I'm Jim Marlett. I'm a baby boomer from Wichita, Kansas.
If you want to see pictures first, here is my '53 Ford Coupe from about 1967 or '68 and me from about '66 just getting started on the flatty that powered it.
Like many young men, I was interested in drag racing in my high school and college years. This was in the mid to late 1960s, which I think was the most exciting time of the sport. In that time we saw dragsters crack the 200 mph barrier, the "gasser wars," and the birth of funny cars, to name a few milestones of the sport.
For whatever reason, I was interested in flathead Fords. These were way out of date even in those days. Still, there was a degree of competition available.
Like a lot of folks, I began by racing my street car. It was a '53 Ford coupe which I bought with an eye toward racing. Being a poor college student, I simply couldn't afford to build a dragster, so the stock classes were my option. Eventually, with a partner, Dwain Winters, I was able to build the '53 as a race only car for an AHRA stock class and ultimately, we set the American Hot Rod Association mile per hour record with it.
AHRA stock classes were hardly stock. We were not permitted to port or polish, valves had to stay the stock size, heads had to be stock, we were limited to 0.060" overbore, couldn't stroke, had to use an original equipment manufacturer's intake manifold, and if the car came with a 2bbl carburetor, it had to use a 2bbl carburetor, although it could be a different make. Just about everything else was fair game.
The engine was a 239 ci flathead bored 0.060" over with Ford EAB heads. Sheetmetal head gaskets were used to up compression ratio a little. Everything was balanced and blueprinted. We used a Rochester 2CG carburetor with a home made wooden adaptor, an Isky 1017 cam, Jahns pistons, 10" clutch with a pressure plate with no counterweights, home-built individual tube headers (made by my partner who had just been taught to weld by his dad), traction bars made from discarded metal table legs, and who knows what all else. I do remember that exhaust collectors were required for the class, so we wrapped one side of the header pipes with sheet metal from an antifreeze can and the other with a juice can. It met the rules. We couldn't afford a 4 speed transmission, so the original 3 speed was it. In all, we spent a total of about $1,000. Not bad for a record holder.
And that record? It was an earth shattering 76.07 mph. No, it didn't turn heads even back in those days. After all, that was when the speed limit on the Kansas Turnpike was 80 mph. We didn't hold the ET record, but the car ran in the 17s - quicker than the class above it.