Dave and Mark Smith weren't the first guys to get bored going fast in a straight line. In fact, the first quarter-mile tracks weren't straight at all; they were round or oval. Though midgets and "Big Cars" (sprint cars for the time) prevailed, there were legions of racecars fashioned from old Ford bodies. An important distinction about these cars is that they weren't necessarily Ford-powered...or sat on a Ford frame.
Just as lakes racers tired of going fast in a straight line, a select few got bored turning left. It's from this group that a special breed of racecar emerged: the sports rod. And with it evolved a special breed of racer.
But it wouldn't have happened if a more European form of motorsports hadn't established itself in the States in the early 1950s: road racing. Dominating this series were lightweight European cars with advanced independent suspension systems and highly tuned engines. They were fast.
So too were they expensive-at least to anyone with a family to feed.
But just because they couldn't afford the machines didn't mean an inspired hot rodder couldn't compete with them. Guys like Max Balchowsky did what lakes racers had been doing for years: by using the resources available to them, they created seemingly improbable combinations of production car parts. Then they too went fast. Real fast.
The stories are legendary. Among them, Ak Miller cobbled together a ragtag batch of parts like an Olds engine, a '50 Ford chassis, and a Model T body, and created El Caballo de Hierro, or the Iron Horse. With it he ran four of the famed La Carrera Panamericana races in Mexico. About that time, Doane Spencer reconfigured his famed lakes roadster to go racing south of the border, only to have the series fold before he finished.
Soon after, three guys, Duffy Livingstone-father of the Go-Kart, among other things- Roy Desbrow, and Paul Barker slapped together a hot rod and joined the ranks. With a Flathead, the Eliminator was an also-ran; however, when reborn with a 265 Chevy and dubbed Tihsepa Mark II (read the first word backwards for a chuckle), it gave the sporty-car Teabaggers hell. Oh, yeah, that's the car in the photo, in case you're wondering.
Of all the contributions, Balchowsky's was probably the most significant-at least for our purposes. After finding modest success with a Deuce roadster powered first by a flathead Caddy and eventually a Buick Nailhead (his signature henceforth), he scratch-built a series of cars. Like dogs, they weren't necessarily handsome, but they were all painted yellow-hence the Ol' Yeller name they all bore. And for the record, the car humbled many a European thoroughbred on the track.
So what's a road racer built with a production-car drivetrain and clad in a hand-made body have to do with Factory Five's '33 Hot Rod? Well, as their similar construction indicates, everything. But it goes deeper; without Balchowsky's cars, Factory Five wouldn't exist.
That's a bold statement, but it holds water. It's because one of Ol' Yeller's pilots was none other than Carroll Shelby. And if you need us to explain what he did, we still don't think you'd understand.