to go over 200 mph at Bonneville and gave Mike Snively his start as a driver in a top fuel front engine dragster.  

I had a track T project car that I couldn't afford to build at the time, so I sold it to Scotty and that became the infamous "Scotty's T Bucket Altered."  Volunteers from the Muffler Shop, including me built the roadster after hours. I was the Go-Fer.  As I didn’t have the money to build a drag car of my own, I joined the Antiques of So Cal, a club based in Colton, California that raced cars at the Morrow Airport Drag Strip in Colton.  Scotty let us run the "T bucket" for him at the drags and the club took it to the Nationals in Oklahoma City one year. Cub Barnett was the Chief Mechanic and his brother Bud drove in 1956 or '57.  The roadster didn't do as well as the lakester.  The Antiques were one of the first Charter members of the NHRA and our club jacket hangs in the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California with a photo of the members.  I am in the photo, holding a club jacket.   

Some of the members of the Antiques were Bud Evans, Eddie Kistler, Bud and Cub Barnett, "Ole" Cook, Lynn Cooper, Howard Wells, and Les Jensen.  Bud Evans went on to become one of the members of the first NHRA Safety Safari and worked for Wally Parks.  That first Safety Safari consisted of Bud, Chic Cannon, Eric "Rick" Rickman and Bud Coons and they taught car clubs across America how to put on safe and sanctioned drag races.  The last time I saw Evans was at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, and he was still living in Colton.  Evans was given a special pass that gets him into any NHRA event in honor of his past work in drag racing.  Eddie Kistler was the driver of the Archie’s Garage Crossly fuel altered and front engine fuel dragster.  Kistler was also in my wedding.  Bud and Cub Barnett were members also.  "Ole" Cook was a member and went on to become a "renoun sticher," or one who is well known.  Lynn Cooper, a former President of our club went on to become the Mayor of San Luis Obispo.  Howard Wells ran a 1934 Ford and went into Orange County real estate and now lives in Balboa.  Les Jensen ran a 1929 altered and we are still friends and in the Over-The-Hill-Gang San Bernardino Chapter (OTHG-BEDOO) together.  We had a reunion of the Antiques in 2007 and I have the club roster.

I got a job with Western Electric, a Ma Bell Division, and now I had the money to build my own car.  I started to build a 1933 Willy’s altered coupe with a blown Chrysler hemi.  The job only lasted 3 years and I moved on to work for a Clark Equipment Dealer. I spent 40 years with Clark and am now retired. I didn't finish the Willys and sold it and the parts.   

I married Clara McNally in 1958 and when we began to have children I put all of my stuff on the block and went on with my family life.  When the kids grew a little bit, we rode dirt bikes in the desert with my friend Dusty Behrman. Dusty went on to become a pro rider and was sponsored by Honda and Nippondenso.   My daughter Christi turned out to be the “chip off the old block” and is a “car nut” like her old man.  My first marriage ended and I later remarried for a second time to Alma Hill.  I spent 8 years in the California Army National Guard during my marriage.  I have two grown children, Christi and David from my first marriage; Christi works for Cal-Trans, David for Stater Brothers Markets.  Alma has three grown children from her first marriage, Andrea, Angela and Arnold, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.  When we have a family party we fill the house, life is good.

In 1988, I found myself standing in front of a magazine rack with Alma at the drug store and spotted a car magazine with a 1933 Willy’s on the cover and bought it.  My children had grown up and I felt like returning to my past roots in hot rodding.  Within 90 days I had purchased a 1940 Ford DeLuxe Coupe (couldn’t find a '33 Willy’s) that needed a lot of TLC.  Of course it didn’t have enough horsepower and I built a 383 cubic inch SBC motor for it. I later went to the Antique Nationals, a display and run show, put on by Model T Club, at Los Angeles County Raceway (LACR) and decided to make a run down the strip just to see what my car would do.  You guessed it, which put me back into drag racing.  LACR was a great place to race.  Bernie, the guy who ran the track was a great guy and worked with the racers to make everything better.  The problem was, the Mining Company owned the track and when they mined up to it, something had to give.  The mining company offered the track to the city for $10 million.  That is what they thought the aggregate sand and gravel was worth, but the city turned it down and that was the end of the track. The mining company strip-mined it away. It was a shame because the city couldn't lose money on the deal. 

I wanted to keep my '40 coupe just for street use, so I then built a '40 Deluxe Tudor Street/Strip with a LS-7 468ci BBC that I got from Chuck Cluck, an OTHG member.  This car turned out to be the one I couldn't afford to build in the 1950's.  I painted the car "Colton Antique" white and ran an "Antiques" car club plaque when I was racing it.  I raced the '40 for three seasons at Pomona and one at LACR when a '29 Ford altered roadster came along that I just couldn’t live without.  I rebuilt the roadster and raced it for three seasons at LACR and took third in the point standings in the second season.  The roadster was originally built by Dave Barnakow, founder of Rodco in Riverside. Rodco was a Street Rod Shop that built just about anything. Dave ran the roadster in the Nostalgia Drag Racing Association (NDRA) with a blown SBC on fuel until his health started to fail. I ran the roadster with a BBC on racing gas.  Dave and I became good friends but he passed away before I took third in the points.  His name is still on the car as a memorial. Dave's son Scott now runs the shop.  I am now driving the '40 street/strip on the road and take them to car shows whenever I can. 

I joined the Over the Hill Gang (OTHG), San Bernardino (Berdoo) in the early 1990’s and I ran into Jim Davis, an old high school chum from San Bernardino High School.  I was building big block Chevy's for my race cars and taking them to Verbancic's Dyno Shop to get the maximum horsepower out of the engines.  I would then give a report to the membership on how things went.  One of the members, John Coute got up and tagged me "Dyno Don" and the nickname stuck.  At a California Hot Rod Reunion I met Don Nicholson and I told him the story about how I got my nickname.  He thought that was great, since he was called the same. "Dyno Don" Nicholson was really a nice guy.  I'm sorry he is gone and I only met him the one time.

The OTHG is a large street rod and muscle car club with about 250 members, and they are a great bunch of guys. I have made many good friends in the club; Jim Bartlebaugh, Roger Liberator, Bob Pepper, Danny Soso, Gary Loope, Jim Ringo, Larry Volk, Jerry Wylam, Frank Zupan and Bob Becker to name just a few.  Mike Hedgecock, who is called Dr. Torch, is in there too.  The club even changed my retirement plants.  Alma and I were talking about retiring locations and she said to me, “You wouldn’t move anywhere unless the club moved there too.”  We are still living in the Riverside house we had built in 1979.  
The OTHG club puts on the Veterans Car Show in Loma Linda for the Veterans Hospital and raises a six figure sum for the Veterans Fund, I am proud to say.  I wanted to do more activities with the club while I was still racing so I put my '40 coupe on the block and bought a finished '37 Ford Coupe street rod.  After a few years I sold the '37 and now have a '67 Firebird convertible that is more hot rod than muscle car and my wife Alma and I drive it on most of the club runs. Alma and I have been together for 35 years. She is a florist by trade and owned “Ana’s Florist” in Riverside and was my photographer at the drag races and loves drag racing as much as I do.  We still watch the drag races on TV together. I don't know what I would do without her.

Somewhere along the line, I ended up the club's newsletter editor and did that for five years with the help of Bob Roberts and Blair Black.  Bob Dawson was the previous Editor and he was a tough act to follow.  When the state of California raided custom car builder Boyd Coddington’s Shop, they got my dander up and I am now the Political Liaison for the OTHG-Berdoo.  The Inland Empire Car Club Council (IECCC) is a group of 37 car clubs and I am the former vice president of the Association of California Car Clubs, a state wide association.  In order to better “Spread the Word” to save our hobby from the government, I started the Faithful Network, that now has readers in the thousands, state wide, throughout California. 

The Faithful Network Newsletter got started to inform the local car clubs what was going on in Sacramento. I write a bulletin and send it to single forwarders who send it on to clubs, mailing lists, etc.    Bob Heron helped me get started; he was active in politics for the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) when the government was trying to shut down the Mojave Desert to Off-road car and motorcycle users.  I am also a columnist for the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter, which is located at
Gone Racin' is at [email protected]