1932 AAA Pacific Coast
by Michael Ferner
A few car histories from the 1932 AAA Pacific Coast Owners Championship roster:
# 6 Sparks (new)
The famous “Poison Lil”: new for Mel McKee in July 1932, for Kelly Petillo from August to October, Bill Cummings till April ‘33, Art Boyce for one race (relieved by Rex Mays), then Al Gordon till September ‘34 (including a stint in the East), Petillo again till February ‘35, then Mays until the end of the Pacific Coast series in March ‘36, and thereafter in Midwestern events until Art Sparks and co-owner Paul Weirick dissolved the team later that year. Weirick kept “Poison Lil”, and campaigned it in the Midwest and some Eastern events, mostly with Mays driving but also Jimmy Snyder at least once, and perhaps others, until June ‘40 when Duke Nalon took over till June ‘46 (with Spider Webb driving at least once). George Robson drove the car from July to September, and his brother Hal afterwards till June ‘47, then Walt Ader, Paul Russo and Nalon again before Mel Hansen got the ride in May ‘48 for the rest of the year. In 1949, Emil Andres tried (unsuccessfully) to qualify the car for the Springfield 100-miler in September, then Weirick sold it and got out of racing. “Poison Lil” did the rounds in the minor leagues for a few years more, and was reputedly owned by Joe Gemsa in the eighties.
The name “Posion Lil” is said to have been derived from the name of Lilian Triplett, the wife of the great Ernie Triplett, Sparks & Weirick’s main rival until his untimely death in 1934 – it’s anybody’s guess as to how it exactly originated! It’s also anybody’s guess how many races the car actually won! I count 85 wins in frontline AAA racing alone, including seven wins in National Championship events, but as always these figures are not “the last word”. Apart from helping seal the 1932 Pacific Coast Owners Championship, the car also secured the same title in 1933 and 1935, and was used almost exclusively by the Champion Drivers of those years. It was also the car of choice for the Midwestern Champion Driver in the years 1936, 1937 and 1941, and may have claimed a couple of Owners Championships there, too.
# 6 Sparks (old)
New for Wilbur Shaw in December 1930, then Bill Cummings for a couple of races, Stubby Stubblefield till July ‘31, Chris Vest for one race, Arvol Brunmier till October, Cummings again till April ‘32, Babe Stapp for two or three races, and Jimmy Sharp who crashed fatally in it first time out. According to Mark Dees (”The Miller Dynasty”), it was sold to Art Martinson, and went from there to Walt Harris, but the photographic record refutes this (see following entries for De Paolo and Martinson). More likely, the engine from the Sharp wreck went to Martinson, and the rest of the car was possibly scrapped.
# 1 White (new)
New for Ernie Triplett in November 1932, and driven exclusively by him until January ‘34, then by Kelly Petillo and once again by Triplett who crashed fatally with it in March. Petillo was back in the car July and August, then Al Gordon till January ‘36, with a short interlude by Floyd Roberts in June ‘35. Shorty Cantlon appears to have driven it in the Midwest for the rest of the thirties, and it is said to be part of Bob McConnell’s extensive collection nowadays.
# 1 White (old)
New in September of 1931, apparently built upon the frame of the 1926 Indy winning Miller. Driven initially by Francis Quinn (and possibly one or two others), but from October onwards exclusively by Ernie Triplett. Modified several times and rather heavily during the 1932 season, including a new frame, and sold to Russ Garnant at end of year. Driven by Carl Ryder till ca. June ‘33, then Herb Balmer till January ‘34, and apparently mothballed for rest of the year. Resurrected in January or February ‘35 for Harris Insinger to drive till September, then Floyd Roberts in January ‘36 before again being mothballed. Bought by Ted Horn ca. 1940, and driven by Tommy Hinnershitz, Walt Ader and possibly others as well, then sold to Hinnershitz for 1947 season, and replaced by newer car in 1948. Sold to Emmett Shelley and fitted with a Hal engine, to be driven by Bill Gouse and Ottis Stine during 1949/50. Subsequent history unclear, but apparently restored by Lynn Paxton in the early eighties and in a private collection these days.
#19 De Paolo
New for Lou Moore in November 1930, and driven by him exclusively until February ‘31, then Wilbur Shaw and possibly others. Completely rebuilt around new frame and new engine (effectively a new car) for Phil Pardee in September 1931, then Stubby Stubblefield till October, Arvol Brunmier in November, Bryan Saulpaugh in December, then Chris Vest, Brunmier again and Howdy Wilcox in January ‘32, Kelly Petillo, Billy Arnold and Wilcox again in February, Lester Spangler in March, Babe Stapp for one race in April, then Spangler again until November, Wilbur Shaw till February ‘33, Saulpaugh again in March, again Spangler and again Saulpaugh (crashing fatally) in April, and Spangler again in May, then Petillo again June and July, and George Connor from August – phew! More drivers in this car than a starlet has boyfriends! Anyway, at some point the car was sold to Walt Harris, and after Connor it was Harris Insinger from November till January ‘34, Mel Kenealy, Rex Mays and possibly others before I lose track.
# 5 Ward
New for Arvol Brunmier in March 1932, till May, then Kelly Petillo for two races, Sam Palmer for a test session, Nick Martino till July, perhaps Petillo again for one or two races, Wilbur Shaw till August, Babe Stapp till November, Bob Carey for one race, Stapp again till January ‘33, Bryan Saulpaugh for one race or so, Petillo again till April, Art Boyce in May and things get a bit murky. Lloyd Axel apparently drove this car in June in Colorado, and it possibly stayed there or was raced in the Midwest with a new car going into service in California. On the other hand, the original car may well have returned to the Golden State, and run with a new engine in 1934, driven by Mel Kenealy, George Connor and doubtlessly several other drivers. I need more pictures on this one!
Built by Johnny Vance in Ohio, presumably in 1930 and for Bob Carey to drive in Midwestern events, then for Wilbur Shaw in Pacific Coast events from November 1930, and also Mauri Rose in January ‘31, then sold to Russ Garnant who replaced the engine and ran the car for Mel McKee March to May, then Carl Ryder till June, and Francis Quinn till November, when Elmer Jacobs became the nominal owner. Shaw returned to the cockpit later that month until February ‘32, then Jimmy Sharp till May, Sam Palmer for a race or two, and McKee again the same, then Ryder again for rest of the year, and occasionally in ‘33 (back in Garnant ownership), also Herb Balmer occasionally before taking over the ride full time in January ‘34. In March twice driven by Kelly Petillo, and from July till end of year by Floyd Roberts. Apparently sold to Charles and Barbara Worley, and fitted with a Miller engine, to be driven in ‘35 by by George Connor till March, Roberts again till April, Hal Cole till May and Ray Pixley afterwards, then in ‘36 by Frank McGurk, also in the Midwest during the summer and subsequently sold there, or possibly in the East, to an as of yet unidentified party…
#48 Blauvelt/# 9 Haskell
New for Wilbur Shaw in February 1932 until July, then Sam Palmer till October – in the meantime sold to Earl Haskell. Carl Ryder, Stubby Stubblefield, Palmer again, Bob Carey, Les Spangler and possibly others drove the car until April ‘33, then Mel Kenealy till November. Shorty Cantlon, Rex Mays and Jimmy Miller drove in ‘34, and Louis Tomei and Floyd Roberts in ‘35, plus possibly others, before Ted Horn bought the car in early 1936. Driven by Horn (and Frankie Bailey at least once) until late ‘45 or early ‘46 when Tommy Hinnershitz took over driving chores, probably mothballed for a few years in between. Apparently completely rebuilt in 1947 for Hinnershitz (once) and Horn to drive in Champ Car events till October ‘48, when wrecked and parts used in the rebuilt of another car. Very likely ceased to exist as a car at that point.
# 2 Gardner
Started life as a Miller ’91’, apparently the one built in 1927 for Al Melcher to drive, with mostly Lou Moore at the wheel in the following two or three years. Purchased by Chet Gardner and Charles Mason in 1932, and driven by Gardner from April ‘32 till September ‘38, it was heavily modified during this time, including a shortened or even new frame very early on, and again a few years later. Guest drivers included Kelly Petillo (several times), Floyd Roberts, Ted Horn, Frankie Beeder, Russ Snowberger, Bill Cummings and possibly others. After Chet’s fatal crash in it, his brother Ray Gardner campaigned the car for a year or so, then sold it to Al Judson for Bill Holland, Frank McGurk, Jimmy Miller, Buddie Rusch, Bob Sall, Ev Saylor, Spider Webb (?), Tex Petersen and other drivers such as Hal Robson, until September 1946 when I lose track.
# 8 Quinn
New in February 1931, likely built upon a discarded Miller ’91’ frame, and using parts from a Miller ‘LJ8’ as well. Driven by Francis Quinn until December, then Babe Stapp till March ‘32, Bob Carey till May, then Al Gordon, Les Spangler, Kelly Petillo, Louis Schneider, Mauri Rose and almost certainly others as well during the rest of the year, then Al Theisen, Petillo again, Stubby Stubblefield, Louis Tomei, Tommy Newton (crashing fatally in it), Charles Heisler, Carl Ryder, George Connor and perhaps others in 1933. Subsequent history unknown. Apparently genuine AAA car registration plates from this car have recently surfaced, attached to the cockpit of a period car up for restoration, but it’s clearly not this one – one fears the worst!
New October 1931 for Louie Meyer to drive, injured practicing for second race with it. Subsequently driven by Arvol Brunmier, Stubby Stubblefield, Francis Quinn, Babe Stapp, Kelly Petillo and Bob Carey until March ‘32 – thereafter uncertain history! This car is giving me fits! It was built with the new engine and probably a few more mechanical parts from the ex-Lockhart Miller that apparently went to Bill White (see above), but its frame looks strangely like one from a Miller ‘LJ8’ (1926 “Locomobile Junior 8 Special”), of which only two were built. Trouble is, both are accounted for, even if one of them has a sizeable gap in its history which begins precisley a fortnight before the debut of this one – enough to rush construction through??? Even if possible, it all looks rather too haphazard for a man like Louie Meyer!
And then, where did it go? Mark Dees (”Miller Dynasty”) believed it to have been rebuilt as the 1933 Marks/Miller, but there’s virtually nothing the two cars have had in common! The car shared its 8-cylinder engine with the big two-man Indy Car of Louie Meyer, and that was reportedly sold on July 14 to Ira Hall in Terre Haute, who is said to have won a 50-miler at Cleveland with it three days later – yet Meyer continued to campaign car and engine later that year, before apparently selling it to Joe Marks in December! Perhaps Hall bought the single-seater without the engine, and the reports were confused? Or was he a frontman for fellow Hoosier Marks?? Questions over questions…
# 7 McClurg
New October (?) 1931 for Babe Stapp until November, thereafter mostly driven by Mel Kenealy till January ‘33, but also at least once by Sam Palmer and Ernie Triplett, respectively. Bought by Babe Stapp, who replaced the engine and drove it himself until injured in it in June, then turned it over to a multitude of drivers, including Rex Mays, Ted Horn and Wilbur Shaw. On his return to the cockpit in October, Stapp was again (!) injured in it, and continued to run it for other drivers into ‘34. In the summer of that year, he even brought it to the Midwest where Mauri Rose drove it at least once, before the track runs cold.
# 3 Tarbet
Originally built as a Duesenberg Indy Car, ca. 1923, but early history unclear. In May 1927, driven by George Souders to Indy 500 win, and thereafter in dirt and board track events until May ‘28, after that by Fred Frame, Jimmy Gleason, Babe Stapp and Dave Evans. At some point during that summer, or perhaps early in ‘29, the car was fitted with a Miller 91 engine, and driven by Stapp again, Billy Arnold and probably Russ Snowberger. For 1930, a Miller Marine engine was fitted, and Johnny Krieger drove it at least once, and also possibly Walt May. The Miller Marine was pulled, and the car sold with the 91 in place, but somehow ended up in a foreclosure sale in early 1931, from where it was picked up by Harlan Fengler, then president of Cragar Corp., who gave it to Clarence Tarbet to run in Pacific Coast events with a Cragar engine. Stubby Stubblefield, Mel Kenealy, Babe Stapp, Bill Cummings and Herman Schurch drove it during the rest of the year, the latter dying at its wheel, then Stubblefield again, Jack Buxton and Sam Palmer in early ‘33. Apparently, by then the Duesenberg chassis had been replaced by the Christensen #28, and was possibly scrapped.
Possibly built in 1929, and heavily modified over the years, drivers include Swede Smith, Walt May, Kelly Petillo, Smith again, Stubby Stubblefield, Curley Grandell, Francis Quinn, Wilbur Shaw, May again, Petillo again, Al Gordon, Petillo once more and, of course, Guy Deulin himself every now and then. The car appears to have been replaced by a newer one during the 1933 season, and as of yet I have no idea what became of it.
# 2/23 Harrison/#23 Bielch
Originally a Miller ’91’, probably built in 1929 but possibly the 1926 Hartz/Comer car (see next entry). In any case, driven by Myron Stevens and Deacon Litz during early ‘29, then Shorty Cantlon later that summer, then fitted with a Miller Marine engine for Cantlon to drive in Pacific Coast events through April ‘30, and again from September till January ‘31. Sold to Doug Harrison, who had Chet Gardner in the car till April ‘32, then Al Gordon, George Connor and perhaps one or two others during the rest of that year, Woody Woodford (?), Stubby Stubblefield (?), Carl Ryder, Frenchy La Horgue and likely a few others over the next twelve months or so until I lose track. At one point in 1932, the car was rebuilt on a shortened or even new frame.
Originally a Miller ’91’, it seems, built in 1926 for Harry Hartz, but Mark Dees for one disagrees (see “Miller Dynasty” 2nd ed. pp170A & 229). The Hartz car was driven by Fred Comer in ‘26, Hartz himself, Eddie Hearne and apparently Dave Evans in ‘27, then sold to Bill White for George Souders, Evans again and Jimmy Gleason to drive in ‘28. It was then damaged by fire while on display, and apparently purchased by Leon Duray, but Dees believed it to be the car as detailed above (Harrison/Bielch). Anyway, the Duray car was driven by Tony Gulotta in ‘29, and then shipped to Europe for record attempts. After its return to the US, it was apparently only sparingly used by Duray in dirt track events until August ‘32, when it appeared at Ascot with a shortened or new frame, and a Miller 220 engine. Duray himself and Wilbur Shaw drove it, and also travelled with it to Europe once more to compete in the Monza Grand Prix in September. Later that year and back int he US, Mauri Rose and Sam Palmer also drove the car, then Shaw again in early ‘33 on the Coast, and later that year in the Midwest.
After that, the waters get murky: over the following two years, Mauri Rose, Tony Gulotta and possibly Shorty Cantlon drove the car, before Gil Pirrung purchased it in 1935 for Babe Stapp and Billy Devore to drive. Pirrung appears to have sold his entire team to Joe Thorne in June ‘36, and since that “king of eccentrics” extended his stable to more than half a dozen cars within the blink of an eye it becomes virtually impossible to track this car any further, although it was probably driven by either Floyd Davis or Shaw again for the rest of that year, and possibly beyond.
#18 Moore/#18 Edwards
Very little information on this one: possibly built in 1931 by one L. W. Moore who is, to the best of my knowledge, no relation to Lou Moore, the driver and later team owner. Drivers included Speed Hinkley, Charley Gelston, Jimmy Sharp (?), Chris Vest and George Connor. Some time in late summer, the car was apparently purchased by Jack R. Edwards from Upland (CA), who may have run it until 1935 with drivers like Tommy Cosman, Russ del Dotto and Bob Gragg. I lack enough pictures to document this one properly, a recurring theme with some of these lesser cars as we move towards the “dark side of the grid”…
Apparently built in 1930, and driven by the likes of Swede Smith, Jimmy Sharp, Nick Martino (?), Carl Ryder, Mel Kenealy and Lloyd Vieaux himself until April ‘32 on the Pacific Coast circuit, and then in the East for Vieaux and various guest drivers, like Doc MacKenzie, until July ‘34 when Lloyd crashed fatally with it. Purchased by brothers Dick and Ed Matthews, presumably of Atlanta (GA), the car was campaigned mostly in Southeastern events for the next two years by drivers such as Johnny Stewart, Don Church, Ken Fowler, Chick Young, Pete Craig and Pete Alberts – by this time, it was either owned or sponsored by Baseball star Pepper Martin. The last trace I can find of it so far is Fred Bailes from West Virginia driving it at Atlanta in 1938.
Possibly built in early 1930, the car was driven by Jack Webb, Curley Grandell (?), Kelly Petillo, Swede Smith, Clyde Blomgren, Louis Tomei, Ted Horn, Chris Vest, George Connor and Smith again, who crashed fatally in it March ‘34. At some point, in 1932 or ‘33 it was completely rebuilt, apparently on a new frame (new car?). Between April and September of ‘34, the car was run in Eastern and at least one Midwestern event for drivers Bob Sall, Horn again and Billy Winn, then returned to California for Horn again, then Vest again, Jimmy Wilkeson (?) and Red Clark (?) in ‘35. Apparently used up in the West Coast minor leagues, 1937 ARA with Jim Nicholson etc.
# 9 Ward/# 9 Fox/#30 Martinson
New in July 1930 for Ernie Triplett, and for Walt May when Ernie called in sick for a few weeks, in September for Mel Kenealy, from October till March ‘31 for Arvol Brunmier, then musical chairs for rest of the year, with Fred Frame, Brunmier again, Kenealy again, Mel McKee, Babe Stapp and possibly others getting seat time. McKee again in January ‘32, then apparently sold and rebuilt, possibly on new frame (new car?), in March for McKee again till May, then Sam Palmer till June, sold again to Art Martinson, possibly with engine from Sparks/Miller, and driven by him in Midwestern “outlaw” events during summer and fall, as well as Pikes Peak Hill Climb in September. Back at Pacific Coast in October for Lloyd Axel, in December for Louis Tomei, in January ‘33 for Palmer again, and February till April for Al Gordon. In the summer again “outlaw” events in the Midwest with Martinson driving, and Pikes Peak in September, subsequent history unclear.
I know next to nothing about the Blomgren, but I’d guess that it was built in 1931, and sold to the Zottarelli brothers in early ‘33, and probably used up in the West Coast minor leagues.
Originally a Miller ’91’, apparently the one built for Pete de Paolo in 1926, and also driven by Red Shafer and Tony Gulotta, sold Alden Sampson for Louie Meyer to drive in ‘28, Indy 500 winner that year and also driven by Bill Spence, Deacon Litz and Dave Evans, sold to Litz for ‘29, and driven by him and others (Billy Winn?) until sold to Shorty Cantlon in late ‘31, fitted with Miller 220 engine and driven by Cantlon January and February ‘32 until accident in it, Howdy Wilcox March and April, Al Gordon and Wilcox again in November, then intermittently by Cantlon, Wilcox and Sam Palmer until April ‘33, with a rebuild on a shortened or new frame in between. I only have a very vague idea where it went to after that…
Apparently built in 1930, possibly on a Miller frame, for Billy Arnold, George Young and then (from November) for Ernie Triplett to drive till October ‘31, Bryan Saulpaugh till November, Sam Palmer till March ‘32, Bob Carey for at least one race, Palmer again, then Bert Ficken in April/May after which the chassis was sold to Frank Fabian, who ran it with a Wehr rotary valve engine for a short time, driver Jack Buxton. Subsequently sold to Clarence Tarbet and run with the Cragar engine from the Tarbet #3 Duesenberg chassis, and driven by Otto Wolfer, who had a serious accident in March ‘33 which possibly did the car in.
Built some time in the (late?) twenties, driven in ‘30 by Speed Hinkley and Nick Martino, in ‘31 by Mel Kenealy and Sam Palmer, and in ‘32 by Nick Martino, it seems. Can only guess about before and after…
Possibly new for Carl Ryder in March 1929, used until September ‘35 by drivers such as Art Boyce, Kenny Stoddard, Woody Woodford, Hal Provan, Ted Horn (?), Louis Tomei, Red Clark, Al Gordon, Harris Insinger, Clyde Blomgren, Frank McGurk and doubtlessly many, many others. Subsequent history unclear.
Last updated by Michael Ferner on 22 Jul 2010.
All text is copyright Michael Ferner 2010 - 2023.