Ernie Nagamatsu's New Project

From Dr. Nagamatsu:  "We are working on the Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster and I did not really know the huge importance of the car as everyone thought it was lost forever... it was not ...and was hidden away in a backyard in Apple Valley for over 40 years... "

Photos copied from the "Jalopy Journal H.A.M.B. Forum".

Crewman Bob Rufi and Bob Giovanine stand beside the car at El Mirage dry lake in at a Southern California Timing Association meeting 1948  Chuck Spurgin stands by himself on the left side of the car.
From Ernie Nagamatsu:  "The legendary Spurgin/Giovanine/Borgh Roadster was a beautifully crafted Dry Lakes racer designed and built by the innovative team of Chuck Spurgin and Bob Giovanine. The racer was a Chevy-four roadster and it was the “high points” car in Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) competition in the year of 1948, setting an A class roadster record of 123.655 mph, a record that stood for two years. The smooth clean looking roadster was a 1925 Chevy roadster body on a 1925 Chevy frame and rear axle. The car had an early Ford I beam front axle and transverse spring. The motor was a 1925 Chevy engine with an Olds 3 port cylinder head, Winfield cam, Ford model C crankshaft “de-stroked” to lower the displacement to 182.9 ‘cubic inches’ (to qualify in the under 183 ‘cubic inches’ class limit), and two carburetors which had special Winfield float bowls and Duke Hallock throttle-bodies and venturis.  In the next year, the Spurgin/Giovanine Roadster was clocked at 135 plus during the racing season. The winning roadster raced under the banner of the proud Albata Club of Southern California."
Duke Hallock September 24, 1948. El Mirage. Duke Hallock And Bob Rufi were crewmembers on this Roadster owned by Bob Giovanine and Chuck Spurgin.

Duke and his brother Jud had a Speed Shop and Duke has been recognized as one of the great innovative designers for extrapolating ultimate engine speed." 

"At the start of the 1948 season, they flashed through the traps for a 120.52 mph run, which was an impressive first in a Class A win and they set a new two-way record at 113.950 mph.  The front springs were changed out with a 1932 Ford axle and cross spring.  The “Whippet” grille was cut down and the nose soon had a smooth “Indy” style track form with a small oval grille.  In June, the now “slippery” looking roadster captured another first in Class A at 116.27 mph and a new record again at 117.517.mph.  In July they performed a ‘triple’ as the team scored a first in Class A with a 123.79 mph and they again broke the record with a 118.480 mph.  In August they were on a ‘roll’ again with a first in Class A with a 119.68 mph and another new record with a 119.855 mph.  The pressure was now on in September and they survived with another impressive Class A first place with a 127.65 mph and another exciting new record of 123.05 mph.  Looking for a near impossible “clean sweep,” Spurgin and Giovanine headed into the final SCTA event in October with everyone holding their breath as they pulled off the feat for the record books with a first in Class A at 125.52 mph and another spectacular new record with a 123.655 mph, which would stand for two years! The 1948 SCTA Season High Points race car award given to the Spurgin/ Giovanine Roadster was well deserved and established a standard that would be very hard for others to repeat for one SCTA racing season."
A look at the roadster's 1925 Chevrolet 4-cylinder engine.

"The top end of the engine consists of a three-port Oldsmobile head which has two intake ports, enlarged to 1 7/8” diameter with 1 ¾” intake valves.  The Olds three port head were milled to raise the compression ratio to over 16:1.  For the majority of the 1948 racing season, two head gaskets were installed, dropping the compression to 13.5:1 as they dominated their Class."

"The Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster was a feature car at the Second Annual Hot Rod Exposition in Los Angeles with a special display in 1949.  The Hot Rod book stated that there is a banner displayed prominently at the entrance to the 1949 LA Hot Rod Show at the LA Armory that states that, ”out of the 597 cars at the El Mirage event, all but 22 were powered by Ford or Lincoln Mercury Flathead V8s.”  The banner did not say that the little Chevy four ‘banger’ got the first perfect score and broke the world record each time, and was almost as fast as Alex Xydias in a streamliner with a Ford V8.  This car (Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster) actually was faster than hot rods two years later running Ford V8s.  “To win an event in 1948 you had to qualify at a world record speed and do an “A” run and a “B” run in a reverse direction both at a world record speed.” The Roadster was the “Cover Car” with a feature story (“Hot Rod of the Month”) in the March 1949 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.  The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was also the “Cover Car” for the California Timing News, November 1948 with a feature article of the car."
El Mirage dry lake, 1948.  An exciting time in the lives of these young Southern California car guys.

Bob Giovanine Photo Collection

(2-18-09)  From Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu: 

"We will roll out the Spurgin-Giovanine in July and we're shooting for the Pebble Beach Concours in 2010 if they have the Tribute Class for Record breaking Lakes cars... as planned."

(2-20-09)  From Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu:

The Society of Land Speed Historians will "roll out" the complete long story of the Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster in their 100th Newsletter soon... and some of the key historians state that the Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster is one of the four most significant Land Speed Dry Lakes racers with the special cars which include the Pre WWII Rufi Streamliner- Schenck Streamliner- Post WWII Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster and the Chrisman #25 Dragster. The Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster continued on with a GMC 6 in Drag Racing - Dry Lakes and Bonneville as the Borgh Mothersill's Special... and then the GMC 6 was placed the the rear and raced at Bonneville... and then Robert Cano raced the car at Lion's Drags in same configuration. The Spurgin-Giovanine was the cover car for the March 1949 Hot Rod magazine with a feature story and cutaway drawing... and featured again as the Bonneville Mothersill's Special in the Hot Rod magazine and once again as the Cano "Snoot" racer."

(11-7-09)   From Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu:

Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster

1948 SCTA Overall Champion

"Racing swiftly in the swirling dust from the clay pans of the Dry Lakes of Southern California in the SCTA racing season of 1948… flashed the wonderful, sleek and very innovative Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster, which was the legendary “Albata” Club Dry Lakes-Land Speed racer that established one of the most incredible records ever in Dry Lakes racing history… “It was the little Chevy 4 that thought it could… and it did” 

I just received this wonderful film clip – final draft this morning which is just a “Trailer-Loop” film clip as we all realize…but I wanted to share it… it is so heartwarming…touching… historic… and the spirit of Dry Lakes racing at its best! We just don’t know where this wonderful little Chevy 4 will take all of us…and Richard Parks- Editor of the Society of Land Speed Historians stated that he considered the legendary Spurgin-Giovanine Roadster of being one of the four most significant Land Speed-Dry Lakes cars included with the Pre-WWII Schenck Streamliner, Rufi Streamliner and Post WWII Chrisman Dragster, Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster."

Watch Filmclip Here!

(11-8-09)   More from Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu:

"There are so many different factors in determining what is significant or legendary and what elements are the most important with Land Speed Dry Lakes racing cars... Ultimate speed record, innovative designs, durability (such as the Chrisman Dragster which started in Dry Lakes and became the legendary Dragster), multiple record breaking achievements, number of years holding the record, etc." 

The key and outstanding achievment was to in one SCTA racing season of 1948, was that the Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was to break the existing record at all of the six SCTA racing meets at the high point in the number of cars ever entered ... and in those years it took a "Qualifying Run" over the existing record to be recognized... and then the car would be allowed a two way run that must break the exiisting SCTA record with an average speed over the record. The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster continued on with the same chassis and slight modifications to the nose and engine to race at the drag strips and on to Bonneville and was called the Mothersill's Special. The car was built in 1940 and the last race was at Lion's Drags in 1957.

(Personal: I am always concerned about not wanting to be "Banging the Drum" for the car but just presenting the car as it is... and the above shows the perspectives in what is a "significant" car of legendary status...) 


1.)    The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was for over 43 years, long lost from sight, and it was discovered in a backyard in Apple Valley California in the high desert …and now restored to the record breaking 1948 SCTA Dry Lakes racing season configuration.

2.)    For your kind consideration…

3.)    1948 SCTA Dry Lakes Champion- record breaking and “High Points” Dry Lakes Racer… during the year of the highest average entrants for racing the Dry Lakes. After 1948, there were more Drag Strips and the starting of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats (1949) which affected the number of entrants at the Dry Lakes Meets. In 1948, the Rusetta Timing Association began and also started to take away racing entrants and their cars. Hot Rod Author, Don Montgomery states…”The 1948 season was a tremendous year for SCTA … record numbers came to the Lakes Meets and expanded to two days. The 1948 SCTA club roster had also expanded to a record of 38 clubs… not only did SCTA have possibly the greatest season in 1948, the competitors blasted the records.” There were crowds up to 10,000 race fans at some of the meets. 1948 was the peak of Dry Lakes racing with an average of 245 entrants per meet with the SCTA having two day meets with three lanes for starting cars as well as timing lights.

4.)    The 1948 SCTA overall High Points Season Champion- Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster- Class A- season total of an incredible 1800 points. The second place in total points was Doug Hartelt with 1480 points and third place went to the Burke and Francisco Streamliner with 1400 points.

5.)    It was an historical and incomparable feat in Dry Lakes Racing established in 1948 by the Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster…as it was a difficult and complicated process in establishing an officially recognized world SCTA record. The rules were clear and states as such…“All SCTA records are based on the average time in miles per hour, of two runs through our quarter mile photo electric timed course from opposite directions. Both runs must be made within a total elapsed time of fifteen minutes. Any car exceeding the previous existing record in it’s own class shall be entitled to run for the record as such a time during the day’s meet as he chooses. Every car in the SCTA competition must be powered with an American automotive production engine, but may especially equipped with overhead valves, cams, or blowers subject to the 1947 Class regulations.” The official record run consisted of an average of the two way run. The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster did multiple runs at each SCTA meet and it was not just one “speed trap run.”

6.)    Exemplified reliability and durability in days of inconsistent performance in racing. There was consistency in performance during the 6 scheduled SCTA Dry Lakes sanctioned meets and multiple runs for an approved and official record for the class. The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster established a exceptional record in the 1948 SCTA record books that would stand for two years! 

7.)    The Sprugin – Giovanine Roadster raced with a Chevy 4 engine and was in the true minority among the competitive racers as most engines used were Fords or Mercury engines for Dry Lakes Racing. The team had the experience of Ralph Schenck, Bob Rufi, Duke Hallock to help Spurgin and Giovanine achieve the records. A banner at the Los Angeles Second Annual Hot Rod Exposition at the Armory in Los Angeles… stated “Out of the 597 cars at the El Mirage event, all but 22 were powered by Ford or Lincoln Mercury Flathead V8s”… and the writer for the event stated “The banner did not say that the little Chevy four ‘banger’ got the first perfect score and broke the world record each time, and was almost as fast as Alex Zidias in a streamliner with a Ford V8.”

8.)    The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was the “Hot Rod of the Month” and “Cover Car” for the March 1949 Hot Rod Magazine. The Spurgin- Giovanine – Mothersill’s  Special Bonneville racer was selected as the Land Speed race car representing the year 1956 in the section of “Flat Out on the Flats” in the “Best of Hot Rod”- Special Collector’s Edition covering Land Speed racing from 1948 to 1980… and the Roadster was referred to as …“Worth it’s Salt.” 

9.)    Many stories were written about the Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster and it was many times the Cover car with many feature stories in the Hot Rod Magazines and Land Speed- Dry Lakes Timing Association Programs. The official timing plaque for the SCTA image of a roadster was attributed to the Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster by many historians as it was completed for use following the record breaking 1948 SCTA season.  Illustrations were done of the roadster by the legendary Gus Maguum 

10.) The multi-tasking in racing of the Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was documented in many magazines as the different configurations were featured with stories…without any changes in the chassis and minor body changes for the rear engine placement. The Spurgin – Giovanine Roadster after the 1948 SCTA record breaking season… continued Dry Lakes racing which then   included Drag Racing and later Bonneville Salt Flats racing. The legendary roadster was the “Mothersill’s Special” and later the Cano Snoot’ and rarely does a race car race in Dry Lakes, Drag Racing, and Bonneville during it’s long career as the original design concept was exceptional indeed. In the year 1954, the Spurgin- Giovanine – Mothersill’s Roadster raced at El Mirage and Bonneville the following year with Drag racing during that entire period as well. 

11.) The Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster was built in 1939 and first raced in 1940 and the last race was in 1957 at Lion’s Drag Strip in Long Beach as the Spurgin- Giovanine- Borgh – Cano “Snoot” racer (featured in Hot Rod magazine again). The many years of recorded racing and the many types of racing was the hallmark for the legendary Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster Land Speed- Dry Lakes roadster.

12.) The legendary Spurgin- Giovanine Roadster is considered by Land Speed Historians to be one of the great history making Land Speed- Dry Lakes racers of the Pre- WWII and Post WWII era. It made a mark in the history of Land Speed-Dry Lakes racing history."

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