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 drive it.

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!


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