Editor’s Note: We heard recently from Robert Pease, who alerted us that a few copies of Eric Zausner’s 1998 book, Spindizzies: Gas-Powered Model Racers, are still available, so we asked Pease and Zausner to share an excerpt from the book. Pease told us that while the book originally retailed for $300, he’s offering them on sale exclusively for Hemmings readers at $159, plus $10 shipping and handling. For more information, e-mail Pease or call him at 800-935-6913.
At a small antique show in the mid-1980s, I spotted an old red model of a race car, with a working “airplane” engine for power. I’d never seen anything like it, but it was irresistible – big, well made and obviously a real racer, but in miniature. The dealer said it was a “Dooling.” It didn’t mean a thing to me, but I bought it on the spot. I was hooked. I have now been collecting for over 10 years and I’m still learning and opening shipping containers packed with new surprises – even though I now have over 300 cars!
These miniature vintage racers are also diverse – from early midget and Indy cars to sleek streamliners and innovative hot rods. Famous racers, big-time manufacturers and individual craftsmen of unparalleled talent combined to create a diversity of models that is staggering. And racing improved the breed.
From its start in the late 1930s until the hobby almost withered away in the mid 1950s, these miniature racers evolved as rapidly as cars in the real world – more powerful engines, more sophisticated suspensions and drive systems and improved aerodynamics. Spindizzies are a unique combination of racing history, Americana, art and automotive technology – and it doesn’t take an aircraft hangar to house your collection!
This book has four very different objectives. First, it’s a “cocktail table” book for car nuts, with lots of large full-color pictures. Second, I hope it will be a useful reference source, with all the major cars available to the author documented with pictures and key identification facts. Third, the early chapters highlight the evolution of the technology and paint a picture of some of the leaders in the hobby. Last, but not least, for the first time, an extensive summary and display of English and European models is presented.
Finally, a word about the title. These cars raced initially on a tether (cable) anchored to a central pivot, and as speeds increased one needed to spin around to watch them – just like flying a model airplane with the same dizzying sensation – hence the nickname “Spindizzies.”
The earliest existing Spindizzy known to the author. First constructed and run by Colonel Alexander in 1936. Now with a circa 1940 Ohlsson engine and Dooling Mercury nose piece that he installed. Jamie Miller was the driver of Alexander’s real Indy racer. This model was acquired from Alexander’s daughter, Martha Alexander Tull.
A huge, mid-1930s handmade “board track” racer. It is constructed completely of tin sheetmetal and measures 28″ overall, with a water-cooled engine and a flywheel-driven water pump and fan.
A pair of original, front-drive Bunch Speed Demons, both with the early friction drive. The original box is for the yellow car, which has a wood frame and body. The red car has a sheetmetal body. The hood ornament is the lead “Scotty” dog from an early Monopoly game.
Some very low production proto class cars: Owens, Riff, Ivey and Squirt.
Ed Tate’s “D&D Special,” a one-off with a very unusual grille and powered by a Sato four-stroke, overhead-cam engine.
Highly modified versions of the Roadrunner hot rods manufactured in 1947: Don Edmunds’ personal racer the “Hula Hut,” a sectioned and channeled model called the “Gambler” also by Edmunds and the SoCal Special by Giovenale.
Four streamliners by Garold Frymire that are powered with 10cc, 5cc, 2.5cc, and 2cc gasoline engines. Exhaust pipes were “tuned” in length to efficiently extract exhaust gases. Frymire has built about 320 streamliners for competitors around the world.
Roy Richter’s “102″ cabin car, which won the National Rail Championship at 67.8 MPH in 1941 and was awarded the trophy shown.
Two of Rose Allen’s race cars. She raced extensively in the mid-1940s in Northern California. Her original “racing box” was typical of those used to carry the cars and all needed spares, etc.
Frank Pawlikowski’s most famous car. It won two national championships, one international championship in the late 1940s and was undefeated in three years.
Barney Korn’s original dynamometer built in 1939, which can test the performance of either front- or rear-drive models.
1940-1941 Korn Indianapolis
1947 Reuhl Deluxe
1944-1945 Smith Car
1946-1947 Borden Teardrop streamliner
1950 Coval Midget prototype
Railton, Jr. by Dutra
With thanks to http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2012/03/19/spindizzies-gas-powered-model-racers/