|Transcripts: Ray Heppenstall
The following interview was conducted with Ray Heppenstall by Phil McCray on 10 July 2000 in Gloucester City, New Jersey.
Ray Heppenstall: [re Meadowbrook] ... ahh, the first week in August, and they asked for experience, and that was humorous, since I've been driving for fifty years. My open wheel went from Formula Juniors to Formula 5000, and most in between; my production experience went from H Production to A Production; my modified experience went from H Modified to Can-Am.
Phil McCray: So what did the person say?
RH: Fortunately my reputation had not preceded me in the Crosley, and the people representing the VSCDA agreed to let me run in the pre-war class.
PM: In this car?
RH: Yes. This is the world's fastest Crosley Hotshot, certainly the best handling ever, and arguably the best looking ever. With it I beat any SCCA production sports car up to 2 litre of that era. (Four cylinder Healeys, Morgans, all that sort of stuff).
PM: Can you give me some biographical; you said you were born in Pittsburgh.
RH: Yes, I was born in Pittsburgh in 1931, my family was in the iron and steel business; my mother ironed and my father stole. The first race I ever saw was a sprint car race at Old Heidelburg outside of Pittsburgh. It was won by Tommy Hinnerschitz. It was before World War II. I saw a TQ race here in Philadelphia, at Toppy Stadium, and I thought they were gorgeous.
PM: This is before you were sixteen?
RH: No no no no no, no, I was in my twenties.
PM: So you had a life before you understood you were going to have a life in cars, apparently.
RH: Yes. The first time I drove in competition was in a 1931 Chrysler
CM6 roadster, and that was at Municipal Stadium in Tampa, Florida; it was an invitational sports car event. I had the fastest lap time, taking a half-second off Al Keller's lap record. He was the local stock car hero. He had set that in a 1941 Ford.
I bought a Crosley Hotshot, and became the sales manager for Economy Motors, they were the people who owned the Hotshot that won the cc Sebring race in 1951, America's first endurance race.
PM: Wasn't that the Sam Collier Memorial, in 1950?
RH: Could be. I never had any money of my own, so most of my career was driving other people's automobiles, for one reason or another.
PM: This is the mid-Fifties. :
RH: Yes. And the Sixties.
PM:: What was your trade?
RH: I was, I guess, a mechanic; but I have been many things... Stage manager for Philadelphia's largest independent TV production house, starred in six movies, sold automobiles; sold printing. I was advertising manager for a Subaru distributor with 7 major markets and an annual advertising budget in excess of 3 million dollars. I consider myself a success at that job. We could have sold twice as many autos as we had.
PM: This was around this area?
RH: Yes. I also had a shop of my own in the Philadelphia area for many years; I was never a good businessman, never being dollar motivated. Results were my goal.
PM: Making movies?
RH: They were ASE training films (Automotive Service Excellence). The little blue badges on all the garage doors now, showing that they are ASE certified. I figured that history would remember me for the Howmet, and as you read through the Howmet stuff that's been printed thus far, I was an engineer for Howmet, which is totally untrue, I was not an engineer for Howmet. It was a one-man show. The Howmet program for all its successes and failures were all my doing.
PM: Then what do you mean not an engineer?
RH: I'm not an engineer.
PM: So you produced it as if you were.
RH: I won't say that I engineered it, I'll say that I created it. There's a total difference. When the SCCA announced the Trans-Am series and said what cars were eligible, the 64 Falcon GT Sprint was eligible. And when Ford had it homologated, they had given a "build contract" to Holman and Moody. Holman and Moody had not completed the build, but had built a few cars when Mustang was introduced. It was obvious Ford had a winner in the Mustang. Ford pulled back anything that had to do with the Falcon. The Falcons that had been produced were shipped to England and prepared for the
Tour de France, in which they competed. They stayed in England. There was a race coming up in Mexico. Ford of Mexico, borrowed two cars, from Ford of England to race in this Mexican event. The cars overstayed their visa in Mexico, and made it to no man's land in Laredo, Texas, halfway between the United States and Mexico. I heard this story, called an SCCA member whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. He lived about eighty miles away from Laredo. He went down and sniffed around the warehouses and found the two cars. He called back and gave me the serial numbers; I bought a very used Falcon GT Sprint from a Ford dealer in New Brunswick, NJ. It had been repainted a different color, so it had no value. I bought it cheap. I brought it home and I prepared it as the Holman and Moody cars might have been prepared. I found the fiberglass company in Canada that made the doors, the hood, and the deck lid for Ford. I changed the front suspension to a similar setup that the Shelby 350 used. I entered the car at Daytona making the people from the Ford Motor Company terribly distressed that this car was there.
PM: Remind me what year it was?
RH: I'm going to guess it was 67. Might have been 68. No, it was 68, February of 68. I blew the engine the second lap of practice, went to Ford to buy an engine; they procrastinated for a period of time, and said that they had GT 40 engines, they had Mustang engines, and they had Cobra engines, but they didn't have any Falcon engines.
PM: Was that true, do you suppose?
RH: There's no difference between the four; they're all 289 Fords.
PM: When they told you that, did they figure they could get away with that, because they're Ford, or did they think you were a rube, or what?
RH: Detroit politicians think that they know everything. And no one else knows anything, but since they hold all the cards, there's not much you can do about it.
PM: You can't contradict Ford Motor Company?
RH: I did once, as a matter of fact, when the federal government mandated the first safety measures for automobiles. Ford Motor Company's crash tests compliance consisted of, corrugating the main frame rails of the chassis, so that on impact that corrugation would give way, taking the energy of the impact away from the passenger area. Which was a great idea, but shortly after they did that, they pulled replacement chassis off the market and out of the parts book, so that a five mile an hour impact could not be properly repaired. I was employed by the Chilton Publishing Company as an automotive expert to go out and speak to the Ford Motor Company, about what the heck did they think they were doing? But getting back to the other story. Anyhow, before I left for Daytona, I had ripped the engine out of a 350 GTH that had been destroyed in an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The engine was in the back of the truck. Red Vogt, who was a long time mechanic and competitor at Daytona had a shop right behind the Speedway, and agreed that if I brought him the bits and pieces, he would screw it together So I ripped the engine apart, drove all night and was sitting in Miami at Crane Engineering the next morning. They were kind enough to balance everything while I waited; I rented a Piper Cub, flew back to Daytona. Red stayed up that night and screwed the engine together, I went out and qualified the next day. In three laps the brakes locked up, the master cylinder was not returning far enough to bleed back, it took me a while to find that. As I didn't have the time to waste, I opened the brake bleeder and qualified without brakes. I finished ninth in the 24 hours of Daytona. We ran as high as fifth before a leaking head gasket moved us back.
PM: You finished ninth at Daytona? Who was your co-driver?
RH: Bill Sealey, from Ohio.
PM: Just two drivers?
RH: Yes. Anyhow, Ford was blaming Kelsey Hayes for why the Mark Two GT40s
could not beat Ferrari, saying that the brakes were the problem. Ken Kaskey, or was it
Howard Hill, one or the other was the engineer from Kelsey, had brought with him
several young engineers who segmented the race track to facilitate timing the cars on
the different segments of the track. The fastest car on the infield at Daytona was Charley
Kolb in a two litre Dino Ferrari. The second fastest car through the infield was yours truly in this taxicab. The GT 40s could lap me - these are Mark twos, this is the year they had a whole slew of them there, and somebody forgot to heat treat the first motion shaft in the transaxle and they all failed. But forget that. To make a pass stick on me they would have to pass me five times: the first time they passed me I was being passed in turn one; the next time they passed me, a little bit sooner in the tri-oval, I'd pass them in turn two, and so forth. Ford had hired anybody with a license from both sides of the water because they had so many cars; the biggest ego in the Ford camp was Mario Andretti; he couldn't stand my fuckin' taxi cab going around him, it didn't make any difference how wide he made that GT40 or where he put it, I could pass him if I had to go all the way out on the grass to do it. That's how bad the GT 40s handled, and how good My Falcon handled. I saw my life's savings going away out there on the race track. The vice president of Howmet, who had been a customer for years was standing by and I suggested to him that it was time to consider the turbine car that we had discussed in 1963, before I had the accident in the Cooper Monaco which put me out of action for a year.
PM: Just tell me where that accident was.
RH: Augusta International Raceway, Augusta Georgia. From that I got the commission for a budget to investigate the feasibility of producing such a vehicle. Sebring was coming up in five weeks, the first ever Trans-Am race was the prelim to the Sebring event. I didn't want to run in a prelim, I wanted to run Sebring. So I called John Oliveau, who was head of ACCUS at the time, and he knew my name. I said, "What-does it take to be recognized as a manufacturer of automobiles?" At this point I went down the list of nine or ten vehicles that I had built prior to that, he chuckled said, "Are you talking about that Falcon of yours?" I coughed. He said, "You know, it's a funny thing, Passino called me this morning." (Jacques Passino was head of Special Vehicles for the Ford Motor Company, with whom I'd had an ongoing battle for several years, cause I'd gone over his head a couple times, and he was a god, and you didn't do that.)
"Passino said that Ford didn't build that car, so if they didn't, you must have, Yes I'll recognize
you as a manufacturer of automobiles." "Don't recognize me as an individual, I said recognize
me as an, employee of the Howmet Corporation," which I was not. So now Howmet is a FIA
recognized manufacturer of automobiles, and eligible to run in the championship of makes
PM: So Oliveau was trying to help you at this point, apparently?
RH: Obviously. I changed the Falcon, doing away with the things that were necessary for it to be eligible for Trans-Am, put bigger wheels on it, opened up the wheel arches, did away with the Holley, put Webers on it, and called it the Howmet GT Sprint.
PM: Did it look like a Falcon at this point?
RH: Yes. Actually, it looked more like a Thunderbird, because I blanked out the rear quarter windows, and installed landau bars for accents. I had a sense of humor, the Falcon has a very small rear wheel arch, and to be able to put tires on and off of the size that you ran, you had to jack it up high enough to put the wheel on from under the car, and over the axle. I went to a friend's shop, Dick Stockton, who raced Triumphs, grabbed a couple of wrecked Triumph rear fenders, and cut the wheel arches, and welded them in the Falcon.
PM: What's the name of this again?
RH: Howmet GT Sprint. There was a used car merchant in Philadelphia, on Broad Street, Ron Levit, who specialized in Thunderbirds, and he gave me a couple of hundred bucks to put his name on it. So it had Ron Levit T-Birds emblazoned on the front fenders, with the landau bars and the cut out wheel arches, it looked a bit like a Thunderbird. Bill Sealey, Bob Neigel and I shared the ride at Sebring. I was a month faster than either of the other two, so I did most of the driving. Bob kept tearing gears out of the gearbox. First I got back in the car with no first gear, at the hairpin you needed first; I was still just as quick. Then he tore second out, I got back in the car, and was still just as quick. When he tore third gear out there was only high gear left, and I ended up going just as fast in high gear as I had been in all four gears, and still much faster than either of the other two. But because of an hour's delay, Sealey had run off the course and knocked the oil filter off, we finished nineteenth, as I recall. But anyhow.
PM: I assume you're doing your own engineering, during all this. You didn't have much of a crew.
RH: No crew. Soon as I got home, I started trying to learn something about turbine engines. The Reading Air Show was in the spring, I drove out to Reading, As I walked up the hill to the airport a chap landed a Bell Jet Ranger and was putting it away, I walked over and I said "May I see the engine?" he said "Sure." It had an Allison T63, he opened the hatch, as this was a show model, the stainless steel turbine was polished, it looked like chrome. It was gorgeous. I had a short conversation with him, I had seen the turbine, all right how would I go and find someone who would give me one, that would fall within the measurement requirements of the FIA. They had an equivalency formula, which took into consideration the number of compressor stages, and the area needed between the compressor, stage, and combustion area. I went first to Allison, got there just at the end of the working day, was introduced to a Vice President, who handed me a printed report, that was about 1 1/2 inches thick, of a T 63, in a Pontiac Chieftain. I leafed through the report, came to the installation of a waste gate manifold, and realized this was what would transform an aircraft engine into an engine that might work in an automobile. He realized that I was gaining something from looking at this report, and grabbed it away from me. I got a look at that picture for seconds, didn't get to read anything, but I figured I had seen enough to know how to make it work. The next company I went to was Williams Research in Wall Lake Michigan. Claude Williams made a large turbine which electric companies used for generator units, satellite generators. On the countryside, you've seen the little brick buildings, that's what they are, satellite generators. When more electricity is needed the generator starts up and comes on line. Williams also made a small turbine, which was used for target drones. I met with Mr. Williams, we walked around his plant, he talked and introduced me to each man at his station, we then retired to a conference room. He suggested that he could make his turbine into a free turbine, and that by using two of them, one driving the front wheels and the other driving the back wheels, we would still fall into the size regulation imposed by the FIA I was not impressed with that idea. I made some sketches of my own ideas, he excused himself and came back. I was never comfortable with him, because all the time he talked to me he never looked me in the eye. I didn't understand why. I found out later that he was totally blind, his eyes focused on my voice box. In retrospect, using the two Williams engines joined together would have made a very interesting power plant.
PM: Now your goal is to produce what sort of a car for what series right now?
RH: The Championship of Makes Series. I bought a model of the Hussian (a rebodied Cooper Monaco) and a model of the Ford J car, I cut the roof off of the J car and glued it on the Hussain. A photographer friend took a picture of the model sitting on a window sill. Superimposed it in a picture of the Philadelphia Art Museum. I took the picture and the model to Howmet, and suggested that this is approximately what your car is going to look like. Now when you read Turbine Grand Prix Cars of the World, right, remember this part of the story. I bought a Cooper Monaco, but decided that this was not a good beginning and sold it without any further modification. As a result of this decision I finally ended up at McKee Engineering in Palatine, Ill. And engaged their services to assist in the creation of the Howmet TX.
After researching the market place, Continental Aviation and Engineering had the only applicable engine. A short summary of this engine's creation seems to be appropriate. The United States government had put out for a bid for a small free turbine that would be appropriate for a light observation helicopter. Continental, as part of their ongoing business practices, bid and were paid for submitting the bids on all government contracts. In reality, they had not a chance of winning this contract, for they had not the production facilities to produce the volume of engines the government was looking for. Continental had a close association with the French turbine engine manufacturer, Turbomecca. The French firm had an engine, the Astazu II as used in the Bastan helicopter, which Continental rescaled in size to fit the specifications laid down in the bid. Aerodynamics do not scale, and one must believe in doing this Continental had no intention of ever having to build such an engine. The Alison Division of General Motors in essence bought the contract. GM saw a future for a small turbine in the private sector. Allison wanted to get into the volume turbine engine business.
PM: But they're not racing, are they, at this point?
RH: No. GM paid the US government two million dollars for the privilege of building an engine. They came up with a six-stage compressor design, and they were going to cast all six stages at one time, which they finally did learn how to do. Nothing like that had ever been done before. They were eighteen months into the program, and didn't have a smell of an engine. So the Pentagon went to Continental, and gave them a backup contract. This contract was let only to motivate Allison. Continental ended up with a neat little package. The engine weighed 130 pounds and developed 235 hp. As measured by the FIA equivalence formula it was 3.3 liters. It was a government engine, and the blueprints were classified and not available to the public. The measurements for the FIA formula included two compound surfaces. There being no mechanical way to make this measurement it would be necessary to plot it mathematically from the blueprints. John Oliveau, the ACUS representative who's task it was to certify the engine let slide that the engine was just under 3 liters. I went to McKee, who had just finished a new car for Charley Hayes. Hayes thought he had a sponsor, and the sponsor backed out. McKee was stuck with his car. McKee had a customer (Ralph Salyer)with an Oldsmobile powered McKee known as the Crosal Special. Ralph wanted the new car but he wanted Bob to take the old car in trade. Bob was really not in a position to be in the used race car business and was hesitant to make such a deal. I came along and said, "That's fine, you make the trade, and make your profit, I'll take the old car and with it create Howmet TX.
Howmet is an aluminum company, therefore the car must look like it is made out of aluminum, not fiberglass. In the interest of expediency, we'll go ahead and use the glass fenders. Bob had a Porsche 906 in the shop at the time whose windshield was just the ticket for our needs. With that windshield shape, some welding wire, and a lot of masking tape, I mocked up what the Howmet was going to look like. Les Rimbach the artist who did the painting that is now on display in the Research Library, did that painting from the mockup we did that day at McKee's.
PM: Rimbach is deceased?
RH: It seems like everyone I ever knew is gone, yes Les is gone.
We now had a chassis, and we had to figure out a way to connect the turbine to the wheels. McKee built his own transaxle, which was his interpretation of a Halibrand quick-change rear, with a Borg Warner T10 mated to it. I had a set of full size silhouette drawing of the Continental engine. McKee had a silhouette blueprint of his transaxle. We took a pair of scissors, cut his drawing apart and played picture puzzle with it. If we turned his unit front to back and turned it upside down, added a second quick change box on the other end, we could bring the power through that second set of gears and the whole thing fit the shape of the turbine perfectly. With an electric starter motor on the front of the unit for reverse gear, the entire package looked like it had been meticulously engineered for just that installation. The coupling from the turbine to the transaxle I had seen years before behind an electric motor driving a pump at the airport in Cumberland, MD. I had no idea of it's origin, but in a discussion with the engineers from Continental it turned out that this was a Westinghouse coupling and they applauded my choice as being just perfect for that application. At this point you're beginning to understand why I say it was created and not engineered.
PM: Can I ask how you were getting the money to do all this?
RH: As I told you in the beginning I had a commission to investigate the feasibility of doing this. When I came back and said it could be done, I got the green light to proceed.
This is complex story and it's difficult to tell in a reasonable sequence without some background knowledge of Howmet. Howmet was a conglomerate put together by a guy named Bill Weaver, who was a surgical supply salesman. The surgical industry made implants, with essentially the same alloys that you use in a turbine engine. They were made with the loss wax or investment cast process, which is the process used in manufacturing turbine blades. The Surgical supply industry became the manufacturers of all turbine blades, and remains so today. As Howmet grew it became terribly diversified and in the end fell victim to Charles DeGaulle's grand plan for the re-aggrandizement of France. Part of the DeGaulle Plan, to hasten France's recovery from the devastation of WWII was to invest Francs in the American market place therefore profiting from post WWII boom in the United States. Aluminum was discovered concurrently in France and the United States. Group Pechiney is the outgrowth of the French discovery and Alcoa is the result of the American system. By investing in Howmet Pechiney brought their technology to these shores. They were in the process of buying Howmet on the stock market. The CEO of Howmet was John Burke. John saw the handwriting on the wall. He spent a year enhancing the corporate image, and I was part of that plan. The program made network television 21 times, and the Huntley Brinkley Report twice. The value of Howmet's stock rose dramatically. Mr. Burke stepped up to Chairman of the Board, exercised his stock options, took his ten million dollars and retired.
PM: Does that mean you have enough money to produce the Howmet?
RH: Yes. The whole Howmet program, two cars, campaigning for a season and paying Continental for all work they did on the engine. I didn't spend over $160,000.The program served its purpose of enhancing the corporate image.
RH: 1968. From commission to the first time I drove the car was five months. And the first month of that was waiting for Daytona and Sebring.
PM: '68 is a pretty heady year for car racing, so you're in the middle of that.
RH: I'm diverging a lot. I took the completed chassis to Continental. They assigned me to the training room as a place to work. (that was considered off limits to the union, so I was not governed by any union regulations) We installed the engine, plumbed and wired the car, completed all that at about :4:00 AM on a Saturday morning. I desperately wanted to drive the thing to see if it worked. There were a bunch of people who in my estimation had spent a lot of money, and I wanted to see if the damned thing worked. The brakes were not yet working, so I chained it to a 57 Ford Station wagon, used the Ford for the brakes. I drove it through the empty parking lot at Continental. It worked. We went to the motel, got a couple hours of sleep, came back, bled the brakes and now I've got to drive the thing. First I've got to find a test track or somewhere that I might be allowed to drive the vehicle. It did not seem that this was going to happen easily. Patience was strained and I had all the streets of Detroit at my disposal. So with a Pennsy Dealers tag hung on the back, in the midst of Saturday morning traffic, I set forth from the Continental plant. I merged into moving bumper to bumper traffic. The chase car was unable to merge at the same time. I had no rearview mirror, so I was unaware that the car behind me was a cop. I turned off Kuercheval, a main street, onto a tree-lined one way residential street. I accelerated a city block with absolutely no sensation of speed, it felt like a sick Buick Dynaflow. I had no measure of speed, the only instrument I had to show me anything was a power turbine tachometer, which I had not yet converted to a speedometer, all I knew was how many revs I pulled. Anyway, the cop's chasing me down the street, this thing sounded like a 727 on final approach you understand, and the exhaust is tilted up out of the back of the car so if you're behind it you're looking through it, the world looks all fuzzy. It turns out I did something like a hundred and five miles an hour, and stopped in the city block. I can't hear the cop's siren the turbine is right in my ear. I turn right onto a main thoroughfare for the return trip. The cop pulls up alongside.
It's an all black neighborhood, and there's an age break, say 18; people older than that ran away, scared to death of this thing; younger than that they ran after it to see what it was.
So the cop pulls up along side of me and wanted me to stop. I refused, signaled him to follow me back to the Continental plant, stopped and awaited his consternation.
He wanted to know what I thought I was doing. I said I just finished the car and had no test track to go to, but I wanted to see if it worked. He said fine, you want to go out on the road again, give us a call and we'll give you an escort. I called the vice-president of Howmet, whose name was Tom Fleming, and told him it works, and it seems to work reasonably well. As soon as I hung up the phone, the CEO from Continental (I must break in here and back up a bit)
I missed that part of the story, Continental had been sold Teledyne. When I was asking for an engine this gentleman was sitting at the head of the table. The engineers assembled were all scared to death of me, he chuckled, this guy was not a turbine engine person, he was a businessman. He said "this backyard mechanic will probably do in a couple of weeks what it takes you pricks years to do, yes I think we'll do this." That's how I got the engine, because this guy had a sense of humor. So after I pulled this stunt in Detroit, he called Fleming, and said Continental was washing their hands of the whole project, that they didn't want to be identified with it, because this son of a bitch was crazy, and Fleming assured him that I would be severely chastised. The next time I talked to Fleming, he said "you can consider yourself severely chastised, GREAT JOB!"
I went to Elkhart Lake, WI to test on the Elkhart Lake sports car race course. Because there were no corner workers or any other safety equipment available, it was impossible to utilize the entire circuit. We could only run the loop up the front straight and down the back. It was just an oval. We had no comparison of lap times. Again, I must tell you that it drove just like a sick Buick Dynaflow, you didn't have any of the pulsations that you got from a piston engine, and none of the braking traction, because you didn't have any of that nonsense, you just accelerated. First time I had any measure of how quick it was, was when we went to Daytona and tested. Thompson's fifth lap was equal to the last year's lap record. So we knew we had a pretty quick car. While it only had 235 horsepower, on a 67 degree day, the hotter it gets the worse the horsepower is. It had five hundred foot pounds of torque (at stall), of course the torque was a linear descent from stall to max. road speed. When first talking with the engineers at Continental about putting such an engine in an automobile, they told me about the throttle lag. There would be a three-second lag on accel. - one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, - from the time you put your foot on the accelerator until the time you began to accelerate. As a driver, I shuddered at the thought of this, but figured, if I'm clever enough, maybe I can do this. Then they explained to me that there's a similar three-second delay on decel. I said "no no no no no no no, there has to be a different way to do this. When I was at Allison, I saw such and such and so and so, and if we punch a hole here, here and here, and we put a manifold around here, we put a big butterfly valve here, I bet we wouldn't have that problem. And in so doing, you're taking throttle control away from the fuel management system, and putting it on the power turbine governor's shoulders. Since this is a safety feature, and something never expected to have to live under these circumstances, they didn't know whether it would work or not. But it worked fine! The engine turned 57500 rpms, so if anything ever came loose it was going to cause a lot of damage.
The first race was Daytona. The butterfly valve that Continental designed failed. It stuck wide open. They used a split ring as opposed to a continuous wound ring which is what they should have done. But as they had never done it before, you can excuse the mistake. They started out with a stainless steel ring, that gauled immediately. I installed a cast iron ring, it worked better, but still wasn't the answer. We went to (Parker Hannfan) in California, and they had a waste gate on the shelf that was perfect for the application, that solved our waste gate problem.
PM: How did that race go again at Daytona?
RH: We crashed.
PM: Because of the butterfly?
RH: Yes. The waste gate as I just said failed, and stuck wide open. An ignominious beginning of the season. Our next race on the schedule was the 12 hours of Sebring.
PM: Who was to drive?
RH: Dick Thompson, Ed Lowther and yours truly.
PM: How did it go at Sebring?
RH: We only lasted three hours or so. By rule we were limited to 33 gallons of fuel, which related to about 50 minutes between pit stops. Sebring as you know is an old military airport in the middle of Florida which gets very little use, and is therefore quite dirty. We noticed at each pit stop a degeneration of engine performance. This degeneration was caused by debris ingestion in the engine and the erosion of the turbine blades, the ultimate aerodynamic mismatch caused by this erosion resulted in a high energy surge on acceleration much like a back fire in a piston engine. These high-energy reactions caused a failure in the left rear motor mount. And so ended our Sebring foray.
PM: What was next for the Howmet TX?
RH: Rather than go into a blow by blow, day by day history of events, suffice to say that the Sebring experience initiated the design of a debris deflector which we mounted directly in front of the air inlet for the turbine. This cured our blade erosion problems and we went on to win our first race, an SCCA National at Huntsville, AL. Dick Thompson and I teamed up once again to run the annual endurance race held at Marlboro, MD. We took half an hour off the previous race record and enjoyed all the reliability and performance that we had expected of the car at the beginning of the season. I went on to win another National SCCA event in Brainerd, MN.
PM: You said Brainerd was an SCCA event?
RH: Yes. I was a racer, I'd race anywhere, do anything. LeMans was canceled, the students rioted. It went to September before the race was rescheduled. We were in England racing at Brands Hatch. John Burke and Tom Fleming had just come from a meeting with the Pechiney in Paris, and Burke said to me, "Well, you've got to get to France in the morning, after the race is over, and get things squared away for their involvement when we go to LeMans.
PM: whose involvement?
RH: Group Pechiney. To have their name on the car, they've got to come up with fifty thousand dollars toward the expense of the race. I took John Oliveau with me as my interpreter. We were greeted at the conference table by three Pechiney VPs and the in-house government representative. Nothing was done in France in those days, and probably still not today, without government knowledge. Everyone in the room spoke English except the government spy. I thought that Burke and Fleming had already told these people that they were going to have to get up some money to be involved, and of course at this point we're still looking at a June date, and they figured they're going to throw an enormous cocktail party in the Bois de Boulogne.
Everyone who was anyone in the automotive industry would be there. Pechiney had just developed an aluminum alloy that would work the same as steel in the automotive industry, that would stretch the same as steel, so you wouldn't have to redesign your shapes to accommodate aluminum. It would spot weld the same as steel. This was the year when the future or the lightweight automobile was to be decided. The war was on between the plastics and the aluminum industry. Alcoa wasn't playing it very well, Pechiney was, so this was going to be a big occasion. Back to the meeting. As I said, Oliveau and I were greeted by the three VPs and the government chap. Yours truly being totally ignorant of the social nuisances of European industry when asked at 10 AM if I wanted something to drink, replied a cup of coffee would be wonderful. That of course was not what they had in mind at all. They sent someone out to a nearby restaurant where the purchased a tray, a pot, a creamer, a sugarer, and a cup of coffee so that my request could be satisfied. In the course of conversation (realizing of course that the government representative is having translated only what the Pechiney personnel want to translate for him,) I came up with "no tickee no washee," I finally realized that I'd been had and this was the first time that Pechiney had been informed that their financial support was expected. As uncomfortable as it was at the time, the meeting was really quite humorous, watching the Pechiney accept this proposal while skirting around the government spy understanding what was going on. The end result of the meeting was a complete success, I got the fifty grand. And of course the race was canceled until September because of the student riots.
PM: And what was next for the Howmet?
RH: The Watkins Glen six-hour, an International event.
PM: Who was driving?
RH: This was the first time that we ran two cars. Hugh Dibley and Bob Tulius were driving the 67 car and Dick Thompson were driving the 76 car. The Tulius car went out with a differential problem (the 41 Ford ring and pinion wasn't really up to the 500 pounds of torque generated by the Continental turbine) Thompson and I finished a very creditable third. The first and only points ever won in international sports car competition by a turbine powered car. While running at the Glen, the CEO from Morse Chain of Ithaca, NY, a wholly owned subsidiary of Borg Warner, introduced himself and invited me for a tour of their facility the following Monday. I stayed over, because I'm interested in such things. Their plant was magnificent, even though it was now a century old, how many plants are five stories high all of them on ground level. Anyhow, they had just completed the brand new chain for a front wheel drive Toronado, and Eldorado. They were very proud of it. The first time a new chain had been designed in a hundred years. They told me the story of how GM came to them with the dimensions, and the load characteristics of what a new chain must withstand. GM had set a figure of seven dollars as what they would pay for such a chain. Time being short, Morse delivered as much of the new chain as they could afford to make for seven dollars. In hindsight, it was approximately 30% more chain than was necessary to do the job.
PM: Does this lead in to something pertaining to the Howmet program?
RH: Morse asked me if there was anyplace we might use their newly designed chain in the Howmet TX. Their query included an offer to pay for design, development and manufacture of any such application. My response was, "I really need a transmission for next year, and I'm sure that your chain might make the design of such a transmission much easier." The conversation went on to include that Morse work closely with Ferguson Research Limited and they would do the design and manufacture of such a transmission.
PM: Ferguson Research Limited is in England, isn't it?
RH: Yes, in Coventry. I managed a short time later to schedule a trip that included a stop in Coventry. The young engineer assigned to my project was Derek Gardner, the chap who became famous for designing the Tyrrell Formula I cars. Unbeknown to me, Derek was in the process of designing a transmission for Colon Chapman to go in the Lotus Turbine Powered Formula I car. Derek and I sat at a conference table and I sketched out my preconceived ideas of how my transmission might be designed. . The problem with coupling a shiftable transmission to a turbine is that the turbine is turning so many RPMS, that you can't cut it loose long enough to go through a neutral. My vision was to take two planetary gear sets as used in automatic transmissions and couple them together with a chain supplied by Morse. With the choice of one or the other planetary gear sets you have a two-speed transmission. My sketches and thoughts were greeted with great animosity by Derek. Later I found out why. Just the night before he had been in a meeting with Chapman and gotten the OK to proceed with his transmission design, which was very complex, very large and very heavy. The gearbox I had described you could almost hold in the palm of your hand and would weigh less than 30 pounds. To his everlasting credit, he tore up his own designs, started a fresh, and turned my thoughts into hardware for Colon Chapman. Our program, of course ended before the transmission was completed. I got no credit, and to this day that haunts me. I'm running on like a geriatric old fool. Ask me some pointed questions.
PM: Well I have a few questions. Just more biographical. Do you have a family all this time, or just one cat? And how did that play into your career, in the late Sixties, say?
RH: I was national champion in 1958, driving a Deutsch Bonnet; I was the last national champion to drive to and from the racetrack. That's the truth. I left Philadelphia with a full tank of gas, which of course is eighteen gallons, and I drove west of Indianapolis before I stopped for gas. The next gas I took on was Topeka Kansas, and then I got free gas at the racetrack in Denver, that took me to Riverside. I got free gas there and the round trip cost me a total of twenty-seven dollars. My wife and daughter were with me. In 1957, 1 won fifty-two races in a Deutsch Bonnet. That's counting the Saturday and Sunday events.
PM: SCCA road racing?
RH: Howard Hannan had taken on the eastern half of the United States distribution for Deutsch Bonnet. I was the salesman, touring the eastern half of the United States setting up dealerships. I drove that car 52,000 miles while driving in fifty-two races, Sold several hundred cars which took the Frogs years to build. Financially, it was a very unsuccessful endeavor.
PM: Well what happened to the Howmet after 68 then?
RH: At Le Mans, Thompson flipped at Indianapolis in the middle of the night; the other car was out with wheel bearing problems. I was the nearest thing to a mechanic of the group. I couldn't devote the time necessary to repair the second car and the fellows just couldn't get it done, so that car fail to cover the remaining 6 hours to stay in the event. Dick flipped the second car and that was the end of our Le Mans challenge.
PM: That was the last race for the Howmet TX cars?
RH: As it turned out the last race but not the last event. I took the damaged car directly to England, to Goom Metal Products, one of the premier metal fabricators in England. It was in the middle of that build that I got a call from the States saying John Burke had stepped up to Chairman of the Board and was retiring. The program was over. I should come home. I argued, that the cost would be the same to leave with the car finished or unfinished. They allowed me to stay and finish the car. Some months later, I approached Howmet to let me try to break a bunch of international records set by the French, Russians and Italians for various turbine driven automobiles. They agreed to fund such an effort. I approached Bill France Sr. of Nascar who had been a friend to the Howmet program and he agreed to arrange for us to make such an attempt on the access roads paralleling the interstate in front of Talladega International Speedway. Mr. France and Governor George Wallace were good friends, and it only took a phone call from Bill for us to have complete State cooperation and assistance. We used a roadster and set six worlds records, spanning two different weight classes, which to the best of my knowledge, still stand today.
PM: And then, the rest of the year for that car?
RH: Well that was the end of it.
PM: What was the turbine engine at Indianapolis, was that Joe Leonard?
RH: Andy Granatelli.
PM: How did that fit in with what you were doing? Were you aware of each other?
RH: When Granatelli announced their effort, before the Howmet was completed, Fleming called me and suggested that a turbine effort was being done and maybe we should stop. I countered with "that's a roundy round car, and our effort was to be a sports car. No conflict, and a totally different audience." The Granatelli car was designed by an Englishman whose name I recall as Wallis. Wallis went to Carroll Shelby and said that he could duplicate the effort successfully, that Granatelli had failed at. Shelby went to Goodyear and got the money to do turbine cars at Indianapolis. The Wallis designed car turned out to be a Flexible Flyer. Mike Spence, the talented young English driver, was tragically killed while testing it at Indianapolis. The day after that accident, Shelby announced that turbines could never be made to work safely in automobiles. The accident had nothing to do with engines. Truly, in fact, the reason that Shelby had to withdraw the cars, was that the engine that Wallis had chosen and modified to fit the Indy regulations, was a stone cheater. It seems that he had removed the first stage compressor blades and reduced the inlet annulus to the required 11 square inches, and found that as such, the engine barely produced sufficient power to run itself. His next move was to put vent openings just behind the new first stage compressor section which when running, brought the inlet annulus up to the 42 square inches that it had been originally. Wallis had abandoned ship and disappeared before it was time to leave for Indianapolis. I'm sure Shelby was unaware of what he had gotten himself involved with. It seems that Wallis disappeared taking with him a large portion of the money that Goodyear had put up to build the cars.
RH: Yes, this isn't in history anywhere. Phil Remmington was Shelby's right hand man. When Wallis disappeared Carroll grabbed Remm and said, "You've got to run this program." Remmington realized how the engine worked, realized how illegal it was, went to Carroll and said "I quit. I worked for you for a long time, but I won't work for a cheater." That was the basis for withdrawing the cars. Carroll Shelby will cough, turn his head and change the subject, or leave the room, if you try and discuss this with him, because he's a two-face lying sack of shit. But he's famous and I'm a nobody. I might be up [to Watkins Glen] give a lecture sometime. [laughs]
PM: I should explain that what we'll do is make a transcript of these remarks, and show it to you so you can fill in the blanks if you forget a name. If you want to emend that one, go ahead, and if you want to make it stronger, go ahead.
RH: No, I won't emend it, I'm not afraid of what I've ever said.
PM: Can you say a couple of words about Oliveau again? It strikes me as interesting that he's allowing you to be imaginative in your work, and still be homologated.
RH: Oliveau is one of the nicest gentlemen that I have ever met. He worked for the United States government in World War II as an aircraft manufacturer inspector. The Mack plant on Rt. 202, just east of New York, was given a contract to build radial engine mounts, something that they had the space for but not the first clue of how to do. The manager of the plant learned how to weld, taught all the girls who did the welding how to weld. The first time Oliveau went through the plant he was asked what the main problem would be. Oliveau's admonishment was that the welds must cool slowly so as to not upset the alloy of the chrome-molly tubing that they were welding together. On his next visit, John found that every window in the plant had been welded shut. Contrary to early expectations, there is no recorded failure of any aircraft part manufactured in that truck plant.
PM: When we were in your shop, you guessed that Oliveau is dead.
RH: Well, sure. In 1968 he was in his seventies.
PM: You had said that Andretti was annoyed that you were challenging him so well; did you have a personal relationship with him?
PM: He just didn't like your Falcon re-passing him at Daytona.
RH: You understand that to be successful, Mario certainly was a very successful race car driver, you have to be somewhat of an egotist. We won't say that you have to be an egomaniac, but an "egotist" is a nice way to say it. Certainly Mario was an egotist, and it just rubbed him the wrong way that this damned taxicab could go by him in the comer. It wasn't his fault, he was driving a piece of shit.
PM: You showed me a photograph, you with the car, and John Bishop was there. You didn't race with IMSA, did you?
RH: Yes and no. I did run some IMSA events. Bishop went to Bill France, who backed him in the start of IMSA. I paid IMSA $6000 to oversee the record runs at Talladega. That contract solidified IMSA's recognition by ACCUS. That contract also gave me the backing and friendship of the France family throughout the Howmet program.
PM: And so the Talladega attempt was successful?
RH: Yes. After I set the records in that early morning, they picked me up by helicopter, and whisked me away to a television station in Birmingham. It had been previously arranged that I was to be a guest on a local TV talk show. I'd been in television before, worked in television before, understand the problem; the host has no idea if he has not been able to brief someone before hand, what kind of a response he's going to get. So the host tackled me very gently, found out that I had a big mouth and would talk a lot, so he hit me right between the eyes, with "So why would you want to do such a thing?" (Go after world's records) I came back immediately with "What could be more exciting than being the prow of the ship of progress making waves across the pages of history". Howmet's hired public advertising manager, a chap from New York named Hopkins, was standing in the wings coming in his drawers as I delivered that statement.
PM: There were other firsts in your career, you had said.
RH: Jim Hall bought a two and half litre Cooper Monaco from John Cooper, the one Roy Salvadori had driven so successfully. Jim wanted to run the Formula I show at the Glen. He had a Formula II Lotus, and the two and half litre Formula I engines were unavailable, so he bought the Cooper just for the engine. You look at your records you'll find that he did run the car. I bought the Cooper in 1962. Howmet, the name had not yet been changed and the company was still known as HowSound in those days, had an aluminum rolling mill in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The plant manager had been good friends with the previous Ford district manager, Lee Iacocca. Through the plant manager Lee, I was promised two Shelby prepared 289 cubic inch Fords to put in the Cooper Monaco. It came across Passino's (Jacques Passino had a special vehicles division at Ford Motor Company) desk, and he changed it to stock engines. I went back through Iacocca, saying "Screw you. You know, that's not the deal, the deal is two Shelby engines," and from that moment on, Passino hated me. This then became the grandfather of the Can Am cars which went on to create the most exciting racing in American Sports Car history.
PM: Could you say something about your racing in the Seventies? In fact, take it home to now, how did your racing career go after Howmet?
RH: I raced a GT40 at Sebring, and Daytona. Pretty near killed myself at Sebring, trying to do the same things with the GT40 that I'd done with the Howmet. Wouldn't happen. Then VW announced the Super Vee Series, so I built a VW thing, called the Heppenstall P12, you'll see pictures of that in the collection that is now part of your research library. I tried to build a street version of P12, the only artist's renderings of the P12B. It was a really pretty car. I lost my ass doing that. When they announced the Super Vee Series, I found a Lotus Formula 3 car that had been wrapped around a tree, straightened the chassis, and put it all together with a Type I Volkswagen. Volkswagen said "Oh no, this must be the Type 4 engine." That car went on to become a VW powered midget and ran some oval races.
Bill Scott had already bought his first Royale from England. He tried unsuccessfully to race it three or four times, every time he raced it, the motor mounts broke. I bought it inexpensively, brought it home with the next generation motor mounts from Royale, put it all together up on horses. When I put it down on the floor I saw that it was bending in half. I redesigned the chassis, sent pictures to Royale. They had forty completed chassis and were afraid to sell any, because the cars kept breaking. Royale then sent me a new chassis built my way, their way of saying thank you.
When Super Vee changed over to the water-cooled engine, the cost of racing had escalated beyond reason. I awoke on morning and said, "That's it." Told my wife "Darling, you're going to have to get a job", and closed the shop. Painted it so that I could throw a party for my daughter's wedding. An old friend, Eddie Felbin, introduced me to the owner of Penn Jersey Subaru, a tri-state Subaru distributorship. I was hired at the first interview, was given my choice of being in service or sales. With the difference in earning potential, I selected sales, saying I didn't know which end of a wrench to hold. As the company matured, and business grew, there became need for a managed advertising program. I was chosen to take over that task and had a lot of fun doing it. That lasted for about eight years.
PM: This is in Philadelphia
RH: Yes. South Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware.
PM: And you're vintage racing now?
PM: And you have been for a while, I suppose.
RH: Yes, for about ten years.
PM: In the car I see out front, the Crosley?
RH: Yes. I went to work for Harvey Siegel, who now owns VIR. I prepared his Elva, it was voted the very best Elva in the world at the Elva Reunion they held in Atlanta. I believe that was the last time Frank Nichols, "Mr. Elva", made it to the States before he passed away. I had done business with Frank years before in the beginning days of Formula Junior. He created a new product line for me to import. Those Juniors went by the name Scorpion. They were offered with both the DKW and BMC engines.
PM: You raced at Daytona and Sebring and such after the GT40, in any other cars?
RH: Yes, the Heppenstall P12.
PM: And Le Mans?
RH: Le Mans, only in the Howmet. In the early days of sports car racing, it was very much on this coast, it was very much a gentlemen's sport; Spear, Kimberly, and Cunningham, and that was it. They had all the money, they had all the fun. It was different in California, where the hot rod industry was in full swing. I was the center of the homemade sports car in the Philadelphia area. I was the only one who did anything. I was the first one to import Citroen, after World War II. A lady had just come back from Paris, walked into Joe Moore's place at 401 North Broad Street, and said her girlfriend had a Deux Chevaux, and it was all the rage in Europe, everyone had to have a Deux Chevaux. Moore Motors had domestic salesmen selling foreign cars, not enthusiasts or entrepreneurs, as most foreign car shops were at the time. This was a department store, they sold anything and everything. The salesman the lady was speaking to thought she was talking about some kind of venereal disease, he had no clue what she was saying. (Deux Chevaux). Being a professional, his response was "Madam as you can see we sell all different makes of foreign cars, but may I get my manager for you." Joe Moore, who was a very young man then, assured her that while he didn't have 2 CV in stock, he was sure he could get her one. He was not sure how long it would take, or how much it would cost, but if she would give him a $500 deposit, showing her sincerity, he would proceed to get her one. This occurred on a Saturday. On Monday, I received a call from Mr. Moore. I had a small shop in Germantown, through which I took care of the five or six pre-war Citroen that lived in the metropolitan area. I occasionally ran an ad in the Sunday paper advertising Citroen Sales and Service. Joe was aware of my activities and that's why he called me. I explained to him that this was the most popular car in Europe at the moment, that I had no idea how much it would cost or how long it would take to get, but if he would send me a $500 deposit to show his sincerity, I would endeavor to get him one. So I called a friend in Paris, Claude Morel, and I said "Claude, I need a Deux Chevaux. Claude exclaimed "Ali! Seez ees impossible, it is ze most popular car in ze world. Ze waiting list, she is at least two years. You absolutely cannot count on being able to get ze Citroen" I said "Claude, these are green American dollars, get off your ass, go to the factory and buy me one." "Aye, for you I will do zes. I will call you back on Sursday." Thursday comes, the phone rings, "Ray, zees is Claude." "Yes Claude!" "As you have requested, I have gone to zee factory. I have twried my very best, but they will not sell me one." "What do you mean they won't sell you one, these are green American dollars." "But wait, zey will sell me two!" "How much do they want for the two?" "I have negotiated the very best price I possibly can, and zee best I can do is four hundred eighty dollars each." "For Christ's sake buy two!" With this purchase I became the first person to import Citroen post WW II. Shortly after that, the first ad for European delivery, American sales of a Deux Chevaux appeared in Newsweek magazine, retailing for eleven ninety five. By the time I paid transportation, and bought the two cars, I made a little profit. I sold the one car to Joe for what it cost me, and the second car was free. The woman bought that first car for $1,895.
Claude also assisted me in importing DKW to these shores. I bought a sedan and a convertible. The DKW importer commissioned me to prepare two cars for the small bore sedan endurance race held annually at Lime Rock, Conn. In between the commission and the race, DKW was bought by Mercedes. The name was changed to Audi, and Mercedes withdrew the support for that program. I was upset last year when Audi had their big hoopla and they happened to forget my participation with the introduction of their mark in this marketplace.
PM: Ray, you're in a pretty good position to look back at the last four decades or so. Do you want to think about how things have gone in terms of sanctioning bodies and personalities. What are your reflections on the last forty years?
RH: That I lived through the best years of the United States of America. My family had the largest family owned steel company in the US. With plants in Pittsburgh, Bridgeport, Detroit and Eddystone. American industry was built by hands-on technicians, mechanics. They passed it on to salesmen, who passed industry on to the bean counters, and now industry is gone.
PM: In the racing community, are there any purists left? Any gentlemen drivers? Do you see it in the vintage community when you go racing?
RH: No. The vintage thing is a bunch of egomaniacs trying to regain their youth, who are sure that the more money they spend, the faster they'll get around the race track. I've had a history of working with people, taking their cars out driving fast enough to get the pole of whatever class they were in, proving that I had done my job. With some exceptions, I was as fast or faster that most. A good example I can give you. I took delivery of Oliver J. Dragon, the name we gave to the 427 Cobra. They had just completed the car at Shelby America. This was the first 427 to be delivered. It's better remembered now as the Essex Wire Cobra. We went to Willow Springs to test, Ken Miles drove it for almost an hour. When he came in he pronounced the car perfect. I had never been to Willow before, I drove the car for three laps, one lap to find the race track, one lap to go fast, and one lap to come in. I was several seconds a lap faster than Miles. I refused to take delivery of the car because the oil pressure was dropping on every corner, Miles had never looked at the gauges.
I always counted Dick Thompson as the best gentleman sports car driver in the world. He was what they made astronauts out of. I was never as quick as he was because wherever we went I could give him time, but he couldn't give me time. I could tell him where to pick up time. At the Glen, going through the loop at the top of the hill, six feet in, there was a patch, you had to hit that patch with the right front wheel, to load the sway bar, the vehicle would go through that corner flying. That picked him up almost three-quarters of a second, and he ended up two tenths of second quicker than I was because of that. Every time I think of Dick Thompson, the following story comes to mind. He was at the Glen with a GM politician. Dean Bedford, driving the Stingray prototype. He had a wild off going around Big Bend. He carefully avoided the rocks, went through the trees, turned around came back to the track, was facing the track at ninety degrees, waiting for traffic to clear. When He tried to get back to the track he realized
why he had lost it, the steering had broken. He told me this story, while walking up the hill from the pits. He and Bedford were on their way up the hill to the garage building "What happened, Dick?" I queried. His answer was just about the way I've just told the story. I found it amusing and started to laugh. Bedford was all put about, you know, this was not a laughing matter. But Thompson realized the humor in it, realizing that he had described how carefully he had avoided that rock and steered carefully between those two trees, when in fact he hadn't done a damned thing but be a passenger.
We got the GT40, Our first race was Mid0hio with Skip Scott driving. I forget now just where the GT40 finished. We went directly to Elkhart Lake from Ohio and tested on Tuesday. Passino reared his ugly head, he was determined that I wasn't mechanic enough to take care of the GT40, so they took it away from me. I was stuck with the Snake. Skip Scott was teamed with Augie Pabst in the GT40. I had Dick Thompson and Ed Lowther sharing the ride in the Snake for the Elkhart 500. Between Tuesday's test and Saturday's practice, the wizards from Carcraft (Ford's in house racing department) succeeded in screwing up the aerodynamics on the GT 40 enough to loose 4 seconds a lap and make the car almost unmanageable. When Thompson and Lowther arrived I informed them that if the Cobra broke it was my fault, but if they didn't beat the GT40 it was their fault. Dick was appreciably faster than Ed, so I had Dick start and finish with Ed running the shortest stint in the middle. The GT40 and the Snake ran nose to tail for several hundred miles until the gearbox in the Gt40 failed. The Snake came home a very credible third. Behind Jim Hall and Hap Sharp in their Chaparrals. Our third place was threatened late in the race by a Porsche powered Lotus 23 driven by George Fulmer. I gave Thompson a pit signal allowing him to go to 8000 rpm. By this time Henry Ford II and his entourage had invaded our pits. They showed great consternation at my maneuver. With the admonishment that 5 minutes ago you bastards didn't even know my name, I threw them out of my pit.
PM: The Howmet, did you make a couple of those?
RH: Two coupes were built, three have survived.
PM: Two coupes were built and three Howmets have survived?
RH: Yes. Chuck Haines bought the roadster, took the body off, took it back to McKee, whom he credited with engineering and building the car. A friend from Austria called me and asked me to go to McKee's and report on my findings as they were trying to install an Allison engine in place of the Continental. Haines was trying to sell this man a counterfeit car for a million dollars. McKee, left to his own devices, made all the mistakes that I thought he might and I advised my friend not to have any interest in the car. I have not seen the car since it was finished, but I've been told what a disaster it is to drive. In all fairness to McKee, he saw the car run once, he came to a test session we had a Marlborough, MD with a hand full of front sway bars. He'd had no exposure to how the engine controls worked .
PM: It's not being raced now?
RH: He's had it to England once, trying to get big bucks for it, but it drove so poorly, that he had no takers. I'm not privy to the constraints put on McKee when he installed the Allison engine. I know for a fact that somewhere at Allison there's a full report on installing that engine in a Pontiac Chieftain many years ago. In that report all of the changes necessary to install the waste gate were there. Without these changes having been made, there is not only a 3-second lag on accel. But also the same lag on decel. This phenomena would make the car most unsettling to drive.
PM: What's the future of the turbine?
RH: The finite end of horsepower potential is exactly the same for the turbine as the reciprocating engine, the speed of sound and the inlet annulus The turbine was much closer to that than the recip. engine was. Today, you have seven-liter recip. engines putting out five thousand horsepower. As electronics continue to progress, thirty five years ago a couple of young guys out in California came up with an hydraulic actuated valve, doing away with the camshaft. At that time I said, that's the answer to the internal combustion engine. You can program the computer to have a Model T or an Indy engine, whatever it is that circumstances demand. You should, in the not too distant future, be able to get fifty miles to a gallon or five hundred horsepower. What's in Formula I today, are they using camshafts? No. They're not hydraulic, they're pneumatic, that's faster. Cadillac with their four six eight endeavor was terrible, but the technology garnered in the modern racing engines will filter down to production engines soon. As far as I'm concerned, they're just scratching the surface of the potential of the internal combustion engine. The turbine engine, the only thing that could bring it out of the closet is a realization that the weakest point in today's automobile is not the engine, it's the transmission, and with a free turbine, you can eliminate the need for a transmission. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only thing that could stimulate further growth. I spent a pleasant evening with the president of Cummins Diesel a couple of years ago, and his comment was they had successfully reached the five hundred thousand-mile life span and their next objective was the one million mile engine. When I was a boy, thirty thousand miles was the life expectancy before it needed a rebuild. Now if something happens to the engine before it reaches a hundred and eighty thousand miles, you think it's a piece of shit.
PM: I take it you're not communicating with Shelby at this point? Are there other people you're still speaking with?
RH: Most of them are gone.
PM: Thompson's not gone is he?
RH: He moved to Florida. Saw him three years ago.
PM: Did anybody ever ask you to drive at Indianapolis or Formula I?
RH: I tried to put a program together for a turbine car at Indy, but was unsuccessful at that attempt. There was a chap in the Midwest, whose name I can not recall, who has a large collection of Deutsch Bonnets. He has in his collection the Formula I car, that Bonnet put together and tried to qualify at Monaco. Bonnet built an open wheeled car called a Monomille. He had a traveling circus of 20 cars that were the prelim to the Formula shows, much like the Porsche challenge races of today. He supercharged one of those cars when the Formula I formula included 750 cc supercharged. I met this chap once and told him I'd love the opportunity to drive his car. But, Alas, he never asked me.
PM: How often do you race now?
RH: Three or four times a year.
PM: You're going to Meadowbrook, where else do you go?
RH: I ran VIR, I ran Pocono, I'II run Summit in the fall. I'd like to go to Monterey if I get the Miller done.
PM: Miller, where was that?
RH: Those were the fenders that were my the shop, I swapped a Jabrow Mark One with a chassis that was junk and no heritage for a pile of junk Miller that had heritage. Most of what I've kept from the pile of junk was its heritage.
PM: It sounds like you'd be willing to sit down and talk again.
PM: We'll prepare a transcript, subject to your restrictions.
RH: I have said nothing today that I would be ashamed of. Since I own nothing, nobody can sue me.
PM: I kind of had that feeling.
RH: I would like some recognition for giving you my library.
PM: Do you not talk to people, as a rule?
RH: No, I don't talk to anybody. This much I promise you. Whatever I tell you is as best I ever knew, the truth.