Turbocharging is the life for me: Part 1

My Dad was Irish and German.., talk about internal conflict. In the early 50’s we built a house. I measured, he cut and we framed. We brought it out of the ground together and we roofed it together. He was a perfectionist and the house was perfect. Except the time he tried to kill me with his 24oz Vaughn hammer, in that he was imperfect.., I could out run him. It seems that I screwed up a measurement. The German was angry and the Irishman tried to kill me for it.

Pop had mastered all the building trades except electrical, he had a buddy for that. I learned from them both. If that’s not enough, Pop was also one hell of wrench who happened to love boats.

In the mid ’50’s my brother, my Dad and I built a little ChrisCraft 18′ Cabin Cruiser. We named it the B-III. It was a post hole, with a Chrysler Ace flathead 6, providing the turns. We moored it at Holiday’s on Terminal Island, it never saw fresh water. Fortunately, I love blue water, so I was hooked.

Being a hot rodder back in the 50’s and living in Lynwood with boat guys like Joe Mandella, R&R, Rich Hallett, and others building hot inboards kinda set my direction. I opened up my engine and chassis shop on Atlantic Ave. with Keith Black up the street, Barris across the street, and Speed-O-Motive and Automotive Balancing Service right next door. Every engine builder of note sent his balancing to ABS, it was the first shop of its kind.

My first boat motor was a 6-71 blown Nail Head Buick. Jot Horne at Cragar helped cobble up the front cover and blower drive. That was 1965. So, come to think of it, I’ve been forcing air density into intake manifolds for 50 years.

The first time I ever saw a turbocharger was on an Allison V12 out of a P-38 Lockheed fighter. It was sitting on a skid at the entrance to Blackie’s Surplus on Alameda. I considered that engine to be part of the Magic that was Kelly Johnson and the Skunk Works. I wanted the engine, but I lusted after the turbocharger.

With a supercharger, the Allison powered P-51A had a combat ceiling of 15,000 ft. With a turbocharger, on the same basic engine, the P-38 had a service ceiling of 44,000′. On the spot I decided that, “turbocharging is the life for me”.

I also decided that I wanted to be known for turbocharging like Stu Hilborn was known for fuel injection. I wanted to be a pioneer, like Stu. Little did I know that within 15 years Hilborn Fuel Injection and Banks Turbocharging would come together in one remarkable and dominating boat racing effort. But let me take this story from the top…

I’ll be continuing this post tomorrow



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