Monday, April 29, 2013

Fred Coleman, Ralph Spencer and more...They Came, They Tried, and they lost to Jerry Richert's Flathead Ford.....

As summer quickly approaches, my mind always wanders back to the old Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Stock Car Racing days.  There are many memories of my teen years being spent there inhaling dirt and fumes that eventually lead to my own few years of racing and also to the many years I spent in my garage as a gearhead, and hot rod builder.
As my memory wanes in my older years, I rely on my good friend Dennis Winko for most of the data that surrounds the racing days at the old CLE track.  Without him, many of the blanks to be filled in would be empty, and the following information would not exist.  It is great to be able to put this to writing for all to see.
The first car shown below, driven by Fred Coleman originally started out as a pretty nice 1938 Chevrolet.  Now a '38 Chevy was not a small car.  It was a big heavy boat that if made into a Street Rod or Hot Rod today would drive and ride very nicely, with its heavy chassis and all round heavy ride....but Fred Coleman cut it down into what you see here to make a much sleeker and very fast little dirt track ride.
It first appeared here at the 1958 Dirt Track Championships in Fort William, Ontario and started the trend of the cut down cars to add more speed an agility.  The little #54 sported a '55 Corvette engine with 2-4bbl carburetors on what looks like a homemade plenum(literally a square box) intake manifold.  Dennis says that these were set up for high speed, not torque coming out of the corners, and with a light little car, would do so like a bullet.  Fred was from Winnipeg, and sponsored by Inman Motors there.  It was flat towed to Fort William the 440 miles to race (no trailer was used).  Fred did really well his first year here in 1958, but one must remember that the cars from Winnipeg and Toronto were all set up for pavement racing on smaller tracks (the Toronto Ex track was a tiny 1/3 mile asphalt oval) and not the rough dirt track that we had here.  You will also notice that the steering Pittman arm came out the passenger side of the vehicle which was a trend at the time as the right front wheel took a good portion of the cornering forces.  Fred basically appeared for 2 years, 1958 and '59 and never seen after that, however guys like Fred Coleman were pioneers of racing and experimented with many trends and ideas that made racing faster and safer for all involved.  Click on all pictures for enlargements!

 This little car was quite impressive looking considering all the other stock height and width dirt track racers of the time, but because they were built for asphalt racing, they had trouble with the rough dirt track at the CLE

'55 Corvette Engine with dual quad carburetors - check out the chrome headers.

Fred Coleman in action!

The next car featured below was also an import.  His name was Ralph Spencer and was one of the "Toronto Contingency" that also included Ted Hogan.  These guys had a ton of trouble with the Lakehead track as they were meant to be pavement cars.  The locals and the Americans that came up did much better at the CLE track due to the fact that they all raced on dirt to start with.  Spencer didn't place in the money either in 1958 and ended up wrecking his car.  Coleman above did much better than Spencer even though as mentioned, they were asphalt cars.  You can even see a slick for a rear tire on Spencer's car.  Our track was larger, rougher and had more obstacles to run into.

Before I show the Spencer car, here are a couple of photos with "Terrible" Ted Hogan from Toronto as well.
Just to the right of #54 Coleman you can see Ted Hogan's Fiat.  Ted was a huge contender from Toronto but unfortunately couldn't do anything here on the Lakehead's huge dirt track.

Ted passed away in 1960 after a terrible plane crash and explosion after a long
racing career in Southern Ontario....there is much more about Ted to read about
on the Internet.
Ralph Spencer Car #16
Ralph Spencer
Ralph's car was trailered from Toronto.

Albert Massaro with unknown TV announcer in the CKPR Studio on Hill Street with Spencer's car in the background (Note smooth racing slick on the rear) traction on wet clay and dirt!  Dig those crazy drape trousers and brush-cuts!

Smiling Albert Massaro shown in the photo above (Wow...look at all the people)!
Here is Spencer being interviewed for the up-coming 1958 Dirt Track Championships.....with his car also in the CKPR studio.
1958 Program Cover
1958 Program Roster

 In this 1958 Championship program you can see the above guys competing.  The written in names below were late comers for this season's noted was Jerry Richert (not Richards).  To the chagrin of the boys from Winnipeg and Toronto, Jerry in his little #99 blew their doors off with only a big smile and a FLATHEAD FORD engine!
Jerry continued to race in the Lakehead for years, because he knew how to race on dirt!

Jerry's Car with the Flathead.

Here's Jerry!

Jerry would continue to race into the 1959 year as can be seen in the following roster but would remove the flathead like everyone else was doing and added an Edsel overhead engine.
You can also note in the roster that only 3 flathead Fords were still running in 1959.

Once more....Many thanks to Dennis Winko for his knowledge and input on a constant basis to Hot Rods and is much appreciated.

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