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Author Topic: First Cadillac Flathead powered Dry Lakes Racer?  (Read 14486 times)
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38flattie
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« on: August 25, 2012, 09:56:55 PM »

Sometimes on the salt, the unexpected happens- you're thrashing in the pits, things haven't went right for a day or two, and it's frustrating.

That happened to me this year-we were having fuel issues, and blew a freeze plug. We were all working to get the car back on the track. I kept noticing a gentleman of Japanese descent watch us curiously, and he seemed pretty interested in the flathead.

I got to a point where I could chat, so I made my way over to him.He introduced himself, and we chatted about the FlatCad for a while.

Walter Nakamura was his name, and he owns the Meteor lakester-very probably the first Cadillac flathead powered dry lakes racer! Needless to say, I forgot what was going on in the pits, and chatted about the car his dad and 2 friends had built. Wow, what are the chances?

This is some of the story about the car, that I 'borrowed' from elegantcars.com:


The Meteor was raced at Muroc and hit 104 mph in 1940. Records show only 29 cars broke the 100 mph barrier in 1939.
 In 1940, three West L.A. high school buddies were obsessed with hot rods and dry lakes. George Nakamura, Dick Phippen, and Carl Hoogoian had little in common, except their interest in fast cars.

Nakamura found the Meteor with its bird cage-like framework, which has riveted sections of aluminum scrap from Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. It had two velocity stacks pointing skyward with a pair of Stromberg 97 carburetors.
 When Nakamura bought the race car, he drove on the streets of Culver City with its headlights buried inside the nose and 1939 Ford tail lights.

He drove it regularly until a minor head-on collision sidelined it. Nakamura was slightly injured, but the Meteor was relegated to a yard because he was unable to pay the storage fee. The yard owner removed and sold the flathead engine in the Meteor.

When the three friends were able to get the rest of the car back, they installed a 1937 Cadillac LaSalle V-8 engine, which still remains in the car six decades later.
 The lives of the three young men changed when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, except their friendship.

By mid-1942, Nakamura and his relatives were interned with thousands of other Americans of Japanese descent at Amache Internment Camp in Colorado. His two friends were appalled by this. Nakamura was given a 72-hour notice to leave Culver City, so Phippen offered to store the Meteor.

When Nakamura returned three years later in 1945, he started his life over again. Walter Nakamura, the elder Nakamura's son, often asked his dad about the Meteor, but his father refused to discuss it, possibly because he feared his son would be injured while racing it. After George Nakamura died, Phippen called Walter in 2003 and asked if he wanted to take his dad's car home.

Walter was able to get the Meteor back on the road with the untouched patina of storage corrosion and dust.

Walter Nakamura plans to bring the 1939 Lakester Meteor to Santa Barbara from his home in Pleasanton, California.


* meteor lakester.jpg (113.33 KB, 800x1205 - viewed 451 times.)

* meteor lakester 1.jpg (62.82 KB, 800x536 - viewed 414 times.)

* meteor lakester 3.jpg (85.35 KB, 800x447 - viewed 395 times.)

* meteor lakester 4.jpg (51.27 KB, 571x428 - viewed 445 times.)
« Last Edit: August 25, 2012, 10:05:06 PM by 38flattie » Logged

With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead. -- RFC 1925

You can't make a race horse out of a pig. But if you work hard enough at it you can make a mighty fast pig. - Bob Akin

http://www.flatcadracing.org/
Tman
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2012, 09:58:57 PM »

Truly a great story and fortuitous meeting Buddy!
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salt27
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2012, 11:44:49 PM »

Buddy,
What a great story, thanks for sharing.

It was nice to talk to you again.

Don
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2012, 11:58:53 PM »

There I was in the Peterson on Tuesday and this car made me wonder what it was that brought it there, it was compelling if only for the fact that it didn't have one of the "never in the day" paint jobs that so many of the iconic cars have when they have been restored....now I know.



The internment thing sucked badly, especially for people who'd left their country of birth because they didn't like what was going on....There were big camps near my home town during the "sequel".
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2012, 12:23:04 AM »

Wow! Amazing meeting... story... and car!
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2012, 07:42:16 AM »

Buddy, that is a great story! Thanks for sharing! Fate is not so fickle - it's way cool!  cheers cheers
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2012, 11:29:23 AM »

Buddy, great story, glad you got the time to visit with him. There sure is a lot of great people on the salt. A few years ago we were in line to race and didn't have any help pushing the car, so I asked a guy standing there if he would help, come to find out he was the owner of a Cadillac dealership in California, everyone is so nice. We saw what's left of the Amache Internment camp while on vacation a few years ago.
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38flattie
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2012, 10:09:01 PM »

Yes, The salt is such a cool place, and you meet so many neat people!

Last year, Dick Bartolucci came to our pits, looking for George Mitchell. I was talking to him, and he say's " I have a '38 that looks a lot like that."

I had to laugh! I said" Mr Bartolucci, that's because your car has the perfect chop, and we copied it!"


* Dick-bertolucci-1938.jpg (103.26 KB, 640x410 - viewed 266 times.)

* Dick-bertolucci-1938-chevrolet5.jpg (47.72 KB, 640x331 - viewed 292 times.)

* Dick-bertolucci-1938-chevrolet.jpg (33.76 KB, 640x371 - viewed 281 times.)
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With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead. -- RFC 1925

You can't make a race horse out of a pig. But if you work hard enough at it you can make a mighty fast pig. - Bob Akin

http://www.flatcadracing.org/
Jack Gifford
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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2012, 12:12:48 AM »

His grille looks a little "different"- what is it?
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38flattie
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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2012, 05:35:04 AM »

I meant Bertolucci!

Jack, it is a Packard grill.
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With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead. -- RFC 1925

You can't make a race horse out of a pig. But if you work hard enough at it you can make a mighty fast pig. - Bob Akin

http://www.flatcadracing.org/
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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2012, 07:39:42 AM »

Flattie, tooo cool of a story, I love reading about the "old day on the salt and dirt"

Frank. cheers
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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2012, 08:16:09 AM »

At some point, these will be described as the good old days ... Joe
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kiwi belly tank
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« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2012, 08:57:50 PM »

You're right Joe, they all turn into good ol dayz.
  Sid.
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beerbellykelly
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« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2012, 09:46:22 PM »

really enjoyed seeing your car run-at one point we even gave up a space in the staging line just to hear it run again-sounds fierce great to talk with you guys-GOOD STORY

p.j.#1980 APS/F 1350
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2012, 02:34:35 PM »

what an awesome story!!

History meets the present.  Cherish these moments for they are fleeting...
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