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Owned by Mal Hooper, built by Carl Fleishmann and powered by a Chrysler V8 prepared by Ray Brown, the Hooper-Brown streamliner, known as the Shadoff Special from the name of its main sponsor, a Pomona Chrysler-Plymouth dealer, was the last of three streamliners with a body shape designed by Dean Batchelor, and the most successful. Between 1953, the year of its debut, and 1960, when it ran for the last time, it set 15 FIA International records and 3 SCTA records, driven by three different drivers. That was the most consistent harvest of International records ever made by a car built by american hot-rodders. Perhaps even more significantly, this streamliner set new records in five over six years it actually ran.
Although it appeared on the salt a year later than the Hill-Davis streamliner, the two cars had been designed at around the the same time by Batchelor, later to become the most respected hot-rodding writer and historian, and his partner John Morris, which explains why they shared pretty similar, although not identical lines and even the overall dimensions, since they were designed to compete in the same engine classes. The main, obvious differences between the two were the rear-engined configuration and centered driver's position on the Shadoff, which allowed for a far more balanced aerodynamic behaviour and probably accounts for its longer and more successful career.
Hooper was not able to start building the car until early 1953 and that explains why the two cars appeared at different times. Like with the Hill-Davis streamliner, the body was made of fiberglass over a plaster handmade mold. Hooper himself built it with the help of Herb Francis. Mechanically, the Shadoff did not have any particularly advanced features, and its speed and reliability were mostly due to careful construction and an excellent aerodynamic design. The chassis was a fairly simple tubular frame, the suspension was by torsion bars all round with a tubular beam axle at the front, and a De Dion layout at the rear. Disc brakes were used, at the rear only. Drive was through a two-speed Warren quick-change rear end: after the 1953 runs two gears were deemed insufficient, so Fleishmann added a two-speed transmission mounted between the engine and the differential, thus obtaining a total of three forward speeds. Ray Brown built the engine, a Chrysler hemi sleeved and destroked to 301 cu in to fit in the class and producing about 325 HP.
(For those interested, a very accurate technical description of the Shadoff Streamliner can be found in the December 1953 issue of Hot Rod magazine)
The Shadoff Special made its debut at Speed Week in 1953. Although the team arrived late in the week, Mal Hooper made a qualifying run at 231.66 mph and although he could not set a record due to teething problems with the engine, the car won the Maremont Trophy for best design and construction. A good farewell and quite an anticipation of what the new car would be capable of achieving in its future career.
And success came quick, just a week later during the AAA International Speed Trials, attended by several of the cars that had just run at the SCTA Speed Week, like Chet Herbert's Beast, Hill and Davis', Fred Carrillo's odd-shaped streamliner and another of Herbert's Beasts, now equipped with a diesel engine by Dana Fuller. Mal Hooper drove the Shadoff Spl. to win all the flying start International records in FIA Class C for distances between 1 km and 10 miles. The kilo and mile records he took from the Hill-Davis Bob Estes sponsored streamliner, which was plagued with engine trouble and could not defend its records.
For 1954 the car remained virtually unchanged, except for the body color, now red instead of dark blue. Mal Hooper, resting on the laurels of his six International Records, left the wheel to Bob Bowen, who had worked with Ray Brown on the engine, for an attempt at the SCTA Class C record.
The car did not run for the next two years. When it reappeared in 1957, it was called the "C-T streamliner" (the only year it was not called "Shadoff Spl.") and was entered by Fred Lavell of Birmingham, MI, to whom Hooper had lent it, after installing a new, bigger 467 cu in Chrysler built by C-T Automotive. The original plan was to run for FIA International records once again, taking advantage of USAC timers who were at the Salt Flats for the MG EX-181 attempts, but the bad salt conditions that almost killed the british efforts made it impossible, so the car had to try its luck the next week in the SCTA Speed Trials. By then Lavell had to return to Michigan for his business and Don Clark of C-T Automotive, who was there to take care of the engine, decided to take care of the driving as well. New to driving very fast cars, he was very cautious at first, but then, once made confident by the perfect behaviour of the car, he managed to set a new SCTA Class D record at 248.281 mph.
In 1958 the Shadoff Special was back in Hooper's control and back at Speed Week, in the hands of Bob Bowen, still with the large displacement Chrysler installed the year before. It did qualify at 258+ mph, but engine trouble during the actual record attempt slowed it down and that ended up as the only year the car did not set any records at all.
For 1959 the car, now six years old, underwent a ground up rebuilt by Bowen, who was now in full charge of maintaining and running it, and a new 259 cu in Plymouth V8 with Dodge hemispherical heads, owned and built by John Wolfe, replaced the Chrysler, bringing the car back into class C. Smaller engine did not mean lower speeds though, and at Speed Week, after qualifying and missing the goal twice, finally Bowen set a new C class record at 251.74 MPH, with the fastest run at 258.24.
In 1960 Bowen decided to concentrate on International records rather than Speed Week and in early August he shared salt time and USAC timing with Athol Graham and his ill-fated City of Salt Lake streamliner. On August 2, in just two runs, Bowen easily grabbed all the FIA Class C International flying start records from 1 km to 10 km (salt conditions did not allow for 10 miles attempts that year). The engine was then quickly replaced by a 454 cu in Chrysler with C-T aluminum heads, owned by Jim Kamboor, and the next morning Bowen was ready again for a new attempt to FIA Class B records, most of which still belonged to Mercedes and Auto Union. In spite of cooling problems on the north run, once again Bowen managed to win four out of the five International records from 1 km to 10 km: he missed just the 5 miles by a fraction. The flying kilo record was an astonishing 273.68 mph and 272.11 was the speed on the mile: not bad at all for an eight year old machine, and a most significant achievement on which to close a glorious career.
© Ugo Fadini 2005
(Source: contemporary magazines)
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. km||235.87|
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. mile||236.36|
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 5 km||230.30|
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 5 miles||232.58|
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 10 km||231.95|
|Bonneville AAA Speed Trials||10 Sep 1953||Mal Hooper||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 10 miles||215.97|
|Bonneville SCTA Speed Trials||Aug 1954||Bob Bowen||SCTA||C/S||fl. mile||248.26|
|Bonneville SCTA Speed Trials||Aug 1957||Don Clark||SCTA||D/S||fl. mile||248.281|
|Bonneville SCTA Speed Trials||Aug 1959||Bob Bowen||SCTA||C/S||fl. mile||251.740|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||2 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. km||251.98|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||2 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. mile||252.22|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||2 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 5 km||247.95|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||2 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 5 miles||247.47|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||2 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, C||fl. 10 km||245.72|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||3 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, B||fl. km||272.11|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||3 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, B||fl. mile||273.68|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||3 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, B||fl. 5 miles||244.71|
|Bonneville, private time (USAC)||3 Aug 1960||Bob Bowen||FIA||Intl. A, I, B||fl. 10 km||233.23|
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