1958: John Vesco and his "Little Giant" Bonneville streamliner powered by a model B Ford with Riley head engine.
When asked about his passion for racing, Rick Vesco once said, "It's all Dad's fault." Johnny Vesco's passion for the sport began in the early 1930's. His interest in Model T and A Fords led to a friendship with George Riley. The Model B Ford Four and the Riley Four-port head became John's love. He spent time at the Muroc, Rosamond and the Dry Lakes involved with everything from roadsters to belly tank lakesters (streamliners at the time). He also tried his hand at midget racing and track roadster racing with CRA after WWII. His greatest interest was the top speed straightaway racing of the Lakes. Teaming up with Jimmy Dinkins as driver and Tiny Tyler as pit crew, he set out to be #1 in the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). To accomplish that, they built a car in the 1940's that would eventually be classified a Streamliner. It was a highly modified aerodynamic wing tank. It took them five years to build and overcome numerous problems to reach their goal of SCTA Points Champions in 1953. The tank made its debut at El Mirage and Bonneville 1949. In 1954 at the Salt Flats, driver Jimmy Dinkins, turned the nitro valve on John's homemade fuel injector as the car approached the lights. The power boost was so great that it broke a rear axle at about 170 mph leading to a violent crash. John went back to the drawing board determined to build the safest streamliner possible. The project was completed in 1957 and the old 1932 Ford 4 was used as the power plant. This was the first of a new generation of streamliners with only a 24" tread width, front and rear. The car was 16 feet long. The SCTA officials said it would never work. It would "fall over". After much debate, the car #444 was classified as 'experimental' and allowed to run in controlled test runs. At the end of Speed Week 1957, John and crew received the 'Best Engineered Car of the Year' award. They had reached a speed of 169 mph without incident and without "falling over!"
Feature article, Hot Rod Magazine, February 1958
1957 #444 is ready for the Salt
1940 - 1953
John Vesco's 4-Port Wine-o was #1 in points at the dry lakes in 1950. In '53, with Jimmy Dinkins driving, the car crashed at about 170 mph. Jimmy was unhurt but ground the top out of his helmet. Dad put a lot of work into aero dynamics.
After the crash in 1953 Dad wanted to build a much safer, faster car suing the same 183 ci model B engin with the Riley 4-port head - thus the #444 Little Giant streamliner was born. #444 sported perhaps the first, full "over the head" roll cage on the salt.
The lever to the left was used to change from 100% alky to 50% nitro during the run. When Jimmy pulled the lever to the nitro position in high gear the power boost broke the rear axle causing the car to crash.