The Dork-O-Motive Podcast hosted by Brian Lohnes is a research driven, story fueled, mechanically stoked look at the machines, people, and history that make up the modern mechanical world. Whether it's the stories of the men and women who have done amazing things in racing, the machines that roar around tracks and shape the Earth, or some bizarre mechanized history, Dork-O-Motive is here to bring you the story in a fun, well-researched, and informative way!
Many people believe that since the early 1950s, the National Hot Rod Assocaition has had the dominant spot in the sport of drag racing across America. Those people would be wrong. See, in 1958 Wally Parks was facing the biggest threat he would ever encounter with respect to the NHRA that he had founded and started in the early 1950s. It was a corporately backed organization called the Automotibile Timing Association of America and they had the money, the savvy, and the media horsepower to knock the NHRA off its perch and were on the verge of doing so in 1958. Then, a funny thing happened. In March of 1958 at a conference of drag strip operators, Wally Parks stood before them and made the shocking announcement that the NHRA and ATAA would merge. All operations would be run under the NHRA name as directed by him. All of the massive ATAA membership would immediately transfer to the NHRA banner, and that would be that. It was, in effect the greatest coup in drag racing history. One that set the stage for the sport's unification and explosive growth through the 1960s. There were other organizations, but they all paled in size and scope when it came to the NHRA.It's a story of money, a botched beauty contest, and plots twists that you'll never see coming. Wally won in the end and somewhere he's still smiling about it.
Just before 9 A.M. on Friday, May 13th, 1949 a truck carrying unstable and dangerous chemicals exploded inside the Holland Tunnel's Southbound side while traveling out of New York City. Instantly, a disaster broke out with multiple trucks catching fire and the 100+ cars behind the mess grinding to a halt. Within scant minutes, heroic tunnel personnel were rushing people and cars out of the tunnel so fire crews could run in at the blazing inferno. Temperatures skyrocketed as trucks continue to explode and burn with the peak being recognized by engineers and those studying the disaster after the fact at some 4,000-degrees F. As the brave crews battled the fire, trucks, telecommunication lines, and even the ceiling supports melted. 650-tons of rubble were left on the floor of the tunnel when the fire was completely extinguished.But no one died at the scene. Not only that, the tunnel was back in operation just 56 hours later like nothing had happened! This is an amazing story of a fire, a tunnel, bravery, and the get it done attitude of 1949 America. A truly miraculous disaster.
Back in 1940s and 50s America it wasn’t a question if the forest should be ripped down, it was a question of how quickly that pesky forest could be dispatched with and who could figure out the best way to do it.
The sinking of the SS Sultana in 1865 to this day stands as the greatest maritime disaster in the history of the United States. More people died in the middle of the Mississippi river on an April night than would die some 50 years later on the Titanic in the depths of the North Atlantic. This is a story of steam, a story of greed, a story of sadness, and a story of the astonishing lengths some people will go to make a dollar. Incredibly this nightmare is known by very few people in America. At the time that it happened, the civil war had just ended and 1,700 people dying in a night was not large enough news to displace stuff like the end of the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln, and other large moments in history that were all happening at the same time. In this show host Brian Lohnes tells the story of the nightmare, reveals the characters involved, talks 1860s technology, and explains how a boat rated for 376 people ended up with nearly 2,000 rebased former Union POWs jammed onto it. This is truly one of the most macabre and stunning mechanical disasters in America history.
This was the fastest machine in the world in 1932. It had 45-mph on Sir Malcom Campbell’s land based monster, it had 172-mph on Gar Wood’s boat that packed four massive Packard airplane engines and let’s not even waste our time on locomotives of the day. It was piloted by a talented, daring man who a decade later would become one of America’s greatest war heroes and it was constructed by a group of brothers during a 90-day thrash in an abandoned dance hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.The plane was a hot rod of the highest order before the phrase was coined. The machine was called the Gee Bee R1 and it was destined to become a race winner, a widow maker, and one of the most celebrated planes of the great era of air racing in America.Its pilot was Jimmy Doolittle, a man destined to become one of the greatest war heroes America has ever known in the 1940s for leading the daring and near suicidal Tokyo Raid. He was among the best pilots in the world in 1932 and that was good because had he not been, this airplane would have killed him dead at the first chance and it tried. This is a story written in horsepower, risk, and blood.
Art Arfons was the world's land speed record holder three times in the 1960s. He was the first man over 150mph on a drag strip, he was a world's champion tractor puller, and he did it all by himself, using his brain, his hands and very few dollars.This episode of the Dork-O-Motive podcast celebrates the life and times of this amazing America, a man some argue is the greatest hot rodder of all time. The story is told through period stories, period audio, and interviews with guys like Humpy Wheeler, author Samuel Hawley, historian Bret Kepner, and Art's son Tim Arfons. This is one of the most in-depth studies on the life of a man who was so brave and brilliant, you'll be blown away by the end of the show.Arfons is a personal hero to anyone who has ever taken on bucks with their brain and won. From his drag strip exploits to his triumphs and failures on the Bonneville Salt Flats, we hope you enjoy the story of this legendary man and the legendary machines that he created. This is his story.
In the 1960s New York City had a problem. The buildings and growth of Gotham had outstripped the ability of the fire department to battle the potentially massive blazes they might confront. This all came to a head on a windy day on Staten Island. The massive blaze wrought destruction on the community and is still spoken about today. Black Saturday prompted a brilliant mind to approach the city with a fire fighting engineering exercise that seemed like something out of a book. The proposed was a pumper engine was powered by a Deltic locomotive engine, could throw 10,000 gallons of water per minute. The pumper had a cannon with 600ft of range, could simultaneously feed five independent pumping units at a time, and drew water from the sea up to mile away while fighting fires in the city during its life. This hulking beast was a massive success working for more 20 years, answering thousands of calls, and providing the frontal assault needed to battle fires large and small in places where getting water was an issue and where the lives of brave men were at stake. A beautiful beast!
It seems incredible by the standards of 2020, but the 1903 Paris to Madrid Race was such an incalculable calamity and had amassed such a loss of life that it was cancelled after the first day. In an era when the most powerful cars in the world made less than 100hp how could this happen? Too many people, too few rules, too little knowledge of what these machines were capable of, and ultimately no precedents to follow. One day of racing set motorsports back nearly three decades, claimed the lives of internationally famous businessmen, soldiers, and kids. Four classes of cars scheduled to leave a Parisian palace at 3:30am turned into a spectacle the likes of which the world had never seen before and was fearful of ever seeing again. Through the sounds of the cars that were there, the first hand accounts of competitors, and the news reporting that was done around the world, we tell the story of the 1903 Paris to Madrid Race, or as it was known then, "The Race To Death".
The Vulcan Shuttle is one of the most infamous cars in drag racing history. A virtually stock bodied VW Beetle with a solid fuel rocket engine for power, it was built and campaigned by Raul Cabrera and Ron Poole. Ultimately Poole was killed in the car but only after several seasons of successful exhibition competition and more than 100 runs. The history of the car is incredible and the men behind this wild creation were brilliant. Too often dismissed as a Darwin Award winner, this is the real story of the brains and the guys who designed and built the first solid propellant rocket powered car in United States history and raced it all over the country. The Vulcan Shuttle story ends badly but not in the way you think. We believe you'll have a newfound respect for the ingenuity and talent of the men who built and raced this machine after listening to their story.
It was called, "The Race of Two Worlds" and it was one of the neatest racing spectacles ever devised. The premise was simple. American Indianapolis racers vs the best European Formula One teams on the speed oval at Monza, Italy. The speed course at Monza was a near identical copy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway but with increased banking. The course was so similar it was nicknamed, "Monzanapolis". Accepting the challenge to run what would certainly be the fastest and most dangerous race in the history of the automobile, a brave team of American drivers and car owners shipped their machines to Italy, ready to take on the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and even high performing endurance sports cars from Jaguar. This was truly a clash of cultures, a clash of engineering, and a clash of horsepower. Through vintage audio and race details, host Brian Lohnes gives you the whole story behind the story!
Sometimes all the wrongs do make a right and this story is proof. Two guys with the wrong car, the wrong background, and the wrong approach somehow managed to break a record that had stymied the best engineers, had killed the best racers, and had challenged the most famous racing series' in the world in 1961. Bob Osiecki and Art Malone teamed up to set the closed course speed record at over 180mph at Daytona. They used an old used up Indy car with a supercharged Dodge 413 engine built by Ed Iskendarian and Malone conjured up driving skills no one knew he had. As a drag racer Malone was awesome, a lifelong friend of Don Garlits he set the record on Garlits' car after a bad fire in the late 1950s. Bob Osiecki's engineering brilliance, ability to call in help from Georgia Tech, and trust in his speed demon driver all resulted in one of the neatest automotive stories ever.
It was the racing party to end all racing parties and it happened at the 1974 US Grand Prix in an area of Watkins Glenn International Raceway known as the Bog. A muddy area that was virtually cheap to inhabit all weekend long with no rules and less security turned into a booze and drug fueled hellscape of crashed cars, crashed people, and ultimately a burning Greyhound bus. It is a story of fun, of escalating craziness, and of a scene that literally reached its zenith on a hot weekend at The Glen. The contrasting story here is that the 1974 US Grand Prix was a wild race where Emerson Fittipaldi locked up his first Formula One world championship. There was, like so often at this time in history death in the race as well. The whole story is told through the recorded history in newspapers, racing magazines and more. You'll be reminding yourself that this is a real thing that happened multiple times during the telling of this story. They truly partied like hell.
This is the awesome and improbably story of how a 23-year old speed shop counter worker became the last guy to ever win top fuel at a national event in a front engine dragster. From the car's history with Don Prudhomme to the bizarre raceday turns of events that made it all happen, host Brian Lohnes tells you the story and gives you the details that you don't hear anywhere else. In 1971 when Don Garlits perfected the rear engine dragster and won multiple national events, the world knew that a new era had dawned. By 1972 it was a full on flood of rear engine cars making the slingshots look all but obsolete. As the racing gods are want to do, though. A final curveball would be thrown at the sport's heavy hitters on a strange weekend in Montreal, Canada. This is one of the most fun drag racing stories ever. Long live the dinosaurs!
The story of Turbonique, the most insane speed parts company in the history of cars is amazing. it involves a NASA consultant, an obsession with hot rodding, dangerous fuels, deception, mail fraud, and prison time. It also involves rocket powered automotive speed parts that were sold to the general public for the span of a half-decade, many of which propelled cars down drag strips to astonishingly quick elapsed times. Bolt a thrust rocket to your go-kart? Sure. Bolt a rocket axle to your Chevelle? Sure. Crash at 150mph? It happened. Here's a detailed look at the Turbonique story with period audio, quotes fro magazines, quotes from court documents, and some of the very words that landed company founder Gene Middlebrooks in federal prison on mail-fraud charges. A story so weird that it HAS to be true.
There are strange days at the drag strip and then there are days you wish you never went to the drag strip. One of those days occurred at the 1975 NHRA LeGrand National at Sanair Super Speedway outside of Montreal, Canada. This was the only NHRA National event contested in Canada and was run at Sanair into the 1990s. Anyway, this is the funny and semi-painful story of a pre-race ceremony gone wrong, a classic airplane, a beauty queen, and one fed up NHRA competition director. If you can believe it, they did not just have one airplane incident on this day but rather two of them!Truly one of the funniest drag racing stories you'll ever run into...whoops, bad choice of words.
The sport of drag racing has many strange stories woven into its history, but perhaps none stranger than that of Broadway Freddie DeName. A funny car racer, a car thief, and ultimately a mafia killer for the most infamous crew in American history. DeName was a 4th grade drop out who could not read or write, but he was a brilliant mechanic. Through historical research, interviews with people who knew and raced with him, and police records we piece together the mafia controlled New York of the 1970s, a funny car career that lacked any semblance of success, and a man who's life ranged from the bizarre to the downright evil. This is a story of crime, drag racing, money, honor, and ultimately sadness. The man who lived a mafia life and a funny car racer's life at the same time.
In one of the weirdest promotions of all time, Diamond REO shipped a brand new prototype dump truck to Africa in 1967 and pre-ran the entire route of the East African Safari Rally. This was an insane feat of endurance and strength as the rally was basically a 3,000 mile trip on dirt roads with dangerous bridges, narrow roads, mountain terrain, and outright peril. Three guys drove the truck the whole way and they managed to finish the route with an claimed average speed of about fifty miles per hour. Is that true? Who knows, but there's loads of evidence that these are some of the hardest core dump truck drivers who ever lived. A Detroit Diesel engine and a 13-speed Road Ranger transmission powered the rig over hill and dale. Incredibly a documentary film was made about the whole adventure. Here's the story of the weirdest dump truck drive of all time.
Captain Jack McClure is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of American motorsports. A racer, a daredevil, and as brave a human that has ever lived, McClure's ticket powered life is the stuff of legend. Listen here as Brian Lohnes shares his story with period facts, period audio, and the most detail his story has ever been told with. Jack McClure did many things but the fact that he raced a hydrogen-peroxide rocket powered go-kart for years and lived to tell the story is the best. Making 200mph runs at strips all across the country, McClure defied physics in front of millions of fans during this career. A boat captain when not drag racing, a racer who competed at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a man who's real life exploits are better than any novel, you'll dig this story of American ingenuity and guts.
It was billed as the most expensive demolition derby in history. Vehicles like a Rolls Royce, Cadillac Eldorado, and loads of late model cars were pitted in a battle to the death in the LA Coliseum preceding an Evel Knievel motorcycle jump. Incredibly race drivers like Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, and Bobby Unser drove in it and all lost. This is the first Dork-O-Motive "Short-o-Motive" a quick look back at an awesome and obscure event in gearhead history. Enjoy!
Mario Rossi was one of the smartest, most innovative, and hard scrabble crew chiefs in NASCAR history. His brilliant thinking and approach to racing is still applied in today's modern NASCAR world. Rossi nearly pulled off the greatest NASCAR upset of all time at the 1971 Daytona 500 with driver Dick Brooks. Relive that amazing moment with period audio in this podcast. Sadly, Rossi's story does not have a happy ending. He disappeared under cloudy circumstances in 1983. What happened? You decide. Host Brian Lohnes takes you through Rossi's incredible career, his amazing near success at Daytona 1971 and his shocking and mysterious disappearance in the early 1980s. Unquestioned on the race track, his story ends with thousands of questions.
Back in 1959 Rodger Ward completed the greatest upset in American racing history when he drove a dirt track midget on a road course and beat the best sports cars and sports car racers in America at their own game. The event was held at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and the short circuit was the perfect setting for the little midget to get the job done. Host Brian Lohnes tells the story with the depth and historical perspective that you just cannot get anywhere else. This is an awesome tale of a great driver, a strange car, and a shockwave that went straight through the auto racing world. How did the two time Indy 500 winner and national hero pull this one off? You have to listen to find out!
On this first episode of the Dork-O-Motive Podcast, host Brian Lohnes tells the story of how NASCAR great Fireball Roberts raced a Ferrari at the 1962 24 Hours of LeMans and nearly won! This is the story of a talented driver, a unique car owner, and a leader of NASCAR who was seeking to get his organization international acclaim. Few people remember Roberts' foray into sports car racing nor how good he was at it. You'll learn the history of this great story, all the players involved, and how a near miracle was turned by a souther fried racer and his professional opera singing co-driver. A true racing story for the ages with historical documentation and quotes to back it all up. Researched, explored, and explained. That's the Dork-O-Motive way!