Jim (White) Harrell & Nick Harrell

Harrell Engines and Racing Equipment


Harrell Racing Equipment


     Since the early 1930s, Jim Harrell was always experimenting with various types of racing equipment. During those early years and into the 1940s, he was developing his own products when he couldn't find available equipment that satisfied him.


This photo is included in: Don Montgomery, Hot Rods in The Forties: A Blast From The Past, Fallbrook, CA, 1987, page 133.

     By the mid-1940s, Jim Harrell had refined the design for the intake manifolds he had been working on and had the patterns made for both dual and triple manifolds. Around 1945-’46 Jim contacted Dick Pickerel’s older brother and a friend to do the preliminary machine work on his first intake manifolds. On the first several manifolds, Jim used the name TORNADO on the name plates. We’re not sure why he chose that name. Perhaps he just liked the sound of it, or as Dick Pickerel remembers, it was a name that had been around for awhile and sounded like a good name for speed equipment. In any case, Jim had side plates made for his manifolds carrying the name TORNADO. Well, apparently Lee Chapel and his Tornado Engineering Company had already thought the name was very suitable for racing equipment and was still using it. Somehow, Jim got word that Chapel owned the name and was using it on equipment including his dual manifolds—Chapel made and marketed “Low Riser” and “High Riser” manifolds through his speed shop in Oakland, California. Certainly Jim was aware of Lee Chapel's manifolds, but apparently didn’t care for them. However the name TORNADO must have lodged somewhere in the back of Jim’s mind. As soon as Jim was made aware of the problem over ownership of the name, he had new name plates made for the sides of his manifolds. From then on, Jim’s manifolds have carried the HARRELL name.


         Jim had only made a few TORNADO name plates and they were removed right away. However, at least one set of original side plates was still around in the 1990s when Dick Pickerel owned the patterns and made a run of manifolds. The picture below shows dual HARRELL manifolds that had just been cast and machined. Dick placed an old TORNADO side-plate he had on one of the manifolds (with carbs.) to make the connection with the first couple of manifolds Jim made back in the mid-1940s.

Photo from the Dick Pickerel Collection, mid-1990s.

Photo from The Harrell Family Collection, 2009.

     The earliest photo we have of Jim (in the hat) and his equipment at the races is from 1946. He is pictured here with Tony Capanna at El Mirage dry lake.

     During this same period of time, Jim was also developing his own racing heads for flathead Ford and Merc. V-8s. Jim's heads reflect his constant striving for performance and appearance. They carry the name HARRELL  LOS ANGELES.

Photo from The Harrell Family Collection, 2008.

Photo and caption from Veda Orr's Hot Rod Pictorial, page 29.

The photo below shows Jim Harrell’s equipment as featured at the 1950 Hot Rod Show in Los Angeles.

     Also in the early 1950s, street rodders and custom roadster builders began to take notice of Jim Harrell’s racing equipment. For example, Hop Up magazine featured a beautiful roadster owned by Tony La Mesa in its April 1952 issue. A lot of thought went into this beauty built by Ray De Fillip and into the beast under the hood as evidenced by the presence of Jim’s Harrell Los Angeles heads. The engine was described later by Tony Thacker in these words: "… powered by a bored & stroked 286 Ford with Harrell heads, an Edelbrock manifold with twin Stromberg 97s, & a Winfield SU-1 full-race cam."

Photos: Roadster from Tony Thacker, '32 Ford Deuce, Motorbooks, 2007, page 242; Engine from Hop Up, April 1951, pages 6-7.


     There are several fine examples of Old School Hot Rodders using Jim's equipment in recent years. For example there is the reconstruction of the Berardini Brothers' 404 Jr. record-breaking roadster. During the restoration of the 404 Jr., every effort was made to reflect its former grandeur. The work began in early 2004, when Roger and Sissy Morrison rescued the former race car from obscurity. They turned the car over to Dave Crouse in Colorado with instructions to return the 404 Jr. to a state worthy of its early history. Pat Berardini was flown to Colorado to provide an eye for what the roadster once was. Pat’s goal was in line with the wishes of the Morrisons and Crouse when he insisted that the replacement V-8 Ford engine sit under Harrell Los Angeles heads. Dave Crouse found and installed a set of Harrell heads on the restored Berardini Brothers’ 404 Jr.


Roadster photo is from hotrodroundup.com; engine photo from tomstrongman.com.


     Another outstanding example of using Harrell Los Angeles heads and Harrell intake manifold is the purple 1932 roadster built by Jay and Joe Kennedy of Pomona, California for Jim Jard of Texas. The Kennedy brothers were also able to obtain a set of new Harrell heads and an intake manifold in 2004 to complete their work of art. The purple ’32 is pictured below with Harrell heads and manifold center stage.


The photo of Jim Jard’s roadster is from hotrodroundup.com, the photo gallery,

& the photo of the engine is from the Jim DesJardin Collection

     In the following photos we see Augie Esposito's traditional '50s street roadster with Harrell racing equipment produced in the 1990s from the original 1945 patterns.

 Photo of Alec Harrell Carlson photographing Esposio's engine. Harrell Family Collection, 2009.


     For a "not-yet-finished" rod, take a look at Mike Van Zetten in his flathead-powered Model A, chopped and channeled (the car was built by Julio Hernandez). The engine is a ’53 Merc with Harrell heads and a Harrell manifold, double 97s, and straight pipes.

     Still today, Old School Hot Rodders enjoy getting their first set of Harrell Los Angeles racing heads as illustrated in the following photo of Jim & Nick Harrell's great grandnephew, Alec R. Harrell Carlson with his new heads in 2008 and his new intake manifold in 2010.



     From the beasts to a beauty, we can gaze upon the '34 roadster in the Hot Rod Room at the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, CA. On the placard shown below, they proudly note that the engine is topped with a Harrell intake manifold.

Some Early Shots of Harrell Equipment In Use

Some More-Recent Shots Of Harrell Equipment In Use

     Any of you traditional youngsters, of any age, who might want some of these heads and manifolds, your in luck. The current owner of the original patterns has plans to have Harrell heads and intake manifolds back in production by late 2018. The equipment will be produced from the original patterns.