Hot Rodding Pioneer Barney Navarro and His Ground-Breaking Model T Race Car, Then and Now

Hot Rodding Pioneer Barney Navarro and His Ground-Breaking Model T Race Car, Then and Now

Barney Navarro’s legend has been handed round for generations now. It’s the basic story of a panoramic imaginative and prescient, bulldog willpower, and goal-oriented self-discipline. His pursuits and accomplishments ranged far past the realm of scorching rodding, but have been largely the results of classes discovered on the sanctified dry lakebeds of southern California.

Younger Navarro was already an esteemed high-performance engineer and machinist when he first rolled onto the sacred silt. That’s the place this chapter of his odyssey started, on November 16, 1941. Early that morning, Navarro pulled the rowdy flathead V8 from his day by day pushed ’39 Ford sedan (outfitted with shaved heads and the primary ever Weiand dual-carb high-rise consumption manifold) and swapped it into Bud Swanson’s T roadster. That afternoon, Navarro turned 107 mph on the final Muroc dry lakes meet earlier than World Struggle II put the kibosh on racing actions there. However his theories and arduous elements have been now formally documented entities. From that day, the legend was validated.

A typical early 1950s lakes scene for Barney Navarro and his No. 31 roadster, apart from the atypically static Navarro, sidelined with some torched pistons. That’s Tom Beatty and spouse Frankie within the background with Beatty’s notorious “Rust Bucket” T.

Throughout his stint within the Military Air Corps (1945-1947), Navarro rigorously thought-about all angles of producing an aftermarket consumption manifold of his personal design for the Ford V8. Upon returning to his civilian house base of Eagle Rock, California, he carried out these plans, hastening the start of Navarro Racing Gear. He was in enterprise, which meant his firm would wish an applicable car to showcase its merchandise. This cellular public relations consultant would additionally double as a research-and-development software.

So it got here to be that, for a number of enchanted years (roughly 1947-1953), Navarro’s device of selection was a humble ’27 Ford Model T roadster, thrashed collectively in a four-day frenzy with greatest pal (and fellow Glendale Stokers automotive membership member) Tom Beatty. The resultant racer would finally show itself to be a useful utensil that expedited the evolution of postwar excessive efficiency.

Bernard Julian Navarro put the recent rodding group on discover, circa 1925: He’ll race smarter than you. Mother Olga cheered him on, as sister Delores offered ballast.

Inside No. 31

Navarro and Beatty had been wrenching collectively since earlier than becoming a member of the Glendale Stokers in 1940, so once they swaggered into Navarro’s roadster venture (all 4 days of it) in October of 1947, they did so with assured abandon. They laid the inspiration with a pair of Essex framerails related by way of tubular crossmembers. A token roll bar was later added for extra chassis rigidity. Suspension consisted of principally inventory Ford elements: Model 40 entrance axle with ’46 spindles, Houdaille shocks, spring-behind-axle split-bone association, ’34 rearend with Four.11 Halibrand quick-change held on shortened radius rods, and so on. A 6-gallon struggle surplus gasoline tank fed the monster. Probably the most unique merchandise was a Franklin steering field. The engine was situated as far aft as was possible, leaving scant elbow room for the lanky Navarro.

In fact, the engine was the focus, and it didn’t disappoint. After prepping the standard-bore 59A block, Navarro turned to Charlie Braden at Norden Machine Works to help with development of a 180-degree manganese-molybdenum crank, floor down from the inventory stroke to a svelte Three inches, netting 176 inches of high-winding displacement (good for the SCTA’s A/Modified class). The 180-degree principle was an try and counteract the flathead’s inherent exhaust movement roadblocks, and hopefully cool the inferno within the siamesed exhaust ports.

Barney Navarro’s first timed run on the dry lakes was at Muroc in 1941. An unlimited subject of entrants restricted him to this single move on that day, however his homebuilt flathead V8 powered Bud Swanson’s T roadster to a good 107 mph. In a 2006 interview with Henry Astor, Navarro recalled his pleasure: “When I took off with that thing, I couldn’t hold the clutch down. My leg was jumping up and down! The car wasn’t very stable. It didn’t have enough caster in the front, and the back end wanted to come around and meet the front. I couldn’t find enough wedges to wedge the front axle, so I stuck some end wrenches between the spring and axle.”

Navarro then approached his greatest pal and mentor, Ed Winfield, for a custom-ground metal billet cam, that includes lobes configured to coincide with the 180-degree crank’s altered firing order (1-Eight-Three-6-Four-5-2-7). Skeptical of curler lifters, Navarro opted to machine his personal mushroom tappets, declaring, “A flat or mushroom lifter gives a quicker lift with less spring tension and no side thrust.”

Navarro designed and forged an consumption manifold to accommodate a GMC Three-71 blower, fed by 4 Stromberg 48 carbs driving a really trick adapter manifold (that includes hidden inner airways to chill the gasoline cost). 4 V-belts spun the blower, whereas a fifth drove the water pump. Regardless, belt slippage nonetheless prohibited the blower from reaching its potential, so Navarro drilled the faces and V-sections of the aluminum pulleys to advertise some cool airflow, which improved belt traction considerably. Deck surfaces have been topped with a pair of Navarro cylinder heads.

Store worker Bob Trammel’s T roadster sits oblivious to an approaching twister: This automotive was the primary to check Navarro’s supercharger package deal. Navarro put in his Three-71 GMC blower on Trammel’s 268-inch flatty and copped a 143-mph timing tag at El Mirage. Then the automotive was pushed to Montana, the place you would just about identify your worth for a California roadster with a 143-mph SCTA timing tag hooked up.

The 176-inch screamer produced 270 hp at 6,500 rpm on the dyno, however in competitors it routinely sang soprano at Eight,000 revs, producing much more horsepower and spooking a litany of cautious drivers (of which Walt James was most profitable). At these rpm’s, the pistons and rods swinging from the 180-degree crank primarily balanced themselves. (A later model of this engine, constructed with Don Yates, produced 413 hp on nitro, because of the far superior Gilmer belt drive meeting).

The 176er was backed with a ’39 Ford trans, directing torque to the Halibrand quickie. This assemblage was coated with some ’27 T roadster physique panels that Navarro had found in a gully close to his Eagle Rock residence. Metallic shaper extraordinaire Artwork Ingles (an worker at Kurtis Kraft) ironed out the most important wrinkles and fabbed the hood prime and aspect panels, nosepiece, bellypan, and even forged the aluminum grill. Navarro ultimately coated the carcass with ’47 Ford maroon lacquer in a mud flooring shed behind the store, and declared the undertaking to be carried out.

Navarro purchased this Three-71 GMC unit from Kong Jackson for $60 and tricked it up earlier than he even had a automotive to place it on. The housing required solely miniscule inner machining to permit free-spinning rotors to supply 16 kilos of increase in 1948. Carbs rode sidesaddle to accommodate packaging. Navarro advised Henry Astor, “I don’t know where [Jackson] got it. It was after the war, and I was working at the [Hedreich Bros.] die shop. So I took the blower down there and made all the pieces for it there.”


Initially meant to run the California Racing Affiliation’s dust ovals (which it did), the roadster proved versatile sufficient to pound any course it was aimed toward. On the 1948 season opener at El Mirage, the Navarro roadster set a 136.77-mph document. By season’s finish it was netting 146s. On the inaugural Bonneville Nationwide Velocity Trials in 1949, it went 147. And when a bearing seizure pretzeled a financial institution of connecting rods throughout an oxygen injection check on the 1950 Fall Finals meet at Bonneville, Navarro hacksawed the twisted rods right down to their primary caps, reinstalled the battered cylinder head, added some cardboard aero by way of previous StaBil oil cartons, and surprised the troops with a 78.76-mph O/Streamliner document blast in his now 88ci flathead V4 streamliner. (A spirited Wally Parks is rumored to be the instigator of those shenanigans.)

It ought to be famous that Navarro was an absolute pragmatist. He put no worth on his report runs, aside from the info gleaned and free promotion of his merchandise. He was there to check theories and remedy issues, interval.

When his first crankshaft expired after a single season of racing, Navarro collaborated with Norden Machine Works in 1948 to supply this 180-degree masterpiece, using a Three-inch stroke. The only-plane crank buzzed the flatty to eight,000 rpm effortlessly, because the rigidly mounted engine relayed dangerous vibes by way of the chassis and straight up Navarro’s backbone, prompting this statement of its first lakes run: “I watched the tachometer needle break off at the indicating end, and then the tail broke off due to the vibration coming out of the engine.” Regardless, Navarro additionally quipped, “But you could run it that way all day long.”

As its creator earned his stripes, so did the roadster finally obtain a race entry quantity on its doorways. Within the No. 31 roadster, superhero Navarro had custom-crafted his personal trusty sidekick, in essence a mechanically animated model of himself: in a position and outfitted for the duty at hand. Certainly, each automotive and proprietor earned icon standing all through the recent rod microcosm, as Navarro’s T was subjected to extra mad-scientist experimentation than docs Frankenstein, Moreau, and Jekyll mixed might have dished out. No. 31 not solely survived the torture, however excelled. It pitched dust clods on the inaugural CRA race (Labor Day, 1946) on the Gardena Bowl (later renamed Carrell Speedway), and even established a commanding presence on the first ever Santa Ana Drags regardless of grenading a rearend. All of that and a lot extra, whereas chugging down numerous alky cocktails and struggling brutal doses of blower increase.

The early 1950s discovered Navarro Racing Gear jammed in excessive gear. The roadster was nonetheless operating the lakes and salt, however the store was virtually too busy. Manifolds and cylinder heads have been promoting properly, custom machining orders have been widespread, and the gross sales and delivery chores have been fixed. Automotive magazines have been commissioning Navarro to put in writing month-to-month tech options (which he thought-about a practical various to purchasing promoting area). He was additionally in excessive demand as a check driver and elements improvement marketing consultant to producers across the globe. And he was now concerned in big-league powerboat racing, and even had an Indy automotive endeavor on the horizon. Heady stuff, however exhausting.

This paintings for a 1953 Hop Up journal advert portrays Navarro’s disdain for snake oil salesman varieties and their shortsighted “get rich quick” strategy to doing enterprise. Navarro Velocity Gear even went as far as to promote Moly Caps Engine Nutritional vitamins as a poke within the eye to such hucksters. Aimed instantly on the Spiegel household’s Newhouse Automotive advertisements, Navarro’s fake distributor was dubbed “Old Home Automotive Laboratories” (a play on Newhouse). Sarcastically, the molybdenum sulfide powder Moly Caps (oil components, priced at a greenback for a field of three capsules) bought like hotcakes worldwide. Go determine.

One thing needed to give, and the No. 31 roadster finally drew the brief straw. Navarro was already wanting previous scorching rodding, to the medical, digital, and development fields (amongst others). Sooner or later in 1953, the roadster was unceremoniously traded to “a guy from Fresno” for a extra sensible inventory sedan. Spouse Donna confirms, “He was done with rodding, and he just moved on.” And identical to that, the Navarro roadster evaporated from the high-velocity area it had categorically dominated.

A Wondrous Perpetuation

Within the spring of 1991, development contractor Scott Perrott was impressed to construct a street-legal monitor roadster in his Portland, Oregon, storage. Whereas looking for challenge elements, Perrott occurred throughout an advert within the April 1992 difficulty of Hemmings Motor Information for a stack of Model T physique panels styled akin to Barney Navarro’s previous No. 31. The package deal additionally included an Essex body. The physique elements have been painted blue, however the telltale edges of a Navarro Racing Gear decal beneath the paint was a promising omen. Comparisons with classic photographs confirmed a match with No. 31, proper right down to similar holes within the framerails.

World premiere of the Navarro Racing Gear four-day marvel at El Mirage in October 1948. With Navarro’s again towards the turtle-deck and steering wheel in his chest, entry and egress should have been difficult, by no means thoughts the shifting and steering chores. However these inconveniences have been discounted in lieu of attaining the absolute best weight distribution. The homely roadster wouldn’t seem like this for lengthy.

The vendor had bought the tin at California’s perennial Turlock Swap Meet and provided it to the Navarros, who waved it off as previous information. So Perrott hightailed it to Carson Metropolis, Nevada, and laid down $1,750 to gather the products. Upon returning residence with the tin, Perrott despatched pictures to Navarro, who confirmed the automotive’s pedigree and agreed to help the venture with suggestions, recommendation, and a private problem to Perrott. Perrott recounts, “Barney said the car was too complicated for anyone to comprehend. And I’ll confess, there were times during the restoration that I agreed with him.”

Perrott had now swerved from scorching rod builder to race automotive restorer. Because of some photographs in a Don Montgomery ebook, “I knew what it was supposed to look like,” he recollects. And from there, a life-changing two-year restoration odyssey unfolded.

Navarro’s T leads the pack right into a flip at Carrell Speedway. Deuce radiator shell and hood blister delete denoted No. 31’s filth monitor package deal. The outboard exhaust was solely used on filth ovals, to keep away from creating blinding mud storms (pipes exited framerails and tucked up underneath the chassis on the lakes). Supercharging was thought-about fairly unique presently, however was authorized if engine measurement was stored beneath 181 ci. Don Blair ran a Mercedes blower, and Navarro promptly adopted together with his Three-71 GMC. Navarro’s huffed workhorse dominated the sector. Walt James was Navarro’s designated speedway driver, nevertheless it’s arduous telling who was piloting the automotive on this shot. Maybe one in every of our educated readers can set us straight.

The physique (minus hood and nosepiece) bolted to the body with ease, additional confirming it as Navarro’s. The Artwork Ingles–crafted stomach pan and turtle-deck lid additionally slipped into place organically. The lacking Ingles trademark nosepiece (one in every of 10 that he crafted) was ultimately sniffed out and bought by Perrott.

As soon as the motor plate location was completely verified, chassis development commenced. The gifted Eric Sanders oversaw most of that motion in his Eugene, Oregon, store. The right 6.00-16 tires on 16×Four.5 ’48 Ford wheels have been bolted to ’46 Ford juice brakes and spindles. Then the dots have been related. Ultimately.

By June 10, 1951, paint was sprayed and dried, and was being weathered off at El Mirage. This blast earned Third Place honors within the A/Modified Roadster class, with a 113.636-mph velocity.

Navarro had bought his signature 176-inch engine to a Montana gentleman sooner or later within the 1960s, sans blower (which went to racer and Navarro worker Don Yates). So Perrott and firm have been resigned to re-creating the warrior flathead from scratch. The brand new engine can be comparatively delicate internally (to accommodate road use), however completely right visually. Regardless of rigorous analysis, some insidious engineering points of the engine construct introduced conundrums. For instance, recreating Navarro’s distinctive carb adapter and blower drive started with a “How did he do that?” from Perrott, prompting the drafting of machinist Bob Coutts into the venture. As soon as Coutts and Perrott reverse-imagineered the convoluted consumption system, the remainder of the drivetrain construct appeared comparatively simple.

The physique, drivetrain, and chassis tasks appeared to coincide in sync: Two years after hatching his plan, Perrott was driving No. 31. From the primary nervous check drive across the block to the flat-out runs on programs across the planet, Barney Navarro’s spirit has ridden shotgun with Perrott. Chauffeuring that phantom passenger round is a duty that Scott Perrott considers a humbling honor. It’s definitely valuable cargo. Legendary, even.

This uncredited spy photograph depicts emblematic lakes lore. Somebody should have procured a army surplus generator someplace alongside the road to energy that welder. Notice the oxygen injection setup hovering over carbs. Tubing from stacks related to in-car oxygen tanks.


Barney Navarro died on his 88th birthday, in 2007. His biggest pure present might have been that of farsightedness. Navarro possessed a wide-angle perspective that allowed him to prudently assess all elements properly earlier than approaching any problem. His backside line was simplicity. He advised writer Paul D. Smith, “You don’t violate the laws of nature. You can’t; they’re inviolate. If you understand the basic physics, you have the problem beat. Now it’s a matter of ingenuity and figuring out the limitations of what the rulebooks allow you, working within those parameters.”

Navarro credit his science instructor at Glendale Excessive Faculty, Mr. DeBra, for an much more primary tenet that caught: “There’s nothing more fun than learning.”

Key elements of Navarro’s oxygen-injection system. Testing confirmed a 29.9 % improve in oxygen to be as highly effective as a 90 % nitro combine. A 30 % oxygen increase proved deadly to pistons. His commonplace oxy/alky combo bumped Barney’s velocity from 102 to 136 mph at one lakes meet. However Navarro was truly a stalwart opponent of liquid or gaseous energy adders, as a result of the gasoline and fuel automobiles have been all lumped in collectively at early lakes meets. Certainly, he perceived nitromethane to be “an unfair advantage. It wasn’t demonstrating mechanical skill, or utilizing the laws of physics. It was chemistry.”

Donna Navarro’s tackle Barney’s strategy to drawback fixing: “Even in high school they called him the Professor. Barney could be impatient at times. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. As soon as he solved one problem, he was on to greater challenges. He was very advanced in his thinking. His intellect was just astonishing!”

Navarro assessed his personal legacy in a 2007 Ken Gross interview. He stated, “I hadn’t planned all these things. There were serendipitous coincidences that provided me with opportunities, and I availed myself of them.”

Scott Perrott summarizes: “Barney was like a sophisticated Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. You could talk about anything with him, he was so knowledgeable.”

Cooling after a 106-mph run. Observe the roadster lastly has quantity, roll bar, and hood bubble. The ’32 radiator shell was changed with this Artwork Ingles nosepiece in 1949. The roadster’s race quantity denotes a 31st place in SCTA’s season factors tally (Navarro strongly most popular his earlier No. 9 signage). Dry lakes pit parking was informal: wherever you coasted to a cease.The unassuming Navarro Racing Gear storefront at 5142 San Fernando Street in Glendale includes a mocked-up flathead for window bait. Thieves made off with the partial engine anyway. Kong Jackson, Ed Winfield, Frank Kurtis, Doane Spencer, and different luminaries populated the identical cozy neighborhood.Contained in the store, Barney Navarro revels in his factor. This instance from 1948 presents a peek at Navarro’s concrete slicing noticed beneath improvement. It opened new prospects within the development business.

Barney and spouse Donna processed orders by way of phone from rodders around the globe. Donna additionally ran the mills and lathes when wanted. That’s Navarro’s six-cylinder Rambler Indy engine offering workplace décor at his final store (on Chevy Chase Drive) in 1993. This property was bought in 2008.Time and nature had taken a toll. The Panel Beater (in Eugene, Oregon) was the tin masseuse. Amongst different chores, he re-created the decrease Four inches of dissolved matter and managed a fair higher match to the Essex framerails. Dale Withers in Portland later squirted the ’46 Ford maroon enamel. And Portland scorching rod hero Roger Simonatti wired and detailed the automotive.Perrott’s 286ci tribute to Navarro’s mighty 176er, mocked up in his storage and virtually prepared for last meeting. The three-71 supercharger (constructed by Portland blower guru Gale Plummer) rides a Navarro manifold, in fact. Bob Coutts constructed the blower’s snout, drive, and carb manifold to Navarro’s specs. Heads are Navarro Hello Dome. Magazine is Harman-Collins. Perrot has Navarro’s unique headers and closely milled heads, slated for a future re-creation of the fabled 176er. Becoming a member of them will probably be Jahns pistons on Cunningham rods and a billet-steel clone of the Winfield SU1A cam. Navarro’s signature Norden 180-degree Three-inch-stroke manganese-molybdenum crankshaft has been approximated with a billet-steel unit from Moldex. And sure, this construct is Navarro Accepted.Again at The Panel Beater’s tin spa, the physique is recovering properly. This angle presents a uncommon peek on the aluminum Artwork Ingles stomach pan.

Barney Navarro was reunited with No. 31 at Muroc dry lake in 1996, because of Scott Perrott and associates. As Perrott rolled the roadster onto the lakebed, he heard Navarro’s distinctive baritone proclaim, “Hey, that’s my car!” Mission completed.The rules (left to proper): Barney Navarro, Scott Perrott, and Donna Navarro on the Navarro Racing Gear store on Chevy Chase Drive in 1996, following check runs on the Muroc Reunion. The automotive was introduced inside so Navarro might fine-tune the carbs.On July 14, 2005, many tangibles of the Navarro legacy have been scattered to the winds. The public sale was a tragic however mandatory purge. Mike Herman at H&H Flatheads purchased the Navarro model and a lot of the elements stock, however Scott Perrott acquired the Rambler Indy engine, and most of the people paid truthful costs for historic instruments and equipment.

An iconic race automotive restoration is widely known with a comfortable parking spot at a museum, proper? Mistaken. Race automobiles are supposed to be raced. Whereas it has carried out some temporary museum time, No. 31 prefers to kick up its heels. Perrott ran the course on the Goodwood Pageant of Velocity in 2000 (the place it was reunited with Tom Beatty’s stomach tank), tossed sand on the Race of Gents at Pismo Seashore in 2016, and closed the yr burning rubber on the Santa Margarita Ranch’s RPM Nationals drags.Whereas 17 bins of photographs, paperwork, and memorabilia have been being sorted via (thanks, Donna Navarro!), the shortage of timing tags turned obvious. Scott Perrott set us straight: “Barney had tons of tags. He considered them excellent shim stock.” Thriller solved. This tag was a uncommon survivor.The standard destiny of a Navarro timing tag.Based in 1940, the Glendale (nee Solar Valley) Stokers included scorching rod notables Invoice Davis, Doane Spencer, Frank Livingston, George Hill, Tom Beatty, and the Watson brothers, amongst others. Many years after Navarro made the molds for the plaques, he was introduced with this one by surviving membership members. It has by no means been mounted.The top. For now.

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