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Art and George Walter's '32 Ford Coupe

by Joseph Alig and Stephen "Spike" Kilmer

(Excerpt from East vs West Showdown: Rods, Customs and Rails published in 2012)

notchopped

Channeled and not chopped gives a sinister stance to the Walter brothers’ intimidating drag Deuce.

History is where you find it and this is a captivating story of a surviving 1950s dragster from the original builders, Art and George Walter.

We were immediately awestruck by the Walter brothers’ drag Deuce at the Lehigh Valley Timing Association’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. George helped us record this special piece of Pennsylvania history.

 “I was brought up on a farm in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and became familiar with gas power and mechanical machinery such as tractors at a very young age. There were 14 children in the family, 9 of which were boys, who all helped on the farm.

 “Tractors had limited power, and it took a long time to plow a field, so I often thought that bigger would be better to get the job done quicker.

 “After Art and I obtained our driving licenses, we heard people talking about ‘souping-up’ car engines to go faster and quicker, which really caught our attention. After talking with some older friends, particularly our uncle Whitey, we learned about multiple carburetion, high-compression pistons, and high-performance camshafts.

 “Although I enjoyed watching car races a Hatfield Speedway, circular racing did not appeal to me, because of the crashes, injuries, and cost. Then, we heard about straight-line racing, or drag racing, as we call it today, which we could do with our cars.

 “In the early fifties, the most popular engine was a flathead Ford V-8. In 1953, my brother Art bought a ’32 Ford coupe from a friend, which had been modified (body lowered on frame). Everywhere he went, someone wanted to race him on the street, and the police noticed him also. (In those days the word ‘street rod’ was unheard of).

 “In about 1954, a group of young guys from the Landsdale and Phoenixville area decided to form a hot rod club called the Knight Rodders. (The McFarland brothers from Phoenixville were part of this group) Our goal was to make our group known as one interested in speed, but also safety minded.

 “We started reading Hot Rod magazines to find out what others were doing to improve the performance of their cars for drag racing. Through the magazines we learned about the NHRA, which was having a Hot Rod Safari. This was a group of guys who were going around the country obtaining permission to have organized drag-racing events sanctioned by the NHRA.

 “In 1955 we started hearing about organized drag races in Allentown, which were being held at an old airport and sanctioned by the NHRA. It was at that time we decided to see what Art’s car could do against others like the McFarlands’ car.

 “Since our funds were limited, we couldn’t buy what was available to make the car run faster, so we did the best we could with what we had. We did not even have racing slicks.

 “We started going to Safari sanctioned events. The first one was in south Jersey (an abandoned airport at Woodbine) then to Linden, New Jersey. These were called Regional Championship Events.

 “In 1955, Art purchased a wrecked ’55 Chrysler with a Hemi engine. We installed the engine, transmission, and rear differential into the ’32 Ford coupe. The first modification was gear ratios in the differential for quarter-mile drag racing and some multi-carburetion.

 “In 1956, I learned that I would be drafted into the military in the fall, so I encouraged Art to take the car to every drag race we could that summer. We were very successful in winning our class (B/Altered) at most events.

 “After I returned from the military in 1959, I started to make changes to the car to meet all the specifications for the B/Altered class, including the 25-percent setback of the engine. I then highly modified the engine: ported and polished the heads, installed large valves and high-compression racing pistons, made an eight-carb log manifold, installed a ’37 LaSalle transmission (which was the optimal choice for this period in time), installed higher-ratio gears in the differential, and purchased our first pair of M&H drag slicks.

 “In 1961, I started drag racing at the new Vargo Drag Strip in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, and was very successful in the B/Altered class. On some occasions we won Middle Eliminator. The track was only 20 minutes from our home.

 “In 1962 I got married, bought a house, and began a family. The coupe was parked in the back of the garage until 1989. One day, my teenage son asked about it, and suggested that we paint it and return it to its original state. The car could no longer be used for drag racing, since it could not meet modern safety standards, so it was decided to display it at car shows and cruise nights as a nostalgia drag car of the fifties and sixties.”

East or West, we all can appreciate the lesson in ingenuity. The Walter brothers’ utilitarian drag coupe is a snapshot in time when men raced with passion and not a pocketbook.

beastoftheeast

The 354-ci Hemi-powered “Beast of the East” engine was set back 25 percent and ran two log manifolds and eight carburetors. Yes, one for each cylinder.

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