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Tales of the ol’ West

A couple of vignettes from the very first organized drag race.
By Don Prieto

And the word went forth in the spring of the year of Nineteen Hundred and Forty Nine. From The ‘Wich Stands in LA and in Glendale, to the Piccadilly in Santa Monica,…to all the hangouts:  Big Doin’s are planned at the airport in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara California. Tom Cobbs and his blown flathead ’29 roadster on ’34 rails will face off with Fran Hernandez and his fuel burning ’32 coupe---a grudge match. LEGALLY!  Bring your hot job to Goleta Airport on Sunday morning. Be ready to race--- to drag it out.

A legal drag race (the first in recorded history) would be held. Some enterprising  Santa Barbara street/lakes racers got together with the Goleta Airport and got permission to race on the access road next to the runway. A willingness to do anything to keep these guys and their hot cars off the street, the proprietors of the airport agreed to give it a go.

The turnout that April Sunday in 1949 was about what you would see a big local street race on Sepulveda during that era; made up mostly of hardcore lakes racers, street jobs and hangers on. In attendance were some future names that all of hot rodding would come to know: Howard Johanson, (Howard’s Cams) Vic Edelbrock, Al Barnes, (Barnes Systems) Greg Cunningham, (Cunningham Rods), the Peirson Brothers, Ed Iskenderian, Lou Baney, Stu Hilborn, Jack Engle, Don Montgomery, to name a few.

Greg Cunningham and his partner Bill Davis had been running a track roadster on the dirt with Howards four port Riley “banger”. Cunningham borrowed the engine from the dirt tracker and scribbled the layout of a chassis on the garage floor. In three days he had a four banger powered “rail job”-- the first. It was the bare essentials. Tube chassis, (no body), engine, gearbox, rear end, steering, seat, seat belt, and a kill switch, (one of those war surplus jobs that was on off on).  Having just finished his “special” the night before, Greg brought it to Goleta just to show it off.

It soon came time for the match of the day between Hernandez and Cobbs. Cobbs  roadster , fully streetable with its 371 blower started right up and moved up toward the flagman. Hernandez was having trouble starting as he had not made any warm up runs and his battery had run down. With a healthy push from the gang of Edelbrock helpers, the coupe roared to life putting out instant eye stinging exhaust fumes. Cobbs was surprised but could not do anything now. Both drivers experienced at clutching off at street lights, they rolled slowly toward the flagman. As the flag was jerked skyward, both cars lurched forward in a cloud of tire smoke. Hernandez grabbed a slight lead as Cobbs  snow tread tires spun. Through the gears and nearing the end the coupe still had a slight lead but the blower on Cobbs roadster was coming on. But it came up short and the coupe won by about a car length. The trap speed was 110 miles per hour.  Hernandez collected his side bets and looked around for any other challengers. There were none. However the excitement caused by the match led others to choose off one another and give it a go.

As the race fever spread that day, Greg decided to unload the nearly finished rig and with Jim Kavanagh at the wheel, they prepared to make a single run just to see what she could do. Loud protests were heard from the mostly street vehicle types about the lack of a body.

“How can it run without a body, man? It’s crazy and besides there’s no place to put the number”  was the strongest complaint. After much deliberation, a number was dabbed on the side wall of the tire and it was allowed  “one “ attempt.

Driver Jim Kavanagh tells the rest:

“With the seat belt fastened, Greg and Bill gave me a push to start it up and it lit right off. I let it warm up a little bit and moved toward the starting line. While I was still rolling  forward, they threw the flag. I stomped on the gas pedal and stepped off the clutch. It pulled harder than anything I had ever driven and when I speed shifted into second gear, I realized that the throttle was stuck wide open. Since I was only gonna get one run, I wasn’t about to shut it off. I pulled it into high and headed to the finish.

“When I was ready to shut it off, I reached for the shutoff switch and realized that with the seat belt on, I couldn’t reach the switch. So I lunged at the switch and swatted at it. I managed to reach it but when I swatted it down it went from on through the off position and back on. While I was lunging for the switch I pulled the steering  wheel to the left with my other hand. When I looked back at the strip, I was sliding sideways off the asphalt and onto the grass and down toward the ditch that ran along side.  The wheel dug in and the whole rig flipped over one time and came down on all four wheels with a great  splash in the stagnant water that filled the ditch. I stopped dead. I was stunned and soaking wet but other wise okay. I undid the seat belt and got out of the seat and climbed part way up the embankment and sat down to gather myself up. When I looked back toward the starting line, here comes thousands of people running down to see what happened. I’m told the splash could be seen clear back to the start and it looked like an explosion. Most of the people ran right by me and down to the car. As it turned out both the car and I were alright.”

Jim had just survived the first crash at the first organized drag race. He added:

“Nothing was hurt, but I smelled really bad from the stagnant water. My brand new levis and tee shirt were a mess.  Greg made me ride in the race car on the trailer to a gas station  where I hosed myself off. They told me that if I didn’t rinse off they weren’t gonna let me ride in the car with them back to LA.”

“Oh by the way, we had fast time”.

Such as it was.










My (foggy) memories of "The Creation" (No not the world, The Drags).

By Don Jenson

Of course the stop light Grand Prix had been on for 40+ years with
my enthusiastic participation of about 3 months after getting my
license, when the first offical race in No. Cal. was held in July or
early August 1950, 5 miles east of Tracy at a WW II airfield called
New Jerusalem. I heard about it and went to the 2nd meet in
September.

Timing was w/rubber hoses. Just like at gas stations that ring a
bell. The air activated a stylist that marked a paper disk on a
turn table. This was made and run by Sam Crooks and the time was
calulated by the space between the marks. Hoses were 66' on each
side of 1/4 mile finish line (no ET for 4 more years).

Accuracy was quite good with stock class, Olds '88 and Hudson
Hornets running 76-77 MPH, same as the next year with electric eye.
The first meet with real clocks was Dec. 10, 1950, with Manny
Clinnicks clocks from Cal Neva Assn.

Top time in July, 115 mph and Sept. 113 mph was set by a track
roadster with a 3 speed trans. replacing the in and out track box.
I'm not sure but I think the car was Woody Lee from Oakland. Many
of the later Drag Racers like Lee Scott and Romeo Palamides came
from the Roaring Roadsters at Oakland Stadium.

I ran a '50 GMC pickup at 69 mph and beat a Chevy and a Merc, before
losing to an Olds '88 stock class was won by a stick shift '50
Cadillac.

They ran at least until early '51. In Jan. '51 "Top time was set by
Jerry Hill of Modesto with an '80 in Harley on fuel at 108 mph,
though the track record was held by Woody Lee. Gene Winfield,
Modesto, also ran." A quote from program found when I interviewed
Bob Cress, March 1990. Then Kingdon at Lodi, opening on Memorial
Day 1951, was a big improvement and Tracy never ran again.

I ran Kingdon's 2nd meet with my '40 Ford Coupe (stock,wore out
motor) turned 67mph, lost to a '34 coupe, came home and pulled the
motor and started my first Hot Rod.

All this said looking further back from my interview with
Arthur "Red" Jones stated that before New Jerusalem he ran at
Salinas airport, but not on the taxi way, that was used for many
years later.

Red dates this as 1949 on the main runway and no clocks were used.
he lost to an alcohol burning modified coupe called "Fast Taxi to
Wats", which stood for Watsonville's then red light district.

I also found in my Bob Cress notes, paper work that the Bakersfield
Coupe and Roadster Club was founded Spring 1947, later
the "Smokers". They ran their first meet at Maricopa west of Hi 99,
the first Sunday 1950 with nearly 3000 people attending.

Don Jensen











Jack Hagemann Condensed Interview October 2007

By Don Jenson

Jack Hagemann was born 1915 in Oakland, CA, now, I don't know when racing became his life.  But by age 15 when he got his first car, a Model T with a Fonty head, which he built in his Grandfather's basement and then he couldn't get it out the door and had to disassemble it and reassemble it outside. Next was a '27 Chevy Roadster, which shortly was lowered, sported wire wheels, more importantly the 4 banger sported an Oldsmobile 3 port head, carbs, exhaust, .140" overbore with pistons from a Wacashaw truck and the block milled to give 10 to 1 comp.

    Now this worked fine until a cam was added; bang! 3 broken cranks!  Remember this was his only car, so machining a Ford Model A crank to fit, cured the problem also allowing a longer stroke and 5000 RPM.

    At this time Jack and his buddies started the Oakland Auto Club.  They met on Monday nights and went racing on Main Street; the access to the ferry boats, which quit running just after dark, assuring them undisturbed racing.

    But, as in my day, the cops got wind of it and planned a raid.  But, "No Problem", says Jack.  "They only had Model A's, we could out run them all."

    That worked for a while, until the cops started showing up at his house!  No problem, Jack just moved to his uncle's house and went right on racing.

    About this time, one of the club who was an electrician, built a set of clocks.  No mean feat in 1931, but where to run?  Finding a long straight road out in the country past Byron, CA which had no traffic on Sunday mornings; measuring off a 1/4 mile trap, they ran top speed runs for 2 years off and on.

    As to be expected Jack was the first to top 100 mph, finely a best of 108 mph topping his buddy's 16 cyl Marmon running mid 90's..

    But with race tracks in Alameda, Emeryville, San Leandro and more Jack turned to the ovals.

More later,
Don Jensen






    1933  Jack was working in Salt Lake City in a garage next door to Ab Jenkins with his Mormon Meteor, which Jack unflatteringly describes as a "hopped up truck", and was able to go out to the Salt Flats with him.

     Still in the quest for speed, Jack got a '33 Ford V8 from a wrecked truck for his Chevy roadster.  Now having nothing but hand tools and living in an "Auto Camp" in a tent; he bought a couple of good hacksaw blades and some steel plate; he cut out the cross members and made new ones and motor mounts. 
 Then borrowing some C clamps and furniture clamps, he tightened it all together to drive it to a welding shop.  When everything was right, he and a buddy went south to Texas, towing a trailer looking for greener pastures.

    In Houston, Jack ran an oval race for roadsters that was held in a big flat field.  He didn't win, but had lots of fun, "Racing was my life."

    1934   Back in California he raced a '34 Ford in the stock car races at the Oakland 1 mile dirt track in San Leandro.  He made money at it, but broke many spindles,  with his club as his pit crew and lots of spares.  Changed 3 spindles in one several hundred mile race.  "Ya know, ya never give up."

    Midgets were making money, so he started driving and building them.  V8 60 and 4 cyl Mormon, 4 cyl Continental powered, but not as fast as the So. Calif. Offys.  "They skimmed the cream."  But held his own against many Indy 500 veterans.  With "no formal training", the first midget body's were built from the aluminum roofs found on some touring car bodies of that era.

    Later 1930's   After building several more bodies for competitors, Jack got married, moved to Castro Valley and built a large shop and started building complete cars (probably as many as 10).  He also worked at Mare Island shipyard making instruments panels for submarines,  After 2 years the war started and racing stopped.

More later

I've commented before about race cars being crude in the 'Early
Days'.

We all have watched the ridiculous prices at the Collector Car
Auctions on T.V. This is abut one, if it is still in existence
today would probably bring at least $2 million all restored!

It starts with a very good friend whose name has come up lately,
Jack Hagemann. There might have been a metal artist (aluminum or
steel) that was as good; but never one better. When he was building
quarter midget bodies in the early '50's the owners just polished
them, NO Paint!

Jack took all the Hot Rod kids under his wing, he taught me to gas
weld aluminum and to T.I.G. weld when I finally got one.

One day in late '54 or '55 I stopped by and when I stuck my head
inside he yelled, "Look what those stumpbeaters built!".
(Stumpbeater was his name for all Italian bodymen, because all the
first shaping of body panels was done by apprentics on wooden
stumps, then on to the Journeyman for more work that was then
smeared with putty and sanded.)

Sitting there was a brand new Ferrari that belonged to Stirling
Edwards, a very rich man who had backed it into the hay bales at the
Golden Gate Park Road Races in S.F. the very week before.

Jack lead me to it and removed the real tail section with the putty
all cracked and falling off and sure enough the inside of the
rounded parts were like feeling sack of nuts. But the "piece de
resistance" was when Jack shone a light on the double tube frame
coming under the rear-end! It was black iron gas pipe and one tube
had not been long enough to cut off, so it was still threaded on the
end.
















Red Jones – Part 1 by Don Jenson
 
Red stood 5/ 5 and weighed maybe 130 soaking wet, just right to drive Dragsters.
 With the slingshot they ran all 54, a best of 134. The biggest race of the yr. was the Winters ½ mi. July 11, ‘54. Lots of L A cars, final run for Top Eliminator, saw Red in the lead until he ran out of gear {no quick change!} and Scotty’s Ardun tank flew by at 150 to win the day. Reds time 142. That was my 20th birthday I turned 117 in my Cad engined 40 Ford, the fastest street coupe!
 
In 53/54 they also ran the salt. I think they robbed banks on weeks with no races, for Red didn’t have 2 quarters to rub tighter, and Gene not much more.
 53 they had several 292 G M C engines for the tank, and spent the week before Bonneville at Howard Johanson’s shop running on the dyno, and sleeping in yard behind the shop. Now the gearbox for dyno had broken a tooth and Red was awoken at 6 am , Howard had welded the gear and was finishing the new tooth with a diegrinder and it worked.
 
Now across town at Chet Herbert’s they were dynoing a 6 cyl Franklin aircraft engine for the same class, but tipped the can too much, and one bank of cylinders went flying across the shop nearly wiping out the crew.
 
So now heading east Red had driven to La s Vegas. now 50 mi. past was asleep in the pickup bed a wheel bearing went out. Now who came by but Roy Rogers towing the Bob Estes streamliner, they stopped, went back LV got the parts dropped them off, and no one woke Red to meet Roy. I do not have a time they ran, but they came back ready to build a streamliner.
 
Not knowing how to start, they heard the designer of John Cobbs landspeed record car lived in the area, so looking in phone books found a Reid Railton living in Berkeley.
So knocked on the door and said, “Hi, this is LeBlanc and Jones and we’d like to talk to you about building a streamliner like John Cobb’s.”  He says, “Well,, you gentlemen don’t look like you can afford me, but I’ll be happy to help you in any way that I can that doesn’t require a lot of time or services.” So dumb and dumber headed out to get in trouble. Gene to build the Birdcage small tube spaceframe in the Westbay and Red the fiberglass body in the Eastbay.
 
Red’s quote: “We started with a couple of huge sawhorses and started building the mockup just with plain old 1 by 4 board.  We covered that with wire mesh and paper and stuff.  And we just started smoothing everything  out with plaster of paris.  We had several templates for the different areas of the car.  We made the external fiberglass shell, rather that making a mold, so the outside of the thing was real rough and took an enormous amount of sanding.  We actually cut it at just about midline, so the top half of the thing would come off for access to all the engine and stuff.  We had molded plexiglass windshield for the thing.” For two of the crudest guys around the car turned out very nice. It was built in about 5 mo’s being in the Oakland show Feb ‘54. In my opinion it,  with the 2 Howard built Chryslers, could have been the fastest of its era, but for one fatal flaw. Someone had told them the front drive geometry had to be backward {meaning toe out instead of toe in, as on a non driven axle} but they took it to mean caster must be backward so as close as I can tell and Red said they ran with negative caster.
 
Bonneville ‘54 they showed up with a Howard designed CABLE!! Steering . “Whoa,” said tech, “not here guys!”  So only a couple low speed runs near the pits to check the drivetrain
Which did not show up the steering problem, so back next year.





Red Jones – Part 2 by Don Jenson
 
I started to do a story on the Jones and LeBlanc streamliner, but reanalyzed I must first tell Reds story as the liner was only part.
 
In June 1990 I spent a whole day interviewing. That plus my memories are here.
Arthur “RED” Jones was born about 1929 and started Hot Rodding after the war.
He lost one eye when he was 19, not a good start for driver. But this did not slow him down. In 1947-48 he built a chopped and channeled 36 Ford phaeton, racing it at Salinas airport several times in 1949, no timing just drags.
 
Now running a modified coupe, was a fuel class, so switched to a striped 38 and fuel Winning at Kingdon, and Oakland 1951-52
 
In 52 he joined up with Gene LeBlanc who had rear engine belly tank. They went drag racing. 1952 setting the Kingdon record at 125, but poor e.t. So together built a 34 Ford C and C coupe front engined. Traction was bad, roping their oxygen bottles and tool box in back, making another run they “scared everybody in the place” But ran 107
 
The next meet it was rear engined and turned 113. Reds quote “ It was a real ugly, ugly car, and people made fun of us” That’s because they cut large holes in everything, but it was light. It was loaned out and was crashed at Kingdon badly hurting the driver, and sat in the field there for years.
 
In early 53 they built a dragster, rigid  rear, driver over axle. But did not like the wind nor the pounding caused by sitting on the rear axle. So like before they altered it into a slingshot mid 1953. But not for traction .
 
Now this predates Mickey’s car but time is accurate for we had a picture of Reds daughter
Born Apr. 1953 sitting in the car as a baby, and a picture of it all shined up in Oakland Roadster show Feb 1954
 Reds been gone a number of years now, but he left a lot of fond memories, for he was well liked. The story will continue in couple days
 
Don Jensen







 
Otto Ryssman
July-27-07
Story by Richard Parks
 
 
  Otto Eugene Ryssman was born on September 10, 1929. His father, Bert Ryssman, came from around the Hamburg, Germany area and emigrated to the United States as a small child. Bert was raised in New York, but went west to homestead property in Utah. Bert met and married Nora O’Leary in Utah. Their oldest son was Bert O’Leary Ryssman, followed by Maxine, Dorothy, Otto, Ramona, Iris, Naomi and Arthur. Otto was born in Milford, Utah, but when he was a year old the family moved to Santa Ana, California, around Harbor Blvd and Heil Street. The family owned a farm and Otto remembers that they planted potatoes, corn, boysenberries, peppers and other vegetables. Bert bought his boysenberry plants from a Mr Boysen who was the originator of this new variety at the same time Walter Knott bought his boysenberry plants. The family knew Walter and Cordelia Knott, who founded the famous Knotts Berry Farm and Chicken House in Buena Park, California. As Otto grew up he worked in the fields, weeding, driving tractors and picking fruits and vegetables. He remembers driving a team of horses and a plow to cultivate the ground. Otto attended Bolsa Elementary school on Brookhurst and First Street. He knew Calvin Rice, a famous drag racer and the winner of the first NHRA Nationals drag race in 1955.  Ryssman was close to Gene Rice, Calvin’s brother, who was his own age. Orange County was experiencing a lot of growth and Otto transferred to Lincoln School in Garden Grove and then to Washington School. After graduating from elementary school, Otto attended Garden Grove High School where his favorite classes were math, history, metal, wood and automotive shops. He was in the band and ran the mile event in track. After school he worked for Freddy Pimental’s vegetable stand on First and Harbor, in Santa Ana, which was just acrosthe street from CJ Hart’s gas station.

  Graduating in 1947, Otto went to work for H.H. Bridgeford, a meat packing plant and was put in charge of the meat curing cellar, sausage kitchens and smoking rooms.  He remained at Bridgeford until 1955. Otto remembers going to Rosamond Dry Lakes in the summer of 1947 with Edward ‘Tiny’ Conkle. Tiny worked for CJ Hart’s Beacon Gas Station and Garage. CJ and his wife Peggy were committed to the vision of having a safe and sanctioned racetrack where young men could bring their cars to race. With help from Frank Stillwell, Creighton Hunter and other volunteers, CJ and Peggy Hart would open the first professional drag strip in the world in 1950 and change the world of straight-line racing forever. Stillwell was the Indian Motorcycle dealer in Anaheim and was the partner who was able to get the insurance for the drag strip. Stillwell also promoted races and hill climbing events for motorcycles. Conkle owned a ’34 Ford V-8 coupe that Otto raced at the dry lakes. They raced in a little known group called Arnon Timing Association, run by Guy Hyde. Conkle and Ryssman also were involved in street racing along Harbor Blvd between Bolsa Avenue and McFadden Street. Another favorite street racing venue was along Westminster Blvd. Street racers would gather around 10 pm and set up their course, then race each other until the police showed up. Hart and Ryssman would meet a few years later and have a great impact on getting the illegal street racers to change their habits and race at drag strips rather than on public roads. Hart would become the father figure that young men would follow and Ryssman the older brother that kids wished to emulate. 

  Otto joined the Gascateer car club of Long Beach in 1948, which raced at the dry lakes under the Russetta Timing Association (RTA). Russetta was the chief rival of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). There were a lot of timing associations at that time and young men raced for several organizations at a time. The SCTA favored roadsters and so the Russetta Timing Association was formed to allow coupes and other kinds of cars to race, including roadsters. Lou Baney was the leader in the RTA and Jack Peters ran the Western Timing Association (WTA) before World War II. Bell Timing Association (BTA) and Muroc Timing Association (MTA) were two other groups who operated off and on. One of Ryssman’s friends in the Gascateers was Clark Cagle. Cagle was a licensed chiropractor but did not practice that profession. Cagle owned Lakewood Muffler and provided engines for other racers. Another person who Otto admired was Chuck Potvin, who took the time to help Ryssman. Potvin was a leader in the largest timing association, the SCTA and a skilled maker of speed racing parts. Chuck Potvin was also an early cam grinder and an amateur chemist. He and Otto would take the nitroglycerine out of dynamite and combine it with alcohol to create an enhanced fuel. Potvin encouraged Otto to join the Lancers car club, which was a member of the SCTA and included such well-known land speed racers as Doug Hartelt, Dick Kraft, Paul Stratton, Bill Jenks and Potvin. The Lancers had originally formed in Hollywood but later moved their meetings to Hawaiian Gardens. In 1949 he went to Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Western Utah, to drive Doug Hartelt’s roadster. This was the very first Speed Week event held by the SCTA and it has been a success since the first meet. This was the first time that SCTA allowed coupes to race at their events. Bill Phy and Otto were the first coupes to run. Otto was one of the charter members of the Bonneville 200 Miles Per Hour Club. To join, a landspeed racer must go over 200 mph and set a record in his class. The first five members were Willie Young, George Hill, Otto Ryssman, Art Chrisman and Johnny Rogers. Ryssman married Carol Rae Segner in February 1950 and they had two daughters and a son; Patty Lynn, Otto Eugene Jr and Cindi Rae Ryssman.

  On July 2, 1950, Ryssman raced at the new Santa Ana, California dragstrip opened by CJ Hart. Others had tried short straight-line racing before. In 1949, a group had organized a drag race over a short distance at Goleta, California. Hart created his own rules and regulations; many copied from the dry lakes and some from his experience as a mechanic and racer. The Santa Ana Drags at the Airport would be the first professional drag strip in the nation. Hart charged 99 cents admission and said that if he had to raise it to an even dollar then the government would want him to pay taxes. The drag strip was located on a side road adjacent to an old military runway. The Santa Ana Drags were an instant success and Ryssman would be one of the star racers. His name would emblazon the news headlines in the sports section as each week he would win trophies or set new records. He was the pre-eminent name in a sport that Hart had unknowingly created. Otto drove a ’31 Model A Ford coupe with a Mercury Flathead engine. Soon there were drag strips being created all over the Southland and across the country. They sprung up as if by magic. He raced at Saugus, Bakersfield, Paradise Mesa and other tracks, but his favorite was Santa Ana and he was the master there. He held most of the records in his class at nearly every drag strip that he raced at. Tiny Conkle was his crew and his wife watched from the stands. He tried using a Crosley body on his car but the results weren’t satisfactory. What made him very successful was when he lengthened the frame and removed the body to create the first real dragster design. He set and broke records all through the first half of the 1950’s.

  In 1955 he left his job as a meat packer and went to work driving trucks for Eggleston Trucking Company, where he stayed until 1960. In that year he went to work for Welch’s Ready Mix Cement Company hauling cement to and from Victorville. An accident in 1954 at Bonneville put Ryssman in the hospital for a week when his streamliner crashed. A tragic event happened to him on July 26, 1955 when a clutch and pressure plate exploded in his car (with Doug Hartelt’s engine) as Otto was making a run at Santa Ana. A fragment of metal hit the asphalt and bounced up to impact a spectator from out of state who was in the stands watching his first drag race. The man died and the family sued the Hart’s, Hartelt and Ryssman for $150,000, a veritable fortune in those days. Though the ticket stub warned that injuries can occur in drag racing and that the racetrack is not responsible, the suit dragged on through the courts. The costs were both emotional and financial. Otto had been injured as well and it took eight stitches to close the wound. The lawyer for the drag strip told the two men, “kid, you are on your own.” The family claimed Hartelt and Ryssman were guilty of negligent homicide and the cost of defending the suit was high. The suit eventually died and was forgotten, but had the claimants won their case, all of drag racing would have had to face the threat of more lawsuits. At the time of the accident, Ryssman was building a new dragster. He gave the car to Calvin Rice and Melvin Dodd and they changed the tube frame to a square metal frame and won the first NHRA Nationals Championship in 1955. The accident at Bonneville and the death of the spectator at the Santa Ana drag strip ended Otto’s career. It was time to leave drag and landspeed racing and raise his family. Otto has ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In 1994, he and his wife Carol moved to Arizona. He thought for a moment and recalled the days when the sport first started. “We raced the fastest cars against the motorcycles and they were very hard to beat,” said Ryssman. “Chet Herbert’s The Beast and CB Clausen and Hood’s The Brute were two very fast bikes,” he added