CC Cinema: Prewar Dry Lakes Hot Rod Racing Home Movies – Even a Bugatti Joins In

I know hot rodding is not exactly a core interest here, undoubtedly because of what it came to largely be in more recent decades (repetitive and predictable). But I have a strong fascination with its early years, when it was mostly new and highly creative. In the pre war era, it flourished in California and attracted a wide range of following. Back then drag racing was still almost unknown; that came mainly in the 1950s. So hot rods were really more analogous to sports cars in Europe: production cars optimized for speed, handling, braking and…more speed. And where better than to test that ability to wring out more speed than on the numerous dry lakes in California? And this quite remarkable 8mm home movie captures the times perfectly.

There’s a wonderful range of cars on display here, including a well dressed chap in his Bugatti Type 35 at 2:32 and a former 1935 Indy 500 racer just before it. And if you look closely, you’ll see a number exposed V8 engines with large, bulging valve covers. These were ohv or F-head Ford V8 conversions, which were the hot thing at the time. Below the jump, there’s a full list of all the cars compiled by a jalopyjournal poster:

A list of cars, as posted by a user of 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 1939 Ford convertible custom I have seen this pictured somewhere. 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 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. 3:42s – 3:45s #32 1928A roadster 3:35s – 3:46s Tommy Lee Kurtis Offy special 3:47s – 3:49s #290 ’31 supercharged A roadster 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