Would history repeat itself at Pikes Peak.
The first Pikes Peak Hill Climb race was in 1916. The concept was to have the top automotive manufactures and race car builders from around the world compete for the best time to the summit. The first race was won by Rea Lentz in the Roman Special a little homemade race car running an aircraft engine. That was unexpected ! In 1920 and 1921 things would go more to the script ,with a large Lexington Motor Company race car winning in twenty and a large touring Hudson race car the following year. The big names were ready to do it again in 1922. Hudson, Essex, Lexington and Pierce-Arrow race cars filled the entry list. Way down the list of twenty seven entries, the 24th entry actually , was Noel Bullock from North Platte Nebraska. his race car was listed as a Ford Spl.
Who is this and what is it ??
Newspaper accounts hardly even mention Noel Bullock prior to race day. Not that it was the reporters fault entirely, Noel didn’t make it in time for early week practice or the time trails on Friday . Just days before the race he was still rebuilding his motor and would have to drive the race car, the 300 plus miles from North Platte Nebraska to Colorado Springs for the event. Saturday would be the first day for Noel to check out the course and he only took one trip up to the summit and had trouble with the transmission and had to go back down and make repairs. Folks were still wondering the who part, but his race car was getting the most attention and plenty of comments like, “What is that !” “She looks like a cross between a kiddie kar and a push mobile” “That’s a tin can” “Is that a tin Lizzy” “It’s a flivver” and on it went. Yes, fans and rivals can be harsh.
So far, for Noel things were not looking too good. A newly rebuilt motor, missing practice ,no time trials, and only one ride up on the road, Just to add a little spice to the mix, Noel’s sleeping arrangements for the entire trip would be in his car. One reason, was to stay close to the car at all times, and the second reason……….lets just say, there was a lack of sponsorship funds available for lodging.
Bringing a Hot Rod to a Championship race.
Noel Bullock ,the blond youthful kid from Nebraska, perhaps didn’t make the best first impression with the Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing organisation and it’s fans, but he was for real ! By 1922 he already had seven years of dirt track racing at places like, Grand island, Bridgeport and Maywood tracks in Nebraska and races in South Dakota and Wyoming too . Winning 12 of 18 races going into the PPHC, his first road course race. The race car everyone was making fun of, was a real hot rod of it’s time. A very light weight car at just under 1,000 pounds. The lightest smallest car to every race the PPHC. a true home built from scraps race car. Junkyard frame from an old Ford delivery truck, a $50 Ford engine block, a scrapyard radiator and hood. That is the hot rodder’s way. Build with what you can scrounge. and fine tune it. Most of the race cars up until 1922 at Pikes Peak, had been factory built or factory sponsored cars with large engines and budgets. Stock touring cars with just about anything that could be unbolted , fenders , seats, spare tires ,taken off to reduce weight. But the factory teams still wanted the cars to look good with shiny paint and to resemble the cars you could go buy at your dealership on Monday. Championship Cars, they called them, the best that’s available, cream of the crop kind of stuff. Nothing like “Old Liz”as Noel called it, had ever been entered at the PPHC before 1922. The car wasn’t even painted!
What they didn’t know.
What wasn’t known, was the experience Noel had racing the same car for the last five years on dirt tracks, and the special modification he made for the hill climb.. The week before the Pikes Peak race while he was doing the engine rebuild he also added an early aftermarket hot rod RAJO 8- valve head to his Ford block and a Miller carburetor, bringing the car up to 50 horsepower, which was big for a 4 cylinder ford motor. The biggest expense overall for the race car at the PPHC, was the new Dayton wire wheels and Firestone tires. Total investment in the car is said to have been about $400.
To find out more about the Noel Bullock story and his race car,, check out:
Race day September 4th, 1922
The day before the race brought afternoon rain and snow shower to the upper section of the course. The last three miles on race day would be ankle-deep in slush. Noels’ lightweight race car would have an advantage as long the new Firestone tires could do their job. At the start line the officials noticed he still had no race number on his car. Having some enamel paint in his tool box, and since he was the 24th entered in the race , he decided to paint 24 on the side of the car with his fingers.
Done now, let’s race !
Stay tuned for part two !!!