Hot Rod Magazine charted the popularity
of the roadster during the 40's and 50's.
(Click on the thumbnail to see the picture):
Bonneville National Speed Trials, '69:
American Track Roadsters is a Colorado corporation
dedicated to the preservation of the memories of an important
but short-lived segment of Automotive Americana. Although track
roadsters existed prior to World War II, they enjoyed a hay day
from the end of the war until the mid-fifties. Track roadsters
raced in almost every part of the United States. They were a
melding of hot rodding with the dream of big time circle track
racing. When "The Boys" came back from WWII, cars from
the mid-twenties to mid-thirties were plentiful and cheap. You
could buy a Model T roadster and strip it down and hop it up
and head for the horse track at the local fair grounds.
Track roadsters weren't pretty and they weren't safe, but they
were popular. If you were good enough and lucky enough to survive
the other cars and the board fences, you might be able to make
a buck at it and become a touring pro. A few did, and a few went
on to "Big Cars" and some of those made it to Indy.
It is ironic that the cars, which ran at Indy through the fifties
and into the sixties were called "Roadsters". Combined
they made up the greatest period in American automobile racing!
I am a romantic; I love old Indy cars. The cars of the Miller
era are pieces of art. They are comparable with works chiseled
out of stone by old masters. They are beautiful but they are
not roadsters, and they are out of reach of common men. A Track
Roadsters just has to have roots in Dearborn, it has to start
life as a common old Ford.
My love for Track Roadsters probably started with Hot Rod Magazine
in the late fifties. Then in 1961 I saw one driving down the
street. It was a beautiful yellow and red '27 with a track nose
on it. I hopped on my paperboy bike and tracked it down. The
owner was kind enough to spend time with a fourteen-year-old
kid showing me this wonderful machine. It was built in Cheyenne
Wyoming, had a '49 Cadillac OHV V-8, and a chrome grille made
from Oxweld welding rod. I'll never forget it.
This love was solidified in the early seventies by an article
in Rod & Custom. At the time I was building racecars for
a living and just happen to be working on the Rod & Custom
Project Anglia. But here before my eyes were concept drawings,
not just pencil sketches but full color cut away drawings of
Track T Roadsters. They were all based on the use of a Datsun
510 engine. Blasphemous to hot rodders in that time, a foreign
engine. Yet the Datsun 510's were dominating the sedan races
on road courses. I knew I had to build one.
I had a lull in the race car action that summer, so I spent a
couple of weeks designing and building the frame and all of the
running gear, torsion bars included for the car that I would
finally finish almost twenty years later. I got the fun part
done, and decided that I really was a racer, not a hot rodder.
I already had several years in a roadster at Bonneville, set
several records and was a member of the 200MPH Club. Then came
three years in AA/FA, a '23 T roadster, then an injected fuel
dragster. If it didn't go 200 MPH, I didn't find any reason to
But I kept all those parts. I just couldn't get rid of them.
By this time I had visited the Speedway Museum in Indy a few
times and drooled over the early fifties Indy cars. So in the
summer of 1991 I pulled out the parts. I knew the look that I
wanted; the Belanger car has as pretty a nose as has ever been
hammered out of a sheet of aluminum. Since I didn't have an Offy
in my hip pocket, I switched to a newer Datsun with a cross flow
head. I pretended I was building racecars again and 38 days later
completed the construction of the car. I was surprised how much
fun it was to drive.
Real Track Roadsters were jalopies. If you
built one that was truly authentic, you probably wouldn't use
it very much. Why you ask? Simple, it would be a rough and uncomfortable
ride. Even if you liked it, your wife probably wouldn't.
I started advertising in Street
Rodder several years ago for a few months. In talking to
several hundred people who called on the ads, I learned a few
things, and combining what I learned on the phone with what I
learned driving my Track Roadster has become a formula for fun.
First of all, I found that the majority of people who called
me were between 50 and 80 years old. Old enough, that is, to
have romantic memories of Track Roadsters. Second, they didn't
want to spend Fifty Thousand Dollars on a Track T. Third, Chrysler
did a great job designing the Prowler. Blasphemy again, a Detroit
hot rod. Not really. I had the opportunity in 1997 to drive part
of the way across Colorado with the Hod Rod Magazine Power Tour.
Chrysler was involved in the tour with a Prowler making the trip.
I was asked to drive beside the Prowler for a photo shoot. For
ten miles, I drove along side that thing watching its occupants
relaxing as if they were in the back seat of a limo. I on the
other hand experienced a little bit of wind, like a dog in the
back of a pick up truck.
Lesson learned. Make it smooth enough to go
down the highway without getting beat to death, yet handle like
a go kart. Make it roomy enough to get in the car, not on it.
You have to have enough legroom to be able to stretch out, and
enough body and windshield around you to keep the wind off.
To provide people with components to build
a car that balances the black and white memories with the comfort
of a Technicolor dream!