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  1. #181
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Last edited by cptpugwash; 29-06-18 at 09:19 PM.

  2. #182
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    earl shilton
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  3. #183
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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  4. #184
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wannaB View Post
    giving this a bump in light of the "bandit"s recent passing.
    did anyone recognize the other guy?.

  5. #185
    of the Croydon Teds
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    Four young men and a fine old lady, a P-51 Mustang name of 'Thunderbird'.

    You might recognise one of the men. His name's Jimmy Stewart and he's standing on the right, and Thunderbird is his girl. The other fellas are Joe DeBona, the pilot, crew chief Joe Katona behind the cockpit and mechanic Joe Torma on the wing.

    This photo takes us back to Rosamond dry lake and the start of the Bendix Trophy at 6:30a.m., Saturday 3rd September 1949, but first let's explain that in the '30s and '40s air racing was a big sport. The National Air Races at Cleveland are reputed by some to have drawn bigger crowds than the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby. The two big races were the Thompson Trophy, which ran around the pylons, and the Bendix Trophy, a long, linear run from L.A. to Cleveland.

    Of course, there was a little bit of bother in the early '40s that put paid to having fun for a bit, but the outcome of that was that after 1945, there were shedloads of unwanted fighter planes sitting around, waiting to be picked up by a demobbed, thrill-seeking young daredevil. North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs were most expensive at $3,500, but Lockheed Lightnings, Bell Kingcobras and Goodyear "Super" Corsairs could be had for less, while a Bell P-39 Airacobra might be bought for $600 - less than the cheapest new Ford.

    The Bendix was run four times from '46 to '49 before a fatal crash and the Korean War brought piston-engined air racing to an end, and a Mustang won every single time. The victorious pilot every year up to '48 was Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz in #46 Mustang, with his string of wins netting him $125,000. Joe DeBona was hot on Mantz's tail, though, and well provided-for as the pilot of Stewart, himself an ex-U.S.A.A.F. pilot. DeBona finished second in '47 and was winning in '48 until running out of fuel within sight of the finish!

    1949 was the year that Joe, Joe, Jimmy and Joe had been waiting for, and DeBona took victory once and for all after a flat-out flight. That's where it all ends, though, as piston aircraft racing came to a halt, and Mr. Stewart had married just before the Bendix, diverting his honeymoon to Cleveland so that he could catch his beautiful blue Thunderbird in first place. DeBona presented the bronze trophy to the new Mrs. Gloria Stewart but, as is the way with married life, compromises must be made and, a few months later, Thunderbird was sold.

    Back to Paul Mantz, and in 1950 he relocated from Burbank to Orange County Airfield, coincidentally at the same time some fella called C. J. 'Pappy' Hart was setting up his Sunday drag races at the site. Now Joe Torma, our Mustang mechanic, reenters the picture having joined Mantz in the film industry. He ran a black '32 Roadster at the Sunday drags, but knew he'd need a purpose-built racer if he wanted success to endure. His chopped, streamlined '34 Coupe was completed in '52, and with access to the Mantz hangar full of tools and avgas, he was pretty well set-up for racing.

    Sadly, an air of tragedy hangs over the year 1955, as it was then that Thunderbird met her premature demise in a crash near Scott's Bluff, Nebraska. Torma's '34 acquired the image of a Navajo Thunderbird in tribute. A little bit later, Torma took some advice from Art Chrisman and swapped his Flathead for a Hemi.

    He also turned the car into a time capsule, placing some mementos of the Bendix inside the ali door panels and lock-wiring them shut. These included the data plate from Thunderbird's original 1670-3 Packard Merlin, part of an old inspection plate from the blood red #46 Mustang (still owned by Mantz), a sticker for the 1949 National Air Races and a sepia photo of a Mustang with a chequered tail and the racing number 90, with the following script on the back:

    BENDIX RACE WINNER (P-51 MUSTANG)
    L.A. TO CLEV. PILOT JOE DEBONA
    $10,000
    470.136 AVE.
    4 HRS. 16 MIN. 13 SEC.
    NEW RECORD
    OWNED BY JIMMIE STEWART


    In '57, Torma graduated to Bonneville, where he ran until '64. In '64, the Reno Air Races started and Torma could go back to his old love, but what happened to the hot rod? Well, it sat around gathering dust until, earlier this decade, it found its way into the Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop to be restored to how it was in the early days of strip-burning and salt-flinging.

  6. #186
    Site Team
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    Quote Originally Posted by wannaB View Post
    giving this a bump in light of the "bandit"s recent passing.
    did anyone recognize the other guy?.
    I can't help thinking it looks like Norm Grabowski? Probably way off the mark but it's been a long week so far after the Hot Rod Drags.

  7. #187
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 40Stude View Post
    I can't help thinking it looks like Norm Grabowski? Probably way off the mark but it's been a long week so far after the Hot Rod Drags.
    spot on Mr stude

  8. #188
    Site Team
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    Well that's a surprise. I guess the old grey cells are still just about functioning then?

  9. #189
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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  10. #190
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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