Jim (White) Harrell & Nick Harrell
Harrell-Borsch Roadster & Altered: 1956-1966
(aka, Harrell-Reynolds-Borsch & Harrell-Borsch-Muse)
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The Chrysler Power in The 1929 Roadster
Jim & Nick Harrell and Willie Borsch spent a couple of months selecting parts and assembling the engine, while at the same time making the necessary changes in the ’29 roadster.
The new team and its car was ready to run in Santa Ana’s “Open Gas OH” class by the second week of February 1956. The Chrysler powered Harrell Engines roadster posted its first win in February, and its second on March 18, 1956. Both the wins were at Santa Ana and both runs were clocked at 123.45 mph.
Drag News recorded both record breaking runs and included the following picture showing the Harrell Engines roadster still sporting Pat Berardini’s white flames. (Drag News, February 17, 1956; Drag News, March 30 , 1956, page 8. Photo provided by Rod McCarrell.)
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The Harrell-Borsch Chrysler Powered '29 Roadster:
Harrell Engines bought the Berardini Brothers’ 1929 roadster in 1955 and installed their flathead Merc engine from their ’34 Ford coupe. By that time, they had added a ½ inch to the bore, ¾ inch to the stroke. They ran the flathead engine in the ’29 with Bob Morgan driving for about a year. Late in the year, Jim Harrell and Willie Borsch began planning a joint project to run a Chrysler OHV engine in the Harrell ’29 roadster. This was the beginning of a long colaberation. Jim and Nick Harrell had several regular drivers for their race cars from World War II into late 1966. For instance, Don Bell and Bob Morgan each drove their cars successfully for about three years, but Willie Borsch drove Harrell Engines’ cars from 1956 to late 1966—it was a ten year colaberation that resulted in many great achievments. This page describes the highlights of those years.
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An Overview of This Page
Harrell-Borsch Chrysler Powered Roadsters: 1956-1960
Chrysler Power in The 1929 Roadster
“The Red Hot Roadster”
Harrell-Borsch Altered Roadster to Winged Express: 1961-1966
The Harrell-Reynolds-Borsch Altered
The Harrell-Borsch-Muse Altered
Harrell-Borsch Stay With The Altered
The Harrell Engines team was soon aware that the roadster couldn’t handle the Chrysler power so they took a few months off to completely rebuild the 1929 roadster. The roadster had been lightened (drilled and cut way) first by the Berardinis then the Harrells to the optimum weight for a V-8 flathead engine, but they felt it was not structurally capable of handling the weight and power of the Chrysler engine.
Harrell-Borsch “Altered Roadster” To “Winged Express”
The Harrell Engines team worked long and hard to come up with an Altered, and to make it a success. Several years after the Harrell-Borsch altered made its début, George Roe interviewed Willie Borsch and other members of the team at the Harrell shop and wrote the following about the birth of the altered for Drag Racing magazine:
“After-hours work to construct a new roadster became the order of the day, and the three, with many loyal supporters, sweat blood to complete roadster # 2 before Winternationals time, 1961. Dedication motivated Phil Johnson, Willie Borsch, Nick and Jim Harrell, and Don Reynolds to successfully meet their self-enforced deadline. The money came from the Harrell’s Engines shop.” (George Roe, “A Dragster In Roadster’s Clothing,” Drag Racing, November 1964, pages 31-35, 58.)
In the same interview, Willie briefly described the car and Roe wrote this summary:
“The present chassis is constructed of mild steel, 1 ½” diameter, with .050 wall thickness. A lightweight Cal-Auto fiberglass roadster replica serves as the body. Wailing to the tune of 6800 rpm at the lights (…), a Carter chute and Merc brakes are brought into hurried service for stopping power.”
The five principals named by the team and listed above by George Roe are pictured here around that time.
“The Red Hot Roadster”
The remake of the Harrell roadster took place from April through October of 1956 at the Harrell Engines shop. In mid-1957, the “Red Hot Roadster” was described in glowing terms:
“Give five different pit crews identical parts to build five separate competition machines and one of the finished products will run off and leave the other four; although they are identical in design and parts. It’s the little ‘tricks of the trade’ that makes the difference.
“A very typical example of this is the Harrell and Borsch Chrysler powered Roadster. This beautiful red creation follows the same general pattern of countless other Roadsters throughout the country. But in the end result,…, it stands head and shoulders over all its competition. Built by H. L. [Jim] Harrell and Phil Johnson, and driven by Willie Borsch, the 2,000 pound stormer has hit a top speed of 126.06 miles per hour on gas and currently holds the class record at Santa Ana and San Fernando. (Dan Roulston, Drag News, “Red Hot Roadster,” June 15, 1957, pages 8-9.)
In mid-1959, the Harrell Engines roadster stayed home for several weeks where even more improvements were made. The team retired to the Harrell Engines shop and reemerged with a blown Chrysler in the “Red Hot Roadster” (with a 4-71 GMC blower). They were soon turning speeds of 144.00 at the Lions strip in Long Beach. (Drag News, July 25, 1959; August 8, 1959; and Aug. 15, 1959.)
By this time, Don Reynolds had joined the team. On April 30, 1960, the “Harrell-Reynolds-Borsch” team ran at Long Beach in the Roadster A class and turned 142.40. (Drag News, May 7, 1960; May 15, 1960; June 18, 1960.)
The July 1960 issue of Hot Rod magazine included a descriptive two page photo-essay of the Harrell Engines' roadster.
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The fiberglass T-bucket body the team used is an interesting story in itself. For instance, Diablo Speed Shop in Hollywood was marketing fiberglass T-buckets as early as 1957. However, by 1960 Curt Hamilton and Bud Lang started a company called Cal Automotive in North Hollywood, CA. While they were not the first to make fiberglass T-bucket bodies, they were the first to produce them in large numbers for the racing community and others. The T-bucket was their first product and perhaps their most notable. For an interesting summary of this history see John's Blog. (You can Google the following to get there: yblock.blogspot.com/2009/01/brief-history-of-fiberglass... From there go to his: "The Real History of The Fiberglass T-Bucket Body," blogged on Septembere14, 2009.) “John’s blog” includes the following interesting comment:
"So, three years after Diablo's T-Bucket intro. Bud Lang and his partner Curt Hamilton shelled our $25 to rent a steel '23 T roadster body and had legendary painter and customizer Dean Jeffries clear up any imperfection in the then almot 40 year old skin,... With the Jeffries' cherried body, which still had to be returned to its original owner after its use, Bud and Curt hired the equally legendary Nat Reeder, 'The Glass Man' to produce their first body mold.... That body mold became the foundation for Cal Automotive, Bud and Curt's company that offered the first mass production T-bucket body. Initially, their bodies were grabbed up by drag racers who were in a constant quest to improve E.T.'s through weight reduction."
This is where the little story gets interesting for our larger story. Tradition has it that Bud & Curt borrowed or rented the steel T-bucket from which their mold was made from Jim Harrell of Jim's Auto Parts. Years later (2009), Ed Crafton remembers the overall situation without some of the details. Ed recalls seeing the returned T-bucket sitting in the front shop of Harrell Engines for some time during the early 1960s. He thinks it has Nick Harrell who explained that it was the original steel body used by Cal Automotive to make their mold for the fiberglass T-buckets. Ed was told Cal Automotive gave the Harrells the first fiberglass body in appreiation for the use of their steel T-bucket. That first fiberglass T-bucket was used to make the Harrell-Borsch altered that later came to be known as the "Winged Express".
Jim Harrell Nick Harrell Willie Borsch
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Now let’s return to our main story. In George Roe’s 1964 interview with Willie Borsch and other team members, the new Harrell-Borsch altered’s debut was remembered. Roe described it in these words: “After the tow to Pomona, admittance, tech inspection, warm-up, Willie Borsch climbed the ladder to the fabulous 50s—148, 149, 150! This, on gas.” The altered was ready for the Winternationals.
The team managed to make its self-imposed deadline. The following photo shows the Jim’s Auto Parts / Harrell Engines team entry in the 1961 Winternationals at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds with Don Reynolds in the driver’s seat.
Photo from the Harrell Family Collection by an unknown photographer 1962. Don Reynolds driving.
Harrell Family Collection, unknown photographer, 1961/1962.
Photo from Hot Rod magazine, May 1961, page 35.
Photo from the Harrell Family Collection by an unknown photographer c. 1962.
The new altered with its fiberglass T-bucket and Hemi is pictured with its steel wheels and with its gas tank inside. The small black box above the valve cover contained water for the injection system, which indicated they were still running on gas (Ed Crafton remembers the injector scoop had a side inlet for the water to pass through). It appears that Don Reynolds is behind the wheel for this run.
There were a number of wins in the early years for the Harrell-Borsch altered. These included the wins at Fontana on March 12, 1961 in the Roadster AA/R class when the Harrell Engines Special again hit 150.00 mph in 10.53 seconds; a June win at Pomona; and a Riverside victory on June 25. After the June wins, Drag News pointed out: “The ever present Harrell Engines Chrysler powered AR again took their class win with a run of 146.56 in 10.43.” (Drag News, March 19, 1961; Drag News, July 1, 1961.)
The next photo shows Willie Borsch in the driver’s seat and team member Vic Pollaccia taking a photo-op with the “Jim’s Auto Parts” banner and Howard Cams sticker on the roadster (the engine was still using the Howard-chain drive for its blower). Typically, Nick Harrell’s Olds. 98 was peeking into the photo as the ever-present push-car.
The Harrell-Reynolds-Borsch Altered
In 1962, Don Reynolds expanded his participation in the Harrell Engines team which included some financial participation as well as driving. At that point, the car’s banner became: Harrell-Reynolds-Borsch.
It was around this time that the team decided to move from gas to fuel. George Roe wrote the following about this move: “ ‘Tip the can’ said Willie, and indeed, upon going to nitro, a sort of ‘Pandora’s box’ of handling evils escaped from the propped-up lid!” The next year-or-so can be characterized by the following comment made after a Long Beach meet on July 6, 1963:
“The eliminations ran smoothly this evening with the Harrell Engines-Jim’s Auto Parts taking the no.2 spot for the second consecutive week. Don Reynolds and Willie Borsch took turns driving the bln. Chrysler powered roadster with a top time of 177.51 mph with a 9.02 E.T….” (Drag News, July 13, 1963, page 21.)
On the day they ran number 105 A/R, the rear wheels were still wide-set and steel, & the gas tank was still inside. Typically most of the team members were at the track and having a great time. Fortunately, Rod Larmer, who helped work on the car from time-to-time and spent many Saturdays at the Harrell Engines shop, was also there to capture some of the lighter moments at the track. (At the time Don Reynolds was working as a machinist at Western Products in or near Gardena along with Rod Larmer.)
Hot Rod magazine had the following comment on the new roadster: “The Groves and Cirino A Roadster, right, from El Monte, Calif., found tough sledding in the class run-offs when it came up against the Harrell Engines entry. The fiberglass bodied ‘T’ went on to win class at 139.31 mph; 10.55 e.t.”
The Early Years: Steel Rear Wheels & Gas Tank Inside
Soon after the 1961 Winternationals, the pictures of the altered roadster show it carrying the "Jim's Auto Parts" banner largely because that was the official name of Jim Harrell's business. However, the racing program was normally referred to as Harrell Engines. In the following photo, we see the altered at the line on one of its earliest runs. (We are in the process of dating early pictures by watching for the evolution of the altered from this picture onward.)
Borsch and Reynolds working between runs. Photo by Rod Larmer
Willie Borsch (left), Vic Pollaccia, Phil Johnson, Don Reynolds (in car). Photo by Rod Larmer.
On yet another day, Rod Larmer was able to capture Willie Borsch and Don Reynolds fixing things between runs.
Gas Tank Up Front, Rear Wheels Become Alloy & Closer Together, etc.
By early 1964, the team recognized that it was time for some additional alterations on the roadster. Some changes were easy, some were costly. For instance, one of the first changes was to move the gas tank up front—not costly, not easy either. Rod Larmer and Ed Crafton were involved in this move. (Initially, Rod Larmer was a work-mate and friend of Don Reynolds, and Ed Crafton was a work-mate and friend of John Muse.) Ed remembers being a bit troubled about cutting a notch in the original steel grille shell so the gas line could make it through (by that time, original steel shells were becoming scarce and fiberglass replicas were already on the market). Ed’s hesitation about altering the only original steel body-part on the roadster was overcome by Willie’s matter-of-fact bluntness: “Just do it!” Most of the other changes they had in mind were a lot more costly, on top of what was already an increasingly costly project.
This photo was sent to the Harrell Family Collection by an unknown photographer.
(If anyone knows who took this photo, please let us know. Thanks.)
Airfoil for Stability, Megaphone Headers, Belt Drive for Blower, etc
The next photo shows the Altered with its new wheels, head-cover vents, the belt blower drive that replaced the Howard-chain driven system, the inset rear wheels, and the recently added airfoil. The newly painted roadster had yet to receive its new banner that would soon read: HARRELL-BORSCH-MUSE.
When Ed Crafton adorned the altered with a ribbon that read “Remove Before Flight”, he was indirectly reminding the team that they were there for the fun of it. Of course, the ribbon was removed for each run, but for some time, it always found its way back when the car returned to the pit area.
Among the first major changes made was to shorten the rear axles & rework the fiberglass body to allow tire clearance. This was done to increase the car’s stability. One of John Muse’s first contributions was to buy a set of mag. wheels for the rear. In the photos below we can see these changes, and for the first time we notice the head-cover vents. The airfoil was not in place yet and they were still running the Howard-chain drive for the blower. In addition, the reworked body was repainted but didn’t yet have the “Jim’s Auto Parts” banner or the up-coming Harrell-Borsch-Muse banner on the door.
A typical day at the drags in 1964 found the Harrell Engines team in line, waiting for another run. In front of Nick Harrell’s Olds, the altered sits in its new paint and on its new wheels. Ed Crafton is standing behind the Olds; Nick is leaning against driver’s door & wearing his white cap; John Muse is leaning against front fender with no hat; and Willie Borsch is facing the camera with no hair.
Among the first photos with the airfoil. From the Ed Crafton Collection.
Photo from the Ed Crafton Collection.
March of 1964 was a good month for the Harrell-Borsch-Muse altered. For instance, around mid-month it took Top Gas Eliminations. A Drag News photo at the time carried the caption: “Long Beach, Calif. March 15: Harrell Engines set a new roadster record plus winning No. 1 Eliminator….” (Drag News, March 21, 1964, page 17.)
The month of March 1964 was capped off with a nice spread about the altered in the March issue of Hot Rod Parts Illustrated. They did an informative photo spread on the roadster which shows the then recent additions and calling the altered a “Low Flyer..” (A nick-name that didn’t stick..)
From Hot Rod Parts Illustrated, March 1964.
As we have suggested, one of the first major problems the team had to solve was stability. Of course, the root of the problem was in the incredible power they had in the roadster combined with a 95-inch wheel base. When George Roe interviewed Willie Borsch for his November 1964 article, Willie explained how Al Barnes, who was grinding cams for Howard Johansen at the time, sent them in the right direction. Willie said,
“He told us we had to have a wing on there.” “Well, we went to the library, got the specs on airfoils, picked out the one calculated to work best at our speeds, and went to work.” (George Roe, “A Dragster in Roadster’s Clothing,” Drag Racing, November 1964, pages 31-35, 58.)
Roe walked away from the interview with Willie and other team members with this understanding of the wing,
“The negative foil developed features a spring on the back, a unique leveling device which, as wind pressure rises (at speeds), lowers the wing to predetermined stops at near level position. It’s been proven that the wing affects the roadster’s top end speeds, even with this ingenious leveling device, but better to suffer a couple of mph loss than a dangerous spin.”
The altered’s new banner, HARRELL-BORSCH-MUSE, made its début in April of 1964. However, much of the team’s momentum was lost on April 25, 1964 when the team encountered yet another reminder of how costly it was to force-feed a powerful engine with hot fuel. Drag News carried a photo with the following caption: “…. Harrell lunched their engine on this run.” Another observer writing for the News noted that: “…as Harrell blew their hard charging Chrysler in a big way. Amidst several slices of engine block laying on the strip were peppered chalky bits and pieces of tuf-block.” (Drag News, May 2, 1964, photo on page 29 & see page 3.)
The blown engine took the Harrell Engines team out of the running, but not for long. The next photo from Drag Sport Illustrated indicates the Harrell-Borsch-Muse altered was back on track within a couple of weeks—not without more problems, however.
Photo From Drag Sport Illustrated, at Lions, on May 6, 1964, page 9.
From Hot Rod Parts Illustrated, March 1964.
“Harrell Engines L.A.” in July 1960.
Photo from: 50 Years of Hot Rod by the Editors of Hot Rod magazine, 1998
In addition to the picture, the editors of Hot Rod magazine had the following to say:
"JULY 1960 At the other end of the sport, where performance was everything and looks were secondary, H. L. [Jim] and N. J. [Nick] Harrell of Harrell Engines, Los Angeles, fielded this record-holding 1929 roadster. Driven by Don Reynolds or Willie Borsch,.., this roadster was strictly business. Eight Stromberg 48s sat atop a 4-71 GMC blower, which was Howard-chain driven from the 412-inch Chrysler’s crank. The car held numerous track records, and in the spring of 1960 set a new top speed of 144 miles per hour at LADS in Long Beach." (Hot Rod magazine Editors, 50 Years of Hot Rod, MBI Publishing, 1998, pages 54-55.
Even while the “Red Hot Roadster” was at the top of its class, the Harrell Engines team was already spending much of its time and energy in the shop building a new, altered roadster for their blown Chrysler engine.
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Harrell Engines & Racing Equipment
Photo from the Ed Crafton Collection
Borsch (left) and John Muse working on the car. Photo by Rod Larmer.
Of course, there were some moments that were less fun than others, and by late 1964, it must have seemed as if they were getting more than their share of the bad stuff. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note that in the next picture, Ed Crafton’s ribbon is just pulled aside, not removed, as they deal with just one more problem. Rod Larmer was again able to capture a couple of less-than-fun moments in the pits for the Harrell Engines’ team.
This time, it took a month before the Harrell team was back at Lions. The Chrysler Windsor engine was replaced by a New Yorker or Imperial block, and the cubic inches increased from 354 to 398. Their comeback was recorded by Drag News in these words: “A welcome guest to Lions was the real sharp inj. fueler of Draglite chassis, and a real race shaped up as Harrell-Borsch-Muse returned with that nitro-flame-snapping Roadster. There was no slackening of r.p.m.’s by Draglite all the way down, but Harrell’s 398” Chrysler Firepower carried the day, winning with 9.10-168.53…” Drag News went on to say, “…, and Harrell’s roadster’s entry became a success story tonight when they overcame a hard Coburn Glaze’s charge with 8.88-155.70! This is a mighty tall and short roadster to invade this e.t. area.” (Drag News, June 13, 1964, page 4.)
Clearly, Harrell-Borsch-Muse and team were back on the track, however, on October 17th, things once again didn’t go well. Drag News noted that, “Qualifying opened with …, Harrell-Borsch-Muse 8.06-190.56 but destroyed the engine,…” (Drag News, October 24, 1964, page 3.)
The destroyed engine kept the Harrell Engines’ team out for three weeks, but they were back at Lions on November 7. The day started well as “Harrell’s Engines 8.44-186.72” was encouraging. Drag News then noted: “Harrell-Borsch-Muse cranked 8.38-188.66 for an unexpected and early trailering of Schubert-Herbert. Zane’s mighty Chevrolet managed 8.30-191.48, but Willie Borsch had full command over ‘LL’ tonight! Sorrowfully, the H-B-M Chrysler broke on the winning effort, an unwanted side-effect to cap this team’s Hard drive to the top.” (Drag News, November 14, 1964, page 8.)
“Sorrowfully” was a well chosen word, but the mood is probably best illustrated in the following photo as John Muse waits to get pushed back to the pit area (the hood of Borsch’s Ford pickup in foreground).
Apparently it was clear by late 1964, that mounting costs and negligible financial returns was an issue that kept rearing its ugly head. The costs of running the racing program, born by Harrell and Muse at that point, were far out-pacing the prize money in their class and the team was mindful of this. Indeed, that was the impression George Roe left with after his interview with some of the Harrell Engines team. In his words:
“A strong running spree one night at Lions is affectionately recalled by the team as their most satisfying performance. ET’s of 8.80 or so usually put a vehicle in Top Gas Eliminator, and there it stayed—wading all the way through the collective slingshots to garner 150 dollars in prize money. That the winning of $150 should remain as Harrell’s Engines’ crowning performance has caused the team to undergo a searching re-appraisal of a roadster’s place in the scheme of things, cash award-wise.” (George Roe, “A Dragster in Roadster’s Clothing,” Drag Racing, November 1964, page 58.)
Actually by then, as we can see in the following caption, the prize money for Altered Eliminator had soared to $250.
From Drag Racing, November 1964, page 31, 32, 58.
Photo from the Rod McCarrell Collection.
The caption with this photo reads: “The long-present roadster of Harrell and Borsch got back into beautiful form by turning a rapid 8.79 at just under 170 mph., as well as winning Altered Eliminator at Lions. Tim Marchall Photo”
George Roe brought his November 1964 article to a close with the following suggestive thought about the Harrell Engines’ shop: “Dare we open that garage door a trifle more—lest we now spot a Harrell’s engine in a dragster chassis?” Obviously Roe had seen behind the door, or one of the team members said something about a surprise behind one of the shop’s doors. In fact, a Harrell-Borsch-Muse dragster was assembled by that time and behind the door.
A Fling with A Dragster: 1964
During 1964, John Muse and another member of the team, Ed Crafton, were increasingly enthusiastic about moving the engine from the altered to a dragster. Jim & Nick Harrell and Willie agreed to give it a shot. Muse took the initiative and acquired the basic chassis of a dragster from Woodie Gilmore. And the team went to work on the parallel project.
The Harrell Engines team moved their blown Chrysler engine back and forth between the altered and the newly completed dragster a number of times during 1964. Throughout this period John Muse and Ed Crafton remained the leading advocates for spending more time with the dragster. However, the Harrell brothers and Borsch remained somewhat reluctant participants in the dragster project, but they stuck with it for a good part of the year.
A rare glimpse of the dragster can be seen in the following photo with the chute in the process of doing its job. The trade-mark homemade steel air scoop immediately identified the engine for some observers. (The dragster in this photo was first identified by Rod McCarrell and later confirmed by Ed Crafton in August 2009.)
The turned up headers were attached for obvious reasons. These headers had been popular on dragsters since Woody Gilmore started running them in May of 1964. Even though these headers were necessary when the engine was in the dragster, they were occasionally seen on the engine when back in the altered.
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Nonetheless, the Flying Wing remained the main car at Harrell Engines, and in November of 1964, the altered was still the car getting most of the attention. In a rare rear shot, the next picture shows the most complete banner coverage. “Harrell Engines” on the back of the bucket, “Jim’s Auto Parts” on the rear deck, and “Harrell-Borsch-Muse” on the doors. (We might call this the Rosetta Stone of photos.)
Photo from Drag Racing, November 1964, page 58.
One of the last changes made to the altered in 1964 was a new, complete steering wheel to replace the cut-away one from the early years. This is pictured below.
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As we have seen, John Muse was an active partner in developing the Winged Express, but by late 1964 he was captivated by the dragster and wanted the Harrell-Borsch-Muse team to go exclusively in that direction. However, Jim and Nick Harrell wanted to stay with the altered. According to Ed Crafton, Muse was a little disappointed when Borsch wanted to stay with the Harrell brothers and the Winged Express, but Muse felt he had to follow his new passion for the dragster. So, by 1965, John Muse left the Harrell Engines team so he could devote more time and energy to what had become his and Ed Crafton’s preferred project—the dragster. Crafton, had been building his competition Chrysler engine for several months by that time, and it was a perfect fit for Muse’s dragster.
On the 26th of June 1965, Harrell Engines’ altered with Borsch at the wheel was running at Lions. At the same meet, John Muse and Ed Crafton were running the dragster under the Muse-Crafton banner and would continue to do so for about a year. (Drag News, July 3, 1965, page 4.)
The following photo shows the dragster assembled at the Harrell shop primarily by John Muse and the Harrell Engines team, with Crafton’s engine up and running. This photo was taken at Lions drag strip in 1966, and shows the Muse-Crafton team engaged.
John Muse standing over the dragster; Ed Crafton sitting by its side c. 1966.
Photo from Ed Crafton’s collection.
Not long after the above photo was taken, John Muse got married and decided to retired from the racing scene. Ed Crafton bought Muse’s interest in the dragster and took it along with his engine back to his home state of Pennsylvania where he continued to run the car. (Ed still has his Chrysler engine from those early days, and he is still very involved with friends and associates fielding dragsters in the tri-state area.)
The Harrell Brothers & Borsch Stay With The Altered
By January 8, 1965, the Harrell Engines team was once again running under the HARRELL-BORSCH banner, and the Hemi engine had again been rebuilt and was back on track. At that time, the only visible changes were the turned gas tank facing into the wind and the absence of the valve cover vents. Of course, the big change by this time was that John Muse was out of the altered’s picture.
Once back on track, the team made an impressive showing at the Lions drag strip in Long Beach which prompted Drag Sport to feature the following photo with a flattering caption that includes this statement: “ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE ROADSTERS OF ALL TIME.” (Drag Sport, January 15, 1965, page 3.)
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Once the Harrell-Borsch altered was back on track and doing well, Jim Harrell decided it was time for Harrell Engines to retire from active participation in building and running race cars. He told Willie that he wanted to sell the car and retire from racing.
However, Willie Borsch was not ready to retire and the roadster was on a roll. So fortunately, Willie’s long-time friend, Al “Mousie” Marcellus, stepped up and arranged to buy Jim Harrell’s interest in the altered in October of 1966. Just three weeks after the final Harrell-Borsch win, the new team of Marcellus & Borsch was running at Irwindale on October 22, 1966. The new team continued the successes and made the Winged Express even more of a legend.
The soul-searching and problem solving continued into 1965. The team entered fewer events in ’65 and, as far as we can tell, they had few documented wins.
At Lions on January 30, the day was characterized in these words:
“It would take 7.94 or better to qualify by 6:30, but this was no deterrent to Ed Pinks brand new Don Long car. Two trial runs at Fontana proved the car’s race worthiness, last Sunday, so it was off the trailer today with 7.77-197.90! Harrell’s Engines just missed it with 7.98. Someone asked Willie Borsch ‘Did you eradicate the engine?’ Smiled Willie, ‘Yes, might even of broke something, too!’ ” (Drag News, February 3, 1965, page 8.)
During January, February, and March of 1966, events were going a bit better. The year started with Drag News carried a photo of the roadster at the starting line on January 8 at Lions Drag Strip with this optimistic caption; “THE HARRELL & BORSCH ALTERED is back on the warpath, and eight seconds should be commonplace as such as it is back in the groove.” (Drag News, February 4, 1966, page 22.)
The Harrell and Borsch altered was again pictured storming off the starting line at Lions on January 22-23 when they won Altered Eliminator. The event was summed up in these words: “In the Altereds final Harrell and Borsch put it to Anaheim Speed Engineering’s car with a hole job. Harrell’s 9.55-167.28 while Anaheim went 9.33-162.45 for runner-up.” About a month later, they had another win in which they managed to get their e.t. back down to 8.94. Then on March 12 at Lions Harrell & Borsch had a close race but no win when their e.t. was back up to 9.61. They were again second best at Irwindale with a 9.37-167.91, and at Lions on April 2 with a 10.30. Some changes were in order—but what? (Drag News, February 18, 1966, pages 5-6; March 4, 1966, page 26; April 8, 1966, page 17; April 22, 1966, page12; and April 29, 1966, page 3.)
A couple of weeks later, May 14 at Lions, Drag News reported, “…, Willie Borsch proved the ferocity of the Harrell and Borsch roadster as an 8.86-167.28 gave him the Altered Eliminator win over Thomas and Pritchard’s 9.12-166.35.” (Drag News, June 10, 1966, page 4.)
Later in May, they were again running turned-up headers, and to top it off, they had a new air scoop. The Harrell-Borsch altered was running strong with an impressive outing to win Altered Eliminator at Lions. The following photo captured the moment. (Drag Sport, May 21. 1966, page 3.)
The following month, June of ’66, Drag Sport reported the results of an Irwindale, California meet under this headline: “HARRELL & BORSCH WIN ALTERED MEET.” Their report added the following comments about the Flying Wing’s day at the races:
“…. The Harrell and Borsch ‘Flying Wing’ went 8.51 to qualify. ….” “Willie Borsch made another hard charge to put Walker and Geary on the trailer.” Round One “Harrell and Borsch made a beauty of a straight run with a 8.69 181.30 to put Dean White on the trailer.” Round Two “Willie Borsch made another hard charge of 8.73 181.44 with the big Chrysler to put Walker and Geary on the Trailer.” Final Round “… Altered Eliminator was between Thomas & Prichard and Harrell and Borsch’s ‘flying wing.’ Both cars fired and, as they left the staging areas, the tire smoke was like London fog. At the timing lights you could still see seven foot nitro flames coming out of Willie Borsch’s headers as he got there first with an 8.88-149.00 to Thomas and Pritchard’s 9.02-167.59.” (Comments are from Bob Hanes , “Harrell & Borsch Win Altered Meet,” Drag Sport, June 25, 1966, page 8; and Drag News, September 9, 1966, pages 10, 12.)
Then at Irwindale on July 2, 1966, the Harrell & Borsch Altered again qualified and took the first round at 8.79, 176.47, but lost their blower in the process. They were back two weeks later, but didn’t make it past the first round. They closed the month at Irwindale on the 30th in a consistent fashion as they had to shut off before the finish line in the first round. (Drag News, July 22, 1966, page 22; August 12, 1966, page 4; and August 26, 1966, page 24.)
Bad luck followed the Harrell-Borsch team into August. For instance, on August 12, again at Irwindale, it was not the best of nights. “Only two cars were qualified for Altered Elmin. tonight. They were the Winged Express of Harrell and Borsch and Leon Fitzgerald’s ‘Pure Heaven’.” (This is the first time we have seen in print the Harrell-Borsch altered referred to by its final nick-name, the Winged Express, rather than the Flying Wing.) The team ended the month on a similarly down note: “… and Harrell and Borsch shut off about half way with engine trouble and coasted….” (Drag News, September 9, 1966, page 10.)
Then by September 17 at Irwindale, they were running on all cylinders and had a bit of luck. Tom Churchill described the day with these words:
“First round of altered eliminator had Chevy power against Chrysler power. Harrell and Borsch Chry powered altered downed the Chevy… Harrell and Borsch went 8.94-160.42 while the Chevy ran 9.52-141.27. …. Final round for altered eliminator was between Harrell and Borsch and the Beaver Hunter. Harrell and Borsch won it when the Beaver Hunter redlighted, both cars shut off early.” (Drag News, October 14, 1966, page 2.)
Harrell and Borsch started the month of October in good form. Drag News carried a photo of the roadster smoking off the line on October 1st when they won Altered Eliminator at Irwindale. The day was described in the following terms:
“In the third race, Anaheim Speed Shop using Chevy power, lined up to do battle with Harrell and Borsch. Both cars came out together, but Anaheim shut off early. Harrell and Borsch took it with a wild 8.95-177.86….” “In the second round for altereds, the Beaver Hunter raced Harrell Borsch. Harrell and Borsch took it with 9.13-170.45.” “In the final for altered eliminator, Fantasia was back this time to face Harrell and Borsch, the roadster won it with 9.09-171.75 to the coupe’s 10.31.” (Drag News, October 29, 1966, pages 2, 16.)
The following photo from that day is memorable because it captured the final win for the "Winged Express" under the Harrell-Borsch banner. (Drag News, October 29, 1966, page 16.)
[If anyone reading this has a copy of Drag News, Oct. 29, 1966 or knows of someone who does, we would really appreciate a scan of this photo from page 16. Our need for a better quality image is clear. Thanks.]
Almost 40 years later, the “Red Hot Roadster” was remembered in a book edited and published by Hot Rod magazine. The picture below is the same one that lead their the original spread in the July 1960 issue, and is included in their 1998 fifty year anniversary book.
The Harrell Borsch Muse Winged Express
Pete Millar captured the Winged Express’s momentum as it blasted into 1965. Artwork courtesy of Robin Millar from: http://www.laffyerasphalt.com/ .
Photo from the Ed Crafton Collection
Around this time (late 1964), while making a run at Lions Drag Strip, Ed Crafton remembers hearing
the starter (Larry Sutton) refer to the Harrell-Borsch-Muse altered as the “Winged Express.” That was the
first time Ed had heard that nick-name used. Over the next several months, the name was increasingly
used and by mid-1966, the print media was also using the new nick-name on a regular basis. And it stuck!