The Dork-O-Motive Podcast

An Automotive and History podcast
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In 1979 a promoter from Tennessee put on the first ever big rig super speedway race and it caused a national panic. The government, the trucking industry, the Teamsters, tire companies, and sponsors all tried to stop the event from happening. Only, they failed and it did happen. Predictions of the race being a "public suicide" or a "bloody spectacle" filled the nations newspapers. Truckers protesting the 55mph national speed limit and fuel shortages across the country were angry at the gross consumption of these 1,000hp diesel race trucks. It was crazy, it was bedlam, and it was the birth of a racing series that would run for nearly 20 years after its chaotic launch at Atlanta International Raceway in June of 1979.    Through vintage audio, interviews with Charlie Baker the winningest driver in the history of the series, Bobby Doerrer the announcer for the first several races, and a myriad of newspaper clippings from sources all over the country, we tell you the story of how a promoter used a tsunami of bad news and dire outlooks to propel his event into the history books of American racing.  14,5000lb trucks with 1,000hp on the high banks of Atlanta and the Indy of the West, Ontario Motor Speedway. It's so crazy that if we didn't have the proof you wouldn't believe the story!
In July of 1944 the Allies had a problem. Having landed successfully in France and established a beachhead, they had been stalled for weeks. Thankfully a fortuitous victory over the Germans opened up the line and Allied troops roared  across France, chasing the Nazis back to where they came from. This presented another problem.  With ports mangled, railroads destroyed, and all their stuff sitting on the beach war planners had to think fast to supply, feed, and fuel the armies fighting on the front lines. Their answer was one of the greatest single logistical feats in the history of war. They created the Red Ball Express and supplied multiple armies with more than 6,000 trucks working 24-hours a day on a closed loop highway system.  On this episode we tell the story of the Red Ball Express. How and why it was done, how it worked, how much stuff it managed to serve up, and why it was so key to the Allied successes in France during 1944. It is something that no other nation on Earth could have done at the time, but America did. This is an awesome story. Truckin' awesome if we may say so ourselves. 
For a span of about 25 years in America, the fastest racing venues in the country were not made of asphalt, concrete, or brick, but rather wooden boards. These tracks, which ranged from less than a half mile to two miles in length were quick and cheap to construct and drew fans by the tens of thousands. They also birthed the first generation of hero American race drivers that the country had ever seen.  Unfortunately, it killed the drivers about as fast as it made them legendary. Even worse, with banking angles that sometimes approached 50-degrees or more, the tracks killed spectators as well when cars and motorcycles would fly into the stands. The Motordromes were then called "Murderdromes" by the newspapers of the day.  From coast to coast, the tracks sprang up and the speeds grew and grew. The performances from drivers and motorcyclists are still nearly beyond belief today! This show tells the story of why the tracks were built, how the tracks were built, who built them, and why this bizarre racing supernova flashed so semingly fas t across the American racing landscape. This is this a story of suicidal speed and splinters. The story of American board track racing. 
On July 23, 1983 a Canada Air 767 with 61 passengers and eight crew aboard ran out of fuel while flying over a remote area of Ontario, Canada at 41,000ft. The pilot and co-pilot were able to take the airplane and glide to to a harrowing but safe landing on a drag strip in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada. The outcome was less a miracle and more an amazing example of expert pilot work from Captain Robert Pearson and co-pilot Maurice Quintal. But how did this happen? How did a modern airliner run out of gas halfway through a flight? How did this impossible scenario come to pass? A series of coincidental mistakes culminating with some bad math set the wheels in motion to produce the scenario that was and will forever be known as The Gimli Glider. This is the story about how some small breaks in communication, a mis-calculated math problem, and dauntless skill all combined to create one of the most fascinating stories in the history of modern aviation.  Think running out of gas in your car is annoying? Try it miles in the sky while trying to get hundreds of thousands of pounds safely to the ground!  
Between 1896 and 1935 a unique and bizarre series of spectator events occurred across America. Those events were the staged head-on collisions of steam locomotives done as profit making spectacles. Starting in earnest during September of 1896, there were hundreds of these wrecks completed with varying degrees of destruction, carnage, and human injury.    You may have heard of the "Crash at Crush" before but you likely don't know that Crush, Texas was not the first time this had been done. The famed wreck at Crush launched the practice into the national spotlight and proved that the huge undertakings could be as profitable as they were destructive.  In this podcast we examine the people, the places, and the things that lead to this very American activity becoming so popular and why it died a quiet death as a profit making enterprise in the middle 1930s. We tell the story of the times, the trains, and the consequences of taking tons of steam driven steel and iron and pitting it all against good sense and physics to make a dollar.  This is truly an odd tale of profit and performance art. 
Bill Lear will go down as one of the most incredible inventors of the 20th century. The man who created the car radio, miniature tuning coils for radios, who invented auto-pilot, radio guidance for airplanes, and the basic automatic landing system that is still in refined use today he also invented the 8-track tape, and his biggest accomplishment, The Lear Jet.  There is one area where he failed spectacularly at though. Bending the laws of physics. Later in life Lear became obsessed with steam engines and steam power to end pollution. He designed steam engines, and was planning on running the 1969 Indy 500 with a steam powered race car! It was a spectacular failure lead by a dubious English engineer who’s credentials fell far short of Lear’s. He would go on to create a working steam city bus among other things but the Indy 500 effort was really something.  Rich, eccentric, and seemingly unstoppable, the laws of nature ground Bill Lear to a halt and cost him the majority of the fortune he made in his life. This is the story, some of it in Lear’s own words, of how that happened. 
The 1927 Dole Air Race stands as one of the most bizarre and tragic events in the history of flight. Paid for by James Dole, the pineapple magnate, the race was designed to capitalize on the fame that came from Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic on a solo flight. The twist was that the people in this race were to fly from Oakland, California to Hawaii. 15 airplanes entered the race and the death toll was nearly a dozen lives by the time the event concluded. The intersection of bravery, ignorance, fame, and the chase for big money all came to a head at this event and it helped to shape the future of American aviation. Oh, it should be mentioned that the whole thing was rendered largely pointless just months and weeks before when multiple people completed the incredibly difficult flight across the Pacific ahead of the actual race. 
This is the story of one of the greatest engineering achievements of the  Victorian Age. It is also the story of a ship so far ahead of its time it was one of the greatest financial failures ever accounted in the modern world. At the time of its construction in the 1850s, the massive SS Great Eastern was the largest moving man-made object on Earth and was five times larger than the next largest ship.  In a tale of steam-punk meets real life, learn how this 692ft long iron beast used sails, paddle wheels, and the largest single propellor ever placed on a ship to drain the bank accounts of its investors and eventually connect the world in a magical new way.  She held 10,000 tons of coal in her belly, had steam engines weighing 1,300 tons powering her, and had room for 4,000 passengers. It was all for naught. Learn the how's, the why's, and the who's of this amazing ship in this episode.   
A couple of years ago, Buffalo got hammered with one of the all time record short term snowfall totals in American history. The seven feet of snow they got over the course of a day or two brought the city to a halt, brought the national guard out with as many machines as they can muster, and will long live in the lore of wild Buffalo lake effect weather. As brutal as this dumping on Buffalo was it looks like a minor inconvenience when compared to the disastrous winter that several midwestern/western states suffered during the end of 1948 and the beginning of 1949. Blizzards and storms piled up one after the next until an area virtually the size of France, over 190,000 square miles was completely snowbound. Since this was rural country and many of the people suffering were farmers that had livestock, there was definite concern for their health and safety. The direness of their situation was recognized all the way at the top of the governmental food chain and the 5th Army was mobilized to help. They started moving men and equipment into the area and set forth clearing roads, opening up paths in fields and getting livestock food and shelter. The fear was so great for the cattle that the Air Force was actually used to air drop baled hay into fields to feed the beasts. Despite the best efforts there were big losses of life when it came to the animal population. There are lots of dead cows shown in the film (take note cow lovers!). The operation commenced in earnest on January 29th, 1949 and was concluded on March 15th. At its height, more than 1,000 bulldozers were working at once to open roads, open fields, and free people from their icy bonds. Below you’ll find a link to the full government report that was written as a review of the operation by the 5th Army and the video from Allis Chalmers that documented the massive and valiant effort. It seems that some expense was laid out for this film as there is lots of ariel footage and a general feel of a decently budgeted production for the era. This was not a quaint romp through the snow. 115,000 miles of roads were opened, over 6,000 people were working simultaneously at the peak of the operation, four million head of livestock were fed and effectively saved from certain death, more than 1.2 million people were directly helped by this effort, and the cubic yards of snow moved, removed, and otherwise relocated number in the 10s of millions. A total of six people working in the operation died as a result of accidents and/or exposure to the elements. And that's what this episode is all about!
There was a time in America when the most famous person in the entire country was a lunatic with a motorcycle called Evel Knievel. His fame and his public bravery reached their outer limits on September 8, 1974 when Knievel tried to jump the Snake Rive Canyon in Idaho in what amounted to an unguided missile. The story of this jump, its promotion, and ultimate failure is something that will long live in American lore.   Through story telling, period text, and a load of period audio, you'll learn the story of this uniquely American event and how it all came unraveled long before Knievel pushed the fire button on his rocket. It was a defining moment in the career of Evel Knievel, a defining moment in America, and a story that's so insane with so many different twists and turns you likely won't believe it!
The story of how John and Horace Dodge helped get Henry Ford into business, made millions off of him, and then used his own profits to fund a competing car company is one of the most awesome in the history of the automobile. A very healthy business relationship devolved into an epic battle of ultra-wealthy guys trying to out maneuver each other in the courts and with money. There are clear winners and losers in this one and the fact that all of them, even the short-lived Dodge Brothers became wealthy beyond their wildest dreams is icing on the cake.  This is the story of how business was done 100 years ago and how even then, one man could not load an entire industrial colossus on his back and ignore his investors...even if those investors were using their own dividends to fund a company in the same business as they one they were profiting from. The capitalists and industrialists of the early 20th century were not the nicest guys in the world but the were smart, tough, and in so many ways fearless. Here's the story of the the Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford went to war on a battlefield paved in gold. 
Yes, Abraham Lincoln was a gearhead. The man who many still hold as the greatest President in the history of the United States is the only President to hold a patent and his legal work helped to lay the groundwork for the modern world of transportation as we know it. Back in 1849 Lincoln used the full strength of his mechanical creativity and smarts to create a system whereby stuck riverboats could lift themselves over sand bars and obstructions. While the device was never employed in real life, the government awards him a patent for the creation.  Along with the patent, Lincoln's work as a lawyer representing rail roads, bridge builders, and equipment manufacturers had a profound effect on how we move in this country and how mechanized our lives are today.  From a young man who hated splitting wood at the family cabin to the Great Emancipator, this is the story of how one guy not only stood in the leadership of a nation, but also stood in the leadership of that nation's future progress.  And now you know. 
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. Such was the case when the US Government put out a contract to clear 35,000 acres of forest in the wilds of Montana at the site of the Hungry Horse Dam projects. The mammoth dam would be used to help control the Flathead River and manage water in the Columbia River drainage area by creating a huge reservoir behind it. The physical dimensions of the forest area that needed clearing were huge, some 34 miles long and 3.5 miles wide at points. Basically it was 35 square miles in total. As you can imagine, clearing that much area in the wilds of Montana wasn’t a job that most people had ever considered completing before. While we’re not sure what they were proposing for a method we know that the two guys who came up with the winning formula were S.L. Wixson and John H. Trisdale of Redding, California. Their idea, never before seen at the time was to essentially tie two big bulldozers together with steel cable and use the the cable as a giant scythe, cutting down and ripping over anything on its path. The men figured that this idea would be the most cost effective and quickest way to get the land cleared within the parameters that the government set for the work to be done.
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!
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Podcast Details

Created by
Brian Lohnes
Podcast Status
Potentially Inactive
Started
Feb 29th, 2020
Latest Episode
Feb 21st, 2021
Release Period
2 per week
Episodes
34
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour
Explicit
No
Order
Episodic
Language
English

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