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Pre-war Dry Lakes Hot Rod Racing in 8mm


Dave Welles of Seabright Hot Rods  posted this wonderful video of pre war Dry Lake racing. Dave is the son of a hot rodder and a dry lake racer and when he raced his AV8 roadster, his brother Tommy Lorbeer took his 8 mm camera with him.


This is what Dave Welles says about the video on their wonderful website Seabright Hot Rods  

My Uncle Tommy Lorbeer wasn’t really kin. He was my dad’s best friend. Tommy raced with my dad at the lakes in the late 30′s, flew a P-38 in WWII, drove a Porsche in the early 50′s, and had the first VW Van in Riverside. He was alway ahead of the curve. As kids, we’d never heard a stereo system before when he flew a fighter jet from the left speaker to the right — at full volume. Man, we all hit the floor. In 1940 he bought a newfangled toy, an 8mm camera, and took it out to Harper Dry Lake. My cousin found the reel and I had it digitized. My son Connor edited it and added the sound.

On Memorial day, May 28 2012 Dave writes:

I posted this 8mm film on our website awhile back. It was shot by my uncle at Harper Dry Lake in 1940. You’ve probably already seen it, but I watched it again this morning in a different light. I realized that, within two years of the time it was made, virtually every young man pictured would be in a uniform, fighting a war.

Bless ‘em all.

Chances are you’re watching this video wide-eyed with anticipation (perhaps some drooling is going on?) But who are those guys and even more: what cars are they driving?

Jamie Barter, our hot rod contributor watched the footage and has all the answers: “Ok I’ve been doing a little looking It is looking like the footage was shot at the October 4th 1940 scta event”

  • 0:05s – 0:05: #9 Bill & Tom Spalding T modified. Riley OHV heads Mercedes roots blower. Post war Don Blair rebuilt it into The Goat.
  • 0:10s – 0:17s #8 Danny Sakai Modified outfitted with Mal Ord speed equipment.
  • 0:09s – 0:09s #111 Sandy Belond Sandy’s Speed Shop.
  • 0:18s – 0:21s #42 Uncle Tommy’s A?
  • 0:49s – 0:49s #20 1932 Roadster
  • 1:02s – 1:02s #224 T modified.
  • 0:58s – 1:04s 1938 Lincoln Padded top.
  • 1:09s – 1:14s #360 Sprintcar Streamliner
  • 1:14s – 1:22s #9 Spalding bros. Mod
  • 1:23s – 1:24s #26 1932 roadster
  • 1:24s – 1:25s 1930-31 Model A RPU
  • 1:49s – 1:49s #402 Model A Phaeton
  • 2:06s – 2:08s #20 ’32 roadster
  • 2:23s – 2:25s #410 1935 FWD Miller Ford entered by Willet Brown owned by Tommy Lee speed 116.88mph
  • 2:26s – 2:31s #311 1929 A roadster banger
  • 2:31s – 2:37s #414 Tommy Lee’s 1931 T-51 Bugatti
  • 2:38s – 2:42s #414 Bugatti T-51 straight 8 engine
  • 2:42s – 2:51s Tommy Lee
  • 2:51s – 2:52s #265 ’32 roadster
  • 2:53s – 2:54s ’32 Ford Vicky customized
  • 3:07s – 3:09s #350 modified Rod Pugh
  • 3:13s – 3:17s #151 ’29 A roadster Clint Seccombe V16 cad 124mph
  • 3:17s – 3:24s #113 ’28 A roadster V16 Cad
  • 3:28s – 3:30s #69 Bob Knapton / Jim White (aka Jim Harrell of Harrell speed equip.) Mod was later run by Doug Caruthers and is still around as Art Chrisman’s #25 dragster.
  • 3:28s – 3:30s #6
  • 3:33s – 3:36s 1938/39 Ford Phaeton with dark padded top in unknown to me
  • 3:42s – 3:45s #32 1928A roadster
  • 3:35s – 3:46s Tommy Lee Kurtis Offy special
  • 3:50s – 3:54s 1940 ford coupe from earlier in clip appears to have had a rollover
  • 3:54s – 3:56s #244 Arnold Birner’s ’28 A roadster
  • 3:56s – 4:00s #265 1932 roadster Hornets
  • 4:00s – 4:15s Bob Rufi’s Streamliner
  • 4:15s – 4:19s #286 Sakai modified.
  • 4:20s – 4:24s #2 entered/driven by Bill Spading. Roadster owned by Bill Kurten. Riley OHV Engine owned by Gene Von Arx.
  • 4:24s – 4:39s Earle Bruce ’40 Ford Custom
  • 4:29s – 4:29s #44 sprintcar streamliner class
  • 4:40s – 4:43s #155 T modified
  • 4:43s – 4:47s #270 T modified
  • 4:47s – 4:54s #265 ’32 roadster
  • 4:54s – 4:56s Tommy Lee Kurtis Offy special
  • 4:56s – 4:59s #265 ’32 roadster

We wanted to highlight the custom cars in this fantastic movie footage.

So below are a few screen shots of these cars.

(0:58s – 1:04s) The 1938 Lincoln Custom in this movie is amazing. We have not been able to find out much about the car but Ron Brooks shared two photos of this amazing early Custom Car with us some time ago. Ron was told the car had an Hall created padded top. The car has some wonderful lines and a bit of an European look with its running boards removed. It is amazing to see it driving.



(2:53s – 2:54s) A nice looking’32 Ford Vicky with white wall tires, 1939 Ford taillights and chrome license plate surround mounted on the back, possibly with a recessed plate. The car has a nice custom feel to it. But unfortunately we have never seen any other photos of it.

(3:33s – 3:36s) The 1938/39 Ford Phaeton with dark chopped padded top is also unknown to us. It looks to have a Custom grill that could be based on a 1938 Lincoln? It is an really great looking car with removed running boards and stainless rock guards on the rear fenders.

The photo shown above is pasted together form several stills.

(4:24s – 4:39s) 1940 Ford is obviously Earl Bruce his Roy Hagy Chopped coupe. Two things are typical for this car. The chopped rear window (most chopped 1940 coups have stock heigh rear windows) and the front fender flares at the bottom. And again this early custom car has its running boards removed… This really was hot in the late 1930′ early 1940’s.



This movie show use one new thing about the Earl Bruce coupe that we had not seen before. Apparently the early version of this car used the 1939 or 40 standard headlights. We had only seen photos of this car with the 1940 Ford DeLuxe headlights.


Esther de Charon de Saint Germain

Esther is our design, art, fashion and other none-car-related-topics contributor. She is an art historian with a degree in Asian Contemporary Art , a communication professional with extensive experience in design, contemporary art, communications and events and a personal coach. She is infected with the custom car and hot rod virus (an unavoidable result of being married to Rik Hoving) but (due to being a coach and all) especially likes the stories about the people who built them.

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