May 18, 2020
Many people believe that since the early 1950s, the National Hot Rod Assocaition has had the dominant spot in the sport of drag racing across America. Those people would be wrong. See, in 1958 Wally Parks was facing the biggest threat he would ever encounter with respect to the NHRA that he had founded and started in the early 1950s. It was a corporately backed organization called the Automotibile Timing Association of America and they had the money, the savvy, and the media horsepower to knock the NHRA off its perch and were on the verge of doing so in 1958. Then, a funny thing happened.
In March of 1958 at a conference of drag strip operators, Wally Parks stood before them and made the shocking announcement that the NHRA and ATAA would merge. All operations would be run under the NHRA name as directed by him. All of the massive ATAA membership would immediately transfer to the NHRA banner, and that would be that.
It was, in effect the greatest coup in drag racing history. One that set the stage for the sport's unification and explosive growth through the 1960s. There were other organizations, but they all paled in size and scope when it came to the NHRA.
It's a story of money, a botched beauty contest, and plots twists that you'll never see coming. Wally won in the end and somewhere he's still smiling about it.
May 15, 2020
Just before 9 A.M. on Friday, May 13th, 1949 a truck carrying unstable and dangerous chemicals exploded inside the Holland Tunnel's Southbound side while traveling out of New York City. Instantly, a disaster broke out with multiple trucks catching fire and the 100+ cars behind the mess grinding to a halt.
Within scant minutes, heroic tunnel personnel were rushing people and cars out of the tunnel so fire crews could run in at the blazing inferno. Temperatures skyrocketed as trucks continue to explode and burn with the peak being recognized by engineers and those studying the disaster after the fact at some 4,000-degrees F.
As the brave crews battled the fire, trucks, telecommunication lines, and even the ceiling supports melted. 650-tons of rubble were left on the floor of the tunnel when the fire was completely extinguished.
But no one died at the scene. Not only that, the tunnel was back in operation just 56 hours later like nothing had happened! This is an amazing story of a fire, a tunnel, bravery, and the get it done attitude of 1949 America. A truly miraculous disaster.
May 11, 2020
Back in 1940s and 50s America it wasn’t a question if the forest should be ripped down, it was a question of how quickly that pesky forest could be dispatched with and who could figure out the best way to do it. Such was the case when the US Government put out a contract to clear 35,000 acres of forest in the wilds of Montana at the site of the Hungry Horse Dam projects. The mammoth dam would be used to help control the Flathead River and manage water in the Columbia River drainage area by creating a huge reservoir behind it.
The physical dimensions of the forest area that needed clearing were huge, some 34 miles long and 3.5 miles wide at points. Basically it was 35 square miles in total. As you can imagine, clearing that much area in the wilds of Montana wasn’t a job that most people had ever considered completing before. While we’re not sure what they were proposing for a method we know that the two guys who came up with the winning formula were S.L. Wixson and John H. Trisdale of Redding, California. Their idea, never before seen at the time was to essentially tie two big bulldozers together with steel cable and use the the cable as a giant scythe, cutting down and ripping over anything on its path. The men figured that this idea would be the most cost effective and quickest way to get the land cleared within the parameters that the government set for the work to be done.
May 4, 2020
The sinking of the SS Sultana in 1865 to this day stands as the greatest maritime disaster in the history of the United States. More people died in the middle of the Mississippi river on an April night than would die some 50 years later on the Titanic in the depths of the North Atlantic. This is a story of steam, a story of greed, a story of sadness, and a story of the astonishing lengths some people will go to make a dollar.
Incredibly this nightmare is known by very few people in America. At the time that it happened, the civil war had just ended and 1,700 people dying in a night was not large enough news to displace stuff like the end of the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln, and other large moments in history that were all happening at the same time.
In this show host Brian Lohnes tells the story of the nightmare, reveals the characters involved, talks 1860s technology, and explains how a boat rated for 376 people ended up with nearly 2,000 rebased former Union POWs jammed onto it.
This is truly one of the most macabre and stunning mechanical disasters in America history.
April 30, 2020
This was the fastest machine in the world in 1932. It had 45-mph on Sir Malcom Campbell’s land based monster, it had 172-mph on Gar Wood’s boat that packed four massive Packard airplane engines and let’s not even waste our time on locomotives of the day. It was piloted by a talented, daring man who a decade later would become one of America’s greatest war heroes and it was constructed by a group of brothers during a 90-day thrash in an abandoned dance hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The plane was a hot rod of the highest order before the phrase was coined. The machine was called the Gee Bee R1 and it was destined to become a race winner, a widow maker, and one of the most celebrated planes of the great era of air racing in America.
Its pilot was Jimmy Doolittle, a man destined to become one of the greatest war heroes America has ever known in the 1940s for leading the daring and near suicidal Tokyo Raid. He was among the best pilots in the world in 1932 and that was good because had he not been, this airplane would have killed him dead at the first chance and it tried.
This is a story written in horsepower, risk, and blood.
April 27, 2020
Art Arfons was the world's land speed record holder three times in the 1960s. He was the first man over 150mph on a drag strip, he was a world's champion tractor puller, and he did it all by himself, using his brain, his hands and very few dollars.
This episode of the Dork-O-Motive podcast celebrates the life and times of this amazing America, a man some argue is the greatest hot rodder of all time. The story is told through period stories, period audio, and interviews with guys like Humpy Wheeler, author Samuel Hawley, historian Bret Kepner, and Art's son Tim Arfons. This is one of the most in-depth studies on the life of a man who was so brave and brilliant, you'll be blown away by the end of the show.
Arfons is a personal hero to anyone who has ever taken on bucks with their brain and won. From his drag strip exploits to his triumphs and failures on the Bonneville Salt Flats, we hope you enjoy the story of this legendary man and the legendary machines that he created.
This is his story.
April 23, 2020
In the 1960s New York City had a problem. The buildings and growth of Gotham had outstripped the ability of the fire department to battle the potentially massive blazes they might confront. This all came to a head on a windy day on Staten Island. The massive blaze wrought destruction on the community and is still spoken about today. Black Saturday prompted a brilliant mind to approach the city with a fire fighting engineering exercise that seemed like something out of a book.
The proposed was a pumper engine was powered by a Deltic locomotive engine, could throw 10,000 gallons of water per minute. The pumper had a cannon with 600ft of range, could simultaneously feed five independent pumping units at a time, and drew water from the sea up to mile away while fighting fires in the city during its life.
This hulking beast was a massive success working for more 20 years, answering thousands of calls, and providing the frontal assault needed to battle fires large and small in places where getting water was an issue and where the lives of brave men were at stake.
A beautiful beast!
April 20, 2020
It seems incredible by the standards of 2020, but the 1903 Paris to Madrid Race was such an incalculable calamity and had amassed such a loss of life that it was cancelled after the first day. In an era when the most powerful cars in the world made less than 100hp how could this happen? Too many people, too few rules, too little knowledge of what these machines were capable of, and ultimately no precedents to follow.
One day of racing set motorsports back nearly three decades, claimed the lives of internationally famous businessmen, soldiers, and kids. Four classes of cars scheduled to leave a Parisian palace at 3:30am turned into a spectacle the likes of which the world had never seen before and was fearful of ever seeing again.
Through the sounds of the cars that were there, the first hand accounts of competitors, and the news reporting that was done around the world, we tell the story of the 1903 Paris to Madrid Race, or as it was known then, "The Race To Death".
April 17, 2020
The Vulcan Shuttle is one of the most infamous cars in drag racing history. A virtually stock bodied VW Beetle with a solid fuel rocket engine for power, it was built and campaigned by Raul Cabrera and Ron Poole. Ultimately Poole was killed in the car but only after several seasons of successful exhibition competition and more than 100 runs.
The history of the car is incredible and the men behind this wild creation were brilliant. Too often dismissed as a Darwin Award winner, this is the real story of the brains and the guys who designed and built the first solid propellant rocket powered car in United States history and raced it all over the country.
The Vulcan Shuttle story ends badly but not in the way you think. We believe you'll have a newfound respect for the ingenuity and talent of the men who built and raced this machine after listening to their story.
April 13, 2020
It was called, "The Race of Two Worlds" and it was one of the neatest racing spectacles ever devised. The premise was simple. American Indianapolis racers vs the best European Formula One teams on the speed oval at Monza, Italy. The speed course at Monza was a near identical copy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway but with increased banking. The course was so similar it was nicknamed, "Monzanapolis".
Accepting the challenge to run what would certainly be the fastest and most dangerous race in the history of the automobile, a brave team of American drivers and car owners shipped their machines to Italy, ready to take on the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and even high performing endurance sports cars from Jaguar.
This was truly a clash of cultures, a clash of engineering, and a clash of horsepower. Through vintage audio and race details, host Brian Lohnes gives you the whole story behind the story!