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The Mighty Midgets Often referred to as the purest form of racing these "mighty midgets" are a racing history teasure.



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Old 01-19-2010, 12:06 PM   #1
Mitch G.
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Default Hardwood Door Corp midget

After seeing the ugly, (I know they are safer, and faster, so what?) midgets that are being raced today, I thought it was time to see what a race car is supposed to look like. This Kurtis Kraft midget was built in 1947, purchased originally by Carl Anderson, painted maroon with gold leaf numbers, it raced around the mid-west. In 1955 the car was sold to Ashley Wright, he painted it black with gold leaf trim, and put Shorty Templeman in the drivers seat, and they went on a tear. They won the 1956 USAC national midget title, the team went on winning dozens of races with numerous racing legends behind the wheel. Don Branson, Frank Burany, Chuck Rodee, Len Sutton, and Lloyd Ruby drove for Wright. George Bignotti bought the car in 1958 and painted it in red, white and black "Bowes Seal Fast" colors. Sim Clark bought the car on the west coast, put a Ford v8-60 in it, and then a Chevy II. Ollie Johnson bought it, painted it red, white and blue with the #96, it then was owned by Norm Britton and painted dayglo red with #18, and an Offy back under the hood. Bill Vukovich II, George Snider, and others drove the midget for Britton. Norm Britton parked the car in 1966, sixteen years later, Bill Montgomery (author of the two books, "Kurtis-Kraft Midgets A geneaology of speed" and it's folow up, where I got this info and some of the photo's) He restored it partially, and sold it to Bob Neilson, who finished the wonderful restoration to the cars configuration in 1956.


The awesome Ashely Wright, "Hardwood Door Corp" Kurtis Offy in all it's restored glory.
Denver's Aaron Woodard in the Carl Anderson Offy in 1947, car numbered 37
Shorty Templeman in 1956 on the top photo, below is Shiner Watkin driving for Ollie Johnson with Bowes Colors on the car.
Bottom, is Gary Johnson in the Norm Britton Offy.
Check out the amazing tow rig for the "Hardwood Door Corp" midget team in 1957. And Shorty racing Denver's Joe Giba in the former Kenz and Leslie Kurtis #62 on the Milwaukee Mile in 1956 or 57.
I guarantee you won't see a modern day midget restored in the future, as they have no history, and seldom raced more than one season, and they are too ugly to bother restoring, simply no craftsmanship or style in the modern day cars.
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Old 01-19-2010, 06:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

I am going to respectfully dissagree with you on the craftsmanship. I ' being a modern car car owner, have seen flawless craftmanship on both sprints and midgets. The cars today lend more to simplisity than style. More to accessablity than grace. The most important thing in todays cars is the safety of the driver. I have survived horrifiying crashs in todays technology that would have killed Earl in his. The beauity of the old cars is unequaled however the graveyards are full of those who could not survive the simplest of crashes. We continue to strive for better, faster, lighter and user friendly cars. Ugly just seems to creep in sometimes.
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Old 01-20-2010, 09:17 AM   #3
Mitch G.
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

Joe, you are correct, I misspoke to a degree. I've seen some of the work today's builders do and the welding, fitting, and construction in race car frames, is outstanding. The last midget I owned was a Challenger chassis, not as ugly as the current cars, but not very graceful either. That being said, almost every aspect of the chassis was very well put together and easy to work on and repair, no question, as for safety, no comparison. My brother in law has built maybe 30 midget's, some NHRA roll cages, go-karts, numerous sprint car chassis repairs, street rod work, you name it, he's been a welder, fabricator/machinist, since he was in his early teens, his work is outstanding,(for a living he's a big shot engineer in aero-space) however he's never produced a timeless classic, (like you, he could re-create one if he wanted to) and I realize those days are over. Through evolution, technological advance, tire improvement, etc. race cars today are built for sheer performance and safety, and ease of replacement and disposal, I understand that. My point is oval track racing lost it's connection to artistic, pleasing, and unique body style, appearance wise, a long time ago, do we see very many race driver funerals, no and that is the best part, for sure. In my humble opinion, and this is my choice, and my time and ticket buying money, it's easy for me not to go to a race track today as the look of the midget, sprint car, champ car is not pleasing, interesting, or stylish. Simple, safe, well built, fast, safe, safe, safe, yes! Good looking, no. I meant no disrespect for the ability of the modern day sprint/midget fabricator. I can't do either, (create or re-create) so I'm just flapping my gums on my opinion on race car looks, and my admiration of what the old guys did in the days before cad-cam, computer aided CNC machines, and all the modern day convenience's.
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Old 01-20-2010, 10:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

If I'm not mistaken, that's the car Shorty drove in winning all three of the 100-lap features on the Night Before the 500 program at the old 16th Street Speedway (across from IMS) in 1956. When I mentioned it a few years later at a midget race, he told me the owner made an offhand remark that day before the first program started (about 2:00 p.m.). He said if Shorty won all three of them he could keep all the money. Sounds like motivation to me. I was there selling NSSN for Gene Powlen that night.
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Old 01-20-2010, 10:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

Hey Mitch,

You provided a great post with a complete history...Sort of "raised the bar"...This is what keeps information alive and well passing it on to others. THANK YOU!!!!

I love the older cars and appreciate a well done restoration. I do marvel at the latest tech & craftmanship. The older cars were done without CAD, CNC or MIG assistance. Could you guess what the craftmanship of the older cars with todays equiptment and technology would produce.

Love your post keep up the thoughtful additions to this site.

Chuck
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Old 01-20-2010, 10:51 AM   #6
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

Mitch, I know you did not mean any dissrespect!!! Thus the "RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE" on my post.
To continue on your thought as I stated these cars today[ mostly Sprint Cars] look alike. You will find the occasional different hood scoop but for the most part the same. The midgets however look different because of the many engine combos they run. Gone forever are the beautiful rounded curves of the hood and nose with the usually hand crafted grilles. Gone forever are the colofull leather upholsterys and the polished dash/gauge holders. Only about 2/3 run polished wheels. I , like you, beleive if some of this beauty would surface again the crowds would increase to see just that. I am a realiest though and don't think this will happen. Like you, I evolved from the beauty of the 50's and 60's to the reality of the "NEW" safer cars. However I long for the sight of 18 KK Offy midgets growling at Lakeside, or Gilmore, or ever Soldier Feild. Nothing , and I mean nothing , not even 24 of the fastest at the Knoxville Nationals or the Bellville Nationals will ever replace that. Mitch I am so very lucky to have experanced the 57 years of this great sport of Midgets and Sprint Car racing. And equally lucking to have so much of the past and present in my race shop. Most will never have that and to that I beleive my family was truley blessed.

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Old 01-20-2010, 11:15 AM   #7
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

I reject the notion that race cars couldn't be built safe, fast, and still be pleasing to the eye.

Edmunds midgets still looked nice in the 1980's and they still featured a full nose cone. The craftsmanship on those 80's Edmunds cars was awesome and the cars were safe and fast. Even at Belleville this past year Cody Brewer ran a midget with an old-style front body work. (it wasn't beautiful but it does prove it could be done).

The problem is, the modern day racer has forgotten about the artistic aspect of motorsports. We will never look back at today's cars and say "man that was a beautiful car". Today's machines are disposable and that's why so many teams don't even bother to paint the body panels (which disgusts me). Doesn't the paying fan deserve to see cars that are painted???? Heck, that doesn't seem to be too much to ask.

I firmly believe that midgets could be built, and prepared with more artistic flare and forethought and still be safe and fast.

We often ask ourselves what happened to the intrigue and popularity of midget racing? And we fail to realize that we have strayed so far of the path that we have lost many of the elements that made us fall in love with midget racing in the first place.
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Old 01-20-2010, 07:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

Having been around sprint cars, midgets, and Indy cars since the mid 60's I felt obligated to chime in on the subject of appearance, style, etc.

Today's cars are mass produced, standardized, all built on the same jigs, standard panels, etc. In addition to the safety built into these cars, the cost is less (than if you built your own from scratch) due to the mass production techiques.

The older cars were built mostly by individuals, in their own garage, to their own design and, depending on the skill level, many were true works of art, showing off the skills of the builder.

Don Edmunds was big on style and looks, but he never planned on building over 400 midgets, in addition to a number of sprint and Indy cars. His cars were built by hand, in his shop, to his designs. He recently told me no two cars were ever exactly alike - always a better idea came along. Yes, he had bucks for sheet metal/aluminum, and jigs for the chassis, but mass production never entered the equation, especially in the early years. Craftsmanship and style was a priority.

I am restoring a very early Edmunds midget because I like the beauty, simplicity, and workmanship found in the early cars. But as far as racing - today's, sprints and midgets, with no wings, runnin' three wide, slidin' sideways, on dirt is just as exciting as it was 'back in the day'. The cars may not be as beautiful, the driver not as visable, and they may be production - throw away chassis, and leased engines, but the racing is just as good and much faster and much safer - Indy and NASCAR can't say the same, except maybe the saftey factor - in my opinion, today's Indy and NASCAR racing stinks.

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Old 01-21-2010, 09:43 AM   #9
Mitch G.
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

I have a book, "The life and Hot Rod Times of Robert Williams", or something like that, (my dad has the book in Colorado at this time). Anyway, Williams has a interesting racing background, he's real famous among weird adult oriented comic books, he's kind of profane, and a real wild man, but a fantastic artist (and a real deal hot rod builder, painter). In his book he writes a bit about midget and sprint car racing having a tie to street rodders, in the past. He laments about how modern sprint car racing "lost it's connection" to hot rod builders. He points out how he sort of thinks that oval track cars have "lost their souls", or words to that effect, and I agree. Old time midget fans complain that Kurtis ruined midgets because they all looked alike, and were all so evenly matched, that races became boring. I'd rather see 20 nearly identical Kurtis, Edmunds, Benson, midgets all chromed, painted, lettered beautifully, run a "boring" race, than 20 god awful ugly midgets race, no matter how exciting the race may be, again, just my opinion. Bellow is a picture from this years Chili Bowl, this is the car that inspired this thread, the car actually made me angry. Also here is a beautiful example of a midget with a roll cage, one of my favorites, the "El Toro Garage Spl."
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Old 01-21-2010, 10:23 AM   #10
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Default Re: Hardwood Door Corp midget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch G
Bellow is a picture from this years Chili Bowl, this is the car that inspired this thread, the car actually made me angry. Also here is a beautiful example of a midget with a roll cage, one of my favorites, the "El Toro Garage Spl."

Hey Mitch and all midget lovers, in that first pic of the running billboard, is the driver afraid it might rain or something?? Why the canopy above his head?~Olen
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