More on the C-T Automotive Spl.
While researching archive photos from 1957 for this month’s “Backstage Past” installment, Dave Wallace ran across this photo of the C-T Automotive Spl., taken by Eric Rickman at the Gardena Speedway a year and a half after the Al Paloczy photo that ran in last issue’s “Backstage.” Dave then circulated the photo among friends, historians, and other racing history experts to see if we could identify the guys in the picture.
The American Hot Rod Foundation’s Jim Miller hit pay dirt when he sent the photo to former C-T employee Dave Sweeney, who also helped us with the car for our previous issue. Says Dave:
Left to right—harrison Haggard: Educated, smart, had a good job in Hollywood, but was always at the shop by 5:30. Drove a gorgeous ’32 highboy.
Leroy Payne: Stress engineer at Lockheed Burbank. He must have been leaning over since he stood about 6 feet 4 inches and Clem was about 6 feet even. Leroy went to Watson’s about 1958 and picked up the nickname “Birdman” from AJ. He was the strategy brains during the early Ward-wilke-watson glory years. I learned a lot from him.
Joe Armstrong, owner, Armstrong Machine: Master crank grinder. He and his wife, Ginny, were great salt-of-the-earth people and probably Clem’s best friends. Joe was a tenant at the Lankershim shop, and they were right in the middle of everything. At this time we were just perfecting welded strokers. The welding booth (plywood) was right behind the crank grinder, and my “work station” lathe and hydraulic beam press were about 6 feet on the other side. Process was (1) weld; (2) rough straighten since the cranks were bent damn near like pretzels; (3) take to Joe to rough grind the welded throws; (4) back to the welder to touch up any inclusions exposed in the first grind; then (5) back to me for final straightening; and then (6) over to Joe for final grind. Then off to Ditronic Balancing—jim Khougaz—for balancing. He was the farthest away, about 100 feet, in the same building. Had to dodge around Kent Fuller, who was designing and fabricating engine swap-kits, another story for another time. It was a pretty crude operation but amazingly precise, and I don’t recall failures in the field.
Jack Gardner in the seat. Clem went through four or five replacements when Arthur [Bisch] went USAC. Jack finally got the job, but was nowhere near the talent of Bisch. Note the change in the C-T logo. Finally dropped the periods.
A lot of talent came through C-T on their way to fame: Dave Zeuschel, Kent Fuller, Rocky Childs, Tom Ruddy, Gerry Glenn, and Jack Richard. Partner Don Clark became a very successful real estate developer. Following up on Dave’s comments was Greg Sharp:
Jack Gardner was CRA Champ in 1954, Bisch in 1956, as you stated. They also won the Car Owner Championship, which is where the #1 comes from. The fellow on the left, Harrison Haggard, had a beautiful full-fendered Deuce roadster, midnight blue with Desoto Hemi power. It was featured in an early Honk or Hop Up.